Meet the Author: Music from a Strange Planet by Barbara Black

Today we travel to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada to chat with Barbara Black about how a porcupine, a magic spot on her couch, the Delphic Oracle, adventure motorcycling, playing the piano, collage, whispering to bees, the William Tell Overture, thriving on the random, a margarita with a Antarctic ice cube, and the Jetsons come together as part of Barbaras life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the southwest corner of British Columbia, Canada, on big, beautiful Vancouver Island in the city of Victoria. Land of sea, mountains, rainforest, raccoons and seagulls. City of many restaurants and creative people who move here to pursue their bliss.

In which genre do you write? How many published books do you have?

I write poetry, short stories and flash fiction. I’m a minimalist at heart. I love the art of compression and squeezing an entire world into a few lines or pages. Music from a Strange Planet is my first book: a collection of twenty-two short stories, published by Caitlin Press.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Since it’s a story collection, I can’t cite just one idea. But mostly my stories start with a character’s voice, or a distinct statement that I know will lead me into a new fictional landscape. Interestingly, for my story “Belly-Deep in White Clover,” about a solitary taxidermist who becomes enamoured with a porcupine, the idea came from Geist magazine’s “CanLit Premise Generator” (as in Canadian Literature). It was a fun generator of random CanLit themes and tropes, including moose, loggers, beavers, hockey teams, Leonard Cohen, French-Canadian clowns, and harsh winters. When I pressed the magic generator button I got something like: an unusually tall man/with an antiquated profession/falls in love with a wild animal. For the longest time, I tried to write a humourous story on this subject, but finally gave up. Then one day, the beginnings of a very differently-toned story arrived, with those same quirky elements, but it was beautiful and tender and mysterious and has been beloved by readers.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I have a magic spot on my couch. When I sit there early in the morning, brilliant opening lines come into my head, unbidden. It’s like I’m the Delphic Oracle presiding over the mysterious fumes of prophecy, only with no fumes!

What would you choose as your spirit animal and why?

I discovered my spirit animal at a poetry retreat. Our first assignment was to call in our spirit animal and write a poem about it to share the next morning. I tried all evening to summon up an animal and as the deadline loomed, started to panic. I imagined all the experienced writers in their rooms crafting pieces of brilliance about their totem animals. The solution? I just let go and wrote nonstop, calling in this animal until my pen stopped, then looked at the first line: “Are you the dark brown one of the sweet-smelling soil, the solitary thorn who eats the tender leaves?” It was a porcupine. Of course, there’s the connection of quills with writing, which I only subconsciously realized. But after some research, I was touched to learn that porcupines are mostly solitary (like writers!) and gentle and they sleep in trees, something I actually did as a child. I composed the poem and went to bed after midnight. The next morning, I read it at the writing circle. One of the retreat participants was an editor of a Canadian literary journal. She came up to me afterwards and offered to publish my poem. It was my first publication.

What are you currently reading?

I love to read and write short forms. Short stories, flash stories and compact poems. My latest interest is prose poems. They’re a lyrical, enigmatic hybrid. I’m currently reading two prose poem collections—a heart-breakingly beautiful collection by Allison Benis White, called Self-Portrait with Crayon. She writes in a unique style that somehow manages to convey complex states of mind; and David Shumate’s witty book of prose poems, High Water Mark, inventive takes on everything from Hitler’s barber to Neruda carrying a sea in his suitcase. On the fiction side, I recently finished Madeline Miller’s Circe, which I highly recommend. I’m also working my way through George Saunders’ short story master class book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. And I love pretzeling my brain with cryptic crosswords.

What outdoor activity haven’t you tried, but would like to try?

Adventure motorcycling on the backroads. No traffic! Hills, and rivers, mud, dirt paths, and bumps. Plus, I might see a porcupine. Or, at least, the back of one.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I play piano. Currently enjoying a book of transcribed jazz improvisations from some of the greats. What a little jazz can do for a person’s soul. I have over ten years of classical vocal training, but now I prefer singing jazz and folk music. I can also play the beginning of the William Tell Overture on my front teeth, if you care to listen.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

In the warmer months, I’m travelling, out in the garden whispering to the bees or riding my motorcycle and bagging some curves. In the winter, I read and write and often am busy on a collaboration. This year I’ll be working with a composer in Amsterdam, writing text for his composition, “Seven Colours of the Night.” I also recently took up collage and now collage excerpts from my writing on Instagram. (As a matter of fact, my publisher kindly asked if I would design the front cover for my book and I did!)

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing? What’s your writing process?

…that when a story gets stuck, I can just wait until a new scene acts itself out in my head visually. If I allow my subconscious to do its work, the character solves the problem for me. Characters generally come to me unbidden and seem to ask for me to write their story. In this collection, there’s a solitary taxidermist who lives in the woods, a business analyst who yearns to be a sculptor, and a female global traveler who looks for love in all the wrong places. Where these people came from is a mystery to me.

After I finished my manuscript, I was surprised to see inadvertent themes related to my past or to what was happening in my life during the four years of writing the book. I saw in several characters my Dad’s struggle with dementia; and myself in a little girl character who wants to dress up as a very specific kind of beetle (as a child, I loved insects); and my thoughts around mothers and daughters showed up in a story with a mother who mourns her stillborns; one who’s lost her daughter; another who connects with her estranged adult daughter. This is not to say there aren’t moments of humour and subversity in the book. There’s plenty of that, too. So, despite most of the characters not being like me at all, parts of my life are woven into the very fibre of the stories.

As for a writing process, I’m not a planner. I don’t follow the advice to have a writing routine. I thrive on the random. Mostly, I rely on a very strong voice or line to kick-start a story and start the “machine of story-writing.” George Saunders calls this, “Follow the Voice.” Once the kernel of the story is in place, I’m very disciplined at pursuing it.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. Why is he there?

Never doubt the muse. It might bring a sombrero-wearing penguin to your front porch. Go with it! And say yes to the margarita with the Antarctic ice cube floating in it.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

I loved The Jetsons. That opening with its crazy, punchy, exciting music (they squeezed in a few notes of “Chopsticks”!), and the family bubble-jet zipping around the futuristic cityscape. It was so neat that, after landing, the jet snapped down into George’s briefcase! Being a bit of a tomboy, I identified with Elmore. Back then, my father read Popular Science magazine and there were always futurist scenarios in there, like moving sidewalks in the city, personal mini-jets and highways layered on highways like a stack of noodles.

If Mars or another planet were livable, would you accept a one way ticket there?

“Livable” is a pretty minimalist term. Why would I leave my little pocket of raincoast paradise of four seasons for a dry red planet with no greenery or coffee shops?

What are you currently working on?

A collection of flash fictions titled, “Little Fortified Stories,” that began with sitting in the Port Institute in Lisbon, sampling port and muscatel and free-writing words that came to me based on that tipple’s unique qualities. The collection has since evolved to include more story-inspiring spirits, from bourbon to gin and other warped, poignant or fantastical tales that relate to my mostly imagined ancestry.

