Thursday, 23 March 2017

Interview with Author Benedict J. Jones

Today I have another interview, this time with multi-genre author, Benedict Jones. He stops by to chat about his books, and writing in the crime, horror and western genres. Enjoy!


Interview with Benedict J. Jones



Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Well, my name is Benedict J Jones and I’m a writer from London who works mainly in the genres of Crime, Horror, and the Western – often blending genres together. I’ve been published since 2008 and gradually worked my way up through various short story venues until Crime Wave Press published my novella “Skewered” and collected a fistful of my short fiction along with it in “Skewered: And Other London Cruelties”. Since then my Private Eye character, Charlie “Bars” Constantinou, has appeared in two novels from Crime Wave.
In amongst that I went back to my horror roots with a grind house novella from Dark Minds Press called “Slaughter Beach” and they also collected a bunch of my weird western tales in “Ride the Dark Country”.
When I’m not writing I work for a university assisting students all around the globe and try to travel and see as much of the world as I can. As well as that I read voraciously, watch an awful lot of films, and have an interest in martial arts.


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

My latest book is the novel – “The Devil’s Brew” and sees the return of my character Charlie Bars who has appeared in a clutch of short stories, as well as the novella “Skewered”, and the novel “Pennies for Charon”.
Unlike the previous stories it takes Charlie out of his comfort zone of the Badlands of south east London and plants him in the bleak and beautiful countryside of Northumbria, the most remote and sparsely populated county in England. In part, it deals with the mental fallout of the violence that Charlie has previously inflicted, and been on the receiving end of. It’s the run up to Christmas and as the weather turns colder Charlie finds himself caught up in a case of ritual horse mutilation and becomes the protector of a family in peril. You can expect a mix of rural noir and British folk horror – a kind of “Get Carter” meets “The Wicker Man”.


Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?

I think it would have to be Charlie Bars as he is the character that I have spent the most time with – three published short stories, half-a-dozen unpublished ones, a novella, two published novels (and a third one that is close to being completed).
What probably draws me to him is the amount of myself that I initially poured into him but since then he seems to have taken on a life of his own. I often wonder if we were sitting next to each other in a pub having a beer would we strike up a conversation – and, oddly, whether or not he’d like me. I’m not sure he would.
A lot of people have commented that it is his inherent decency that draws people to him which always surprises me as even before the stories start he has done some very bad things. But deep down he is a very moral man, albeit one whose morals don’t quite match up with those of society in general.


You write in several genres. Do you have a favourite? And if so, why?

Writing across several genres and occasionally mashing them up usually means that whichever one I’m writing in becomes my favourite at that moment. Really, the reason I write across genres and in several is that while sometimes they bring the same things most of the time they allow me to explore different aspects of people. The viewpoint of a lot of my fiction tends to be the dark but each genre allows a different approach to the human condition.
For example the western often lets me take a more heroic approach with someone who will stride into the danger allowing me show evil defeated in some way. Whereas my crime and horror fiction often revels in the darkness of the human condition – and can allow me to bring in fantastical elements as well.


Why did you write this book? What was your inspiration?

The initial inspiration for “The Devil’s Brew” was a single scene that came to me of Charlie walking alone down a country lane, twelve-bore shotgun over his shoulder, just as the snow begins to fall. I didn’t have a clue how I was going to use the scene but it stayed with me and I gradually began to think of how I could build a story around it. In the mean time I started what I intended to be a standalone crime novel about a criminal fleeing from London to hide out in the North East and ending up trying to help a nearby family. That began to run out of steam and I realised that the character I had used for it simply wasn’t driving the narrative – in steps Charlie, as he has a habit of doing.
I had already got a lot of information regarding the area from my good friend and fellow author Anthony Watson. The landscape of that area of England was a huge inspiration for the story.
As well as that I went and re-watched a lot of folk horror films (“The Wicker Man”, “Robin Redbreast”) as well as “Straw Dogs” which I think played a big influence on certain parts of the book.


Did anything surprise you about the process of writing your book?

