View Full Version : AW's Day of Listening - Interviews Thread

12-12-2008, 06:52 PM
thanks for participating in the AW Day of Listening!

Interview Index
Stew21 interviews Robeiae (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062524&postcount=2)
thethinker42 interviews ESKIMO1990 and KUWISDELU (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062529&postcount=3)
Stew21 interviewing William Haskins (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062576&postcount=4)
Quickwit interviewing Saritams8 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062595&postcount=5)
quickWit interviewing cray (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062600&postcount=6)
Chattering With the Chihuahua--mscelina Interviews Haggis (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062737&postcount=7)
william haskins interviews jason tudor and lives to tell the tale. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3062954&postcount=9)
Ray interviews Jay III (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063013&postcount=10)
Ray interviews Serenity (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063026&postcount=11)
Ray interviews auntybug (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063046&postcount=12)
Maternal Instincts--Mary Misenor, alias Soccer Mom (by Celina Summers) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063151&postcount=13)
Shadow Ferret (by vixey) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063304&postcount=14)
quickWit (by vixey) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063309&postcount=15)
Bayou Bill (by vixey) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063314&postcount=16)
Jason interviews DClary (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063409&postcount=17)
Vixey Interview (by Shadow Ferret) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063417&postcount=18)
MSCelina Interview (by Shadow Ferret) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063422&postcount=19)
Yeshanu Interview (by Shadow Ferret) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063426&postcount=20)
Eskimo1990 interviews thethinker42 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063649&postcount=21)
Fishing for Facts--A Conversation With Silver King (by Celina Summers) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063682&postcount=22)
Yeshanu interviews scarletpeaches (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063772&postcount=23)
Yeshanu interviews wrightmor (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063793&postcount=24)
Yeshanu interviews Shady Lane (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063845&postcount=25)
Yeshanu interviews smsarber (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063858&postcount=26)
Aruna interviews Laurie Ashton. (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063975&postcount=27)
Aruna's interview with Maestrowork (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063977&postcount=28)
IdiotsRUs aka Julia (by HeronW) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063987&postcount=29)
Reigningcatsndogs aka Mary (by HeronW) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063988&postcount=30)
regdog interviews Darzian (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063992&postcount=31)
regdog interviews Ken (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063993&postcount=32)
regdog interviews Susie (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3063994&postcount=33)
Eskimo1990 interviews melaniehoo (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064053&postcount=34)
Eskimo1990 interviews jannawrites (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064058&postcount=35)
Eskimo1990 interviews Serenity (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064069&postcount=36)
Nakhlasmoke, AKA Cat (by IdiotsRUs) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064073&postcount=37)
On A Journey - My Interview With Godfather (by kdnxdr) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064206&postcount=38)
Interview with RegDog (by Susie) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064212&postcount=39)
Interview with Kitrianna (Kit) (by Susie) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064219&postcount=40)
OFG's Interview with OFB's Grandmother (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064293&postcount=41)
OFG's Interview with Her Grandmother (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064300&postcount=42)
Aruna's Interview with jcomp (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064340&postcount=43)
Interview with Shelly, a.k.a. Shwebb (by ElaraSophia) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064648&postcount=44)
Williebee's Audio Interview with Stew21 (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064742&postcount=45)
Perks' Audio Interview with Williebee (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064759&postcount=46)
artist and writer--a view askew--interview with Lostgirl (by DL Hegel) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064914&postcount=47)
horror hound trilogy--an interview with Pike (by DL Hegel) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064922&postcount=48)
horror hound trilogy--an interview with Callalily61 (by DL Hegel) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064941&postcount=49)
horror hound trilogy--an interview with slcboston (by DL Hegel) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064953&postcount=50)
From Venezuela I bring you Maxmordon (by Kitrianna) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064972&postcount=51)
The beautiful woman who is AW's Tiger Tyrant (by Kitrianna) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3064985&postcount=52)
Jason interviews ChaosTitan (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3065313&postcount=53)
Jason interviews AW's Server (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3065486&postcount=54)
III’s interview with Norman D Gutter a.k.a. David Todd (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3066460&postcount=55)
Sara's Interview with Alleycat (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3066643&postcount=56)
Sara's Interview with Kimmi (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3066695&postcount=57)
My Interview with Donkey (by kdnxdr) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3066764&postcount=58)
Magdalen's interview with Meerkat (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067501&postcount=59)
Swine Before Pearls, Part 1: my interview with aruna (by poetinahat) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067520&postcount=60)
Swine Before Pearls, Part 2: my interview with Perks (by poetinahat) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067526&postcount=61)
Swine Before Pearls, Part 3: my interview with Ganesha (by poetinahat) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067529&postcount=62) COMING SOON
Cranky Interviews SPMiller (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067730&postcount=63)
Conversation With A Digital Medievalist (by Cranky) (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3067951&postcount=64)
Stew21 interviewing Poetinahat (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3068084&postcount=65)
smsarber interviews euclid (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3068103&postcount=66)
Sara's Audio Interview of Clockwork (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3068414&postcount=67)
euclid interviews Puma (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3071161&postcount=68)
Susie interviews brad b (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=3134405&postcount=69)

12-14-2008, 04:08 AM
You’re a Jack-Of-All-Trades, Rob. When we first met here on AW, I saw “the funny Rob". Sharp rapid-fire wit - the guy I’d want to have a beer with and quote movies line for line. That personality was mixed with this serious, politically and socially-minded Rob, they guy I wouldn’t want to cross in debate (so didn’t). The other parts of your personality make themselves known on closer acquaintance: the writer, the sentimental sap, the auto parts specialist, the caring and sincere friend. All together: intriguing.
The questions I could ask could never span all of the trivia, critical theories and vast random info stored in your head, so I’m going to pick on a few.

Welcome to my Ode to Robeiae Randomness:

You’ve had several very diverse occupations in your life including auto parts specialist and financial planner.
Name some of the others.
Which was your favorite?

I've worked in the grocery business, from stocking to management. And I've worked as contract killer. Really, that's about it.

I loved the grocery business, though. If I didn't have to deal with boneheads above me and below me, I would have never left.

Who is your favorite philosopher?

Well, I'm the last of the Hobbesians, so I guess it's an easy question to answer: Voltaire.

Nah, it's Hobbes. Followed by too many to list, though Plato and Han Fei Tzu are right there.

Choose your favorite historical era. Why is it your favorite?
What do you mean? My favorite historical era for studying is certainly Alexander to the Roman Republic. Isn't that everyone's?

But my favorite historical era in terms of wishing I could have been there is probably the early twentieth century. Really, I was born too late. I was made to be walking through the the pre and post war remnants of the British Empire, European colonialism in Africa, and the like.

What is the best sitcom of all time?

I'd say Seinfeld, but it's not really a sitcom. Ask Poetinahat...

But the best? I'd say the race was between MASH, All in the Family, and Cheers. In the end, Cheers wins, because it never tried to be anything more than a comedy.

Who was the most bad-ass US President? Why do you think so?

Andy Jackson. Anyone that thinks different doesn't know beans about the Presidents.

Jackson brilliantly walked a line in the Nullification Crisis of the 1830's that I believe few others could have held. He staved off war, yet so many historians insist on painting him as less-than-smart. Remember, read history but never trust historians.

You can travel back in time to see one live concert. The year you go back to is 1976. Which band do you choose to see?

I don't know. I'm friggin old, now. I'd say Zeppelin or Skynard, but I don't wanna get stoned, anymore. And I certainly don't want to be shoulder to shoulder with sweaty, drunk cretins that badly need showers and haircuts.

Maybe Linda Ronstadt...

Of course, if you'd given me a few more years to go back, I would have said The Doors, anyway.

You spend a good deal of your AW time in politics, music and movie forums. Tell us about the “writer-you” that brought you to AW. What are the aspirations of this writer? What are you working on now?

I believe I have five books in my head, right now, waiting to come out. Two are non-fiction, three are fiction. It's fiction that I'm struggling with at the moment. But the baby and kids suck away all the time I once had, so I'm managing to get very little done. Plus, I have to keep schooling the P&CE crowd...

But I hope to finish the first fiction book in the next year, get it published, win the Nobel Prize, sell the film rights for a gazillion dollars, let my wife quit working, and have the time and notoriety to write and publish my non-fiction and force academia to restructure their history, economics, and political science departments across the board, while forcing them to eliminate sociology as a discipline completely.

Which came first:
You love to debate. Did you learn a lot about a lot of things to enable you to debate on nearly any topic or do you debate because you just happen to know so much about so many things that are worth debating?

Good question. My parents read--and still do--like the Dickens (and the Longfellow). So, I've always read, fiction and nonfiction. But I've always been a smart ass, too.

Beyond that, I think all the time. Seriously. I think when I'm driving. I think when I'm watching TV. Hell, I think I think when I'm having sex.

I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I believe I think deeply about things far more than most people. Far more. I strive to make connections: my views on abortion, for instance, are--in my mind--completely consistent with my views on international trade. Really. Don't laugh.

So, I've kinda got built in bullet points for pretty much any subject. Does that make sense?

You love words. You use them as tools to educate, debate, provide exact understanding, and to communicate as clearly as possible. You also use them as playthings, and use humor as precisely as you debate. So which requires more brain power for you: using words in a serious way or a humorous one?

A serious way, no doubt. In my view, humor is best when it comes naturally, without too much forethought. Obviously, different people are better at different sorts of humor.

You recently listed these as your part of the AW list of the top 100 singers:
1) Marvin Gaye
2) Martha Reeves
3) Linda Ronstadt
4) Ian Gillian
5) Buddy Holly
6) Hank Williams (not Jr.)
7) Gregg Allman
8) Steve Winwood
9) Aretha Franklin
10) Otis Redding
11) Barbra Streisand
12) Neil Diamond
13) Dean Martin
14) Stevie Wonder
15) Steve Perry
16) Steven Tyler
17) Bowie
18) Mercury
19) Sting
20) Paul Simon
Your diverse taste in music seems to be representative of your diverse taste in nearly every artistic endeavor – either as a participant or an observer. You have a sharp critical eye, and express the opinion very pointedly. This takes a lot of skill – to not only know you like or dislike something but to understand why.

Did someone help you develop such inclusion and open-mindedness in all things artistic or is it something that stems from natural curiosity?
How did you develop the tastes and critical eye (or ear) with which you experience and critique these things?
Wow, that's a long question.

But look, while my musical tastes are far-ranging, not all my tastes are. Take art (as in painting and sculpture), for instance. I'm very traditional. I like very little modern art. I don't much care for Picasso or Rembrandt. But really, this kind of art is not all that important to me, regardless.

But I guess in my heart--despite my analytical robes--I'm Dionysian, ala Nietzsche.

"Et in Arcadia ego" means what to you?

I'm on an island. I see the past and I see the future--or least the roads that lead there. As I once pointed out to Mac, I'm the biggest iconoclast I know. It's not always apparent, but it's there.

A self-description from your blog: “I'm arrogant, judgmental, overly critical, cynical, and sarcastic in the extreme.” How do you reconcile that with being such a darn nice guy?

Know thyself. A better philosophy of life has never been given.

Favorite Mel Brooks movie?

Blazing Saddles, by far.

Why do you hate Alan Alda?

Because he destroyed Hawkeye Pierce as a character. He was okay in the beginning, but eventually MASH became the Alan Alda Moral Superiority Show. Unforgivable.

If you were a movie, what would your theme song be?


I don't know. If I were a movie, would anyone come to see me?

But I guess, Midnight Rider by the Allman Brothers...
It doesn't fit so well, know that I have kids, however.

I know you love that you can be a stay-at-home dad.
What is the greatest reward?
What’s the hardest part?

Greatest reward? Easy: watching the the wonder and awe in a childs eyes as he/she grows into the world.

Hardest part? Really, there isn't one. I don't mind laundry or cleaning. I've got it easy.

If someone used you as a model for a comic book character, what would the character’s name be and what is the premise?
Buck Naked?

Hmmm...I guess my character in a comic book would be some kind of government ops analyst. I'd be the guy with the info that the superhero needs. Bobby Cruncher?

Favorite quote from the movie Bull Durham?

You already know what it is.

Trish Comment: {yes. I suppose I do.) :)

It’s karaoke night again. All of your favorite songs are in the book. You pick three and carefully write down the numbers and titles on the little slips of paper. Each one that you sing is dedicated to someone. What are the songs and who are they dedicated to?
Maybe I'm Amazed--my wife
Long-haired Country Boy--a couple of my good buddies
Hold on Loosely--you

Don't look so surprised. You knew that was coming, too.

12-14-2008, 04:13 AM
In your profile, you say you're doing Civil Air Patrol. What does that entail, why does it interest you, and...anything else?
Civil Air Patrol is an auxiliary of the Air Force. We do drill and learn leadership and aerospace. I'm not really sure at this moment as to why it interests me. I have kind of lost the motivation I had when I first joined back in October of last year. But I do get to go flying, which is always fun and definitely a thrill to a experience
If money, time, and hassle were not part of the equation, what's one place in the world you would want to visit and why?
I would LOVE to visit Italy. My dad's side of the family is Italian and Italian is a huge part of my life so I would love to see where my great grandparents came from.
Any particular place/city/region? Where did your great grandparents come from? No not really. I am unsure of where they came from at this moment. But I think to tour Italy would be amazing.
Same as #2, but where would you want to LIVE?
Hmmm...that's a tough one. Probably somewhere that was warm but not SO warm that they didn't have snow on the ground near Christmas. Probably anywhere that was not Michigan would work for me...I hate the winters here.
In terms of your writing, what would you say is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
Hmmm biggest weakness is definitely the fact I have yet to finish anything worth editing Hmmm biggest strength...according to my friends I just have this way of drawing you in and making you addicted to what I'm writing.
What's one thing that you just don't understand about people?
Drama. I will never understand why people create so much and why it seems some people strive on drama and hurting other people.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ten years from now I see myself being 27, nearly 28. Married and having at least one kid. Possibly still in college as I plan to complete one major and then start the next one. Hopefully working at a High School being an English Teacher.
What two majors do you plan on studying? Are you going to do them simultaneously or one after the other? What made you want to become an English teacher?I plan on doing Literature with a secondary certificate in Teaching. And Creative Writing. I'm doing them one after another. I love writing (obviously) but I knew I needed something to fall back on in case this didn't work. English was the best option for me and I love reading, writing and all things to do with English (well expect maybe grammar haha)
If you were stuck on a deserted island, and could take ONE luxury item with you, what would it be?
Hmm tough one. My laptop(but only if I had internet and a solar battery lol)
Love or money?
Love. Love. Love. All the way. I'd rather be poor and be loved and know what love is then to be rich and never knowing what love is.
Do you write mostly short stories or novels? Have you finished any? Published? Let us know how your WIP's are coming along. NOW!
Novels generally though I have written a few short stories. I have finished no novels and a few short stories (but again nothing worth editing) I am currently working on a story however I am stuck...
What is one thing you are exceptionally proud
of? Wow. I don't even know. I cannot think of one thing in my life currently that I am exceptionally proud of. It seems I have made too many mistakes. Although I am proud of myself fro bringing my grades up last year, but I am nowhere near exceptionally proud of that.
Have you considered going military after high school?
I have considered it briefly. But I'm still unsure if I could actually make it in the military. If I end up going I will definitely be going into the Air Force.

And second - KUWISDELU:
Originally Posted by thethinker42
I will probably ask more questions after this first round...so...deal.

In your profile, you say you're living a life "strangely similar to F. Scott Fitzgerald's"...'splain pleeze.
You're starting off pretty personal...although you probably didn't know that. After the sex thread, though, what does it matter?

Well, I have a Zelda, of course. My girlfriend slash fiancee, Sasha (nickname). We met in high school, and she fell in love with me from my writing. She lived with her mother, who was physically and emotionally abusive and hated me, so we never really got to see one another very much. As a result, we wrote a ton of letters back and forth, like Scott and Zelda. We snuck out together and saw each other behind her mother's back. Before an ice-skating accident, she used to be a dancer like Zelda. As a result of the abuse, among other things, Sasha eventually wound up in a mental hospital for some time after a suicide attempt. Similarly, Zelda spent the last years of her life in a sanitarium, ultimately dying in a fire in her room, which is one of Sasha's greatest fears. Fortunately, that's not our case, and she's out now and we live together .

She is my muse, and the vast majority of my writing is somehow based on us, much like the autobiographical qualities of Scott's writing. In fact, in my first novel, I wrote several scenes that take place in a mental hospital. When she got out, I discovered my scenes mirrored her experience eerily closely. My heroines are based on her, and I largely credit her for making me "good." The first short story that really reflects the style with which I now write can be credited to when I was first falling in love with her. She frequently complains, though, that I too often portray her as a whore

Like Scott, when I eventually publish, it will be a result of her consistent nagging to send stuff out. Like Scott, I steal things from her. A little known fact about Fitzgerald is that many of his short stories are thought to be plagiarized from Zelda's writings. Of course, I don't do that...but we both write, and sometimes I have used a journal entry of hers or a fragment she's written as an inspiration for jumping off. And she always comments on my stealing her life to turn her into characters.

And also like Scott, I am slowly developing an alcohol problem (Don't worry, I'm mostly joking!)

If money, time, and hassle were not part of the equation, what's one place in the world you would want to visit and why?
I would become a pirate.

Actually, I'm not sure. I love Zuni, where my tribe is from, and where I spent most of my childhood summers, but I wouldn't visit somewhere I've already been, right?


I remember now.

Mt. Everest.

It's always been my dream to climb it.

Same as #2, but where would you want to LIVE? That's a tough one. I really don't think I could live one place for the rest of my life.

I'll say the back of a car.

Ultimate Writing Dream: "write like sex". Expand on this, por favor.
It's my favorite compliment to get when someone reads my work. That I "write like sex." My writing dream is for everyone to describe my writing like that.

You know the feeling, the orgasmic high, the post-orgasmic after-glow like you could melt? I want the feeling of reading my prose to be like that. To make people say, "I want to have sex with these words!"

Did you know that my birthday is 2 days before yours? (ok...2 days and 9 years...) No?

In terms of your writing, what would you say is your biggest strength? Biggest weakness?
Biggest strength? Oh, I don't know. I'd say voice or style. I think I have a pretty good grasp on the rhythm of my words and how to craft crazy images.

My biggest weakness is definitely dialogue. Every once in a while, I'll nail it. But most of the time, I need my Zelda to look it over and help me polish it, because fortunately for me, she is a master at dialogue.

