All About Choices – Interview With Beth Carpenter

This world is full of talented, fascinating people.  People who can take their abilities and their experience and make something of it that gives joy and value to others.  Some of them write, reaching back and touching their own experiences and bringing to the stories their own wisdom and interpretation.  Today I am featuring Beth Carpenter and two books in her Choices  series, Recalculating Route and Detour on Route 66, a short story that serves as a sort of ‘prequel’ to the stories of the two main characters.

The covers are crisp, evocative of the golden age of travel.  Mountains, distant rolling hills, the sort of vibrant blue skies we remember from our childhood, and an association that, for me, at least, has a touch of magic: Route 66.  They follow the stories of Marsha and Ben, who…  

But let me post the Publisher’s Weekly review, which gives a wonderful summation that I can’t hope to match:

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Widow and former home economics teacher Marsha Davison is still trying to recover from the death of her husband, Eric, 19 months earlier when she meets Ben Mayfield, a wealthy retired geologist who invites her on a road trip along old Route 66. The ex-husband of a dear friend, Ben’s courtly manner and sense of adventure intrigue Marsha. Although initially she declines, Marsha decides to throw caution to the wind and she and her dog, Lindy, go along for the ride. After a nearly three-month jaunt on the road, Marsha returns to her home in Sedona, Arizona, and Ben to his in Texas, planning another roadtrip — an East Coast one this time — for the fall. But soon after returning to their respective homes, Marsha and Ben soon realize that their relationship is far from being a simple friendship, it’s turned to love, and then quickly they decided to marry. It isn’t all smooth sailing because both have grown children who object to the relationship for various reasons, and they live hundreds of miles away from each other. But can these obstacles stand in the way of true love? The author writes movingly of the mixed emotions that come after mourning a beloved spouse and then dating again in this sweet romance that targets a less-than common demographic: those in the later stages of life, who refuse to give up on love. A sweet treat.
Publisher’s Weekly is an independent organization. Review was based on manuscript version, which combines Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route.
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Beth Carpenter was kind enough to share an excerpt:

This scene takes place on the second anniversary of Eric’s death. Earlier, Marsha’s son sent flowers and she thought of how many yellow flowers Eric had given her over the years.
Marsha leaned forward to pick up the silver frame holding their wedding photo. Eric managed to look outrageously handsome even in the silly white rented tuxedo she had chosen. What was she thinking? She smiled broadly in the picture, her poufy veil framing her hair, arranged in shiny wings on either side of her forehead. They looked much too young to be making solemn promises. They had kept their vows, though, their devotion growing throughout their marriage. Good times and bad, they had stayed together and loved one another.
“Hello, my love.” She reached to touch his face in the picture. “We had a good time, didn’t we? We promised ourselves to one another until death do us part.” She sighed. “And even then, I didn’t want to let go. But Eric, I think it’s time.”
She reached for a tissue from the coffee table and dabbed her eyes. “I love him, Eric. Not the same as I love you, but a different love, just as special. I wish you could meet him. You’d like each other. I can picture the two of you, sitting under the trees in the back yard with a beer in your hand, swapping stories.”
She laughed. “Ben would love your story about Nicky Flynn, trying to get out of a spelling test by putting an Alka Selzer in his mouth to convince the teacher he was having a seizure. I remember you had to send him out of your office to wait because you could hardly keep from laughing out loud when you tried to discipline him. I’ll try to tell Ben that story, but you tell it better.”
She traced the curving lines in the picture frame. “I’ll always love you, Eric.”
Her face began to grow hot. She sighed, set down the picture, and walked out on the back porch to let the breeze soothe the heat from her skin as the hot flash continued. Lindy followed her out. The climbing rose Eric had planted grew lushly over the trellis at the western edge of the porch, blocking the sun while letting the breeze through, making the porch a shady oasis. Every year, just before Mother’s Day, it covered itself with clusters of apricot buds that opened into extravagant sprays of pale golden roses.
She noticed something yellow on the trellis, and frowned. Once, spider mites had almost decimated the rose, leaving the leaves pale and spotted, but Eric had managed to save it. She went closer to examine the problem.
A single yellow rose blossomed bravely. It shouldn’t have been there, not in September. This rose always bloomed in May, and only in May. Yet there it was: a yellow flower. Each tissue-thin petal was a work of art, deep yellow at the base, shading to a paler tint and almost white along the curving tip, the innermost petals hugging the shaggy stamens at the center of the blossom.
She bent to inhale the lemony-sweet fragrance of this miracle, her hot flash forgotten. A single tear fell onto the leaves of the rose, but this time it was a tear of gratitude, that she should experience so much love in a lifetime.

What started you writing? 

I grew up on a farm with no nearby playmates, so I’ve been an avid reader since before I can remember. I’ve enjoyed thousands of books in my lifetime. About ten years ago, I decided to give the supply side of books a try. 
What do you enjoy most about writing? 
I like getting to know the characters, to get involved in their lives.
Would you like to share some things you do that get you going, (note: I mean tips, tricks, ways you might get in the mood, things you like to do – I read of one fellow who danced madly around his apartment when he was at a loss for a word.) 
I find that a bath or shower seems to let my brain float so it’s open to new scenes and dialogue. Maybe it’s because the tub one of the last places I can be alone with no outside conversation or stimulation.
What are your books about?  You can give a synopsis if you really want, or you can tell what it is inside you that is finding expression through the book(s). 
Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are about Marsha, a widow, and Ben, a wealthy retired geologist with a poor matrimonial track record. He invites her along on a road trip strictly for companionship, but it grows into love. Then they have to convince themselves and their grown children that, in spite of their differences, they belong together. All the books in the series feature older than typical protagonists. There’s no upper age limit on romance.
Do you ever dream about your characters? 
The very first short story in the series, At The Turning Point, started that way. I woke up from a dream that was so vivid I couldn’t understand why the window was in the wrong place. It started me thinking about the classic Vegas comedy of waking up in a stranger’s hotel room. I thought “What if a respectable middle-aged woman like me found herself in that position?”
Do you have a routine? 
I try to grab pieces of writing time when I can get them. I need to establish a routine, but son, husband, and dog have this inexplicable desire to converse (or play fetch) with me, so when they’re occupied, I’ll run in and write. 
If you could do anything you wanted to for a year, without having to worry about making a living, what would it be? 
Read, write, and never worry about housework.
Quick:  Chocolate or peanut butter? 
Both. Reese’s peanut butter cups – yum. But dark chocolate if I have to choose.
What is behind your covers?  (I like them!) 
Thanks. The covers for Detour on Route 66 and Recalculating Route are from a stock image. I thought they felt like the area around Flagstaff on Route 66.
Beth Carpenter, Author
(From Diana: What caught my eye is the way they reminded me of the old travel posters pre-WII.  It helps that I used to live near the Rockies…)
What’s in the works for the future? 
I just finished a romance/mystery called After the Fireweed that takes place in Alaska. I’m querying agents, but if that doesn’t yield results, I’ll self-publish and probably enter it into ABNA next year.
Finally, you have the microphone.  What would you like to say?   
Thank you. Thanks to you, Diana, for this interview and to all the readers out there who’ve spent their hard-earned money on my books. Whenever a reviewer says she enjoyed the story, I’m thrilled. Sharing my stories is what it’s all about.

