Thursday, August 27, 2015

Interview with Bluette Matthey, author of Black Forest Reckoning



Title: Black Forest Reckoning
Author: Bluette Matthey
Publisher: Blue Shutter Publishing
Pages: 299 
Genre: Travel Mystery

Outfitter Hardy Durkin and company are visiting the Black Forest area of Germany, staying in the guest wing of a local castle, Schloss Haeflin. In the midst of hiking the Black Forest, enjoying all things Swabian, and spending a day in Baden-Baden, the hikers find themselves at ground zero for coeds disappearing from the nearby University of Freiburg and foul play is suspected. Unresolved personal issues of several members of the group threaten the tour’s cohesion, and Hardy discovers the Baron, who owns the schloss, has stolen someone’s identity as well as his fortune. Ever the sleuth, Hardy untangles the web of deceit, madness, and murder in ‘The Black Forest Reckoning’.  

Please tell us about Black Forest Reckoning, and what inspired you to write it.

I chose the Black Forest area of Germany as the setting for Black Forest Reckoning.  The area has a definite mystique with its lore and traditions, and the food is rich and delectable.  The history and culture of the area offer a plethora of jumping off points of interest.  I was drawn to the various conquests of the region, the historical religious tensions, the Nazi occupation, the phenomena of the Stolpersteine Stones, and the sophistication of Baden-Baden as a casino and spa destination.
In Black Forest Reckoning, Hardy Durkin and company are visiting the Black Forest area of Germany, staying in the guest wing of a local castle, Schloss Haeflin.  In the midst of hiking the Black Forest, enjoying all things Swabian, and spending a day in Baden-Baden, the hikers find themselves at ground zero for coeds disappearing from the nearby University of Freiburg and foul play is suspected.  Unresolved personal issues of several members of the group threaten the tour’s cohesion, and Hardy discovers the Baron who owns the schloss has stolen someone’s identity as well as his fortune.  Ever the sleuth, Hardy untangles the web of deceit, madness, and murder in Black Forest Reckoning.


What themes do you explore in Black Forest Reckoning?

Besides the mystery and travelogue, I examine human frailties, ego, and depravity of the soul.

Why do you write?

I enjoy it.  I find it immensely satisfying and therapeutic.

How picky are you with language?

I think of myself as a wordsmith.  I think the choice of words is extremely important in terms of accuracy and the descriptive energy of words.  I write, ever-conscious of the impact my words are intended to make in the lives of my characters and on those reading my books.  I sift language carefully.

When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?

You mean am I visited by a Muse?  Sometimes writing is a slog; at other times the material flows so fast I can barely keep up with it.

What is your worst time as a writer?

Sometimes I get stuck in a rut thinking out a plot line and it just keeps hitting ‘replay’ and I get nowhere with it.  I feel like I’m trapped in a distorted mirror house at the county fair.

Your best?

When the breakthrough finally comes … all the puzzle pieces fall neatly into place and the sun comes out.

Is there anything that would stop you from writing?

Being incapacitated would do it.

What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

I love visiting the locales that are settings for my books.  As I travel the regions, I mentally weave a tapestry that is the story line for my mystery.  It is a joyous, liberating time.

Is writing an obsession to you?

The telling is more a compulsion.  What comes from the emotional, psychological cauldron where my thoughts simmer and blend.  Writing is the vehicle.  It is an act of creation stimulated by my imagination which reflects how I see myself and the world around me.  Giving birth is not an obsession, more a physical necessity.

Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?

In many ways.  Parts of me get cherry-picked for inclusion in my characters or plots.  Opinions, ideas, experiences, highs, lows, seasons, fears, places I’ve visited, people I’ve known … my very personal reference library of everything and everyone that has in some way or another put its fingerprint on my soul.

Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

I wouldn’t put it that way.  Reality is the flip-side of the unreal, which is more real.  Both are part of an organic whole.  I make both work for me; they are both a part of me.   It’s the totality of life.  That’s where I get my buzz.

Where is your book available?

All my books (Corsican Justice; Abruzzo Intrigue; Black Forest Reckoning) are available on blueshutterpublising.com; Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Smashwords; iPad, and other sites.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

bluettematthey.com; blueshutterpublishing.com; Goodreads; bluette matthey facebook; and Twitter@HardyDurkin.

