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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Meet the Author: Martyrs of the Mind by Andrei Cherascu

Today we travel to Timisoara, Romania to chat with Andrei Cherascu about how his grandfather, comic books, music journalism, Garden of Rama, science fiction, augmented reality, classics, Game of Thrones, detailed outlines, improvisation, playing the guitar, and living on Mars come together as part of Andrei’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Andrei Cherascu. I live in Timișoara, Romania with my wife, Ioana and our Bichon puppies, Jazzie and Teyla. I’m a full time writer, editor and music journalist.

In which genre do you write?

I write science fiction. It was the genre that really made me fall in love with storytelling. I started reading very early on in my childhood, mainly because I idolized my grandfather, who was a voracious reader. I loved bonding with him over books. He would read just about anything. Once he was done with a book, he’d pass it on to me and then we’d talk about it.

When he handed me “Garden of Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee, it opened up a whole new world for me. It was an experience unlike any other. On a purely emotional level, the grandeur of these “big idea” stories and these monumental events made me feel like I was part of something important. It made me feel like life was important.

It was an organic transition from cartoons and comic books and all these fantastic tales of childhood to something that was equally wondrous but made even more impactful by the fact that it used reality as a reference point. Over time, though I enjoy reading almost anything, it was always the scifi stories that stuck with me the most. They were pivotal to my development — emotionally and intellectually.

When I decided to become a writer, it just felt natural to write scifi stories. I wanted to write the kinds of books that impacted me the most. That’s why my tagline is, “Science Fiction in the Style of the Classics.” I actually took that from one of the reviews for my first book; it just fits perfectly.

The “augmented reality” of science fiction stories gives you the opportunity to place characters in moral and ethical situations they could never encounter in the real world. That’s what always drew me to these stories. It wasn’t the science and technology, but the way these things shaped the characters’ inner lives, their moral philosophy, their emotional spectrum.

My series takes place in a world where telepathy is common and people called Mindguards are tasked with protecting other people’s thoughts from intrusion, essentially preserving their mental integrity. So I was able to contemplate the concepts of privacy, information security and especially responsibility in a setting that presented these topics in their most extreme form. It was the concept of responsibility that I was particularly interested in. If people presented themselves to you in their most vulnerable form and you were responsible for the wellbeing of their very minds, what kinds of consequences would this responsibility have on your own mind? It would essentially be an unprecedented exercise of empathy. Would that be a privilege or a burden? Or both? As a person who tends to be excessively protective of people, these questions are very important to me. This series allowed me the space to think about them very deeply.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve published four novels and two novellas, all in the same universe. My series is called “The Mindguard Saga.” It centers around a character named Sheldon Ayers, who is an extremely powerful telepath tasked with guarding “information packages” in his clients’ minds. I came up with this character almost a decade ago, when my wife was going through a difficult time at work. I tried to comfort her but was constantly frustrated with my own limitations in doing so. It made me wish I could truly guard her mind from everything that was upsetting her. So I came up with the concept of a Mindguard and then imagined the kind of world that would have to exist in order for somebody like Sheldon Ayers to become who he was.

I started from this complete character and then built an entire universe around him. It became a really complex story with several plot lines coming together at the end. It was really interesting to explore all the layers of this world just based on this character’s place in it.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on the fifth and final book in the series.

“Mindgod” will come out at the end of the year and will bring all these narrative threads together in what I’m hoping will be a satisfying finale. This is really important to me. No matter what I’m going to be writing in the future, this series is fundamental to who I am, as a writer and a person. I want to make sure that, when it’s all over, I will have done justice to these characters. I want the conclusion to truly feel like it matters. I want to be able to still feel comfortable with it a decade from now.

I remember how disappointed I was in the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Remember that? It was almost universally hated. As a fan of the show, it just left me lamenting all the wasted opportunities. If I felt that way as a fan, I can only imagine what it would feel like to be a writer and be disappointed in your work. I don’t want to be haunted by regrets. That’s why this last book has taken longer to write. But I’m done with the first draft and I’m happy with how it turned out. Hopefully the readers will be too.

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

Just how the mind works, really. There are so many things in the back of your mind that you never consciously realize. It’s interesting how many things you can come up with on the fly.

I write a detailed outline for every story — it’s the only way I can work. However, I do leave a lot of room for “improvisation.” When I write the first draft, I do it almost without thinking. I use the outline as a guide and just furiously type away, just pouring everything onto the page. It’s like a trance. I’m always surprised by how many things pop up that I’ve never really thought about consciously, in spite of my detailed outline. Most of these things come in the form of conversations and musings about all sorts of things and just character development. But sometimes it will be something that takes the story in a completely new direction. Then I have to adjust the outline. At the end, I’m left wondering where all of that came from. It’s an interesting exploration of one’s own psyche.