I am always surprised about where a book goes once I start it. I normally have a few scenes in my head and usually have a point “A” to start from and a point “Z” I want to get to. What comes in between always surprises me!
In part that organic nature of the story is part of what brings me back to writing each time. I like the characters to grow and speak to me and, perhaps, diverge along paths that I hadn’t previously foreseen.
It’s extremely rare that I will plot a whole story out. I like to see where the words take me and what occurs to me as I write. This can sometimes be problematic and lead to stories stalling but on the whole I like it and I don’t think I could ever be one of those writers who plots every scene out before they start – but this is just what works for me, to each their own when it comes to the creative process.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

That I think has always been with me. I have always written since I was old enough to hold a pen, and always made up stories in my head. When I was about nineteen I realised the urge and wrote a novella. Which then went into an envelope and onto a shelf. But the bug had truly bitten and I sporadically wrote pieces of short fiction which, again, I didn’t do much with.
Then about eleven years ago I decided that this was what I wanted to do and I got stuck into it. I wrote constantly and gradually began to work earlier ideas into readable stories. A ‘zine called “One Eye Grey” picked up my short story “Goin’ Underground” and then I just built from there.


How do you research your books?

That is very dependent on what I am writing. A lot of my crime fiction comes from things I see and have heard rather than from traditional research. But even in that there are things I want to know more about and get right. For instance, when I wrote “Pennies for Charon” I needed to brush up on my Greek myths, for “The Devil’s Brew” I watched documentaries on dog fighting and had a friend who lives in Northumbria send me pictures from his walks in some of the remote spots.
When it comes to my Westerns I probably do a lot more “book” research. Mainly because I hate seeing anachronisms in films or reading them in stories. One of my worst moments was when a reader of one of my early western shorts contacted me to say he thought that the hero fired one more shot than he had available to him. I checked and, well, let’s just say when the stories were collected for republication he fired one less… Thanks for spotting that one Ross Warren!


What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I am working with putting the final touches to the next Charlie Bars book. This one touches on the British political establishment and one of the dark scandals that has dogged it for years. It is my attempt to make sense of certain things that have come to light and wondered how the hell they could have been allowed to happen. Mix in some British gangsters, the shady world of post 9/11 espionage and Charlie is once again up to his neck in grief.
Apart from that I have returned to my horror roots and have a couple of short stories coming out in a pair of projects that look to be very exciting. I’m also still working away on a pair of longer length works set during the second world – so many things on the go and so little time.


You can find all of Benedict Jones' books on his Amazon page.



About the Author:
Benedict J. Jones is an author of crime, horror and western fiction from south east London. His work has been published in various anthologies and magazines. Since 2008, he has published almost thirty short stories. His books include, Skewered: And other London Cruelties, Pennies for Charon, and The Devil's Brew
Check out his website for further info: www.benedictjjones.webs.com or follow Benedict on twitter @benedictjjones.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Drabble Wednesday: Behind the Door


Today, on Drabble Wednesday, horrors lurk behind that closed door...





A Scratch at the Door

In the darkest hour of the night, when the wind ceases howling and the owls fall silent, you hear it. That scratch, scratch on your cellar door. You burrow under bedcovers, tell yourself it’s the elder oak on the downstairs window pane.
But you know. It’s coming from the bowels of the house. A repeated scritching scratch on the wood, a plea, a calling to come and see. You close your eyes tighter, cover your ears, but you know. You hear. It beckons you each night.
And soon, compelled by curiosity, you will open the door and let me out.

~*~





The House on the Lane

A commonplace door, pale oak wood with a half moon window and a shiny brass knob. Nearly identical to every other door in every other house on this quiet little lane. The man who lives there goes to work each day, smiles at his wife as she waves goodbye.
Then she shuts that ordinary door.
She descends the stairs to the basement, to a locked room. Where she keeps her knives and her strange private life. No one suspects, but...
Tonight her husband will come home early.
Tonight he will open his mundane door and discover all of her secrets.

~*~





The Door at the End of the Hall

They tell me not to go there, not to walk down that hall. Not to open the door. That it’s private. Forbidden. Dangerous.
I know.
But I keep asking questions, needing them to tell me.
I’m making them angry.
I want to stay away. I don’t want to stare down that corridor, gawk at that wooden door, my feet restless, my hand itching to turn the knob. Not that it would do any good; the door is locked.
They keep telling me.
There’s something I don’t tell them.
I can hear the screaming from the other side of the door.