Bluette Matthey is a third generation Swiss American and an avid lover of European cultures. She has decades of travel and writing experience. She is a keen reader of mysteries, especially those that immerse the reader in the history, inhabitants, culture, and cuisine of new places. Her passion for travel, except airports (where she keeps a mystery with her to pass the time), is shared by her husband, who owned a tour outfitter business in Europe. Bluette particularly loves to explore regions that are not on the “15 days in Europe” itineraries. She also enjoys little-known discoveries, such as the London Walks, in well-known areas. She firmly believes that walking and hiking bring her closer to the real life of any locale. Bluette maintains a list of hikes and pilgrimages throughout Europe for future exploration. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband, faithful dog, and band of loving cats.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Interview with Douglas Gardham, author of The Drive In


Title: The Drive In
Author: Douglas Gardham
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 130
Genre: Short Stories
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 Have you ever been intrigued by what mysteries lie behind the doors and windows of the places you pass by on your drive into work everyday? The Drive In takes you on Tom Johnson‘s commute. Unlike Tom, you’ll get to peek behind some of those closed doors. Remember going to the “Drive-In” theatre? Each story reveals what goes on like watching the “dusk ‘til dawn” features through your car’s windshield. Meet the people at the places Tom only passes by each day. Then discover how his drive in ends like no other.  

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? 

The Drive In is a collection of short stories with a twist. The short stories are about what goes on behind the doors and windows of the places a person passes on their drive into work. But only the reader gets to find out. As the driver, we can really never know, but along the way we discover why this particular drive in is unlike any other.

How did you come up with the idea? 

I’ve written short stories since I started writing. Years ago while driving to work, I was struck by the idea of the places I passed on my way being a unique way to bring a collection of short stories together. I forgot about it. When I suggested to my publisher of wanting to publish a couple of my short stories to help promote my STARBook awarded novel The Actor, iUniverse suggested I put a number of my short stories together in a collection. My “drive in to work” idea came back and hence The Drive In came to fruition.

What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book? 

Most of the research for The Drive In was done in the past when the short stories that make up the collection were written. Most of the recent research comes from my personal experience and interests.

Can you give us a short excerpt?

At one moment, he was extoling the purity and virtue of creativity and innovation to create a better future and the next considering actions that were contrary to being a good human being.

In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it? 

I don’t know how hard it is to get a nonfiction book published as I’ve only written fiction. Getting published period is a lot of hard work and no small amount of luck. I don’t think you can really be successful at it unless you love it. The roller-coaster ride is simply too crazy, too up and down, too discouraging and often unrewarding unless you get an incredible feeling of joy, accomplishment and love from the work of writing.

 Douglas Gardham is the author of the STARbook-awarded novel The Actor. He lives near Toronto, Canada with his wife, dog and cat. He loves books, music and movies. This is his second published novel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interview with Maria Nieto, author Breaking the Silence



Title: Breaking the Silence
Author: Maria Nieto
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 202
Genre: Historical Thriller
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 On a sweltering summer day, the streets of Old Madrid that once resonated with the laughter of children playing are empty and silent. But inside the apartment buildings there is life as families faithfully wait for updates about an army uprising in Spanish Morocco. Before long, their greatest fears come true. As rebel troops storm Madrid and chaos fills the streets, six-year-old Mari wonders why she cannot go outside to play. Unfortunately, she has no idea she is about to be trapped inside the abyss of what is rapidly becoming a ruthless civil war. Already emotionally wounded by the absence of her mother, Mari attempts to go about her fear-filled days living with her father’s family, which includes a grandfather who lovingly teaches her about the history leading up to the conflict. As she embarks on a coming-of-age journey submerged in the darkness of war, Mari somehow stays alive despite the decisions of an intimidating, ruthless dictator, starvation, and brainwashing by the new Fascist regime. But when circumstances lead her to inadvertently commit the ultimate betrayal, Mari must face the horrifying consequences of her actions. Breaking the Silence shares the compelling tale of a little girl’s experiences as she attempts to survive amid the horror and death surrounding the Spanish Civil War.

Do you have a daily writing routine?
No, I just put together bits and pieces of what I want to say in my mind as I go on with my daily life and write it down on a piece of paper. Sometimes during the day or night, or the following week, I pull all of the pieces of paper together and enter the information in the computer. Maybe this is a routine after all...

Where do you do most of your writing?
Initially everywhere that I can lean on to a surface with a pen and paper. After, I have a sort of an office overlooking the mountains (I live in New Mexico) where I keep the computer. That is where the final writing is done.

Where did you grow up? Can you tell us a little about it?
A little?
I was born in New York City. I grew up in Spain from age one year old until my teen years all through the Spanish Civil War, and through some of the years after the war under a dictatorship, after which time I returned to New York. Reading my book will describe to people exactly how I grew up.