What's one thing that you just don't understand about people?
Seriously? Everything! I have Asperger's, so social conventions, subtle gestures and other nonverbal communication, all these things confuse the hell out of me! I also have trouble empathizing with people--I'm compassionate, but I have trouble with empathy; mostly because I often can't see past some people's inability to think beyond their emotions and respond to a situation logically.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
As a famous writing living in a penthouse in Chicago or Portland or some nice city in Europe.

Or more likely, in some office doing statistical work while staying up late at night to drink, smoke, and write. Then fuck until morning.

Since you were quite involved with the John/Hooker thread, what's one thing you took away from it? i.e., something you learned, something that piqued your interest, etc?
I learned if I could be as quick-witted and articulate in-person as I am on the internet, the girls would be all over me. Good thing I'm a writer and not a public speaker.

I also enjoyed your insight into the swinging scene. As someone who met his soulmate early on, Sasha and I have a mutual interest in sex beyond two people. Thought since our university is such a sausage-fest, it would be rather unfair to indulge in that at this time...

Boxers or briefs?

And as for my username...

Kuwisdelu is one of my middle names, after my great-grandfather. Kuwisdelu Walela was his full name. It's a Zuni name. Also interesting is my great-great-grandfather's, who was apparently important enough that he shows up on the tribal census simply as "Old Man Zuni."

Originally Posted by thethinker42
With some added ideas from scarletpeaches...

If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do?Sex, drugs, and killing spree.

Cats or dogs?
I love both. I have a cat, but we plan on getting a dog when we move somewhere that allows them.

Beer, wine, or liquor?
Wine and liquor.

I'm not the biggest fan of beer. Once in a while I'll enjoy a Guinness or something, but I don't really like most beer.

I'm still learning to be a wine snob. I haven't tasted nearly widely enough to call myself one yet. I'm a fan of Vouvray and Chianti, though.

When it comes to hard liquor, I'm a scotch and gin man. Only the good (or, on a college student's budget, decent) stuff, though. I won't waste my money on cheap liquor.

What are you most afraid of?

Who is cooler: thethinker42 or scarletpeaches?
I plead the fifth!

What's the most important life lesson you've ever learned?
That's a tough one. I'm not sure.

I'm tempted to say something about trusting people and judging them, but I don't think I will.

Instead I'll go with this. Life is too short not to take time to enjoy it, but also to short to waste.

Do you procrastinate?
Oh yes. Compares to most students, I procrastinate big time. But not nearly as much as my friends--I hang out with some of the most overachieving slackers you've ever seen...

Theatre or watch at home, and why?
Depends on the movie.

Some movies, like Dark Knight, X-Files, Watchmen, anything with Johnny Depp, etc., I'll either want very badly to see on the big screen, or just won't be able to wait until it comes to DVD.

Some I'll wait for the DVD. And of course, the previously mentioned, I'll buy the DVD and watch it again.

Blame scarletpeaches for this one: Would you rather fuck the Bride of Wildenstein, or eat shit?

Fuck the Bride of Wildenstein. But I get a paper bag. For multiple reasons.

Or I'll steal scarletpeaches' blindfold.

What kind of car do you drive? What kind of car do you WISH you drove?
I don't have a car. When I do drive, it's either my friend's Civic or my father's Accord.

If I could drive anything, I'd have this, this or this.

Would you rather live somewhere prone to hurricanes or earthquakes?
Earthquakes. Books and laptops can take a beating. Water damage screws them over.

Name one - and only one - crazy thing you did in high school.
Lost my virginity in the school auditorium on the catwalks over the stage.

What is the weirdest thing you've ever experienced?
Probably enough weird things that this actually feels kind of mundane...nonetheless, it's still kind of a mindfuck to me...but my girlfriend expressing sexual interest in my ex-girlfriend probably tops the list.

From scarlet again: If you had a choice of superpowers, would you rather have flight or invisibility? Flight. I've always wanted to fly.

Who would win a fight: Batman or Superman? Please provide reasons.

Because he's the motherfucking batman.

He's so awesome he could poop kryptonite and bring superman to his knees.

Kids - maybe, never, eventually, definitely, not a chance? Maybe. Not now, definitely.

It's hard to say what we'll be doing in a few years. We're still conflicted between having our own child and adoption at this point, too.

If all drugs were legal, but you could only do ONE, what would it be and why?
Assuming cigarettes and alcohol don't count and all legal drugs don't count either...

Either 2,5-dimethoxy-4-chloroamphetamine or lysergic acid diethylamide.

That is, DOC or LSD. Both a hallucinogens. I've only ever had experience with the former.

Why? Because marijuana just isn't quite worth it. Because cocaine doesn't do anything for me. Because heroin and meth are too dangerous.

I'd go with some kind of hallucinogen because of the imagery and, IMO, the most worthwhile.

Since you're a student: what class have you taken that most influenced/inspired/etc you? What class was the biggest waste of time, money, or brain cells?
Influential and inspirational? Nothing from college yet. I'd say either my creative writing class from high school, or one of my English classes. My writing and junior English class were taught by a great guy. He was very easy-going and most of the students never quite appreciated him, because his classes tended to be easy A's. Despite that, though, he's an incredibly smart and well-read guy who always encouraged me.

My teacher from my freshman English class, whose homeroom I later joined, and who was also sponsor of the school paper was also great. She always encouraged me and was there in times of stress and turmoil. Her hair's graying now, but she'd been a hippie in her youth, and still had a massive crush on Johnny Depp.

Simpsons or South Park?
South Park. Simpsons is good, but it's getting pretty stale. South Park is still fresh and hilarious as ever. Plus the Jew is named after me! I think two of the recent episodes "About Last Night..." about Obama the jewel thief, and "The Ungroundable," about this vampire craze are two of my most favorite episodes ever.

If thethinker42 and scarletpeaches had a fight, who would win and why? (you've already used the 5th amendment, so you have to answer this one)
Damn. I'll say that I'll suppose thethinker42 has picked up some moves from her cop and navy man which would allow her to come out on top. Unless Colin Farrel was anywhere in sight, in which case it'd be no contest and scarletpeaches would take her down.

12-14-2008, 04:32 AM

When I thought about the questions I would most like to ask you for this interview, they all seemed to revolve around one thing. Love. Bear with me.

Well, anyone who knows me will tell you I am, without a doubt, most commonly associated with Love.

You have a love of politics and a love of George Orwell’s writings. Which came first? Did reading Orwell bring you to politics? Did politics bring you to love Orwell? Or did those passions develop independently of one another?

Politics came first.

I was lucky to have a political junkie for a father. So while other kids my age had this sort of saccharine view of American politics (as spoon fed to them in school), I was aware at an early age that JFK was in a fairly fresh grave, that his brother had shared in the same fate, that MLK had been murdered, that George Wallace had been shot, that the carnage in Vietnam continued—as did the conflict at home over it.

I knew about the savage beatings at the ‘68 Democratic Convention, the killings at Kent State, on and on… Plus, growing up in the Deep South, I was aware of the Civil Rights movement and the racial hostility it brought to the surface.

So my early political education was far less shaped by “hallowed founding fathers” bullshit and far more by observing the raw pursuit of power and the cold-blooded willingness to snuff it out.

Politics and violent upheaval intermingled in my perceptions early on.

I was forced to reconcile the promise of democracy with a deep mistrust of power and a conviction that politics is mainly practiced by evil and utterly corrupt people. It’s something I still struggle with, and being an avid follower of American politics, there’s no shortage of contradictions upon which to muse.

As for Orwell, my introduction to him came a bit later, when I was about 12 or 13. But it was a direct outgrowth of my interest in politics. Having become more aware of, and interested in, global affairs, it was only natural that I delved into the Cold War dynamic, the competing ideologies of Western democracy and Communism.

Along the way, I stumbled across a reference to Animal Farm. I have read it at least once a year for three decades now and, alongside The Old Man and the Sea, it stands in my mind as one of the most poignant parables of the modern age.

This was also about the time when I became serious about poetry as a lifelong avocation, and I soon discovered Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Orwell’s early novel about the tragically comic poet Gordon Comstock. Although it was not a political work in any overt sense, it was a biting commentary on the place of the artist in the modern world (particularly the capitalist world), and I still enjoy returning to it now and again.

When I was about 15, I read Nineteen Eighty-Four for the first time, and it was a life-changing experience for me. I consider it the most important novel of the 20th Century.

If we were to ask Mrs. Haskins, your mother, about you as a child, how would she complete these sentences? William loved to ______. His favorite things were _______.
She would say that I loved to harvest souls, and I have no doubt that she would say my favorite things were my extensive collection of shrunken heads—not so much for their value as trophies, but as wistful reminders of the wonderful adventures I had in obtaining them.

What makes you laugh?

I’m a sucker for satire; the more acid the wit, the better. That, and children crying.

I know you love music. Do you sing out loud while driving the car?

Yes. I also sometimes get out and dance at red lights. Topless.

Seriously, music has a magic all its own, and I’ve been fortunate to be turned on to some wildly diverse artists.

You have spoken of a cosmic love for two women, whom I consider to be quite different—Dorothy Parker and Madeline Kahn. It so happens, I also love both women so I’m interested in what about them you love.

Different, yes. But they shared some qualities—not the least of which was their sense of humor—and those are common threads in my affection for them.

Parker was bold and independent in an era when the 19th amendment was fresh off the presses and "women's rights" were decades away. She was caustic, prolific and highly perceptive, and she had an inner strength that must have radiated from her very presence. But she was also a wounded creature with deep vulnerabilities. That combination strikes something deep in me.

Madeline Kahn has brought me a great deal of joy. She was a confident and brilliantly funny woman without a shred of self-consciousness. While not an intellectual, per se, she was a true artist with keen instincts, and her Academy Award nominations, in my opinion, support this.

I think it's also important to note that my admiration for people is often rooted not only in how they lived, but how they died.

When Dorothy Parker died, she bequeathed her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Foundation. This was in 1967 when Dr. King was still living and struggling, so it wasn't a case of some attention-seeker making a grand gesture to the martyred hero, but a genuine act of solidarity with the Civil Rights Movement. The estate went to the NAACP after King's death, and I’ve always found it touching that the NAACP claimed her ashes two decades after her death, when no one else would.

In Kahn’s case, I remember how saddened I was when I'd heard that she had terminal cancer. Her gesture was of a more personal nature, but no less touching. In the last year of her life, knowing she was dying, she married her long-time sweetheart.

Yep. They were two classy, funny, beautiful women.

And then there are words. Tell me about how you first found your love of words.

Language just appealed to me from the start. I think some people are simply wired that way. I imagine it's the same way future painters respond to form or color, or future musicians to sound. Once I learned to read, I did so voraciously and it just seemed natural to me to, in turn, write my own stories and poems. I remember thinking for a time that everyone must do it; it felt that natural.

If someone were to ask me what I think you love about words it would be the ultimate use of them, the precision of them when used correctly, and the ability to communicate ideas effectively. You seem to look for the exact combination of words in the right number of syllables, the best sounds, metaphors, meanings and using the correct application of language tools and devices to get the exact right meaning. (and you seem to do that not just with poetry, but most other writing I’ve seen as well). That’s just my understanding. So I’ll ask you.

What about words do you love?

I think it's the infinite possibilities of language and some weird human desire to use it to express a thought or emotion in a way that it's never before been expressed.

Oddly enough, I often find that, for me, it’s more a process of subtraction rather than addition. I like boiling ideas down to their essence. A well-crafted metaphor can often do more in ten words than ten pages of literal explanation can do. I find a sense of wonder in the compression, the distillation, of language.

What is your favorite word?

Hmmm… "Sanguine"…

…and "goddammit".

From my experience at AW, I can see that you love helping other people develop the potential poet in them. I consider myself lucky to have benefited from that mentorship. What is it about this act of mentorship that fulfills you?

I know from personal experience what support and advice can mean to a writer, having benefited from it myself. I also recognize that I will never be anything more than an obscure poet, so there’s also the hope that I can contribute to the development of a poet that might actually achieve greatness. And there are a handful at AW that I think could.

What does potential look like?

It looks different in different people and, as strange as it might sound, it’s not always about how well they write. I’ve known many people who are masters of language but are as shallow as a gutter puddle.

Sometimes it’s about how they think. Assuming they have a basic level of proficiency with language that can be, with some effort, refined and improved, I will always cast my lot with someone who has strong conceptual skills, sensitivity to the human condition and the ability to tap into emotional depth through metaphor.

Loving has its burdens. What is the biggest burden you’ve carried for your love of writing?

A tendency toward introspection that is not always fair to the people closest to me.

Is writing a simple process for you, or is the quote “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” (Thomas Mann) more true?

Both are true, but not in equal measure. Sometimes I’ll write a poem or some prose pages so effortlessly that I find myself asking, “What the hell just happened?” And, of course, I would love to be able to bottle it, but you can’t. It’s this crazy flash convergence of inspiration and intellect that pushes the conscious mind out of the way and does its work.

More often than not, however, writing is goddamn hard work for me.

Many times we see that you have a very full knowledge of many things poetry, including schools of thought, styles and forms, and poetry movements and theory. And many other times, we see you pushing those things aside and even criticizing them. Is this a case of learning the rules so you know how to break them? Or maybe a buffet– poetry theory à la carte?

Movements and theory and criticism are all external to the art. They are imposed upon it, after the fact, primarily because humans have an innate need to put things in buckets. I do find value in knowing and understanding the aims of various schools of thought, or experimenting with established styles and forms, but never at the expense of creating a direct connection with the reader.

That said, only by having an awareness of different styles and forms can one understand how and when they work and employ them successfully in a poem. So your notions of “learning the rules so you know how to break them” and a “buffet” are accurate.

But, ultimately, I don’t give a fuck what some critic or doctrinaire with an MFA thinks about my work; I only care about connecting with the reader.

And, as for movements and schools, I’d have to go with Groucho’s quote that I would never belong to any club that would have me as a member.

Who are your writing influences?

Let’s see. When I was a kid, it was Twain and London and Poe. By my teen years, it was Orwell, Burroughs, Rimbaud, Camus, Dickens, Hunter Thompson.

As an adult, I don’t really feel as though I’ve taken on any influences, not consciously at least. I’m pretty set in my ways.

Are the people who influenced you when you first started out writing still your influences, or have they changed with time?

Twain’s a good example, I suppose, because as a child I loved Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Throughout my life, I’ve read other works, here and there, often as a result of some chance conversation or discovery in a used book store. He had a wit that ranged seamlessly from childish to profound, and I admire that greatly.

What metaphor would you use to describe yourself?

I, a pebble
Dropped into an ocean,
A whisper in the storm,
A vibration on the water,

My energy spreads
In rings and fades—
And I am swallowed,
Smooth as glass.

I see the theme of mortality throughout many of your works. I see it as a bittersweet reminder to love life and live it. That may not be your intention, so I’ll ask. What is it about this topic that makes it a common theme for you?
Well, it’s a common theme for all of us, ain’t it? The only two experiences that we really share as a race are birth and death. And birth, barring some tragic affliction, is a blossoming where, literally, everything is possible.

Death on the other hand, is our final accounting. What we’ve done, what we haven’t, what we could have, what we didn’t.

I’ve been told I’m obsessed with death, but I think this is a bit extreme. The fact is, I’ve cheated death a few times, the first of which was when I was 6 years old. To know, at that age, that you came close to dying does something to you. At least it did to me. It made me feel as if I’ve always lived on borrowed time.

So it’s always there, just around the corner.

You’re the founder of Blue Rock (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35212). What would the inscription on the town square memorial say about you?

I would hope that it would say that I provided a place for people of all kinds and creeds to come and stake their own claim and to live as they see fit.

Finally, the AW people are listening. What would you love to say to them?

in fury's grasp
or throes of pain,
when nightmares stalk
the waking brain,
and monsters wear
the masks of men—

still the mind,
move the pen.

beneath the heel
of tyrants' wrath,
when robber-barons
plot your path,
to journey through
the vipers' den—

steel the soul,
move the pen.

and when the
final die is cast,
each breath connected
to your last,
a matter of
not if, but when—

steal the night,
move the pen.

12-14-2008, 04:42 AM
Did you enjoy reading as a child? If so, what were your favorite types of stories? If not, what about it didn't you like? What would you choose to do instead?

I loved reading, mostly fantasy based stories, or sci-fi stuff. When I was too little to read, my dad would read Tolkien, Asimov, and Frank Herbert to me. When I was old enough to read on my own, I just picked books off of his shelf. I remember rereading Lord of the Rings as a 16 year old and actually understanding parts of the book that were elusive to me as an 8 or 9 year old. But even though I was a book lover, I enjoyed loads of other stuff, too. We had 9 acres of forest at my childhood home in New Jersey. I was outside a lot. I loved to draw and paint, and help my brother and his friends build go-carts. My dad had a doo-wap quartet, one of my favorite things was sitting on the deck with them, trying to sing along.

What kind of student would you say you were? What was your favorite subject? Your least favorite?

I was a lazy student. Seriously. I loved learning, but never what was being taught in the classroom. I was really bored in school and could get by without a lot of effort. In elementary school, I was in Olympics of the Mind (now called Odyssey of the Mind,) which was a program to help kids learn to problem solve in creative ways (we built balsa wood houses and boats, we wrote plays and skits, had to answer trivia.) When I was having fun and engaged, I loved school. When it was dry and uninteresting, I turned my back on it. It lead to really poor study habits and as a teenager, I really had to apply myself to get anything out of school. Sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. As you can guess, I loved my English classes, Drama class, anything having to do with creativity, even stuff like wood shop or home-economics. I disliked analytics, math was the bane of my existence, and science wasn't too far behind it. Funny thing is, I am now a data analysis for a lot of huge companies, and I'm working on getting my masters in Anthropology. Science and math. Ha. Oh, and now? I could go be a career student. I love collegiate learning.

Who was the most influential adult in your life growing up? What was it about them that made them so important to you?

One was this woman that my mom worked for. My mom was doing some cleaning jobs to help supplement her income as a lab analyst. She cleaned for a lady named Ruth, who also went to our church. Ruth was the kindest, most gentle soul you could ever meet. She was also the textbook definition of a girly-girl, which I am not. She hand-crafted dolls and figurines that were so beautiful. As a child of 4 & 5, I was just mesmerized by her and her creative side. I would often go with my mom to her cleaning jobs, but when I went to Ruth's house, she would usher me through the kitchen to grab a snack (always something delicious that she whipped up herself,) and into her workshop to help with her dolls. We made one doll together, a little black haired ragdoll, with a blue flowered dress. And she made one for me, something so intricate and beautiful, with hand-sown clothes and yellow-yarn hair. I still have both dolls, sitting on a shelf in my office. Ruth died when I was 8, in a car accident that left her husband in a coma for weeks.