© A. F. Stewart 2017 All Rights Reserved




Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Interview With Author Chris Roy

Today I have an interview with crime author Chris Roy. Enjoy.


Interview with Chris Roy



Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I'll be 36 in June. As a kid growing up in Ocean Springs, Ms., I knew many freedoms. Some of them illegal.
I learned tools at a young age, repairing anything with wheels or an engine, and became a mechanic working at my uncle’s junkyards. At 17, I had to leave home and get my own place. I found a better job at a transmission shop. At 18, I attempted 12th grade for a second time, once more failing to earn my diploma. Not long after, in January, 2000, I was arrested.
Spent half my life in prison for a murder conviction. The appeal courts didn't care that it was a fistfight between a couple of teenagers. Nor did they care about the ineffective assistance of my public defender. I considered escaping, but wasn't committed to that idea until hurricane Katrina destroyed several homes in my family. My mom was living in a garage. Plans to leave, find work and help out were, on reflection, decisions of youth. I didn't realize that until after I was caught. The second time.
I've been on High Risk in the Mississippi Department of Corrections since 2005. Housed with Death Row - first in Unit 32 Supermax, now in Unit 29 maximum security - I've adapted to extreme inhumane conditions. Segregation in Parchman is desolate and deadly, a criminal finishing school for most, and a mind-eroding dungeon for all.
I maintain good mental health with punishing physical exercise. Over the years the discipline has allowed me to develop creativity, in art and fiction writing. I've been an advocate for prisoner rights, a GED tutor, and a mentor. Writing a series of short stories in 2007 changed my life, renewed the hope lost with the appeals and failed escapes. New Pulp Press signed me for two crime thriller trilogies. Book I of Shocking Circumstances was released in January, 2017.
Learning to write polished blog posts is my present focus. I'm used to hard boiled noir, and unused to writing about myself.
Overcoming the difficulties of self-marketing from Parchman, as an author convicted of murder, would be impossible without the help of my team of volunteer supporters. Over the last several months they have been working behind the scenes creating a website dedicated to raising awareness to the unjust circumstances of my murder conviction, with the ultimate goal of obtaining legal representation for another appeal. The site will also serve as the central hub for my writings and latest news, and can be found at www.unjustelement.com.
Most of the marketing for my novels will be done through their various social media platforms. I'll be available to write guest posts or do interviews with the Unjust group handling contacts.


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

Book I of Shocking Circumstances introduces Clarice “Shocker” Ares, a boxing legend that chooses to retire and develop her family and businesses.
An incident involving drugs, a major Mexican cartel and corrupt police officers results in her imprisonment. Losing her family, home and businesses was only the beginning of a 40 year sentence. The easy part.
She decides being a convict wasn't for her, and becomes the Shocker once more, earning money in a prison fight ring to finance her escape.


How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?

In 2007, I wrote a dozen crime thriller shorts about two physically gifted scam artists, Razor and Blondie, that eventually became a collection titled, By Hook or Crook. A friend and I self published it on Amazon in 2012. Two trilogies followed. I’ve written several other shorts, mostly crime fiction, though a couple were dark fiction. Marsh Madness was published by Near to the Knuckle in January, 2017.


Of all the books you've written, do you have a favourite?

Book III of Shocking Circumstances. It opens with a scene based on my second escape in 2006. That part of the trilogy comes to mind whenever I think of sharing excerpts.


Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?

Shocker’s coach, Eddy. He is the kind of person that walks into a room—or gym—and people instinctively look to for direction. He’s an obstacles-are-challenges guy, able to make you feel like a ten foot tall champion of the world. His manner and profession (boxing trainer) are based on my old coach, Fred.
Fred taught boxing lessons that he also applied as life lessons, expanding the limits placed on myself as a kid dreaming no further than the mechanic shop. He literally taught me the definition of ambition, and that I had enough to share. And I often do, talking to younger convicts about their goals and using many of his motivational phrases as he did with me.


Why did you decide to write in the crime fiction genre?