Check these links (click the WORDS)  for Beth Carpenter’s books and blog:

Something Taken – Interview with Jerrie Brock, Author

Something Taken – By Jerrie Brock
I asked author Jerrie Brock if she would mind being interviewed on my blog.  I encountered her two years ago when I was involved in the ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award) Competition.  Her submission was a beautifully done story of forbidden love – a young girl and an older man, both lost and tempest-tossed.  I was touched by the story, and by the deft way she handled people who might have been viewed as misfits, but were creations of heart, soul and strength.  And there was another theme that caught me…

Her first published book, Something Taken, is available in Kindle and in paperback.  It is a wonderful read.  (My review on Goodreads, Amazon US and Amazon UK is below).

She can be peppery, kind, understanding, and very direct.  She is a woman of wide experience with the sort of humor that comes of seeing many things and understanding them.  I enjoyed interviewing her.  I think you will enjoy reading of her.

How would you describe yourself?   

Jerrie Brock and two of her dogs

I barely make sense to myself, so describing myself is beyond me. The most appropriate description might be what my beloved grandpa used:  “You’re like fly shit, you’re all over the place.”  Needless to say, I probably wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with, and I don’t know if I have improved much over the years.  Fortunately, I found a man to put up with me.  We were married 25 fun, goofy years but he was much older than me and he died seven years ago.  I think he’s irreplaceable.  

I enjoy working with my hands, and most my employment has been in maintenance, as a supervisor to a mostly male workforce, often technical.  Landscaping is generally my field, but it involves more than mowing grass.  For fun, I restore old furniture and antique machinery, I build things like decks, gazebos, model trains layouts, I garden; you get the idea. When I relax, I read, sometimes a book a week, sometimes a couple of books a week. I don’t watch TV, honestly, I have no idea of what’s on TV or at the movies.  Compared to what my imagination conjures when I read, TV and movies tend to disappoint me or put me to sleep pretty quickly.  I converted an 85 foot Pullman Passenger Car to a library to avoid getting lost in stacks of books around the house.  Of the few thousand books, aside from the many technical manuals I use for building and restoration, and some of the ponderous reference books, I’ve read at least three quarters of those books, non-fiction and fiction.  Some of my favorites are my Peanuts collection, the cartoon books I started collecting back when I was very young.  Some of them are before Linus was born.  Another is a book commissioned by Congress in 1876 chronicling some of the highlights of the first 100 years of the US .  You’d be amazed at what was considered big news then, eclipses, droughts, etc. Things we never even hear about today.  The other is my Oxford English Dictionary—every 20 volumes.  Few people know what the true Oxford Dictionary is, or how it came about but it is so cool.  The citations for A go on for six and a half pages.  I read that every now and then, for fun.
You’re a writer – what do you write?  

My favorites are historic fiction and contemporary fiction, based on real life and real people in both instances.  Some are romances, some just a reflection of an era, some crime, some drama, some humorous.  Everything I write is born from reality however, though I insert fictional characters along the way, including the main character.  I have so many stories backed up in my mind, I’ll never get all of them written.  In terms of writing, my favorite eras are England (or rather the UK and Ireland ) after the Norman conquest and before their Civil War, and the US after our Civil War all the way to the present. 

What got you started writing?

I have no idea. It was a challenge?  I started very young, I wrote letters to my grandparents starting in first grade and never stopped. School and I didn’t always get along. I didn’t have the patience to worry about forming letters correctly when I could communicate through writing.  I would get punished for writing a story instead of practicing my letters.  Who cares about letters, anyway?  Right?  Right!  So began the cycle of failure and success in school.  Mostly my presence in a classroom was greeted with a groan, although I had a few teachers who were a huge inspiration and I truly loved them.  So I think I wrote because it was one of the few things that always presented a challenge and it gave me solace in times when I felt rather alone in the world.  I had my characters, so at least I was never lonely.   There are so many ways to write, so many words to use, so many thoughts to convey.  I call writing, wordsmithing, and like any craft, there is always room to be better.  Hard to beat that kind of thrill.

How do you write?

I just sit down and write, nearly every day.  Sometimes it’s revisions, other times it’s completely new.  I know the story, how it begins and ends, and so I write it.  But I usually have to go back and hack away a lot of the unnecessary stuff to get it to something reasonable and worthy. The one thing that side tracks me during writing is research.  I like to be accurate, and it gives me an excuse to read, too.  In one, before I wrote the court scene, I had already read the laws and legal procedures of that state, and then I went further, reading a couple of college text books on interrogations, criminal law, that sort of thing.  When I write historic fiction, I often read texts from the time period because it allows me to see from their vantage point, to get an idea of how they viewed the world, which is so much different than our concepts today.  Most people rarely traveled more than a couple of miles from their homes in their entire lives. The idea of people who looked completely different was almost incomprehensible. The world held so many secrets that venturing too far was a rather frightening notion. I try to reflect that sort of image in my historic writing.