As an 8 year old, it must have been very difficult for you when Ruth died. Was that your first experience with a serious loss? How did you manage to cope with her passing and the circumstances surrounding it?

It was my first serious loss and I think my mom was trying to shield me from it as much as possible, at first. I remember hearing her talk on the phone with someone and I knew that a person had died in a car accident, but I had no idea who or, quite honestly, what that meant. Then, at our congregation, they made an announcement right before singing at the end of the sermon, saying Ruth died and that Gene was in critical condition. I can very distinctly remember dropping my song book and looking up at my mother. I must have given her quite the look, because after that, she asked me if I wanted to go to the funeral. Of course, I did. I asked if I could go see Gene in the hospital, but I wasn't allowed. He did eventually recover, and when he did, he had me over to his house to talk a few times. It felt strange that Ruth wasn't there. As to dealing with her loss, on a grander scale, I don't think it hit me until I was older and thinking about my own creativity. I remember being 15 and working on my first novel and thinking, "Ruth would love this!" But of course, she wasn't there.

You know, her dolls were so important to her, I could tell that she put love and care into making each one. And so, they became important to me. I also have this little tiger figurine that she made and painted for me. On the felt pad bottom, she just wrote To: Sara Love, Ruth. It's simple, but it's in her hand writing and even though the little thing is chipped and old, its green eyes still shine and it reminds me of her. I'm really big on having something to hold on to, when you don't have loved ones with you: a note, a doll, a rock, a photo, a shirt, it's all about being able to reach out and touch something that makes you feel closer to that person, when they can't be there. And yes, I'm a sap.

The second person I thought of was my Grandmother. She moved to the US in 1936, as an 18 year old Slovak. She was amazingly interesting, cooked like nobody's business, even on her limited income, and I think she loved me more than any other human being ever has. She would do or say the most thoughtful things. When I would stay with her, she would hide cookies under my pillow before bedtime. She always took the time to walk to the park that I loved, even though it was twice as far as the other park. She wrote to me at least once a month, despite living only an hour apart. I still have dozens of cards and letters from her that were filled with "just because" or "thinking of you" messages. She spoke little English and had the most delightful accent that I can still hear in my mother's voice sometimes. Discovering her fried spaghetti recipe, by taste-test after taste-test trial was one of the most fulfilling accomplishments of my life. Every now and then, my house smells like her kitchen. And that makes me smile.

Do you consider yourself intelligent? Sure, in a book-smart sort of way.

Do you consider yourself funny? Sometimes. I know how to make certain people laugh.

Do you enjoy getting together with people? Would you consider yourself 'popular'?

I like people most of the time. I like parties, especially if I'm planning on it, I can be in the right mind set. Popular is a weird word, but I guess people like me well enough for my own peace of mind. Ha.

What was the worst job you've ever had?

Telemarketer. 4 hour shift. Never went back.

What was the best job you've ever had?

I love what I do now, which is freelance data analysis and translating. It's interesting and rewarding. I only wish I had more to do!

What genre of writing do you prefer to read? What are you reading right now?

I don't like to read a certain genre, but I generally will only read something if it comes recommended to me. So, if you want me to read a book, tell me about it! I like literary, classics, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and children's books.

Right now, I'm reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. I'm working on my own murder/mystery and a friend said that this might help. I'm also reading Best Russian Short Stories, from The Modern Library, the 1917 edition. It's filled with Gogol, Chekhov, Tolstoy, and others. I love to have some short fiction in my pile of reading material. I usually rotate between De Maupassant, Hemingway, and various geographic collections. AND I've recently started reading about The Incas again, in preparation for my next book. So, I have The Lost City of the Incas by Hiram Bingham on my desk. It's filled with inaccurate information and myths, but overall, it's an interesting read by the archaeologist who discovered Machu Picchu.

Do you have a favorite author? A favorite book?

I have a favorite author, Neil Gaiman. He is the kind of writer that makes me want to be a better writer, even though I don't write in his genre. I have three favorite books. And they're all different and none of them are by Neil Gaiman. Ha! Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. Road Fever, by Tim Cahill. Sho Gun, by James Clavell.

How would you characterize your writer's voice?

Oh goodness. Really? Someone once said it was ethereal. I thought it was a compliment.

Is there a particular time of day or night you find most productive?

Night, when the house is quiet. Or anytime I can get myself to a coffee shop with a notebook and pen.

Are there any rituals or routines you follow when it comes to writing?

No. Just some method of documentation (laptop or notebook) and a clear head, which usually requires a cup or two of coffee.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what type?

Generally, no. I like the quiet. But lately, while editing, I've been listening to Irish folk music. It gets me in the right mindset and reminds me what I'm supposed to be doing, if I let things distract me!

What would you like to achieve with your writing? What goals do you have?

I would like to write books that people read. I'd like to be able to have a sustainable career as a writer. My smallest goal right now, is to finish editing my manuscript by the end of January. After that, I'd like to get an agent, and get published. In the meantime, I'll start my next novel.

What would you say your writing strengths are? What are your weaknesses?

Bringing realism to main characters, giving them depth and making them interesting. I have a harder time maintaining that with secondary characters, and I have to focus on that when I'm editing. I'm really good at plotting out a story before starting, but that sometimes makes for a fizzle in my writing at the 2/3 to ¾ mark.

Do you prefer to read dialog or narrative? Which do you prefer to write?

It really depends on the story, for me. I love the swaths of narrative that fill the pages of Les Miserables, but Clavell's use of dialog and the way it moves the story is amazing. In my own writing, I find dialog more fun because it requires you to get into the heads of different characters and finding their voice.

12-14-2008, 04:44 AM
Did you enjoy reading as a child? If so, what were your favorite types of stories? If not, what about it didn't you like? What would you choose to do instead?

Does spending 6 hours on a Saturday rummaging through a paper recycling dumpster in the hopes of finding a picture of a naked boob or even a bra advertisement count as reading? If so, YES, I very much enjoyed reading very much as a kid!

No? Darn. Actually, I really did enjoy reading as a child but my reading intensity waxed and waned with the sports seasons. On the off time of the year, I remember that “library day” was a pretty good day of the week for me. Now that I think about it, enjoying library day made me feel a little weird too since there weren’t too many other guys who seemed to be enjoying the library for the books.

James and the Giant Peach hooked me into reading that type of children’s fantasy/fiction. I stuck with those types of stories until high school when they start force feeding you other genres. Thankfully.

What kind of student would you say you were? What was your favorite subject? Your least favorite?

I was not a good student. My grades were probably considered high but with regard to my studies and overall work ethic I was sloppy and undisciplined. This is actually one of those “areas for improvement” that has been staring me in the face all my life. So, to jump ahead to one of the questions below, yes, I consider myself intelligent. Intelligent enough to pass classes easily having done the minimum. Not a good way to go about things at all.

The Sciences have held my interest from grade school through to college resulting in a Biology degree that somehow lead me into a related career.

History was by far my least favorite subject. I tried. I really did. I just could not garner any interest.

Who was the most influential adult in your life growing up? What was it about them that made them so important to you?

The easy answer is my father. He’s the guy I want to be when I grow up. The larger and much more complex answer is that the adults in my extended family were the most influential in my life. My dad is the youngest of 13 children. Many of them life close to where I live. They have kids and their kids have kids and some of their kids of have kids. Translation: I probably have 120 relatives within a 20 mile radius many of whom I respect and admire. I’ve always felt lucky growing. I swear I had 3 fathers. My dad and 2 of his brothers who are particularly close are the people I’d consider most influential. In spite of life, they’ve set the example in simple yet amazing ways.

Do you consider yourself funny?

Um, yea, I consider myself funny but I’m not under any impression that other people find me funny. I post jokes here at AW ad nauseam most to amuse myself. And you might know this already but I’m a wise ass. I enjoy ripping off a few wise cracks in the hopes of amusing people but I really don’t know if I’m funny. Everyday events are funny if you ask me – like rotting pumpkins and kids that punch groundhogs in the head.

Do you enjoy getting together with people? Would you consider yourself 'popular'?

Popular? Absolutely! But that’s only because my kids are too young to be embarrassed by me yet.

I enjoy socializing and am most comfortable in relatively small groups. A few guys going for drinks or a few couples coming over for dinner and drinks are the best times for me. I’ve always hated crowds, loud places, and concerts even when I was doing all that stuff. All in all, I’m a pretty reserved person.

What was the worst job you've ever had?

In 1985-ish, I applied for a job at the tile factory. We all did. The place was huge enough where just about every high school kid who wanted to work could get a job doing something. My application was accepted and the paper they gave me said “plumber” on it.

So, I went to my job as a plumber on the assigned day at the assigned time only to find out that I wasn’t exactly going to be a plumber. My actual job was to carry around the wrenches for the real plumber. Remember, this place was huge. The facility was almost a full mile long. The plumbing was massive which meant the wrenches were big. I was in charge of the 5 foot wrench.

So, here’s how it went, the plumber would look at his work order, hop into his golf cart and head off to the part of the building where the work was needed. I’d have to walk the 5 foot wrench to where ever he was and then hand it to him.

There’s more. Once the guy decided that wasn’t fun anymore he decided to have us paint pipes in the little out buildings. They were small brick rooms with no windows and packed full of pipes. It would take about a week to paint the pipes in a 10x10 room.

Wait, there is more.

The grand finale for the summer was that he made us clean out the inside of the boilers. 2 of them, each about 2 stories high. Crawl in to a 2x2 opening with vacuums and get to work.

The guy who made us do that is probably a legend now for what he did to us. I can hear it now, “Remember when Rusty stuffed those summer kids into the boiler?”

What was the best job you've ever had?

Jobs during school aside, I’ve only had 3 jobs plus my current one in 20 years.

Job number 2 was probably the best to date. I fell ass backwards out of working in lab at a pharmaceutical company into working for a contract research organization running clinical studies. I was employee number 5. Being so small I learned everything, EVERYTHING, about clinical research including medical writing where I found I had some skills. I loved it and still do even though I don’t do it much anymore.

At some point that company decided to open up a staffing company provided clinical research professionals and somehow I ended up running that business. We provided one off staffing where clients asked us for one person either on a contract basis or as a permanent employee of the client. The other more interesting part of the business was providing project based staff. We’d provided teams of people to our clients and manage the project. Managing teams of medical writers gave me a front seat view of how odd you writers can be. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about any of the freaks reading this – you people are normal.

I was there for almost 9 years and by the time I had decided to move on the company was up to nearly 150 people most of whom I had personally recruited. Great place to work! And it gave me everything I needed to move my career forward in clinical research staffing and functional outsourcing.

What genre of writing do you prefer to read? What are you reading right now?

I prefer fiction. I guess I need the escape or something deep like that. That said, I skew towards novels that deal with simple things that we all deal with in our own lives. In a word, I’m forever intrigued with the author who can take a simple moment in a life and verbalize it in relatable words and phrases.

My dad reads these epic historical biographies (Churchill, Stalin, etc) that he keeps trying to get me to read. I just can’t get interested although I’m keep wondering if at some point I will. Is there an age when looking backwards is more interesting or more important than looking forward? *insert the shrug guy here*

Currently, I’m reading The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama.

What is it about this genre that most appeals to you?

When I read I want out. I like jumping into other peoples lives and letting them deal with it for a while. And again, the author who has the writing skills to offer up intriguing thoughts on any given situation, especially the mundane, are my guys. Analyzing and the verbalizing apparent trivialities by pausing to look at them is the appeal. There’s no doubt I read that somewhere.

Do you write the same type of stories?

I try but I’m under no impression that I have that gift.

I write short, hopefully amusing, stories that are almost always prompted by something that just occurred in my life. If I’m feeling particularly brave the stories wind up in the hands of a few friends and family.

I don’t think I’ve ever written anything over 10K words. I’m blown away by people who put together a technically sound full length book. The big story, the subplots, character development and all that is far too daunting!

Do you have a favorite author? A favorite book?

Favorite book – no. Favorite author – yes. I’ll go with John Updike. He’s the master of tedious minutia. For a lot of folks it’s frustrating but I get hooked in and consume it. Vonnegut andNicholson Baker are two other authors that I enjoy.

How would you characterize your writer's voice?

I’ve never thought about this before. I like writing short stories with dry humor where I’m a hero all delivered in a respectable manner.

So, the style of the guy that writes the things that I write is probably a mash-up of Steven Wright, Stewie from Family Guy, Batman and Ward Cleaver. In short, I don’t know how to answer this question other than to say if you’ve seen any of my posts on AW you know my style.

Is there a particular time of day or night you find most productive?

Unfortunately, I’m most productive in the mornings. I can sometimes steal some time in the mid morning if I have something that I’m really rolling with but the majority of the fun writing I do is done in the evenings.

Are there any rituals or routines you follow when it comes to writing?

No. If I have the time, I sit down and get right to it. After an idea hits I can usually get it down on paper relatively quickly. Remember, I write shorts. The first draft spills out pretty quickly.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what type?

No music. It has to be quiet. I’m easily distracted.

What would you like to achieve with your writing? What goals do you have?

I write for fun so for now, nothing. I’m not looking to get published if that’s what you’re asking. I’m happy jotting down the amusing little things that I do and I’m happy just to keep them in relative comfort of friends and family. For now, that is.

I lurk on the writing threads at AW and try to take away the things that apply.
Maybe in the future I’ll submit somewhere and see where it takes me.

What would you say your writing strengths are?
What are your weaknesses?

Well, the cop out answer here is that my strength is to be able to take a snippet of a day and turn into an amusing little story. Take yesterday for instance, when some nut job asked me if he could interview me. He had no idea that I had just been to the grocery store to pick up two boneless pork shoulders. I’m also sure that he had no clue that when the cashier picked one up, it somehow came out of the packaging and as it fell to the floor I instinctively went to catch it, missed, and sent it slapping into the legs of the lady next in line.

My weakness is that I can not take that story any further. I can’t fathom what happens next and weaving it into a novel. It’s beyond my comprehension right now.

Do you prefer to read dialog or narrative? Which do you prefer to write?

I prefer reading and writing narrative. Bits of dialog are necessary but for my writing but the narrative offers up the meat and potatoes. I tend to feel the same what about the books I read. The dialog serves its purpose but for me the narrative tells the story.

12-14-2008, 05:24 AM
AW Day of Listening—December 14, 2008
Chattering with the Chihuahua: Listening to Haggis
By Celina Summers

When I first made the determination to interview Haggis, it was with the full expectation that I would be sharing a series of dirty jokes and football arguments. After all, we know how he is. He’s irreverent. He’s a smart alec. He has an obsession with bones, bacon and boobs. I thought this would be the easiest of the interviews that I’d chosen to do. (I need to mention right off the bat that, out of respect for his wishes, I am not using his real name. He wishes to maintain his anonymity, although any of you with the brain God gave a goat can find it out if you so choose.)

It was with great surprise and gratification that I discovered another layer to the Haggis we all know and love. I think you’ll discover that there’s more to this man than the longing to be a yip dog riding in Paris Hilton’s purse. There’s a certain savoir faire, a gentle compassion and wisdom that make him the revered critter he is on our boards. We don’t know why we respect him; we just do. I wanted to find out why.

I knew I’d have to trick him into it.

I began with asking the expected biographical question. Haggis thought about the question for all of two seconds.

“The year, 1946. The place, Millard Fillmore Hospital, Buffalo, New York. Contrary to popular belief, I was not the runt of the litter. There was no litter. I was it, although there were two older puppies at home. The intervening 60 years were of no significance. Then I submitted my first story. It sold. To date, I have stories in Coyote Wild and Trunk Novels and one coming out next April in Necrotic Tissue. I also have a few humor articles at Raphael's Village. I graduated from the University at Buffalo. Did I tell you that Buffalo just won the MAC Championship?”

So far, so good. I’d received the sarcastic humor and the football reference I’d expected, but it was tempered with information that was important. Haggis actually was born. That meant he really existed and wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

I took a swig of beer and asked, “When you were a young adult, what initial path did you take that changed your perspective on the world?”

“I took the path of beer, bourbon and gin. Believe me—that can do a real job on your perspective. And it allowed me the privilege of taking a three year break from college—no, really, they encouraged me—and it permitted me to visit different parts of the world I never would have seen otherwise—all at government expense.”

“On your all-expense paid trip to see different parts of the world, what's the most valuable lesson you learned?”

“Always carry a condom. Joke. That's a joke. Sheesh.

“Seriously, I learned how to get along with people—all kinds of people. I worked with some folks who never made it past sixth grade and at first that was hard for me. I got through it and it was a good life lesson. If we had the time, I'd tell you a really long, boring story about an old sergeant of mine I was ready to kill until I finally realized the reason he gave me so much grief. I intimidated him. The guy had limited education and not much to work with in the first place. I posed a challenge to him. Once I realized that, I treated him differently—showed him more respect, and that helped. We almost became friends. Of course, he never did let me date his daughter…”

There it was again. The jewels of wisdom were going to be hidden behind wit. I would have to be sneakier. “What was your most important life path change? Did you switch careers, end a marriage, change your educational emphasis?”

“See, I used to drink. A lot. Beer was my best friend and his buddy, bourbon, was always welcome along for the ride. Of course, sometimes I was in a gin mood. Then gin was my best friend. I don't remember those times all that well.

“Then I got married. I suppose I cut back drinking somewhat but probably not a lot. Then I had my first daughter. Almost overnight, things changed. No, I'm not saying I quit drinking altogether. And I'm not saying I didn't still get stupid from time to time. Having kids is a life changing event. It makes you grow up and realize others depend on you. At least it should.

“I can no longer stand the smell of bourbon. I still love a good scotch, but a bottle will last me all year, and even that's shared with friends. I love a good red wine with a meal. Dog bless me though, I still love my beer. I can't drink it like I used to, but if you want to take it away from me, you'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead paws.

“So, going back to your question, if I hadn't backed off the booze, I probably wouldn't have been around to answer your questions right now. I suppose that makes it an important life path change.”

This response resonated with me. I wondered for a moment if he’d stolen a copy of my memoirs, then remembered that I don’t really like gin. So, I continued, “Considering your early path of having fun (which is one I can relate to totally) riddle me this: does the compulsion to have fun, to go out and have a few drinks, to spend the evening in a friendly neighborhood bar ever recede over time?”

