Thursday, March 5, 2015

Interview with Greg Hickey, author of Our Dried Voices

Greg Hickey
Greg Hickey was born in Evanston, Illinois in 1985. After graduating from Pomona College in 2008, he played and coached baseball in Sweden and South Africa. He is now a forensic scientist, endurance athlete and award-winning writer. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Lindsay. You can visit Greg’s website at  

Connect with Greg:

Author Website: 

About The Book

Our Dried Voices

TitleOur Dried Voices 
Author: Greg Hickey
Publisher: Scribe Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Pages: 234
ISBN: 978-1940368931
Genre: Dystopian / Science Fiction
Format: Paperback, eBook (.mobi / Kindle), PDF

Purchase The Book:

In 2153, cancer was cured. In 2189, AIDS. And in 2235, the last members of the human race traveled to a far distant planet called Pearl to begin the next chapter of humanity. Several hundred years after their arrival, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony.    

Book Excerpt:


The sound of the bells echoed across the colony. They sounded five times, and by the end of the fifth peal everyone had stopped what they were doing and started to walk toward the nearest source of the noise. The bells had a tinny, hollow sound to them. To be sure, it was unmistakably the sound of bells, but it lacked that rich, thunderous, rolling swell once heard in passing by an old church at the top of the hour. Instead, it was as though the sound of real bells had been recorded and re-recorded ad infinitum until only bell-like sounds now remained.

The bells called the people to the midday meal. All across the lush meadow, the colonists fell into a kind of reverie. Moments earlier, they had been romping through the meadow or splashing in the river with the joyful abandon of children, while others napped blissfully at the base of a modest hill or fornicated with some momentary lover in the shade of a spreading tree. But now their innocent laughter, their hushed excited voices, their intermittent shrieks of pleasure all ceased for an instant as they moved as one toward the sound of the bells. As soon as the fifth toll had faded in the air, the human noise resumed as though it had never been silenced. The colonists walked eagerly but unhurriedly, small, hairless, brown-skinned people, all barefooted and dressed in simple, cream-colored smocks.

The bell sounds came from the seven meal halls spread throughout the colony—long, tall, rectangular buildings erected from the black, craggy rock characteristic of the mountains of Pearl, now smoothed down and cut into bricks and painted a soothing off-white. Another smaller building abutted one end of each meal hall. Their wan stone fa├žades matched those of the larger halls and there were no discernible entryways in their solid exteriors.

As the colonists entered each meal hall, they lined up along the right-hand wall to wait for their food. The walls were painted a pale sky blue, and on the far wall was a small square hole. One by one, each diner stepped forward in line, a small, red light above the hole flashed, a short clicking and whirring noise sounded and then a round, firm, dark brown cake appeared at the edge of the opening. One by one, each colonist took the proffered meal cake and carried it over to one of the many wooden tables or out into the meadow.

Near the front of the line at one hall, a male colonist turned to face the man behind him.

“Hellohoweryou?” said the first man.

“Goodthankshoweryou?” replied the second man.



The two men stared blankly at each other for a moment. Then the first man blinked and said “Goodweathertoday.”

The second bobbed his head and grinned. “Betterenyesterday.”

They continued to gaze at each other with vapid expressions until the first man turned around and stepped forward in line. The two men were right. It was Tuesday. It rained on Mondays. And thanks to the colony’s weather modification system, it had rained every Monday, and only on Monday, for hundreds of years.


When about half the colonists at this particular meal hall had received their food, an adult woman moved to the front of the line. A young boy, no taller than her waist, stood behind her. The woman stepped up to the wall, the red light above the hole flashed… and nothing happened. There was no clicking, no whirring, and no meal cake emerged from the hole in the milky blue wall. Some people a few places behind the first woman, by now so accustomed to the regular pace of the line, stepped forward in anticipation of her taking the food and continuing on. When the line did not move, they bumped awkwardly into the colonists in front of them, very much surprised that there should be a fleshy, breathing, human body in their path instead of empty space. Those closest to the front of the line fell silent when they saw the woman had not yet received her meal, and then the silence spread evenly and rhythmically down the line, like a row of pillowed dominoes falling to the floor. Yet all the colonists continued to wear the same insipid half-grin on their faces as they waited patiently for the food to be dispensed and the line to creep forward once more.