Anything you find indispensable?  (can be a tool, a technique, a location…  Someone said she reclined nude on her sofa and wrote with a pen and notepad.  Another fellow, at a loss for words, would jump up and dance around madly until he found the right word.)

 Music.  Have to have music.  Sometimes I sing and write, mostly I just listen.  I have an Ipod thingy with about 2500 songs, mostly rock in every style, but I also like Big Band, Jazz, Military Band, Soul, Bluegrass and a few others. No Country unless it’s Country-Rock and no Rap.  People think its odd when they hear it — Glen Miller doing the Chattanooga Choo Choo might be followed by Blue Oyster Cult doing Don’t Fear the Reaper.  And books and the Internet for references.


How did the idea for SOMETHING TAKEN come to you?It started with the sequel.  I was laid off and looking for a new job. I had to undergo an extensive background check that came back with a couple of little issues that needed to be settled, which got me thinking about the past creeping up in the present.  My imagination tends to operate in overdrive most the time, and I could visualize how something from long ago could destroy a person in spite of all the changes they made.  Then I got caught up in the story, and decided to start at the beginning.

You mention that it is loosely based on something that happened to you.  Can you tell me about it? 
This was a story I thought I should write because unfortunately, the incidents in the story do happen in real life, even today.  They are still hushed up and it is one of the few types of sexual assault where the victim still bears the blame.  It’s hard for people to believe, in truth, which makes it easier to hide.  For what happened to me, let’s say things didn’t always go right for me.  Things happened, I didn’t always make good decisions, and I probably didn’t always choose the easiest route.  But for all that did go wrong, I still feel like I did manage to make something worthwhile of my life, even if I can’t claim to be rich or anything.  The one thing I am rich with, is the realization that there were people who did reach out, who grabbed me from a few gaping pits and pulled me up again. It took awhile to fully appreciate it since I couldn’t figure out why they bothered.  In the end, I decided that the why didn’t matter so much; they found some value they decided to preserve.  Now I pass their compassion on to others.  So the bad stuff is submerged in discovering that the world is filled with far more good people than bad, truly.

I have read and reviewed SOMETHING TAKEN – the link is at the bottom of this blog post – and one of the things that truly struck and moved me was the notion of a ‘hero’ who has the courage and heart to see beyond appearances and sense something deeper and darker that must be addressed and must not be allowed to triumph.  What were you saying here?
What I was saying was truly what I came to realize, though not quite so quickly.  That there are so many good people out there, so many willing to lend a hand.  Just like you’re doing with this interview.  I think with TV and all, always bombarding us with the negative, we tend to doubt the goodness of people.  But there are truly some super people out there, looking for the good in others.  Once a person realizes that, it can change their entire outlook.  No matter how simple, from a hello in passing, holding a door, or giving an interview to a struggling new writer, it reinforces the good.  In the end, we need to take the time to pay kindness forward. 

Just as I was about to ask her to join us, she began to speak softly, as she continued staring out at the mountains and the setting sun.  “These last few days, being here, and seeing all the happiness, made me remember what I really wanted from life.  I remembered what it was like to have fun without being out of my mind with drugs and all.  It reminded me of the good times I had with my Dad and Ricky.

“When I left home, I just wanted to find a way to have that again.  No matter what I did with my family, I was always gonna be the black sheep.  It wasn’t that they did anything wrong, they’re good people.  It’s just me.  I didn’t quite fit with their style.  I guess I don’t really fit in anywhere.

“Since there’s nothing wrong with their ideas, I should’ve just accepted it.  But I thought there was more to life that might be equally good.  When I was at college, I met a really good group.  We partied a lot, but we all had this dream that one day we’d do important stuff to make the world better.  It was probably just grandiose dreams, beyond reality, but we believed them.

“Now, too late, I’ve discovered it’s not the spectacular stuff that really makes a difference in the world.  It’s just living well, as best you can, day to day, and hopefully making one person’s day a little better.  After seeing all you’ve been doing for me, and for others, I realized I was just living in a fantasy world that I kept intact by using drugs and pretending I was trying to achieve something.  In other words, I was a fraud.  I really wasn’t making any difference, and I wasn’t even trying. 

“It’s a little late for all these profound thoughts and regrets but they keep pressing me.  Helping out around here, enjoying all you’ve given me, all the happiness, I keep wishing I had one more chance to get it right.  But the only way I can do it is to start over one more time and I blew that big time.”

She stopped to light a cigarette with shaking hands.  When she finally resumed, her voice also wavered.  “I think now, I really know what I should’ve known before.  I don’t think it would be easy, but I think I’ve learned what it means to be strong.  And now, it doesn’t make any difference because I can’t change what I did, or go back and undo it.  It’s just hard, knowing it’s too late.  I wish things were different.”

    For a moment none of us had anything to say as we digested her words.  Hard to believe they came from an eighteen-year-old, until a person reflected on those eighteen years she lived.  She had leap-frogged most of us in wisdom already. 

Quick, answer me:
  • Sword or pistol?  Sword
  • Horse or Porsche?  Horse  
  • Mountaintop or ocean?  Ocean  
  • Hot dog or hamburger?  Doesn’t matter.  
  • Flapper or screamer? The one leading the charge – the dreamer – the who says, ‘What the heck, lets do it. The worst that can happen is we fail.’   (…sounds like a flapper to me…)
  • Typewriter or fountain pen? (handsome scribe optional)  Quill 
Unbeknown to you, your bed is a time machine.   You go to bed, snuggle down under the comforter and wake up the next morning in another place and time.  Where?  When?  What do you need to survive there? 
I could probably be happy at any time period, past, present or future. I’d just be as odd as ever, wherever I popped in at. I don’t really need security or stability, I can adapt to nearly anything, except ignorance and boredom.   However, I have a feeling if the time machine broke, they’d be working like hell to get it running again and send me back.  I’ve been accused of being a disruptive force before.