What is your motto in life/writing?
To be able to go to whoever or whatever is God after I die and say: "Here I am, not quite finished. I did most of what I was supposed to do, but I am not finished. I need to go back."

What inspired you to write the book?
The lives and deaths of my childhood friends when I was growing up in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and the new laws in Spain erasing their lives and deaths from existence as if they never lived or died. 

The author spent her childhood in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and the post war years that followed the war under a brutal dictatorship. As an adult, and after four years in the US Navy, Maria graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia with degrees in nursing and nursing education followed by graduate and post graduate degrees in mental health education and counseling psychology. After teaching psychiatric nursing in Philadelphia, the author moved to New Mexico where she worked in mental health services for the Indian Health Service, and later worked for the University of New Mexico in the department of Emergency Psychiatry. Now retired, Maria still lives in New Mexico with her horse.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Interview with Tito Capaldo, author of The Rabbit Culture


Title: The Rabbit Culture
Author: Tito Capaldo
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Pages: 200
Genre: Family/Relationship
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 Direct and vivid in its telling of the details of the adoption of a 7-year old boy from Romania after the collapse of Communism, the novel manages ultimately to deliver much more. Despite this story, I have been very lucky in my life …

I had two wonderful parents, who, in their simplicity they taught me to love and respect Nature and its Laws. I have had satisfactory work experience both economically and professionally, first as a military pilot in the Italian Air Force, and now as a Fire fighting Pilot for the Civil Defence . I am not rich, but I can not complain ..

I have everything I need. If you have the adventure to stumble upon this book and buy it, you can be sure that every cent will be used for the survival of the protagonist, my adoptive son ,when I’m gone.    
Can you tell us what your latest book is all about? 

For now, this is my first and last book. After all, beautiful things, are unique! In the last chapter of my book, there is a sentence that will become a milestone of this century ... "  If we do not get over the “reveal truth myth”( Torah, Bible and Koran) we will be unable to establish any “shared rule”. To ordinary mortals hell is the inability to use the tools God gave us to live a full life (with our body and mind) based on mutual respect.”

How did you come up with the idea? 

I wanted to share my thoughts with the people .

What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?  

Search on overpopulation, climate change, religions…

Can you give us a short excerpt? 

Direct and vivid in its telling of the details of the adoption of a 7-year old boy from Romania after the collapse of Communism, the novel manages ultimately to deliver much more.

Through reminiscence of his happy childhood, his family ties, his values, his father figure, the environment he grew up in, Antonio Capaldo portraits the widening gap between that real world and the current virtual one:

“In the village everybody knew one another, as kids we had the feeling we were doing what we wanted, but, the truth is we were closely watched. Anyone, uncle, aunt, friend was of course entitled to reproach us, threatening us to inform our parents. It was a kind of extended family that seemed to work fine”.

Difficulties inevitably connected with the adoption bring the writer to explore the darkest places of human nature: schizophrenia, mental disorders, drugs and homosexuality.
In the everlasting clash between Law and Faith, Rules and Revealed Truth, Relativism and Absolutism, the only Law we can hold on to is the Law of Nature, the natural order of things:

“If you get rid of the absolute (principles) you’ll find out a world surprisingly made of balance, serenity and tolerance […] you feel master of yourself, […] fear of death vanishes and death reveals itself as an act of life”.

If we rise above the myth of the Revealed Truth, we’ll be able to finally set some Shared Rules which do not claim to have any divine link:

“[…] even if we are labelled as Christian and Muslim we belong to the same rich yet diverse pack. […] Everybody will enjoy – in their differences – the purpose of unity”.

Thus many current subjects such as politics, information, justice, war, death, euthanasia, religion, fundamentalism can be seen from a much more balanced, yet trenchant viewpoint.

In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?  

Self publishing .


Antonio Capaldo was born at Campo di Giove (AQ) on 14thJuly 1948. Authentic mountaineer, he spent his adolescence in close contact with nature in a mainly agricultural and pastoral farming environment at the foot of the Majella massif. After high school he passed the admission course and joined the Air Force Academy, then he obtained the license as military pilot at USAF Air Force School in the US. He served as an Air Force Pilot on C-130 aircraft at Pisa Air Base for 19 years. He had the opportunity to travel around the world and carry out several humanitarian missions. Then he was transferred to Latina Flight School where he worked as an instructor and flight examiner where he held the position of Group commander. After a 2-year service for the Major Staf (Italian Air Force) he went on leave.