“To a degree, sure. Probably to a large degree. It totally did when my kids were young. I still enjoy the atmosphere of the local gin mill. More than a couple of hours now is a lot. I'm more apt to stop in on a weekend afternoon while a game is on TV, grab a sandwich and a couple of brewskis, then go home and be in bed by 9:30. Well, okay, sometimes it's 11:30, but that's AW's fault, not the bar's. And it's certainly not mine. I'm the victim here.”

“I know you write while in bars. I do too. Do you find it easier to work in such a social environment?”

“I do write occasionally in bars, but that's not a normal thing. That's more apt to happen when the muse dumps a story idea into my head and I need to get something down on paper right away. I do read at bars, though, and I like to edit there too. I'm one of those folks who has to edit to hardcopy, so I'll print out 25 or 50 pages or so and take it down to the pub. It seems to work out fine for me. It also gives me something to do besides drinking. And believe it or not, sometimes I even talk with normal people.”

Okay, so Haggis and I are a lot more alike than I realized—or wanted to admit. I wanted to switch gears. I wanted to get to the bottom of why a man like this one had turned to writing.

“Do you really want to hear this? I've written for, like, always. Almost always it was business-related—advertisements, brochures, business correspondence, trade journal articles and the like. I also helped out friends who had their own small businesses by writing newsletters, columns for their web sites and so forth. It's just something I could do, so I did it. A friend of mine belonged to an online writing site (not this one) and asked me to take a look at one of his stories. I did. I made some suggestions. Well, okay, a lot of suggestions. He kept coming back to me for more editing advice. Eventually, he talked me into joining that site. For the hell of it, I tried my hand at writing a short story—something I had not done since high school. It was awful. But you know what? There were bits and pieces that didn't really suck that much. And that's how I got hooked.

“That all happened about six years and 30 or 40 short stories ago. It might be 50 if you count all the stops and starts. I'm not sure. I have written more each year and I'd like to think they're getting better.”

“Did you feel compelled to write or was it a calculated choice?”

“It was neither. It was purely something fun to do. But after a while, I felt the urge to find out if I honestly had the chops for it. That's when I came to AW and that's when I finally began learning and submitting. Now, I suppose, it's a compulsion. I still don't know if I have the chops for it but some people think I do; so for now, that's enough.”

“If you could go back in time to your youth, what would you change?”

“I never took school seriously, and I never, ever, had a career goal in mind (well, I did take school more seriously when I returned after the army, but I still had issues with that career thingy). By the time I finally realized it would be a good thing for me to get an MBA, I had two kids, worked 70 some hours per week and bartended at wedding receptions on the weekend. It would have taken me seven years of part-time classes to complete. So I blew it off. Bad choice. If I'd done it, I'd have had that MBA for over 30 years now. Let that be a lesson to you, children. School first.”

“Considering the wealth of life experiences you've had, what is the single most important piece of advice you can offer to people facing the same paths you did?”

“I'm presuming these are young people I'm offering advice to, right? You're asking an old fart to offer advice to young people? Hell, I wouldn't have listened to an old fart's advice when I was young. Why should they? In the unlikely event that even one of them does, then I'd say education. Take it as far as you can, and don't take it lightly. You can't even begin to imagine what a difference it will make in your life. And when you're through with your formal education, keep learning. Study things on your own. I'm willing to bet that the other AW folks who are my age or older are still studying—still learning. As for me, if and when I reach the point that I no longer care about learning new things, I hope you'll call up the vet and have him load the needle, 'cause it will be time for me to go.”

“What was the one thing you swore you’d never do?”

“Agree to be interviewed.”

“Did you agree to do it and why?”

“Well, duh. Of course I did. But only because I fear you.”

I decided I needed a really serious question, one that he could sink his chops into. “Tell me how you handled a moment of great decision.”

“Once upon a time, there was a Chihuahua whose wife wanted him to leave. He did. He's much happier now.”

Obviously, I failed.

You know, sometimes it’s hard to separate the man from the onscreen personality. Every time most of us think of Haggis, we think of glowing red eyes and hypodermic needles. I discovered something in my talk with him that turned on the clichéd light bulb over my admittedly empty skull. There are all kinds of wisdom. There’s the proverbial wisdom, the kind that makes me go, “Yeah, yeah—whatever.” There’s the insidious sort of wisdom, the kind that finally struck me years later when I said, “You know, Mom was right about that key in the light socket thing. Not a good idea.”

But then, there’s the good-natured, practical wisdom. It’s the sort that’s hiding behind a sarcastic comment and a wry smile, sliding across the table with a pint of Guinness and through a haze of cigarette smoke. I’ve found during my time with Haggis that his sort of wisdom falls into that final category. He took the path less traveled and as a result left important signposts for all of us to pay attention to.

He peed on them, but we’ll remember them nonetheless.

12-14-2008, 05:36 AM
Checking out some of your interviews, guys makes me feel I gave lame answers.

William Haskins
12-14-2008, 06:35 AM

What was the first thing you ever wrote that exceeded your expectations?

In high school, I used to write essays for a friend of mine so we could skip gym class. They were 300-500 word essays on a particular sport -- racquetball, basketball, rugby or something similar. After a time, I realized that I was writing them for 4-6 other people and starting to get paid for it, about 5 essays per person. I made about $650 that school year. The fees ended up paying for about a dozen of trips to Disneyland to chase skirts. Only about a third of those trips exceeded expectations.

What is it about poetry that appeals to you, both as a writer and a reader?

The thing is men and women see poetry differently. And I've only written poetry for two groups: women and me. If a man gets the poetry, fine. But, men just aren't wired for poetry. We're wired for muddy cleats, eye back, two minutes for roughing and trying to sneak a peek in the "back door" when she's not really noticing and hoping she approves a full look. So, as a writer, I'm wanting to say something that's danced around my skull and hasn’t been said 10,000 times that day in news, on blogs or by someone else to those audiences. And, ultimately, I want to connect with it when it's spit out. As a reader, I'm seeking something fresh; something accurate, brief and clear. Something with broad shoulders or swaying hips that knocks me off my feet after the last stanza. We all want that from everything and every bit of entertainment we consume. The problem is that 99 percent of what we consume is sheer crap. And 98 percent of that done by people creating it, including me, is crap. So, ultimately, on both sides, I want to rub the G-spot, hit a home run or find the perfect little black dress that'll make the others women sad they even stepped out the door that night. Sometimes you know when you do, sometimes you don't.

At what other point in history could you see yourself thriving, and why?

There are always points in history where you think, "At what point were humans most freaky with their clothes off and their bodies on? I mean like 'walk up to a woman, bend her over, shag and smile walking away' times?" But then the reptilian brain goes to sleep for a while and the mammalian layer takes over. And that usually leads me toward something right brained. Something before the industrial age and the crush of corporate necessity. The latter part of the renaissance probably would have been fine. Maybe post-WWII United States. However, this is a pretty good time as well. I’m no Bear Grylls, so anything where I’d have to make fire, spear a Buffalo or fish would be unrelenting suck.

If you could get drunk with one poet, living or dead, who would it be? Please note that you wouldn't actually be drinking with a corpse, but rather some sort of time transference would be involved.

Depending on the poet, drinking with the corpse might be a better time. And since my familiarity with the “Ten Best Poets to Drain a Guinness Beside” list is short of data, so I'll pick you. Should you decline, I’ll take a dead guy: Ben Franklin. He liked whores, ale, didn’t give a damn about much and he took the time to rewrite "Want of a Nail" so well that Todd Rundgren and Bobby Womack made it into song.

What's the strangest dream or nightmare you've ever had?

Most of the nightmares are sleep-borne anxiety attacks. People you love hating you, ignoring you and all that in the dream. You wake up wanting to kiss whoever you’re next for acceptance and conciliation. Also, walking around in your underwear. The "needing one more class to graduate high school and not knowing how to get it" dream. Other visions like that can also be induced by sickness. And I usually don't remember dreams, though I once dreamt of a girl in high school I had a HUGE crush on. It was very real and I almost approached her the next day to ask her out, but by about noon, my head cleared and realized how dumb that move would have been.

If God asked you to fill in for him for a weekend while he took one of those promotional trips to Vegas where you get the room and the show and the continental breakfast, what would you use that time doing?

Wouldn't I have to get through the PowerPoint orientation, get keys to the washroom, get a network password/email account and find my way around the pearly gates in that time? By the time I got around to smiting, "eye for an eye"-ing or figuring out why burnt offerings, he'd be back with a showgirl on each arm covered in those cheap plastic beads, toting a cup full of nickels and handing me my temp pay check. However, somewhere in between the password failures and machine reboots, it might be helpful to reorient living beings into some sort of harmony and get everything made of plasma, carbon, energy and matter in the universe a Facebook page to chat and get to know one another. And I would cancel "Kath & Kim," and smite both actresses.

If you had the time and resources available to you to go away and create your masterpiece, what would it be?

My daughter's 3 already. But I'll use the "can't include something so awfully sappy, it rots my teeth and make my stomach turn" mulligan on that answer. So, let's go with graphic novel, written and drawn by me.

Can train travel ever regain its romantic aura of by-gone eras?

Gas prices are back below two bucks. Auto makers are curled up around the big warm dog bowls awaiting another serving of kibble from Uncle Sam. I'd say 'No' but Warren Buffet just bought a boatload of train and rail interests across the globe. So, if he did it, then I'd be looking for "I had the time of my life" commercials for trains soon. Unless Mr. Buffet goes away for a weekend while he took one of those promotional trips to Vegas where he gets the room and the show and the continental breakfast.

Can blind people ever be truly comfortable playing the lottery? Seems like there would have to be an inordinate amount of trust involved throughout the process...

As Chris Rock said, "It's just a stack to Stevie. It's just a stack."

What's the most frightening thing that's ever happened to you?
Cancer almost killed me. Surprisingly, not frightening. Got shot at in a helicopter over Baghdad. Surprisingly, not frightening. So, I'll go for lying in a moment of weakness and getting caught.

Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?
Well, just like me, they long to be, close to you.

12-14-2008, 06:50 AM
Hey Ray,

Well that was actually a lot of fun. I guess I do enjoy swimming in Lake Me. Those were some great questions which prompted much pontification. Thanks so much for honoring me with this interview. I hope someone chose to interview you too!

1. Where did you grow up and what was it like? Your family, friends, upbringing, neighborhoods, etc. How did it shape you?

I grew up in suburban Rockville, MD not far from D.C. It was beautiful. Riotous leaves in the Fall with their wet smell. Piles of snow in the winter. Hot summers at the ocean. I was the oldest of four kids. My brother who’s two years younger than me was something of a psycho and used to chase me around the house with knives, then I’d disarm him, beat him up and we’d go play soccer in the back yard.

My dad did, and still does a lot of world travel for his work (cancer statistics) and wasn’t around much when I was growing up, so I had to figure out a lot of things by myself which is probably why I’d rather try things my own way and fail than just have someone help me.

I think I was just a normal, happy, blissfully unaware kid. I always loved books and spent many a Saturday reading in the only quiet place in the house - up on the roof. I’d take a blanket and a book and snacks and spend all day up there. Okay maybe I wasn’t totally normal. I loved sports too and played all of them growing up. I took piano lessons from the time I was 7 until I was 12 and hated every minute of it. It wasn’t until I got a guitar for my 16th birthday that I really fell in love with playing music. The funny thing is, I think I do have a good bit of talent on the piano but I stink at it because I’ve never practiced. I don’t think I have much talent for the guitar but I’m good at it because I’ve worked so hard at it for so long.

I had pretty much the same small group of friends growing up and I’m still close to them. In high school I became very shy and withdrawn at school, but I lived for our church Youth group. We had around 100 kids and we did lots of sports and activities and I was at every one of them and had lots of friends. I was a very straight-laced teenager, except for my secret smoking habit.

2. Was being a father of four challenging? What does fatherhood mean to you? How did it change you?

Oh my gosh, YES it’s challenging. At one point we had four kids under the age of five. My career was just taking off, but tenuous so I was working 60 – 80 hours a week. We were part of a church plant with a whole set of challenges and I was the Worship Leader. Fortunately my wife stayed home with the kids, but she was overwhelmed. Every day I’d come home exhausted and open the garage door and there would just be this sea of toys and empty chip bags and clothes and dolls and bottles that I’d have to wade through. I just thank God none of them had serious medical issues because I know those trump every other trial I went through. Those were some very tough years though. Now that they’re older it’s SO much easier. They’re like real self-sufficient people now. They’re my best friends and every day is still an adventure. I do miss that new baby smell and their flannel nightgowns though. I get all misty just thinking about it.

3. You're a religious/spiritual man, but you don't impose your faith on others. How do you find that balance and what does being a Christian mean to you?

I guess I just try to be myself and be transparent. I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to force change on people. I know what truly changed me was just hanging around guys who were normal, honest guys but who were serious about their personal relationship with Jesus. I finally saw that it wasn’t a “church on Sunday” thing or a “pretend to be holy around other people” thing or even a rules thing, it was a life thing and a community thing – it was a brotherhood of guys just like me and you who had fallen in love with Jesus and were passionate about being close to him. That’s when God really made a change in my heart and my identity and the anger and darkness that I’d become accustomed to just kind of burned away.

To me, being a Christian means freedom. Freedom from so many things which weighed me down and caused me secret pain and freedom to enjoy God and enjoy others and explore the riches of this life.

4. What were the inspiration behind your series? Why did you feel compelled to write them? What do they mean to you? What are you going to do next?

I’ll take the answer to the first question from my website (http://www.jayyoungweb.com/Junk_Drawer.php)…When I was a kid I wanted to be an author when I grew up, but somewhere along the line I gave up on it. When we moved to Texas in 2005, I decided it was time to maybe spend less time focusing on music and try something else (I had pretty much devoted my 20’s to the guitar). I had occasionally toyed with the idea of writing, but I couldn’t think of what I could possibly write about. SQL Programming? How to play the guitar? How to change diapers? Then one night I was out riding my bike and I decided I would pray about it, and I suddenly realized I had never prayed about it before. So I prayed and immediately the idea for the novels sprung into my head. I realized that I had several ideas and several parts of scripture that I had been studying that would fit into an exciting story. By the time I rode home, I already had the storyline and most of the characters in mind. It was like God had been holding this gift-wrapped box for me for twenty-five years, just waiting for me to ask for it.

Awww, that’s such a sweet story innit? Anyway, besides all the adventure and complex storylines in my books (which really appeal to my meticulous side), I really wanted to deal with a few key themes in a way that wasn’t preachy. The protagonist’s character arc over the four books is very similar to my own – a naïve young man with a wisecrack for everything who is mentored by a mature, older man; the early 20’s young man being refined in the fires of life and eventually broken; the young man who becomes a leader and experiences the burdens of leadership and betrayal and learns to truly rely on God. I like to think my stories are also universal. There are no rigid paradigms or easy answers. Jesus doesn’t save the day and make all the problems go away. Characters struggle and suffer and fail and laugh and love.

When I go back and read the first book (Heroes of Old) I naturally cringe at my naïveté as a writer, but I console myself that perhaps that’s part of the charm of the first book – the sweet naïveté of the characters. I think book 2 (Spirit of Heroes) is where I hit my stride and managed to bring some complex storylines together in an interesting and action-packed way. Book 3 (Sanctuary of Heroes) is definitely my favorite. It’s much darker and heavier than the others with little patches of gold in the mire. I really feel like I was able to dredge the depth of some of the characters in a satisfying way. Book 4 (Tribulation of Heroes) is the last one in the series and will be released soon (I’m hoping before Christmas). I had originally outlined five books but decided to trim all the fat and combine the last two into an all-questions-answered thrill-ride. I think it’s an exciting and satisfying conclusion to the series.

What’s next? I’ve been working on a manuscript that’s more along the Urban Thriller lines. It’s very slick and stylish, like a Chuck Palahniuk novel, but it lacks depth and focus so it’ll likely be a long time before I’m ready to do anything with it. At this stage of my life writing is just a hobby. I still have SO much to learn. I think I have good organizational skills and am basically a good storyteller, but writing is a craft and I’m still just a novice. Maybe by the time we get the kids out of the house I’ll have learned enough to do some serious writing.

5. Tell us five random things about you that not many people know.

I proposed to my wife over the phone from halfway across the country. She hung up on me. She called me back later and said she’d make all the arrangements and all I’d have to do was show up, so it worked out just fine.

I’m in two books. I make a brief appearance in John Levitt’s latest novel New Tricks (http://www.amazon.com/New-Tricks-John-Levitt/dp/0441016561/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229098562&sr=8-1) and I’m also featured in several (not so flattering, but true) stories in my friend’s book Mullets and Mayhem (http://www.amazon.com/Mullets-Mayhem-Tales-Coming-1980s/dp/0759655049/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1229098594&sr=1-1).

I’m a wicked awesome database programmer but I never talk about it outside of work because I don’t want to bore people.

A few years ago I got on a memorization kick and memorized eight books of the Bible word-for-word and could quote flawlessly for several hours.

I shave my chest because I can’t grow a decent crop of chest hair.

6. "You are what you are" or "you are what you do"? And why?

You are what you do, definitely. I tend to believe we all have a warped self-image – overly inflated in some ways and hyper-critical in others, and it’s all relative anyway. There’s always someone smarter or nicer or uglier or worse, but each of us can choose to do our best for those around us. Acting maturely, even if you don’t feel worthy of it is better than simply “being mature”, if that makes any sense.

7. What was your deepest regret or darkest moment and what did you learn from it?

When I was in college, I spent almost every night with my roommate at our friends’ apartment drinking beer and playing Spades. We’d play for hours and get very drunk and rowdy. One of those friends was named Frank and he was a relief pitcher on the baseball team. He was tall, handsome, and very gregarious but had absolutely no ego. He was like a big kid and we were very close. I loved to do little things to upset him like pour pickle juice into his box of crackers or set his baseball caps on fire.

So one night I’d had way too much to drink, as had Frank. I was sleeping in my apartment when he called and started yelling at me, accusing me of something I knew another friend of ours had done. I was furious and told him I was coming over to “kick his a$$”. Fortunately my roommate talked me out of what would likely have been the worst beating I ever received, but he did let me go over and put a note on Frank’s car.

The note, of course, was every cruel thing I could think of to say, including the fact that he would never make it in MLB and he’d end up with a menial job because he was a dumb jock (among other things). I went home afterward and passed out. I didn’t see Frank for about a week after that. Eventually we started hanging out again since we had the same friends and I think I offered a drunken apology at some point. We became fast friends again. Several years later I was the best man at his wedding. Our families get together every Thanksgiving and try to see each other a few times a year. I love him like a brother.