So, it’s been a rough day.  Nothing has gone right, everyone has been driving you mad, traffic has been slow, lunch was disgusting.  You’re outta there.  What do you do to kick back? 
Read, listen to music, write, build something.  But first and foremost, I play with my pups and sometimes the cats if they’re in the mood.  No matter what goes wrong in the world, they are my sparkling bit of happiness and laughter.  I don’t know how people manage without pets.  Where else can a person get unconditional love and the chance to feel like they are the most important person in the world for a moment?

What can we expect from you in the future? I know you are working on a sequel to Something Taken  Tell us about it.   

The sequel to Something Taken, titled Something Returned will come out just before Thanksgiving.  It was the original story, in truth.  It follows the main character, Terry, now living under an alias, Mel (Melissa) McCurdy, married nearly 25 years, two grown children, suddenly discovering the Denver Police are re-opening the case of the cop murdered in Denver in 1979.  As much as Mel fears what will come of their investigation, what frightens her even more is trying to explain to her husband, her children and her in-laws that she really is not Melissa.  It also comes with a few surprises that readers of Something Taken would never imagine.  This is more of a love story, and though it has some sad moments, its not near as challenging of a read as the first one.

I could envision how scary it would be to have to suddenly reveal a new reality.  Even though I wrote this story after my husband died, I can say with perfect confidence if I had to confess something horrible I did to him, he would still believe in and stand by me.  So in a way, it is a tribute to him and his love for me.

There will be a third and final book in the series, that I am writing now, called Something Broken.  It is the perspective of the Denver police back before the murder.  Part of it is to explain how things like this develop without any real intent or recognition of the harm it causes.  The other reason for writing it was to explain some parts that might come as a surprise about the whole thing.  

After I get these two out, I’ll have to stop and analyze.  I have quite a few already written that need a lot of work and editing, but I don’t know what I’ll pursue after this.  Writing is something I have to do, but publishing, eh, well, we’ll see.

And, finally, what do you want to say to someone who has just bought one of your books and is about to open it?  
I truly hope you enjoy it, but if you don’t, I’d really love to hear why.  Whatever your reaction, I appreciate your taking the time to read it. 

Purchase Links:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
(the book is also available in paperback)

My Review:

Something TakenSomething Taken by Jerrie Brock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Terrible things happen. There comes a point in many people’s lives where they realize that the world is not small and safe. They realize that it is large, unpredictable, random and terribly dangerous. For some people, the realization comes through watching others. For some it is a process of thought. And some come up against the danger, cruelty and randomness in their own lives without warning.

Terry is in a new place, starting a new life after turning her back on the rags of her childhood. She is eighteen years old, making it on her own, happy with her friends, her job, her dog… And then in one night her innocence is stolen, her trust is betrayed and she is trapped and despairing.

Terrible things happen. You can’t bend the rules. You’re on your own. The weaker always loses. Something Taken tells of this – and it also tells of a truth that we often lose sight of when we are transfixed by the cruelty and harshness of life: there are heroes. There are the Bright Ones who stand against the dark, who follow their hearts in defiance, sometimes, of the rules.

An old nursery rhyme talks about ‘The Benders, the Breakers, The Menders and Makers’.

This is a story of a broken girl and how she comes through it. I found it moving.

There are some things that should be mentioned. This is a story of an eighteen-year-old girl, alone and vulnerable, who is used very badly. Harsh things happen, she is subjected to mistreatment. Brock’s gift is that she can tell of a terrible experience and do it completely by recounting the character’s sometimes disjointed impressions. She chronicles Terry’s descent into hell, and (I will post no spoilers) and of the hand outstretched to her that brought her back.

I was struck by the power of Brock’s writing, by her instinctive understanding of people. Her descriptions are very well done, and her characterizations do not falter. It is a powerful book.

This may be a hard book for some to read, for it touches upon difficult subjects, but ultimately it is worthwhile. (There are ways to preview books through Amazon and other sellers. If in doubt, try it out.)

I give this book five stars. It can be dark, it can be harsh, it is, as a whole, a very good book.

View all my reviews

An Interview with Thomas A Knight, Author (well worth celebrating)

Thomas A Knight

While I usually participate in the Celebration blog hop started by VikLit, I am putting in a bit of a twist this week.  We celebrate many things – meals, the coming weekend, a vacation.  Today I am going to celebrate someone who, in addition to being an excellent writer, is generous almost to a fault, and has helped many, many people reach for a dream.

Thomas A. Knight is preparing to publish the third book in his Time Weaver Chronicles, a heroic fantasy trilogy that begins with a bang with The Time Weaver, proceeds through Legacy, and leaves you wanting to read the final volume, Reprisal, which will be coming out early next year.

A reluctant hero must come to terms with a new world, new powers, and a family history buried deep in the folds of time.
     Learning to accept and control his powers is the hardest thing Seth has ever had to do, but the longer he spends in Galadir, the more he grows to love this new world and the female warrior accompanying him. When a much more ancient and dangerous wizard awakens and threatens to destroy Galadir, Seth is the key to defeating him. Now he must save a world he never knew existed with magic he never knew he could wield, if only he could learn to control it in time.

The Time Weaver

 Once upon a time…

…a warrior of light defeated an insane wizard, but behind every heroic story lies a truth never told.
     A man washes ashore on the island of Arda after a terrible storm, remembering nothing but his name: Krycin. The blue wizard Gladius finds him, takes him in, and is determined to help Krycin regain what he’s lost.
     The Fates have other plans. Krycin’s presence on Galadir is disrupting the fabric of the universe. The solution? Eliminate him, by any means necessary.
     When Gladius sides with the council, his efforts to destroy Krycin spark a war that threatens all life on Galadir.