I didn't decide on any particular genre. Never considered there were other choices, actually. I just knew I wanted to create a guy and his girlfriend that showed readers how to commit crimes—with smart, original style--and get away with them. I had plenty of material for those.
My personal experiences combined with crimes I've learned from others amount to a long list of reference material. After making an actual list I realized I could create an endless number of ways for my characters to do them without being caught. They were fun to write. Crook was written before I began studying fiction writing. Just picked up a pen and scribbled until my hand felt in danger of injury.
Creating the criminal acts. Writing out how to do a crime, as opposed to just thinking or talking about it, really lights up the innovative part of me. Thoughts aren't fully realized unless they are written out. Imagination suffers. And what is life without imagination?
Designing lives filled with crime is a creative outlet I enjoy even more than drawing or tattooing.


What did you hope to accomplish by publishing your book?

Freedom. Doing life in Parchman gives a guy a little free time. And there are only so many things to do in lockdown. Writing is one of them, and we can do that all we want. One day while brainstorming with friends, we talked about writing books, getting published, and using the royalties to get back in court.
That was little more than a fantasy back then. Signing six books with New Pulp Press has brought it closer to reality.


What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Now that I'm published? Marketing. Becoming mainstream would be like getting struck by lightning. Inside my cell. Cop shows and tough on crime ideals are an everyday bombardment. People will refuse to read my work after seeing my address in the bio. I want to do interviews like this so readers have a chance to learn something about me before judging the value of my novels.


What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

I just received word from New Pulp Press, asking if they can release Book I of the Sharp as a Razor trilogy while Shocking Circumstances finds its niche.
I said, Absolutely! I'm excited about crime fiction fans getting to know Shocker and Razor. They are very different characters. It's going to be fun learning what readers think.
Her Name is Mercie is a novella I'm working on. New character, new mayhem. Since finishing Razor, I've learned a few things from publishers that fit nicely in my writer's tool box. Some minor style changes that I played with in a few short stories before drafting Mercie.
Those are current and upcoming works. Sorry, I don't tell secrets.



About the Author:


Chris Roy was raised in South Mississippi, in the midst of ugly Gulf Coast beaches and spectacular muddy bayous.
Chris lived comfortably with the criminal ventures of his youth until a fistfight in 1999 ended tragically. Since January, 2000, he's been serving a life sentence in the Mississippi Department of Corrections. 
Nowadays he lives his life  crime vicariously, through the edgy, fast-paced stories he pens, hoping to entertain readers. When he isn't writing, he's reading, drawing or looking for prospects to train in boxing.



For more on the author, go here: www.unjustelement.com




Sunday, 19 March 2017

Interview With Crime Author Elka Ray

Today I have another great interview, this time with crime author Elka Ray. She stops by to chat about her writing and her books, including her latest suspense novel Saigon Dark. Enjoy!


Interview With Elka Ray




Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I'm an only child and my family moved around a lot when I was a kid. I went to about a dozen different schools in Canada and the UK. Wherever we went I made new friends but then had to leave them, which was hard. What stayed constant were my books. I read and drew a lot as a child and now work as an author, editor and illustrator.


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?

My suspense novel Saigon Dark came out with Crimewave Press last fall. It follows a Vietnamese-American woman named Lily Vo who's living in Saigon when tragedy strikes. Traumatized and isolated, Lily makes a harrowing choice that comes back to haunt her. It's a story about family, betrayal and belonging - and how hard we'll fight for the people we love.
I think deception - especially self-deception - is like poison. In Saigon Dark, I wanted to explore a woman who's unable to tell the truth.


How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?

I studied Journalism and Asian Studies, then spent years doing media and communications work. Having lived in Southeast Asia since the mid-1990s, I focused on travel and cultural articles. I've contributed to many magazines and guidebooks. My first novel, a light romantic mystery called Hanoi Jane, was published in 2011. A short story collection, What You Don't Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia came out in mid-2016, followed by Saigon Dark at the end of the year.


Why did you decide to write in the crime genre?

