Meet the Author: First Second Coming by Jeff Pollak

Today we travel to La Crescenta, California to chat with Jeff Pollak about how New Jersey’s Palisades, a career as a trial lawyer, a profitable high school investment, a great sense of humor, Santa Fe, Gaby Moreno, and song titles as chapter titles come together as part of Jeff’s current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was raised in an apartment building in Riverdale, where the view out the window encompassed the Henry Hudson Bridge spanning the Bronx and Manhattan, and the East River below it. Beyond the bridge I could see the Hudson River and the sheer walls of New Jersey’s Palisades. It was a priceless view that my child’s eye considered entirely routine.

Although I lost my father when I was three and my mother at age sixteen, overall my childhood was a happy one. I lived briefly with an uncle before leaving for college in Buffalo and, afterward, law school in Los Angeles. Once admitted to the California Bar, I embarked on a 35 year career as a trial lawyer.

My lovely wife, Carol, and I raised a wonderful son, Tyler. He currently works for Microsoft and lives in Seattle. At the moment Carol and I live in La Crescenta, California (a suburb of L.A.). We plan to move to San Diego before the next “fire season” starts.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

One of the high school classes I took while living with my uncle was in economics. The term paper called for the class to invest an imaginary $1,000 in the stock market, track the investment for the full six month term, and write a paper on how we fared. We were completely free to buy and sell as we wished, since imaginary money was the currency in use.

As the project got underway I mentioned it to my uncle, who offered to provide $1,000 in real moolah. I invested it in a few different companies, one being Comsat – short for communication satellites, which were just getting off the ground at the time. Over the six month period I netted $30,000 and received an A+ grade. (My uncle got his thousand bucks back, by the way.) I used the rest of the money to pay my own way through my first two years of college.

Which of your personality traits have been most useful, and why?

One useful trait is the ability to stay calm under stress. That’s handy during trials. My nickname within my law firm was Zen Master, or ZM. The other trait is a great sense of humor.

In court I’d use both traits. An example: In the jury selection phase of the case, trial lawyers look for jurors who are biased and therefore unable to serve, among other things. The first time I address the jury during this process, I’d introduce myself this way: “Hi, my name is Jeff Pollak. I represent ‘X.’ I have a question that goes to your biases. Please raise your hand if you are biased against lawyers who are bald or slightly overweight.” That question never failed to elicit laughter throughout the courtroom, even from the judge and opposing counsel. Usually the jury would be on my side from that point to the trial’s end.

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

Most Americans asked this question would probably say Hawaii, but I’ll pick Santa Fe, New Mexico. The state as a whole has unique culture, harmoniously mixing the influences of the native American Indian tribes, the Spanish settlers and the eventually dominant frontiersmen. While Albuquerque, Taos and Las Cruces have their charms, Santa Fe is the crown jewel of the state, and its capital city. Renowned worldwide for its artistic community, Santa Fe offers incredible cuisine, numerous museums, Pueblo-style architecture, a traditional plaza that dates back to the early 1600’s, and so much more.

I first visited Santa Fe during a break in law school to visit a college friend who lived in Albuquerque at the time. I was immediately enchanted, and have remained that way through every visit since. Regardless of the time of the year of my visits, I know I’m in a special place.

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

The main thing I do is write some more. One novel I’m working on is the sequel to First Second Coming. Earth’s Peril is the working title. The second book, called The Recycling Center, is a spin-off to First Second Coming. Otherwise, I play golf every week, weather permitting. I also watch baseball and hockey games, read books and hike daily.

Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.

First Second Coming, my debut novel, is a supernatural romantic suspense novel that mixes three genres – fantasy, romance and suspense. As I write this, the book has a rating of 4.8 stars (out of 5), and a 4.56 rating on Goodreads, so I’ll provide a couple of review excerpts from book bloggers and Amazon customers to give you an idea of the plot:

Nathalie the Biblioholic: “When the new God comes to Earth to issue his edict, He makes use of Ram [Forrester] and Brendali [Santamaria] and their local talk show. What does He want? For starters, He gives the world 60 days to end religious violence. . . . Amidst kidnappings, murder attempts, the mystery surrounding a terror group, and a ton of drama, Ram and Brendali find the time to fall in love. The author depicts their love as something organic and beautiful. They find joy even in the middle of utter chaos. . . .”

K. Pilai, purchaser: “I found it to be a really engaging read based on an extraordinary premise, a fantastic supernatural suspense with a great romance. The idea that the old god retires and a new one steps in is thought provoking, and the way that the humans of earth handle the situation is very well thought out. I highly recommend it!”

Samantha Turley, Blogger: “Wow, what a book. It will make you think and suck you in. The story itself was well done and kept me hanging on the entire book. This was heightened by descriptions that were distinct and a plot that was well paced. The cherry on the top was that the characters were charismatic and drew the reader in. Solid plot, fabulous writing.”

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

When my son graduated from college in 2015, he had a well-paying job waiting for him and didn’t need mom and dad’s support. I had to decide how much longer I wanted to do trial work and what I’d do in retirement. After some reflection, I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. I’d always been an avid reader, and trial law is writing intensive, so this seemed sensible.

I set out to write as an avocation – a way to bide my time when not at the golf course. I didn’t expect to write anything that would be published someday. However, people urged me to publish First Second Coming because of its unique plot. I resisted at first, but eventually gave in.

Where did the idea for your book come from?

9/11 inspired First Second Coming. My law firm did annual conferences each May for clients in the New York/New Jersey area. The World Trade Center’s conference center at the top of the building was where we did them. I had clients in the building, some of whom didn’t survive. While I watched the WTC collapse from the safety of my home, a random thought came to mind: Earth needs a new god – a planetary turnaround specialist.

That idle thought returned in 2015, once I decided to write fiction. It had grown into a rudimentary plot, two main characters with names and full histories and three possible endings. All this spewed out in one sitting in front of a blank white computer screen.

In which genre do you write?

I call First Second Coming a supernatural romantic suspense novel, and as far as I know I’m the only one writing in this genre. Of the three genres it comprises, romance was a surprise. Brendali, my female main character, began talking to me roughly midway through the first draft. She’d narrate what was happening in the book, one chapter after another – often waking me at 4:00 a.m. to start the day. Her version of events often varied from mine but I gave her free reign, subject to my editing pen. She and Ram, my male main character, were mutually attracted. That increased the prominence of the romance aspect of the story.

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

In one word: music. I’m a big fan of many genres. Music gets me closer to my characters. When I’m writing a chapter that Ram’s narrating, I listen to his favorite musicians, notably Eric Clapton. Listening to any Clapton-related song gets me on a clear channel into Ram’s head. Although Brendali and I have a very strong connection at all times, I play Latin rock and pop when drafting the chapters written in Brendali’s point of view. She’s a very strong-willed character who sometimes tells me which specific songs she wants to hear. She brought one Latina singer who is a spectacular talent to my attention – Gaby Moreno. Her renditions of Quizas, Quizas, Quizas, or La Malagueña, as well as many of her own tunes, are jaw dropping.

I also use song titles as chapter titles, to give the reader a little hint about what’s in the chapter he or she is about to read.

What are you currently reading?