Coming 2014:

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A couple years ago I first participated in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest sponsored by Amazon.  This contest is open to authors who own their works, published or not (meaning that the work is owned by the author, free and clear).  The entries (one per person) must be fiction, no graphics, and novel length.  The books fall into different categories:  Young Adult, Mystery, Romance…  The process of elimination begins with submitting a short ‘pitch’ that must ‘grab’ the reviewers and make them say “This is a book I want to read!”  Since your entry is one out of 10,000, and 8,000 of those entries will be eliminated based on that ‘pitch’, the odds are very low that you will make it. 
Every year Thomas presides over a group that coaches contestants, gives feedback and suggestions on the pitches, encourages, and builds up confidence.  There is no reward given him, except for the knowledge that he has been truly helpful. 
In the course of all this, I had a chance to read his work, and I found it enjoyable.  The stories are well worth reading, and Mr. Knight is well worth listening to:

* * * * * * * * * *
Give us a brief summary of your book and its place in your trilogy. (Note: ‘It’s the last one’ is not an acceptable answer.)
Reprisal is the third and final installment in The Time Weaver Chroncles and marks a huge milestone for me as an author. It’s a finale, so all loose ends must be tied up, for better or for worse. I can’t promise a happy ending, but it will be an ending, and it will be fabulous.
Can you share a passage that you really like, and tell us why? (Note: if you want to clarify the passage, where it is, what it is that made you happy – good writing, caught the mood, made you proud, no spelling errors – just kidding – put it in)
This excerpt is from Chapter 1. I was looking for something to set the tone of the book, and I tend to write a lot of action scenes. I wanted to excite the reader, get their blood pumping, and give them a little something that fans have been asking for. This is what happens next, a direct continuation of the action at the end of The Time Weaver. Without further ado, here is the excerpt:
The bridge drew closer by the second, but Malia held back enough to ensure that every one of her remaining soldiers made it before her. When the last one had begun to cross, she slowed, stepped onto the bridge and turned to face the army that had begun its advance again. Walking backward, she watched Morganath make several more passes over the silent army. It didn’t matter how many he torched, the remaining wretches continued, some of them burning as they walked. Malia was half-way across when the first of them stepped onto it with her.
A voice behind her startled her. “What are you planning?” Ceridan asked. “You’re not going to take them on by yourself.”
“I will slay each and every one if I have to,” Malia said, her voice tainted with anger. “They have taken everything from us, and I intend to make them pay.”
Ceridan’s hand grasped her shoulder. “Easy, general. It’s Grian we want, not those poor wretches. Stick with the plan. We will get help from Caldoor and regain our kingdom.”
The undead approached fast, but Malia turned away from them anyway to face Ceridan. “Do not speak that name in my presence. He is the defiler, the usurper, a vile maggot in the corpse of a once great kingdom.” Ceridan backed up from her tirade, trying to direct her attention to the undead approaching behind her, but she ignored him. “He has taken our homes, our people, and our kingdom, and all we can do is run. We keep running or die and become one of them.” A tear ran down her left cheek as she lost control of her emotions. “I just want them to go away,” she said, and turned back to face the approaching creatures. Drawing all the magical energy she could muster, she ran through the first of the undead with her sword and screamed a single word. “Incendras.”
A massive column of fire burst from her hands and the sword, spreading out and flowing down the length of the bridge. Any undead in its path were vaporized, and still it continued as the sword took over and lapped up the energy. She felt its greed as she fed it, but didn’t stop. The bridge caught fire, the ancient iron wood fueling the flames, and still she continued, ignoring the frantic voice behind her. The sword felt good in her hand, and rage fueled the spell as it extended beyond the bridge and into the horde gathering on the other side. When she could take it no more, she ended the spell, raised the sword into the air with the blade pointing down, and drove it into the bridge up to the hilt.
The wood exploded, starting at the sword and spreading out before her, tearing the bridge apart. Flaming chunks flew into the air and fell into the canyon as the eastern half of the bridge crumbled. Supports split and fell, the railings gave out, and the entire structure sank as only the western half remained. The only thing holding it up was stone and chains in the ground on the other side. Malia gripped the sword and used it to keep herself from falling into the canyon, but Ceridan wasn’t so lucky. He slid down the surface of the bridge and fell off the end, catching one hand on a stray piece of wood. It was all that kept him from falling into the canyon below.

