Book Shelf: Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

I was so excited when I won this book! I had it on hold at the library, with a pretty long wait ahead of me.

I could not stop reading this book; drinking in every last comforting word, letting it soak into my mind, body, heart, and soul. Deeply meaningful to and for me. I marked one page, holding this Walt Whitman quote, “Re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.”

This Walt Whitman quote has always been a powerful one for me. I grew up in the Deep South (of the U.S.), and have had to unlearn much that insults my soul and knowing. There’s much that permeates the culture due to beliefs, discounting the knowing of our hearts. On the flip side, there’s much I love about the culture, having grown up there, with my ancestors being from there.

I love this book, for being about the truth of having lost our spark, being numb to life, for standing up for not discounting what we feel from our knowing, for putting words to our wild, for declaring, “I am a goddamn cheetah!”

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

Meet the Author: The Lazare Family Saga by Elizabeth Bell

Today we travel to Northern Virginia, USA to chat with Elizabeth Bell about how George Mason University, elementary school vocabulary words, two hundred library books, talismans, wrought iron, sensory deprivation, a turtle, and The Princess Bride come together as part of Elizabeth’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Elizabeth Bell, and I live in Northern Virginia, USA. I grew up in Colorado. I came to Virginia to pursue my Master’s degree in Creative Writing at George Mason University. After graduation, I realized I’d have to return my two hundred library books. Instead, I cleverly found a job in the university library, where I work to this day.

In which genre do you write?

Historical fiction, specifically family saga with strong romantic elements.

How many published books do you have?

Necessary Sins, Lost Saints, Native Stranger, and Sweet Medicine, the four books of The Lazare Family Saga.

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

Around the second grade. My teacher would give us students a list of ten vocabulary words to learn each week. To show we understood their meaning, we had to write a sentence that used each of the words correctly. No matter how disparate the words were, I always used those ten sentences to tell a little story.

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

I have talismans to get me “in the zone” when I’m writing. I’ll burn an appropriately scented candle, such as gardenia for a scene set in a Charleston garden or Yankee Candle’s Storm Watch for a scene set on the Great Plains of the American West. I’ll also wear a necklace based on the wrought iron of Charleston.

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

A turtle. I’ve always been an introvert, and I may be the world’s slowest writer. I spent twenty-eight years researching, writing, and revising the four books of The Lazare Family Saga. But I got there in the end!

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I’d prefer a sensory deprivation chamber! I need as few distractions as possible to concentrate on my fictional world. I write in a U shape: an L-shaped desk plus a table alongside me so I can have research materials spread open all around me. I’m also surrounded by bookshelves. In my ideal writing space, those shelves would be lovely, grained dark hardwood instead of plywood and I’d own all the books instead of borrowing them from library.

What are you currently reading?

I’m rereading Be Free or Die, Cate Lineberry’s excellent biography of Robert Smalls, after reading Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s novel about him.

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

The Princess Bride. I have practically the whole screenplay memorized. It’s brilliant—funny but also heartfelt, exciting, romantic, and and wise.

What is your favorite time of day and why?

The wee hours of the morning, when the rest of the house has gone to bed. That’s my best writing time, when my characters really come alive and tell me their stories.

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

Lowcountry South Carolina near Charleston. It’s one of the two main settings of my historical saga. I grew up in the other setting: the Great Plains of the American West along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve visited the Lowcountry a few times and fell in love with it. I haven’t been able to live there in real life, but I do vicariously through my characters. I love the flora and fauna of the Lowcountry, the birds and even the reptiles. I love the gardens and the architecture, so well suited to the semitropical climate. I love how present the history of Charleston is, how well it’s been preserved. That history is often contentious and tragic, because it’s about the legacy of slavery and the persistence of racism, but it’s also about resilience. That complexity is what makes the history dynamic and compelling and essential.

What are you currently working on?

With the help of my cover designer, I’m creating hardcover versions of my four books. I thought the paperbacks were beautiful, but I love my first hardcover proof even more: beauty and durability! My cover artist is James T. Egan of Bookfly Design, and he is so talented.

Tell us about your most recent book.

My most recent book is Sweet Medicine, the fourth and final installment in my historical fiction series The Lazare Family Saga—but please start with Book One, Necessary Sins. The series is a continuous narrative.

