Thursday, November 19, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of 'Hidden Shadows' Linda Lucretia Shuler

Linda Lucretia Shuler wrote her first story when she was around six or so, Koko the Monkey, which is still tucked into a drawer somewhere. Her first published work was a poem she wrote in the third grade about a dappled pony; she’d never seen one, but conjured up something fanciful in her imagination. Since then poems and stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals, and a handful of plays have been produced in schools and community theatres.

Ms. Shuler planned to begin a novel “someday soon.” But after receiving a BFA and MA in theatre, her career veered into teaching Theatre Arts, directing dozens of shows, and acting in community theaters. When she couldn’t resist the desire to write any longer, she retired early and focused on that “someday soon” novel – just a good deal later than originally intended. Hidden Shadows is the result.

She enjoys participating in writer critique groups and community theatres, and is an award-winning member of Toastmasters International. She’s also an enthusiastic fan of the San Antonio basketball team, the Spurs.

Find out more on Amazon.


Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I’ve never asked myself why I wanted to write. It was, and is, simply a natural part of me, something that’s always been there. I can’t imagine not writing. I even write in my sleep – well, sort of. I dream stories at night and daydream during the day, scribbling down ideas before they desert me on whatever is handy at the moment: a restaurant menu, an envelope, the back of a bill, a tattered notebook.

I write because I want to write, for whatever reason. It makes me happy. It also drives men nuts, but that’s part and parcel of creativity. The yin and yang.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

Well, what is it cracked up to be? An author, dressed to the nines, dashing about for book signings, television appearances, mingling with wine glass in hand among awe-struck crowds? If so, I’m laughing. Picture instead a frazzled creature slouched in front of a computer, alone, eyes dazed. Piles of pages are scattered about or crumpled in an overflowing trash basket. A cup of coffee sits nearby, cold and forgotten.

However, if you looked closely, you’d likely see a smile – especially if that face were mine.

The perks: The satisfaction of seeing the story and characters born in my imagination come to life in print. The sense that readers are touched by this invented world, that it lingers in their thoughts, becomes a part of them. The ego-boosting “Yea!” when reading a favorable critique. The feeling that I’ve accomplished something good, and perhaps made a difference in someone’s life – if only for a moment.
The demands: It takes work. A lot of it. Patience. Fortitude. Non-creative, non-fun necessary  stuff. I’m like a kid wanting to kick her heels and howl in a temper tantrum because she can’t have her dessert now, immediately! So much work, in fact, that it’s sometimes difficult to shift mental gears from a finished novel to the beginning of a new one. It can be frustrating. 
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I’m fortunate to have a traditional small publisher with a stellar reputation, Twilight Times. An author friend had published several books with them, led me in that direction, and so here I am. I’ve found it a pleasure, to be honest. The “low down” doesn’t include nasty stuff,  only what would be expected from any worthwhile endeavor – work, and lots of it. Satisfaction and disappointment. Exaltation and exasperation. More yin and yang.

My experience may not be the same for other authors. Each of us has our own story, our own fortune or lack thereof. I try to count my blessings and not gnash my teeth with envy when I glimpse a full-page advertisement for a novel splashed in a glossy magazine, or read about the zillion-dollar advance to some lucky other author, and so on so forth.

The publishing world has changed drastically over the last few years, and continues to morph. It would be easy to feel lost among the throngs of writers, of the multitudes of books released. Oh, to be listed among the top ten! That’s the dream of all writers, isn’t it? But satisfaction must lie in the present moment, and what we hold in our hands.   
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

I live alone. My family consists of siblings, their kids and grandkids, and of course my close friends. All of them think I’m wonderful – a bit eccentric, perhaps, but understandably so. They forgive me the time it takes to hide away in the study and write, to become a hermit or a grouch or a crazed ninny in the throes of creativity and what that demands. 

Any difficulties that may arise from spending time doing what needs to be done come from yours truly. I can be my own worst enemy. I’m the one who grouches about how long it takes me to hide away and write. I’m the one who fusses at the necessary editing I have to do. I’m the one who groans in frustration at the demanding publishing process and all it entails.

I try to approach my angst-self with patience, as if I were dealing with a temperamental twin: the two of us identical, except one is level-headed and the other far too emotional. So I attempt to talk myself out of the grumps caused by publishing demands, and focus on the simple, creative joy of writing.

Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

I had a beautiful, much beloved Papillion. Although he’s not with me now except in memory, he was with me during the inception of Hidden Shadows. And yes, Harlie got his food right on time, and his daily brushing, and walks, and cuddling. He was my four-legged, furry baby.

He did have his tricks, however. He would plop down at the doorway to my office, and sigh. He was a small little fellow, but that sigh drifted in the air, lingering, as if he felt utterly abandoned by his human mama. And of course I always succumbed – after finishing a sentence or two. 

Are they actually still alive?

I adore plants. Gorgeous ones, with bright flowers and lush leaves. I buy dozens and dangle them in hanging pots from just about everywhere on my two small patios. Each available space is covered with pots in all shapes and sizes, including one of my favorite – a Talavera frog – all filled with some sort of plant.

 Right now most of them are breathing their last, partly due to the hot Texas sun. When I glance up from my computer I can almost hear their desperate gasps. I’ll water them – later. After I finish writing.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

The phone ringing is a siren call, luring me away from what I should be writing. To combat the temptation, I leave it unanswered, letting the caller hear my recorded voice asking for a  message. My friends usually know what’s going on and say, “It’s me! Answer already!” So of course I do – unless Muse has me in its grip. Then I’m oblivious to just about everything.

As for the rest – a family needing dinner or the boss calling – I’m in luck. Unmarried, retired, and free to follow any inclination I so desire. There is a problem, however: I have no excuse for not doing what needs to be done. If I’m not waxing creative, there’s nothing and no one I can blame except myself.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

The craziest thing that happened to me in the publishing process is when it screeched to a sudden stop. I faced unexpected surgery and chemo, and came out fine months later. It’s a long, crazy story with a happy ending. The publication dates for Hidden Shadows were delayed – but not halted. So all is well.