A long, loud, whining shriek from the young boy waiting with his mother at the front of the line broke through the stillness, and it was this sound, not the actual interruption of the food service, which seemed to have the greatest effect on those in the hall. The boy did not cry. He shed no tears, and the sound which emerged from his mouth was not a breathless and choked sobbing, or even the petulant howl of a child’s tantrum. It was a primal, animal moan that rose from the depths of his unfilled stomach, rushed up his throat with a cold and persistent ferocity and forced its way over his teeth, throwing his head back as it broke from his lips. No one tried to comfort the boy. His mother did not even turn around to look at him. Her weak smile faded, but she continued to stare at the dark hole in the wall, still waiting for her meal to appear. Then a child some dozen places back in the line picked up the boy’s howl, and then a woman farther behind did the same. Soon the entire line was wailing loudly.

Those colonists who had already received their meals hunkered over their cakes and stuffed their last bites into their mouths. One of them stood up, bumping hard into his table. The rest followed. They walked hurriedly to the door, brushing past the onlookers from outside who had gathered to see what all the noise was about. Those still in line stared dazedly at the others around them, at the now half-empty hall, an incipient question forming somewhere deep in their skulls.

A man in the middle of the line broke their unsteady ranks first. He ran, stumbling over tables and chairs bolted to the floor in his maddened dash toward the doorway. The rest of the line scattered in his wake. Out through the door they went, cracking bony limbs on the wooden furniture in their paths, pushing and trampling one another as they all tried to force their way through the doorway at once, like blood cells pumped through a clotted artery.

Those who had already finished their meals stood outside in a loose ring several meters away from the entrance of the food hall, and as the wild runners pushed their way through the door, they began to run as well, picking up the wail of the unfed as they went. They ran in no particular direction, a single mass exodus from the hall, teeming out across the gay green meadows, up and over the soft, undulating hills, and their cries rippled throughout the once-peaceful fields to fill the void left by the cessation of the bells with a sound far more vibrant than those stale chimes which had just called them to their uneaten meal.

Author Interview

Q: Can you tell us what your book is about? 

Our Dried Voices is set several hundred years in future, after humans have cured all disease, fine-tuned automated technology and migrated to a distant planet called Pearl. Here, the remainder of humanity lives in a utopian colony in which every want is satisfied automatically, and there is no need for human labor, struggle or thought. But when the machines that regulate the colony begin to malfunction, the colonists are faced with a test for the first time in their existence. With the lives of the colonists at stake, it is left to a young man named Samuel to repair these breakdowns and save the colony. Aided by his friend Penny, Samuel rises to meet each challenge. But he soon discovers a mysterious group of people behind each of these problems, and he must somehow find and defeat these saboteurs in order to rescue his colony. 

Q: Why did you write your book? 

The colonists in Our Dried Voices were inspired by the Eloi in H.G. Wells' novel, The Time Machine. In his novel, humanity diverges into two distinct species, one of which is the Eloi, who are frail and unintelligent, and live a mostly blissful life without any need for physical or mental exertion. The question raised in both Wells’ novel and Our Dried Voices is how humanity evolved to this state, so I wanted to write something that explores humanity’s seemingly paradoxical quest to devote so much intellect to developing technologies to eliminate the need for said intellect. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

The protagonist, Samuel, starts out almost as blissfully ignorant as his fellow colonists. But there is something different about him; he notices little things, even if he’s still trapped by the conventional day to day life of his society. Over time, this attentiveness grows into a stronger curiosity to know more about his surroundings. He becomes more independent and driven and critically engaged with the world. His friend Penny shares many similar traits, but her development comes a bit later than Samuel’s. Seeing her through Samuel’s eyes shows the struggle to learn and understand that Samuel experienced in a different light. She’s also a bit more compassionate to the other colonists, not as easily frustrated by their lack of intellect as Samuel can be. 

