Category Archives: Author interview

Walking the Talk


I’ve finally managed to read the book! Walking the Talk is a “how to” book, a methodology on managing large cultural change programs within an organisation. Culture change is usually seen as something fuzzy, something that can not be changed or embraced in the same way other enablers of a successful organisation can. But the same successful organisations have all been able to create a strong culture within their business. This book shows how to address culture and make it a key success factor of your business. It goes hand in hand with the “Walking the Talk” service offering (which my company offers) but can be used independently. It is full of practical advice, real-life examples, and tools to manage small and large culture change. I highly recommend it to HR and change management practitioners all over the world. The culture change reference manual.

In this video, the author, Carolyn Taylor, introduces her book:

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Dogs of War, by Brad Convissar


A little while ago, I interviewed Brad Convissar about his 25,000 word stand alone novella, Dogs of War. I just realised I never got to post a review of the story, so here it is. Dogs of War is a horror story, the story of ghost dogs and a revenge they want to take on someone who’s hurt – and killed – them. This is a most unusual story, and it actually grips you from the very start. I read it in one go, as I wanted to know the ending straight after reading the first page. I am not a dog person, but I loved the dogs in this story, which takes you to weird places… I won’t say more, except that it’s a great, unusual, quite brutal novella about justice, fate and reasons for living.

Here’s a synopsis by Brad: “After divorcing his wife of two years, Gary Lettner thinks he has found the perfect house for himself and Molly, his eight-year-old dachshund. But when the throats of the dead begin to cry out in a voice that only Molly can hear, and when evidence of past atrocities committed in his new home begin to surface, Gary finds himself an unlikely participant in a brutal quest for vengeance.”

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Derek Clendening: The Between Years


Hi Derek, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Dork who writes every day.

What can you tell us about The Between Years?

The book focuses on Randy Fuller who has separated from his wife because the grief of losing their 6 month old baby boy Kenny is too great. Basically, Randy wants to have another child right away and Carol isn’t ready. Therefore Randy moves into his ancestral home, a Victorian house along the Niagara River. While there, he sees the ghost of his son at age four one night, then age eight, twelve and eighteen on the succeeding nights. He realizes that Kenny is growing up rapidly in the walls, which forces Randy to face realities of parenthood that he had never considered.

It’s an emotionally charged book that has no good guys or bad guys. The characters are people who are presented in all their frailty and imperfections. I leave it to the reader’s best judgment as to who is right and wrong in this book.

Who’s your favourite author?

I have several: Stephen King, Rio Youers, John Langan and Richard B Wright.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

Sure. My advice is to write (and read) every day. Writers get asked that all the time and they will always give some variation of that answer, but it’s the truth. Here’s why: writers need discipline and they must hone their skills. You can’t take shortcuts. Also, novels—or projects of any length, really—cannot be finished if they’re not being paid proper attention. A writer must strap themselves into their chair and write constantly. We all lead busy lives but serious writers will always find a way to write every day.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m finishing a zombie novel, tentatively titled The Breeding. I’m also outlining a sequel to The Vampire Way, my young adult novel.

Where can we find you online?

Why right here, my good man: http://thehorrorofderekclendening.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Derek!

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Two Rules for Creative Writing, by Michael R. Collings


Michael R. Collings is a Professor Emeritus of English from Pepperdine University. Since retiring a few years ago, he has republished all of his earlier books, plus seven novels, volumes of poetry (mainstream, science fiction, fantasy, and horror), and literary studies of writers from Milton to Clive Barker. In total, he has about 35 books currently in print with three publishers. In this great article written specially for alivewithwords.com, he tells us about his process for writing The Slab, and shares with us two rules for creative writing. Read on, it’s fun and interesting!

Rule 1: Write about what you know. A frequently quoted if rather basic rule almost every writer will encounter. And usually it works fairly well.

But what about those of us who write horror? There are few who claim to be on a first-name basis with the werewolf, or the vampire, or the zombie, or the ghost that figures so prominently in the story we want to tell. And those who do make the claim…well, perhaps the less said about them the better.

When I sat down to begin work on what would ultimately become The Slab, some twenty-odd years ago, I followed Rule #1 as closely as possible. I chose a subject I knew well—the house we had bought around 1980 (and lived in, however unhappily, for the next quarter century). We had not been the proud owners of our first home for more than six months when we began making discoveries.