I grew up reading classics, then trashy teen novels. In my twenties I read mostly literary fiction. When I was pregnant with my third child, who's now eight, I developed an addiction to crime fiction. You always hear about pregnant women craving weird foods - pickles with ice cream or Big Macs at 4 a.m. I craved mysteries and suspense. I couldn't read enough dark tales.
The premise of Saigon Dark had come to me about a year earlier but I started to flesh out the story during that pregnancy.
After my daughter's birth my insatiable appetite for crime stories waned a little. I still read a lot of crime today but am not as obsessive as I was during those nine months.
You may be wondering how my baby turned out. Well, from an early age, she's been weirdly interested in death. When he was around two, my son used to beg me to visit construction sites. A lot of little boys love trucks and heavy machinery. My daughter, on the other hand, wanted to visit cemeteries. She'd squeal and point, "Grave! Grave!" and ask creepy questions. How did they die? How deep are they buried? How many dead people do I know?  Why? Why? I wanted to run away screaming.
It's like the chicken or the egg: Did the dark stuff I read shape her? Did she somehow influence my interests when she was in my body? Or is it just a coincidence - with no more meaning than a pregnancy craving for peanut butter?
All I know is that during that pregnancy I shifted to writing crime fiction.


Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

I live near the beach in Central Vietnam and love to swim. Most days I'm either in the ocean or beach-combing. New characters and stories often materialize when I'm swimming or taking long walks. I also work out tricky plot problems while swimming.
Once an idea comes you need to get it down fairly quickly or it's gone. I feel a sense of pressure to get the first draft out - the story you write today won't be the same tomorrow.


Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?

Writers I admire include Daphne du Maurier, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Charles Dickens, Michael Ondaatje, Rohinton Mistry, Dennis Lehane, Scott Smith, Stephen King (although I'm too chicken to read much horror), Sue Miller, Tana French, Donna Tartt, Susan Fletcher... There are many more but look these writers up.


What advice would you give beginning writers?

Read as much and as widely as possible - not just in the genre in which you plan to write. Read literary classics and recent best-sellers. Read fiction and non-fiction. Read writers of Indian descent, whose works tend to be lush and busy. Read Japanese and Scandinavian authors, whose language is often bare-bones.
When it comes time to write, read your prose out loud. If you stumble, your sentence is clunky. If you aren't familiar with George Orwell's rules for good writing, look them up.
Some useful and well-explained writing advice may be found on this blog: www.emmadarwin.typepad.com/


Do you have any amusing writing stories or anecdotes to share?

Many people don't understand that novelists make stuff up. Most plots did not really happen to us or to anyone we know. Most characters are not thinly-veiled copies of people we've met. Our job is to invent characters and stories that feel true.
After reading my short crime stories one woman I know said to me: "Wow! Where do you get these ideas? You don't even watch a lot of TV!"
I loved the assumption that writers sit around and steal their material off the tube.
You don't choose to be a storyteller: stories either come to you or they don't. What you need as an author is the patience to sit down and write and rewrite (and rewrite, repeat...) those stories until your prose is clear and precise.


What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?

As well as writing for adults I write and illustrate for small kids. My drawings are bright and cheerful. I also produce cute, colorful drawings for Vietnam-themed greeting cards and souvenirs. Proceeds go to support poor kids in Vietnam who need genital/urinary surgeries: www.stickyrice.com
My latest obsession is gardening - although no one in my family has a green thumb. I replant stuff that grows wild near the beach (aka weeds) because I figure these plants might survive despite our care.


You can find Elka Ray's latest book Saigon Dark on Amazon.



About the Author:

Elka Ray is a UK/Canadian author and illustrator based in Hoi An, Vietnam. The author of one novel, Hanoi Jane, Elka also writes and draws an expanding series of children’s books about Southeast Asia, including Vietnam A to Z, 123 Vietnam! and The Warrior Queens. For adults, Elka focuses on crime fiction and mysteries. Her short stories have appeared in Monsoon's Crime Scene Asia: Asia's Best Crime Fiction 2014  (Hong Kong); New Asian Fiction (India) 2013 and Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction (Singapore) 2014. Her travel writing has run in a wide range of publications, including Fodor's, Forbes, Executive Traveller and Persimmon Asian Arts. Elka holds a Canadian degree in Journalism and Asian Studies and a Canadian diploma in Creative Writing. She has a sporty husband and two kids, works as a magazine editor, and has an author’s site at www.elkaray.com. When Elka’s not writing or drawing, she’s in the ocean. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Book Spotlight: Maharia