Other than that, I can’t think of a thing.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I’m the perfect example techno-phobia. Just working with a  computer fills me with awe. I feel as if I should genuflect and offer sacrifices to it.

So don’t ask me about social networking. I’m still dragging my feet in the last decade. However, I’m learning! For example, Facebook is a fascinating resource. I’ve communicated with friends gathered through the years, have met interesting strangers from all over the world, and joined dozens of intriguing sites. I especially appreciate the online camaraderie of professional writer organizations, which are supportive and informative. Every single individual I connect to in this fashion has something unique to offer, and is also a potential reader – so yes, I highly recommend Facebook.

Twitter? It doesn’t appeal to me since I’m not the quick-chat sort, but I’m willing to give it a try. As for LinkedIn, I’d avoid it. Run from it, in fact. When I made the mistake of joining, it grabbed every single contact in my address book and sent them unwanted messages – theoretically from me. “Linda Shuler wants you to join …” Blah blah blah. Some of those contacts were important business associates in the publishing world. Talk about embarrassing! I sent each a letter, apologizing.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

Hidden Shadows is a debut novel, fresh from release as an E-book and scheduled for soft cover publication in December 2015. I don’t yet know how sales will “happen,” since I’ve barely started. But I do have a long list of marketing ideas. Now all I need is to get started!

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

I’m tap dancing on the roof in my imagination, champagne glass in hand (careful not to spill), shouting to one and all: I did it! Mission accomplished! Hidden Shadows is done, fini, complete! I have a terrific publisher, a book I’m proud of, a cover I love, and so on so forth. Halleluja!

Then reality kicks in: Marketing. Lots of work ahead. Ah, well. I’ll finish his glass of champagne –maybe the bottle, too – climb off the roof (or slide, as the case may be),  settle down in front of the computer, and get to work.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

When I first held Hidden Shadows in my hands, I found myself whispering, “I did it! This is me – these characters, this setting, this story – they came from within me, they are me.” It was a wondrous feeling, almost as if I were holding a newborn child. In that moment, all the labor that went into the book’s creation, the months of struggles and doubts and frustrations and exultations, vanished from memory. I had – and have – only the pure joy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of 'The Cavalier Spy' S.W. O’Connell

S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years’ experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.

Found out more on Amazon. 


Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author? 

Because I failed as a publisher! Seriously, I used to publish a small history magazine. And I wrote some of the articles for it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So, as I folded the “book” I made a mental note to self that if I ever got into the business again it would be as a writer.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands? 

There are no perks that I can note, unless you count no social life, few friends and little fresh air. The demands are dedication to the work. Tedious hours at a computer screen (my penmanship is has led some to believe I am a doctor). Let’s see, what else. Bad golf scores, no travel. Little vacation and that with said laptop on lap. I spent the last previous two summers at the Outer Banks and got into the ocean once. Basically, you have to give it your all.

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like? 

I have been fortunate to have a traditional publisher. I did the usual internet searching for literary agents and found that to be an exercise in self-flagellation. Lots of work sending out queries, etc. very little feedback, even little negative. It’s mostly a void. I did connect with two, however. And I found them through people I knew who knew people. So although I haven’t done it, which probably means an aspiring writer should network with other authors, both in the real world as well as and virtual. The agents I hooked up with were really pumped at first but essentially kept me in a wait mode for two years. I did gain some feedback on my work, but it was painful.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you? 

I think they just pretend I’m back in the Army and deployed somewhere around the globe. I do make time for meals and church, however. That buys some points!

Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word? 

I have a black Lab named Jeb. He gets fed on time. And it’s nice to have him lazing around but not disturbing the flow. And his “constitutionals” offer an excuse to take a break and stretch.

Are they actually still alive? 

Yes! But not because of me… Seriously, the ideal situation is one-room efficiency in a three story walk up in Paris where you share the bathroom down the hall. No responsibilities but write.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late? 

Ignore phones, enjoy cold food, I’d say.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process? 

You mean besides even starting?  Probably finding my publisher. I was coming up snake eyes after I parted with my second agent when a friend sent me an email. He had pitched his second book, a Cold War non-fiction piece to Twilight Times Books. When they informed him they only did novels (at the time), he mentioned my work on The Patriot Spy (the first novel in the Yankee Doodle Spies series). They said sure have him send it. The acceptance process was amazingly swift and painless. Did I mention surprising?

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid? 

I use Facebook, Blogspot and Twitter to, I think, good effect. I have a certain advantage. I write historic fiction on the Revolutionary War. Much of my social media content is based on that. So I am feeding folks historical facts and nuggets on the war’s people, places and things. And maybe twice a week I shamelessly hype my novels. But anyone who follows me on even one of those will expand his or her knowledge on this little understood and critical event in world history, and the people that lived it. I ‘ll take this opportunity to pitch them to your readers. My Facebook Page is called Yankee Doodle Spies. Detailed daily posts on the war’s events. With visuals. My Facebook Timeline is as S.W. O’Connell. I include some of the history but more current events related to the American Revolution. For example if there is an event upcoming at Mount Vernon, etc. I tweet as @SWOConnell – mostly shorter versions of the other stuff. My blog is called Yankee Doodle Spies and is on Blogger  These are slightly richer articles about some aspect of the American Revolution or my writing.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of)?  How are you making the sales happen for you? 

Chewing gum and spit, mostly. My publisher has a nice on-line campaign going for The Cavalier Spy. My first novel, The Patriot Spy, was reviewed in the US Army’s Military Corps Association (MICA) publication.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about? 

That people are reading books less and less. And the world we live in is proof of it.

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way? 