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

I think it’s the ability to integrate so many interesting things into your life. I’ve always been interested in all sorts of things. Growing up, it was difficult to decide what to do with my life. There were so many fascinating things to which I wanted to dedicate my time. There was never really one dominating area of interest for me.

I love art, I love music, I love history, I love wine, I love doing all sorts of physical exercise. But I don’t love any of those things more than the other. I have a good singing voice and I can play a bit of guitar. Sometimes, I get together with friends and we do jam sessions and it’s really fun. But I could never be a professional musician. I’d have to dedicate so much time to it. That time would come at the expense of reading about art, or practicing my photography, or training. I train every day and do all sorts of things, from running to martial arts to weightlifting. But I couldn’t be a professional athlete because, firstly, I would have to dedicate myself entirely to one sport and then I would have to train for so many hours a day I wouldn’t have time to practice guitar. I’d have to watch what I eat and I wouldn’t be able to drink wine on a daily basis. And I love wine.

So, basically, writing is a result of an indecision regarding what to do with my life. Because writing practically gives you an excuse to pursue anything you’re interested in for exactly as long as you want. When you’re a creative person, especially a storyteller, anything you do in your life is conducive to creativity. You get to indulge in information without actually having to specialize in anything and thus restrict the time you can spend learning about something else. This jack-of-all-trades nature of writing really fits my personality. I might never be a professional athlete, but I can make up a character who is and then imagine what that would be like for a little while. There’s nothing I love more than imagining what things would be like.

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

When I’m not writing my own books, I’m helping other people write theirs. I run expanse-editing.com, where I offer developmental editing and professional beta reading for indie authors.

Since 2012, I’ve also been active as a music journalist, covering adventurous music from all over the world (jazz, world music, experimental, indie, avant-garde and the like). On my website, The Music and Myth, I post reviews, news articles and interviews with musicians like Bill Frisell, Al DiMeola, Thana Alexa and Jazzmeia Horn.

What are you currently reading?

I’m actually currently reading one of my clients’ manuscripts, a lovely literary fantasy novel that’s going to be the first in a new trilogy. This is a client I’ve been working with for years and the stories I’ve read are all set in the same universe, so it’s been great to revisit this world and watch it grow.

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

No. Despite my predilection for scifi, I’m good here. I’m a socially active person. I love traveling to different places, meeting people, spending time in cafes and restaurants, going to museums. The breadth of experience on this planet is more than enough for me. Mars would get really boring really quickly. That soil is probably terrible for wine production and I can’t imagine walking my dogs in that gravity.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent published book is “Martyrs of the Mind,” the fourth novel in my Mindguard Saga. The events in this book directly influence the series finale, which I’m working on now.

For my series, I used the same structure that Frank Herbert used for his Dune Saga, which is my all-time favorite work of fiction. In the Dune Saga, the first three books are kind of similar in their structure, pacing and themes, with “God Emperor of Dune” kind of sitting in the middle as its own separate entity and then the last two books once again connected. It should have been the last three, but he passed away before he could publish the series finale. He wanted to have this balanced structure, with his God Emperor at the center of the universe, so to speak. It’s really elegant.

I wanted to do a similar thing as a tribute to my favorite author. So the first two books in the Mindguard Saga introduce this universe, its characters and the dramas and tragedies they have to deal with while the third book sits by itself as a sort of character study of Sheldon Ayers (who, at least symbolically, is my version of a God Emperor). The final two books chronicle the unavoidable classic scifi “war to end all wars.”

It was wonderful to have you on MTA, and to learn more about you, Andrei. I am inspired by the thoughts you shared. Beautifully conveyed. I wish you all the best and much success! – Camilla

Book Blurb for Martyrs of the Mind:

In the aftermath of Earth’s battle with the Vintages, an unlikely messenger delivers a shocking revelation: the existence of an advanced civilization that threatens to change the very core of human identity.

As the world falls into panic, a terrorist organization once thought extinct rises from the ashes of its violent past to embrace the dawn of a new era. Led by a charismatic prophet – a telepath with unprecedented powers – the Martyrs of the Mind wage a holy war on the Federation in the name of the God Revealed.

Now the de-facto leader of mankind, Enforcement Unit Commander Tamisa Faber must step up as the world’s last guardian. But Tamisa is no stranger to war. As the crimes of her past return to haunt her present, Tamisa is faced with her own chilling revelation: humanity will need the Mindguards she herself has all but destroyed.