When I think of ripping his heart out and smearing it on a page and putting under his windshield wiper, I honestly want to die. But in all the years since then he’s never mentioned it or even alluded to it. He taught me what it means to forgive and forget and both of our lives have been richer for it.

8. What was your proudest or happiest moment and what did you learn from it?

It’s hard to think of anything which surpasses the birth of my first child. Up until then everything had been a beautiful black and white picture, but suddenly there was color. Suddenly there was this strange little crying, slimy person and I knew what it was like to be helplessly, selflessly in love. I knew I’d die to protect her without giving it a second thought. I think that was the first time that I truly understood how God loves me and why God chooses to call himself “Father”. It changed everything.

9. What makes you unique? What unique experiences you had that set you apart from others? Or make you become aware of your place in history/community/etc.?

That’s a tough question. I don’t really feel unique or particularly special and I certainly don’t think I have a place in history as it were. The things I do – music, writing, jokes, working hard – those are all good and I enjoy them, but they’re not particularly special. I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t want fame or accolades or sweeping social change. I’m a small fish. What I do want is to go deep with a small handful of people and to let Christ shine through me and accomplish his work. Nobody’s going to be downloading my MP3’s in a hundred years, but hopefully I’ve encouraged my friends, acquaintances, and even my enemies towards a loving relationship with God.

10. List a few things you're afraid to ask but you've always wanted to know.

Between Google and AW I think I’ve already asked them all. Seriously, I guess that’s one of my virtues – I’ve never been afraid to ask questions. Afraid to act on the answers, certainly, but not afraid to ask.

11. Tell me what your typical day is like. Then tell me what an atypical day is like, one that you remember the most -- what did it mean to you?

Typical weekday: be intimate with my wife (if I’m lucky), go to work, go out to lunch by myself and read, go to a church activity (band practice, coaching my kids basketball teams, men’s accountability), come home and play with the kids or help them with homework or go for a walk, watch a little TV with my wife, maybe play the guitar or do some writing, be intimate with my wife (if I’m lucky), go to sleep. Weekends I always cook big breakfasts for the family and we usually do a family activity like Six Flags or camping or movies and church on Sunday. Sunday afternoon is nap time for Daddy. We do a good bit of traveling to see friends or host friends from out of town and I travel about once a month; either business or personal. My wife and I try to do the occasional date night, although we need to get much better at it.

Atypical. Hmmm, there are plenty of those depending on which friend is in town. My wife and I have a standing agreement that anytime the other wants to go out for the night or weekend, they can do so at the drop of a hat. But atypical – I try to take each of my kids on their own individual “date”. It’s tough because it takes up an entire evening and once I take one I’m obligated to take each of them. So about once every 2 – 3 months I’ll go through the cycle. They get to choose whatever they want and we go on a date. It’s usually mini golf or movies and dinner and ice cream. We talk about everything that’s going on in both of our lives and they can ask me any question at all. It’s always an adventure and a great time of bonding and hopefully they are learning what a date should be like.

12. What is the meaning of life?

Love. That’s the only thing I’m really sure about. True, selfless, agape love. Ultimately it’s about receiving God’s love and being transformed by it, but I think it’s self-evident to our species, life is about love.

13. What's the most interesting thing about you we should know about? Or not.

I like comfortable silences. Barring that, I like to listen to someone else talk briefly. Barring that, I’ll talk briefly. But really I like spending time alone. I have no interest in talking to strangers. I have no interest in talking on the phone. Just sit next to me and let’s read our books. Ahhhh. That’s nice.

14. What do you want to do/be when you grow up?

Honestly, I want to be Deep. I feel like I’m still on the low foothills of the journey from Shallowness to Depth. I’m still so self-centered and concerned with what people think about me. I still have so much to learn about the world around me and about true compassion and maturity. I’ve been blessed to have been mentored by guys that I do consider to be Deep, so I think I know what it looks like. It’s not flashy, but it saturates every aspect of life. But there’s still so much “Jay” that still needs to be burned off.

15. Give me one reason why I should buy you a beer.

Because I’m a good listener and I have good comedic timing. If you buy me a beer, I’ll listen to you talk and make you smile. I’ll take a Sam Adams Honey Porter, please.

12-14-2008, 06:54 AM
1. Where did you grow up and what was it like? Your family, friends, school, neighborhoods, etc.? How did that shape you?

I grew up in Indiana, PA. About 45 minutes from Pittsburgh. Indiana is something of a small town, but the university there makes it seem a lot bigger. But you still have that small home-town feel. My Nana (grandmother) was a teacher at the high school, and so pretty much knew everyone around. Until I was in 4th grade, I lived out in the country and was a complete tomboy. I was never inside if I could help it. I was playing in the dirt, running through the cornfields behind my house. Anything. I had such an imagination. When I moved into town, I was a lot closer to my friends and we would ride our bikes everywhere. My mom had a lot of trust in me to be safe and to come home by dark, or when I got hungry—whichever came first. Family is incredibly important to me, present and past. My Nana is a big believer in keeping a good family tree, so I will always know my roots. School was both easy and hard for me. Easy because I have a good head on my shoulders. I’m smart and grasp concepts easily. Hard because I had a tendency to daydream, a lot. Even though I found out later that this was A.D.D., that wasn’t the ‘popular’ diagnosis. The only thing I think that truly kept me from getting labeled was the fact I was a good student and could catch up and learn without too many problems. I was always the quiet, shy kid who barely spoke in class. Stage fright, of a sort, ruled my life through my school years until about 9th grade when my two best friends practically dragged me into play auditions one afternoon. I got the part. And I started working on becoming more social.

2. What do you write and why did you choose the genre/stories? What inspires you?

I usually write whatever comes to mind. In high school that meant bad poetry. REALLY bad. My mom kept a lot of my things and I read my poetry book before I moved about six years ago. I had a good laugh. Now I like to write sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy. I love things that have to do with the paranormal, or create worlds out of nothing for people to live in and give me a place to tell whatever story I have in my head. As for inspiration? That’s a hard one. I don’t know that I could narrow it down to any one or a few things. I love characters that speak to me, the ones that almost write themselves. More often than not, I’ll come up with a person first and then he or she will tell me what they do, why (sometimes), and they’ll give me the story to write.

3. Tell us five random things about you that few people know.

Random, eh? I love watching old movies with my dad. I can still be painfully shy, especially in new situations. I cover up a lot of hurt/embarrassment/shyness/pain with humor—a lot of humor. Shopping for school supplies is one of my favorite pastimes; I love it! Until my senior year in high school, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist and work at Sea World.

4. What are you wearing, baby?

Jeans and a t-shirt. My standard attire if I can get away with it!

5. Briefs or boxers?

On me or on men? ‘Cause on men I can go either way. ;)

6. What do qualities you seek in a life partner? What are important and what are not? Do you have/Did you have someone like that in your life?

Great smile, easy going attitude (to offset my often times type-A personality), honest, likes children, doesn’t mind just cuddling up on a couch and vegging in front of the TV some nights, likes sports, likes reading/writing, will put up with my love of sci-fi conventions and other kinds of activities where you kind of have to just get into the spirit of things (like Renaissance Faires), who can put up with my bad jokes and still have a sense of humor. Honesty and liking children are deal breakers for me. I thought I had someone like that a while ago, but not so much. He married someone else four months after breaking up with me (hence the honesty deal breaker).

7. "You are what you are" or "You are what you do"? And why?

“You are what you are”. We can all try or pretend to be something else. We can study, go to college for it, get a good job in that field, but will never truly be happy unless you are true to who you are. I always loved animals, so I thought bio would be a good fit, and I loved the classes. I went to Spain and fell in love with the language, so my senior year I changed my choice of colleges and majors and took Spanish for International Trade. Never EVER thought I wanted to teach, even though when I was a child I pretended to be a teacher all the time. My Nana was a teacher; four of my cousins are teachers (having something of a weird My Cousin Vinny moment here). And until I started teaching preschool ten years ago, I didn’t realize that was what I truly wanted either. I am what I am. I love kids, I love giving them the tools and skills to acquire new ideas, new thoughts, new… everything. I love that moment where their eyes light up as they ‘get it’. It’s awesome.

8. What was your darkest moment and what did you learn from it? (If it's too personal, you can skip this or tell us your less personal experience)

After working with the kids I have right now (at risk and troubled children who are in an alternate school program) my ‘darkest’ moments don’t even compare to the crap that these guys have had to put up with their entire lives. In fact my darkest moments are pretty darn full of light in comparison. But the hardest thing for me was something that actually had an impact on my whole family. My dad worked for the coal mines in western PA and was laid off my senior year in high school. He was the provider for the family. I was about to go to college and worried about the stress that would put on them because they would help pay for it even though they didn’t have the money to do so. My mom started working two jobs. My dad worked two part time jobs AND went back to school full time. It was stressful for everyone and scary. But here we all are. It is actually helping me now because I know that no matter how bad things might get financially, there’s always a way through it. It ain’t easy, but it’s possible.

9. What was your proudest/happiest moment and what did you learn from it?

The day my brother got married. I’m a big sister. It’s my job to worry about my ‘baby’ brother. I always tried to protect him as best as I could. But the day he introduced me to his girlfriend Valerie, I knew I didn’t have to protect him anymore. She is the sweetest person ever and I couldn’t ask for a better sister. I stood up there with them and was beaming the whole time. I still tease him about getting married before me, but I truly couldn’t be prouder of him.

10. If you have just one more day to live, what would you do?

Find the one person who I think I could have loved for the rest of my life and spend the day with them.

11. What is going through your mind right now?

My mind is a scary place sometimes. Right now I’m surprising myself by how much I’m saying here. I’m normally not this ‘talkative’. But even though many people will potentially see all of this, I’m also telling it to you. Talking to people who I consider my friends is the easiest thing for me to do in the world.

12. Describe your bedroom.

Unintended chaos. It’s a conglomeration of a variety of styles and interests. I have Celtic pictures, symbols and other related things on the walls and shelves. I have some of my favorite stuffed animals (the ones that have special meaning to me) displayed throughout. I have two shelves filled with books, my TV and DVD/VCR player with a selection of DVDs on the shelf too. My computer desk next to my bed and other odds and ends. A calendar to keep track of my sub jobs, two flags (Ireland and Scotland) on the wall, and other abstract kind of paintings to match my latest color scheme: kind of an Earth tone scheme, mainly rust/goldenrod/sage. Oh, and candles. I love candles.

13. Do you have a moment or event in your life that you can look back on and see that it changed your life? What is it, and how did it change your life -- for better or for worse?

The day I finally decided to go back to school to become a teacher. Like I said before, it is who I am and the payoff has been the best. I’ve met great kids, great parents, had great experiences. Definitely changed me for the better.

14. What makes Melissa unique? What unique experiences or qualities you have that make you realize your unique place in the world/history/community, etc.?

This is probably the hardest question for me because I am my own worst critic. But, I like to make people smile. I can’t stand it when people are sad or down on themselves. I’ll make faces, tell jokes (good and bad), anything to get a smile or a laugh. Because I truly believe that once that smile or laugh pokes through, it makes things better. It doesn’t fix what’s wrong, but it makes it better. I teach. Every day, even if it’s not an earth-shattering OH MY GOD I UNDERSTAND IT! day, I’ve still taught my kids something. They’ll take that knowledge and use it the next day, and the day after. I have kids that I baby sat, or taught in preschool ages ago that still remember me because of one reason or another. One of my first joyful/tearful moments in teaching was my first experience at a daycare center. I worked with three year olds and did the letters, the colors, the shapes, whatever. That Christmas I got a card from one of my students (I still have it now, almost 11 years later) that he signed himself. Using letters that I helped him learn. J-O-R-D-A-N. Six letters with amazing power. I seriously cried when I opened it.

15. Give me one good reason why I should buy you a beer.

Because apart from the fact that I love a good beer, it’s a great way to have a nice conversation. No pressures, no pretending to impress, we are who we are. Two friends, having a beer.

12-14-2008, 07:00 AM
Ray's note: auntybug asked to have this removed.

12-14-2008, 07:31 AM
AW Day of Listening
Maternal Instincts—Mary Misenor alias Soccer Mom
by Celina Summers

For some reason, I thought that this would be the easiest interview that I would do. After all, Soccer Mom (henceforth known as Mary) is one of my dearest friends. We drink cyber margaritas together. We have LOLCatz wars. We beta for each other. Every once in a while, we have serious conversations on serious topics.

And we usually agree.

Imagine my shock, then, when this turned out to be the most difficult of the three conversations I had with our revered senior members of Absolute Write. I’ve thought about this a lot this evening, pondering why that could be possible. Could it be that—perhaps, just perhaps, I know her too well?

Let’s find out. Let’s start off with the basics.

“I write for children under my own name and for adults as Mary Misenor. I have a JD. You probably know my professional credits. I have the Trunk Novel and my most recent short stories have been in Coyote Wild and Mouth Full Of Bullets. I'm a career prosecutor. I wandered about the world quite a bit. I sang with the Texas Girl's Choir from age 7 until age 16 and traveled to 8 or 9 countries with them including a tour across Europe. I had contact with a lot of people that I wouldn't have otherwise met since I'm just a small town country girl.”

So far, so good. Right? This was going to be easier than I thought.


“What was the one thing you swore you'd never do with your life?” I asked. I expected something exciting—like the running of the bulls in Pamplona or snake handling in some weirdo Texas church.

She thought for a minute, but her expression didn’t change as she replied, “I can't come up with anything. Told you I was boring.”

What? Did I really just hear that? Never one to give up on a set system of questioning, I persisted. “Did you end up doing it and why?”

“I'm going to think on these two questions a bit more,” Mary said blandly, her face still as smooth as a donkey’s ear. “I'm just drawing a big blank.”

Okay. Now I was confused. She thought a bit more and nothing happened. I was stunned. Not even a single LOLCat was in sight.

It was time for me to change tactics.

“What would you say the single most important life change you made was?”

“I think having children changed me more than anything. Motherhood completely reshaped who I am.”

Here I noticed something interesting. All three of my interviewees have mentioned this when I asked this question. I thought this rather odd. My kids hadn’t changed me that much. Hell, maybe there was something wrong with me. After a hurried call to my therapist, who assured me that I was normal and they were weird, I continued.

“What brought you to writing?”

“Boredom. No, seriously. I've always written. I got my first taste of publication when one of my poems appeared in the newspaper. I was seven. I've had periods in life when writing had to go away for a while. Law school was one of those. I stopped writing in 1990. Then in 1995 I was restless and bored and decided to pick the writing back up.”

“Was it a compulsion or a plan?”


That’s it? A one word answer? From a writer—about writing?

It was only then that I realized that I was talking to an attorney. That JD thing she was talking about earlier? Juris Doctorate. The legal definition of a Juris Doctorate, according to The FreeDictionary.com (hey what can I say? I’m cheap) is as follows: “Juris doctor, or doctor of Jurisprudence, commonly abbreviated J.D., is the degree commonly conferred by law schools. It is required in all states except California (which includes an option called law office study) to gain Admission to the Bar. Gaining admission to the bar means obtaining a license to practice law in a particular state or in federal court.”

Damn. No wonder I couldn’t get any answers out of her. Having once scored in the top two percentile on the law school entrance exam myself then discarding the law for theatre (yeah, I know—what was I thinking?) I was approaching this the wrong way.

At that point, Mary interjected, “Did I mention that I left theatre to study law? It's true.”

Oh really? Well, heck. That explained a lot. I realized that I would have to think like a lawyer if I was going to pry anything out of her. So, I threw her a curveball.

“How much change have you seen in your profession--both as an attorney and a writer--for our gender?”

Aha. Now I’ve got her!

“As a writer: I've seen us get a bit more respect. I tend to write in women friendly genres anyway: romance, mystery, children. Women are the norm there, but those areas of writing have often been derided as "Cozy" "Bodice Ripper" "Easy Reader" and looked down upon. Now I think we are taken more seriously as professionals within the writing community, but still get little respect from the mainstream or from the general media.

“As an attorney: I don't know that I've seen anything change in the last 15 years. It's possible for women to get near the top, but still damn hard to break through the glass ceiling. We still have to choose between career and family. In order to be taken seriously, many women try to—and are expected to—act like men. I refuse. People always tell me that I seem too nice to be a lawyer. I dunno. Maybe they expect me to bite the head off a pigeon before trial? I try my cases just like the girl next door and I win. So there.”

Finally! A spark of life flashed in her jurisprudence-tainted taciturnity! I’d succeeded! Time for a new curveball—one without exclamation points. “Tell me one story that encapsulates how you handled a moment of great decision.”

“Okay, gonna have to think on this one too. I have a few good lawyering war stories in me.”

I waited for a day and then she pled the fifth on me.

Obviously, it would take someone smarter than me to crack this cookie. Right off the top of my head, I couldn’t come up with anyone. So, I thought about Mary for a moment and recognized at last that she did have a weakness.

I would have to exploit it.

“If there is such a thing as perfection, what do you think it is?”

“Perfection doesn't exist. It isn't possible from flawed humans. Flaws are beautiful though and it is the infinite variety that makes life wonderful.” Damn. A typical lawyer answer. But then, Mary’s weakness swam to the surface. The briefcase-toting façade cracked. “Okay, but chocolate is close to perfection. Reaaaaaal close. With coffee. On a cold morning. While the kids are still in bed. And I have a great novel to read.”

I’d gotten to her. All of a sudden, Mary was no longer a lawyer. Out of the blue, she turned into a human. I knew I had to follow up quickly. “What is the loveliest sound you've ever heard?”

Her face changed, softened. Even those glowing red demon attorney eyes lightened into something somewhat resembling humanity. “Baby laughter. If I could bottle it and sell it, I'd be a kazillionaire.”

“What is the most important thing in your life that keeps you balanced—or unbalanced, such as the case may be?”

“My kids. They keep me humble and force me to interact with the world. I could turn into a hermit, but they won't let me.”

Was it possible? Was spawning the secret that all lawyers harbored, hidden in their oak-paneled offices as the sole evidence that they, too, shared the same DNA pool as the rest of the homo sapiens that inhabit our world? Is that why they all have those pictures of smiling kids on their desks? If that was so, then surely they had moments in the past that they dreamed of reliving, of rectifying in some strange way. So I asked her. I had to. “If you could go back to the age of twenty, what would you change now that would affect your situation today?”

