Monthly Archives: March 2011

Author interview: Kathleen Valentine


Each Angel Burns, by Kathleen Valentine, is on top of the pile of books I intent to read next. I have not been able to read as much as I normally do lately, as I am based in Western China for a few weeks, and have hardly got any time to breathe. On top of my normal “duties”, I have taken on a volunteer role in a school for the deaf and teach English to deaf Chinese children. Quite a challenge, but I will write a post about this soon. In this article, Kathleen Valentine, who has published several books in the literary romance category, tells us a little more about Each Angel Burns.

Jerome: What can you tell us about Each Angel Burns?

Kathleen: Each Angel Burns is a contemporary novel about three people entering their fifties and facing big changes – things they never thought they would have to face at this point in their lives. Gabe has spent his life as a hard-working, devoted husband and father who has always done the right things for his family, his cantankerous old father, and his brother. Peter is Gabe’s best friend from childhood. He is a priest and a teacher and has always taken pride in being a devout priest and a good, supportive friend. Maggie is the woman Peter was once in love with. He wanted to leave the seminary for her but she broke off with him to marry a wealthy man who could give her everything Peter couldn’t, or so he thought. Now all of them are older and things are changing. Gabe’s kids are grown and on their own and he realises that he and his wife have nothing in common any more. Maggie has left her abusive husband and has purchased an abandoned convent that she intends to turn into a sculpture studio. When she encounters Peter again after all these years she realises she never stopped loving him and he finds out that she didn’t leave him for the reasons he thought she did.

Many mysteries surround the convent that Maggie now lives in and which Peter persuades Gabe to help her renovate. In the past there were wild stories about an angel with a flaming spear that protected the nuns there. More recently the bodies of young women have been discovered washed up near its shores. Strange things start happening to the people there now, too. Gabe discovers his wife is cheating on him. Maggie’s husband won’t respond to her calls and attempts to start divorce proceedings. Peter faces feeling he never thought himself capable of as he witnesses Gabe and Maggie beginning to fall in love.

This is a story about sacrifice and how sometimes, those things we did with the very best of intentions and for good reasons, can have consequences we never imagined. It is a story about life-long friendship, faith, and great goodness forced to deal with great evil.

Jerome: Who are your readers?

Kathleen: Most of my reader for this book have been older adults – 40+ seems to be the norm – but men and women seem equally attracted to the story. My first novel, The Old Mermaid’s Tale, seems to have a lot more younger readers.

Jerome: What was your journey as a writer?

Kathleen: I grew up in a small Pennsylvania Dutch community in north central Pennsylvania and one of the things I realize now is that the people there were great story-tellers. Ever since I was little I can remember people sitting around — on porches, or at picnics (my family loved picnics), or just sitting around the kitchen table — and they would always be telling stories. Most of my great aunts and uncles were first generation Americans and they brought the Old World tradition of telling stories with them. I can remember parties when I was little when there would be a hundred people there and every room that you went in to was full of people sitting around, drinking beer and telling stories. I loved listening to those stories so I guess it is natural that eventually I would become a story-teller, too.

Jerome: Do you follow a specific writing process?

Kathleen: When I am first beginning a novel I tend to write a lot by hand, also draw maps, floorplans, character connection charts, etc. I also write a lot of “vignettes” trying to capture the essence of the main characters. Very little of this is ever used in the actual books but it gives me a sense of who my characters are and what they are like before I actually start writing.

Jerome: Where do you find inspiration?

Kathleen: Probably the thing that interests me most is good people caught in impossible situations. That seems to be the dynamic that inspires most of my writing. I’m fascinated by people who are basically good, decent, honorable people who suddenly find themselves, often through no fault of their own, in absolutely impossible circumstance. Whenever a tale of that sort starts stirring in my brain I know sooner or later I’ll have to write about it.

Jerome: Who are your favourite authors?

Kathleen: I have a lot of them: Hemingway, A.S. Byatt, Orhan Pamuk, Arturo Perez-Reverte, Isabel Allende, James Lee Burke, Valerie Martin.