You have done a tremendous amount of worldbuilding with this series. Will you have any further stories set in this universe?
Oh yes. I’m already planning a new trilogy based on a favorite character of mine. He made an appearance in Legacy, but it was just a cameo. My next book, The Spell Breaker, will be all about Taraxle. His life started as an assassin, but he turns into a magic absorbing force to be reckoned with. I hope my fans will stick around to read his story.
So let’s talk about you:
What got you started writing?
I started writing The Time Weaver in November of 2010 when I took part in National Novel Writing Month. Before that, I spent almost twenty years creating plots and characters for role playing games. I knew nothing about creative writing, spelling or grammar when I began, but I’ve spent countless hours learning from my mistakes. I’m entirely self-taught, and still participate in NaNoWriMo every year.
How did this idea come to you? Did it just pop into your head, or did it come on slowly as details began to be set?
Inspiration comes from many places. I’m inspired by the people I meet, the books I read, the places I go, and the games I play. But in the end, what really got me writing was an intersection near where I work, and a question: What would happen if time stopped?
What is your process? Plotter? Pantser? Hybrid? (note: feel free to preach. 😉
Pantser, all the way. I come up with an ending, and a beginning, and then let my hands and my subconscious mind figure out a way to get me there. Sometimes things don’t go the way I expect, and I have to adjust my ending, but that’s okay, so long as the story keeps moving forward. I’ve found myself talking to my wife about the story I’m working on as though it were real events taking place. She’s even asked me: “You have no idea what’s going to happen, do you?” Truth is, I don’t.
Do you have any favorite tools, techniques or gimmics that keep you focused?
Not really. I’m a burst writer, so I’ll put down like thirty to forty thousand words in a very short time, and then let it rest for a while and do other stuff. Staying focused isn’t too hard when you work like that. As a software developer in a busy office, I’m used to distractions, so its easy for me to switch modes from one task to another. When I sit down with the intention of writing, I write.
Quickly now: you’re in the middle of a crowded place with lots of bustling people. You suddenly get a (mental) thunderbolt that illuminates a problem you had been having with your story. All is revealed, or the way out of the dilemma occurs to you or an insight comes to you. How do you preserve it?
I have a notoriously bad memory, so the answer may surprise you. I rely on my memory. Over the years, I’ve adopted a technique to help me remember things like this. I have compartments in my mind, like filing cabinets, where I store various thoughts and ideas. When I have an epiphany like this, I store it away in it’s appropriate cabinet or drawer, and pull it back up later. I have lots of ideas, all the time, and I rely on this system to keep myself organized. The important stuff sticks, and the less important stuff fades away and stops distracting me.
Who are your helpers? (Does your family go glassy-eyed and turn the talk away? Do your friends ask you for the next installment? Do you keep it all to yourself and only hand it out when you’re ready for it to be looked at?)
My wife, first and foremost. She is my best editor, and my last line of defense. She reads everything I write, gives me honest feedback, and makes it better. We work together on my final drafts, and when we’re done, there is very little wrong with my books. I also rely on a hired editor for the first run through, and a small group of beta readers who I trust to give me honest feedback.
You wake up one morning, open the door, step outside – and realize that you are in Galadir. The door, which you closed behind you, vanishes and you can’t go back. What do you do? Who would you be? What challenges would you face? Would you be pleased, or would you hide under a rock?
That depends on where on Galadir I end up. If I land in one of the more civilized regions of Galadir, I would look for the nearest magic academy and sign myself up. The deserts of Astara are brutal and unforgiving, which would probably be a death sentence if I wasn’t near a town or village. If it was the Eastern Badlands? Run. Run and hide.
What is next?
Another book of course, and the beginning of another trilogy. The Spell Breaker Chronicles is all I can think about right now. It’s burning in my head, and needs to come out. I tried writing it a while back, but it wasn’t time. Now it’s time. This November, I plan on putting down the first fifty thousand words.
Where do your names come from? (Some people like to know. Since I pull my fantasy names out of thin air, for the most part, I’m a little curious, too…)
I’m not ashamed to say that I use a name generator for the vast majority of my names. It’s a program called Ebon, which allows me to use a different dictionary of name roots for each region of my world. That way, I can generate semi-random names that all sound similar in style for a region. Some of my names come from existing characters from campaigns I’ve run, or are borrowed from friend’s characters. Krycin for instance was a name created by my best friend, and was used as a nod to him. A few other names were taken from real people (with their permission, of course). Those people know who they are. Still, a few of my names, like Seth and Malia came out of thin air. They just sounded right. I think in these cases, it wasn’t me who named the character, but the character who told me their name.
I know you have a crowdfunding site to help defray some of the costs – with some truly nifty goods on offer.  I am placing the link HERE – check it out!

Say something to those reading this. Anything you want, on any subject.
Balance. Life is all about balance. Don’t obsess, don’t work too hard, don’t play too much, and never forget the people who make you who you are.
I can’t think of any way to top that sentiment, Thomas, so I will close this interview with a suggestion to the readers that they look into your work, starting with your website:


Interview With My Main Character

I have the pleasure to interview His Majesty, King Seti of Egypt, today.  His Majesty has graciously agreed to answer some questions about his role in my latest book, Mourningtide, which will be published May 31.  If it please your majesty-

Please call me Seti.  A character never outranks its author, and I am a character that you created, based on a man in history.  We are not the same, and Mourningtide is not a textbook.  You diverge from what is known in one or two regards, but you do cover those episodes in an afterword, do you not?
I certainly do.  Well…Seti…  I thought it would be interesting to speak with you about the events that are covered in Mourningtide.
By all means.
Tell us about yourself.
I was named for my grandfather, who was a troop commander in the Royal Army.  I came from a non-royal family that had spent generations in the armies.  We did have some wealth, and ours was a position of increasing influence.   By the time of the book – according to the reality of the book – I had succeeded my father, who had been named by Horemheb as his successor, and had ruled for a year.  At the opening of the story, I had been King three years.  Two of those years had been spent on campaign, winning back territory and allies Egypt had lost.  I was in my early fifties with four children – two sons and two daughters – and six grandchildren, with two due to arrive at any moment.
And you were expecting a prosperous reign?
I was hoping for one.  I was ready to do what I could to achieve it for my people.
And your son died through an accident.

I’m sorry.

Don’t be.  He disregarded the warnings of another, more experienced man, walked into a dangerous situation with his eyes wide open, and was killed.  It happens, as we both know.  I was overset for a time, and Mourningtide tells the story of my healing.  You have chapters up for review on your site.  Did you wish to go over the story itself?  Or did you want to chat about other things?

Let’s chat about other things.  This is not your first appearance in one of my stories. 
No, it is not.  My very first appearance in something of yours was a mention, almost in passing, in Pharaoh’s Son.  Prince Thutmose entrusted me with a secret which I, in turn, entrusted to Ramesses as I was dying.  His Highness the High Priest had some very kind things to say about me.  My second appearance was in The City of Refuge. In that story I led a division of the Army of Lower Egypt that served as guards and laborers for Lord Nebamun’s mission to Akhenaten’s capital city. My father and Lord Nebamun were good friends.  I knew nothing of this at that time.
You had quite a large part in that story, didn’t’ you?
It was large enough.  I was considered a major character.  Enough happened to make it clear that Lord Nebamun – the hero of that story, along with my good friend Khonsu – was capable of running rings around anyone who came up against him.  I was thoroughly embarrassed, though I did mean well.  Reading over the book, I found myself laughing.
I enjoyed writing the book.

Did you have to have me locked in an escape-proof courtyard on a stormy night?

I did.  It worked.  

Let me ask you: will I be appearing in any other stories of yours?

You appear as a memory several times in Kadesh.  As to other stories with you as a living person…   I don’t know.  Your conflict was handled in Mourningtide.  There may be other stories, I can’t say.  But not now.
Let’s talk about objections people have to books set in Egypt.  The unpronounceable place and personal names-

I beg your pardon?