Where to find the books:

All of my books are available in digital format pretty much wherever e-books are sold.

Connect with Andrei:

andreicherascu.com

expanse-editing.com

themusicandmyth.com

http://www.andreicherascu.com/martyrs-of-the-mind/

https://www.facebook.com/AndreiCherascuAuthor

https://www.instagram.com/andreicherascu.author/

https://themusicandmyth.com/

http://www.andreicherascu.com/

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Meet the Author: Falcon’s Shadow by Marthese Fenech

Today we travel to the Toronto area, by way of the Maltese Islands, to chat with Marthese Fenech about how a rabbit, being a teacher, climbing things, practicing yoga, chasing landscapes, magic, a Siberian husky, teddy bears, kickboxing, the Great Siege of 1565, tongue-twisters, and Point Break come together as part of Marthese’s adventurous life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in a town north of Toronto with my husband, Brad, and our Siberian husky. I’m the youngest of five, with a 12 to 16 year gap between my siblings and me. I teach high school English, Social Science, and Special Education.

I’m an avid traveler and adventure-seeker. Brad and I spend a lot of time outdoors and tackle challenging hikes all over the world. When I’m not climbing things or throwing myself out of things, I enjoy practicing yoga and paddle-boarding.

Languages fascinate me. I spoke Maltese before English and studied French in school. I’d love to learn conversational Spanish beyond asking where the bathroom is.

Photography is another of my hobbies. I especially love chasing landscapes, seascapes, and sunsets. I’ve recently taken up skateboarding so I can improve my surfing. I consider myself a lively, fun, energetic risk-taker. I also hope I’m as funny as I think I am.

In which genre do you write?

I write historical fiction. Sixteenth-century Malta and Turkey serve as the settings of my novels.

My parents are Maltese, and frequent visits to the island from the time I was very young piqued my interest in its opulent history. Life under the rule of the Knights of St John fascinated me most. The Maltese islands lend themselves very well to literary descriptions—gifted with four compass points of natural beauty, the smell of the sea constant no matter how far inland one might venture, ancient temples that predate the pyramids of Egypt.

In high school, history was my favourite subject. I loved to learn about daily life in the Middle Ages, communication and the importance of scribes and town-criers, the development and enforcement of laws, the cause and outcome of battles, the roles of different institutions, the use (and misuse) of medicine, the creation (and banning) of art and literature, and most of all, the perspectives of the people, their motivations, their resilience.

Despite the passage of time, people want and need many of the same things today as they did in the past. Beyond necessities for survival, people crave human connection, acceptance, recreation, fellowship, justice, knowledge, a sharing of ideas, progress.

This realization gave me the confidence to tackle historical fiction—I didn’t have to create characters I could never relate to simply because they lived five hundred years ago. And while living in the sixteenth century undoubtedly presented its own set of challenges and struggles, the human condition remains the same. The story needs to revolve around the characters and their experiences—the setting becomes virtually incidental.

How many published books do you have?

Eight Pointed Cross, originally published in 2011, and Falcon’s Shadow, published in 2020, are the first two novels in my Siege of Malta trilogy. The third instalment is scheduled for a May 2022 release to coincide with the anniversary of the Great Siege of Malta, the event on which the novel is based.

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

Creating images with words always seemed to be a kind of magic. From a very young age, I found joy in storytelling, something as reflexive as breathing.

I remember rattling off fairy-tales to my teddy bears, which I would arrange around my room as an audience.

My second-grade teacher often gave me “lines” to copy as punishment for being too talkative in class. I’d grow bored and write a story instead—usually about a little girl who upset her teacher and was so very sorry. It often won me back into the teacher’s good graces—though not always.

I was incredibly lucky to have older siblings that read to me, introducing me to authors like Tolkien and Dahl and Adams. I loved the wonder and poetry within their prose. My dad also told me stories he’d make up, usually involving his own take on Hansel and Gretel. My mom surprised me with a book from the Babysitters Club series when I was little, and I was instantly hooked. She’d buy me a new one every few weeks until I finished the entire series. I have no doubt all that reading cultivated my love of the craft.

CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia had the greatest influence on me as a budding writer. Taking my cue from him, I wrote stories cast entirely with talking animals. Even now, in my Siege of Malta series, I tend to treat our four-legged friends more delicately than humans. While I no longer write about talking animals, my Siberian husky has a cameo in Falcon’s Shadow as Louie, a stray wolf-dog who saves the life of one of my protagonists.