Jerome: Is there a book you wish you had written? Which one?

Kathleen: Well, I wish I could have written Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast because it is a gorgeously crafted book but also I cannot imagine what it must have been like to know those people and to have lived through that time. I’ve read the book quite a few times and every time I do I have a sense that maybe I was at the next table or hiding in a corner of Miss Stein’s apartment.

Jerome: Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Kathleen: Read, read, read, read. And then learn your craft. I’m very critical of sloppy writing no matter how interesting the story might be. If you don’t take pride in your craft, do something else.

Jerome: What are you working on at the moment?

Kathleen: I’m on the second draft of a novel currently titled Depraved Heart. It is a contemporary story about a man who was once a quite famous and admired pro-football player who married an equally famous ballerina. Three years in to their marriage he was convicted of the “depraved indifference” murder of her twin brother. When the tale opens, he has just been released from prison and is about to be united with his 15-year-old daughter who is the heiress of her great-grandfather’s estate which includes a fabulous art collection. That’s all I’ll tell you for now.

You can follow Kathleen on the Net @:

KathleenValentine.com

ParlezMoiPress.com

parlezmoiblog.blogspot.com

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The Treatment, by Mo Hayder


I like Mo Hayder’s writing and the fact she is not scared to tackle subjects that a lot of people would prefer not to hear about. In fact, her stories verge on the horror genre. The Treatment is no exception, but I was disappointed by it. Hayder’s writing and characters in the books are as good as ever: Detective Jack Caffery, still in search of what happened to his little brother Ewan many years ago, his depressed girlfriend Rebecca, Caffery’s boss Souness, an unforgetable lesbian, and the despicable Tracey, sister of a paedophile. In fact, in this book we get to know a lot more about what happened to Ewan, and it’s full of surprises. However, this time Hayder goes too far into the implausible, and her story loses its impact. I don’t want to say too much and spoil the book, so I won’t give any details, but there are many aspects that do not work in the plot. The story if about child molestation and paedophiles, not an easy subject, but that’s not where the problem lies, it’s more in its treatment (so to speak). Having said that, this is still a typical Hayder page-turner. We had a severe earthquake here in Kunming two days ago (scale 7, with its epicentre only 175 km from Kunming), and the building I am in was swaying (I am on the 16th floor), but I was torn between running outside and keeping on reading. Luckily, the quake only lasted thirty seconds. I still have Hayder’s Pig Island to read. I hope it will be better.

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Author interview: Joel Arnold


Joel Arnold’s writing has appeared in over five dozen publications, with work accepted by venues ranging from Weird Tales and Nodin Press’ Resort, to Murder anthology, American Road Magazine and Cemetery Dance. I interviewed him recently about his latest novel, Northwood Deeps.

Jerome: What can you tell us about Northwoods Deep?

Arnold: Northwoods Deep is a horror novel set in Minnesota’s iron range that was inspired by a variety of things, including an Ojibwe tale about the Maymaygwayshi – small, mischievous creatures that live in the woods and capture children – the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel & Gretel, and a 120-mile canoe trip I took when I was a teenager.

It’s about a family that has been falling apart since the death of their mother a few years earlier; the father is falling deeper and deeper into depression, the son – who feels directly responsible for the mother’s death – is battling alcoholism, and one of the two daughters is being stalked by a murderous ex-husband. The daughters embark on a canoe trip to get away from it all, but soon find that ‘getting away from it all’ isn’t as easy as they thought it would be. Not only has the ex-husband followed them up to the deep Northwoods, but the sisters are also being drawn toward an old cabin, which hides a terrible secret.

Eventually the entire family merges at the cabin and finds out just how deep they’re willing to go to keep their family from falling completely apart.

Jerome: Who are your readers?

Arnold: For this novel, my readers are folks who like horror and suspense. It was written with a mature audience in mind, and I would not recommend it for kids, but if you’re a fan of Stephen King, for example, you might just like Northwoods Deep (as well as my novel Death Rhythm.)