That’s a long but very easy question. I thirst to get the stories out. That’s all that matters. I get drunk on the stories: the ideas, the creating, the polishing, and the publishing. If even one person gets joy from the work, or learns from it or are inspired by it; then I have made a difference. How cool is that?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of 'Adrenaline' Dr. John Benedict

Dr. John Benedict graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and entered medical school at Penn State University College of Medicine.  While there, he also completed an internship, anesthesia residency and a cardiac anesthesia fellowship. He currently works as a physician/anesthesiologist in a busy private practice in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

          Dr. Benedict has been writing stories since high school, but his creative side was put on hold to pursue a medical education and start a family—he now has a wife and three sons.  Finally, after a 15-year pause, his love of writing was rekindled and his first novel, Adrenaline—a gritty medical thriller with a realism borne of actual experience—was born.

Besides creating scary stories, the hallmark of Dr. Benedict’s writing is genuine medical authenticity—something in short supply these days in thriller fiction.  He draws on his 25+ years of experience as a board-certified anesthesiologist to infuse his writing with a realism that renders it both vivid and frightening.  As one of only a handful of anesthesiologists throughout the country writing fiction, he gives readers a taste of what really goes on in the operating room, the human drama inherent in this high-stress, high stakes environment where lives are continually on the line.  Readers will find out what it’s like to hold a patient’s life in their hands, as the author provides an illuminating glimpse into the fascinating, but poorly understood realm of anesthesia.

 Purchase ADRENALINE on Amazon.

Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I am an anesthesiologist in real life. To illustrate the real reason I started writing, I will need to relate a true story from 20 years ago:     
One day it struck me—at 2:00 in the morning in the midst of another grueling 24-hour shift. I had just finished interviewing a nice lady with an appendix about to burst—we’ll call her Linda. I had done my best not to yawn as I went through the routine questions that an anesthesiologist is obliged to ask. She appeared nervous, which soon gave way to tears. I did my best to comfort her, took her hand, told her I would take good care of her. That I would watch over her carefully in the operating room and see her through surgery. And be there when she woke up in the recovery room. She appeared to calm down a bit. I wrapped up my pre-op assessment and asked her to sign the anesthesia consent form, while assuring her the risks would be minimal. She raised her eyebrows at this and the fearful look returned. I wondered: What the hell does minimal mean when you’re talking about life and death? More tears. She told me of her two young daughters at home that desperately needed a mommy. I felt my own throat tighten. I quickly buried my emotions, tried not to think about my wife and three sons, and focused on the task at hand as we wheeled her litter back down the hall to the OR.

After Linda was safely tucked in the recovery room, operation a success, anesthetic uncomplicated, I lay down in the call room to try to catch a couple of z’s. My mind wandered as I lay there. Rarely, I thought, does a person willingly surrender control of their mind and body to a virtual stranger. Yet, this is exactly what happens when the person is a patient being wheeled in for surgery and the stranger is their anesthesiologist, whom they have just met minutes beforehand. Talk about an extraordinary amount of trust. This degree of trust made a distinct impression on me that night, some twenty years ago.

Other thoughts followed soon thereafter. What if the trust Linda had exhibited earlier was ill-conceived and her doctor was actually bad? Not just incompetent or sleepy, but downright evil. Being an avid reader of thrillers, I thought this chilling concept would make for a good story. Too bad I wasn’t a writer. (Disclaimer time: I don’t want to scare people here. All the docs I have known in my 30 years of medical practice are highly competent professional people, who would never purposely hurt anyone.) But I still couldn’t shake the evil concept; it kept gnawing at me until eventually I had to put it down on paper—lack of writing experience be damned. So Adrenaline was birthed, my first medical thriller novel that explores this issue of absolute trust implicit in the anesthesiologist-patient relationship—specifically, what happens when that trust is abused and replaced by fear.  Adrenaline was finally published twelve years after my encounter with Linda. 

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?   
The demands are easy to list: The goal of getting published requires hard work and perseverance and an enormous investment of time.  And you must believe in yourself, even when no one else seems to.  It’s also helpful to have thick skin when it comes to handling lots of rejection letters and one-star reviews.  Write because you enjoy the process, not because you think big success (and money) is right around the corner.  The perks are as follows: 1) getting a 5-star review from a reader who falls in love with your story and can’t wait to read the next one. 2) getting picked up by a mainstream publisher who loves your work. 3) getting critical acclaim by a recognized national review organization.  4) watching your Amazon sales rank soar. 
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like? 
You must realize the journey is long.  Good agents and interested editors are very hard to find.  I sent out literally hundreds of query letters to agents and even managed to hook up with several poor agents.  This was primarily an exercise in frustration.  Finally, I attended multiple writing conferences and did manage to get signed by a reputable agent. I thought my journey was near its end. However, I learned that even finding a decent agent doesn’t guarantee selling your book to a mainstream publisher. My agent couldn’t sell my book.  Finally, I decided to go the self-publishing route.  This proved to be the way to go for me.  I chose CreateSpace, which worked fine for me—there are several other good alternatives out there.  Be prepared to pay a small amount to get your book published—it pays to price-shop.  Once set up, you can sell your book as an inexpensive ebook on Amazon (and elsewhere).  The internet is an extremely valuable sales platform and if your book is half-decent, it can spread by word-of-mouth alone.  Readers leave reviews and rate your book and this can attract new readers.  I’m pleased to report that Adrenaline sold very well as a Kindle ebook. In 2014, over 80,000 copies were downloaded from Amazon pushing it to the #1 paid medical thriller.  I also picked up over 400 reader reviews (mostly 5-star).  Armed with these sales numbers and positive reader reviews, I was finally able to attract a mainstream publisher for my third medical thriller, Fatal Complications, due out in December 2015. 
Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you? 

Eventually your family comes to the realization that you are serious about your writing and it is more than a hobby.  Until you reach this point, however, you will need to carve out time to write and this can be difficult. In the beginning, I would try to get up early on a Sunday morning and head to the library—I would finish up in a couple of hours and make it back home before anyone was awake. Ideally, you’ll have an understanding spouse who will indulge your dream of becoming an author.  As everything in life, it’s a balancing act and you must try hard not to alienate your family in the process of writing your novel.