In the summer of 1994, I watched the movie Speed ten or eleven times between daily visits to Canada’s Wonderland. A crush on Keanu Reeves inspired me to write a thriller set in the very theme park my friend and I frequented—my first attempt at a composition involving people. Mostly, I wanted to prove to myself that I could start and finish a novel. It took me two years writing part-time while attending high school and working at Red Lobster, but I managed to complete it.

Soon after that, the film Braveheart drew me more insistently to the historical genre, a love further reinforced by Gladiator, which coincidentally, is filmed in Malta and features several of my friends as extras.

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

Sometimes, an idea will come to me, but I don’t jot it down, confident I will remember it. Then, of course, I forget. So, I will pace in a big square as long as it takes until I remember the thing I should have written down.

When I’m trying to describe a facial expression, I make the expression and hold it as I write down everything my face is doing. My brow is sure to end up permanently furrowed.

I find reading aloud a very helpful practice when editing, and when I read aloud, I put on accents to entertain myself.

I like writing to music, but the songs can’t have lyrics because they distract me. Epic scores guide my scenes, stir up intricate, emotional passages. The right soundtrack helps me to pace battle scenes and take the quieter scenes slow. As I wrote Falcon’s Shadow, my workspace swirled with evocative arrangements from Game of Thrones, Inception, Braveheart, the Grey, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

I bite my nails when I’m working on a new scene or editing an existing scene.

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

I consider myself a thrill-seeker. A former kickboxing instructor, I surf, snowboard, scuba-dive, rock-climb, skydive, zip-line, and throw axes. I’ve also done the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower in Toronto, the Via Ferrata in Ollantaytambo, Peru, and hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand.

There are several outdoor activities I’d yet love to try. Sand-boarding in the desert looks wild. I took a beginner kite-surfing lesson but would like to take it up more frequently. I’m also keen to try potholing (the subterranean version of tree-top trekking). I recently discovered “high-diving,” which involves throwing oneself down a giant waterslide before diving into a high-altitude lake. Looks kind of awesome. And my husband and I plan to do the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal when Covid restrictions lift and it is safe to travel.

I find physical exertion gives me perspective and opens up my mind to so many creative possibilities.

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

In July 2000, I travelled to Malta for a pre-college vacation. I intended to spend my days at the beach, my nights bar-hopping, and every second sharing laughs with good friends. I checked off every box, every day.

But this trip became so much more when my friend suggested we go to the capital city Valletta to check out the Malta Experience, a film that showcases the island’s incredible seven-thousand-year history.

The moment the Great Siege of 1565 played out on the screen, everything changed. Suddenly, the battle I’d heard so much about came to life for me as never before. The siege tested the resilience and fortitude of this little island and its people in ways I could hardly comprehend. It’s an underdog story for the ages.

The idea to write a novel based on this epic battle took root.

It just ended up taking three novels instead of one—the story is simply too big to fit in one book.

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

Point Break.

I mean, come on—surfing bank robbers??

Point Break always brings back waves of wonderful memories, from writing an essay about director Kathryn Bigelow for a film studies class in high school to vacationing in Malta and hanging out at a beach bar which happened to be playing Point Break on a mounted TV set.

This movie inspired me to learn to surf. And to sky-dive. And to rob banks (which I have yet to do). I had the opportunity to surf for the first time in Tarifa, Spain (epic fail), then my husband gifted me with a week at a surf school in Costa Rica, followed by another session in New Zealand. I cannot put into words how much I love it and how badly I wish I lived near the ocean so I could continue improving daily, rather than yearly.

Point Break turns 30 this year, and its energy transcends. It is timeless—stories that capture the human spirit always are. I’m certain this movie contributed to my love for adventure, my need to challenge myself physically, to try new things—even the things I’m afraid to try.

Especially the things I’m afraid to try.

Although I never became the pro-surfer of my imagination, I did follow my literary dreams of becoming a bestselling author of historical fiction—my equivalent of big wave riding.

Also, as a wink at Point Break, I threw the line “Vaya con Dios” into my forthcoming third novel.

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

Musicality runs in my family. My dad is an accomplished organist and pianist. My brother Dave plays the trumpet, my brother Steve the guitar.

When I was eight, Dave bought me an acoustic guitar and signed me up for lessons. I loved it and progressed well, but my interest fizzled, and I gave up—something I regret to this day.

Years later, I saved enough money to buy a Fender Stratocaster electric bass and taught myself to play because I wanted to start a rock band. A huge Def Leppard fan, I’d watch recordings of their concerts and try to mimic the bassist’s riffs. I could strum a mean “Hysteria.” I also learned to imitate the basslines of songs by Guns N Roses and Skid Row.

In high school music class, I chose the alto saxophone. I loved wailing on that thing. I drove my parents to the brink by practising “Auld Lang Syne” nonstop in my not-soundproof bedroom.