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? 

Both. In the case of Our Dried Voices, the characters aren’t based on specific people, but the colonists are inspired by what I think is a growing trend in society to avoid tackling thorny problems that require some serious critical thought. But I’ve written other works where at least one character is based directly on someone I’ve briefly met, although I’ve never completely based a character on someone close to me. 

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write? 

So far I have been very aware of the plots of my two novels. That awareness doesn’t rule out discovering plot holes that need further exploration or repair as I get deeper into the writing, but I do like to have a pretty solid framework in place before I get started. 

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

Yes, the human community on Pearl is crucial to the story. On this planet, the last of the human race has established a colony that satisfies all their needs without requiring their input. The colony is cleaned automatically, meals are prepared for the colonists, and the weather is controlled to maintain a temperate climate. Everything is set up to require no further human input, that is, until the machines that support the colony begin to malfunction. But at the same time, I didn’t want to create an environment that was so foreign to readers that it became impossible to draw parallels between Our Dried Voices and contemporary life. So the colony is just a big meadow with grass and trees, surrounded by mountains. The buildings are made out of rock and contain basic tables and chairs and beds. The machines are complex to the colonists, but aren’t unimaginable in today’s society. Basically, I wanted to find a balance between a contrived science fiction setting and something very familiar to readers. 

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track? 

I have. I’m sure every writer has at some point. I usually have a pretty good idea of where a story will go, but sometimes it can be a struggle to get there. I think breaking up the story into more manageable chunks helps. So if I know I want to get from A to D but I’m stuck at A, then I start by figuring out how to get from A to B and tackle that section. A section could be multiple chapters or even just one conversation, but having an idea of what I want my writing to accomplish usually helps me move forward, even if I’m just inching along. 

Q:What do you like the most about being an author? 

Being able to hold a tangible finished product in my hands, and sharing that experience with readers. I (like most people) have written many different things in my life: papers for school, e-mails, thank you notes, etc. It’s rare that any of those things stand the test of time, no matter how much someone might appreciate them for a moment. So it was an amazing experience to hold a copy of Our Dried Voices in my hands for the first time and know that other readers were sharing the same experience, that other people were about to open something I had written, something they could engage with for more than a few fleeting moments, something that will hopefully spark a new idea or dialogue in their lives. 

Q: What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life? 

Knowing when you’re done with a piece. You may think you’ve got a great story after the first draft or two, but you often need someone to poke holes in it to make it stronger. By the end of the process, there is always more you can do, always something you can tweak, but at some point you just have to decide your work is ready to go. So I think there’s a fine line to determining when your piece is as good as it’s going to be and it’s time to put it out to a larger audience. 

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors? 

Read and write as much as you can. You’ll get all sorts of kernels of ideas to start you off. Write them down. They may not amount to anything, but eventually you’ll find some worth exploring and expanding.

Our Dried Voices Tour Banner

Talking Books with Gary Rodriguez, author of 'Escape Through the Wilderness'

My name is Gary Rodriguez, and I live in California. I'm the president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development, and conflict resolution.
Previously, I worked for eighteen years in the radio business as an executive where I spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting.

Following a successful radio career I became the president of a non-profit organization for a season. 

As a young man, I spent a tour of duty in the U.S. Army where I was recognized as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army's history at age 18 years. I was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation's third highest award for valor) while serving in a combat zone.

Over the past few years, I've written three non-fiction books and then I decided to write a novel.

My first book, Purpose-Centered Public Speaking, was published in 2009 and was re-published this summer (2014). Then I wrote a companion workbook designed to help people implement the principles taught in my first book. Next, I wrote Overcoming The Fear Of Public Speaking. And this past year, I wrote my first novel, Escape Through The Wilderness.  

For More Information
Can you tell us what your book is about?

Escape Through the Wilderness is an action-packed survival adventure filled with suspense and intensity.

Sixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics' accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but that doesn't stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho for the summer.

At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift acts like a bully and taunts her because of her injury. When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water rafting adventure, what was supposed to be a fun expedition, turns into a nightmare when there's a serious incident on the river.