Your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word? 

Luckily, I have a wife and three children, so between the five of us, the dog always managed to get fed—mostly on time.

Are they actually still alive? 

Do plants need water?  Who knew?

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late? 

I always needed to go to a library or super quiet place away from phone, internet, TV and family—otherwise I would just waste my time with distractions.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process? 

This is gonna sound dumb, but I’ll never forget this moment.  Amazon lets you do a 5-day free sale every so often on your books.  So, I ran a BookBub promo on Adrenaline for 5 days.  I was traveling at the time, so I checked my numbers on my phone at a rest stop. By noon of the first day, 50,000 e-books had been downloaded.  I thought for sure it was a mistake, signal glitch or I was simply reading it wrong.  However, by the end of the fifth day, over 80,000 books had gone out.  This was way beyond anything in my experience.  Even though the books went out for free and I didn’t make a dime, the exposure was awesome and I picked up over 400 reader reviews in short order. 

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid? 

I’m not convinced that Facebook or Twitter ever helped me that much.  Perhaps if you devoted enough time to them and had zillions of friends/followers it would make a difference.  But then where would you get the time to actually write?  I’ve found Goodreads to be pretty useful—the members are definitely into books, although they tend to be a more critical bunch.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you? 

This is the tough one—where the rubber meets the road.
My experience is that there are two basic ways to improve sales.  The first is to write a good book, which will garner good reviews.  Good reviews are huge in determining who will buy your book.  The more, the better.  Word-of-mouth matters. The second way to goose sales is by dropping the prices on your books from time to time to attract new readers.  For instance, if you have more than one book, you can drop the price on the first one (or offer it for free for a limited time) in an effort to gain new readers.  The theory goes, if they like your stuff, they’ll come back and pay full freight for your other books.  Even if you only have one book, it’s still worthwhile to drop the price to attract readers and hopefully get some reviews, which are all-important.
In addition, if you can advertise with Bookbub or similar outfits, you can maximize your results.  You may have to pay something to make something.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

The publishing industry has undergone massive changes in the last ten years.  Self-publishing no longer has the stigma that it once had.  Many people want to write a book and now is a great time to do so.  I believe a very viable strategy is to self-publish first and try to establish a track record of sales and good reviews (sadly, there’s no substitute for writing a decent story).  After you have done this, then you approach an agent or editor and make your pitch. In this ultra-competitive environment, you’ll have a much better chance of getting picked up this way by a traditional publisher and save yourself a lot of the rejection pain. 

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?  

OK, it’s the perks of being a writer that I mentioned above that make it all worthwhile.  Writers, I believe become addicted to readers praising their books.  Above all, writers crave the validation of their work that comes from satisfied readers.  So, as long as the praise is forthcoming, the writer can easily ignore all the hard work and pain of actually producing a novel.  It’s also pretty cool to see a shiny new hardback on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, or to see someone reading your book in public.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of Historical Novelist Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt makes her living writing, ghostwriting and editing for private and corporate clients. The Last Wife of Attila the Hun in her sixth book to date.

Purchase on Amazon


Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author?

I always liked the Susan Sontag answer to that that question: I write to know what I am thinking. But in my case I think part of it has to do with my having been extremely shy as a kid and even as a young adult. Many times my shyness kept me from speaking up when I did actually have something to say. Writing enabled me to express myself, in spite of the shyness. It’s the way I choose to interact with the world.

Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?

Writing in these times is different than it was even a decade ago. Because the market is inundated—with books from the big presses, books from all the hybrid presses, and books from self published authors—it’s extremely hard for a particular title to break out. NPR just did an interview with a journalist discussing the candidates for the Booker prize. These are highly regarded writers, many of whom have won awards for years, but most have not been able to sell more than three- to five-thousand copies of any one book. That’s startling. You have the be a blockbuster name like Stephen King (he’s the example the journalist gave) to really sell a lot of books in these times.

Those of us who are not blockbuster names—or even Booker candidates—but continue to write anyway do it because we love it. That’s a very good reason to do something, don’t you think?

Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?

I have always chosen to work with a publisher. This time around I am working with Booktrope, which has a very unique publishing model. Unlike many hybrid publishers, they do not ask you to pay for any part of production costs and they do not expect you to buy a set number of books to turn around and sell to your friends out of your car trunk. Once they accept your book, you view their lists of editors, proofreaders, book managers, project managers, and cover designers. Then you invite one person from each category to join your team. Sometimes the person you want will be too busy and you will have to scout around for a bit to put a team together. As the book sells, you get the lion’s share of the profit, Booktrope gets an amount slightly less than that, and the rest gets divided among your team members at percentages you have set from the start.

I don’t know how this will work out since my book is just coming out, but I can tell you that I love the concept. I was lucky to get fabulous people to work with me. It’s been a great experience to date.

Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?

My husband works as an environmental inspector for our local school system, but his heart is in photography. He studied photography years ago, and he worked on film crews for years doing photography-related tasks. He spends a lot of his free time either taking photos or making adjustments to them on his computer. So he totally gets the time I put into working on my personal projects. In fact, we’ve worked on several travel stories together—my text and his photos. And we’ve had several pieces published. Parabola magazine published a 3000-word story of mine set within a ten-page spread of my husband’s photos. How much fun is that!

Do your pets actually get their food on time or do they have to wait until you type just one more word?

My dog is extremely bossy. When he wants something to eat or needs water in his bowl or wants to go out or just decides he needs my attention, he squeezes under my desk and uses his head to butt my arm up away from my keyboard. I have no choice but to get up and give him what he wants.

Are they actually still alive?

Luckily my husband, who has a green thumb, waters our plants.

In writing your book, how did you deal with the phone ringing, your family needing dinner or your boss calling you saying you’re late?

I have countless personality flaws, but lack of discipline is not one of them. I am at my desk each day by 8:00, I do as much client work as is necessary to make deadlines for my clients, and only then do I work on my own projects.

What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?