Kealakakua.  Angkor Wat.  If we are speaking of strange or unpronounceable place names, they might fit.  Or, to go ‘across the pond’ as you Americans and British say it, how about ‘Worcestershire’ – spelled ‘Wore SES ter Shyre’ and pronounced ‘Woostersheer’.
Well, I-
Or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch (or Llanfairpwllgwyngyll)  That may be cheating, perhaps, since the name is a sentence describing the location, but it is on the maps.  Looking at it syllable by syllable, I can pronounce it.  Try Pontchartrain.  Neuschwanstein…  How are they worse than ‘Waset’ or ‘Men-Nefer’ or ‘Iunu’?
Those who read fantasy books have no problem with ‘Gormenghast’, ‘Minas Ithil’, the Baranduin, or Dol Amroth.  Prince Imrahil is one of my favorite characters, but his name is no easier  to pronounce than my son’s.  And added to my objections is the fact that modern society does not know how my language sounded.  Like the Hebrew writings, we did not supply vowels.
I see your point.  But some of the Egyptian names can be difficult.  Like Amunhorkhepechef.
Be careful: you are meeting yourself coming.  You said that name was easy to type.  And you know better.  It is a ceremonial name that means ‘Amun Mighty in Battle’.  Your own sources have indicated that that name was altered depending on what city was home for that prince at any given time, so that if he was residing in Iunu (Heliopolis, if you wish), he would have signed his name ‘Rahorkhepechef’, and if in Khemnu (Hermopolis, if you are not a purist) he would have been Tothorkpehechef or Thuthorkhepechef.  You were right to give him the nickname ‘Hori’, by the way.  That’s what they called him.
Speaking as an experienced father, a person’s name must be something an angry parent can yell at the top of his lungs while running after a naughty child.  Amunhorkhepechef does not satisfy that requirement.  Ergo, it was not the boy’s actual name.  It is as silly as someone thinking that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of England – may God bless her! – answers to ‘Defender of the Faith’ when that title is used by a grandchild at the dinner table. 
Good point.  Do you have anything else to say on the subject of language difficulties?
Yes.  A Elbereth, Gilthoniel!  Silvirin penna Miriel-  You are laughing!
You meant me to. You read Tolkien!  (ahem)  Let’s talk about that ‘weird Egyptian culture.’
The problem with that perception is that all they know of my era… or, let us say, 85%, comes from tombs and the items taken from them.  I wonder how archaeologists of the future might view North Americans and western Europeans if their only source of information is what they find in Forest Lawn Cemetery or Westminster Abbey.  In fact, there is a hilarious book by David Macauley with the title Motel of the Mysteries that explores what future archaeologists think of a dig in North America.  Their interpretations are very amusing – and they are in line with the folly I see pertaining to my own culture.

Tell me about the hero of your story.
The hero?  There were two.  My son, Ramesses, is one – he showed himself to be like a bell that rings true no matter how you strike it – and Djedi, the young man of the small village that sheltered me.  He saw a need to protect his town from attackers, and he set out to do so.  I helped him as much as I could. 

They had no idea who you were.

Correct.  Lord Nebamun met some ghosts from his past through my inadvertent actions, but he won through, though he did give me a piece of his mind when I returned.
But you were not the hero?
I was the main character, the protagonist.  I did experience hardship and change – but I was not heroic.
We will have to agree to disagree.
You will have to agree.  I did what I always did – though I did mourn the loss of my son.  I had no heights to scale, and falling in love with a wonderful woman required no heroism on my part.  No, Djedi was my hero – and Ramesses.
Djedi.  You helped him.
Yes.  How could I not?  He needed to be coached, they needed to be protected, and I had the experience.  And they were my subjects, after all.
What about Ramesses?
He became the man who would be ‘Ramesses the Great’.  That name is spoken with curled lips by some.  It seems that a great man  or woman is always the target of sneers.  People seem to want to see them taken down, their reputations sullied – their clay feet in evidence.  Ramesses was great.  He ruled for nearly seventy years, and his rule made it possible for that part of the world to enjoy peace and stability in what truly was a golden age.
You started it.
Perhaps.  But my reign was not long, and Ramesses stepped in and did his magnificent best.  Poor lad.
‘Poor’ lad?
Yes.  He is to be pitied.  Think of it:  he saw the deaths of all he loved.  His four oldest sons – three of them serving as Crown Prince – died before him.  Hori after thirty years, Rai – another Ramses – after another twenty-five, Khay (Khaemwaset – one of the heroes of ‘Pharaoh’s Son’)- after another five, when he himself was old.  He watched his children – the children of his youth and his loves – die one after another, themselves old men.  And then he began to fail, himself.  Those people who like to examine corpses and do DNA testing and x-rays have shown that Ramesses had arterial occlusions that probably led, late in life, to senility.  There was, I know, a moment when he stood aghast and realized that he was failing, growing feeble…  I was spared that.
I am sorry.
Don’t be, Diana.  There is nothing to weep over.  All hurts are healed now, but we would do well to take that lesson with us.  There.  You are smiling again.  What else do you wish to ask me?
As a character in historical fiction, what is the one thing you would like to say.
I would say that people don’t change:
You are an historian, as I was (at least in your novel).  In your studies, have you found that people have changed at all?  Time has given us ways to kill more people, or heal more people, ways to suppress our imaginations – all the imagining seems to be done for our children now – but as a species, if you will, there is no change to our fundamental nature.  There is a song by Neil Diamond, with the title, I think, of ‘Done Too Soon’ that ends with this verse:
They have sweated beneath the same sun,
Looked up in wonder at the same moon,
And wept when it was all done
For being done too soon…
For being done too soon.

You make a good point.  And I thank you for spending time with me.    I assume you are going back..?

Yes.  To the place you left me this morning.  The village is fighting off the attackers, Djedi leading under my eye.

Does he know you are king?

You must ask him.  And now, if I may, he is down with a spear in his side and I am holding him…

Will he die?

You are the author.  You know already. And if I told, you would never let me forget it.

Probably not.  Thank you for stopping by and speaking with me.

It is not for a character to object to its author’s actions.  Adieu-

About Hart Johnson by Hart Johnson (and myself)

Hart at a book signing – note the covers…

I ‘met’ Hart Johnson in the halls of Amazon during one of the past ABNA (Amazon Breakout Novel Award) competitions.  It is a wonderful experience, and what made it worthwhile for me was the sheer amount of good advice and camaraderie that I encountered.  It was priceless. 