First, the people who sold us the house had assiduously gone through it from top to bottom, spackling and repainting and touching up the ceilings to hide the fact that there were serious cracks in every room in the house. The back wall of the master bedroom dropped nearly two inches as the summer wore on and the soil dried out, until we could literally—and I mean literally—see daylight between the wall and the ceiling.

Then, when I had to peel the living room carpet away from the sliding patio doors for some reason, we discovered that there was a crack between the slab and the wall that extended from the corner of the kitchen through the living room and on through two bedrooms to the far rear corner. It was wide enough that I could put my hand in it, and deep enough that I could feel the damp dirt underneath the foundations. And it provided a handy highway-getaway for roaches and other vermin…including a rat that used it as a runway for a long while, until we were able to build concrete blocks between each room and finally capture the critter.

Then we found out the cause of all of our woes: the contractor who build the development some twenty years earlier had been a thief and a crook. He had the nasty habit of laying down rebar for foundation slabs, getting it approved by the city inspector…then pulling it up, pouring the concrete without any, and laying it in the next house, thereby saving a ton of money. He also skimped on the wiring, we found out many years later—there was no single piece of wiring anywhere in the house that was longer than three feet, and the scraps he had joined with plastic caps were of whatever gauge and material he happened to have handy. When he was found out shortly after the development was finished, he hanged himself. And by the time we bought the death-tr…the house, all of the insurance companies had ceased to honor any claims.

So we were stuck with it.

That might not have been so bad, except that a few years after we moved in, I developed severe tinnitus in both ears, along with incremental deafness, and—since I knew little or nothing about tinnitus at that time—I figured that I was merely going crazy. The sounds—hiss, crack, boom, ring-ring-ring, scrape—kept me awake day and night…and everywhere I looked there were cracks in the walls! When I went to someone to see if they could help me handle the constant ringing, I was sent to a psychiatrist…who diagnosed clinical depression. And everywhere I looked there were cracks in the walls!

And I won’t even mention the four years that the roof leaked despite efforts to patch and re-finish. We finally had to rip the entire roof off—discovering to no surprise that the plywood used was only ¼” thick instead of the requisite ¾” for our area—before the water stopped.

Now, when I was awake all night, all I could see were the cracks in the walls and all I could hear was the sound of water running running running.

So there I sat: clinically depressed, half-deaf but with extreme hypersensitivity to low, bass sounds, constantly distracted by internal sounds, living in a house that seemed about to fall apart at any moment (and knowing that I could never sell it because, after all, who would want to buy a place as badly constructed as that one was), struggling to keep up with my teaching assignments when I could no longer hear my students or concentrate enough to read and grade their papers.

And there was Rule #1: Write about what you know.

I wrote the novel in segments, out of chronological or narrative order. The first episode was the one with the roaches in the living room and kitchen. I think I wrote it the next day.

But then I was faced with a dilemma.

If this was going to be a  horror novel—and I knew it was—I would need more than just a few cockroaches.

That was when I remembered the next rule.

Rule #2: Put your character into true jeopardy and then, when it looks like he (or she) is about to escape…Make your character’s life a living hell!

That was also when writing The Slab became part-therapy, part-escapism, part-revenge.

We had found a handful of cockroaches in the living room…what if there were hundreds! Our roof leaked in drips and spurts into one of the bedrooms…what if the whole back yard flooded! Our house was badly constructed and—even though it had already stood for two decades and would probably stand for two or three more—looked like it was about to fall apart…what if the house itself were evil!

I didn’t finish the manuscript of the novel. Things became too difficult physically and mentally as my hearing deteriorated until I needed hearing aids in both ears. Then I developed cataracts in both eyes twenty years earlier than my doctor would have expected. And the depression deepened. And life at school became less and less bearable as I had to resign from committees that before I had enjoyed, endure hours-long faculty meetings without understanding anything anyone said, and refuse to even answer my telephone because I could not interpret what I might hear.

Finally, about five years ago, things reached a crisis point. I had a long discussion with the Dean of my college, and we decided to part company amicably. In fact, he went out of his way to make my retirement easy and the transition smooth. For which I am eternally grateful.

A couple of years after my wife and I moved to Idaho, I pulled out the ms. of The Slab—about 30,000 words.