One of my favorite authors is David Mitchell. Fellow top-rank author Ursula K. LeGuin once described his writing as “relentlessly brilliant.” That’s true. I was introduced to him through his best book to date, The Bone Clocks, and proceeded to Cloud Atlas (made into a terrible movie) and his newest, Utopia Avenue. I’m now reading his 2010 novel, which was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, called The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet. It’s fascinating.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ve been making the rounds on radio and podcasts to promote First Second Coming. To prepare for these interviews, I listen to a smattering of the station’s archived interviews to get a sense of the interviewer’s style and the kinds of questions he or she asks. From that I prepare a sheet with mock answers to the questions that get repeated across the interviews I’ve heard. That’s about it – I know my book, my background, etc. I’m nimble enough to answer any other question thrown at me on the fly.

It was a pleasure having you on MTA and wonderful to learn more about you, Jeff. Wishing you all the best, with much success with your books! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

In 2027 our New Testament God retires after two thousand years of minding the store for his employer, Milky Way Galaxy, Inc. His replacement, a planetary turnaround specialist, must decide whether homo-sapiens should be included in his plan to bring the planet back into full compliance with Milky Way Galaxy’s planetary operation standards.

The new God introduces himself to mankind by unexpectedly appearing on the Ram Forrester Hour talk show. Ram, an atheist, and co-host Brendali Santamaria, a devout Catholic, are stunned. God’s interview, beamed worldwide, shocks and infuriates viewers. They learn that a sixty-day conference will take place in Los Angeles to determine whether humans are capable of helping him implement his turnaround plan. Those attending must eliminate religious violence forever, without heavenly help, before the conference ends. Failure means humanity’s extinction.

God designates Ram and Bren as the conference’s only authorized media reporters. This assignment, fraught with peril, ignites their romance. Not only must Ram and Bren attend by day and do their show at night, they must also outwit a group of religious fanatics determined to kill them for promoting a false god. When conflicts within the conference intensify, Ram and Bren must do whatever it takes to protect their budding romance and assure mankind’s survival.

Where to find the book:

Universal book link: https://books2read.com/u/47XNMg

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/First-Second-Coming-New-God/dp/1947392956

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/first-second-coming

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/first-second-coming/id1520329970?uo=4&mt=11&at=1010l9S2

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/466880106/First-Second-Coming-BOOK-ONE-IN-THE-NEW-GOD-SERIES

24symbols: https://www.24symbols.com/book/x/x/x?id=3520151

Angus & Robertson (Australia): https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/first-second-coming-jeff-pollak/p/9781393998044

Vivlio (France): https://www.vivlio.fr/ebooks/first-second-coming-9781393998044_9781393998044_10020.html

Connect with Jeff:

Website: jeffpollak.com
Facebook: JeffPollak, author
Twitter: @JSPollak

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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: I Could Never Be A Writer – Holly Bell

10 Breadcrumbs to Sunken Madley

How does a writer get from illiteracy to writing a cozy paranormal mystery series set in the quaint English village of Sunken Madley?

1. The Trail Begins Here

We are all born illiterate. So before I could read, I was read to, mostly by my brother, some years older than I and the best of siblings. He must have shared his love of the written word with me from my infancy, because I can’t remember a time before he did just that. He would mark the words with his finger as he read. The letters were mystical symbols to me that somehow had the power to grant expression of the story to the one who had the skill. The book I loved the most and asked for again and again was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by CS Lewis, first of the Narnia books.

This fired my imagination like no other story. Treasure Island, fairy tales, Robinson Crusoe and the rest, were all set in the past or in a far off land or make-believe. But the Pevensie children existed in both the reality of the present and a fantastical world of magic. Away from the novel, in my mind, I was off on expeditions through the wardrobe that were all my own. I began reinterpreting the stories, changing and what-if-ing the plot. The characters became part of my imaginary world.

2. A Reader

I started school at four. While at what was styled ‘Infants School, I learned to begin deciphering the magic runes. Not that I learned at school. In fact, during the 11 or so years of compulsory education, I recall acquiring only one fact: the difference between U-shaped and V-shaped valleys, which information has, naturally, stood me in good stead.

One day, our terrifying form teacher began reading to us, his hapless class. As he was refraining from bellowing, hurling objects or striking students, we naturally regarded this as a good thing and listened quietly and attentively. The book was a slow starter, but it had a new word in it, a new species and I was enchanted.


(Hobbit House in New Zealand)

JRR Tolkien had entered my life, for good, with The Hobbit. Rather than wait for the laborious read-aloud when my preceptor felt like delivering it to us, I acquired a copy, and the slow start gathered speed. I learned to read the runes on his map and came to know Bilbo’s route by heart. For the length of the story, I took up residence in The Shire and journeyed through perilous lands to the book’s glorious ending.

3. I Discover Treasure

At home, one thing there was a-plenty: books. Among some battered paperbacks, I found the mystery genre: Agatha Christie, with the title that was to become Ten Little Indians or And Then There Were None. The ingenious plot assembles a party of strangers onto a remote English island, where one after another is found murdered. I was fascinated and soon was seeking the shelves at home, the library and the bookshop for more and more Christie. I feasted, and over the years repeatedly returned to the table for the banquet. What I did not know was that I had met the writer who would one day be hailed as the queen, the godmother, of a new genre: cozy mystery.


(Agatha Christie)

4. Golden Heyer

I began a new school where, at the age of 11, the girl I sat next to gave me a priceless gift. She introduced me to works of the historical novelist Georgette Heyer. A romance writer? You may say with surprise. Yes, because here was a new rich seam of literary delight with Jane Austen-style wit. Book after book in her canon filled my shelves, my mind and heart. I even discovered mysteries among her Regency tales in Cousin Kate and The Toll Gate.

5. Alastair

About this time, my brother showed me one of the action thrillers of Alastair MacClean. Spellbound, I began reading book after book. However, it was the eerie Puppet on a Chain that became my favourite to such an extent that I studied the Netherlands and began learning Dutch.

6. The Return of the King

It was time. The moment had come to unite me with what was to become my all-time favourite book: The Lord of the Rings. Of course, thanks to my brother. We read it at the same time, working our way through the three volumes, picking up a book when the other was busy. For the days it took us to read from first volume cover to third volume close, we talked and thought of little else. JRR Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth was more real to me than reality.


(Lord of the Rings – The One Ring)

7. Medieval Mystery

I can’t recall exactly who told me about them, but it was definitely a good fairy in human guise: The Cadfael novels, set in the twelfth century and beginning with A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters. The writing impressed me in particular because Peters has her monk sleuth solve crimes with only the aid of such technology that was available at the time. On the library shelf next to Ellis was a book by Elizabeth Peters that accidentally checked out one day. A whole new series, this time of archaeological whodunits was now at my fingertips.

8. Sir Terry


(Terry Pratchett)

Knowing I liked science fiction and mysteries, one day, my brother asked me if I’d heard of the Discworld. No. The what? It sounded rather weird at first, but this was my brother recommending it after all. And so, I read The Light Fantastic. I wanted more mystery and shenanigans in the peculiar flat earth of Sir Terry Pratchett’s imaginings. (Photo by Luigi Novi) Eventually, I had read the back catalogue and longed for the moment when the next novel was released.