Friday, August 21, 2015

"On Writing a Military Novel," by Jonathan Raab, Author of 'Flight of the Blue Falcon'

My military service—and the service of those around me—wasn’t anything special.

I didn’t serve in some elite black ops unit. I spent a relatively short amount of time in-country. And my deployments were, on the whole, both very, very boring.

That mundanity is precisely why it was important that I wrote about it. While our culture is quick to celebrate war heroes—those figures who meet extreme circumstances and rise above them, or endure in the face of incredible hardship—of less note and renown is the typical soldier, the average grunt, or the lowly Joe just doing his job.

Societies have always celebrated their heroes—those who do more, those who achieve more. That’s great. But if we only focus on the stories that are propaganda worthy, we lose something of ourselves. The average person who serves in war has a story to tell, and that story is important. It’s important precisely because so many can relate to it.

In Flight of the Blue Falcon, I describe a lot of the soldier’s day-to-day activities. It’s mundane, sure, but it’s also important. It’s funny. It’s surreal. It’s bizarre. It’s frustrating. Not everyone serves in the military or in a time of war, but everyone has a job that they hate, at one time or another. They have a boss that drives them nuts. They experience hardship, misunderstanding, alienation. They find their dreams slipping away. Their relationships fraying. Their self-respect taking a hit.

Everyone can relate to those things.

Military service—real, rough, dangerous service—brings these moments and periods of self-reflection and doubt to a whole new level. Good military novels are essentially books about the American workplace, the American dream, writ large against tragic circumstances, with high-stakes moments that go well beyond the typical. And yet, if you’ve ever spent any amount of time with line soldiers, you realize that they are typical. They are just regular folks, trudging through the day to day of their lives, their jobs. Even if you’ve never served, you’ll see yourself in them. You’ll see your friends, your family, your co-workers in the faces and stories of these men and women in uniform.
That is precisely why, not in spite of but because of the mundanity of military service, we should tell our stories. Our stories of being bored, of being hopeful, of being challenged with loss and even death. The experience of the average is valuable, because in the average, we can see ourselves. We can be connected with one another, even across cultures, time, and experience. 

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Title: Flight of the Blue Falcon
Genre: Fiction – Adult
Author: Jonathan Raab
Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.
Watch the Trailer
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON
By
JONATHAN RAAB
“Jonathan Raab is not only a genuine advocate for veteran causes, he is a preacher of their tales; both fiction and nonfiction. His writing will immerse you into a combat environment that parallels the imagination of those who have never had the pleasure.”
—Derek J. Porter, author of Conquering Mental Fatigues: PTSD & Hypervigilance Disorder
“Jonathan Raab uses his experience to illustrate the raw world of the common soldier. His masterful use of edgy humor and intellectual commentary creates a space for discussing the military culture.”
—Nate Brookshire, co-author, Hidden Wounds: A Soldiers Burden
In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.
Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.
Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.
Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.
Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.
Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.
FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.
This is a war story. This is their story.
Only the most unbelievable parts are true.
jonathan
About the Author
Jonathan Raab is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he served as an infantryman assigned to a combat advisor team. He is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and an editor for the War Writers’ Campaign. His work has appeared in The New York Times’ At War Blog, CNN.com, the Military Success Network, Literati PresentsThe Stars and Stripes, and many others. His second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, will be available in late 2015. He lives in the Denver metro area with his wife Jess and their dog, Egon.
Connect with Jonathan Raab on the Web: Website Facebook /Twitter 

Defining Intelligence by Dr. Pat Keogh Book Feature


Title: Defining Intelligence
Author: Dr. Pat Keogh
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Pages: 168
Genre: Education
Format: Ebook/Paperback/Hardcover
Purchase at AMAZON

 It may be unethical for a person to conduct an intelligence assessment on another human being. Human intelligence is unquantifiable. Observing or analysing behaviour, appearance, personality, beliefs or acquired knowledge cannot produce a quantifiable measure of a person’s intelligence. The brain can perform millions of billions of calculations per second. This gives the person enormous power and incalculable potential. Yet, saying ‘I use my brain to think’ awards the ‘I’ (the mind) a priority over the brain. We are thinking beings. We are compelled and condemned to think. Thinking is process. We cannot analyse thinking but we can analyse thoughts and ideas, the products of thinking. The mind can reflect on the past, live in the present and plan for the future. Intelligence involves abstract, purposeful, logical thinking and the ability to create and execute ideas. It also includes unconscious thinking. The mind functions best when the body is at rests. The mind never sleeps. The ‘Bru na Boinne’ megalithic burial tombs in County Meath, particularly New Grange testify to the brilliance in observation, the thoughtful archectual planning and the masterful engineering execution of ideas and plans by our Neolithic ancestors of five thousand years ago. Modern day communication technology air and spacecraft are contemporary testimonials to human genius. Primary education should allow time in the curriculum for students to daydream purposefully. In early schooling greater emphasis should be placed on creativity, music composition, innovation and artistic pursuits.