And I remembered those two rules:

#1: Write about what you know; and

#2: When things start looking up, make your character’s life a living Hell.

Enough time had passed for me to be objective about the house. Mur daughter and son-in-law had purchased it, knowing full well what it was like (she had, after all, spent most of her life living there), raised it three feet, tore out the old foundations, and replaced it with a new slab…one with rebar. On top of it, they reconstructed the house, making it into a showplace.

My hearing and tinnitus were still problems, but the depression was under control. So in I jumped.

It was almost a pleasure destroying the contractor who build the house in my novel…almost. And giving the people who disguised all of the problems just to make a quick sale a truly terrible  time. And what to us had been minor irritations (I know realize) became to my characters life-threatening and sanity-threatening moments of true horror.

The Slab is doing fairly well. For a while last week, it broke into the top 1% of sales at the Kindle store, so apparently what I have to say about the potential horrors of homeownership has resonated with a few readers. And I know that the act of turning 30,000 words of disjointed episodes into a 90,000-word novel probably did me more good than all of the therapy combined.

So…my advice to anyone wanting to become a horror novelist?

Remember two rules:

#1: Write about what you know, and

#2: When things start looking up, make your character’s life a living Hell.

Oh, and one more rule I almost forgot….

#3: Have fun while you do it!

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Casey Calouette: “The Little Black Gas Book”


Hello Casey, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Fragmented engineer with a cause.

What can you tell us about The Little Black Gas Book”?

Back in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis I was working on ways that I could try to save a few bucks on gas, which was becoming increasingly expensive. What I found online was a wealth of knowledge, though fragmented, so I began to compile it and review it with an engineers eye and found a good deal of it to be nonsense, junk, lies, and outright fraud.

As my list grew I thought other people could get some use, and hopefully enjoyment out of it. It began as something to point out what worked to save you money on gas but turned into a bit of economic theory on the pricing of gas, what does work and to what extent and my favorite chapter on what doesn’t work. It was really entertaining to see the junk science that some people tried to sell others with no regard for the science.

The key idea at the center of the book is to know how much gas you are using. If you become aware of your usage you will reduce it. A medical study was done on weight loss and proved that if you tracked your caloric intake you ate less food, so why couldn’t that hold true for fuel usage? I tested it myself and was quite stunned at how much gas I used, and I thought I was careful!

Later in the book I got into the alternative fuels and where they stand today along with potential fuels for the future. There is some really exciting technologies at work right now and it’s going to be interesting to see which technologies end up lasting and which go away. 

Who’s your favourite author?

Matt Taibbi has been getting a lot of my reading time lately. He tells it like it us and isn’t afraid to pull any punches. For someone who covers Political stories he is refreshingly honest, not taking a side but pointing out stupidity, fraud, and lies. It’s nice to get someone to tell it to you straight these days.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

Write, read and know your subject. If you don’t write none of the other points matter. If you don’t read you won’t learn from others. There are tricks in prose and style that you become aware of once you start writing that you don’t notice as a reader. Knowing your subject guarantees you won’t sound like a fraud. Try to BS your way through a story and the reader will know.

Also know your style, if you sound too strange you become an oddity but if you sound like everyone else you become a commodity. Striking that balance is what makes for a fresh, unique story. 

What are you working on now?

A collection of outdoor short stories based on fly fishing, kayaking and the outdoors. After technology my love is for the outdoors so I’ve decided to spend some time writing fiction in that genre. I also found that nonfiction doesn’t generate the buzz or readability that fiction does so I’m going to step out of my Engineer writing shoes and putting my fishing waders on for some inspiration. 

Where can we find you online?

My primary haunt is at http://www.geektechnologist.com 

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Paul M. Schofield: “Trophy”


Hello Paul, could you please describe yourself in five words?

“Born with rich inner imagination”

What can you tell us about “Trophy”?

“Trophy” is about struggle, not only on an individual level, but on an epic scale involving the very existence of the human race. Our hero is Lieutenant Janet Rogerton, orphaned at an early age, and raised by the Planetary Control Corps, the military arm of the New Victorian Empire. The Empire began in the late 21st century after the collapse of civilization as we know it, and is managed by the massive computer system, known as CENTRAL, and overseen by ten ruling women, the Guardians. For nearly five hundred years the Empire has successfully governed the Earth and Solar System, but mankind is now on the brink of extinction, a consequence of the collapse centuries earlier.

