Saturday 21 September 2013

An Interview With Author Robert Lamb

Author Robert Lamb stops by today to chat...

An Interview with Robert Lamb

Why don't you begin by sharing a bit about yourself? 

Born in South Carolina, I grew up in Georgia, graduated from the University of Georgia, worked first in journalism, and then went into college teaching, mainly creative writing, at the University of South Carolina. I'm married and have four children. I now write full-time and I also review books for the New York Journal of Books.

You've recently finished a novella and a new novel. Care to share a bit about these new books? 

The short one, titled And Tell Tchaikovsky the News, is about the redemptive powers of rock 'n' roll. The other one, Journey's End, is about the corrosive effects of suicide on a woman's child and husband. 

You've previously written several books and short stories. Do you find an overriding or common theme or any recurring motifs that infuses your writing?  

Yes. I didn't see it at first in my writing career, but the main recurring theme in what I write is loss: loss of innocence, loss of a loved one, loss of faith, loss of hope, etc.             

With a long repertoire of books, such as Atlanta Blues, A Majority of OneStriking Out,  and Six of One, Half Dozen of Another, how do you think your writing has evolved from one book to the next? 

I don't see that kind of continuity in my writing -- that is, I don't see the evolution of a familiar writing voice moving from one novel to the next. Put it this way: I have four sons; each is different from the others though all came from the same father. Same with the novels I've written. Each novel seems to be its own entity, to have its own story to tell; finding the right voice to tell that story -- or, rather, finding the voice inside me that wants most to tell that story -- is a big challenge. An example: My first novel was a coming-of-age story. The protagonist was age 17; I wrote it in my 40s. Believe me, it took me a while to find, or rediscover, that teenage voice to tell that story.

Having written both novels and short stories, do you have a preference for one form above the other, or do they both have equal merits? 

As both a writer and reader, I much prefer the greater range of the novel form, but I do like both. As to merit, however, I find both forms equally demanding, each in its own way. I can tell you this: a short story isn't short simply because it's not long. In other words, a successful short story is not the result of the author's not having the time to stretch it out to novel length; it is, rather, that it is complete in its short form. To go on would spoil it. 

 Is there anything about the process of writing you find particularly challenging? 

No, except perhaps this: I knew how to write long before I knew how to write a novel. As with any craft, know-how is very helpful. A simple tip like "Start your story with the day that was different, the day after which nothing was ever the same again" came as a complete (and liberating) surprise to me. So how smart was that? I might add that I've never had writer's block. When I've got a story going, I can't wait to get to it each day. 

What first sparked your interest in a career as a writer? 

I can trace my love of stories to hearing them read at my mother's knee. As to writing my own stories, I believe I'm simply following a natural bent, a facility with language. I said again and again to my students, "Man is the speech animal, and each of is as different from each other as fingerprints, as individual as snowflakes. Each of us has a unique voice. Find yours. Use it." 

Who are some of your favorite authors? Some of your favorite books? 

I admire many writersranging from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to Hemingway to Tennessee Williams, but Thomas Hardy is my favorite author and W. Somerset Maugham my favorite storyteller.

What’s next on your horizons? 

I'd like to try my hand at writing a screenplay. Now there's a difficult art form!

You can check out more on Robert Lamb at his website:

Monday 16 September 2013

Fortune Teller Blog Hop: Gothic Cavalcade

I've jumped back on the Blog Hop train, and this time I've packed a crystal ball...

Today, we visit a fortune teller, thanks to my novella, Gothic Cavalcade. In this excerpt, the main character, Althea has arrived at the Masquerade Carnivale, and is being shown around by the mysterious Byron and Mother. Mother then whisks her away to see the carnival's resident gypsy.