  amazon  

Pat Keogh is principal teacher in a large Dublin suburban primary school. He is a staunch advocate of child-centred education. He has had numerous articles published in the Irish Primary Teacher’s journal ‘In Touch’, The Irish Times newspaper and in 'Leadership', an Irish Primary Principal’s magazine. Pat has a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctorate in education. His doctoral thesis is entitled: ‘THINKING CRITICALLY’. He is keenly interested in the incredible calculating ability of the human brain and the illusiveness and ingenuity of the mind. He believes that the creative mind operates best when the body is at rest.

Interview with Judith Somborac, author of Tug-of-War





Title: Tug-Of-War
Author: Judith Somborac
Publisher: iUniverse
Pages: 148
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle/Paperback

 In 1942, in the midst of World War II, three factions struggle for power and control over Serbia: the Royalists, the Partisans, and the Nazis. For those living there, life was put on hold indefinitely while they coped daily with the terrorization of war—an especially disheartening situation for the country’s young people. Fifteen-year-old Miriana, an only child, lives in a small, two-bedroom house in Bela Palanka, Serbia, with her parents, who farm and run a saw and gristmill. Their tiny home now accommodates her mother’s sister and nephew, who have been forced to evacuate from German-occupied Belgrade. Miriana’s aunt is frequently called upon by the Germans to translate for them—a task made more stressful by the fact that the family is also hiding a Partisan soldier in the cellar of the house. Being caught means certain death. Meanwhile, Miriana’s best friend, Stefan, supports his widowed mother and aging grandparents on a nearby farm; he resents having to abandon his aspirations for an education and his passion for the violin to run the farm. Their existence is fraught with the angst of evening curfews, blackout curtains at night, unforeseen air raids, and conflict with the Nazis, but family, friends, and small pleasures propel them through a war that threatens their happiness and their lives on a daily basis.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

“Tug-o-War” is historical fiction intended for a Young Adult (YA) market (ages 13 -18).  The genre reflects my personal interest in reading. I like a book that engages me with the characters and events but educates me at the same time.  Although much has been written on WW II in various European countries especially, little has been written on Serbia during this world war.  People are generally aware of Hitler’s campaign against the Jews of Europe, but fewer people are aware of his hatred for the Slavs and gypsies. In Serbia, the atrocities of war were magnified by the presence of three factions struggling for power and control over Serbia: the Royalists, the Partisans, and the Nazis. For those living there, life was put on hold indefinitely while they coped daily with the terrorization of war—an especially disheartening situation for the country’s young people.
Because the book targets primarily a YA readership, the story is told from the point of view of the main character, herself, a teenager:

 fifteen-year-old Miriana, an only child, lives in a small, two-bedroom house in Bela Palanka, Serbia, with her parents, who farm and run a saw and gristmill. Their tiny home now accommodates her mother’s sister and nephew, who have been forced to evacuate from German-occupied Belgrade. Miriana’s aunt is frequently called upon by the Germans to translate for them—a task made more stressful by the fact that the family is also hiding a Partisan soldier in the cellar of the house. Being caught means certain death. Meanwhile, Miriana’s best friend, Stefan, supports his widowed mother and aging grandparents on a nearby farm; he resents having to abandon his aspirations for an education and his passion for the violin to run the farm.
Their existence is fraught with the angst of evening curfews, blackout curtains at night, unforeseen air raids, and conflict with the Nazis, but family, friends, and small pleasures propel them through a war that threatens their happiness and their lives on a daily basis.

How did you come up with the idea?

The main events in the book actually happened, so that was the easy part. Then I had to add more characters and events to round out the story and pull all the strings together. Many of the scenarios, come from the tales of my extended Serbian family (through marriage) but not enough to make a whole book. I had to use my writer’s imagination to recreate characters that I think are both likable and realistic.