It seems insane to me that I’ve put two kids through college with my writing, and I’ve paid my share of the household bills for some years without ever having to leave the house. I never had a lot of extra, and I don’t have a pension waiting for me as do my friends who worked “at real jobs” over the years, but I’ve gotten by on my own terms.

How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?

I’m not much for social media. To me it feels like entering a room where everyone is screaming and then screaming yourself. We are all screaming, Look at me! Look at me! I have been writing for quite a few years, so I had the joy of having my first four books published before the advent of social media, back in the days when a writer was only expected to write and her publisher took care of getting the word out. Of course those were the days when each newspaper had its own book reviewer, and you could count on your local papers at least reviewing your book. Those were the days when Kirkus would review your book for FREE, and you could count on getting a review in Publisher’s Weekly if you had a reputable publisher. Now you have to be a marketer as well as a writer, or you have to be published by one of the big five. Those are the choices, and unfortunately, they are not ours to make.

Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?

As I mentioned above, the Booktrope method requires that you work with a book manager. My book manager is reaching out to book bloggers and reviewers and others on my behalf. Additionally, I have a book publicist who I have worked with for my last three books, and she will be creating a virtual book tour for me. So I’m hopeful that the book will get some attention.

What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?

I think I’d like to scream this: “Attention super smart movie executives, producers, directors, screenwriters and actors: The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is so perfect to be made into a movie. We’ve had the Hobbit, Gladiator, Alexander, and so many other male hero movies over the years. This story has a female hero (you would be perfect to play her, Mia Wasikowska), and a fabulously gory setting! Be the first to offer an option!” 

Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?

I love to write. I love to write for my clients and I love to write for myself. Discounting the time I spend with my wonderful family and my dearest friends, there is nothing that makes me as happy as working on a project I feel passionate about.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of Barbara Pietron, author of Soulshifter

Author Michael Chabon said: “You need three things to become a successful novelist: talent, luck and discipline. Discipline is the one element of those three things that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.” 

Chabon's words sum up my initial thoughts about being a writer. Like most writers, I have another job, a family, and the rest of life in general to juggle around my writing time. I write at home so I must discipline myself to use the allotted time wisely—not answer the phone, check email, or put in a load of laundry (although making a cup of tea or coffee is often a necessary exception to the rule!) Now that I am a published author, the issue of discipline is even more important with deadlines and marketing strategies to fit into my schedule.

At this point in my writing career, I have more than one iron in the fire at a time. I'm currently building my author platform, launching this new book (Soulshifter), finishing a sequel to my first book (Thunderstone), and working on a short story anthology with some fellow writers. It's a challenge to keep the details of each project separate in my head, so I strive to stay focused and organized.

It's funny to think that I'm structuring my life to allow time to be creative. Sounds almost contradictory, doesn't it?

Being a writer is a mostly solitary endeavor. You must be ruthless in your judgment of yourself. Every now and then I think how nice it would be to be surrounded by other authors in cubicles so I could go bounce some ideas off of someone!

Sure, a writer's life is tough, but you know what? That's okay.

Because it's worthwhile.

All the time and effort is worth it in the end when you watch a boy walk away clutching your book to his chest like it's his most treasured possession.

About The Book

Title: Soulshifter
Author: Barbara Pietron
Publisher: Scribe Publishing Company
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Format: Paperback - 290 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0991602124
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Jack Ironwood knew exactly what he wanted. Until he got it. Jack was content to stay unnoticed by pretty and popular track star, Natalie Segetich, until her best friend Emma disappears. Natalie swears something took Emma, and though most people write Natalie off as traumatized and confused, Jack is a soulshifter and he knows the human-stealing Enuuki—hell's messengers—are real. As a soulshifter, Jack can cross into the underworld so he sees Emma's rescue as an opportunity to prove himself a valuable member of his transcendental sect—and a way to secure a future otherwise out of his reach. Although he needs Natalie's help to prepare for the mission, Jack intends to go to the underworld alone. But as a viable plan takes shape, it's clear the best chance of success means Natalie must accompany him. On the eve of the quest, when Jack is promised the hand of a respected elder's daughter—a dream come true—he realizes he's no longer sure what he wants. But it's too late to back out, not with the sect and Natalie counting on him. Pursued by the dark lord's henchmen and ghastly mutant creatures, Jack and Natalie struggle to come out ahead in a battle and barter for souls. In the end, Jack will have to decide his own fate, because nothing short of a deal with the devil will get all three of them out of hell alive.

Book Excerpt:

Chapter 1
Revelations from the Dark Realm

Feedback shrieked from the electric guitar amp, annihilating the harmonious blend of drums, bass guitar and electric piano. Jack winced as he fumbled for the volume knob on his guitar, pretending he didn’t see Tommy, the lead singer, shoot him a furious glare. Head down, Jack concentrated on the next few chord progressions, until Tommy launched into his signature vocal screaming. Then Jack stole a glance to his left and caught the eye of his best friend, Wes, who skillfully delivered the pulse of the track on his bass guitar. Wes lifted his eyebrows and Jack answered with a slight shrug and an apologetic frown.
It was one thing if Jack screwed up this opportunity for himself, but Wes had talked the band into giving Jack a chance this summer when they'd lost their lead guitarist to college. Jack didn't want to embarrass Wes, or give Tommy a reason to give his friend a hard time. The singer hadn't wanted Wes in the band either, but when the other members heard Wes play and realized he was a wizard on the bass guitar, Tommy had been out-voted. It had taken two years for Wes to earn the lead singer's grudging respect and Jack hated to mess that up.
They finished the set and Jack ducked out of his guitar strap, leaning the instrument against the cinderblock wall of Fletch's—the drummer's—basement. He ran both hands through his thick curls, for the first time thankful that his mom had insisted he get a haircut before school started. Shoulder-length for most of the summer, his dark brown mane was now tamed to a mass of loose curls that ended at the base of his jaw—not as rock and roll, but certainly cooler.
He turned and nearly collided with Tommy. "What's up with the feedback, Ironwood? We've got a gig in two days!"
"Sorry, man." Jack shook his head. He noticed John, the keyboardist, give him and Tommy a wide berth as he beat a hasty retreat. "Just having an off day. I'm low on sleep."
"Well you better get it together by Monday. A lot of people come out to the park on Labor Day, and we don't need you making the rest of us look like amateurs." He spun on his heel and stomped up the steps before Jack could reply.
Fletch offered Jack a sports drink. "You've been playing good all summer. Just don't choke when you get on stage." He laughed, but his eyes were serious.
"Thanks." Jack took the plastic bottle and cracked the lid open. "I'll be fine. I promise." He took a long drink, letting the slightly salty, citrusy liquid soothe his dry tongue and throat before bending to put his guitar into its case.
An intermittent chink of metal on metal sounded from the base of the stairwell. "Ready?"
Jack glanced up to see Wes tossing a bundle of keys into the air and then catching them. "Yep." He noticed that Wes had decided to leave his guitar at Fletch's. They were going to rehearse again tomorrow, but Jack felt like he ought to go home and get in some extra practice. He followed his friend out to the minivan, which smelled like the burgers and fries they'd eaten on the way to rehearsal, and loaded his gear into the back.
After Jack plopped into the passenger seat and closed the door, Wes spoke up. "Dude." He drew out the solitary word and added a sigh, conveying both disappointment and sympathy.
"I know," Jack said quickly. "I'm not a hundred percent today. Yesterday was my end-of-summer spirit-walk."

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About The Author

After years in the corporate world, Barbara Pietron found herself with a second chance to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her lifetime love of books and the written word returned one answer: writer. Drawing from her technical writing experience, she began by writing non-fiction magazine pieces and achieved both regional and national publication before trying her hand at her true passion, fiction. In addition to Soulshifter, Barbara is also the author of Thunderstone, Book One of the Legacy in Legend series and a prequel to ThunderstoneHeart of Ice, is available in e-book format. Book Two of the Legacy in Legend series is slated for fall of 2016. You can visit Barbara's website at

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Straight from the Mouth of Daniel R. Mathews, author of The Unseen Kingdom

I think being a writer is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult job in the world. The process of being a writer is more than just placing words on a page. Whether you’re a writer of genre fiction, marketing materials or how-to books, your choice of words must captivate, inform, instruct, entice and titillate. Just exhibiting good grammar isn’t good enough for the tasks most writers face. You need to draw readers into your prose, then keep them reading until the message you’re trying to convey is complete.

As a writer of genre fiction, my job is to try and draw readers into a story and then hold them there until the story has reached its conclusion. I think most writers don’t lack for words to put on the page. This is what makes being a writer the easiest job in the world. How to arrange and orchestrate those words for maximum impact is where the true challenge awaits. Even then, fiction writers need to go several steps further. While the non-fiction author needs to organize their materials in a logical fashion, they’re not putting together a plot that requires a three-act structure, complete with characters, settings, and plot. This is what makes being a fiction writer harder.

This is not to say that the art of storytelling is inherently difficult. However, making a story that’s compelling, with locations that are evocative, populated by believable and relatable characters is where the challenge lies for an author. In my case with writing The Unseen Kingdom, the key to accomplishing some of these goals was to create a general synopsis of my characters in advance. I didn’t write extensive backgrounds for each one, but I did determine their personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and their relationships to the other characters before writing the first chapter.  

Thus, when writing a scene involving that character, I could find ways to express those characteristics. Another key is determining the overall goal for the character. Whether your story spans a day or many years, one naturally expects that character to grow and evolve over time as a result of their experiences. Since my novel is as much a coming-of-age story as horror, I had set the goal for my protagonists to evolve into young men, by forcing them to confront their weaknesses and fears. It’s not enough to have the prince rescue the princess from a castle. That’s a fine end goal for a video game, but it’s insufficient to invest a reader (or moviegoer) in the character. The reader needs a reason to want to see the protagonist succeed (or conversely a reason to hope the antagonist fails).

One complexity I’m only just delving into as an author is the concept of world-building. My first couple projects were done entirely in Microsoft Word with a separate file containing the outline and character synopsis. For my next project, a fantasy series entitled The Druidic Chronicles, I’ll be switching to Scrivener. Scrivener is a software tool for writers that need to organize complex manuscripts and is ideal for categorizing all the individual elements of a world and the many characters that inhabit it.

In summary, perhaps I could say that the process of writing is easy but actually being a writer is far more difficult. I could get into the intricacies of publishing, but that’s a discussion for another day.


About The Book

Title: The Unseen Kingdom
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: September 19, 2015
Format: Paperback - 562 pages / eBook  / PDF
ISBN: 978-0990710721
Genre: YA / LGBT / Horror / Science Fiction

Book Description:

A group of friends must band together to defeat an ancient evil in Daniel R. Mathews’s terrifying debut, The Unseen Kingdom.

In a small New England town, thirteen-year-old Tommy Wilson’s biggest worry is coming out to his close-knit group of friends. All of that changes, however, when the boys discover a dream portal to R’lyeh—home to the Titan god Cthulhu himself.

Inhabited by monstrous creatures and eerie children who have appointed Tommy and his friends their new “apostles,” R’lyeh becomes a horrifying yet darkly fascinating world that proves to be increasingly real.

Meanwhile, the town’s population is suddenly overrun with a mysterious epidemic that threatens everyone. As the boys struggle to cope with what is happening, Tommy comes closer than ever to discovering the dark secret that lurks within R’lyeh itself—but will the price prove to be too costly? And, can the boys unlock the link between the secrets of R’lyeh and the devastation of their town’s population before it’s too late?

A truly unique work of fiction, The Unseen Kingdom is an LGBT coming-of-age novel skillfully infused with edge-of-your-seat horror, resulting in a wildly entertaining novel that will leave you guessing until the very last page.