Tell us about your most recent book. And what’s the “strange music” part of it?

My first book is Music from a Strange Planet, a collection of short stories with themes of quirky love, emotional attachment, transformation, grief and the influences of the natural world (and the occasional insect). Among many other characters, you’ll meet a woman who plans a “sologamy ceremony” to marry herself; two insomniac strangers who come together over a raccoon; and an installation artist who transforms herself into a caribou.

The book title comes from a story with the same title which involves a precocious girl named Lucky Bee who, in addition to having a live cricket who helps her predict the future, is a young composer. Her most recent opus, “Music from a Strange Planet,” is inspired by the convergence of cricket choruses. Several stories in the collection reference music, including one about a punk music singer suffering a creative crisis and inadvertently falling in love with a bassist, and another about a love-seeker who meets her true love—a tram-riding musician—in a tiki bar in Prague.

The book is eclectic, or “unusual and unorthodox,” as one of my endorsers says, full of varying characters, all of whom I care deeply about and who seem to exist somewhere in another galaxy, carrying on their unique lives. I’m thrilled to be introducing them to readers.

It was wonderful having you on MTA, Barbara!! Such a fun interview!! Wishing you all the best, with much success, and many margaritas with Antarctic ice cubes! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Music from a Strange Planet:

A striking and genre-bending debut short story collection from writer Barbara Black.

Off-beat, provocative, philosophical, Music from a Strange Planet transports you to intimate worlds in a quirky multiverse. This unique story collection places characters at the core of their vulnerabilities. Grief, tenderness and longing soak the pages, taking the reader into the intimate places of the heart: An awkward child envisions herself as a darkling beetle; an unemployed business analyst prefers water-walking over “rebranding” himself; a psychologist wants to marry herself; and in the squatters’ district, a biogenetically-altered couple visits an attic to observe a large cocoon. Black takes the reader from the ruins of a dystopian city to inner self-created landscapes with a masterfully crafted tone and a register that ranges from contemplative to comic. Expect your planet to tilt a little to the strange after reading this engaging collection.

Book Trailer for Music from a Strange Planet:

Book Endorsements:

These exhilarating stories, quick and sharp and tender, breach the barrier that separates civilized and wild, human and non. Senses fuse, flesh is transfigured; characters come to themselves at moments of metamorphosis, modulating to new forms of life. Barbara Black’s magic is the kind that illuminates.”

—John Gould, author of The End of Me

“Barbara Black’s debut collection, Music from a Strange Planet, offers tales of obsession and transformation in which the melding of character with the phenomenal world is nothing less than astounding. With a surgeon’s exacting skill, she lays bare the often-strange music of the human heart.”

—M.A.C. Farrant, author of One Good Thing: A Living Memoir

“Be prepared. Be very prepared and preferably with your inner antennae on high alert as you enter into this translucent, transcendent, Kafkaesque world of illusions. Black goes beyond spider-like weaving as she spins her tales. Unusual, unorthodox, but always unique, they will stick to you.”

—Cathleen With, author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison

Excerpt:

Music from a Strange Planet

Where to find the book:

Order direct from the publisher here: https://caitlin-press.com/our-books/music-from-a-strange-planet/

Or order from your local independent bookstore.

Order from Amazon.ca here:

Order from Amazon.com here:

Connect with Barbara:

YouTube Author Page:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSf6wfF1zx0-GbnPcZSK8vQ

Author Page at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57136889-music-from-a-strange-planet?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=ig5ybOCHtw&rank=1

Facebook Writer Page: https://www.facebook.com/barbarablackwriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bblackwrites/

Website: https://www.barbarablack.ca/book-music-from-a-strange-planet/

Other Links:

Author Interview with Mandy-Eve Barnett:
https://mandyevebarnett.com/2021/05/20/author-interview-barbara-black/

Book Review by Bill Arnott:
https://miramichireader.ca/2021/03/music-from-a-strange-planet-by-barbara-black/

Author Interview with Bill Arnott:

https://mailchi.mp/e1829eb04ddc/from-a-late-bloomer-creative-writer-some-of-the-best-short-stories-ive-read

Author Interview with Oscar Martens:

Taking risks with Barbara Black

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Meet the Author: Your Story, Well Told by Corey Rosen

Today we travel to San Francisco to chat with Corey Rosen about how new beginnings, Jabba the Hutt, interesting experiences, Harrison Ford’s ear, Visual Effects, improvisation, We Are the World, Star Wars, and a Chinese Theme Park come together as part of Corey’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Corey Rosen. I am a writer, actor and storytelling coach that lives in San Francisco, California. When not writing, I perform at BATS Improv and teach applied improvisation, storytelling, and stand up comedy writing. I also work in Visual Effects and have worked on some of the Star Wars movies. Lately I’m writing a movie that will be shown in a Chinese Theme Park.

In which genre do you write?

I focus on Storytelling, both my own, and helping people craft and tell their own stories. We all have interesting experiences. I love hearing those, and the lessons and learnings people have collected through our lives.

How many published books do you have?

“Your Story, Well Told” is my first published book! Woohoo!

What is your favorite season and why?

Fall. I grew up in Rochester, NY and, while I miss having a winter, I don’t miss shoveling snow and skidding on the ice. The weather in San Francisco, where I live, is a Mediterranean climate, which feels like autumn most of the time – not too hot and not too cold. I think fall is my favorite season because I associate the fall with change – changing weather, changing colors… it’s also when the new school year starts. For me, it’s a reminder that a new beginning can be just around any corner.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I play a bunch of instruments. I love to make music. I recently discovered the joy of recording and harmonizing with myself on parody and personalized songs I’ve written for friends as a fundraiser for my improv theater, BATS Improv. The trailer for my book is an example of this – I’m playing all the instruments and singing 6 parts in a parody of “We Are The World” to introduce my book. Check out the trailer here:

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I teach applied improvisation, storytelling, and stand up comedy writing. I also work for a visual effects studio founded by Oscar-winner Phil Tippett, who designed and animated the most iconic creatures in the original Star Wars movies, like Jabba the Hutt and the AT-AT snow walkers. As a creative director, I write and direct movies shown at theme parks around the world.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

There’s a classic children’s book called “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie,” by Laura Numeroff. In it, a simple action leads to increasing complications. My DIY prowess often unfolds in this way. A few weeks ago, my wife asked me to hang a picture on the wall. Looking at the wall, I couldn’t help but be irritated by the chipped paint and holes from prior screws and pictures. Within an hour I’d bought new paint and spent the rest of the afternoon taping, spackling, and repainting the entire wall. When we sat down to dinner, my wife quietly said, “maybe tomorrow you could hang that picture?”

What’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you while working at your current or a previous job?