Today I have a real treat with a book spotlight on the epic fantasy novel Maharia by Joshua Robertson. This book is the third novel in the Kaelandur series, which now comes in a box set. There’s also an excerpt from Maharia, so enjoy…


Maharia by Joshua Robertson








In Valor There Is Hope!
Branimir has remained hidden from the enemy, withholding the cursed dagger from their erroneous hands. When a stranger arrives, and offers the chance to end his never-ending battle, Branimir sets off for the City of the Gods for answers. Now, hoping his faith has not been misplaced, Branimir undergoes his darkest adventure yet. He can only trust that he has the courage to survive the truth.










Both the latest novel and the box set are available from Amazon:



Also, the first book in the series the first book, Melkorka, is on sale for 99 cents!




Excerpt from Maharia

Branimir’s heart jumped at the thought of leaving Gaetana. He spun around and rose to his feet. Adamus faced him, beard hanging to his chest, and blue eyes wild with excitement. Witigor, a head taller than the Ariadnean, joggled his head in agreement, the overhanging flap of his ridiculous brown hat bouncing over his brow.
Sulanna stilled them with her hand. “What about Dorofej? The Stuhia has not survived this long simply to stay captive in a dungeon. Are we to continue to trust that he will find a way to escape?”
“Tis a thought I hope to be true, Sulanna,” Adamus said, “though the odds are not favorable. I am not proposing we attempt to free Dorofej. We simply cannot stay here much longer. Besides, if Dorofej does escape, he can always find us with that thing he does.”
Klukas,” Branimir said. “Yes. He can find us in the shadow world.”
“Oh, here we are again, talking of this mysterious, all-knowing man called Dorofej.” Wit grimaced, pulling the sleeves up on his shirt. “The man might as well be a god, the way you speak of him.” Wit’s eye twitched. “Still, you are correct on this matter. The Stuhia can find anyone in Klukas if they have come across them before. Their gift of scrying supersedes the skill of the greatest oracle. He would be able to find you no matter your destination, I assure you.”
“Oh. Are you suddenly an expert with the Stuhian people, Wit?” Sulanna mocked, twisting her mouth with suspicion. “Funny you have not said a word of them until recently.”
“Well…I have read Tom Flitter’s Mystagogical’s Forlorn Folio and Colin Turney’s Unchanted and Unequaled.” Wit crossed his arms, leaned back like he had taken a blow to the bits, and then wobbled his head back and forth in disbelief. “Do you not know I have access to every book in the known world, Sulanna? I would have been reading about the dragon people long before now if I had known anyone cared to know about them. But you three keep your tongues wrapped so tight, I would not be surprised if you did not have any tongues at all. I don’t know how you expect me to help.”
Branimir stuck out his tongue. “No one asked for your help. We asked for one book on ancient religions, and here you still are—”
“Yes, I remember. The Compendium of Infernal Light by Emrys Trudgeon.” Wit widened his eyes. “No other man could have gotten you that little treasure. If you don’t want me, I can be on my way.” He stomped the back of his foot against the earth, indicating he had no intention of budging. “You know, it is not everyday someone asks about a text not highlighting the Lightbringer.”
“Czern’s breath. You mustn’t go anywhere,” Adamus said, angling an eyebrow at Branimir.
Sulanna flashed her teeth, chiming in, “Indeed. Your input is always welcome, but our business will remain our own.”
“Of course, my Lady,” Wit said, nodding his head again with enough momentum to bounce his hat. “And I don’t mean to pry, but anything you need to know, I can find.” He winked, pointing at Branimir. “Don’t get me wrong. The Kras have wicked memories, but none are as old as books. None can know how their minds have twisted their words over time.”