Giving up on these instruments remains a sore spot. The creation and performance of music is so beautiful, the same kind of magic that exists in storytelling—because really, music is storytelling with sound. Perhaps I will take up an instrument again.

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

Battles feature prominently in my novels. As such, I thought it important to feel a fraction of what my characters may have felt while defending Malta during a mid-summer siege.

One August day, I took the bus to the seaside village of Birgu, one of my main settings, and spent an afternoon on the wall of Castile—essentially, a stone oven. For three hours, I stood on that battlement and wrote detailed notes describing everything I felt, like the way the sweat would bead and run down my face or arm, pool in the dimple of my knee. I ignored every impulse to find shade or drink water. Though effective, it was hugely reckless and idiotic, and I was rewarded with heatstroke and a day spent in bed, shivering, sweating, cramping, and convinced I contracted the plague.

I also spent time in Istanbul, a living museum, every street corner a testament to the city’s vivid past. Lively exchanges with locals inspired a cast of Turkish characters, including a very kind and helpful shopkeeper, an equally unpleasant staffer at my hostel, and five or six kittens that worked together to steal a cooked chicken—yes, that scene made it into Falcon’s Shadow.

In my first novel, Eight Pointed Cross, I introduce Katrina, a female protagonist who wants to learn archery. For Kat, finding someone willing to teach a girl the bow in sixteenth-century Malta would prove a challenge. For me, the challenge began once she found that person. I’d need to describe her struggling through lessons and finally mastering the skills. Skills I did not possess. As I developed her character, I knew I had to learn archery.

And so, I signed up for a two-day workshop, which I thought was a beginner archery lesson. It ended up being an intensive, archery certification course. The other students knew not only each other but all the technical terms. They frequented archery ranges and competed around the country. I hadn’t so much as picked up a bow since gym class ten years earlier. Despite my mistake, I stayed—might as well learn a few things in case of a zombie apocalypse.

Learning to teach archery proved to be an unexpected gift. Katrina’s instructor would have to demonstrate the proper technique. In Falcon’s Shadow, Kat becomes the teacher. Although it was important for me to learn how to do the thing, it was as important for me to learn to teach it so I could write believably from an archery instructor’s point of view. I could now write with the confidence that comes from experience. Amazingly, I passed the final exam and am technically a certified archery instructor. In the years since my certification, I’ve taken archery lessons—but certainly never taught any.

Many styles of weapons were used throughout the siege. I took up axe-throwing and went to a gun range, where I shot a variety of guns and felt the incredible kickback—something I needed to experience because muskets and arquebuses were the matchlocks of choice at the time in which my novels are set.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking, and what do you do to prepare yourself?

In July 2020, I hosted a virtual book launch via Facebook Live since Covid cancelled my in-person event. Up to that point, I had always been a nervous wreck before appearing on camera.

And so, I needed to get amped before I hit “Go Live.”

My pre-game hype song-list includes:

“All I do is Win” – DJ Khalid featuring Ludacris, Rick Ross, T-Pain and Snoop Dogg

“Live like Legends” – Ruelle

“Revolution” – Ruelle

On the day of a speaking engagement or live reading, I occupy my mind to keep it from playing out disaster scenarios. I practice tongue-twisters and work on dropping my breath (belly-breathing). I fold a bunch of laundry and empty the dishwasher and water the garden. I go a few rounds on the punching bag, go for a jog, or hit the speed-rope. I take the dog for a long walk and recite my script to him. I roll out my yoga mat for a session. Anything to calm my frazzled nerves.

Was there anything surprising about that period of history you learned about which made it into the book?

I find period pieces tend to romanticize history. We think of a knight in shining armour as noble and flawless. But reality objects to that image. Were the knights brave? Absolutely. Were they flawed? Beyond doubt. To be accepted into the Order of the Knight of St. John, one had to prove noble ancestry in all four lines. Knighthood was something for which these young men were pre-destined. The system did not operate based on merit. Someone who embodies the qualities you expect a knight to have wouldn’t be worthy if their lineage did not measure up.

As a woman, I was also very proud to learn that during the Great Siege of 1565, women played a pivotal role in Malta’s defence. They stood on the battlements alongside the men, shooting flaming arrows, gathering cannonballs, and repairing walls. Again, period pieces often portray damsels in distress that need to be rescued. These women didn’t need any rescuing.

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

Three questions I would ask my Siberian husky:

1. What is your favourite memory? (Surely the time he got loose and chased seven cows around a farm for fifteen minutes as my brother Steve chased after him)

2. Do you know how deeply you are loved?

3. Why do you take one kibble at a time out of your bowl, eat it outside, then return for another?

What are you currently working on?