What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

While the skeleton of the book was derived from stories of relatives, I still had to add more material and make sure my storyline was accurate. I began by sending the unedited manuscript to a Serbian historian/teacher in Toronto (the late Paul Pavlovich) who read through the book and made some suggestions. I remember, for example, that he was adamant that Serbia be Serbia and made sure that I didn’t make the mistake of writing about Yugoslavia (as the country was known before the death of Tito). Other research I did on line because I needed to be precise about climate, dates, politics, clothing, customs, food and more but, by far, the best help came from the people who lived in Serbia during WW II.

Can you give us a short excerpt?

I like this passage because it shows some of the excitement in the story without being a spoiler.

Miriana could hear the roar of the engines. They were coming closer and fast. It sounded as if they were almost overhead. She rushed to the door behind Teta Lily. She could see one plane flying low over an adjacent lot. The next one behind was on its way over their yard. It barely cleared the rooftops and trees, its grey-green body attacking angrily through the air like a shark in for the kill. ...
Miriana could see Zoran in the yard by the water pump. He stared at the aircraft, watching their bullets pelt the dirt with a puft-puft-puft sound. The sandy soil shot up like miniature geysers. Zoran’s eyes were round and wide. He stood with his chin turned to the sky, his arms dangling at his sides.
Oh my god, Miriana thought.
“ZORAN!” Teta Lily screamed this time.
Zoran turned and looked at her.
“Zoran, lie down. On your tummy. Behind the rain barrel.” ...
Zoran dropped to his hands and knees and flattened himself against the ground.
“Good boy; stay there. Don’t move until Mama tells you,” she shouted. ...
Zoran was obedient. He stayed down as Teta Lily, bent over in a crouch against the house, and Miriana, squatting in the doorway behind her, watched him nervously.
The din was so loud that the sound of the mill was completely drowned out. Miriana felt choked, her stomach knotted. She gripped her hands tightly in her lap until the roar of the planes became so unbearable she clapped her sweaty palms over her ears.


In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?

I wrote the first copy of the book,  “Tug-of-War” in the 1980’s when I still had little children at home.  I would get up early in the morning while the children were still in bed.  In the eighties, computer technology was in its infancy: I used a modem to connect to the computer in the office because there was no computer at home.  The response time between typing the words and their appearance on the screen was sometimes as long as twenty seconds making writing a slow, laborious process.  Still, it was an improvement over handwriting the entire script.  When I finished the novel, I made a printed copy to send to publishers, and that was fortunate because that one, hard copy was the only record of the novel that survived a move to two different homes and endured several life changes.  Everything that was saved to floppy disk became outmoded and eventually, lost.

When the book was finished and printed in the eighties, I sent it off to two publishers. The first time it was returned, unread, with a kind letter saying the publisher was not looking for this kind of material at that time. The second publisher had the book for so long, I called to check on the status of my manuscript and a rude secretary asked if I would like to have it returned. I replied that, no, I would like to have the manuscript read. It was returned to me that same week.

The printed manuscript sat in a file drawer until a few years ago when I got the courage to revive it.  I retyped the novel into my home computer and what a refreshing change that was from the first time I wrote on a computer in the eighties.  As I typed, I edited.  And after I finished my editing, I paid for a professional editing.   Although there were no major changes to the novel after editing, it was a helpful process. Editors pick up on subtle lapses, omissions or oversights that escape the writer even after numerous readings.  I also had a Serbian friend read the book to verify the historical and linguistic Serbian content of the novel and an Austrian friend correct my poor and limited German.

I made a choice to self-publish the book and sent it off to iUniverse.  At the very least, I wanted this novel for my children because is the story of their heritage on one side. I chose a publishing package that would provide me with just enough books for them. But when the book was designated Editor’s Choice followed by Rising Star, my confidence grew.  I had more copies printed and gave a copy of the book to the public library and the local schools.  The book is now available on line and at local bookstores.

Hard to get a non-fiction book published? With my experience, I would say yes. Recently I read an article by an author who had first book published by a major publishing house (she didn’t say which one), but for her second book, she chose the self-publishing route. Her view was she had to do all the legwork for marketing and promotion anyway, even that even when her book was published by a major publishing house. I can vouch for that.



Judith Somborac is an occasional teacher and a ski instructor who works in both capacities with children and teenagers. Judith has a BA in English and French from the University of Guelph. She currently lives in Collingwood, Ontario.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Interview with Cindy Skaggs, author of Untouchable



Title: Untouchable
Author: Cindy Skaggs
Publisher: Entangled Ignite
Pages: 216
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Kindle 

Action. Romance. Hot heroes. Don't miss Ignite's newest romance...