The book above all that books that captured my heart was the third in the ‘Witches’ series. Witches Abroad is a road movie of a tale as Granny Weatherwax makes her way through foreign fairytale-gone-wrong parts. These of the Witches series were the stories that were to have an influence on my own yet-to-be-created magical world.

Meanwhile, I became curious about actual witches, I read about witchcraft, and later met two ghostbusters. I heard about experiences with the supernatural. I concluded witchcraft was rather a lot of work.

9. Racing Riddles

I suspect that all avid readers are also avid inspectors of other people’s bookshelves, searching for new and wondrous literary treasures. And thus, with Nerve, I think, I discovered a new pleasure. Dick Francis’ murder mysteries are set in the world of horse racing. This was not a sphere of which I had no experience. However, it was his ability to write in first person of such a diverse variety of characters that struck me. I marvelled at how Francis handled romance and intimacy with such deftness, and the cleverness of his plots.

10. The Unhappy Medium and the Happy Outcome

And then … I began to write …. non-fiction, marketing. I wrote more and more of that until I had somehow convinced myself that I was a strictly non-fiction author incapable of penning fiction. A friend kept telling me I could do it, but it was unimaginable. And then … two novels came into my experience that were to change my life.

I met the now bestselling author of The Unhappy Medium, TJ Brown. We made contact as fellow writers and quickly established a rapport. Interested in what he had penned, I read his first and, at the time, only novel. I was captivated. It had all of the components I enjoyed the most. I was bowled over by the ingenious juxtaposition of suspense and hilarity, either holding my breath or giggling helplessly.

That was the first novel. But the second was the clincher: The Unhappy Medium II: Tom Fool. Tim was writing the next in the series and, as I’d done copious amounts of editing, he asked me to top edit it for him. It was the ride of a lifetime. I went through the edits with him on the phone, frequently suffused with laughter, fascinated by the devices he was using to tell his story. I noticed the emotional terrain, and what worked and what needed tweaking. What a learning experience it was!

Tim’s judgment was: if you can do this, you can write your own novel. I was still not a believer. Then one day, on a couple of pages of a large stretch book, in a pub, Tim revealed to me the secret of plotting a novel. He made it look so easy that I believed it was.

Then came The Call. One afternoon, in November 2017. Tim had been told by a fellow author of a new genre. As soon as he heard the news, he was convinced that I could write for it: cozy mystery, and an even better fit: cozy paranormal mystery.

Soon Tim helped to plot out my first novel in the genre: Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth. I wrote the first draft in three weeks. Tim mentored me through the editing process, created the cover and the logo, and helped me conjure a map of the village. Before I knew it, it was published. Even before then, book 2 was forming in my imagination, that spawned book 3, and later 4, then the most recent, book 5, Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.

Amanda Cadabra’s homicidal witch-clan goes over a Cornish cliff when she is three. This creates what, many years later, becomes the cold case that is the story arc running thought the series. That arc comes to its finale and climax in this, the book I have just written: Amanda Cadabra and The Hidden Depths.

And so the trail has led me home. I love, I adore, creating cozy paranormal mysteries. Nevertheless, since I’ve started writing fiction, reading anything that’s not for research has rather gone by the board. One day I’ll get back to it, but for now, I have a new trail to follow. I can’t wait to see where it takes me … and my readers.

The moral of the story? ‘I could never be a writer,’ you say? The book you’re reading today could be part of your trail of breadcrumbs to the novel that, right now, you’re convinced you could never write. Never say never.

Thank you again, Camilla.

It was wonderful to have you on Friday with Friends, Holly! I very much enjoyed following the trail of bread crumbs to Sunken Madley.

I had the same reaction the first time I read Agatha Christie. I was hooked. I read every single book she had written (may be missing one or two of the rare books), and ended with reading her autobiography.

Deeply grateful to you for this inspiring post. Wishing you all the best, always! – Camilla

To see Holly’s interview previously posted, go here:

Meet the Author: Amanda Cadabra by Holly Bell

Biography

Holly Bell is a cat and chocolate lover who lives in London and began publishing novels less than two years ago. After writing reams of non-fiction over the years, a fellow author convinced her she could write fiction. Photography and videography are also things Holly does and has done professionally and for pleasure.

Rainbows, butterflies and honeybees seem magically to show up whenever she’s outside. Holly firmly believes that we are all born storytellers and anyone can write a book, however small.

Connect with Holly:

Website: https://amandacadabra.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hbamandacadabra/

Twitter @holly_b_author

Pinterest: hollybell2760

Instagram: @ hollybellac

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Meet the Author: Cucina Tipica – An Italian Adventure by Andrew Cotto

Today we travel to Brooklyn, New York to chat with Andrew Cotto about how living in the hills south of Florence, being a Professor of English, The New York Times, martinis, Ernest Hemingway, Italian food and wine, being a rockstar, and having a sense of empathy come together as part of Andrew’s current and and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live and write in Brooklyn, New York. The city is my physical home as well as a source of much inspiration.

 In which genre do you write?

My genres vary – including coming-of-age, noir, and upmarket/commercial – which is probably not the best strategy for building an audience, but I tell the stories that come to me in the style in which they arrive.

How many published books do you have?

As of now, I have three published novels with two more under contract to be released in the next six months.

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

My latest, Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure, came to me a dozen years after living in the hills south of Florence when writing my first novel. I don’t know why it took so long, though I suspect it had to do with just having enough command of the territory (which I acquired after many subsequent visits).

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

I’m a Professor of English, and I also write articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites. The majority of my contributions are with The New York Times.

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?

I don’t know about coffee or tea, but I’d like to have martinis and then a long, wine-soaked meal with Hemingway. I’m not sure what I’d ask him, but I imagine we’d get along well.

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

I’m fairly surprised by the breadth of my interests. I’ve covered a lot of territory, in both fiction and journalism, and I like that.

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

I love the satisfaction that comes from telling a story well and the impact this can have on other people. It is among the best feelings in the world when someone says that they have been touched or honored by what I wrote.

 List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I’m a really good cook and am an expert in Italian food and wine.
I’m lots of fun at parties.
I’d choose being a rockstar over a writer in a second.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I’m not sure, but if I did, I’d say that my itinerant childhood is why I’m a writer since it provided me so many personal challenges and exposure to so many different types of people/environments. It provided me with plenty of time to use my imagination, required me to be resourceful and resilient, and fostered a sense of empathy.

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

I set this up with the previous answer…Empathy! Being able to relate on a profound level to the experiences of others is what allows for effective storytelling.

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

Another one that’s been alluded to…Italy is my favorite place to visit by far. I don’t want to go anywhere else. You want to go to Disney World or Hawaii? Fine. Knock yourself out. I’m going to Italy. I’ve channeled this love into my latest novel and its forthcoming sequel, as well as many of my articles, and I am certain I will go to my grave loving Italy like no other place on earth. I even hope to literally go to my grave there after I retire to Italy at some point or just move there regardless of age. It’s the lifestyle that’s so accessible in Italy: great food, wine, cultural experiences all among the most physically beautiful natural terrain on earth.