When the four finally drag themselves out of the water, they're bruised, beaten, lost, and stranded twenty-five miles from the camp. Adding to their concern is the threat of Vexel who they heard about during the Fright Night tales on the first night of camp. Vexel is a vicious animal that’s on the prowl in the nearby woods.

Although Savi is the youngest in the group, she becomes the unlikely leader and tries to guide the others back to Camp Arrowhead, but limited supplies, injuries, and ongoing concerns about Vexel, who she and the others fear is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

Readers will enjoy dramatic survival scenes and the group working together, solving problems, and learning to overcome adversity.

Why did you write your book?

Escape Through the Wilderness is a survival story written to teach valuable principles about life, leadership, and perseverance. My goal was to entertain readers as well as inspire them. Inevitably all of us will face a variety of trials and obstacles as we journey through life.

The book is meant to encourage young readers and the young-at-heart to witness teens figuring out how to overcome difficulties they face with a measure of faith, a lot of perseverance, and a little help from their friends.

At times, it’s necessary to solicit the help of others and to learn to work as a team to accomplish goals. In this case, the goal is survival. The story highlights individual achievement as well as upholding the importance and value of interdependence.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

All the characters in this novel were birthed out of my imagination. In my opinion, creating and developing characters is one of the most gratifying aspects in writing novels. It opens the door to unencumbered creativity and allows an author to form an individual to suit a specific role and place in the story. Yet, to say my characters were “totally” from my imagination seems a bit disingenuous. Allow me to explain. True, I invented the characters in my head, but my collective knowledge of people and relationships influenced not only their creation and development but also their temperament and communication style. 

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

What an interesting question. I'd have to answer it by saying, yes and yes.  When I planned out the story, I started the process by beginning at the end. I asked myself what I wanted my readers to experience and learn from the book.  However, I also held my plan loosely which allowed for spontaneous inspiration and ongoing creativity. 

I believe it's important to have a plan but to allow room for the plot and characters to develop as they come to life.

Developing the ending was difficult for me. My initial idea didn’t work as the novel progressed. I was stuck with how to end the story for a while. At one point, I decided to get on my knees and pray for inspiration. I believe my prayer was answered.  I hope your readers agree with me once they've read the book.

Your book is set in Idaho.  Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular?

I chose a setting in Idaho because it was centrally located but very remote.  The wilderness terrain in this story needed to be challenging to traverse, and the river used for the whitewater-rafting trip had to be dangerous to navigate.  Another consideration was the area had to be a very isolated locale. I wanted to ensure there was no cell phone service so communication with the outside world would be next to impossible. The wilderness setting also served as a habitat for a variety of wild animals that were a vital part of the storyline.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Here is a glimpse of what’s on page 69:

Suddenly, they heard a loud rustling of bushes and branches snapping downriver not far from where they had set up their makeshift camp.

“What was that?” Savi whispered anxiously. “It couldn’t be Vexel, could it?”

“Quiet.” Rico rebuked her with a hush. He raised the tip of his nearly finished spear.

Again, they heard more noise in the woods. This time they knew it was getting closer.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Writer's block has never been a problem for me. That's not to say that I don't have lulls in creativity or motivation. Of course, I do. But when that happens, I don't consider it a "block" and I don't try to power through it.  Instead, I take it as a sign that I need a break from writing. 

Taking a short time away is always a wise and healthy choice for me.  I don't panic if I lose my motivation or inspiration to write for a time. 

Runners don't always run.  Sometimes their body needs time to rest and recover.  In the same way, putting too much pressure on yourself to always write can stifle both your creativity and your inspiration. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to chill out and focus on other activities. A short break will often revive you and rekindle your passion and desire to write once again. 