An Excerpt from Gothic Cavalcade

After breakfast, Mother and Byron escorted Althea on a leisurely stroll around the encampment, to show her the carnival. Byron linked arms with her and mother’s hand rested on her shoulder as they walked.
“It is not a large carnival, as you can see,” Mother’s soft voice chimed in Althea’s ear, “but we are a close group and we take care of each other. Soon, it will feel like home.”
Althea frowned. Odd, but she did feel strangely comfortable here, as if she belonged. She gazed out at the multi-coloured array of tents and caravans, at the dazzling stripes and spangles decorating their world, and at the sound of laughter and affection. Life thrived around her with shouts and chatter, barking dogs, and tethered horses munching hay. To her right the jugglers tossed bright orange balls high into the air, to the left she gawked as jesters with painted faces strutted about on stilts. Althea softly giggled. She wanted to lose herself in the gaiety and the colours, and submerge everything in the ornate vibrancy of her surroundings.
“It’s so beautiful here. So uncomplicated and spirited. I think I could be happy here.” She cast a quick glance at Mother. “If you still want me to stay?”
“Of course we do, child.”
“It’s a wonderful place, Althea.” Byron threaded his fingers through hers and squeezed her hand. “I’m glad you’re going to join us.”
“We are all pleased.” Mother put her arm around Althea’s shoulders and gently pulled her away from Byron. “But I am afraid I must steal her away for a moment. There is somewhere special I want to take our Althea.” Mother stepped between the pair. “You will excuse us, Byron?”
“Yes, Mother.” Byron tilted his head with a grin. “I’ll find you later, Althea.”
Althea found herself being ushered along, winding between caravans and rehearsing performers until they entered into a violet coloured tent, dyed with images of silver moons and festooned with miniature golden bells.
Pale light from an oil lamp lit the dim interior. It was a delicate and inviting place, the furniture adorned with amethyst silks and plush velvet cushions of mauve, embroidered in gold.
“This is Drusilla, our gypsy fortune teller.” Mother introduced Althea to a dark-haired, dark eyed beauty seated behind a round wooden table with a crystal ball sitting atop it.
“Hello.” Drusilla replied softly, ducking her head and avoiding Althea’s eyes.
“You must forgive Drusilla, she’s a bit shy.”
“That’s understandable.” Althea smiled and tried to make conversation. “Can you really tell someone’s fortune, Miss Drusilla?”
The girl looked up. “Oh, yes. I can see a person’s fate.”
“In this?” Althea touched the cold glass of the crystal ball.
Drusilla giggled. “Oh no. That’s simply for display. Sit down, I’ll show you what I do.” She waved her hand at the chair opposite her and Althea sunk into its purple softness. Drusilla reached out and grasped her hand, turning it palm up. Drusilla lightly traced her finger over Althea’s skin, making her shiver.
“You have a troubled life, tragedy and pain fill you. You are afraid and you blame yourself for making a terrible choice in years past. That choice has cost you something.” Drusilla paused and Althea caught her gaze, staring into her deep violet eyes. She felt ensnared for a moment, as if she had fallen into a cavernous pool and might drown. Then Drusilla broke their connection and continued her reading.
“I see safety ahead, and resolution." Drusilla paused again and frowned. “But not without conflict. Something is coming, something unfinished...” She abruptly stopped talking and let go of Althea’s hand.
“Is there a difficulty, Drusilla?" Mother’s voice broke the strain in the air.
“No, no, it’s simply, well, events will be bumpy for you, Althea." She smiled, attempting a half-hearted grin.
Althea felt a quiver of dread, but tried to laugh it away. “I’m used to bumpy.”
“But it will all work out in the end, won’t it Drusilla?" Mother asked softly. “It will all be agreeable when it is done?”
“Yes, Mother. All will conclude as it should.”
Althea looked at them both, confused, but Mother gave her no time to question Drusilla. Mother pulled her to her feet and shepherded her out of the tent.
“I think it is time we found Byron again. Don’t you agree, Althea?”
Althea smiled at the thought and let herself be led away; all uncertainties were lost by her desire to see Byron once more.

The Masquerade Carnivale is coming to call...

A woman escaping her wretched past stumbles into the strange world of a supernatural carnival.  Does her fate lie there, or with the captive life she left behind?

The Masquerade Carnivale is beckoning... will she answer?

Gothic Cavalcade is available on,, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers.

This Fortune Teller Blog Hop was organized by Kayla Curry.
Don't forget to check out the other blogs involved, who knows what they'll foretell.

Kayla Curry (Host)
Alyssa Auch
S. M. Boyce
N.R. Wick
Steve Vernon
A. F. Stewart
Linda Taylor
Tami Von Zalez
Quanie Miller
Ellen Harger
Deborah Nam-Krane
Erin Cawood
Danielle-Claude Ngontang Mba
Wendy Ely
Laure Reminick
Jen McConnel

Saturday 14 September 2013

A Review of The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues by Bard Constantine

My Book Review of The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues

Noir is alive and well in the future. The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues by Bard Constantine takes the atmosphere and sensibilities of a '30's detective novel and blends it well with sci-fi cyberpunk into a tasty and appealing cocktail.

The Troubleshooter begins where all good noir crime fiction should, with a slightly disreputable, down on his luck shamus, excuse me, private detective. In this instance, it’s Mick Trubble, a guy with money problems and a price on his head. The twist in the plot is this private dick works out of dystopian, post-apocalyptic sci-fi city called New Haven. Mick takes a case to pay off his debts, a high risk venture, almost guaranteed to get him killed. The deeper he investigates, the wilder things become as he finds mayhem, android killers, and dark secrets from his own past.

I loved the style and sensibilities of this novel, a cool hybrid of Blade Runner and the Maltese Falcon. The characters are tough and gritty, with a side order of sneaky. You can trust no one, and everybody has something to hide. The author does a nice job of creating this world, the noir and sci-fi blend seamlessly. The plot does a lot of twisting, but manages to keep the reader along for the ride (and at the edge of your seat once or twice), and comes to a satisfying conclusion with just enough left over to whet the appetite for a sequel.