Jerome: What was your journey as a writer?

Arnold: I grew up surrounded by books; both my parents were elementary school librarians. I was read to a lot, as well as encouraged to read, so that had a large influence in me. Then, in the 2nd grade, I wrote a story that won our classroom’s writing contest, the prize being a trip with my teacher (Mrs. Rosier!) to the local A&W for lunch. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Jerome: Do you follow a specific writing process?

Arnold: Typically, I write my material out in longhand in a spiral notebook with a pen while sitting in a coffee shop. When I get stuck, I’ll type it up at home on my laptop, editing it a bit as I do so. Then I’ll write some more in the ol’ notebook, rinse and repeat until I basically have a first draft. Then it’s revise, revise, revise, until everything flows pretty smoothly and is cohesive. Next, my wife reads it and points out all of my brain farts, and I’ll go over it again once or twice. My wife is actually an excellent editor.

Jerome: Where do you find inspiration?

Arnold: I find inspiration every time I wander through a bookstore, take a walk, or read a newspaper. Lately, I’ve also found a lot of inspiration while researching my family history. I bet if anyone reading this dug their way back a few generations of their family, they’d find a lot of interesting things to write about; whether it’s true, or just inspired by something they come across during the research. My 9-yr old daughter also has a great imagination – she likes to pretend we’re dinosaurs or dragons or sled dogs, etc, and I’ve already gotten ideas for a few ideas for stories just from that.

Jerome: Who are your favourite authors?

Arnold: Oh, there are lots. Stephen King, James Lee Burke, Dan Simmons, Richard Brautigan, Larry McMurtry…ask me tomorrow, and I’ll probably have another handful for you.

Jerome: Is there a book you wish you had written? Which one?

Arnold: Of the current books I’ve read, I’d have to say Dan Simmons’ The Terror. I love the idea of taking a historical event – the voyage of the ship ‘The Terror’ – and re-imagining it in the horror genre. (This particular even really lent itself well to that, since nobody really knows what happened to the people on board that ship.)

Jerome: Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Arnold: Becoming a good writer – like becoming a good anything – takes time and effort, and perhaps a bit of stubbornness. If you tend to give up on things easily, then perhaps writing isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to put yourself out there and be open to advice and criticism – and if you find that you can’t not write – then keep plugging away. The best advice I’ve heard from anyone about writing is simply this: put your butt in the chair and write.

Jerome: What are you working on at the moment?

Arnold: I’m trying something a little different and am working on a mystery novel called Licking the Marmot. It’s set in Yellowstone Park and features the park’s concessionaire employees – those who work in the lodges, restaurants, gift shops, etc. The title of the novel is taken from a real classic rock cover band made up of employees who used to play there in the ‘90s called ‘Lick the Marmot.’ I’ll let you know when it comes out!

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Outspoken, by James Vachowski


I don’t normally read novellas, but I recently made an exception with Outspoken, by James Vachowski, because I was interested in the format of the novella: the entire story is told via a series of letters, mostly from one character, Abraham Lincoln Jenkins, to a list of recipients ranging from a newspaper to a high school, Harvard College, the police or Princeton University. Jenkins has only four months left until his high school graduation when he learns that he still needs two core credit hours in Physical Education. As a result he finds himself enrolling as a cadet in the Army’s JROTC program! But Jenkins is not as clean as it seems. He is also a fierce critic of society and has a very sharp mind. Among other things he is black, which he uses purposely. Outspoken is a fast and easily read comedy set in the US, which makes fun of some of society’s issues. I thought the exchange of letters was interesting, but I wouldn’t want to read a whole novel in this format. Between each chapter there are quotations from famous people which relate to the content of each chapter; some of them are very funny and the novella is the better for it.

I was able to contact James Vachowski and ask him a few questions.

Who is James Vachowski?

I’m just some guy who likes to write stuff.  I’ve worked as a police officer and as a security contractor in Iraq, but these days I’m content with wearing a collared shirt and doing the whole nine to five thing.  I live with my family in Jacksonville, Florida.