Book Excerpt: 

CH A P T E R 1

The dust covered yellow school bus rumbled down the cracked asphalt road, shaking the children inside. Tommy’s body was inclined back against his seat, his feet planted at the top of the green vinyl covered seat in front of him. He alternated between glancing at his best friend Brian and peering out the window at the blur of the fading autumn colors along the road. Kevin was sitting rather imperiously at the back of the bus, grimacing down at his cell phone that he removed from his pocket every couple of minutes.

Unable to resist commenting, Carlos leaned across the aisle. “Alright, what’s the deal, Kevin? You got a hot date or something?”

Kevin’s face flushed slightly. “Uh…yeah! Jealous much?”

Despite his retort, his hands were shaking. Sunlight streaming through the windows revealed a rather puffy ring of black and blue flesh underneath his right eye. Tommy spotted the clumsy attempt to hide the bruise with makeup. For an instant, the two boys’ eyes met but Kevin cast his eyes downward, looking ashamed. He looked at his phone again, and Tommy knew why.

A smirk curled across Carlos’ lips as he quipped, “Yeah, right. Your left hand isn’t a date!” A chorus of chuckles emanated from the kids sitting in front of the group of boys.

Kevin turned to face him and punched the boy in the shoulder with a dull thwack. Before he could say anything, Kevin leaned back in his seat and said, “Just FYI, it’s my right hand.” The children in earshot giggled at Kevin’s assertion.

After rubbing his shoulder, Carlos looked back at Kevin. “Seriously, dude, what’s up?” Tommy looked over at him and discreetly touched his own face, to draw Carlos’ attention to Kevin’s bruise. After Carlos had realized what he meant, the group became quiet.

Kevin put his phone away, leaned back against the window facing his friends and forced a smile. “The only problem I have is your ugly face.” Carlos flipped Kevin off, and poked Jacob who was giggling at his expense.

Tommy glanced at Brian and smiled. When he returned the smile, Tommy looked down, his face brightening. Carlos and Jacob nudged one another and pointed at the pair. Carlos was dozing in the sunlight, while Jacob leaned against him listening to music on his headphones, watching Tommy and Brian with bemused interest.

Kevin shook his head and grinned knowingly back at Jacob. Tommy caught the boys’ conspiratorial glances and turned his head to the side. He felt he was the punch line of an inside joke sometimes, but wasn’t quite sure why. His curiosity was interrupted by his cell phone vibrating in his pocket. He dug the phone out and read the text message from his mother.

“Yeah! It’s here!” Tommy exclaimed as he pumped his fist in the air excitedly.

His voice rousted Carlos from his slumber. “What’s here? Another My Little Pony?” he asked.

“Your birthday was last month, dork. No, my Halloween costume,” Tommy responded matter-of-factly.

Kevin spun his hand around in a circle. “Uh, and...”

“It’s a surprise!” Tommy said with a mischievous grin, staring into Brian’s grey eyes.

Carlos huffed with annoyance. “Dude, if you wear the same costume as me again this year I’m going to kick your ass.”

“You’re still going as the red Master Chief, right?” Tommy asked with sudden concern. Carlos nodded affirmatively. “You’re going as a Templar, right, Brian?”

Brian responded affirmatively, “I got some chain mail, and Mom bought me a historically accurate tabard and helmet to go with it! Now if I could use Dad’s old sword, the outfit would be perfect.”

“Even with the sword, I’m still going to own you,” Carlos said confidently. He looked over at Kevin. “You decide on an outfit yet?”

Kevin shrugged, breaking eye contact with the others. “I don’t know if my father’s going to let me go.”

“He’s gotta! There’s going to be ten thousand dollars in prizes. This is going to be the best Halloween ever!” Tommy said exuberantly.

“And, you know, nobody does Halloween better than us!” Brian proclaimed proudly.

“Alright...alright. I’ll come up with something, I’m sure,” Kevin assured his friends.

“What about you, Jacob?” Kevin asked.

Jacob smiled. “It’s a secret.”

“I’ll take care of this,” Carlos said, poking him mercilessly in the side, causing him to squeal. The bus driver cleared his throat loudly, glaring at the boys through the rear view mirror.

“Quit it!” Jacob protested, his face turning red enough to mask his pale freckles. “I’m going as a vampire,” he surrendered begrudgingly.

“God, another sparkly vampire!” Carlos teased.

“No way, dork! A real vampire!” he retorted. Tommy and Brian laughed and applauded.

Tommy leaned back and peered out the window again. The bus sputtered to a stop, letting a few children out. He sang under his breath, “Eight more days to Halloween, Halloween. Eight more days to Halloween, Silver Shamrock.” Brian’s reflection in the window beamed at him while Carlos and Kevin simultaneously rolled their eyes.

As the bus rounded a bend adjacent to the swamp that surrounded much of the town, Tommy caught a glimpse of a boy wearing filthy blue denim overalls and a wool beret. However, the boy disappeared behind the veil of swirling white smoke left by the bus’s exhaust. There was something inherently disquieting about the boy.

The bus ride grew progressively quieter as the bus approached the end of its daily journey. His eyes widened when he saw the same boy from earlier emerging from behind a row of wild hawthorn bushes. This time he made direct eye contact with the mysterious boy. A wicked smile danced across the child’s otherwise emotionless face, causing Tommy’s body to shudder involuntarily. There was something terrible in the child’s visage, forcing him to look away from those hollow, soulless eyes that invaded his consciousness. Tommy looked up to see the bus driver staring intently at him through the rear view mirror. The rest of the group had fallen into their own little worlds, lulled into virtual slumber by the constant droning of the engine and swaying of the bus. He sank down in his seat, trying to avoid the bus driver’s penetrating stare. He glanced over at Brian, who was playing with his phone.

Tommy felt some relief when the final stop was reached and it was time to offload. Carlos, Jacob and Brian were already halfway down the aisle before the bus reached a stop, leaving Kevin and Tommy as the last passengers to disembark. As Tommy descended the stairs, the bus driver reached out and grabbed his hand. “You’ve seen them, haven’t you?” he asked.