I can recommend The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues easily.

You can find The Troubleshooter: New Haven Blues on Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers.

Thursday 5 September 2013

Interview With Author Sarah Butland

We have a treat today, as talented writer Sarah Butland, author of the books Sending You Sammy, Brain Tales - Volume One, and Arm Farm, stops by for an interview.

Interview with Sarah Butland

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

Thanks A.F. for having me and letting me share with your readers a bit about me.
I was born in Ontario, the year was 1982. I was moved to New Brunswick for over 15 years and now reside at home in Nova Scotia, Canada. I married my high school sweetheart and have a superstar son named William and a cat named Russ who all make my house a home.
After many stories, attempts at novels and thousands of ideas later, I created BananaBoy, and the Adventures of Sammy was born; Sending You Sammy, was my first published children’s book. Then came Brain Tales - Volume One, a collection of short stories and finally Arm Farm, my current literary pride and joy.

Can you tell us something about your books?

My writing career took a fantastic leap when I discovered a solution for childhood obesity and literacy that I could contribute to. While working a full time job I had the opportunity to colour in downtime and while colouring a red superhero I ran out of red and switched his typical colours to green and yellow. In the moment of switching from this colourful character and the two headlines about obesity and literacy rates I discovered BananaBoy and wrote his story which became Sending You Sammy.
Then, in an effort to continue this children’s book series, I published Brain Tales, a collection of short stories most can enjoy. Finally, while on maternity leave, I was able to finish by long anticipated adult novel Arm Farm – the story of a forensic sciences student trying to solve her parents’ cold case but finding herself a victim of her own case.
Overall I’m equally proud of all three books for the readers I've been able to connect with.

What inspired you to write children’s books?

Further to what I mentioned above, the underlying concerns that inspired me to go into the children’s category is the devastating rates of both childhood obesity and illiteracy. At the time of writing all three books I was in New Brunswick which is consistently named the obesity and illiteracy capitals of Canada – something I wanted to change.

You've also written some books of general fiction and poetry. Is it difficult to change your mindset from writing for children to books aimed more at adults, or is it a natural process?

Adult writing comes a lot easier to me as I assume their desire to read is already there. With children it’s a challenge for me to ensure I’m not talking down to their intelligence without being too full and losing their attention.

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

Routine?! No, I don’t have any type of will power or ability to have a routine of any kind. I can and do write anywhere I have the time to. I don’t plot, plan or brainstorm with my writing, I write as if I’m reading so that each page is a genuine surprise.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

Time. I don’t have any. I stay at home all day with my active toddler and because we don’t have him watching TV he is always wanting to play, explore and have me read to him. It’s incredible what choices this little human being is making and forcing on me that make me love him more but it leaves me no time to write as I work nights full time.
When I do have time to myself, which is extremely rare, I’m too unfocused to sit down to write. I’m cleaning, sleeping or just trying to relax which is near impossible for me to do.

Who has inspired you as an author?

My grade three teacher and substitute teacher are the two women I look back on often. Their confidence in my abilities with spelling and creativity has stuck with me. Then, as a writer, I was in awe when I went to see Robert Munsch with my nephew. The whole auditorium filled with young voices reciting almost every story Munsch was telling and it blew me away that he had such a captive audience in the province where literacy rates were a real concern.

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

When I’m not writing spending time with my family is most enjoyable. It’s rare that I’m trying to make up for lost sleep or catching up on cleaning the house but I am most often watching my son bike, play or making him lunch.
Working full time and keeping my son home during the day to raise him like we want leaves little time for much else, especially new writing. And then, of course, I love to read, go to the beach and fit sleep into the schedule.

What’s the next project for you?

Blood Day – The Novel is the current work in progress. It’s my biggest challenge yet not only for lack of time or focus but because it’s borderline supernatural, nothing I ever imagined myself doing. It started with a short story I entered because I heard, with the deadline looming, there were not many entrants. So I somehow sat while my then 1 year old played beside me and, between feedings and making sure he was safe, I spit out this insane short story I thought I’d never have to visit again. After it won and I had a lot of fans who wanted to know what was next but declining to write it themselves I sought out to finish the tale of the young adult who wouldn't bleed. About a third of the way in I've lost track and need to fill in some blanks to be able to continue it.

Thanks again for A.F. Stewart for inviting me to guest host today and for all of you for reading.

Sarah Butland, author of Sending You Sammy, Brain Tales - Volume One and Arm Farm

Please visit me at to support myself and many other authors. This month as everyone heads back to school, the leaves start changing colour and the air brings a chill I am bringing you lots of reading material in hopes you'll find something you love to read. While I am putting forth a huge effort to bring awareness to my own books I understand that everyone wants something different to read. Please show a huge welcome to all my guests by commenting and checking out their books.

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