Author Bio:


Joshua Robertson is a bestselling author in dark fantasy. Robertson is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who received his degree from Wichita State University. He has worked with children and families for the past fifteen years in a variety of unique venues: a residential behavior school, a psychiatric treatment facility, and the child welfare system. He has functioned as a supervisor, an educator, a behavior specialist, and a therapist during his career. Mr. Robertson has presented trainings for hundreds of professionals and military personnel on topics that include child abuse and neglect, human trafficking, strengthening the parent and child relationships, and the neurobiological impact of trauma.
You may recognize him as the dude whose dragons were said to destroy George R.R. Martin's and Christopher Paolini's dragons in a very biased Twitter poll. His first novel, Melkorka, was released in 2015, and he has been writing fantasy fiction like clockwork ever since. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys an ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers.
He currently lives in North Carolina with his better half and his horde of goblins.


You can find more about Joshua Robertson and his books at these sites:





Thursday, 16 March 2017

Interview With Author Brian Stoddart

Today I have a great interview with author Brian Stoddart, who stops by to chat about his writing and his latest historical crime novel, A Straits Settlement.  Enjoy!


Interview With Brian Stoddart



Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

I grew up in NZ, did a PhD in the history of modern India at the University of Western Australia, and that started a long association with Asia. Professionally I became an academic teaching in Australia, Canada, the Caribbean and elsewhere, before becoming a university executive and Vice Chancellor/President at la Trobe University in Australia. Since then I have worked as a consultant on World Bank, Asian Development Bank and European Union projects in the Middle East and Southeast Asia as well as writing for the media and academic sites on international relations and associated matters. In addition to that I give lectures on cruise ships, am interested in photography and mountain biking as well as art and antique collecting. And, of course, writing crime novels.


Could you tell us a bit about your latest book?


The latest book is “A Straits Settlement”, the third in the Superintendent Le Fanu series set in Madras in India during the 1920s as Britain faces increased opposition to imperial rule. Two cases take him across the Bay of Bengal to Penang in the Straits Settlements in pursuit of both a murderer and an artefact thief. Along the way he meets another of the complicated women who appear in his life, and is also offered a serious opportunity to leave India for a job in the Settlements. Through all this run the themes of Indian independence, police and official reactions, racial tension and all the other twists that go with a colonial condition.


How long have you been writing, and how many books have you published to date?

As noted, this is the third novel I have done, and they follow eighteen books of nonfiction with a couple more of those to come. I began writing as an academic then also started writing journalistically and broadcasting that taught me about wider audiences. I have written on Indian history and politics, on the social history of sport, a biography of an Indian Civil Service, and a memoir of living in Damascus shortly before the current conflict (“A House in Damascus: Before the Fall”) that was a #1 on Amazon for Middle East Travel and Middle East General. I am now also writing screenplays and television scripts.


Of all the books you've written, do you have a favourite?

Because all the books have been different, the favourite is usually the one that appeared most recently! Every time a work comes out I get a real buzz because it is an achievement, and I like the sense of that achievement because it drives me on to the next one (or several, as is usually the case with me).


Do you have a favourite character? If so, why?

Chris Le Fanu is a favourite because I have created him and put him in a British Raj setting that allows me to tell stories in a way I could not as an academic. I also like a real “character” I wrote about, Arthur Galletti (“A People’s Collector in the British Raj: Arthur Galletti”) who was an Anglo-Italian member of the Indian Civil Service in Madras who was the genuine square peg in a round hole – and some of his traits rubbed off on Le Fanu. 
Among my favourite characters written by others are John Rebus (of course) by Ian Rankin; Bernie Gunther (Philip Kerr); Montalbano (Andrea Camilleri);and those created by the likes of Sarah Paretsky, Denise Mina, Jeff Siger, Paker Bilal, John Enright, Greg McGee writing both as himself and as Alix Bosco; Valentina Giambanco and many others.


Why did you decide to write in the crime fiction genre?

The modern “crime” novel is in many ways is about social history, because invariably it now scours the social conditions that propel characters to act and react the way they do. Unlike in the classic form of the crime novel, the modern works are more about circumstances and context than about the “puzzle”, and they develop the characters a lot more as a result. In my case, the British India setting allows me to explore the full range of tensions that marked the imperial world, and crime, justice and resolution allow all those dramas to be played to the full.