After I give myself a break (it may be a couple of days or even a couple of weeks) I sit down again and read what I've written previously.  That gets me right back into the flow of my work and often I find a new sense of inspiration to write.  Some days I have to work a little harder at writing than other days.  But I think that's a part of the normal ebb and flow of a writer's life.  Sometimes runners feel like they can run forever.  But on other days they feel like it is more of an effort. The same is true of writing.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Writing is a gift and a privilege. Steward your gift well!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chapter Reveal: Cooler Than Blood, by Robert Lane

Genre: Mystery
Author: Robert Lane
Publisher: Mason Alley
Purchase on Amazon
18-year-old Jenny Spencer is missing after a violent nighttime encounter on a Florida beach. Jenny’s aunt, Susan Blake, asks wisecracking PI Jake Travis to investigate.
Susan and Jake had only spent one dinner together, but both felt an instant, overpowering attraction. Jake walked away.  After all, he was—and is—committed to Kathleen.  But having Susan in his life again could be dangerous:   dangerous in more ways than one.
As Jake and his partner, Garrett Demarcus, close in on finding Jenny, they uncover a shocking secret in Kathleen’s past.  Even more shocking is that Kathleen and Jenny’s life are strangely intertwined.
For Jake, this case may hit way too close to home—and what started as a race to find Jenny could become a fight to protect Kathleen.
As the case heats up and the danger escalates, Jake is forced to examine his moral boundaries.  How far is he willing to go for the woman he loves?   At what cost?  And what about that question that has dogged him since the beginning of the case: was there another person on the beach that night?
Chapter One
We paraded a block south to Dangelo’s condo and rode to the tenth floor. Like Kathleen’s, it had its own entrance off the elevator. The Tweedle twins didn’t enter the room—nor did my gun, which they confiscated at the door. I assumed they’d been instructed to make camp outside Dangelo’s door. Perhaps Tweedledum had brought along his music history textbook to study.
Dangelo sat at a desk that made him look big. He didn’t stir when I entered. I took a seat on a white leather couch and flipped through a magazine that told me about ten fantastic Caribbean restaurants I had to dine at before I jumped off the bus. I didn’t look at the article. I did look at the pictures of tan girls in white bikinis. The classics never go out of style. I helped myself to some salted cashews in a cut-glass bowl that rested on top of a glass-topped coffee table with a coral-reef base.
“Jacob.” It came out as he swiveled around in his chair so he could face me. “Have you found my missing funds?”
I finished my chew. “Working on it, Joe.”
“How? By going into one of my bars and informing the staff that I instructed you to talk to this missing girl whom you think I have? Such a childish game.”
“I just don’t see Special as staff.”
Dangelo stood. “Our arrangement, in the event that you’ve suffered short-term memory loss, is that you find my missing funds, then I do what I can to help you locate the missing girl, whom you erroneously think I possess.”
“That arrangement didn’t hold my interest. I find Jenny Spencer, and your money won’t be far behind.”
“You think?” He took a step toward me. “Then you are not thinking at all—for if that were the case, and I, as you have accused, am harboring the girl, why are we having this conversation?”
“I said, ‘far behind,’ not ‘with her.’ You didn’t bring me here for this.” I got up and dropped the magazine onto the glass table. “I’ll keep you posted.” I headed for the door.
“I did a little research.” His voice came from behind me. “You served for five years, but your trail gets cold the day you left the army.” I pivoted. He picked up the magazine from the coffee table and glanced at it. “I don’t think I even pay for this anymore. They just keep sending it.” He brought his head up. “Tell me—how does one get involved in your line of work?”
“A strange question from a man like you.”
“I’m curious…” He tossed the magazine, reached into the bowl, and grabbed a handful of cashews. “What chances did my two men have if you decided not to comply with my request for a visit?”
Dangelo nodded as if I’d given him the answer he’d wanted, but it was the wrong answer for me to give. I saw it too late. Arrogance is the first step toward self-destruction.
“No,” he said with a tone of resignation, “I suppose not. You know”—he popped a few cashews into his mouth—“we had an incident not far from here about a year ago. We lost four employees, and the locals expressed alarming disinterest in the situation—not, of course, that we pressed them. You understand?”