Novellas are not always popular with readers. Why did you choose this format, as opposed to a longer piece?

When I started writing OUTSPOKEN I intended it to be a full-length YA novel, but I hit a dead-end after about 20,000 words of third-person narration.  When I went back to look it over, I realized that the only parts I really enjoyed re-reading were the complaint letters and the quotations.  After that, I challenged myself to write the book using only those two formats, which resulted in the finished product having a much shorter word count.

Where did the idea for Outspoken come from?

I returned home from working in Iraq the day before Thanksgiving, 2008, and it was a pretty big shock to go from that country straight into the madness of Black Friday shopping.  All of the incidents on the first page of OUTSPOKEN really happened on Black Friday 2008, including the glued door locks on businesses in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.  I found myself wondering whether this crime was merely the work of just another teenaged vandal, or whether it might possibly be an outrageous act of social protest.  The idea stuck, and the plot just sort of grew from there. 

What has readers’ feedback been so far?

Most people say that they loved OUTSPOKEN, but a few have accused me of having socialist tendencies.  I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully disagree, and to point out that the free review copies were for promotional purposes only.  

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on finding good homes for a couple of my short stories, and also wrapping the final revisions for my first full-length mystery novel “Burnout.”  Feel free to visit my website, http://www.jamesvachowski.com, for the latest updates and links to other stuff I’ve written.

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Author interview: Jess C Scott


Jess C Scott has recently independently published The Other Side of Life, an urban fantasy young adult novel, the first of a trilogy featuring cyberpunk elves! She answers a few questions.

Jerome: Hi Jess! Thanks for answering a few questions for my readers. First… who the hell are you?

Jess: And thanks for having me! I’m a 24 year-old author/artist/non-conformist. Most of my books are a blend of fact and fiction, and cross several genres.  

Jerome: What can you tell us about The Other Side of Life?

Jess: It’s the first book in my urban fantasy trilogy featuring cyberpunk elves.
Here’s a one-line summary: A thieving duo’s world turns upside down when an Elven rogue uncovers the heinous dealings of a megacorporation.

Jerome: How would you describe the genre that you write in? Is it sci-fi, urban fantasy, cyberpunk romance or…?

Jess: This particular book is a blend of sci-fi, urban fantasy, action/adventure, and cyberpunk romance (it’s a love story, not fluffy romance). I thought I’d do something different, though it might annoy cyberpunk purists and readers who enjoy hard science fiction. I have a “What is Cyberpunk?” page on my blog/website, for readers who’d like to know a bit more about the genre (http://elventrilogy.wordpress.com/cyberpunk/).

Jerome: What triggered the idea for The Other Side of Life?

Jess: I was brainstorming, when I wrote the words ‘cyberpunk’ and ‘elves’ together. I thought it’d be a cool and unique concept to explore and develop.

Jerome: Who are your readers?

Jess: My work seems to appeal to both males and females (of all ages), who are seeking stories/books that are honest and authentic.

Jerome: What was your journey as a writer?

Jess: I discussed my first book (a blog/IM novel) with an interested editor for 6 months, before he left for another publishing house. I decided to self-publish my first two books since they’re both not exactly “commercially categorizable.” I’ve had some poems and short stories published in literary magazines and journals along the way—apart from those, I am 100% independently published.

Jerome: What are you working on at the moment?

Jess: I’m currently working on the last four stories for my upcoming erotic anthology, Primal Scream. After that, I’ll probably get to an incubus-themed anthology, and see to the second book in The Cyberpunk Elven Trilogy.