What are you currently working on?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the Cucina Tipica sequel, which will take place mostly in Rome (the original is mostly Tuscany-based) and will be published in March of 2021. I’m also helping to provide some marketing help for a novel due this December, Black Irish Blues, which is a noir and a sequel to my second novel, Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery. I’m really excited about both projects.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Cucina Tipica: An Italian Adventure is the story of a disheartened American who arrives in Italy on holiday and decides he never wants to leave. What follows is a food-filled, wine-soaked travel adventure about one man’s quest for an antiquated existence in the modern world.

It was great to have you on MTA, Andrew. I read the digital version of The New York Times, so I will keep an eye out for your articles. Cucina Tipica sounds like a wonderful book. I’m adding it to my list! Wishing you all the best in future books and travels! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through any other bookseller.

Connect with Andrew:

https://andrewcotto.com/

https://www.instagram.com/andrewcotto

https://www.facebook.com/andrew.cotto.9/

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Meet the Author: Duty Bound Desire: The Sheikh’s Forced Marriage by Jennifer Jansen

Today we travel to Victoria, Australia to chat with Jennifer Jansen about how traveling, being an avid reader, teaching languages, creating characters she would like to meet, unplanned writing, a sombrero wearing penguin, and Spider-Man come together as part of Jennifer’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a writer from Victoria, Australia. I completed two degrees and then travelled the world which was the best education I could have had. Travel opens your mind and forces you to look past stereotypes. I was teaching languages for 18 years (I speak three so far) and I loved it but it takes a lot of energy which I don’t have anymore. I have always been an avid reader of romance, political thrillers and historical fiction and non-fiction. I decided reading is so good that I want to give that gift to others. On my website I write a blog that is a compilation of romance and history. Topics include: Island of the Immortals and A Western Woman in the Middle East.

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary romance and I’m loving it! Romance touches the heart and that’s what I want to do.

How many published books do you have?

I have three published romance novels – two of a trilogy, the third one will be released in late September, and a romance novella.

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

I used to write my little ‘books’ as a young child making my father read them over and over again. It wasn’t until I was offered a ghost writing position after 18 years in teaching that I realised how much I enjoy writing. I then decided to start writing my own books. I wanted to create characters that I would want to meet.

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

I don’t plan anything. I have a vague idea in my head but I cannot make a plan. I must start writing and the story reveals itself to me. Yes, it sounds weird even to me, but that’s the way it is.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

One of my favourite writers has a gorgeous office set up in her back yard. It is a beautiful, white wooden cabin set amongst all the trees and flowers. I would love something like that.

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

I have written a trilogy of books set in the royal palaces of desert kingdoms. My travels through the Arabian region had a profound effect on me. The ancient history, the awe inspiring archaeological feats, and the hospitality from beautiful people.

All this was the inspiration for my Desert Desires Trilogy – Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage, Desert Desires: Her True Destiny, and His Forbidden Passion. My next books will be based in Greece, another ancient civilisation and a place where the ancient and modern live side-by-side.

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

Buenos dias. Can you tell me the way to Mehico? My cousin is there and tells me the weather is grrrreat!

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

Easy. Spiderman. I always loved that cartoon when I was a kid. I loved the theme song, I loved the character, I loved that he could swing high from anywhere. I still wish I could do that! Must be the kid in me. I haven’t lost my child-like heart. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts we can hold onto in life.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA and learn more about you, Jennifer. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

Blurb for: Duty Bound Desire: the Sheikh’s Forced Marriage (Book 1 in the Desert Desires Trilogy)

After a disastrous first marriage which almost brought down his family, Crown Prince Nabil Al Massoud vowed never to marry again. However, his father’s ailing health and his nation’s need for a strong leader have thrust Nabil to the forefront. He must now take charge of his nation and to do that needs a suitable wife.

Princess Yasmin is one of few royally trained women who will nicely fit the bill. But she is strong, intelligent and stunningly beautiful, a dangerous combination for Nabil.

Yasmin is bound by duty to marry a man she hardly knows. The princess will go willingly to save her nation from the unthinkable, but she will be nobody’s subordinate.

Her new husband, while always respectful and careful, remains distant, keeping his word that this is a marriage of convenience only – for both of them. But between the sheets he can never truly hide his feelings and as time goes on he will be forced to face some uncomfortable truths from his past if this marriage is to survive.

Social Media links:

Website: https://1jenniferjansen.wixsite.com/author
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferjansenbooks/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.jansen.16752
Allauthor: https://allauthor.com/author/jansenj/

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Meet the Author: Canaan Land by Richard Rossi

Today we travel to Hollywood to chat with Richard Rossi about how playing guitar in nightclubs, being a working actor, journaling longhand, “That Darn Cat”, synchronicity, and being a filmmaker come together as part of Richard’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I grew up in a musical family and I played guitar in nightclubs with my family as a boy to make money. I am currently in Hollywood finishing post-production on the film version of my recent novel “Canaan Land.”

In which genre do you write?

My latest novel, Canaan Land, is a faith-based love story, with both comedic and dramatic elements. It is currently available on Amazon as a novel, paperback, Kindle, and audiobook. It will be coming out as a movie at the end of this year.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published four books. A coming-of-age novel, “Stick Man,” a self-help book for artists entitled “Create Your Life,” “Sister Aimee” about a 1920’s female faith healing evangelist, and “Canaan Land,” my latest novel about a con man preacher who falls in love with a woman who is a sincere Christian.

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

As a boy I carried a notebook and wrote jokes and short stories. In my teen years, a creative writing teacher who recently passed, Jim Demcheck, poured gas on the flame and published some of my poems in a literary magazine. I also wrote songs as a teenager that had some success and performed them with my best friend and songwriting partner, Johnny Walker.

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

My most recent novel, “Canaan Land,” came out of things I experienced or observed working in my young adult years in the world of charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity. I saw real signs and wonders, but also was shocked to discover some of the biggest names in televangelism were faking the miracles, and this inspired me to write a story contrasting the fake with the genuine.

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

I am a working actor, filmmaker, and guitarist.

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

Writing has been a catharsis for me, very healing to let out my emotions, thoughts, and experiences. It truly is therapeutic and it is an art form I can do in solitude.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Yes, I journal longhand three or more pages every morning, to drain my brain of the initial thoughts and feelings I experience at the beginning of the day. This is a form of meditation for me and much of my writing and art comes out of this.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss the innocence and a time in which people were more fully present and not distracted from cellphones and technology.

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

I watched one of my favorite movies when I was a boy, the 1965 Disney film “That Darn Cat” to regress and experience that childlike feeling again of innocence and good, clean, laughter and fun.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I have experienced synchronicity in which I feel like I was divinely guided, like having famous people cross my path who have helped me in my artistic journey. Sometimes I doubt divine providence when I see suffering, such as children abused by their parents and yet I know people who would make wonderful parents and are unable to conceive.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working with my colleague, Richard R. Krause Jr. finishing the editing of my movie “Canaan Land,” based on my latest novel. I’m also writing a sequel to my first novel “Stick Man” that is tentatively titled “Naked and Not Ashamed.”