When I was hired at ILM, George Lucas’ visual effects company, I was tasked with (digitally) removing specs of dirt and dust from the original Star Wars movie for the Special Edition re-release. This was the movie I saw as a child that made me want to tell my own stories, and work in the movie business. It was a heavy responsibility. One of the first shots I had to “clean” was a shot of Harrison Ford (Han Solo). I cleaned what I thought was a spec of white dirt from the same spot in every frame, only realizing when I was done that I’d actually removed Han Solo’s entire ear! I was so scared that I didn’t tell anyone, and, to this day, there is a moment in the Star Wars universe where Han Solo doesn’t have an ear, thanks to me!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing a few movies for a theme park near Shenzhen in China! The movies will be seen on large dome screens, with the audience feeling like they are flying from Earth to Mars. It’s really fun to write this kind of experience because you are working in many dimensions – the audience is in motion having physical sensations while you are telling them a story.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My book will teach you fun and easy strategies to get inspired to develop stories, structure them, and tell them, well! My favorite discovery after writing the book has been all the stories others have told me – many by people I’ve known a long time, telling stories I’ve never heard! I hope this book helps you remember and tell stories that connect you with others.

It was wonderful learning more about you, and having you be a part of MTA, Corey! Here’s to your success!! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Learn the art of telling stories and make the sale, land the client, propose a toast, or impress a date – maybe all at the same time! Moth veteran and master teacher Corey Rosen is an Emmy-award winning writer and actor with years of experience as a skilled storytelling coach. His book, Your Story, Well Told, is crafted to help ordinary people tell extraordinary stories. This laugh out loud handbook covers everything from how to tell a good story to going off script.

Book Trailer:

Where to find the book:

www.coreyrosen.com: Has links to independent and BIPOC-owned bookstores where you can order “Your Story, Well Told: Creative Strategies to Develop and Perform Stories that Wow an Audience.”

Connect with Corey:

Website: www.coreyrosen.com

social media links:

facebook & Instagram: @storyrosen
twitter: @coreyrosen

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

 

Meet the Author: Chasing Shadows by Steven Smith

Today we travel to Stotfold in Bedfordshire to chat with Steven Smith about how LEGOs, book reviews, Jack the Ripper, gaming, Discworld, Elton John, coffee shops, winter, an out of control roller coaster ride, an electric guitar, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show come together as part of Steven’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I am Steven, or Steve – either works for me! I live in a little town called Stotfold in Bedfordshire. It’s about an hour by train from London. I live with my wife Vanessa and my tuxedo cat Rey.

When things are a little more normal I love to travel and get out with my camera, too. I’m also an avid video gamer, armchair athlete and absolute Lego fanatic.

In which genre do you write?

My debut novel Chasing Shadows falls into steampunk – an alternate history set in a Victorianesque world where everything is steam-powered and electricity did not expand quite as it did. I have also written a number of short stories in a wide range of styles and genres.

How many published books do you have?

At the moment, just Chasing Shadows. Its sequel As the Crow Flies is well underway. I am also considering releasing a collection of short stories when I get the chance to write a few more.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Hmmm, now this is a tough question. Back in primary school, I remember doing something the teachers called “Extended Stories”. Everyone spent the lesson just writing anything we wanted. This carried on throughout the year. I loved those sessions. But then exams, needing a career, all that kind of thing waylaid my writing.

I’ve always been an avid book reader, so in March 2015 I started a blog where I review books, interview authors and take part in a range of other bookish features. In 2017 I decided the time was right to try and write a novel of my own. I set out to write a fictional account of the infamous Jack the Ripper – who he was and how he managed to evade arrest. It didn’t work out though – I became exhausted by the level of research to get the historical facts accurate, and it faded into nothingness.

I dabbled with some short stories after that until, in late 2019, an idea struck me. To begin with, it was just as the concept for a character, closely followed by another. Then I had some ideas for adventures they might find themselves in. And that was it, the early ideas for Chasing Shadows was formed.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I do love my home office space. It’s filled with all manner of things that are so homely to me. My wife and I have a range of similar interests, so we’ve made this space very much our own. There are signed Discworld prints and special framed stamp display pieces themed around Harry Potter and Elton John. There are framed signed comic books, a display cabinet brimming with video game paraphernalia, another bursting at the gunwales with Lego. That’s a habit of mine that has spread beyond the cabinet and throughout the house! Then, on the wall immediately behind the desk is a huge The Nightmare Before Christmas poster, my most beloved film. It really is a little slice of nerdvana for me.

Aside from there, I love writing in coffee shops. I can people watch and get inspiration for characters and events from what I see and hear. I’ve even done a spot of writing on the terrace of a wonderful cafe in the town of Riva, sat on the shore of the beautiful Lake Garda!

What are you currently reading?

Right now I am test-reading the first draft of a novel by author and good friend Richard Dee. It’s something a little different genre-wise from him, and I have to say I am absolutely loving it!

What is your favorite season and why?

Winter, without a shadow of a doubt. I am not built for the hot days of summer. I love nothing more than a cold, crisp, bright winter day. Blue sky, biting cold, your breath a freezing fog out in front of you. I love it! Plus, I am a massive Christmas fan, so it’s a no brainer for me. Indulgent food, festive music, cheesy films and an overabundance of decorations. It always fills me with joy!

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

The honest answer is that I am not really sure. I’ve always loved steampunk. It’s utterly fascinating to me – the inventions, the vehicles, the outfits, the airships. I love it all. As far as Chasing Shadows, well it was a series of disconnected ideas that hit me. First, it was an idea for a character, my leading man. Then there was the beginnings of another main character. Then I saw a few events. Nothing too large, just an underlying theme as such.

The connective tissue needed to hold the bare bones together wasn’t planned. Much of the book wasn’t planned. I only learned what came next after I had written it. The whole process was a frenetic, out of control rollercoaster ride that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

Now this one is easy, especially as it’s indelibly inked into my right bicep. That would have to be Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. I was six years old when it came out back in 1993. I saw it then and was transfixed. The creepy world of Halloweentown and its denizens, the wonderful vibrance of Christmastown, Burton’s bizarre story and the incredible score and songwriting of Danny Elfman. All of these things have been forever imprinted on my mind, and guarantee I will watch that film multipe times a year. And yes, I do know it almost word for word.

If you pressed me for a second choice, that’d have to be The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Another weird, wonderful, riotous sing along movie.

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, which instrument would you like to be able to play?

I actually own an electric guitar – a stunning piece bought for me for Christmas by my wife. I haven’t played it nearly as much as I’d like. I want to learn it though. I used to be able to play real simple chords like the basic riff from Wonderwall by Oasis. I’d love to learn some more though. I am a huge rock music fan – Rolling Stones, Iron Maiden, Kiss, AC/DC, Foo Fighters. That would be a definite goal to play a few of their songs one day.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Reading is an obvious answer for this one. I am also a massive video game freak. I lose hours at a time to a good game. Travelling is another passion of mine. I dabble with photography, I love playing around with the camera and trying out different things. And then there is Lego. It’s one of my biggest hobbies. I find the process of following the instructions and seeing the set come together really therapeutic.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Wow, now there’s a killer of a question. How do I pick just one? First up there would have to be the authors Terry Pratchett and Stephen King. They are two of my very favourite authors. Then there would have to be a few musicians in there, more likely whole bands – I just don’t think I could pick one.