“Nothing. Yes, I'm that boring. But I like my house and my kids and can't imagine doing things differently—except I'd have focused on novels much earlier and stopped all that poetry nonsense. I was sooo emo.”

I’d lost her again. In absolute desperation, I snapped, “Ten years from now, when you look back at this moment what will you wish you had told me?”

Mary Misenor, attorney, author and Soccer Mom, grinned—and then laughed in my face. “I should have told you to find someone more interesting to interview. Seriously, I go to work. Play with donkeys. Do homework with my kids. Go to den meetings. Church on Sundays. Write in all the spaces in between. I'm pretty plain vanilla.”

You know, for a while, I was kind of pissed off. Here I was, expecting some spectacular exposé on Mary’s exciting and demanding world and instead I got some rant about playing with donkeys?

And then it hit me.

Her life was pretty spectacular. Here was a woman who was juggling two careers, two children and at least two donkeys. Okay, five donkeys. While she claimed to be pretty plain vanilla, chocolate was as close to perfection as she thought she could get. What a dichotomy! What a contrast! Everything about her was a contradiction, as if when she’d developed her individuality she’d had too much to offer for just one person.

She had enough to be two people at the same time.

If you think about it, that’s one hell of an accomplishment. It takes a special person to be memorable, to be thought of with fondness or to inspire others to be the best that they can become. It takes a remarkable person to manage that while hiding behind a façade of normalcy so steeped in Americana that few would ever attempt to penetrate the second, private individual behind that façade. There are people in Texas who know Mary as a darn good prosecutor. There are people all over the world who think she’s one heck of a writer.

But in the end, there aren’t many people who know the Mary Misenor who walks with her sons across the fields of her ranch at sunset, listening to them chatter about their last Scout meeting while they play with the toy donkeys who romp around their feet.

Aren’t we the fortunate ones? We know the woman who smiles at us all and sneaks off to eat our chocolate while we’re not looking. I guess that makes the membership of Absolute Write part of a very elite group.

Every group of diverse people needs a Soccer Mom.

And every Soccer Mom deserves her very own LOLCat. Torture begets torture, after all.


12-14-2008, 08:12 AM


Tell us about your avatar.
When I first came online, it was at a small chat room called the Virtual Irish Pub. We had ferrets at the time and lacking any originality in coming up with a user name, I just called myself The Ferret. That worked fine there, but then as I expanded my Interweb connections I found that The Ferret was a fairly common user name. So when I came to EZboard [where AW got started], and found The Ferret already taken, I decided to take the Ferret moniker, since many people already knew me by that, and add something to it. But what? Well, I’ve always been a fan of The Shadow, the pulp novel, old time radio character, so I thought, hey, Shadow Ferret.

But you asked about my avatar, didn’t you? Well, since over the years here at AW I’ve created this ferret persona, it just seemed natural to have a ferret of some sort in my avatar. So now I cruise the Interwebs looking for new and unusual ferret pics to make as my avatar. Besides, I’ve tried using other non-ferret pics as my avvie here from time to time, but every time I did I’d get so many reps asking “Where’s the ferret? I love the ferret?” that I’ve stopped trying to be anything but Ferret to you people.

Tell us about yourself. (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
I work as a technical writer for a contracting company. In other words, I get shipped out to different clients to help them do what their own people can’t do. Scary thought considering my skill level, which I think is nil.

I’ve been married for 15 years, but I’ve known her for 20. I have two children, both boys, ages 13 and 8. They’re complete opposites. The older one is laid back and was hardly ever a problem and spoiled us. The younger one is the result of a curse my mom cast upon me, “I hope you have a child just like you!” He’s my mini-me. We were in church the other day and I noticed him out of the corner of my eye imitating everything I was doing, so it became a game and I’m trying not to smile, but then he flashed this huge grin and I couldn’t help but laugh. In church.

I have 2 dogs, both rescued. Cobie, the Dalmatian mix, is mine, the Jack Russell mix is my wife’s. The Jack is afraid of me. He was abused and we think the abuser was male because he has a distinct fear of anything adult male. Cobie on the other hand is very needy, as you can see in my profile pic.

And there are 2 ferrets in the house, both albino, both my eldest’s, who essentially neglects them. I feel sorry for them. I’m the only one who interacts with them and that’s only to feed them and clean the cage.

What are the names of the 2 ferrets you have now?
Well, they’re white, so one is called Snowball, the other is called Nippy. Although the one named Nippy doesn’t nip, the other one does.

What got you interested in ferrets?
I’ve grown up with pets all my life. Dogs are my favorite animal, but I’ve had nearly everything else imaginable except lizards (although I’ve had salamanders, fish, and turtles) and birds (although as a child I tried to nurse some back to health). Call for Dr. Ferret! Anyway… we first lived in an apartment. No pets. At least no dogs, I think some people snuck in cats. I’m not a cat person. Not since the time as a kid that we were playing street baseball and this cat got on the “field” so I tried to shoe it away. It wouldn’t move, so I kicked it. It didn’t go anywhere except to cling to my leg, clawing and snarling at me while I screamed and all my friends ran away screaming. A neighbor had to come and get the cat off me and my mom, a nurse, still shudders at the memory of my leg.

Anyway, I digress (and I think my other favorite word is “anyway” [edit – see ‘What is your favorite word’ question below]), so no pets, but I wanted a pet. So I researched pets and came upon ferrets. I learned everything I could, presented it to my wife, who was LESS than enthusiastic about it, until I started dragging her to the pet store and showing her the baby ferrets.

How many have you owned over the years?
Suffice to say that we’ve own 7 over the years, as many as 3 at one time. We’ve even been given ferrets. One from a friend who just couldn’t take care of it and another from a co-worker whose husband works in the parks and just found it wondering around.

Please, ferrets are domestic animals. They will survive in the wild about as well as a toy poodle. (Despite the stupid California law that bans them because they’re afraid of them being released and causing problems, such as a business of feral ferrets going wild and eating all the kibble people leave lying around. Hello! They’re neutered before you buy them!) Do not release them into the wild.

You tend to post music in the Drunk Thread. What is your favorite kind of music/band? Why?
I’d say what is now called classic rock from the 70s. Although back then we called it space rock, or acid rock, or hard rock. It wasn’t even heavy metal when I listened to it – that was coined a little later, mid-70s maybe. And my favorite band is Black Sabbath. I just love the heavy crunch of Tony Iommi’s riffs. I think he’s created some of the best guitar riffs in the history of rock. Plus, a lot of their music has a dark fantasy quality to it. I used to play Black Sabbath while reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories and their sound has become so ingrained with that kind of story that whenever I write, I put them on for inspiration.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I have several places I’d like to visit. I love Greek mythology, so I’d love to see the Acropolis. I’d like to see the Great Wall. The Forbidden City. Monasteries in Tibet. Love to go to Oktoberfest in Germany. I’d like to see medieval castles. But if I could actually live somewhere, I’d like to go live in Iceland. I spent three years there in the Navy and I just enjoyed the people, the pristine climate. It’s just a nice clean, quiet place where I think I’d get a lot of writing done as I’m soaking in the Blue Lagoon.

You say you spent time in the Navy. Why did you choose that branch of service? Tell us about your time in the Navy.
You know, sometimes I make spur of the moment decisions. I think its part of my ADHD, I don’t really think things through. I have no idea why I joined the Navy (over any other branch I mean) and when I found out they have ships and I get seasick and that I’m claustrophobic, well… Duh. Anyway, out of high school I just wanted to get away. My parents had divorced a year previously and I guess I was running away from that.

But there’s really not much to tell. I spent a year in school in San Diego. Hung out at the beaches in Orange County, specifically La Jolla. If I ever had the desire to leave Milwaukee and stay in the States, I think San Diego is one of the places I’d go to.

Then I spent 3 years in Iceland trying to avoid sea duty. You see, as a sailor, there is this sea/shore duty rotation. At the time it was 36 months sea duty, then 12 months shore duty. Iceland, because of its remoteness, counted as sea duty. So I was planning on staying there for my whole sea rotation then coming stateside.

And I did. Except that a month before my departure they changed the rotation to 48/12 (I’m not sure about the shore rotation, it might actually have been 24 months). And guess what? It was too late to extend my tour in Iceland.

So I got shipped out to the USS Coronado, an LPD (amphibious transport dock), which had taken the place of the USS La Salle, the flagship to the Commander of the Middle East Forces. It/they are the only all white ships in the Navy. Has something to do with showing our presence there and going back to President Teddy Roosevelt. Don’t ask me more, I don’t know. So I spent a year in the Persian Gulf, arriving a few weeks after the Iran Hostage Crisis ended.

That’s where I discovered that you can get used to seasickness. I was sick when I first got on board, then got used to it. Then we moved out into the Arabian Sea and larger waves and got seasick again. Then got used to that just as we went into the Indian Ocean during typhoon season.

So during that time I got to go ashore at Bahrain. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. And Mombasa, Africa. But one of the most fun times was when the ship went dead in the water in the Straits of Hormuz and started drifting closer and closer to the Iranian shore.

Although most of my time in the Navy is an alcoholic blur, I had a good time, made many friends, and visited some very interesting places.

Oh, and yes, I finally did get stationed stateside, but it was New Jersey so I guess I got screwed on that, too.

Would you encourage your sons to go into the service?
Yes, I would encourage them to join. I am very proud of my service to my country and think it is a great place to learn discipline, gain invaluable experiences most civilians will never have, and besides, with the GI Bill it helps pay for college and a home. But they better pick the Navy. If they even think of the Army I’ll disown them.

What is your favorite word? Why?
But. But is my favorite word. It must be, because it shows up in my writing all the time. I have a huge But problem. For some reason, while writing, every sentence I create works out to have a But in it. I have to consciously rewrite them all to eliminate the But. And it’s one of the first words I do a search for when I’ve completed a manuscript. I have literally hundreds of them throughout the document, sometimes several in just one paragraph. Therefore I have to literally rewrite hundreds of sentences to eliminate the But. (In fact, there’s a sentence in the second answer where I used it twice.)

What is your favorite book and why?
This is a hard question, because if I choose just one, it makes it seem that all the other books I’ve read aren’t my favorites, when in fact they are. I have many favorite books and all for different reasons. Some are favorites because I read them when I was very young and they influenced me as a writer then, but certainly wouldn’t influence me now because I’ve changed so much over the years. For instance, the first two books I read that took me down this road to being a writer were “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar” by Edgar Rice Burroughs and “Conan the Adventurer” by Robert E. Howard and edited by L. Sprague De Camp. Both those books introduced me to heroes and adventures that were much larger than life, certainly larger than the Bobbsey Twins, which is the kind of stuff I was reading prior.

After reading those two books, and I can’t recall which I read first, it’s almost a virtual tie, I immediately started writing my own stories. And almost as immediately started submitting them and receiving rejections.

Another book that had a great influence on me was “Tropic of Cancer” by Henry Miller. It was the first book I read outside the action/adventure genre. It grabbed me by the throat and never let go. I’d never read anything so raw, so provocative, so angry and philosophic. I could see why the book was banned for 27 some years. A sample line is “This is not a book. This is a libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty.” And it was, and I loved it.

What do you write? Novels, shorts, non-fic? And what genre?
I write whatever catches my fancy. As a technical writer, I'm forced to write non-fiction every day of my life. And I have a blog to annoy people with, but then, who doesn't have a blog? Seriously! I'd like to meet that person, shake their hand, and thank them for not joining the rest of the overindulgent narcissistic world in cyberspace.

When I write for fun and profit, however, I tend to concentrate mostly on novels. I started out writing short stories, because I think short. That means I think in scenes and I’ve never been able to see the Big Picture (which is why I can’t outline). So when I started writing I wrote short stories and always marveled at people who could write longer. I even tried my hand at starting novels and that’s all I did was start them. I’d get in 4 chapters and be at a loss of what to do. But somewhere along the way, I broke that wall and finished a 195,000 word novel that is now trunked because I’m too lazy to fix it. But that novel showed me that I can write long even if I still think short.

Which means, I write a scene, when I’m finished with that, another scene presents itself and I write that. It’s like going into a house where all the doors are closed and I have to open each door and explore the room to get an idea of what the house is like.

And I try my hand at poetry, but I don’t feel I’m much good at that. I’m more prose oriented than anything.

And my primary genre is fantasy. My current subbing novel is an Urban Fantasy. My trunk novel was a medieval fantasy of sorts, but without any annoying elves or magic or anything. Another novel that I’m only 4 chapters in on (my first attempt at a novel) is about a half-elf and a snarky wise-cracking unicorn. Then I have a Space Opera novel (4 chapters in!) about a bounty hunter in the future who quotes Shakespeare. And except for the trunk novel, they all have this quirky humor to them, so maybe my genre is actually humor, though I don’t think of myself as a humorist. I’m certainly no Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett or Robert Asprin.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Well, in a previous question, I guess I said right after I discovered Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs I started writing, which is true to the degree that that is when I started writing and seeking acceptance through publication, but I overlooked the fact that my parents gave me this working toy printing press when I was a kid. I still have it. It had a printing wheel and an ink roller and you’d take these metal bars and slide type onto them, put the bar onto the printing wheel and it would create a newsletter. I made a little one page newspaper that I’d hand out to my parents and friends. So I guess that’s when I really started writing, though at one letter at a time, I’m not quite sure how prolific I was.

What are your goals as a writer?
To get my novel published. Short term, I guess, to just get an agent, but get that thing published, to see my name on shelves next to all the fantasy greats, that would be so cool.

When did you join AW and what do you remember about joining then?
I joined AW back when it was still on EZBoard, so maybe 2004 or even before? At the time I was running my own writer’s board, which was fairly active at the time, and there were a couple other boards on EZboard I attended regularly, so AW sort of got lost in the shuffle. I don’t remember much about those days. It wasn’t until I got bored running my board and AW switched to its own server that I became a regular.

What is your favorite AW thread? Why?
The Royalty Thread. I guess it suits the fantasy writer in me. I love medieval history and this thread gives me a chance to act out, and sometimes write, that sort of story line.

And aside from that, it’s also my favorite thread because I’ve made some close and meaningful friendships there.

What is your favorite AW moment?
I don’t have a favorite moment, per se, there have been so many good times here, and I’ve met so many wonderful people, that honestly, some of this stuff just blurs together. However, and though I can’t point to any specific thread or event, I will say that my favorite moments on AW happened when my good friend PeeDee was here. We played off of each other’s posts and just had a rollicking good time. Sometimes a thread would degenerate into just the two of us going back and forth, puns flying like crazy. Other times MidnightMuse would get involved and also SpookyWriter. Those were good times. But PeeDee has put himself into Internet exile and MidnightMuse hardly comes by any more and Spooky, well, he did one practical joke too many and it backfired on him, earning him a permanent ban. I miss them.

But that isn’t to say I don’t have new best friends here who I have a ton of fun with. Probably the latest fun thing was the Halloween horror scenario we had going in the Royalty thread (starting on page 618). That was a lot of fun and not just because I started it (at my queen’s request, of course), but because everyone joined in and had a good time with it. It’s currently being serialized (by others, not me!) as “Evil Stalks the Castle.”

But, to be specific, my favorite moment at AW happens every day as I’m chatting with all my friends.

What is your worst AW moment?
Every April Fool’s Day. I’m not much for those kinds of shenanigans. I don’t find practical jokes very practical or funny. Plus, I’m easily fooled and when I get fooled I get angry. Mostly at myself, but I tend to take it out on everyone here. It’s a nasty quality I have and to avoid it I plan on taking that day off this year.

Oh, wait, now that I’ve thought about it. My worst AW moment is everyone’s worst AW moment who was here at that time. One May, several years ago, a certain evil agent managed to get AW shut down for several days and we all went through severe withdrawal. There were even temporary AW shelters set up for all the homeless posters to hang out at. It was a terrifying and tragic period in our history.

Following is a sample of Shadow_Ferret’s writing:
Here are the opening paragraphs to my currently subbed novel, A Life in Rune.

Superman. Now there was an ambitious man. No one forced him to be the hero of Metropolis, he chose to do it. He chose to take on the responsibility of saving the world.

The same can be said for anyone who becomes President or some other world leader. They have drive, ambition, and ego.

On the other hand, I had no such ambitions. I would have been perfectly happy living a life of obscurity, boredom, and ease. In fact, my dream job was to be retired. Even as a child while my friends wanted to be doctors or lawyers or firemen, I always thought past that to what I’d do the day I retired.

That was before Zeus called me into his office.

12-14-2008, 08:13 AM


Tell us about your avatar.
For months when I first joined AW I would change my avatar every week or so, using scenes from movies I liked for the most part. Somewhere along the line I became aware of Happy Bunny (which is the bunny in my avatar) and I started using a number of those. It just kind of stuck after a while.

Tell us a bit about yourself. (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
I work as a Systems Manager for a small engineering firm. (Basically, I’m a computer guy). I’ve been working in the civil/environmental industry since graduating high school. I’m very happily married (20 years next May), and my wife and I have 2 kids – a girl (13) and a boy (10).

What part of the world do you live in?
I live in the southern coastal region of New Jersey. My mom, sister and I moved south from north Jersey when my parents divorced about 30 years ago and I've lived in the region ever since.

What was your least favorite job?
The worst job I ever had was as a change-maker at an arcade on the boardwalk. I worked there 1 day, then called in sick 10 minutes before I was supposed to show up the next time and never went back. (Hey, I was 16. Sue me).

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Hawaii. A reason? It’s HAWAII. Do I need more of a reason than that? :) I’ve always wanted to go and haven’t gotten there yet.

What is your favorite kind of music/band? Why?
I like lots of music really, but these days, if I had to choose one kind I’d say Alternative. I like the energy of it. But, if I had to pick a favorite band I’d say Metallica, but Metallica from the 80’s – 90’s.

What is your favorite word?
It’s a toss-up between noble and poetic.

What is your favorite book and why?
I’d have to say The Fellowship of the Ring by Tolkien. I read it as a teenager, again in my twenties and again a few years ago. It’s one of the few novels I’ve re-read. I think, more than anything, I’m awestruck by the sheer magnitude of the work. It’s an amazing example of bringing a setting and characters to life. Monsters, maidens, and a good sword fight or two always help as well.

What do you write? Novels, shorts, non-fic? And what genre?
The real answer to this question is "I'm not sure yet", but at the present time I'm working on a novel. I'm still in the early planning stages, which for me is the most enjoyable part. I love doing research, especially historical research. My current WIP is about a crime in 1773 Pennsylvania and the ensuing trial. What genre would that be?