I have a few things on the go at the moment. The third novel in my Siege of Malta trilogy is in the editing phase. I have yet to write the epilogue—this has proved challenging as I don’t feel emotionally ready to complete a project that’s been twenty years in the making.

Set for publication in 2022, the third book will feature the culmination of all battles—symbolic and literal—with the Great Siege of 1565.

The novel begins on the eve of one of the bloodiest battles in history. The elite Ottoman army departs Istanbul, the seat of Sunni Islam, with a force 50,000 strong, a great host heading for Malta intent on crushing the Knights of St John once and for all.

In the final book of the trilogy, characters will face hopeless odds and endure terrible losses amid hurtling cannonballs and exploding mines, poisoned wells and crumbling ramparts. But there will be the forging of unlikely allies also, the creation of unexpected bonds. And most of all, there will be the triumph of the human spirit.

Seeing my novels come to life on the screen is my biggest dream. For years, I have wished someone—a director, a producer, an actor—would approach me about adapting my books. It suddenly dawned on me that I am capable. I wrote the novels, after all. Six weeks ago, I enrolled in a screenwriting course and have started to adapt my novels into a script for a series. I’m currently working on the pilot episode that I hope to pitch to streaming services, HBO, and the History Channel. Stay tuned.

Tell us about your most recent book.

Falcon’s Shadow, published in 2020, is the second novel in my Siege of Malta trilogy.

When legendary Ottoman seaman Dragut Raїs attacked the Maltese islands in 1551, his army left Gozo a smoking ruin emptied of its entire population. Among the five thousand carried into slavery is Augustine Montesa, father of Domenicus and Katrina.

Wounded and broken, Domenicus vows to find his father, even if it means abandoning Angelica, his betrothed. Armed with only a topaz to serve as ransom, he sets out on a journey that sees him forcibly recruited from the streets of Europe and thrown into the frontline. On Malta, Katrina struggles to find work after the Grand Master has her publicly flogged for speaking out against him. When at last, she stumbles upon a promising position, all is not as it seems. Her job forces her to confront a terrible truth—one that may prove disastrous for Robert, the man she loves.

Hundreds of leagues to the east in Istanbul, Demir, son of a wealthy Turkish bey, works hard to become an imperial Ottoman horseman, despite having to endure the cruelty of his father and half-brother. Life takes an unexpected turn the moment Demir encounters a young woman, stolen from Malta, brought into the household as another of his father’s servants.

Falcon’s Shadow picks up in the immediate aftermath of Eight Pointed Cross and sweeps from quarry pits to sprawling estates, tumultuous seas to creaking gallows, the dungeons beneath the bishop’s palace to the open decks of warships. Chance connections are made, secrets revealed, and betrayals exposed against a historical backdrop. Fates will collide at the Battle of Djerba, a momentous clash that unites lost kin, only to tear them apart once more.

Falcon’s Shadow is available as a paperback, ebook, and audiobook (narrated beautifully by voice artist Simon Hester) across all Amazon platforms, ebook and hardcover from Barnes and Noble, ebook from Kobo, and paperback available from bookshops in Canada and Malta.

It was great fun learning more about you, an absolutely pleasure having you be a part of MTA. Wishing you all the best, with loads more adventures and novels! – Camilla

Find the books here:

Eight Pointed Cross – https://marthesefenech.com/books/eight-pointed-cross/

Falcon’s Shadow – https://marthesefenech.com/books/falcons-shadow/

Connect with Marthese:

Website: https://marthesefenech.com

My most recent blog-post inspired by a debilitating bout of writer’s block:

Overcoming Writer’s Block When You Feel Uninspired

Socials:

LinkTree: https://linktr.ee/Fenka33

Instagram – Fenka33

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EightPointedCross

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6469162.Marthese_Fenech

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/marthese-fenech-6763a841/

Twitter – Fenka33

Virtual Book Launch – https://vimeo.com/437672957

Blooper Reel – https://vimeo.com/448640173

*My last name, Fenech, means Rabbit in Maltese. Fenka, is girl-rabbit.

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Friday With Friends: Another Friday Night – Val Portelli

Another Friday night.

Friday 1.

Friday night. At last.

‘See you Monday everyone. Have a great weekend.’

Dash to the supermarket on the way home from work. Pile the bags into the car boot and head for home. Pour myself a drink while I put it away; the first in five days but I deserve it after slaving from nine to five, or rather eight to six for a demanding boss.

Check my phone to confirm where we’re meeting tonight – glad rags or casual?