Fantasy people, now that is interesting. I think I’d love to meet both Roland Deschain and Randal Flagg from The Dark Tower series. I love the series of books and these two characters are so deep, there is a lot to them that I’d love to uncover. Without sounding too narcissistic I’d also love to meet my own leading man, Edison Crow. I know he came from my mind, but there is so much about him I’d like to get to know over a coffee.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can do it. That I can actually start the process and see it all the way through to the end and hold my book in my hand. That’s something else. Early on, I’d have been happy to reach 30 or 40,000 words. To make it to a complete novel, weighing in at over 78,000 words is a pretty incredible feeling!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

I tried planning the story as I went along, but it just didn’t work out for me. I found it easiest to just write and see where the story took me. I loved this approach. It meant I got to discover the story much like the readers do! I only knew what was happening in the fractions of a second before I typed the words out. I know many people love to plan things meticulously, but my mind is too disorganised and chaotic for that, it just doesn’t work for me.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

I don’t in the traditional sense. I’ve started keeping a movie journal though. I am a film lover, but I am also aware there are a lot of films that always appear on ‘top movies to watch before you die’ lists that I’ve somehow not seen. I am using this as a way to motivate me to watch some of those films.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

With the UK having not long come out of COVID restrictions, I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do anything like this. I hope to, though. And if I do, Obviously I would prepare a choice chapter or two to read. Beyond that, I feel passionate about my book, so I would just like to get that across to those listening.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

American History X. My team at work has started doing a movie club – someone recommends a film and everyone watches it ready to discuss the following week. It’s a great way to start watching films I might not have seen otherwise. And I have to say I really enjoyed it – fantastic visuals, deep story, tragic finale. A great film.

What are you currently working on?

I have a few things on the go right now. After finishing my first draft of Chasing Shadows, I dove headfirst into the sequel – As the Crow Flies. On the side, I am also working on a short story set in the same world. It’s following a young Edison Crow and Selah, just after they meet. Ideas are swirling for yet another short in that world, but in no way related to these characters.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is my debut novel, Chasing Shadows. It’s a steampunk novel with action and adventure along the way. It follows the roguish airship captain Edison Crow, his childhood friend and second in command Selah, and a ragtag crew of the most loyal rogues a captain could hope for. Seeking a big payday, Crow hopes to put his childhood as a street orphan firmly behind him. A series of unfortunate incidents and nearly failed jobs land the crew in the heart of a mystery with potentially dire consequences.

It was great having you be a part of MTA! I thoroughly enjoyed your interview, Steven. My mind is also disorganized and chaotic. I’ve only written nonfiction and poetry to date, but should I write a fiction, what you describe is how it will have to be for me, too! Wishing you all the best, with much success!! – Camilla

Blurb:

As captain of the airship Arcos, Edison Crow and his childhood partner in crime, Selah, lead their crew in search of a big payday. When it comes to the pursuit of wealth, nothing is out of the question for this band of charming rogues. Smuggling. Theft. Embezzlement. It’s all part of a daring game.

But all is not smooth sailing when you’re a high profile thief with a target on your back. A job gone wrong will thrust Edison, Selah and those aboard the Arcos upon a journey straight to the heart of the shady United Republic of the High Commission in pursuit of the truth.

Troubled by his own personal demons, Edison must navigate dark skies if he hopes to gain answers. Will it be enough to help the infamous Captain Crow clear his and his crew’s names? Or will he end up Chasing Shadows?

Where to find the book:

It’s available on Amazon for Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in Paperback. I also offer personalised paperbacks directly from myself – just pop me an email to discuss!

Connect with Steven:

https://authorstevensmith.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/AuthorStevenSmith
https://twitter.com/ATCFpublishing
https://www.instagram.com/stevensmithauthor/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21297044.Steven_Smith

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

 

Friday with Friends: Doing the Dishes with Allen Klein

Doing the Dishes

When I was in grade school, I wrote a poem that was published in the school paper. If my memory serves, it went something like this:

The Dishes

We have a little system that we do each night,
And when we do this, we never fight.
Mom is the one who washes, of course,
Dad dries them off, the father the boss,
And I am the little boy who puts them away,
Who goes to school every day.

Certainly not a great poem but it was the first piece of my writing ever to be published. Little did I realize it at the time, but that experience unexpectedly came full circle years later during my midlife. While this latter career was based on my writing talent, my first career was based on my artistic talent.

When I was seven years old, I was taken to see my first Broadway show, Oklahoma. From then on, I wanted to be a scenic designer…the person who creates those pretty stage pictures. Growing up in New York City, I saw nearly every show that opened on Broadway. I studied at various places to become a designer. I got into the scenic design union after passing a very stringent test and worked at CBS-television. There I designed such shows as Captain Kangaroo, The Merv Griffin Show and The Jackie Gleason Show.

Things were going well…until they weren’t. The TV shows moved out of New York, and I was left designing soap operas and commercials, which didn’t suit me. Since my wife was from San Francisco, a city we both loved, we decided it was an ideal time to move across county. I had no steady job at the time, my daughter was not yet enrolled in a regular school, and the landlord gave us a bunch of money to vacate the apartment so he could renovate it and raise the rent. We took the money and moved across country.

I got work with the San Francisco Opera painting scenery and we found the Victorian house we always dreamed about. Again, things were going well… until they weren’t. My wife, Ellen, contracted a rare liver disease. There was no cure nor liver transplants at the time. The prognosis was three years. And indeed, she did die three years after the diagnosis.

It was an extremely difficult time, but Ellen had a great sense of humor that helped us cope with the situation. It also surprisingly thrust me into a speaking and writing career. After Ellen died, I realized how beneficial therapeutic humor was during her terminal illness. It helped us rise about the situation and, if only momentarily, gave us a reprieve from the challenging time we were going through.

I wanted to share with the world what I had learned about how humor could enable us to rise above any situation. I joined the National Speakers Association to find out about the ins and outs of being a professional speaker. I had almost failed speech in college because I feared getting up and speaking in front of a group. But here I was speaking to groups of upwards of 1,500 people because of my passion about the value of therapeutic humor. And it was the speaking that led to my writing career.

At one speaker’s convention, I kept hearing colleagues say, “If you want to accelerate your speaking career, you need to have a book.” It seemed like every speaker I heard that year was saying, “You need to have a book, you need to have a book.” When the conference ended, I went back home, put together a book proposal on the benefits of humor. After numerous rejections and revisions, my literary agent sold The Healing Power of Humor to a mainstream publisher.

The book hit a nerve with readers. I think it was, in part, because of Norman Cousin’s book, Anatomy of an Illness, which talked about his personal journey of healing himself with laughter. Even though my book was published way back in 1989, The Healing Power of Humor is still going strong today with a 40+ printing and a 9th foreign language translation.