It was wonderful learning more about you and your books, and upcoming movie! It was a pleasure having you on MTA, Richard. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

“Canaan Land” Blurb:

“Canaan Land” is a love story between Brother Billy Gantry, a charismatic con man, phone psychic, and preacher, who falls for Sister Sara Sunday, a sincere Christian and beautiful evangelist. She seeks to redeem “Brother Billy,” who manipulates the flock with fake miracles, including a stunt with gold glitter and feathers he claims are from angels. He turns her small online ministry into a growing Tinseltown racket involving celebrity converts and sermons at the Hollywood Bowl. Can Billy quit the religious show to find true faith and redemption? “Canaan Land” is an unapologetic look at modern religion and televangelism based on the writer’s personal experiences as a former faith healing evangelist. The novel is also a Hollywood motion picture.

REVIEWS

“Richard A. Rossi’s Canaan Land will certainly ruffle feathers and raise eyebrows in the Christian community. Although it was hard to swallow at times, I appreciated Rossi’s expose of the truth. This narrative depicts the verse “…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13).” (Reader’s Favorite)

“Canaan Land, tops a list of most-anticipated independent novels and films. Rossi’s a former evangelist exorcising his own demons as he shares his journey from fundamentalism to freedom. Everything about Canaan Land is unique. It’s faith-based, yet edgy.” (Charisma Magazine)

“Canaan Land is not an attack on religion. It exposes the counterfeit to show the search for that which is pure, lovely, true.” (Christian Today)

Links:

Canaan Land website: https://www.canaanlandmovie.com

Canaan Land Trailer:

Richard Rossi Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Rossi/e/B004JYL9BM/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_book_1

Canaan Land Facebook: https://facebook.com/canaanlandmovie

Canaan Land is on Instragram and Twitter @canaanlandmovie

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Meet the Author: What Branches Grow by T.S. Beier

Today we travel to Ontario to chat with T.S. Beier about how  paddle-boarding, tattoos, cross-stitch embroidery, Virginia Woolf, painting houses, freedom in Las Vegas, a Jurassic Park themed wedding, a boating license, a one-eyed pug, and Lake Huron come together as part of her current and past life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m from Ontario, Canada (about 100km west of Toronto). I love to read Science Fiction and Victorian literature. I have two daughters and a partner; we live a very mundane life in suburbia. I love to travel, specifically to desolate landscapes or cliffs above roaring waves. I play video games (when I can) and I also love baking/cooking, paddle-boarding, craft beer, tattoos, soccer, cross-stitch embroidery, travel, and renovating my house. I’ve been an editor, a project coordinator, a house painter, and most recently an entrepreneur (risingactionpublishingco.com). I have a university degree (English), and certificates in Publishing, Creative Writing, and Interior Decorating. I have a strange obsession with ghost towns and the ruins of industry.

In which genre do you write?

I write science fiction in multiple sub-genres. My recently-released novel is post-apocalyptic, I’m working on a space opera trilogy, and I have finished a hard sci-fi drama. I also wrote a faux noir cyberpunk that is stuck two chapters from completion. In my early 20s, I wrote a five-book fantasy epic (which I’m sure leaves much to be desired today).

What are you currently reading?

I’m sure this will change by the time this is published, but I just finished a NetGalley arc of Captain Moxley and the Embers of the Empire by Dan Hanks and am jumping into Falcon’s Shadow, which is a sequel to Eight Pointed Cross, an utterly amazing historical fiction by fellow Canadian Marthese Fenech.

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

Virginia Woolf. That might sound strange, but I think she would be a very interesting person to talk to. She was a brilliant writer and pioneer within postmodernism. Granted, she wasn’t known to be the nicest of people, but I bet it would be an intellectually-stimulating conversation at least.

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

I kept a diary since I was twelve but stopped around age twenty-two. I had dozens of them. A couple of years ago I burned them all; I literally threw them into our backyard fire pit. I was pregnant at the time and I morbidly decided I didn’t want my future daughter to find my angsty, angry words if something happened to me during delivery (oh, how those hormones will get you). While I don’t think this rambling jeremiad helped my writing in any specific way, any writing is good for the craft.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

When I was in Las Vegas in 2019 I took off one day to “go to the desert” (I love the desert). I rented a Mustang convertible and spent 8 hours on the road by myself. I toured Red Rock Canyon and afterward I drove south along the highway, doing a mini road trip basing my stops on the game Fallout: New Vegas. It was one of the only days in my life I felt completely free – it was just me, the car, the road, the mountains, and the endless blue sky. I felt accountable to no one, as I had only the most basic of agendas. At one point I was on a sideroad and despite going drastically over the speed limit, I didn’t see a single person for over half an hour. The hint of danger (what would happen if the car broke down?) made the experience even more freeing. I have a post about it on my blog.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Learning new things. You can definitely learn new things as an adult, but not with the same sense of wonder that you do as a child. I get to watch it second-hand now with my daughters, which is nice.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

During my first pregnancy, I watched Mad Max: Fury Road during labour to psyche myself up for home birth as I knew it would be natural (aka no pain meds). What I didn’t expect was an episiotomy on top of this (also no pain meds), so I was happy I had channeled Furiosa hours earlier.

I had a Jurassic Park themed wedding (and my wedding dress was red).

I have a boating license and a firearms license. I had a motorcycle license too but I let it lapse.

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

A documentary called Tread on Netflix about the “Killdozer” attack in 2004. One night years ago my partner and I were watching police car chase videos on Youtube (yes, we were under the influence). We came across a video of a very agitated man waging war against his town using a self-modified bulldozer-turned-tank (no one was hurt). When the documentary popped up on our feed a few weeks ago, we had to watch it. The movie shows the events from the angry man’s perspective but also that of the town that he felt wronged him. The reenactments were a little cheesy but the rest was fascinating.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have three pets:

I’d ask my one-eyed pug whether he regrets his decision to challenge a Shepherd-Mastiff to a fight (hence the single eye).

I’d ask my Shepherd-Mastiff whether he regrets stealing my GoPro from me while I was swimming and dropping it into Lake Erie.

And I’d ask my cat whether she regrets all the dozens of smaller animals she’s killed (likely not).

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

Canada is so vast and varied in its beauty, so I’m going to narrow it to my province. As such, the coast of Lake Huron is where I love to be. Beautiful white sand beaches, tropical-blue water (that can also get very rough – I was lucky to witness a huge water spout this past summer), and quaint little towns all the way from Grand Bend to Tobermory. I love renting cottages along the coast, boating, and paddle-boarding on the water. It’s essentially a freshwater ocean.

What are you currently working on?

A space opera trilogy! It’s lighter in tone than my first book, but it’s still got lots of action scenes. There’s snarky bander, space battles, an unorthodox romance, and weird aliens with interesting cultural and physical traits. You should see my notebook to keep track of all of their idiosyncrasies! The book is like Mass Effect meets Firefly meets Alien/Event Horizon.

Tell us about your most recent book.

What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic adventure novel, was the subject of my Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing. I chose to self-publish it because I had time off and decided to produce it myself (I paid for an editor and cover designer, of course). It’s about a resilient and misanthropic woman on a quest to find civilization thirty-five years after a war ravaged the United States. She is joined by a Byronic male hero and an eccentric Millennial in his 60s with his pug dog. It has an inclusive cast – two of the three main characters are people of colour, the female characters are varied and complex, and one of the main characters is bisexual. They travel through strange towns in the wasteland, trying to find a city that’s rumoured to have survived the war. It has fun banter, exciting action scenes, a slow-burn romance, and some nasty villains. It’s part Mad Max, part Fallout, part The Road.