“Not a clue what you’re talking about.” I started to circle the room.
“Sort of like me, when you bring up your missing Ms. Spencer.” Another cashew met its fate. “It did occur to us, however, that even if we had pressed our cause, the law just didn’t care. As if someone had hushed up the whole scene. ‘Bad for tourism,’ I believe the line was.”
“You can’t have four dead bodies in the sand in a beach town.”
“I never said they were on the beach,” Dangelo said.
“I read the papers.” I passed the front door and with my right hand turned the deadbolt. I kept circling. The distance between us shrank. Time and distance.
“They were good men. One of them was our best. They must have encountered someone who was highly trained, a professional, and not acting alone either.”
We paused. I wasn’t going to lead. At that point, I could do more harm than good—and already had. “There was a lady involved.” Dangelo said it cautiously and in a different tone, as if we had entered the demonic final movement of a musical score. My neck stiffened. My hand tightened into a fist. “Tragically she died on that beach.” His eyes rested on mine. A car honked. “Did you read that as well? In the papers?”
“I seem to recall something about that.”
“We…how shall I put this? We possibly overreacted. We thought at one time that the deceased lady might have knowledge of certain nonpublic aspects of our business. In retrospect, she probably had no knowledge at all. Our judgment was rash, but not nearly as bombastic as our adversary’s.”
Dangelo waited, but I remained silent, until the silence was self-incriminating. I asked, “Why are you telling me this?”
“After your sophomoric theatrics at the Winking Lizard, I had you followed. The car you were driving—”
I was on him in two steps and slammed him into the wall. His head snapped back with a thud then bounced forward so his forehead struck mine. A half-eaten cashew flew out and landed on my shirt. I choked his throat with my right hand. His neck was fat. I wanted to rip off a chunk and stuff it in his mouth. The door behind me rattled.
“What about the car?”
Dangelo took a second to get his breath. He smelled like cashews. The last time I smelled him, it was Swiss cheese and ham. “It’s double-parked, Mr. Travis.” His voice was tight. I loosened my grip. “Find my money, and you were never here tonight. This conversation never took place.”
I dug my fingers into his neck. “What about the car?”
“N-nothing.” I eased up even more on the pressure. “We thought—that is, my associate thought—he might have recognized it from the around the neighborhood.”
“Are you threatening me?” I was ticked that I’d been followed. I should have been more alert. Too bad for Dangelo. I swung him around and pressed his face against the window. “Because I’ll drop you through this window right now. Do you understand that?” His eyes widened in the reflection of the glass. I leaned into his ear and repeated what he’d told me at the deli. “Look elsewhere, Joe. The beach scene wasn’t me.” I gave the lie my best conviction. I like lies. Judiciously applied, they can help your cause more than a standing army. “And,” I continued, “here’s the new plan: find your own goddamned money.” I gave him a shove and stepped back.
“Certainly,” he started and then paused to catch his breath, although he tried not to show it. “Certainly you understand that if we had our money, we would be inclined to fully—no, permanently—support any decision made for the benefit of tourism. Whether or not, or not, you…um—”
“Save it. I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I’m not making any deal with you.”
“We say such things in times of—”
“The man you had lunch with the other day—he give you the script tonight?”
“No.” He regained his posture far faster than I’d thought he would. Dangelo might have been all dressed up, but he clearly had spent some of his youth on the street. “I’m not the puppet you seem to think I am, and spying on me certainly won’t advance your cause. Your reaction, Jacob, was totally uncalled for. All we’re—all I’m saying is that perhaps you can help us out. I didn’t mean to imply any threat. I apologize if you took my comments in that manner.”
But he knew. And he knew that I knew that he knew. Still, his earnest conciliatory tone caught me off guard. I couldn’t get a read on Joseph Dangelo—perhaps, though, through no fault of my own.
Regardless, I’d blown it. It wasn’t my first mistake and wouldn’t be my last. He had no way of knowing my elephant gun was loaded. I didn’t trust myself to say anything else—I’d already behaved foolishly. Dangelo called off the dogs, and I marched out of the room.
“Lewis Carroll would be proud of your career choice,” I said to Tweedledum as he handed me my gun.
“You mean Charles Dodgson?”
Screw this guy.