One book led to another. For example, the hundreds of uplifting quotations I didn’t use in the first book became the basis for the second. That book led to a series of quotation books that got reprinted in many different formats with several different publishers. And those publishers continued to release several of my other non-quotation books.

Who knew when I wrote that poem for my school paper that years later it would lead to my writing of 30-plus books? ……. © Allen Klein, June 2021

To see Allen’s previous interview on MTA, go here:

Meet the Author: Embracing Life After Loss by Allen Klein

About Allen Klein

Comedian Jerry Lewis has said that Allen Klein is “a noble and vital force watching over the human condition.” Klein, also known as, “Mr. Jollytologist”® and “The Ambassador of Light”, shows audiences worldwide how to use humor and positivity to deal with life’s not-so-funny stuff. He is an award-winning professional speaker, a TEDx presenter, and author of 30-plus books including, The Healing Power of Humor, You Can’t Ruin My Day, and Embracing Life After Loss. His latest book, The Awe Factor: How a Little Bit of Wonder Can Make a Big Difference in Your Life was named by SpiritualityandPractice.com as “One of the Best Spiritual Books of 2020.”

Connect with Allen

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.allenklein.com

TedX talk: http://tinyurl.com/z4hfsx5

Amazon book page: https://tinyurl.com/y5cwgocv

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Meet the Author: The Inside City by Anita Mir

Today we travel to London by way of Lahore, Pakistan to chat with Anita Mir about how journalistic work, the Blasphemy Law, comic pieces, Fordham University, Greek myth, a dolphin, Singin’ in the Rain, breathing deeply, Shakespeare, and a penguin in a sombrero come together as part of Anita’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Anita Mir. I seem to have flitted back and forth from Pakistan and England all my life. I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, where my novel is set. I grew up in Wales and County Durham in the UK. Then we went back, as a family, to Lahore. After college, I worked as a journalist and then in the NGO field. Most of my journalistic work was investigative reports on human rights issues, particularly pertaining to the Blasphemy Law, which is often used to target religious minorities such as Christians and Ahmedis.

I wrote what I then thought of as fluff -reviews, comic pieces, short stories- under a pseudonym, not understanding why I enjoyed writing that stuff so much. Through both jobs I got to see a Pakistan I’d never otherwise have seen.

I currently live in London where I teach at Fordham University and write plays. I’ve been in Lahore for the last eight months. That, though, is another story….

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As a teenager I wrote poetry – embarrassingly bad poetry, full, I think, of Greek myth characters who popped up incongruously on our street, near the sweet shop, and did Greek myth kinds of things. Pretentious is too generous a word to describe my ‘poetry’. But thank God, in all our moves, it’s been lost.

At college, I was Editor of my college magazine and then straight from college, walked into my first job as a journalist – where I stayed for years, only leaving when the paper folded. But until I had my first short play on, a short story published and then my novel published I don’t think I had the guts to say I wanted to be a writer.

My novel, ‘The Inside City’ was longlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize and shortlisted for the UBL Prize.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

A dolphin. Just so I could say that wonderful line from ‘Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’: “Thanks for all the fish.”

What does your ideal writing space look like?

A bed.

What are you currently reading?

Academic stuff on death for a paper I want to write, ‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’ Farrell and dipping back into ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ to try and understand how a real poet writes with such precision.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I’m currently writing a kid’s book about an autistic boy whose beloved grandfather dies and whom he tries to bring back to the world. Two aspects of the story: the autistic boy and the grandfather are both biographical, though nothing else in the story is.

What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?

Can I choose two? ‘Wings of Desire’ -for its beauty and ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ – which always cheers me up.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I play piano.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Shakespeare. ‘You were having bloody fun when you were writing, weren’t you?’

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That writing is an addiction I don’t ever want to give up.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I write a journal. Short short stories. When I stop, the ‘proper’ writing comes harder and worse.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?

I breathe deeply. I’d like to do what I’ve seen Tim Robbins do as prep: Jump on a trampoline. But unless I can find a collapsable one, it might be difficult carrying it on the Tube.

What do you miss about being a kid?

My speed at running.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Just go for it. Come out, guns blazing. As an old actor said, ‘There is no rehearsal. This is it.’

You can have anyone fictional as your imaginary friend, who do you choose and why?

Samuel Beckett or Howard Barker. Because I’d hope a little of their magic would rub off on me.

If mars or another planet was livable, would you accept a one way ticket there? why or why not?

No. I haven’t explored enough of this world yet.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

‘Party central?’

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Determination, or as my mother called it, bloody-mindedness.

It was wonderful to have you be part of MTA, Anita. I very much enjoyed learning more about you and your writings. Wishing you all the best, with much success! – Camilla

Trailer and where to find the book:

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Meet the Author: The Borders of Normal by Manuel Matas, M.D.

Today we travel to Winnipeg, Canada to chat with Manuel Matas, M.D. about how being a psychiatrist, paranormal experiences, angels, a life-threatening illness, a hippo, photography exhibitions, Touchdown Quiz, time, nature, and a bowler hat wearing giraffe come together as part of Manuel’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a psychiatrist, author, portrait artist, photographer, and public speaker. I currently live in Winnipeg, Canada. I have also lived in Toronto and Montreal.

My book, The Borders of Normal: A Clinical Psychiatrist De-Stigmatizes Paranormal Phenomena, was a Whistler Independent Book Awards Finalist and an Amazon #1 Best Seller in two genres – Parapsychology and Unexplained Mysteries.

I have had many paranormal experiences, including out-of-body and near-death-experiences, visions from message-bearing apparitions, and precognitive (prophetic) dreams. I share these experiences in my book, along with an exploration and discussion of extra-sensory perception (ESP), telepathy, premonitions, predestination, channeled art and science, and mediums, using a mind-body/spirit paradigm. I also explore the spiritual, philosophical, cultural, and historical aspects of these phenomena.

Many people who have these experiences don’t talk about them, even to their doctors or their closest friends, because they are afraid they are losing their minds. My intention in writing The Borders of Normal was to de-stigmatize and normalize these phenomena and to encourage people to share their own paranormal experiences.

What ignited your author’s flame?

Over the years I have written many articles, poems, essays, and letters-to-the-editor (over 200 letters published by The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper). Although I had many paranormal experiences, I mostly kept them to myself. Everything changed after I saw the angels at my father’s funeral. That was too much for me to keep to myself. Working full-time and raising a family, I didn’t have much time to write, but a life-threatening illness, from which I have now fully recovered, allowed me the time to start writing my book.

What would you choose as your spirit animal?

Oddly enough, I would choose the hippo, because I had a dream about a hippo emerging from the mud and I thought that was a good metaphor for my writing career. I couldn’t actually see the outline of the hippo until he shook off the mud.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Overstory, by Richard Powers. It won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The genre is Environmental Fiction. I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s a series of intertwining stories which all are based on the author’s love of and deep respect for trees.

What do you do when you are not writing or marketing your books?