What are your writing habits?
Unfortunately, my most consistent writing habit is finding reasons not to write. I don't have a set schedule or page count. I generally squeeze in what I can when I can and hope to make some progress. With this latest project I've been working mostly at night after my wife and kids have gone to bed, and during lulls at the office.

What are your goals as a writer?
Right now, my goal is to finish one blessed thing I start. It’s a terrible character flaw, but I never seem to finish anything I start to write. The idea I’m working on now I think is a good one, and I’m doing a bit of research and outlining to get the story mapped out. Hopefully it’ll have enough juice to keep me interested long enough to finish it.

When did you join AW and what do you remember about joining then?
I joined in December of last year. What do I remember? I remember a crazy Christmas party thread, a crazy gift exchange thread, waking up in the middle of the night and feeling the urge to go downstairs and log on. Discovering people whom I thought were hysterical and finding later that I was right. Oh, and Murray from accounting. I remember him.

What is your favorite AW thread? Why?
Oh, that’s a toss-up between the Comedy Cabaret and the Bologna and Cream Cheese Burrito Cantina. I love the people there, I love the banter. It’s awesomely awesome.

What is your favorite AW moment?
My favorite moment for me personally was very early after joining about a year ago. I’d been posting for a short time, not more than a couple of weeks, when a thread was started about newbies. It was something along the lines of “Which newbies are memorable/have made an impact this year”. In this thread, Silver King made a post saying that he appreciated my sense of humor, which a number of people responded to in kind. That meant a lot to me.

Following is a sample of quickWit’s writing:
This is not from my current WIP, but from an unfinished MS I was working on last year.

“Margaret Meehan had been with Dr. Leslie almost as long as he’d been an ME. At 56 years old, her grandmotherly appearance belied a stern, no nonsense demeanor. She was notoriously blunt, exceedingly competent and fiercely loyal to Dr. Leslie. Standing just over five feet tall, it had been observed by some that she resembled a tomato perched atop a pair of toothpicks. Her ample frame occupied the majority of the hallway making it necessary for visitors to walk a pace behind her, which was precisely the way Ms. Meehan liked it.”

12-14-2008, 08:14 AM

Bayou Bill

Tell us about your avatar.
The guy in the hat is three-time Louisiana Governor Earl Long, the kid brother of Huey Long, the Kingfish. I got to meet him (Earl not Huey) and really liked the guy.

Tell us a little about yourself.
At one time or another I've been a country grocery store clerk, oil field roustabout, infantry soldier, graduate student, paper pusher for the government, out-of-work, a newspaper columnist, and now a struggling fiction writer.

I have a Bachelor’s from LSU and a Master's from Louisiana Tech (both in history), and had academic work published. My fiction has appeared in Rose and Thorn, USADeepSouth, DeadMule.com, New Works Review, Chick Flicks, Muscadine Line, Nibbler, and now, Long Story Short.

After picking up a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart in Vietnam, I lived in New York City off-and-on from 1970-1972 undergoing a series of eye operations and meeting my future wife. That experience is the background for my first novel, A Brief Affair.

Although born and raised in Louisiana, I'm out-stationed with my family in Dallas where I've just finished my second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles, a coming-of-age, mainstream story, set in a small Southern town in 1968. As proof the age of miracles hasn’t past, it was named a semi-finalist in the 2005 Faulkner competition.

You've mentioned elsewhere you've been happily married for 30 plus years and that you have two daughters. What other family has been added along the way?
Well, since you asked. We have three children, two girls and a boy and, thanks to the oldest one, two granddaughters. She’s an RN. Number-two daughter is a special ed teacher. Our son is in the second year of the graduate screenwriting program at the American Film Institute in LA.

When did you first discover you wanted to become a writer?
I was a slow learner, but about halfway through the first grade I started to get the hang of writing.

Why did you write your first story?
I’m not positive, but odds are my fear of getting a whipping if I came home with a “F” in English on my report card played a big role.

What do you write: novels, shorts, non-fiction? And what genre?
Most of my short stories have been romances, dramas, comedies, and/or unpublished. My two novels have been mainstream.

What inspires you to write?
I use a lot of imagination to try and turn selected bits of my real-life experiences into something interesting. It’s a challenge.

What are your goals as a writer?
To write at least one novel that’s well-crafted, entertaining, and what Hemingway referred to as, “true.” I suppose getting the thing published would be another goal. Otherwise, it would be like talking to myself.

What do you find the most frustrating and rewarding about writing?
I’ve never pulled a Balzac, and rolled on the floor, tearing my hair out trying to think of the perfect word, phrase, or description, but I feel his pain.

The most rewarding part is when a reader says something you wrote touched them. It’s very humbling, but also an incredible rush.

What books inspire you to write and who are your favorite authors?
Good ones.

My favorite authors are the usual list of suspects: Faulkner, Hemingway, Steinbeck, P. G. Wodehouse, Elmore Leonard, Walker Percy, Walter Moseley, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, etc.

Do you read often?
A lot, at least these days. Back when I was working full-time, very active in community service work, and doing my best to help housebreak three kids, there was no time for novels. That was tough for a guy who minored in English Lit. Now, I’m trying to catch up.

How do rejection letters affect you?
I try to pity the poor fool who wrote the misguided sucker. If that doesn’t work, there’s always Jack Daniels.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Who me, writer’s block? What a concept. But seriously folks, when stuck I either re-write, which often restarts the flow, or walk the dogs.

Describe your writing routine.
For me, there’s no such thing as a typical writing day. I have a schedule; it’s just very neglected.

Do you have any advice for fledgling writers?
Don’t bore your reader. It’s analogous to Elmore Leonard’s famous writing maxim: Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

When did you join AW and what do you remember about joining then?
June 2006. My most vivid memory of joining is being very confused. That hasn’t change much, of course.

Do you have a favorite thread at AW? Why?
Royalty For A Week. Why? For me, it’s a fun place to kickback and enjoy the give-and-take and support.

How have you benefited from AW as a writer?
AW used a how-to piece of mine, On Being A Happy Hooker, in its newsletter, which is a classy credit to flash at editors. Giving and getting critiques is always a plus. I tend to infest the Suddenly Fiction forum. And the tips on writing and calls for submissions is invaluable.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, we’ve left out any mention of me winning second place in the tetherball competition at Boy Scout camp one year, fouling out in the second quarter of a basketball game, being class reporter in ninth grade, or breaking my nose while playing chess.

Following is a sample of Bill’s writing:
From Crossed Up, a published short story.

“The barking dog in back was Belle, short for Beelzebub; the bad tempered by-product of a brief but turbulent liaison between a vicious Rhodesian Ridgeback and a brutal Catahoula Cur hog dog.”

12-14-2008, 08:37 AM

What's the first thing people notice about you when they meet you?

The first thing people notice about me depends entirely on the person. In certain dating circles, I've been told, women look at a man from the feet up: boots, pants, ass, chest, face.... Most women then notice first and foremost that I'm not wearing shoes. Most athletic guys take note that I'm fat. Tall people note that I'm not very short.

The second thing everyone notices about me is that I'm very funny in conversation.

Name three things about high school (or college) you hated and why.

I distinctly remember being miserable and hating high school, although for the life of me I cannot remember why, because every memory I have of it is fond.

The three things I hated most:

1) I hated the fact that everyone I knew had a girlfriend and/or was having sex and I wasn't. I was a student leader in our church, and so the few girls I did date in high school I did so exceptionally platonically.

2) I hated the fact that my school's entire raison d'etre seemed to be driven by fierce, unrelenting competition. In hindsight, I am very grateful that they gave me the tools I needed to succeed in life, instead of unwarranted "self-esteem."

3) And I guess I hated me. I didn't really start liking myself until after I was married, and looking back, that's probably why I was so miserable in school.

Tell me your best Thanksgiving story and make it funny.

A minister, a rabbi and a turkey walk into a bar...

I don't know if this is my best thanksgiving story, or even if it's a thanksgiving story at all, but there's enough elements to it that it could be a thanksgiving story, and I'm writer enough to make the rest work. Plus it's a true story, and that's a bonus.

On most thanksgivings we spent the day with family, but as our families moved progressively farther away from us, we found that one year we'd be alone. Just lclary and I, and our pets, including the most famous of schipperkes: Captain Bear E. Clary, escape artist extraordinaire, and master heist plotter.

As it so happens, lclary prepared a beautiful honeybaked ham, as she was no fan of sticking her hands inside a turkey's ass to prepare one for to eat.

We left the ham on the kitchen island, in the pan, to cool off while we went to church or some such.

When we got home...

Our little dog, all 14 pounds of him, had somehow managed to leap up onto (or near enough) the island to pull the pan down onto him, and proceed to eat at least half his bodyweight in ham.

He was coated head to toe in honey glaze. Little honeyglazed paw prints wandered throughout the kitchen. And when he saw us, and saw our bewilderment, he looked us straight in the eye, and said, (in doggish eye-look, of course)...

"The cat did it."

You dreamt of growing up and being/working in what occupation? So what happened?

I wanted to go to the US Military Academy, and become the greatest 5-star general in American history. As it turned out, West Point only takes 4.0 graduates with congressional connections. Alas.

What is the toughest adjustment you have made since the death of your wife?

The toughest adjustment I've had to make in the last year and a half is having a reason for living. To be honest, I still don't have one. I don't keep my house in order, I don't save that much money. Everything I spent the last 16 years working for became moot, and it's very difficult trying to convince myself to commit to anything again.

I do a very good job of pretending that my life means something, and that someday I'll have a reason for excelling, or even just giving a damn. But that's just on the outside. The inside knows better than that.

Pitch me your latest piece of writing and why I should buy it in under 60 words.

The Faithful is a fantasy novel in the tradition of Stephen Donaldson's Thomas Covenant series. The recalcitrant former hero of a kingdom on the brink of war is called upon to perform one last task for the king he despises: escort a young priestess to her God's holy mountain and help her prevent the world-ending catastrophe she's forseen.

I think that's exactly 60 words.

Why did you ask to return to the AW forum after being banned for a time?

I've been all over this internet galaxy, kid. There's not a better, more skilled, more dedicated, or more gifted group of writers than the ones here. I regretted the decisions I made that got me banned the moment I made them. I'm extremely grateful I've had a chance to come back and make things right.

You have a professional/career goal itch you cannot attain right now. Why?

I'd like to be published or sell a screenplay someday. But this isn't so much an itch as a place I like to rub. I'm actually -- and who knows how much of this is the "I don't give a damn" talking -- pretty content in my career path.

A third "Batman" sequel is planned. Your choice -- what villain does the Dark Knight battle and why?

I'm not a big Batman fan. Hell, I like Aquaman better than Batman, and all Aquaman can do is talk to fish.

That said, the Batman only has a few well-known villains. If I were to do Batman 3.. I'd love to see them do the Joker again. I have no idea how they'd do it. But Superman has Lex, the X-Men have Magneto, and Aquaman has Black Manta... Batman's nemesis is, and always should be the Joker. Otherwise, why not make a new bad guy? If you're reinventing the character for the screen, why not reinvent the bad guys too?

Give me the closing for you Pulitzer Prize for Fiction speech.

In a million years, no one will remember the planet earth. In a thousand years, it's likely no one will remember mankind. In a hundred years, not one person will care who won the pulitzer. But what matters is never tomorrow. Who cares is never the next guy. What matters is now, and who cares are the people you know and love and interact with everyday.

To them, this award means only that the rest of the world has discovered what they already knew. To me, it means their faith in me was justified.

In the end, it means nothing.

And everything.

Thank you, good night.

12-14-2008, 08:40 AM
She's only been here since June, but Vixey has quickly become a popular member of AW, and has become a regular welcome wagon in the Newbie forum. I also consider her one of my closest friends. Here is her interview.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
I suppose I’m a stay at home mom, but I hate that term. I have a small online pewter business selling liturgical jewelry, but that doesn’t take up much of my time. I’m actively looking for a job in event management.

I’m married with three children, all teenagers – one (boy) in college. My daughters are in high school. I’m enjoying this phase of their lives for many reasons, but mainly because they can do so much for themselves. Driving is key.

I have a golden retriever mix, Chamois, who’s nine and very sweet because her personality is a reflection of mine. Modesty? Me?

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
In addition to what I wrote above, I suppose I could add that I was born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. (I was born in the same hospital as my grandmother and father.) And I was so taken by the University of Virginia (also in Charlottesville) that I went to school there. I was a Towny. Until seven months ago, my license plate was TOWNY.

I worked in DC for a few years after school for a lobbyist and later in an executive administrative position for a political association. Let’s just say Bill and Hillary were often in our offices, while he was still governor. And there are a slew of other muckety mucks I dealt with on a daily basis, but I won’t share all of them here. It was a heady job and if I hadn’t left to have a baby, I might still be doing it today.

You came to writing rather late in life, within the last few years. Can you tell us what inspired you to take up the pen?
I began writing three years ago.

The inspiration came from a need to entertain myself in the middle of the night. Sleeping husbands don’t appreciate insomniac wives who turn on the light in the middle of the night to read. So…what to do if you don’t want to get out of a nice warm bed?

I’ve always been a daydreamer. My mother says that I’d be the one in ballet class staring off into space while everyone else sashayed across the room. When I was very young I conjured two little people, Sweetie and Pogo, to sit on my pillow as I waited for sleep and talk to me. Wish I could remember what we talked about.

But as an adult when I woke at night, I began to fantasize about stories I’d read. I imagined disappearing into a different era, having different lovers, living a different life. I’d log these segments of stories in my brain to be continued the next night. One morning, as I woke I could see the scene from my fantasy being written. I saw each word appear as though someone, me, were typing it. That day, still in my pajamas and robe, I sat at my computer and began typing a story.

A related question: Do you feel that coming to the game late is an advantage or a disadvantage? Explain.
I can’t answer to the advantages, because I just don’t see them.

As to disadvantages, I suppose if I’d started writing at a young age I would have learned many of the writing ‘rules’ earlier, such as Tom Swifties, POV switches, showing versus telling. All of these no-noes show up in my earliest writing. Everything I’m learning now about publishing and agents, either on AW, in books, or through trial and error, would have happened anyway – just earlier.

I suppose the biggest disadvantage is the loss of some great stories I may have written at earlier points in my life.

What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?
Novels – I can mess around with someone else’s life and make it happy for them in the end. I call it escapism. It gives me a control I don’t have in my own life.

I’m currently working on a non-fiction piece with a woman who wants to tell the world about her experience in adopting an African American ten-year-old boy raised in generational poverty. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting. I have to take breaks from the research and her interviews. Let’s just say the interviews have become a form of therapy for her, which means I have to put on my big girl pants and be supportive.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?
I tend to write women’s fiction, but I’ve discovered I like writing action and dialogue the best. My current WIP is a YA fantasy – no weres, vamps, or dragons – at least not yet. You never know what those pesky characters are going to throw at you.

For reading, I suppose women’s fiction is the first book I’ll pick up at the bookstore. But I also like gothic suspense, occult style horror, and, lately I’m trying to catch up on classics I missed out on along the way.

How do you generate story ideas?
I have no idea. Seriously. Some ideas come to me while I’m driving, some as I’m waking up. Other ideas come to me based on incidents from my life.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.
That has changed for me recently due to other commitments. But when I wrote my previous novels, I became obsessed with writing them. I’m not a good wife and mother when I’m into writing. Instead of a home-cooked meal, the family is likely to get tacos or spaghetti sauce from a jar. I would literally write, write, write from the moment I woke until I just couldn’t write anymore. And I’d resent anything that stopped me from doing that.

Lately, however, I’m in the early stages of a WIP that’s a genre switch for me. In this case, I like writing in small spurts – like two or three pages at a time. I find the story changes direction and becomes more fascinating that way. And I find I’m listening and watching my characters and allowing them to lead me on a journey.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?
Well, I don’t think this is a fair question. Being unpublished I don’t feel my writing talent is validated. However, I enjoy writing action and dialogue more than description. My son suggested I should look into screenwriting. Nah. That’s his territory.

Your weaknesses?
Creating conflict. I have difficulty hurting my characters, physically and emotionally. But, I know it’s got to be done. I killed one once and I just couldn’t write much beyond the funeral.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I’d go to Holden Beach, NC. I love being at the beach after high season even when it’s cold. I love walking the beaches, listening to the waves and gulls, and the smell of salt air. Some of my best writing has occurred at this beach. My bedroom in my MIL’s cottage is on the ocean side and I set up a table in front of the window there. I literally stare out at the waves with my hands on my keyboard never looking at the screen. It’s truly an inspirational feeling.

What is your favorite book and why?
The answer to the question varies at different points in my life. Today, my answer would be Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, a paranormal adventure with strong romantic elements. Gabaldon transports her reader to a tempestuous time in Scottish history with such realism I feel that I come away from reading it scarred.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

Thomas Hardy because I fell in love with his voice as a teenager so much that I read all of his books the minute I could get my hands on one.
Anita Shreve, whom I’ve mentioned several times on this board, because I love her voice for its poetic prose.
Sue Monk Kidd, more for her inspirational works, but I just find her to be an interesting person. I’ve heard her speak and I’d love to sit and chat with her some day.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Not being afraid to submit.
Passion for his/her work.
Effectively bleeding that passion into a story.
The ability to appreciate criticism.
The dedication to BICHOK!

What are your goals as a writer?
My goal is to be published – to see at least one novel in print. My dream goal is to have my screenwriter son adapt one of my novels for the screen.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
I have two completed novels (the second one was written twice) that each took about 4-6 months to write.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
My great-great grandmother who was a Catawba Indian. I’d just like to see her in person, hear her speak, and hear the love story that inspired the cross-cultural union between her and my great-great grandfather . I would love to write that story.

What is your favorite food?
That’s a funny question. I don’t really think I have a favorite. When I’m recovering from being ill or otherwise in need of comfort food, I want mashed potatoes and gravy. I also love Chinese food…but not with mashed potatoes and gravy.

What is your favorite color?
Yellow – it’s happy.

What is your favorite sound?
Ocean waves
A fire crackling
A mournful oboe

What is your favorite article of clothing?
It’s easier to answer what my least favorite is. But that doesn’t answer the question.

A man’s worn shirt. Seriously, a well-worn long shirt in a soft cotton or faded denim, with the scent of your honey, is just, well…I like it.

What is your favorite word?
‘Yes,’ as in it’s the word I like to hear the most. Examples: Will you clean your room? ‘Yes.’ Can I have a glass of wine? ‘Yes.’ Could you just make that check out to me? ‘Yes.’