8.30 in the pub for a quick bite and then on to the new club which has just opened. Smart casual it is then as I browse my wardrobe after the quickest bath in history. No time for wallowing tonight – people to see, dancing to be done and with a bit of luck, some flirting thrown in for good measure. The night is young and so am I. Bring it on.

Friday 2.

‘Hi Mum. In case you haven’t guessed, it’s your favourite daughter, Lisa, and yes, I am after something. How are you fixed for Friday night? Do you fancy a bit of babysitting with the monsters? – er, I mean your adorable grandchildren.

‘Great. Paul can pick you up about 7.30 if that’s OK. We won’t be back late, but it’s ages since we’ve had some time to ourselves and we wanted to try out the new restaurant that’s just opened. Perfect. Thanks, Mum. Love you.’

Friday 3.

‘Paul, what do you think about going out somewhere on Friday? We could try the cinema, or even splash out and go to a show. The kids are old enough to be left on their own and we’ve got to start trusting them sometime. I said Katie could have her friend for a sleep-over and John will be out with his mates.’

Friday 4

‘Anything interesting on TV tonight? It looks as if it’s all the usual repeats. Maybe we should sign up to one of those streaming programmes, or even buy some films on DVD. Do they still make them? I’ve out of touch with all this new technology. What do people do for entertainment these days?’

Friday 5

‘Hi Jen. It’s me, Lisa. I wanted to sound you out about this football bash on Friday. Are you going?

‘Yes, I wasn’t sure but let Paul talk me into it. You’ve been before. What are they like? Knowing that lot I imagine it’ll be a bit riotous.

‘Really? That’s sounds good. I’ll book a cab and then we won’t have to worry about driving. Great, we’ll see you there. If you can’t beat them, we’ll have to join them.’

Friday 6.

‘Nanny Lisa. Mummy says you’re coming on Friday to look after us while she and Daddy go for a Can-oo-doodle. Can you bring me some sweeties? And will you read me a story? And can we make some cakes like we did last time? That was fun. I promise I’ll be ever so good. Love you lots.’

Friday 7.

‘This lockdown is driving me crazy. Do you remember the times Friday night was party night? Funny how people always used to say Saturday was their big night out, but for us it was always Friday. Perhaps because that was the first time you asked me out, and Saturday you would be down the pub with your football mates. Now the highlight of my life is a trip to the supermarket. Which reminds me, Paul, we’re running short of pretty much everything so we need to stock up. I’d better make a list.’

Friday 8.

Same old, same old. Will it ever end? At least we’ve got our date for the jab. We’ve got to be at the health centre for 11 next Friday. I hope it’s not pouring with rain. Roll on the Spring.

Friday 9.

I’m beginning to lose the plot. If it wasn’t for the date on my laptop, I wouldn’t know whether it was today or tomorrow. It’s come to something when I’m reading the holiday ads, even if there’s no chance of getting away this summer if things continue as they are.

Friday 10.

Things are looking up. The news is more positive, the sun actually shone today, and I’ve just seen the first daffodils in the garden.

Friday 11.

I don’t believe it. My collection of short stories proved so popular I’ve already had people asking about my next one, even though it’s in a totally different genre. All that time making up stories to keep the grandchildren amused has paid off. I’m now officially a published author.

Friday 12.

I check my dairy for the zillionth time even though I know the venue and date off by heart. The cab is booked for next Friday. I’ve Googled the route for the posh West End hotel who are hosting the event in case the taxi gets lost. The new dress is hanging ready in the wardrobe, and the hairdresser is booked for 10 o’clock. Even if I don’t win, the publicity will ensure my name is known in all the best literary circles. My acceptance speech is prepared and I’ve rehearsed until I’m word perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

Friday 13.

Don’t you just love a cliff-hanger. 😁

© Val Portelli February 2021

To see Val’s previous interview on MTA, go here …

Meet the Authors: Story of a Country Boy by Val Portelli

Connect with Val:

Amazon author page: https://author.to/ValPortelli

YouTube ‘Val’s Tales’: www.youtube.com/channel/UCsmbM57q4SzHbOcx3CPbr1Q/

Facebook ‘Val’s Tales’: www.facebook.com/ValsTales

Twitter: @vals_tales

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/wwwgoodreadscomVal_Portelli

Blog: www.Voinks.wordpress.com

Web site: www.quirkyunicornbooks.wordpress.com

Val’s latest release:

Find it here:

www.amazon.co.uk/Alderslay-Val-Portelli-ebook/dp/B08X2XZNF8

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

Meeting the Author: Freedom of the Creed by NJ Coleridge

Today we travel to Nottingham to chat with Nick Coleridge about how corporate life, being a stay-at-home dad, pots of coffee, baking, Dungeons and Dragons, living room raves, a do-it-yourself painting disaster, and The Doctor come together as part of Nick’s writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Nick Coleridge (my nomme de plume is NJ Coleridge as there is already a Nicholas Coleridge writing. We are definitely not the same person though might be related, apparently….). I am a father of two and have always had aspirations (read daydreams) of becoming a fully fledged writer.