The Empire is convinced that time-travel is the only means of salvation. Lt. Janet Rogerton is part of an intense effort to capture Louis Franelli, a brilliant ex-Empire engineer, now in the employ of deadly rebel Galen Bestmarke. Franelli alone has unraveled the complex secret of time travel through the mysterious Keyhole, an anomaly in space located in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune. Bestmarke is trying to use the Keyhole to develop his heinous plan of a slave trade through time, and has captured and turned both animals and men into living trophies during his test journeys through the Keyhole. Now the Empire is hot on his trail. During a daring surprise attack on Bestmarke’s ship as it exits the Keyhole, Lt. Rogerton successfully rescues two of the trophies and captures Franelli. In a series of rapidly moving plot twists, Franelli and a Guardian are abducted by Bestmarke; the two rescued trophies, the 20th century man Martin and a magnificent black panther, are revitalized by the Guardians with cybernetic bodies forming a formidable mind-linked team; and the sinister businessman Izax enters the story with dreadful consequences for CENTRAL and Martin. The Empire unveils a superior new ship, the Clipper, which Lt. Rogerton and her dynamic team use to boldly chase after Bestmarke in a desperate attempt to rescue the Guardian and Franelli, on whom all hopes for mankind’s continued existence depend.

What happens to cause the collapse of civilization in the 21st century? How and why are women ruling the New Victorian Empire? What position do men play in the Empire? How is Martin captured by Bestmarke and how does he escape? Why is Lieutenant Janet Rogerton uniquely important to mankind’s survival? Is Louis Franelli ultimately successful in preventing mankind’s extinction? Find out in “Trophy” and following sequels.

Who’s your favorite author?

That’s a tough question … but I’ll nail it down to two, with different reasons for each. J.R.R. Tolkien and Jane Austen. Tolkien is a master of description in the milieu style of story where he has created a complete world. The characters are important but not developed to the degree they are in character stories. The world around the characters is the focal point and Tolkien is superb in his descriptions of everything animate and inanimate. Jane Austen, on the other hand, is unsurpassed in dialogue and character development. To read her dialogue, with all its subtlety and nuance in works like Pride and Prejudice, is breath-taking … to me it doesn’t get any better.

Do you have tips for budding writers?

First of all, you have to love to write. Period. The odds are against you that you will ever make much money, so if you’re writing to make money, don’t write novels. If you love to write, then keep at it. Employ professionals to edit your work. All writers fall in love with their own creations and need their dreams shaken up a bit by cold reality. A good editor with be truthful with you and tell you if it’s good or if it stinks. They will also tell you what can be done to improve it. You will need humility and you must be able to take criticism. If you can’t handle that and rejection, you’re in the wrong business. Be prepared to rewrite over and over. Good writing is a craft that is slowly learned and developed if you keep at it. If you love to write, and I haven’t scared you away, then go for it. You will be successful.

What are you working on now?

The first sequel to “Trophy”. It’s called “Trophy: Rescue”, and it starts where the first book ends. My goal is to have two sequels and two prequels in the Trophy Saga, five books total. It’s a lot of work … but it’s a lot of fun.

Where can we find you on-line?

Please go to my web site: www.paulmschofield.com

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Yvonne Joye: “Ten Fingers and Ten Toes”


Hello Yvonne, could you please describe yourself in five words?

Wife, mother, writer, grateful, optimistic, laughter

What can you tell us about “Ten Fingers and Ten Toes”?

Ten Fingers and Ten Toes is a true story and though it is my own personal story, it is a story that belongs to so many. It is a snapshot of 13 months when our lives unravel culminating in the death of our fourth child and third son, Matthew. However, it is a story as much about life as it is about loss and tells of the strains and humour of trying to have it all in Celtic Tiger Ireland, trying to be the uberparent and the perfect wife. This is not a book about how to deal with the loss of a child but rather a narration of a time when we did! It is a short book with most people reading it in one sitting!

Who’s your favourite author?
Very very difficult to answer that, as difficult as whats my favourite book… All depends on what I need, where I am and how I am feeling.

Do you have tips for budding writers?
Just sit down and start. The writing will come.

What are you working on now?

Another book, another snapshot of life and another story that belongs to so many.

Where can we find you online?

Read the first chapter of Ten Fingers and Ten Toes and why I wrote the book here.

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