Interview with Leela Hope, author of Derek The Dragon Childrens Book Collection

Leela Hope is a writer with over 22 years of experience in writing endearing children's fiction. Her lively characters have entranced and captivated her audience, and she has taken great joy in writing the three series of books, each beautifully illustrated with love and care. Her stories concentrate on the adventures of floppy eared bunnies and wide-eyed children learning lessons in life, before returning home wiser and eager for sleep. leela hope writes her stories to entertain the very young, but also to educate. Her vision is always of a parent sitting on a child's bed, reciting the stories each night, while the young one drifts off to sleep, lulled into a dream world full of fun and adventure.

From her very earliest years of childhood, Leela made up stories in her head, telling them to her younger brother and sister. The stories flowed easily from her mind, and it wasn't long before she realized she had a gift for writing. By the age of 14, she had already written a small book of short stories for her own entertainment, and by the age of 22, she had published her first full-fledged children's fiction in several magazines. Leela hope was destined to be an author and she knew exactly what genre of fiction she wanted to dedicate her life too.

Born in San Diego, California, and still residing in the area, Leela studied English Literature at Berkeley, earning a degree in 1989. Her writing covers a span of several genres, but she always returns to her first love, children's fiction. She enjoys scuba diving and visiting wildlife parks, seeking new inspiration for cuddly characters for her stories. leela hope lives in an urban area of San Diego and is presently at work on a new book.

Connect with Leela:

About The Childrens Book Collection

Derek The Dragon (Book 1)

TitleDerek The Dragon
Author: Leela Hope
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 26, 2015
Pages: 22
Genre: Childrens Books
Format: eBook (.mobi - Kindle) / PDF

Derek The Dragon
Do your kids ever feel sad?
Do they have trouble making friends?
An amazing story for all ages to enjoy, aimed at children 0-5 years of age. Watch as Derek the Dragon learns about the meaning of happiness in this tale. Come and meet an adventurous dormouse who decides that he can change his lot in life and through caring about others he ends up saving his village. The story is told through rhyming verse and vivid illustration. Derek the Dragon contains a great message about caring and friendship for parents to share with their children.

Derek The Dragon (Book 2)

TitleDerek The Dragon And The Missing Socks
Author: Leela Hope
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 25, 2015
Pages: 22
Genre: Childrens Books
Format: eBook (.mobi - Kindle) / PDF

Derek The Dragon And The Missing Socks
Do your kids forget to clean up their rooms?
Have they ever asked you to find things for them?
This story is pure family entertainment. It is great for kids 2-82 but it is aimed at the 0-5 age group. The book covers a very important life skill, cleaning. Derek the dragon does not like to clean, but he learns that he needs to get his house clean if he is ever going to find his lucky socks. Devin the dormouse comes to help his friend and shows him the way to get his house clean. The friends clean the cave and find the lucky socks. The story is brought to life through vivid illustrations and is told in rhyming verse.

Derek The Dragon (Book 3)

TitleDerek The Dragon and Princess Dayna
Author: Leela Hope
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: January 25, 2015
Pages: 22
Genre: Childrens Books
Format: eBook (.mobi - Kindle) / PDF

Derek The Dragon and Princess Dayna
Do you or your kids have trouble with people who are different?
Do your kids have trouble making friends?
This is a terrific story aimed at kids 0-5, and yet, it is fun for the whole family to read and enjoy. Derek the Dragon, the dormouse, Devin and Princess Dayna all learn a lot about friendship. The book deals with misunderstandings and stereotypes, but in a way that is very palatable for little children to understand. The villagers are worried about a dragon flying around their village. They send their princess off to deal with the situation. The story is told in rhyming verse and featuring dynamic illustrations. It is a story for the whole family to enjoy.

Author Interview

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Derek the Dragon learns about the meaning of happiness in this tale. Come and meet an adventurous dormouse who decides that he can change his purpose in life and through caring about others, he ends up saving his village. The story is told through rhyming verse and vivid illustrations. Derek the Dragon contains a great message about caring and friendship for parents to share with their children.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Derek is a dragon that was sad before he met a dormouse. This dormouse will help him become happy and at the same time save the village!