I worked in my profession as a medical doctor and psychiatrist for 42 years. Now that I am retired, in addition to writing, I spend time with my family (mostly on Zoom during the pandemic), reading, drawing, painting, walking, and photography. I am an Elected Member of the Portrait Society of Canada. I have had two solo photography exhibitions.

Do you have an interesting childhood story?

I made my television debut at age 15. I was representing my high school, along with three other students from my school, in a TV quiz show called Touchdown Quiz. We won the grand prize, which was a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica for the school library, and $300 for each student on the winning team.

What is the last movie I watched and why did I choose to watch it?

Two Distant Strangers is a 2020 American short film written by Travon Free and directed by Free and Martin Desmond Roe. It was nominated for a 2021 Academy Award for Best Short Film (Live Action). I was interested in watching it because of the subject matter and because it was nominated for an Academy Award. It is about a pressing social issue – the repeated killing of young, unarmed, Black men by white police officers – and the story is presented in time loops, which I am very interested in. In fact, the nature of time is the subject of my next book.

A giraffe knocks on your door wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?

He says,
Top of the morning
Tip of the hat
The Beauty of Nature
Is where it’s at.
He is there to remind us of the healing power of the beauty of nature.

Do I think things happen for a reason? Do you have an example?

Yes. Many years ago, a poem popped into my head and I had no idea what it meant but I always remembered it. About three decades later, while watching the movie Arrival, the meaning became clear. Sometimes things happen and we don’t know why but if we maintain the long view we can eventually understand why it happened.

What are you currently working on?

My next book is on the nature of time. What is time? Time is a mental construct. The word “time” is derived from an Indo-European root which means “to divide.” We divide time into hours, minutes, and seconds. Time divides us against each other, against Nature, and against our true selves.

It was wonderful having you be a part of MTA, Manuel! Your current book and your upcoming book sound interesting. And I completely agree with your giraffe friend, nature is a powerful healer. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Chapters/ Indigo, FriesenPress Bookstore, Banyen Books in Vancouver. E-books are available from Kindle, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, and the iTunes Bookstore.

Connect with Manuel:

Website: https://www.drmatas.ca
Social Media:
FB – @authormanuelmatas
Instagram – manny.matas
Twitter – @MannyMatas

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Meet the Author: Living the Faery Life by Kac Young, PhD

Today we travel to Ventura, California to chat with Kac Young, PhD about how meditation, traveling, John O’Donohue, flying private airplanes, Irish whiskey, a handyman, and New York City come together as part of Kac’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am an author of 25 books, and also a licensed Religious Science Minister, a Certified Archetypal Therapist and Counselor; a Certified Meditation Teacher; a Career Coach for aspiring actors and directors; and a former pilot of private airplanes. I am a certified Medical Qigong instructor, living in Ventura, CA.

When not writing or teaching, I travel the globe experiencing the energies of international sacred sites and working with advanced masters from many traditions.

In which genre do you write?

I write to the heart and soul. My books are meant to lift people up. There is plenty in the world that drags them down, but I want to be a light in the reader’s life, answer the questions, help them succeed and laugh a lot along the way.

How many published books do you have?

Twenty – five

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person, who would it be and what would you ask them?

I would definitely want to meet John O’Donohue, poet, mystic and author of some of the finest books ever written. His books move and inspire me to live a bigger life, to care deeply for the planet and to know that life is a series of passing seasons and there is wisdom in each drop of rain. Yes, I would drink fine Irish whiskey with him until the wee hours and my cheeks were sore from laughing and my heart was filled with love.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

In school the nuns told me I was a very bad writer. It scared me for a very long time. What I learned later was that they were unable to separate the writing from the subjects I was writing about. They made me feel I was a bad writer when in fact, I was just writing like a rebel. I am enjoying my new-found freedom from the scourge of little closed minds. Fortunately now, I see it as ancient history.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

The first thing I do is sequester myself for 10 minutes, meditate and release the pressures of the day. I spend the next few minutes going over my book to refresh my mind. I randomly flip through the book and stop on a page. I read what it has to say and that will be the guide for my workshop, interview or presentation. I would say the faeries are in charge at that point.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Nothing, I’m still one at heart!

What  actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life, and why?

I would definitely want Rachel Brosnahan to play me. She would look great as a redhead and she has the femininity and bravery to play me and my wild courageous life. I flew a plane at 15 and got my pilot’s license at 16. Of course she could play me! She’s got the chops. (The Marvelous Mrs. Mazel.)

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

Pilot, Minister, TV Producer

How handy are you when it comes to fixing things?

I can fix most things. My father taught me to be independent, to take care of myself, to have an equal measure of taking care of myself and of helping others. My tool collection is wide and filled with gadgets ranging from plumbing to electrical parts and everything in between. I can rewire a circuit, fix a clogged sink and install a toilet. When I was 12, I asked for a power drill for Christmas. Thereafter, I received tools for my birthday and Christmas. I graduated college with enough equipment to open a handy service. When my father passed away, my mother saved every tool for me. You have a door that sticks? Give me a minute and I’ll be right there!

One story I remember from my twenties is that a guy asked me out to dinner and said he was waiting for some handyman to install a broken lock on his door. It got later and later and he said he might have to cancel because the guy hadn’t arrived. I told him no problem. I’d come over and have it done right away. His parents happened to be visiting. I packed up my tools, drove to his house, fixed the problem while they all stared at me. A few twists and turns and I had it working. Done! Okay then, all I had to do was wash my hands and I was ready to go. His parents were astounded. They asked him after the date, “Did you ask her to marry you?” He said he hadn’t. His mother smacked him upside the head, “What’s the matter with you…she’s worth her weight in tools!” His parents never forgot the little redhead in high heels who could fix anything in a flash.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

New York City, the place of my birth, is stirring, invigorating, leveling, extraordinary, inspiring, teeming with opportunities and the most exciting American city on earth.

It was wonderful to learn more about you and have you on MTA, Kac!! Here’s to the Faery Life! Wishing you much joy and success! – Camilla

Where to find Kac’s most recent book:

My recent book is Living the Faery Life. You can find it where most books are sold, at Amazon and other online booksellers.

Connect with Kac:

www.kacyoung.com

More about Kac:

Kac Young has been a producer, writer and director in the Hollywood television industry for over 25 years. Kac has also earned a PhD in Natural Health and a Doctorate in Naturopathy. She completed 36 courses in nutrition from Baylor University. Clients come to her for advice on health, nutrition and spiritual wellbeing. Using her third Doctorate degree in Clinical Hypnotherapy, she helps people manage weight control, smoking cessation, behavior modification, stress reduction, past-life regression, and phobia management. She teaches workshops and classes in Metaphysics including, Crystal Healing, Essential Oils, Bach Flowers, Pendulum energy, Moon Energies, Feng Shui and practical classes in healthy eating and finding the perfect partner.

She is the author of 24 books.