What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime fiction genre?

Probably encountering the strange turns that characters take when I least expect it. I am a minimal planner (although as the series develops that is becoming less so by necessity). Because of that, the stories and the characters almost take on a life of their own once I am in “the zone”, and that is great because of the uncertainty and the inspiration that results.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

In many respects I have always been a “writer”. What has happened over the years is that I have developed more as a writer, not just by shifting through fields and genres but also dealing with wider readerships and learning different skills that improve me as a writer. Books have always been in my life and writers always important. All that said, it has been a joy to become part of the “crime” scene where other writers are so hugely supportive and encouraging.


Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

In mechanical terms I set a minimum of 2000 words a day and will often get well beyond that once on “a roll”. I tend to start in the morning and aim to finish by early afternoon. The first thing usually is to read and rectify the previous chapter I have written both to remind myself of where I am up to and to try and write as tightly as possible. Because I write historical crime fiction the ideas are set firmly in the historical record, then the characters start to develop actions around that. Ideas for those actions can come to me at any time so capturing them becomes important.


Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?

I have a lot of favourites, including those listed above. I really look for style and setting, and that leads me to a lot of “foreign” crime where I can learn a lot about description and dialogue. In addition, I am influenced a lot by really great crime TV series where the writers accomplish great things through dialogue and development – Anthony Horowitz and “Foyle’s War” springs to mind, as does Neil Cross and “Luther” and all of Sally Wainwright’s work.


How do you research your books?

Given my background and training, a lot of research for the crime novels has been done, at least in the setting. Most of the research as a result focuses on detail like weapons of the period, aspects of the Madras locale, accuracy in names etc. More broadly, though, I am a genuine “archive rat” so do a lot of research on anything I write.


What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?

I read as much as I can because that is part of learning. Then, I am a keen photographer, mainly landscape, because I find that very creative. In a related way I am very keen on collecting art and being around artists. And I collect the Straits Chinese porcelain that appears in “A Straits Settlement” because each piece has a story to tell in its own right.


Are you working on another book?

I am working on another crime novel and on a couple of non-fictions, one a true crime and the other more a piece of mainstream social history. But I find though all three are different, the writing feeds into each in a curiously similar way.



You can find out more out Brian and his books at his Amazon page.  
A Straits Settlement is available at Amazon


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Drabble Wednesday: Crones

Today on Drabble Wednesday, beware the little old ladies...






Granny’s Little Helpers

Somewhere, an old woman stands on a back porch at dusk, a large canvas sack at her feet. She murmurs into the night...
“Come my little darlings, Granny has a treat! A sup or two of blood, a morsel of fresh meat. That’s right, that’s right, the tastiest delight. Slink my pretties, from the shadows dim, and slither forth, from the graveyard grim. I need your teeth and your claws, to tear and chew, devour with your jaws.”
Blackness shimmers, and tiny voices chitter.
The old woman smiles.
“Come, come, time to eat. Granny has a body, the finest treat.”

~*~




By the River

The old woman cackled, her scrawny jowl flaps bouncing a little. “You should’ve listened, fool. Them old legends you scoffed at, should’ve listened. I ain’t never lost a challenge. And I wasn’t sure going to start with the likes of you.”
Rupert started at the dice, and the old lady squatting on her haunches by the riverbank. “It’s not possible. You couldn’t have won the game.”
“Why? ‘Cause those dice of yours is weighted? All rigged to cheat? That don’t matter none to me. Game’s always rigged in my favour.” She laughed again. “Pay up, fool. One soul, as promised.”

~*~



Reflections of the Soul

Arabella didn’t like mirrors.
She didn’t primp and she didn’t preen, despite her perfect face with its pristine complexion, or her soft blond hair with its ideal curls. She avoided her reflection as often as possible.
“Such a vain thing,” she’d say with a laugh. “I have better things to do.”
Perhaps she did. Arabella did like to dabble in things dark and unseemly.
Her nature, really. She liked to pretend otherwise, but nature won out. Especially in the mirror.
There her true face reflected back at her, all three hundred years, and all the wear of being a witch.





© A. F. Stewart 2017 All Rights Reserved




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