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They’re 100% fictitious and made-up.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Actually, the simple concept is already thought but as I write the story, things get more explained and elaborated.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?


Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?


What do you like the most about being an author?

Writing stories with moral lessons at the end for children to learn from.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

Imagination and moral lessons.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Keep your imagination alive!

Talking Books with T.M. Wallace, author of WINTERGARDEN

Theresa Wallace-Pregent lives with her husband and four talented children in Ontario, Canada. Her young adult fantasy novel Under a Fairy Moon was a finalist in the Amazon Break-through Novel Awards in 2010 and was published by Brownridge Publishing in the summer of 2011. In 2012, Under a Fairy Moon won the Gelett Burgess Childrens Book Award for Fantasy and the Canadian Christian Writing Awards (Young Adult.) Her sequel to Under A Fairy Moon will be published in the Fall of 2014.

Her latest book is the YA/Childrens fantasy, Wintergarden.

For More Information

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Book One: “Under a Fairy Moon”

Wintergarden is the sequel to my first book, Under a Fairy Moon. In the first book, Addyson Marten
explores her neighbour’s beautiful garden and becomes lost in another world called the Median Realms. She is challenged by trickster fairy creatures to a supernatural game of Fairy Chess and must win the game before she is returned home again. She meets a human boy there, Connor, who has no memory of his past but would like to return to the human world with Addy. At the end of the book, they have been successful in winning the game and thwarting the agents of evil, and are on their way back to the human world.

The Sequel: “Wintergarden"

As the sequel Wintergarden begins, Addy is wandering through the Garden, plagued by memories of the Fairy realms that she thinks are just fever-dreams. Little by little, with a few magical clues to help (including a sighting of a unicorn-friend), she realizes that she really has been to another, magical realm last summer. But where is Connor? Did he make it back to the Human realms? she begins to think about going back to the Median Realms to track him down.

Addy tries to enter the Median Realms by asking the white stone chess-piece, guardian of that place, but the white stone-queen tells her that she cannot enter the fairy realms by the same route twice. Addy meets Mrs. Tavish, her neighbour and learns the history of Mrs. Tavish’s garden. From Mrs. Tavish, Addy learns about Connor’s history. Mrs. Tavish also teaches her about fairy magic and helps her to enter the Median Realms by way of the Garden’s labyrinth.

Addy must travel to the centre of the labyrinth in order to free Connor and help him to know who he really is - the Prince of Labyrinths destined to protect the doors of the Realms. Little does she know, Addy’s journey to the centre of the labyrinth will set her on her way to discovering about her own magic powers as well, and her own destiny in the battle of good against evil.

Why did you write your book?

I wrote this book because there were many unanswered questions in the first book that readers wanted to know about. At the end of the first book, Connor still didn’t have any memory of his life before becoming trapped in the Median Realms. In Wintergarden we see his past, his family, and his true destiny.

The Garden is of course one huge mystery - its almost a living, breathing being of its own. I wanted to explain a little of its history, how the giant stone chess-pieces in the garden came to be there, and their ties to celtic legends.

Addy, too, has a mysterious past and ties to the fairy world that were unknown to her in the first book. Addy is learning to use magic in this book, and it is a unique power that was only hinted at in “Under a Fairy Moon.”

Can you tell us a little about your main character?

Addy is the main character of both books. She is gifted, highly imaginative - a very different fifteen-year old than you would usually meet. She loves nature and is drawn to beautiful things, which is what draws her to the magical garden in the first place. She is a bit of an anxious person - she worries about what will happen, all the many possibilities - yet she is a very courageous person, willing to face her fears head-on. When she discovers that she has powers in the magical realms, she worries she will misuse her powers - something that would never happen, because she always worries about doing what is good and right!

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters tend to be a hodge-podge of different characteristics from people I know or have met, and also many have a certain aspects of my own character poured into them.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

I would tell them: write what you love to write - write your passion. Listen to others for the bits of wisdom that ring true, but listen most to the voice of wisdom inside you, placed there by your Creator to guide you. It will never steer you wrong.