She'll do whatever it takes to find her son - Lie. Cheat. Steal. Seduce...

As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law...and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia's desperate to find him. She'll do anything. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Anything but trust. But it's a strikingly handsome FBI agent who's her only chance to get her baby back...

 Something about Sofia's fiery beauty must be hitting all of his weak spots, because suddenly Mr. Law And Order Logan Stone finds himself bending the rules. When they're implicated in the kidnapping, Logan and Sofia discover a horrifying reality - they have less than 72 hours to find the boy and clear their names. Now the heat is turning up...and time is running out...for everyone.

ORDER INFORMATION Untouchable is available for purchase at  
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Q: Please tell us about Untouchable and what inspired you to write it.
A:  As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law…and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia's desperate to find him. Strikingly handsome FBI agent Logan Stone is her only chance to get her baby back. With less than 72 hours left to track him, Sofia and Logan must find the boy and clear their names.
I was inspired by the idea of how much mothers do for their children.  Every mother I know says the same thing:  I’d give my life for my child.  And we mean it.  We would do anything, but as Logan says of Sofia, he “had never met a parent who wanted so desperately to pursue and exact revenge, nor one who seemed quite so capable of doing just that.”  The truth is, most of us will never be asked to give our lives for our child, but it might just come down to it for Sofia.
She comes across as cold when you first meet her, but she’s had to become that way, be that person, in order to survive.  I wanted so badly for her to find love, because I’ve never created a character that needed it more, but she’s resistant, and it will take a strong hero to get under her skin.  I think she’s fascinating, at once incredibly vulnerable and yet frustratingly incapable of the most basic human interactions.  She is fierce and loyal and capable of anything to save her son.
Q: What themes do you explore in Untouchable?
A: Are any of us too far gone for love?  Sofia certainly doesn’t want it.  She fights against it, because she doesn’t think she deserves it (how many women can empathize).  At the age of 19, she met a handsome, charming man who, once she graduated, convinced her to marry him.  That act, by a woman so young, defines her life in all the wrong ways.  Is there redemption for her?  She thinks no.  At this point in her life, she believes that the best she can do is protect her son.  The only redemption she wants is the one where her son has a real life outside “the family.”  Logan makes her want more, but Sofia is a hard case.  She doesn’t believe in love or redemption or second chances.
Love doesn’t solve all Sofia’s problems, because I don’t think love does that.  Sofia has to solve her problems, but she doesn’t have to do it alone.  At the end of the day, that’s the life lesson that Sofia has to internalize in order to get her happy ending.  Will she trust?  Will she love?  Will she let someone in?
Q: Why do you write?
A: Because my brain gets overcrowded when I stop.  In any other profession, hearing voices is a bad thing, but for writers, it’s part of the package.  I’ve always been able to create complicated fictional worlds in the landscape of my mind.  I was a lucid dreamer as a child, and at different times in my adult life, and I think that goes along with writing.  There are many mornings when I wake up and just lay in bed, visualizing a scene between characters.  If I wasn’t able to sit up, grab a computer, and start typing, I’m not really sure what I’d do.  I don’t think I’d want to live with me if I weren’t able to write.
Q: How picky are you with language?
A: On a scale of 1-10, I’m a 7. Words matter, grammar matters, but I won’t walk away if you jack up the American language (but I probably wouldn’t date you, so I’m not as easy going as I want to pretend).  Mess up a comma and we’re good, but mess up there-their-they’re and we’ll have issues.  I always spoke to my children as adults, not babies, so they have exceptional grammar, and my son is a 10 of 10.  He occasionally corrects me while I’m speaking (he’s 13), which would make me crazy if I wasn’t so proud.  In the third grade, he corrected a pastor during class (thankfully with children) because the pastor misspelled a word.  I like to think I’m less of a grammar Nazi than that (and yet, I can’t fault him).
Q: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
A: Manipulated is a strong word.  Being manipulated implies a passive response to active (overbearing) stimulus, and I’m not okay with that (I suppose that makes me like Sofia, needing to control my “world”).  What I will say is that when the words are flowing and I’m having a Zen writing moment, words appear as if by magic.  My best writing day was a year ago this month.  I wrote a 100k word novel in 30 days, 10k words in one day, while my kids were out of town.  I may have failed at basic human hygiene, I didn’t cook or clean or shower, but the writing was fantastic.  I can’t claim credit for writing during that time.  I claim exceptional typing skills that allowed me to keep up with the muse.  I don’t consider that manipulation.  I consider it a miracle.
Q: What is your worst time as a writer?