A few years ago, I made the best decision of my life to become a stay-at-home dad to my lovely daughter. As a hobby and after some encouragement from my long-suffering wife, who I think might have suggested it as a way of making me put my money where my mouth is, I decided to focus on and write in the small windows of opportunity that “nap time” allowed.

Over time what was at best a dabbling evolved into a story and eventually a proper book! And so, Freedom of the Creed was published on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited last summer. After good reviews, even from those unafraid of hurting my feelings, I started writing the sequel in autumn of 2020, titled Better to Die, and I’m hoping to release it later this year.

I am based in Nottingham, UK.

In which genre do you write?

Freedom of the Creed, and its sequel, is a western, though not in the traditional sense. I have written it more like a thriller which just happens to be set in the old west, if that makes sense, taking cues from writers like Elmore Leonard and Lee Child.

I am also planning a thriller set in the British boarding school system as well as a fantasy series.

How many published books do you have?

One and one short story. For now!

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

I have had many careers but the only thing I ever really wanted to do is write. Stepping off the treadmill of corporate life to look after my daughter seemed like a perfect opportunity to scratch that itch.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Our dining table with a pot of coffee close to hand, facing a window looking out onto any greenery I can find. Either that or a secluded corner of a coffee shop, don’t mind where as long as the coffee is good! Upon reflection it looks like an abundance of coffee is key as opposed to venue.

What are you currently reading?

The Name of the Wind. Book One of the Kingkiller Chronicles. By Patrick Dothfuss. It is amazing.

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

I have always loved westerns, having grown up on a steady diet of John Ford and Sergio Leone, but I was inspired to write about Saoirse and Wolfe after watching Godless. It’s a fantastic limited series on Netflix produced by Stephen Soderbergh and I highly recommend it.

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

I am a full-time/stay at home dad so when not writing you will find me tidying up my children’s toys, baking, singing songs, make things out of playdoh, and organising living room raves (we dance round the living room to disco or club classics……anything to exhaust a small child!) At the end of the day, I curl up on the sofa and collapse before remembering that I have words to write.

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

Far too many to count, there is a reason I have been forbidden to ever pick up a paintbrush by my wife. For example –

When we were first married, it seems like an age ago, in our first ever flat. Ever the practical romantic I thought how lovely it would be for my wife to come home to find the decorating (that she had planned meticulously) to be finished, allowing her a well-deserved night off! It was a relatively simple job, essentially paint a part of the wall with very special iron filing paint to make a black board.

However, in spite of its simplicity, I essentially painted the entire kitchen wall black as the paint ran, and ran, and ran. My furious wife had to completely redecorate the wall and the skirting board of the kitchen. Needless to say I was not popular.

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

Two things –

a. Being able to lose yourself completely in a world of your own creation.

b. The problem-solving element of it. Particularly when you write your characters into a corner and then have to write them out of it.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking?

Knights of Cydonia by Muse. A piece of pure prog-rock genius.

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

Probably Seth Rogen as I look a little like him and have always got the impression that he and I are quite similar in our general outlook on life. If my life was an action movie, Gerard Butler; because he’s awesome.

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

As a child of the 80s it would have to be Dungeons and Dragons. It was based on the classic role-playing game and is about a group of teenagers who find themselves in a fantasy world of magic, demons, and wizards. I have often fantasised about having magical powers, particularly those that meant I could bewitch brooms to do the cleaning for me; even if it only lasted a few minutes before I was barbecued by an irritable dragon.

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

Frozen 2 with my daughter, her choice not mine. Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t know all the words….

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

The Doctor (from Doctor Who). Because he has a TARDIS, and there are days that I could really do with a time machine. Also, I think he/she would be very good company, just think of the adventures!

What are you currently working on?

I should be proofreading the sequel to Freedom of the Creed, but instead I am working on creating the world and rules for an as yet untitled fantasy project. That and staying sane during lockdown whilst trying to home school a four-and-a-half-year-old and sleep train a nine month old!

It was great learning more about you, and having you be a part of MTA, Nick! Wishing you all the best with the living room raves, and your writing! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B0876SXTL8

Connect with Nick:

Twitter – https://twitter.com/npichol
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/npichol/?ref=page_internal

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