It was great having you be a part of MTA, and learning more about you and your background. Love the bit about the library books, and that now you work in the university library! Wishing you all the best, with much success! – Camilla

Blurb:

The sweeping Lazare Family Saga transports readers from the West Indies to the Wild West, from Charleston, Paris, and Rome into the depths of the human heart. Passion, prejudice, secrets, and a mother’s desperate choice in the chaos of revolution echo through five generations as the multiracial Lazare family struggles to understand where they belong. A French baroness, a Catholic priest, a daring physician, an unconventional Southern belle, an enslaved maid, and a blond Cheyenne Indian find love in dangerous places in this epic spanning 1789-1873.

Kathleen Grissom, bestselling author of The Kitchen House, called the first book, Necessary Sins, “a feast of a novel by an extraordinary new voice. Haunting, meticulously researched, and exquisitely told through characters so human you’d swear they have beating hearts.” Lost Saints and Native Stranger were both Editors’ Choices in the Historical Novels Review, and the Historical Novel Society proclaimed: “Necessary Sins is a rare breed of book, invoking family epics of the past such as The Thorn Birds… [Elizabeth Bell] renders a vivid world that truly feels like stepping back in time.”

Where to find the books:

The four ebooks are available exclusively from Amazon, and they’re free to borrow through Kindle Unlimited. The paperbacks are available through your favorite online bookstore.

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/contributor_profiles/146

getbook.at/LazareFamilySaga

Connect with Elizabeth:

Website:

An Epic Three Decades in the Making…

https://www.facebook.com/elizabethbellauthor

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19269250.Elizabeth_Bell

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

 

Book Shelf: The Sensaurum and The Lexis by Richard Dee

The Sensaurum and The Lexis by Richard Dee

Another I stepped out of my comfort zone to read. I’ve not read in the steampunk genre. I found the story incredibly interesting, enjoying the element of mystery. It was an action-packed journey getting to know the characters and The Orphan Detectives, following them as they keep Norlandia safe. Enjoyed it!!

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

Meet the Author: Con Me Once by J.L. Delozier

Today we travel to Pennsylvania to chat with J.L. Delozier about how Asimov’s magazine, medicine, rescue cats, a Roswell Award, an accordion, Autumn, a nun, a chunky sweater, speaking to the dead, and a cozy cottage come together as part of Delozier’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

By day, I’m an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Penn State. I live in Pennsylvania with my Whovian husband and three rescue cats. By night, I’ve written five suspense novels and several short stories. My 2016 debut thriller, Type & Cross, was nominated for a “Best First Novel” award by the International Thriller Writers organization. Storm Shelter and Blood Type X completed the trilogy. My fourth novel, Con Me Once, published in 2020. My short fiction has won a Roswell Award and appeared in Artemis Journal, Thriller Magazine, Retreats from Oblivion, and the anthologies, Noirville: Tales from the Dark Side and Writers Crushing COVID-19.

In which genre do you write?

Thrillers, mysteries, crime, noir…and a touch of sci-fi and paranormal!

How many published books do you have?

Four – the Persephone Smith thriller trilogy and a stand-alone heist novel, Con Me Once. A fifth, The Photo Thief, is done and awaiting a publisher.

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

I’ve loved to write since childhood. I submitted my first story, handwritten in pencil on lined school paper, to Asimov’s magazine while still in junior high school. I was a huge fan of the “Year’s Best” anthologies. Later, I took a creative writing elective at Penn State and was hooked. To this day, my favorites works are my short stories. Click HERE to read “Dirge in D Minor,” which was posted on the Hollywood National Organization of Women’s website after it won a Roswell Award.

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

After I get an idea, I sit down and write the beginning (a few paragraphs) and the end. Then comes the hard part—filling in the murky middle.

What is your favorite season and why?

Autumn, without a doubt. I’m a true Wednesday’s child. I love the melancholy of it – the shorter days, the chill in the air, the children moping about return to school. Hot tea, a warm fire, a chunky sweater – I could live in that weather year-round.

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

Three year ago, I was out to lunch with a friend when I heard the someone chattering on the radio about “photo thieves” – young men from the 1920s who were hired by big-city newspapers to break into homes where there had been a murder and steal family photos to run with the news article. I wondered how this would psychologically affect these young men, my creepy murder-mystery, The Photo Thief, was born. I’m seeking an agent for it now.

Can you play a musical instrument?

I briefly took accordion lessons. I play – badly. It’s an Italian-American rule that every family have either a priest or a nun and an accordion player. I didn’t want to be a nun.

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

In The Photo Thief, Cassie McConnell claims to speak to the dead via their vintage, black-and-white photographs that hang on her mansion’s walls. I’d like to have that skill.