A startled Tommy gave the bus driver a bewildered stare as he struggled to withdraw his hand from the man’s tight grasp. “Seen who? What are you talking about?” he asked, growing fearful of the man’s narrowing eyes.

“The children of the Great Unseen have revealed themselves to you, and now it’s your turn to hear HIS call,” the man whispered in a raspy voice. He tried to back away as the man’s eyes darkened, much like the boy he had seen earlier.

“You’re hurting me!” an increasingly flustered Tommy stammered, trying to pull away from the man’s grip.

Like a passing summer storm, the man’s face brightened, and he released Tommy’s wrist. “Well, what are you waiting for, boy? It’s Friday night. You got the whole weekend ahead of you. Now git!” He smiled warmly at the astounded boy. Tommy stepped off the bus, confronted by Kevin and Brian.

“What the hell happened?” Kevin demanded.

Tommy could do little but shrug his slender shoulders. “I don’t know. He was mad about something; it didn’t make any sense. Whatever it was, he got over it quickly.”

Kevin watched with concern as the bus disappeared down the road, before turning his attention to the dilapidated two-story greyish white house in front of him. “Well, I can’t stall any longer,” he said with a sigh.

“What are you doing guys doing tonight?” Tommy asked.

Kevin shifted his weight. “I think I better stay in and work on homework.”

Brian said, “I promised Mom I’d clean up around the house tonight, but I’ll have the rest of the weekend free after my homework is done.” Tommy looked a little dejected, but at least this afforded him some time to check out his Halloween costume.

“We’ll see you tomorrow morning, right?” Tommy asked Kevin expectantly.

Kevin forced a smile and gave him a playful push. “Yeah, Bro, I’ll see you guys tomorrow. We’ll go into town or something.” Tommy and Brian said their good-byes and the boys parted company for the day.

Tommy’s house was a little larger than Kevin’s, painted a similar weather-beaten white although clearly more care and maintenance has been put into his house than Kevin’s. He bounded through the front door, his eyes scanning the entranceway and hallway for any signs of his package. He poked his head into the kitchen, spying the nondescript brown box sitting on the table between his mother and father.

He made a beeline for the package before his mom intercepted him. “Not even an acknowledgment of us being in the room?” she mockingly admonished him, wiping the curly locks of blonde hair from his face.

“Stop, Mom! Hi, Dad!” he blurted out as he reached for the box.

“So, remind me why you needed to spend six months of your allowance for this?” his father asked while Tommy tore open the package excitedly.

“It’s a surprise for...” Tommy cut himself short. “I mean, I’m just looking forward to Halloween.” The boy delved into the contents of the package, procuring large sheets of fine brown fur wrapped in translucent plastic.

“Is there something you’d like to talk to us about?” his father asked softly, casting a glance at his wife.

“You know, you can talk to us about anything,” Tommy’s mom said soothingly.

Tommy pulled out the lower jaw of the werewolf costume, running his fingers along the jagged teeth as he looked up at his parents with confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Well, we thought maybe you’d like to talk about someone,” Tommy’s father said.

Tommy thought for a moment, unsure where his parents were going with this line of questioning, though admittedly he felt embarrassed as a sloppy grin crossed his face imagining Brian’s reaction when he sees the costume. Before he could assemble the pieces in his mind, he blurted out Kevin’s name.

“Kevin? What about him?” his mother asked, casting a confused gaze over at her husband on this unexpected subject.

“I think his dad beat him up last night. He was wearing makeup to cover up a black eye, but he didn’t have it yesterday,” Tommy said, looking out the kitchen window toward Kevin’s house. “I’m worried about him,” he added.

“That’s a serious accusation, Tommy. Has Kevin given you any indication of this?” his father asked, looking troubled.

Tommy shook his head. “No, but he acts afraid to go home. Every day on the bus you can see him start shaking the closer we get.”

“That’s a worrying sign, Tommy, but we need to know the whole story. Kevin is lucky to have you as a friend. I think the best thing you can do right now is be there for him, and let him know that when he’s ready to talk, you’ll listen,” his father instructed.

“Is there anything else, anything Kevin’s said that would make you feel there’s trouble with his father?” his mother interjected.

Tommy thought for a moment. “Kevin’s mentioned his dad drinks a lot. I think that’s when he gets in trouble.”

His mother rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Isn’t it always?” she whispered to no one in particular. “Your father is right, Tommy. Let know Kevin that you’re there for him. There is a counselor at your school trained for this kind of thing, so Kevin has options if he’s in trouble.”

“Couldn’t you talk to his dad, make him stop?” he asked his father.

Tommy’s father leaned back in his chair and sighed. “It’s not that easy, kiddo. Nobody likes to be told how to raise their child, and I’m afraid if we stick our noses into his business, he might take it out on Kevin. It would be best if the school became involved in this.”

Disappointed, Tommy knew this was a problem that couldn’t easily be solved. He pulled out the remaining mass of soft brown fur and the upper jaw of his werewolf costume. “Some assembly required,” he moaned, pulling out a plastic bag full of plastic claws.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to do all the work,” Tommy’s mother warned.

“Uh, no, of course not, Mom!” he replied, his bright, blue pleading eyes belying his underlying intent.

“Well, if you like I can take the measurements and help you get started this weekend,” his mom offered diplomatically.

His face brightened. “Thanks, Mom, that’d be awesome!”

“Alright, go get started on your homework. Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” she concluded, sending the Tommy and his costume out of the kitchen.

His father shook his head and laughed. “I have a feeling this is going to be an unforgettable Halloween.”

Tommy bounded into his room, and spread all the individual components of the werewolf costume across his bed. The macabre mass of soft fur, jaws and claws melded naturally with the horror movie posters hanging on the far wall, above the shelves filled with rows of horror movie DVDs and a couple dozen similarly themed novels. He plopped himself down in his wooden desk chair and rummaged through his backpack for his homework assignments.

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About The Author

An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom.
For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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