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, Tina! You sound like so much fun!! If you ever make it down to Reno (eight hours north of Vegas), give me a shout! I think you’d love Lake Tahoe! Wishing you all the best. – Camilla

Book Blurb:

What Branches Grow

A boldly imagined, exhilarating quest through post-apocalyptic America, where human nature is torn between the violent desperation to survive and the desire to forge connection.

Thirty-five years ago, the world was ravaged by war. Delia, driven from her home in Savannah by loss, travels North in search of a future. Gennero is tortured by his violent past and devotion to his hometown. Ordered to apprehend Delia, he follows her into the post-apocalyptic landscape. The wasteland is rife with dangers for those seeking to traverse it: homicidal raiders, dictatorial leaders, mutated humans, and increasingly violent and hungry wildlife.

What Branches Grow is an unflinching depiction of life after civilization, where, above all else, trust is the hardest thing to achieve and to give. The survivors have an audacious dream of a better life, but their quest may end up being a fruitless endeavour in a world openly hostile to hope.

Where to find the book:

You can find What Branches Grow on Amazon and Kobo.

Website https://www.nostromopublications.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/TSBeier

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.ca/nostromopublications/

Booktube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbh_JV7M8K11U2AWIkNfNA/

Insta https://www.instagram.com/tinasbeier/

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Friday with Friends: Living My Dream – Lorraine Turnbull

Camilla very kindly featured me some many months ago on ‘Meeting the Authors’ and so much has happened since that interview, that she suggested I update you all about the two new books I’ve had published, what I’m writing at the moment and a little more about me.

Well, since I was a little girl living in Scotland I have wanted to farm. Having been frustrated in my attempts to attend agricultural college by my parents, I never gave up my dream, but got on with the business of life and put it on the backboiler for many years. After marriage, kids and a string of interesting but not riveting jobs, I divorced and met the most wonderful supportive man. Since we married he has quietly encouraged me to finish my university degree, and then to live my dream, and in 2005, we bought a run-down agricultural bungalow in Cornwall and began smallholding.

Then, I retrained as an agricultural lecturer and landed the most wonderful job, putting together training courses for smallholders and farmers. Still smallholding, I began a small, but successful commercial cider making business on the smallholding, won a prestigious Sustainability Award in Cornwall in 2014. My first book, The Sustainable Smallholders Handbook was published in 2019, my second, How to Live the Good Life in France, in March 2020, just as Covid was beginning to dominate the world, and my third, Living off the Land: My Cornish Smallholding Dream, was published in June 2020.

I began writing as a teenager, but had my first article published in Smallholder Magazine many years ago, when I was living in Cornwall. The thrill of seeing my words in print was matched when readers got in touch directly. I realised there were so many interested readers that I’d be stupid to miss the opportunity of writing a full length non-fiction book. There were so many other smallholding based books, all aimed at teaching people how to keep animals that I wanted to do something different, and the idea of helping people to look at their smallholding or rural business as a business seemed to be the way forward. Yes, it’s a ‘Good Life’, but aspiring smallholders need to appreciate it’s a hard life too. I’m delighted with the success of the book, but as a non-fiction work, realise that updates and coverage of many new situations need included, and so I’m currently aiming to make the new version even more popular.

My book, Living off the Land is autobiographical, and with an introduction of my early and teenage life, quickly moves to Cornwall, and the highs and lows, debt and final success we had on our smallholding. This was a very difficult book to write, as previously non-fiction never really touched on the personal. In this book I lay bare my stormy relationship with my mother, who developed dementia and came to live with us, eventually setting fire to our house one night as we slept. Whilst some members of my family have found it disturbing to read, I have to admit that the process really helped me move on from this incredibly hard period of my life. I have no regrets, and hope my experiences can help anyone else in similar circumstances.

Here in France, lockdown was at first frustrating and to channel my boundless energy, John encouraged me to set a strict pattern of writing every other day. The discipline has been fruitful and has become the ‘norm’ for me now. Current projects are a new and expanded version of my first book, and I’m thoroughly enjoying writing a black comedy set in an agricultural setting in my native Scotland. Who knows what my future career as a writer holds? Meantime, I haven’t given up the ‘Good Life’. Here in SW France I have a small apple orchard, a few walnuts, an acre of woodlands and a field where I keep my beloved sheep. I’ve just started to grow pomegranates, have far too many apple trees, and am trying very hard to resist the idea of getting some ducks.

It was wonderful to learn more about you and your background, Lorraine. Thank you for sharing with us. I’m adding ‘Living off the Land’ to my reading list. It sounds like a great book! Wishing you all the best! – Camilla

To see Lorraine’s interview previously posted, go here:

Meet the Author: The Sustainable Smallholders’ Handbook: A Practical Guide to Living off the Land by Lorraine Turnbull

Connect with Lorraine:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LorraineTurnbullAuthor

Where to find Lorraine’s books:

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Meet the Author: Prostrate Cancer Strikes – Navigating the Storm by Gogs Gagnon

Today we travel to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada to chat with Gogs Gagnon about how a passion for computers, Apple, writing over a million lines of code, humour, dogs, therapeutic writing, Disney, and income tax software come together as part of his past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

A native of New Westminster, I followed an early passion for computers by becoming a programmer and independent technology consultant. In the course of my career, I have developed software for Apple, IBM, and the government of British Columbia, where I was the lead programmer analyst and data architect.

Now, in addition to promoting prostate cancer awareness, I devote much of my time to writing. My next book is a coming-of-age memoir set in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia during the 1970s.

I’m the father of three children, and lives with his wife and their two dogs in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada.

In which genre do you write?

I write non-fiction about my life experiences. My first book is my prostate cancer memoir. I’m currently writing my second book, which is a coming of age memoir that reveals what it was like going through puberty. I’m also toying with the idea of writing a few children’s books on life lessons.

How many published books do you have?

Currently, I have one book published, my prostate cancer memoir.

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

I had no plans to be a writer. However, during my 40-year career as a software developer, I’ve written thousands of pages of technical specifications and over a million lines of code. It’s not real writing, but after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and realized it was therapeutic to share, I decided to write a book about my diagnosis, treatment and recovery. It was a real labour of love and ignited a passion for writing, and it became essential for me to share all the intimate details and lessons learned. Otherwise, I thought there was no point in writing. Since then, I’ve written several guest blogs about cancer and launched a YouTube channel.

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

I like to use humour while writing about my experiences to help lighten the more serious moments. For example, I imagined what a conversation would be like between different body parts during my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I’m still a little boy at heart who enjoys cartoons, video games, and playing with toys.

What would you choose as your mascot, and why?