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

Absolutely. At the age of five, I proclaimed I wanted to be an “Astro-nomer.” I considered that all through high school before finally deciding on medicine. I’ve always had my head in the stars and am a huge classic sci-fi – films, television, and literature – fan.

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

Got an hour? After almost thirty years in medicine, I’ve seen and heard it all. I could never—NEVER—pick just one.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

If I could blink my eyes and travel through time and space for a perfect solo date, I’d find myself in one of two locations: Either I’d be snuggled in an Irish knit sweater while standing somewhere in the British Isles on a craggy, windswept cliff overlooking the ocean on a grey day. A charming, cozy cottage complete with huge dog and a lap cat await my return (does that still count as a solo date?) OR I’d be walking the cobblestone streets of Florence, Italy, poking around tiny boutiques and stopping for an espresso and biscotti at a quaint café. (Reality check – I’ve never done either of those things. Life goals.)

What are you currently working on?

I just finished the aforementioned The Photo Thief and am mentally outlining a sequel, while trying to land the perfect agent.

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

Con Me Once was published last year. After the dark, 2016-2019 Persephone Smith trilogy (about a manmade viral pandemic which starts in China and chooses its victims based on blood type, natch) I needed something a little lighter. Con Me Once is still gritty, but at heart it’s a fun, geeky, Ocean’s 11-type heist novel complete with wannabe superheroes, the mob, and everything in between. Even Elvis makes an appearance.

It was wonderful to have you be a part of MTA, and to learn more about you and your books. Wishing you all the best, with much success! – Camilla

Blurb

Three superhero wannabes. One femme fatale. Millions in mob cash. This con is on.

Where to find the book: Everywhere books are sold

Connect with J.L. Delozier:

jldelozier.com

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

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jldelozier

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/J.-L.-Delozier/e/B01CDMOZEE

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15012818.J_L_Delozier

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Here are a few suggestions on how to further support this author:

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

Book Shelf: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

My son wanted me to read this. In the past I just didn’t feel the time or urge to read books he or his sister suggested. I’ve shifted now and have a growing collection of books they suggest. I can see why he likes this book so much. He’s read and reread it many times. I can’t remember if I read it when I was his age. I read many Beverly Clearly books, just can’t remember them all. I enjoyed learning about Leigh and experiencing the emotions he had throughout the book. I really like how the book is written as a collection of letters. Thanks, Thomas. I surely enjoyed it.

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

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

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would you choose as your spirit animal and why?

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

What are you currently reading?

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

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

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

Can you play a musical instrument?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you currently working on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Blurb:

Music from a Strange Planet:

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

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

Book Trailer for Music from a Strange Planet:

Book Endorsements:

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

—John Gould, author of The End of Me

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

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

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

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

Excerpt:

Music from a Strange Planet

Where to find the book:

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

Or order from your local independent bookstore.

Order from Amazon.ca here:

Order from Amazon.com here:

Connect with Barbara:

YouTube Author Page:

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

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

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

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

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

Other Links:

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

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

Author Interview with Bill Arnott:

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

Author Interview with Oscar Martens:

Taking risks with Barbara Black

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

 

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

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

In which genre do you write?

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

How many published books do you have?

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

What is your favorite season and why?

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

Can you play a musical instrument?

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

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

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

Have you ever had any Do It Yourself disasters?

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

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

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

What are you currently working on?

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

Tell us about your most recent book.

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

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

Book Blurb:

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

Book Trailer:

Where to find the book:

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

Connect with Corey:

Website: www.coreyrosen.com

social media links:

facebook & Instagram: @storyrosen
twitter: @coreyrosen

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Book Shelf: Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai

Listen, Slowly by Thanhhà Lai

I loved this beautiful story of a twelve-year-old who comes to know that home is not what she always thought it to be. I enjoyed learning about Mai’s roots along with her. Heartwarming and sweet. Just lovely.

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

Meet the Author: Chasing Shadows by Steven Smith

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

Tell us a bit about yourself.

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

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

In which genre do you write?

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

How many published books do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

What does your ideal writing space look like?

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

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

What are you currently reading?

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

What is your favorite season and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

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

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

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

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

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

What are you currently working on?

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

Tell us about your most recent book.

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

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

Blurb:

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

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

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

Where to find the book:

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

Connect with Steven:

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

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

 

Book Shelf: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

This was a random find while volunteering at the library. The cover, the short description pulled me in, and I’m glad it did. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The author time hops between the past and current time as the story progresses. I enjoyed learning a great deal about the history of libraries, specifically this particular library in Los Angeles, along with a bit of history regarding librarians. A non-fiction book at its best!

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