“Crystal Power, 12 Essential Crystals for Health and Healing,” “Essential Oils for Beginners,”, “The Healing Art of Essential Oils,” “The Art of Healing with Crystals,” “The One Minute Cat Manager,” “The Enlightened Person’s Guide to Raising a Dog,” “Heart Easy, The Food Lover’s Guide to Heart Healthy Eating,” “Discover Your Spiritual Genius,” “Feng Shui the Easy Way,” “Dancing with the Moon,” “21 Days to the Love of Your Life,” “Gold Mind,” “Cheese Dome Power,” The Path to Fabulous,” “The Quick Guide to Bach Flower Remedies,” “Chart Your Course, and “Supreme Healing.” She also creates the annual Essential Oils wall calendar for Llewellyn Books, and has written two novels.

Her entertainment credits include General Hospital, The Showtime Comedy Club Network, Politically Incorrect, Circus of The Stars, The People’s Choice Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, The Genesis Awards, and several dozen talk, dramatic, variety and entertainment specials with Hollywood’s biggest stars. Most recently she was Vice President of Television Production and Development for Universal Studios Hollywood and has also served on the boards of The Director’s Guild of America and Women in Film. She won an Iris Award for her work as producer of “Mama” and a Golden Acorn Award for “Cleaning Up Your Act.”

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Friday with Friends: The Viking Way – Beyond Boundaries with Bill Arnott

Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries

I was coming up for air following the release of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, delighted and humbled by the connections with new friends and readers around the world. And while that odyssey took me across half the planet, the explorer in me, unsurprisingly, remained unsated.

Much of that journey’s appeal were those moments of mystery akin to the original Scandinavian Sagas, when there wasn’t always a conclusion. No answer, solution, nor even a clearly marked finish line. Those dreamy expanses where horizon and cloud comingle in misty swirls. You convince yourself where you are is real, and beyond that, perhaps, lies the magic that fuels everything. Meanwhile, tangible, imagined, physical, emotional, geographical and spiritual boundaries remain. At times by our own making, other times, imposed upon us.

While Gone Viking: A Travel Saga embraced the adventure, playfulness, and discovery inherent in travel it remained, I believe, within acceptable parameters. Now I’ve gone “viking” again, a series of voyages toward the unknown. Only this time I’m setting rule books aside. We’ll play fair; make no mistake, just not necessarily within guidelines. And I welcome you. There’s always room for another adventurous wanderer, another Viking. But this time, our destination lies elsewhere.

This venture was unlike any I’ve experienced—the result of travel restrictions, yet through it all the world opening anew—a depth and breadth of connectivity that simply wasn’t there before pandemic was our norm. This may also be the most ambitious expedition I’d undertaken. As a recently appointed Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, I felt an obligation to do justice to what every traveller craves, the experiences we pursue—exploration no longer being shuttling one’s husk between locales accumulating passport stamps, but mental, emotional and tactile transport between places, times, and sensory touchstones, occasionally glimpsing just what it is we’re doing here.

Gone Viking II takes place over a number of years—before, during, and after the voyages of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga—what preceded the first epic trek, what else occurred at that time, and what followed. All of this reflecting a changing world in which travel restrictions became our new normal. Invariably these wanderings, recording the world around us, emerge as scribbles in journals, our present day version of scribes putting quill ink to velum. Once more I’ve done the same; with a weatherproof pack and blank notebooks. Again I’ve gone viking. Only now, it’s a journey beyond boundaries.

This, from what may be my favourite journal, dog-eared and embossed with a map of the world, frayed pages held in place by an elasticized band, while taped to the inside back cover is a photo of me and my dad:

“Travel. The allure of escape, exoticism, and yes, for some, bragging rights. For the rest of us it represents time-warp slivers of childhood—when this world remained a place of mystery, adventure. Where you can live, for a spell, a hero’s life—desert sand, high seas and buried treasure. X marks the spot to other worlds, imagination, moments when the universe is nothing more than pure potential.”

I was on the sofa in our tiny highrise apartment, the ambient score a rattle of shopping cart wheels on sidewalk, reminiscent of passenger trains slowing through town, crossing roadways. Clack-clack, clack-clack … clack-clack, clack-clack. Identical journeys in their way. Somehow synesthetic. The same familial line of sensory sounds associated with every peregrination—whirr of rubber on bitumen, rumble of engines asea, and the wind-fueled rustle and snap of mainsail and jib.

I remembered losing myself in the incubating whoosh of a bow parting ocean in feathers of froth, a blend of cocooned isolation combined with utter connection. And the comforting, familiar yet foreign hum of coach tires speeding on sand—coastal highway where road was literally the coast, low tide sand that stretched for miles to the dunes at Te Paki. Speed limit on the beach: 100 km/h. The light there at that time was the same as where I am now—flat, dampened sunshine, the kind that makes you squint, tear-up, and question your emotions. Every photo from that long, dreamy trip is over- or under-exposed, muted in a way I now realize captures the experience precisely.

Back to the train, or more accurately, trains. We’d been living with covid for what seemed a very long time—numbers spiking again at an alarming rate. And I was attending a lecture, virtually. Propped up in a nest of plump pillows, feeling like a sultan, a steaming cup of coffee to hand. Travel author Monisha Rajesh spoke to us through laptop screens, as she was the presenter for London’s Royal Geographical Society lecture series. The subject? Her travels around the world on eighty trains, some of the world’s most scenic.

It had been a year since my own travel plans had been cancelled as a result of the pandemic—flights, accommodations, rental cars and commuter trains—refunds received, some forgone, airline points reinstated and turned into cash. From a traveller’s perspective things looked dire, other than a pleasant but fleeting debit balance on the credit card. So along with a stack of travel-lit, -logues and -memoirs, I was doing my best to quell wanderlust as best I could. And for a jonseing dromomaniac, Monisha’s globe-spanning lecture was an ideal, albeit temporary cure.

When we eventually swapped messages, I was pleased to learn one of her favourite experiences on that expansive journey had been her travels in Western Canada, specifically through British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. Interestingly, the same pockets of planet a globetrotting friend from Greenland described as her favourites as well. When I rode a similar route aboard Via Rail, I felt much the same. Even as a local I was awed, slicing through mountains of sandstone, limestone and shale, a route I’d bisected many times in a car, but somehow from the sliding perspective of a train the same land’s renewed. Invigorated. Old stone reborn.

I hope you’ll join me for this excursion. While the beauty of our ongoing journey, individuals met, and windows onto life’s meaning remain ajar, I believe this new viking voyage, shared space and travel, resonates now more than ever.

(From Bill Arnott’s travelogue Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, sequel to his award-winning bestseller Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.)

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of the award-winning Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, the travelogue sequel Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries, the suspense-thriller series The Gamble Novellas, the poetry collection Forever Cast in Endless Time, and the #1 bestseller Bill Arnott’s Beat: Road Stories & Writers’ Tips. For his Gone Viking expeditions he’s been granted a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society. When not trekking the globe with a small pack and journal, or showing off cooking skills as a culinary school dropout, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, making music and friends.