I love dogs and would choose a dog as a mascot or a dog as a spirit animal. During my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my two dogs provided much-needed companionship that helped my recovery tremendously. Even though my wife and children stood by my side, the dogs’ unconditional love was beyond human. I’m saddened to say, one of them passed away recently. She suddenly became sick during the night, and on the way to the nearest emergency vet, she passed in the car before we arrived. It was incredibly hard and emotional to say goodbye. I’m blessed to have had her in my life for 13 years, especially throughout my cancer diagnosis.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I can write anywhere when the mood strikes. I always have paper and a pen handy as I never know when I’ll find inspiration. Although, I’d love an office with a spectacular ocean view, with beautiful palm trees and mountains in the background, with a blue sky and sunshine. I would need a big desk and a comfy chair, with lots of inspirational photos on the wall. And of course, a bar to entertain family and friends that extends out into a big deck overlooking nature with a hot tub and private chef. Oh, and I guess a new computer with software to write would be nice too!

What are you currently reading?

I love to read biographies and overcoming memoirs and find it empowering to realize we are not alone. I have several books in the queue and currently reading When Breath Becomes Air.

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

It was devastating to hear that I had cancer, and I completely shut down. I had no plans to even talk about my diagnoses, never mind write a book. However, I soon learned that it was very therapeutic to share and helpful to journal my thoughts and feelings. At first, my journal was private and for my eyes only. But several friends, family members, and co-workers asked about my health and how I was doing. Therefore, I decided to share my private journals with them and was overwhelmed by the feedback and encouragement to continue writing.

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

My wife and I are big fans of Disney and love to visit Disneyland in California and Tokyo, although we have not yet visited Disneyworld. I recently joined a rowing team, and my wife and I like to keep active by walking, hiking, and swimming. However, COVID-19 has put a delay in our training activities. My heart goes out to all affected by the virus, including my dad, who lost two good friends. Please stay safe and be kind to each other. I’m also a member of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of BC, and a few prostate cancer support groups in my area. We currently meet using Zoom. It’s not the same, and I miss the social interaction and human touch.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

1. I did terrible in school and barely graduated high school. My teacher told me I had a mental block and would never amount to anything. I found a few odd jobs and later found work as a janitor. I loved the job and the people and had no plans to leave. However, in the late 70s, I purchased an Apple computer and discovered a passion for technology, quit my job and enrolled in College, where I graduated at the top of my class. I quickly found work as an independent consultant, developing games for Apple and utility software for IBM.

2. In the early 80s, I developed the first Canadian income tax software program approved by Revenue Canada. Shortly after the success and launch of the software, I landed a job with the government of British Columbia as a lead programmer and data architect, where I worked for 35 years before retiring.

3. I met the girl of my dreams on the dance floor over 40 years ago, and we have been together ever since.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I would have loved to had the opportunity to ask our dog Maya, who recently passed away, lots of questions. But I’ll keep them simple.

1. Do you remember the day we first met at the animal shelter?

2. Tell us about your life before we adopted you?

3. What are your favourite memories?

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, and a pleasure getting to know you, Gogs! Wishing you all the best and much success with this book and your next! – Camilla

Book Blurb

AT AGE 57, GOGS GAGNON became one of the millions of men diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetimes. After his surgery and recovery, he decided to share his story to inspire others to advocate for their health and learn from his experiences. Prostate cancer hits at the very core of manhood, and Gogs, in this deeply personal account, reveals intimate details that every person impacted by the disease — man or woman — needs to know. A guide to those facing prostate cancer themselves or are curious about the disease.

Book Trailer Interview:

Where to find the book:

Prostate Cancer Strikes: Navigating the Storm is available on Amazon and a lot of other online stores in both paperback and electronic formats, with an audio version coming soon. It’s also available in many different bookstores and libraries. If you don’t see a copy, please ask for it. You can also order a personalized signed copy from my website, and you can learn a lot about my diagnosis on my YouTube channel.

For the last 5-days of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Sep 26-30, 2020, PDT, the ebook price will drop to $0.00 to purchase free anywhere in the world! Please help spread to the word to help ensure others don’t miss out on a free copy. https://bit.ly/3bdvsoI

Connect with Gogs:

Website: https://gogsgagnon.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/GogsGagnon

Twitter:

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Meet the Author: Storm Witch by Alys West

Today we travel to York to chat with Alys West about how teaching creative writing, copious amounts of tea, being a book whisperer, the Orkney Islands, witchcraft, folk music, Victoria Sponge, crocheting, Jane Austen, Loch Linnhe, and Scooby Doo come together as part of West’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in the beautiful city of York in the UK. My stories grow out of places and the tales which people tell about places. My work draws on my own experience of surviving trauma but always with the possibility of a hopeful ending. I have a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teach creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. I’m also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

Book whisperer … I like that!! 

In which genre do you write?

I write contemporary fantasy and steampunk. My books have magic in a real world setting and would be classed as urban fantasy except they don’t happen in an urban setting. I wrote my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter because I love classic romances with dashing heroes and feisty heroines. The fact that it’s steampunk allowed me to have added dirigibles and copious amounts of tea.

How many published books do you have?

Three. Beltane and Storm Witch (which are Books 1 and 2 of The Spellworker Chronicles) and The Dirigible King’s Daughter.

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

Storm Witch was inspired by visiting the Orkney Islands, just off the northern coast of Scotland. They’re incredibly beautiful and I fell in love with the landscape and the history. There’s a folk tale from Orkney about a young woman called Janet Forsyth who was accused of witchcraft because it was believed she could control the weather. I took that idea and asked ‘what if she had that power and couldn’t control it?’ That became the seed from which Storm Witch grew although I threw in a lot of other things along the way including a sexy, motorbike riding druid.

This looks like an amazingly beautiful spot. It’s wonderful how you were inspired by a folk tale tied to this location. 

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

I listen to a lot of music. I’m particularly into folk music and go to as many gigs as I can. I’ve really missed live music during lockdown but it’s been great to see musicians performing online from their sitting rooms and gardens. I love to read and always have at least one book on the go. I also love baking and crocheting. I make an excellent Victoria Sponge and am very slowly crocheting a throw for my sofa.

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

I’d love to meet Jane Austen. I’ve loved her books since I was a teenager and I’d have so many questions to ask her like ‘Was Darcy modelled on anyone she knew?’ ‘Which of her heroines is most like herself?’ ‘What job would she have liked to do if careers had been available to women in her lifetime?’ If it was going well and we were really getting on, I’d also like to know exactly which steps Louisa Musgrove fell down in Lyme Regis as I wonder every time I visit.

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

Friends. I’ve met such a lot of amazing, wonderful, creative people through writing and I’m incredibly grateful for each of them. Writers need to hang out with other writers as only another writer will understand if you’ve got a plot hole you can’t work out or a character arc that doesn’t fit. My writing pals are all over the UK and further afield and I don’t get to see them very often but we keep in touch online and they’re a really important part of my life as a writer.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene?

I met a lady who was a practicing witch for coffee in Glastonbury. She was very open about the craft and explained to me the importance of intention in spellcasting. She gave me some great examples of times when magic had worked in her life. It was a fascinating insight and really helped me to develop the spellworker characters in Storm Witch.

That sounds like it was a ton of fun, and interesting!

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

It would have to be Scooby Doo. I absolutely loved it especially that Shaggy and Scooby would somehow always accidentally outwit the bad guys. I’d like to be one of the ‘pesky kids’ who made sure the baddies didn’t get away with it.