You can find more about Jess on her website http://www.jesscscott.com

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Kunming (昆明), capital of Yunnan (云南)


I have now settled in Kunming, where I will be staying for a few weeks. Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province, in China’s South-West, near the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. It is not a very big city  – by Chinese standards at least – with only around five million inhabitants. It is located in the middle of a plateau at 2,000 metres above sea level, which probably explains why it was a balmy 25 degrees Celsius the day I arrived, and we had a snow storm the day after! Kunming does not appear to be as polluted as other Chinese cities and the sky can actually be blue! Kunming is a central place for tourists who want to explore Yunnan; it is also a transportation hub for South-west China. There are several universities, a few lakes of interest, many temples, and all the modern amenities, without forgetting the usual luxury brands… At the moment there is lots of construction happening throughout the city, and in particular the new Kunming subway. Kunming people are easy to talk to and they are quite relaxed. I think I will enjoy my stay. More on this later…

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Author interview: Iveta Cherneva


I am currently working on a thriller taking place in Hong Kong, and which deals with the terrible issue of stolen children in China. These children end up in families who cannot have children but are desperate to have one, but sometimes also end up begging on the streets. I was therefore very interested in Iveta’s Cherneva’s non-fiction book, Trafficking for Begging – Old Game, New Game. Iveta Cherneva works in the field of human rights and writes on the issue of human trafficking. In this interview, Iveta tells us more about her book.

Jerome: What can you tell us about Trafficking for Begging – Old Game, New Game?

Iveta: This is the first book to take up the idea that begging can be a form of human trafficking by arguing how this is the case under international law and in practice.

Jerome: What triggered you to write on such a difficult topic?

Iveta: Jerome, human trafficking, enslavement and exploitation are practices, which have existed since the dawn of civilization – since the time when one human being realized that he/she can control another human being and profit from that. Let’s think about the building of the Pyramids in Egypt – an example of mass-scale enslavement and human trafficking.

It is only over the last decades that we began thinking about defining human trafficking and expanding the types of exploitation, which should be covered, by going beyond the classical concept of enslavement. Begging, I find, is one of those activities that don’t necessarily and immediately make us think of human trafficking or enslavement. We usually give money to beggars thinking that they are lonely individuals in need of help, money and food. I decided to write Trafficking for Begging: Old Game, New Name because not a single book had taken up that topic and I wanted to prove that the exploitation of beggars is human trafficking. Going back to the title, I also chose this topic because I wanted to underscore that the practice has been around for a long time, hence: old game. In the same time, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that here we are shaking up things and re-conceptualizing old phenomena into new legal shapes and contours, which ultimately, I believe, is for the benefit of begging victims’ protection.

Jerome: Who are your readers?

Iveta: Lawyers, law students, international relations and public policy students, human rights practitioners, policy makers, moms and dads. People with a heart that can be touched by others being hurt.

Jerome: What was your journey as a writer?

Iveta: I’ve published a number of books and articles. To me ‘doing’ must be accompanied by ‘writing about it’, and vice-versa. Only then we can hope our efforts mean something. So, my journey as a writer has been parallel to my journey as a learner, speaker, organizer, listener and doer.

Jerome: Do you follow a specific writing process?

Iveta: For more technical longer legal pieces I first have to do extensive research before I sit down to write. For shorter pieces, such as articles or magazine features, which require mostly my thoughts, I just sit down and write. What my friends also know is that I write at night.

Jerome: Where do you find inspiration?

Iveta: In the news and by looking at what is around me.

Jerome: Who are your favourite authors?

Iveta: I have one – Arundhati Roy.

Jerome: Is there a book you wish you had written? Which one?

Iveta: It’s her book – The Good of Small Things.

Jerome: Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Iveta: If you have a message or a story you want to share, write it and share it. Also don’t be deterred by people around you who express scepticism. Yes, scepticism may be a product of jealousy, but it might be rooted elsewhere. Many people might simply not believe that it could happen, or that it could be easy to succeed.

People who care about you might also not want to encourage you in order to avoid you being disappointed. So scepticism is sometimes rooted in actual care and well-wishing. Learn how to be aware of this dynamics and keep going.

Jerome: What are you working on at the moment?

Iveta: I am writing a short article on human trafficking for begging for a journal. I hope I can share it with you when it’s finished.

Jerome: Please do. I’d love to read it and I am sure readers of this article would too!

You can find Iveta on her Amazon Author Page, Facebook and Twitter.

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