Connect with Bill on social media: @billarnott_aps

To see Bill’s previously published interview, go here …

Meet the Author: Gone Viking by Bill Arnott

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Meet the Author: Plus Sign by David Wake

Today we travel to Bournville, in the UK, to chat with David Wake about how an alien spaceship, a chocolate factory, a junk yard, a manual typewriter, theatre writing, Captain Kirk, Agatha Christie, an MRI scan, rhythm guitar, a full size TARDIS, and a sombrero wearing penguin come together as part of David’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m David Wake and I live near Birmingham in the UK in Bournville within smelling distance of the chocolate factory.

In which genre do you write?

Ah, well, I say ‘Science Fiction, steampunk and more…’, which is the positive spin on the truth. I’m an ‘eclectic writer’. The SF is I, Phone and the Thinkersphere books, starting with Hashtag. The Victorian based adventures are the Derring-Do Club series and then it’s Ancient Japan, Roninko, and bloke-lit, Crossing the Bridge. The next book is cosy mystery. But I think, to answer that perennial ‘where do you get your ideas from’, ideas just pop into people’s heads and the good ones demand to be written.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published 11 books with 7 first drafts to rewrite.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Looking back, I think I always did. I won a writing prize at primary school for a story about a kid finding an alien spaceship in a junk yard. It blew up once I’d reached the three pages requested. I bought a manual typewriter at University which I used to torture my flatmates into the early hours. It wasn’t until I started writing for theatre that I found a niche that reached an audience. I won awards for various plays. I do remember celebrating with the cast and crew in a curry house and drinking lager from the Rose Bowl, a big piece of silverware and thinking, I like this writing lark. And then, suddenly, I switched to novels.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Captain Kirk’s quarters on the original Enterprise. I mean that seriously. I’m redecorating a room in my house with that design vibe in mind. It won’t be the Captain’s as it’s a much smaller space, but maybe someone of a lower Star Fleet rank like the ship’s writer-in-residence.

What are you currently reading?

V2 by Robert Harris. Before that I was reading Agatha Christie’s Marple books.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I have a photograph of my brain, an actual MRI scan, taken when I came up with the idea for my most recently published book. Where do I get my ideas from? There! Look! Bottom left!

I was going to the hospital and I had a theory that the strange sounds an MRI scanner makes, and they are very strange, were similar to the soundtrack from Forbidden Planet. So, on the drive over, I listened to the beeps, warbles and woo-wooOOoo, and then, trapped in the scanner, I heard the beeps, warbles and woo-wooOOoo of the MRI machine. Yes, they are the same and, boy, was I spaced out by the end.

My mind wandered, what else was there to do, and ping! An idea for a sequel to Hashtag appeared. There! Look! Bottom left! This turned out to be two ideas and became Atcode and Plus Sign.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I played rhythm guitar in a band. We were world famous in Formby.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Fans. I’ve made some good friends amongst my readers and my fellow writers.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I’ve kept a diary and written every day for three quarters of my life! Good grief! That’s a long time. And, of course, it’s helped with my writing. Endlessly trying to make what I ate for tea or what I watched on TV interesting is a real challenge. As with everything, practice makes, if not perfect, at least better.

What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life, and why?

Me! Me! Finally, a part that’s within my acting range.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1. I have a full-sized TARDIS in my front room.

2. I starred in an episode of Captain Tartan filmed in Hollywood, California.

3. I invented the literary form, the Drabble.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

The sombrero won’t fool me, it’s Frobisher back for the TARDIS.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on book 5 of the Derring-Do Club series. One of the heroines has just… ah, wait, that would be telling.

Thank you! Hmm, is that chocolate I can smell?

It was a blast having you be a part of MTA, David! Wishing you all the best and here’s to much success with your writing and future books. – Camilla

Blurb

Plus Sign
The dark sequel to Hashtag and Atcode

Fourteen teenagers dead!

San Francisco, Santa Monica, St Petersburg… and now another mass suicide, here, in Newtown.

Or is it murder?

The case drops into Inspector Oliver Braddon’s inbox. The world demands answers. With everyone’s thoughts shared, liked and monitored, why haven’t the police solved the case in the usual 20 seconds?

As the pressure builds, Braddon’s suspicions focus on a disturbing cult, the Church of the Transcendent Cloud, and tech-billionaire, Jacob Lamb, the creator of the Thinkersphere app, After Life – except that he’s dead.

With more deaths due, Braddon needs to act… and soon.

Plus Sign is a gritty, dystopian neo-noir that questions our obsession with religion and exposes a mind-bending picture of what life might be like when your very thoughts are no longer your own.

Where to find the book:

Book Three of the Thinkersphere series is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as an ebook and a paperback.

Connect with David:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/David-Wake-Author-287522215449564
Website: http://davidwake.com/
Amazon.com author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-Wake/e/B0034OBZRQ
Amazon.co.uk author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/David-Wake/e/B0034OBZRQ

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Meet the Author: Caribbean Moon – Shipwrecked in Paradise by Jeanne Ainslie

Today we travel to the west coast of Canada to chat with Jeanne Ainslie about how pink cherry blossoms, long walks, picking flowers, purple twilight, Ink Spots, journal writing, wild raspberries, compassion, and gratitude come together as part of Jeanne’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a published author (novels, articles, and short stories) and an experienced editor. My background is science (BSc (Hons), MSc) and my clients have included scientists, government, consultants and authors. My passion is writing. I live by the sea on the west coast of Canada in White Rock, BC.

What genre do you write?

Romantic adventure/erotica.

How many published books do you have?

Two traditional and three ebooks.

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Age 14. A strong desire to communicate.

What am I currently reading?

Burning The Days by James Salter.

What is my favorite season and why?

Spring. White and pink cherry blossoms, jasmine, fragrant mock orange and lilac.

What do I do when not writing or marketing?

Read, take long walks along the ocean promenade, watch the tide come and go, see movies and plays, pick flowers.

What songs hit you with a wave of nostalgia?

“If I Didn’t Care” Ink Spots and “You Are My Flower” The Carter Family.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

Twilight and long summer nights. I love the purple twilight and warm summer nights. The day never ends.

Do you journal or keep a diary?

I’ve kept a journal since I was 25 many years ago. I’ve always scribbled notes on scraps of paper. My journal entries have been invaluable for my published books. They capture the immediacy of the experience so that writing is easy.

What do you miss about being a kid?

My aunt’s farm in southern Ontario. I love the smell of fresh mown hay, driving my uncle’s tractor, the open fields, the vegetable garden, picking wild raspberries, the barn cats and feeding the pigs in the barn.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your mature self?

Hang in there.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Tenacity, resilience, determination, setting goals, compassion and gratitude. Compassion is essential for a writer. And gratitude for my friends and family and all the good things in my life.

What are you currently working on?

A nonfiction book “First You Have to Learn to Live Alone–A Compassionate Guide to Living Alone and Aging”.

My most recent published book is Caribbean Moon–Shipwrecked in Paradise.

Thanks for being a part of MTA, Jeanne. Wish you all the best and much success! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

http://www.amazon.com/author/jeanneainslie

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host