Huge Scooby Doo fan here!! Loved watching this when I was growing up.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d like to be Winston Grant for the day. He’s a druid, an archaeologist and rides a kickass black motorbike. I’d love the chance to experience the magical power I’ve given to the druids in my books. In Storm Witch, Winston is working at the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig in Orkney which fascinates me so I’d like the chance to get my hands dirty and do a bit of excavating. I’m an absolute coward about motorbikes but I think if I was being Winston for the day I’d be able to leave that behind as he has no fear. It’d be fun to ride like he does and not be constantly worried about crashing into a tractor.

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

The last movie I saw in the cinema was Emma. I chose it because of my love of Jane Austen and I wasn’t disappointed. It was funny and tender and beautifully shot. Johnny Flynn wasn’t exactly the Mr Knightley I’d imagined but I soon got over that and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last movie I watched at home was Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers which I’ve seen before. I love it because it’s pure Hollywood glamour. It’s got some wonderful songs in it and, of course, the dancing is exquisite.

These look like great movies! I’m adding them to my “watch” list.

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

I love visiting Scotland. Orkney has been my favourite place for the past ten years but I’ve recently discovered a little corner of Argyll near Castle Stalker which is absolutely perfect. It’s one of the most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed with panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. You can catch a tiny ferry across to the Isle of Lismore, go on glorious walks around the shore and I’m told (although I’ve not seen one yet) see otters.

It was great fun having you on MTA! Orkney sounds like a gorgeous, inspiring place. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and for sharing so much about yourself. Wishing you all the best, Alys!  – Camilla

Blurb:

Storm Witch

Although not a witch herself, magic had always been part of Jenna’s life, guiding and nurturing her childhood. Her mother Nina was a member of The Order of Spellworkers and Druids, enforcing the laws of the magical community. But six winter solstices ago Nina was murdered. Six winter solstices ago the other members of The Order died or disappeared. And six winter solstices ago Jenna banished magic from her life, fleeing back home to Orkney.

Jenna thought she had re-built a calmer world for herself until her ex Hal returns, and someone starts to practice dangerous magic on the islands. When water, sea and sky elements are being manipulated to destroy, maim and kill, how can she deny handsome druid Winston’s plea for help?

As seer Zoe Rose foretells of a catastrophic storm which will engulf Orkney, Jenna and her friends must race against the elements to stop the storm witch. Only through chaos will Jenna find the answers she’s been searching for. Only through chaos can her heart decide who is the right man for her. And only through chaos will she finally discover who killed her mother.

Where to find the book:

Storm Witch is available as e-book and paperback from Amazon at https://smarturl.it/57nnjq

Website and Social Media:

Website: www.alyswest.com

Twitter: @alyswestyork

Facebook: Alys West Writer or at her readers’ group: ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles

Instagram: @alyswestwriter

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Meet the Author: Guns Under the Bed – Memories of a Young Revolutionary by Jody A. Forrester

Today we’re traveling to Venice (Los Angeles) to chat with Jody Forrester about how the Pacific Ocean, Nancy Drew, Edward Hopper’s house, roller skating, and being doggedly persistent come together as part of Jody’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am that rare thing, a native Angeleno, raised mostly in
Hollywood during the fifties and sixties. I live with my husband,
musician John Schneider, in Venice (Los Angeles) just six blocks from
the Pacific Ocean.

In which genre do you write?

Primarily memoir, but also short fiction.

How many published books do you have?

My first book, a memoir called Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, will be released on September 1, 2020, by Odyssey Books. At least six short stories and essays have been published on both online and in print literary journals.

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

I wrote my first story when I was ten, pretty much lifted from the Nancy Drew books that I loved so much. Having always been an avid reader, I had a deep desire to write but it took a long time for me to have the time and confidence to pursue the dream.

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

I revise, from what I can see, many times more than most writers. It’s not unusual for me to revise a story more than a dozen times, and my memoir required at least twice that.

What would you choose as your mascot, and why?

My dog is always close to me when I write, keeping me company and my feet warm.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I once saw the painter Edward Hopper’s house on a bluff on Cape Cod, with a large window overlooking the ocean and surrounded by old-growth trees and wild flowers. That would be a wonderful place to write, though I wonder how much I would get done with such a view!

What are you currently reading?

Find Me, by Andre Aciman, a sequel to Call Me By Your Name. He’s one of my favorites writers and his latest book doesn’t disappoint.

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

Read, see friends, walk my dog, exercise.

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

When I’m on a good roll, how transporting it can be. I love how time gets swallowed up until I emerge feeling like I’ve just gone on an amazing trip.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

I have a box of spiral bound journals that I began writing in when I was about eight but since I’ve been writing stories and memoir, that’s fallen to the wayside. I’m not sure why.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I did have a lot of fun riding my bike around the neighborhood, roller skating down the steepest hills I could find, and making up games and plays. But otherwise my childhood wasn’t so great, and I’m much happier as an adult.

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

Don’t be stopped by fear or lack of confidence. It’s all in your head, all made up, not based in reality about who you are.

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

I’m doggedly persistent and don’t give up easily. Otherwise, I would never get anything written because it’s always tempting to give up.

What are you currently working on?

I’m not writing now since all my concentration is on promoting my book. Marketing and writing occupy different modes of thinking and I seem to be unable to do them both at the same time.

It was great to have you be a part of MTA, Jody. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

Guns Under the Bed: Memories of a Young Revolutionary, is available in brick-and-mortar and online bookstores and for order through Jody’s website, jodyaforrester.com.

Praise:

“Jody Forrester’s memoir is at once an important eyewitness account of how American student activism in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s turned radical, and a portrait of a young woman’s struggle to find her way in the world. Guns Under the Bed traces her journey from innocence to experience, and, in doing so, offers lessons that resonate today. Heartbreaking and edifying, this story is difficult to forget.”
— Samantha Dunn, author of Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life

“Evocative, compelling, terrifying, sad, and ultimately triumphant. A classic coming of age narrative about a woman who seeks a sense of belonging that she doesn’t find in her family or her body.”
— Emily Rapp Black, author of Poster Child: A Memoir (Bloomsbury USA); The Still Point of the Changing World (Penguin Press)

”Every memoir turns on a fundamental question: How did a person like this get into a place like that? In Jody Forrester’s case the question becomes distinctly fraught: How did a middle-class white girl from LA find herself a member of a deluded Maoist sect, armed to the teeth and prepared to die for the revolution? Her odyssey through the last days of the mythical 1960’s touches all the sweet spots of that time even as it illuminates some of its more shadowy corners: our red-hot anger at war and racism, our alienation from the hollow promises of a corrupt establishment, and our certainty that we could heal our hurting hearts and at the same time transform the world into a place of joy and justice. But of course there are no universals—Forrester’s journey is uniquely hers, and hers alone—no easy answers, and no casual causal claims. We see a young woman bursting to live, determined to find meaning in her life, and—for all of her mistakes and miscalculations—a woman with the courage to storm the heavens.”
Bill Ayers (Fugitive Days: A Memoir; co-founder Weather Underground)

Connect with Jody:

Website – jodyaforrester.com

FB – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001532824693
Instragram – https://www.instagram.com/jodyaforrester/
Twitter –  https://twitter.com/jaforrester2

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