A: Starting.  I resist like Sofia resists Logan.  It’s funny, because I consider writing my addiction of choice, but when I start a new book, I fight it.  I can’t tell you why.  The idea percolates, and if I get anything written down, it’s absolutely horrible.  That goes on for an extended time until the characters gel in my head to the point where they’re doing the talking.  That’s when I start writing.
Q: Your best?
A: That magic, indescribable moment when the characters start speaking for themselves.  The only reason that I plot to any degree is that I’ve internalized Christopher Vogler’s Writer’s Journey until I could follow it in my dreams (I bet I do and don’t even know it).  What I love is characterization.  My p.o.v. characters are real to me, and that helps me create believable people in conflict with the world.
Q: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
A: If my children were hurt or in danger.  Actually, if anyone I loved was endangered.  One of my best friends just underwent brain surgery (brain surgery, when was that an option!).  I found it hard to concentrate on writing when I was worried for her.  It did, however, help me to prioritize.  I mean, no matter how many problems you have, or think you have, you don’t have someone cutting into your brain, so life is good.
Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
A: This book release.  I’ve gone most of my life with the voice of my 7th grade English teacher asking who I thought I was to think I could write.  This book release is a vindication.  My editor has been so supportive.  She understood Logan and Sofia, which is a blessing.  Entangled has been a dream publisher.  When they sent me a copy of my cover, I caused a public scene in Panera because I was so thrilled (and I don’t do public scenes).  It’s gorgeous (there’s something about a man in a suit...), but what I loved most was that they listened to my suggestions for my cover.  They have been supportive and attentive and the best possible first publisher I could hope for.  The fact that people are interviewing me is surreal.  I haven’t talked about myself this much in my entire life.
Q: Is writing an obsession to you?
A: Absolutely.  I get cranky (what a nice word) when I don’t write.  The truth is, I become a raving witch and my children run as fast and as far as they can.  My son calls it “caving” when I need to write.  “Are we caving tonight?” he’ll ask, and it gives me permission to hide in my cave to write.  Writing helps me get through all the crap in my head so I don’t take it out on those closest to me.  I could give up wine and coffee and even the gym (well, actually, that wouldn’t take much incentive), but I could never give up writing.  I honestly believe I’d go crazy without the ability to create fictional worlds and fictional characters.
Q: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
A: Always.  There is a piece of me in every story I write.  I don’t think a story would hold my interest without that link.  I believe we write to discover what we think and who we are.  If I take away that connection, it’s like manufacturing widgets in a factory somewhere.  It pays, but it’s not satisfying.
Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?
A: Truth.  I cannot speak for other writers, but for me, reality isn’t such a great concept.  I think that’s true for all creatives.  It’s why we create.  If I became too much of a realist, my ability to write would disintegrate.  I can handle a cruel and unjust fictional world, but a cruel real world will send me to the nearest tub of Ben & Jerry’s.
Q: Where is your book available?
Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
My blog is a little like my happy place.  I love to see people there, digging through my brain for the newest relevant (or irrelevant) post.  And I love to engage in conversations (so please post and comment).  Before I list it, however, I’d like to thank you for having me here.  It’s like giving the finger to my 7th grade teacher and her “who do you thin you are?”  Sure, it’s juvenile, but it makes me feel better.  http://www.cskaggs.com/see-cindy-write



When they told her a woman could do anything, Cindy thought they meant everything, and decided to give it a go.  Cindy holds an MA in Creative Writing from Regis University, is an MFA student at Pacific Lutheran University, works three jobs, is a single mom to two of the most active kids on the planet, pet owner, and child chauffeur extraordinaire. She took her first job at age thirteen as a motel maid.  Since then, she has worked in myriad offices, at Spencer's Gifts, in a summer stock theater, a college library & art gallery, and more odd jobs than she’ll admit.  That was all before running away to join the Air Force where she saw nearly every state in the union and more countries than she can remember. Following the Air Force, she worked as a travel agent, a retail store manager, and operated two small businesses before the a-ha moment hit.  Books!  Writing!  She now works in a library and teaches writing to college students while working on her novels. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to prevent the neurotic dog from either chewing the furniture or eating whole sticks of butter (often still in the paper).  She’s beginning to think maybe she can’t do it all.  At least not all at once.

  Untouchable, Cindy’s first romantic suspense, releases 7/21/2015 from Entangled Publishing.

  For More Information Visit Cindy at her website  

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