Writers are a generous lot.  We like to share – experiences, tips, advice, commiseration and cheering.  Hart definitely did her share then and now, with a very enjoyable, signature smile.

If you like good writing, she does it, whether you encounter it on her blog, her facebook page or in the pages of her books.  Since she has another installment in her Cozy Mystery series (Penguin) coming out, I asked her if I might feature her on my blog.  She gave a gracious ‘yes’ response, and here she is.

Hart is very visible (links and information are at the end of this interview) and others better than me have interviewed her.  I thought I’d just pose some random questions.  I’m glad I did:

You’re a writer. Why?

I think because reality never quite follows my plan. Then again my fiction doesn’t always follow my plan either, but at least when it doesn’t, I’m in charge of the punishment.

Hobby, distraction or job – what is Writing to you?

I would SO love this to be my job, but sadly, I’ve reached a position of power in my household and now all these needy people depend on ME for a regular income *cough* Hopefully AT LEAST by the time my son finishes college (he is a high school freshman now) and that particular bill is off the table and two dependents are off my insurance, I will be able to make the switch.

If you’re like many of the writers I know, you do something else to put bread on the table, at least for the moment. That takes a large chunk out of the day. How do you squeeze writing time in?
It started with filling the time that was formerly the ‘read with childings’ time—first my daughter, then my son, as they hit middle school, gave up reading with me and I’d been stealing just a little time to write before that, but I took first the one 45 minutes, then the other, and suddenly I had two hours a night… and I mean EVERY night. (and nobody even missed it)–And yes… initially it was almost ALL in the bathtub.

The bathtub?  When I think of the wasteland of dunked books I managed to generate during my attempts to read and soak, I am in awe! 

A word utterly escapes you. You know what you want and it is not popping into your head. The perfect word – AWOL! What do you do?
See, this is one of the reasons I love writing… I write my long description of the word I’m looking for and can’t find and know it will come to me as I fall asleep or in the shower or on a power walk and I can fill it in later. This doesn’t work NEARLY as well in face to face conversations, though I DO try.

People like to read books that interest and entertain them. I have noticed, though, that an interesting and entertaining author also gets a following. What is there about you that people might like to follow? Don’t be shy.
Thus far, my only published stuff has a combo of humor and twisty plot. I think my characters are fun and likable, but each with an annoying quirk or two. I like smart female leads who stick up for themselves and more often rescue than having to be rescued. And while I appreciate beautiful PERFECT language choices, I think my language choice tends to be minimally intrusive… it is a story I’m telling, not a poem. Which I think makes me approachable for people who just want to take a break and escape a while.

Someone said once that a good book was a place to lose yourself happily for a space of time…

Speaking seriously about the craft of writing, what tools or procedures do you consider absolutely essential?

My advice is ALWAYS to let go a little. Just write and don’t worry if it’s good. No first draft is good already (well, there are probably some, but not nearly as many as there are writers confident in their first drafts)–write write write. Get the story out. Then SET IT ASIDE. Read something GOOD. Read something BAD. Give feedback to a friend. So when you come back to your work to edit you have cleansed your palette and hopefully learned a few things. You are more objective with some distance and can see what is both good and bad… Edit… THEN get feedback from somebody ELSE (and read good and bad and give feedback)… A few rounds of this is you are probably getting there. I really don’t think it is possible without TIME and FEEDBACK though.

What else is in the works for you? A sequel to Begonia Bribe, perhaps? Or anything else?
I’ve turned in a third Garden Society Mystery to my editor at Penguin, so there is at least that, and it’s DONE (well, other than copy editing). I hope they ask me to do a couple more—I have plots worked out for two others. But in the meantime, I have a couple YA novels in the editing stage, one mystery that is a little sassier than cozy (called What Ales Me—a Microbrewery based mystery in Portland: A reader called it a cross between Cozy and Noir). And then I have two Armageddon stories I am thinking about publishing serially (one adult, one YA)… the Microbrewery Mystery will probably be first out of the docket, as I think my agent and publisher will go for that as a series. The others, I have to start from scratch for selling.

OK, we have an open forum here: what would you like to say?
You know… writing is probably the greatest compulsion a person can get sucked into. It allows for escape and imagination, while encouraging us to open the wide filter on the world and see all the great possibilities. We get to push our brains into new places all the time, then rope them back in to create elegance. And unlike my former ‘dreams’ (first I wanted to be a trapeze artist, then a movie star) this one is largely in our control.
If we just keep working at it long enough, we will eventually be good enough to share… And not only that, it is one of the few undertakings that somebody ELSE creating something fabulous doesn’t threaten us. In fact it helps us. Because the more great stories there are out there, the more readers there will be looking for still more stories. So we can love and support each other in earnest.

(Thank you, Hart.  That last paragraph needs to be set aside and written in bold.  And, perhaps, memorized.  At least for this writer.)

The Begonia Bribe is Hart Johnson’s latest mystery in the Garden Club series.  For myself, aside from the interesting ‘blurb’, and the fact that I spent some years within smiling distance of Roanoke, I have to love a story with a radio-TV station named WONK!

Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a pint-sized beauty contest comes to town, someone decides to deliver a final judgment … 

A beauty pageant for little girls—the Little Miss Begonia Pageant—has decided to hold their event in a Roanoke park. Camellia is called in to help deal with the botanical details, the cute contestants, and their catty mothers. She soon realizes that the drama onstage is nothing compared to the judges row. There’s jealousy, betrayal, and a love triangle involving local newsman—and known lothario—Telly Stevens. And a mysterious saboteur is trying to stop the pageant from happening at all. 

But the drama turns deadly when Stevens is found dead, poisoned by some sort of plant. With a full flowerbed of potential suspects, Cam needs to dig through the evidence to uproot a killer with a deadly green thumb.
**   **   **

 Hart Johnson (aka: Alyse Carlson) writes books from her bathtub and can be found at:

Confessions of a Watery Tart:


Thanks, Hart!