What is your most favorite quality about yourself?
I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’ve experienced many highs and lows, as we all have, and I’ve learned to be happy in the moment, not worry about tomorrow, and not to give a darn about what other people think about me. Their opinions are none of my business anyway. I love me, therefore everyone else should too.

What is the least favorite quality about yourself?
I procrastinate! In fact, I’m surprised I finished these questions four days before they’re supposed to be posted.

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?
I’ve thought about this question a lot because there are many experiences I’d like to have that don’t involve writing, but I can’t think of a specific talent. I’m going to take the question in a different direction.

I have a talent for music. I studied piano for ten years and *blushes* I was quite good in my hey day. Being without a piano at present, my fingers itch to play. Playing the piano is the single best source of tension release for me. So, in spite of my lame attempt to redirect and answer the question, my answer is I’d like to hone my talent for playing the piano. I’d like to master Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2.

12-14-2008, 08:41 AM
Celina Summers, aka MSCelina, is the author of The Asphodel Cycle which includes The Reckoning of Asphodel, The Gift of Redemption, and the just released Temptation of Asphodel. I had the pleasure of interviewing her for AW's Day of Listening.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
My mother was French, and immigrated to the U.S. after she met and married my father, who is of Cherokee descent and was stationed in Paris. I grew up in Tennessee, where I learned how to bale hay and strip tobacco at a very young age. As a child, I spent my summers in France--including attending school in a little town called Meaux, which is fifty kilometers or so from Paris. From the time I was nine, my mother would take me into Paris and drop me off in the Louvre, and I spent hours every day sitting in front of the greatest masterpieces of art available.

Somewhere around here is a picture of my younger brother and myself standing beside one of the huge vineyards in the Champagne region of France. The memory is probably one of my strongest memories because they grew poppies in between the vines. As far as the eye could see, there were long lines of green interspersed with rows of red and yellow poppies that grew taller than we were. In the picture, I have an armful of poppies that was larger than I was.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
I'm now writing full time, primarily speculative fiction, and freelancing as an editor for a couple of small presses. I used to be a professional actor, but let my union memberships lapse some years ago. I may go back to it someday. Naturally, as a writer and actor, I really worked as a bartender and server for most of my adult life. I'm married to a brilliant man, one who speaks seven languages and yet still can't manage to change the oil in the car. My husband, Shannon, supports me in every thing that I do and I think our relationship is truly special.

I have two daughters from a previous marriage: Audrey, who is an artist working in oils and sculpture and is studying at Western Kentucky University, and Meredith, who is getting married this weekend and is expecting her first child in June--making me a grandmother at forty-two. Someone shoot me.
As for pets, we have been rescuing cats for years. At the moment, we have thirteen cats either inside or outside. My personal favorite is a little black calico named Biscuit, who owns the house and knows it.

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?
I was one of those weird kids who started reading at the age of two. My parents used to invite people over to listen to me read the TV Guide--it was their favorite party game. I started writing poetry at 7. My first poem was published at age 8. I still torture myself with bad iambic pentameter on occasion. I've always written. I wrote my first full length novel at 17. I thought it might be a viable career choice when I sold my first novel and was contracted for the series.

What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?
I primarily write novels--almost entirely speculative fiction. I have seventeen novels "done" at the moment and in various stages of revision. I prefer writing novels because even when I write poetry now, it turns out to include the term "epic." Just to be different, though, I have an anthology of short stories coming out this winter.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?
Primarily, I've been writing fantasy, although I've been delving in horror a bit more lately. As for reading--my current obsession is biographies and autobiographies. At the moment, I'm concentrating on the Tudor era.

How do you generate story ideas?
They just come to me.
No, seriously--my earlier works were based on Greco-Roman mythology. I was taking those famous myths and warping them with fantasy archetypes just to see what would happen. Currently, I'm writing a series of books that explores the theme of "God versus man" with a twist. My almost ready to submit novel, Terella, is centered around a goddess who gets amnesia and forgets her divinity. She discovers corruption in the Temple—the one that worships her--becomes an atheist and leads a revolution against the false religion. Then she remembers that SHE is the false god. Pretty wacky stuff.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.
I wake up early--at 7 am. I start off with three hours of editing (have to make a living) then take a break to play online. Then I'll write in four two-hour blocks, taking brief play breaks in between. At night, I usually revise or do some world building. Then I always write for at least another hour, usually going to bed at 2 or 3 am.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?
My editing job. If it weren't for the fact that I have to edit well (if I want to get paid) I wouldn't write nearly as well. My strongest points as a creator/writer are world building and character development. I studied playwriting under Howard Stein, former professor emeritus at the Yale School of Drama and Dean of the Columbia Theatrical department, and I'd like to think that my work with him has enabled me to have insight into character development beyond the trite restrictions of my mind.

Your weaknesses?
Commas. Adverbs. Thats. Probably most horribly, I have a nasty tendency to hold on to a manuscript longer than I should. I'm always seeking that perfection when I should be seeking publication.

Can you tell us, why the fascination with elf killing?
This is actually funny. When I started writing the Asphodel series, I purposely created a race of Elves because I HATED them. HATED them. I hated how prissy they were, how perfect they were, how they never got dirty, never bled, never cursed and never did anything bad. I wanted to take familiar fantasy archetypes and bend them in my work. So, I figured the best way to get over my Elf hatred was to kill as many of them as possible and keep a running tally. There's a super-secret link on my website that has the running dead Elf tally on it. To date in the Asphodel series, I have killed 148,301 Elves. Of those Elves, almost 500 have very specific and described individual deaths. Whether those deaths make it into the final version of a story or not is a game time decision when I rewrite.

What do you think sets you apart from other writers in your genre?
Stubborness. That's about it.

Aside from writing, you also are an editor. What can you tell us about Celina the editor?
Celina the editor remembers the rules that Celina the writer forgets. I'm not a grammar fanatic, per se, but I am particular. I tend to negotiate plot problems with my authors; I try not to be an autocratic editor. But, if it doesn't work, I'll let the writer know in no uncertain terms. There have been a couple of writers who couldn't handle that, but for the most part they love me. Also, I'm fast. I can edit a 100k novel thoroughly in less than ten days.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
The UK--too many people over there owe me a beer.

What inspires you to write and why?
Waking up in the morning is pretty much all it takes. Everything inspires me to write: a good hamburger, a snowfall, a football game, the fight I just had with my kid--somehow it all ends up that way. I find myself with a pen jotting notes in my journal.

What is your favorite book and why?
Totally not fair. This week--probably John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?
JK Rowling--because she brought a generation of kids out of the X-Box and back into books.
Jane Austen--because she endures and is beloved
Homer--because he just is.

What is it that makes you successful as a writer?
I consider myself a success if one person reads my story and is entertained.

What are your goals as a writer?
Never to stop.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
A first draft can take anywhere from six weeks to six years. It depends on the book. I've managed to write seven complete first drafts this year. It may take me ten to get them 'finished.'

Tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).
My epic fantasy series The Asphodel Cycle is being published by Aspen Mountain Press. The first book, The Reckoning of Asphodel, was a top ten finisher in the Preditors & Editors Best Fantasy Novel of 2007 Readers poll. The sequel, The Gift of Redemption, came out in June of this year and the third book, Temptation of Asphodel was just released. They can be found at the AMP site (www.aspenmountainpress.com (http://www.aspenmountainpress.com/t_blank)) as well as Amazon, Fictionwise, other small online distributors and -- are you ready for this? -- Target.com.

We hear you’ve been on the best seller list. Can you explain that?
I have no explanation. All I know is that one day, Neil Gaiman's Stardust was at number one and the movie got released. The next day, The Reckoning of Asphodel was number one at Fictionwise, knocking Gaiman off the top spot. Asphodel stayed at number one for several weeks. I was most pleased.

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?
I would have been more persistent in my initial querying process.

What have you learned about the publishing world?
That it doesn't matter how smart I think I am, I'm still stupid.

Now The Asphodel Cycle is a series, not a trilogy, correct? How many more books do you have planned? Can you tell us a little about the future you might have planned for Asphodel?
The Asphodel Cycle is a four book series, which will conclude this spring with Apostle of Asphodel. There is a second series involving the characters of Asphodel, called Compulsion of Dis. The Compulsion series, also four books, will deal with most of the familiar characters from the first series. This time, they're not out to save the world. This time, they're out to save the gods--save two. One renegade god is the son of Dis, the God of Death, and the other--well, let's just say that the other will be well known to Asphodel readers. Congratulations, Ed--you just got a scoop! The only other person in the world to know that information is my editor. There are also two stand alone novels set in the Asphodel world, about characters that have nothing to do with the characters of the novels, and quite a few Asphodel short stories that were originally written as backstories for the series and will come to light eventually on their own. The first short story, The Seduction of Abur, will appear in my short story collection Metamorphosis in 2009.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Queen Elizabeth I. We could have a great conversation.

What is your favorite food?

What is your favorite color?
dark green. I'm a redhead--hello.

What is your favorite sound?
A snowy night.

Who is your favorite person?
my husband.

What is your favorite place?
my study.

What is your favorite memory?
The day my oldest daughter was born.

What is your favorite article of clothing?
Black boots. All thirteen pairs of them that I own.

What is your favorite word?
defenestration--it's the act of throwing someone out of a window

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?
I donate 10 % of my royalties every month to my favorite AIDS charity.

12-14-2008, 08:42 AM
She's an elf, with a daughter. You know her better as Yeshanu, and I had the pleasure of interviewing her.! Here are my questions. Have fun with it. :)

My daughter is sitting beside me, "helping." Does that qualify as having fun? :tongue

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
I'm a violist and proud of it. I make no apologies for my vice.

I have a B.A. (with most of my courses in Psychology and Sociology), a Master of Divinity, and a Master of Pastoral Studies. Those exalted degrees have overqualified me to work as an Assistant Manager in not one, but two movie theatres (same chain, though.) I love what I do, and watching movies that have been made out of books that are worse than the worst of my writing inspires me to keep on going with this writing thing.

I'm a Cate Blanchett fan. (Bet y'all didn't know that, huh?)

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
Separated but not divorced. Still good friends with my not-quite-sure-what-to-call-him husband/ex/best friend. Three overgrown alien elves as progeny. One cat that's never learned the difference between cats and dogs, as far as I can tell, because he's always following me around the house. My son thinks I need another cat.

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?
Did you just imply that I have talent? I wrote my first paying piece when I was six years old. It was a non-fiction story about the school burning down around me, and my dad paid me a dime for it. He offered a quarter if I'd go back and add more details, from which I learned a most important lesson about my writing--I don't like to edit. I never did earn that quarter.

When I was in Grades Seven and Eight, the other kids accused me of plagiarizing, because a lot of my poems were chosen for the yearbook, and they didn't much like that or me. In Grade Nine, I earned top marks for a humour piece that made fun of the teacher and her husband, even though it had a spelling mistake. (One that I noticed, but she didn't.)

But I didn't start writing seriously until about twenty years ago (yes, I'm that old :D), when I picked up pen and paper (yes, I'm really that old :D), and started writing a novel based on some of my group's Dungeons and Dragons characters.

What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?
I read anything with words on it. I write a lot of things, but somehow they all come out sounding like sermons. Fortunately, they're mostly good sermons, as I've got both the talent and the training that makes them that way.

Seriously, though, (in case this is news to anyone here) I prefer reading and writing fantasy, though I'm going to try my hand at a contemporary romance sometime this year, and I've got a non-fiction book or two on the back burner. I write book length prose. Something in me needs the longer form. (Meaning, I'm far too wordy...)

I also write poetry, though it's mostly hit-and-miss. For poetry, I do need to be inspired by the subject. Prose I can just whip off with little effort, but poetry takes time and patience.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?
See above.

How do you generate story ideas?
Daughter's answer: My brain falls out and I write whatever words they look like.

Me: That's not a bad description of the process. I started my NaNo novel with three dares and a first line. I started my first novel with a few wacky characters. Then I wrote down whatever the characters chose to do.

For non-fiction, I have to research, and I have been known to outline, but I just can't seem to work from an outline when it comes to writing fiction.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.
??? What is this "typical" you ask of? Seriously, each day varies so much that I can't really describe one. Some days I write thousands of words. Most days I write none at all.

On the days when I do write, I'll write for half an hour, then go do something else for fifteen minutes, like laundry or eat or dishes or something, then come back for another half hour spurt. I can go for about five or six hours this way, and have done between five and seven thousand words on a really good day.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?

The ability to churn out large quantities of intelligent-sounding B.S. in a very short period of time. :tongue

I write very quickly, and edit in my head as I go, so I can write very clean-looking first drafts.

Your weaknesses?
Daughter's answer: Fried Chicken.

(Smartass kid, but she's right...)

As a writer, I think my weaknesses are two: 1) I'm not disciplined enough to write every day, 2) I hate revising my work, and 3) I am occasionally attacked by bouts of depression, where I doubt my ability to do anything right.

Also, I can't count, but then, I'm a violist.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Australia, and not just because Cate Blanchett's there. It's also warm there, which it isn't here right now. I've also had a long-standing desire to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef.

What inspires you to write and why?
Ideas just pop out of the compost in my head. :D

Really, just about anything can set me off--I'm always asking questions about the silliest things. Like taking a bus ride, and pretending an alien from outer space is sitting beside me, asking questions about what it sees out the window. Or I'll read a short story in the newspaper, or online, and say, "What if...?"

What is your favorite book and why?
Okay, folks, if you don't know this, you're worse off than I thought. (Ed will guess Lord of the Rings. ;)) As to why, I once wrote an essay for one of my profs answering that question. It was about twenty pages long, as I remember. :tongue

Which is to say, a real answer to that question is going to be way longer than most folks would stand, and I really can't make the answer shorter.

Suffice it to say, I've been trying (and failing) for years to write something that even approaches Tolkien's genius. It's both helped and hindered my writing.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?
J.R.R. Tolkien, kind of goes without saying.
Mary Balough, who writes Regency Romances.
J.K. Rowling, Alice Walker, James D. MacDonald, Terry Pratchett.

I did tell you I couldn't count, didn't I?

What do you think makes a writer successful?
Persistence. Knowledge of how things in the publishing industry work. An interesting story idea. And yet more persistence.

What are your goals as a writer?
To become filthy rich like J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer. Seriously, I want to write a book or ten that is going to be read by a large number of people, some of whom are not habitual readers. I'm truly inspired by their examples, even if I'm not a fan of some of the books they've written.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
Daughter: Once upon a time there was a baby girl. Actually, I think it may have been a fetus. And the mommy of this fetus decided to write a crazy book about D&D characters. 20 1/2 years later this ex-fetus/baby girl[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]alien elf is still waiting to read the final draft. Maybe I should offer her two quarters.

Inflation has set in. I want at least a loonie.

Mom, I need a dollar so I can bribe you.

I'm broke right now. Go ask your dad. :)

If you have published a book, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).
No book of my own yet, but I do have a little story in Stories of Strength. If you don't have it yet, pick up a copy. You'll be glad you did.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Queen Elizabeth I, but only if she did look like Cate Blanchett. :D

J.S. Bach, for a more serious answer. Someone who could write as much music as he did while raising twenty kids surely has something interesting to say on the subject of productivity.

What is your favorite food?
The kid gave it away up there. Also Black Forest Cake. The real stuff, with the Kirsch in the filling.

What is your favorite color?
Purple and green, and yes, I think I've told you I can't count.

What is your favorite place?
Algonquin Provincial Park. I try to get up there at least once a year, sometimes more.

What is your favorite memory?
I have lots of them. Most of them involve being with one or more of my alien elfs.

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?
I'd like to be a better musician than I am, but I don't want to have to practice to do it. :tongue

Then she could play something other than the viola.

I'd really like more artistic talent (talking here about visual art.) I'd like to be able to paint more than just blobs, and draw people that don't look like they used to be part of a tree somewhere.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?
I'm actually very good at math. And I'm a founding member of Smiley Addicts Anonymous. :D

12-14-2008, 09:50 AM
One your profile it said something about being a military wife. How is it being married to a military man? And do you get to see your husband everyday? Or do you only get to see him a couple of times a year?
It has its ups and downs. We're completely at the mercy of the military as far as where we live, when he works, etc., but really, I like this life. It has a lot of perks (wicked cheap travel, ability to live overseas, tuition assistance for both of us, free health insurance, etc), but it's got its drawbacks. He's been on 2 deployments since we've been married (6 mos and 8 mos in 6 years), plus numerous separations for school, things like that. It's not bad though; I'm fiercely independent and like to have some "me" time, so we manage fine.

What do you write?
Novels, occasional RARE short story. Mostly fantasy, but I seem to be on a romance kick lately. Also a little bit of SF, horror, and a vampire novel I swore I'd never write.

If money wasn't a problem where would you travel?
If I could only pick one place, probably Ireland. My family came to the States from Galway, so it would be interesting to visit.

Same concept, where would you live?
That's a tough one...off the top of my head I'd say Hawaii or Guam simply because I'm LOVING this island living thing. :D

What is your greatest accomplishment?
Finishing 3 first drafts in 6 months.

Love or money?
Love. Definitely. I married a sailor, so it wasn't about the money. LOL.

What is the hardest thing for you about writing?
Not writing when I want to write...and writing when I don't want to write.

What is one piece of advice that you would offer to my generation?
The 12 years after graduation go a hell of a lot faster than the 12 years before graduation: don't piss them away.

Who is your absolute favorite author and why?
It changes on a weekly basis, but today I'd say Stephen King. I'm not always fond of his stories per se, and some of his writing is "blah"...BUT...he pulls no punches and makes no apologies for what and how he writes. As a writer, I admire that.

What is your absolute favorite movie and why?
Oh man...*thinks* Probably "The Shawshank Redemption", closely followed by "Walk The Line", "The Usual Suspects", and "Debbie Does Dallas".

(kidding about the last one)

Where is your favorite place to visit and why?
Tough call...right now, I would say the shark/ray tank at the aquarium here in Okinawa. There's something incredibly peaceful and amazing about sitting beside this GIANT tank and watching whale sharks/manta rays. I know, kind of a cheesy "little" thing, but that thing is just so fucking cool. It's like crack, with fish in it.

As a child, what did you dream about becoming?
A writer. Hands down, no question.

What is your dream job?
Exactly what I'm doing now: Writing. I'm not getting paid yet, but I'm writing full time. The pay will come later when I get published, but for now, my "job" is to write.

What is your favorite computer game and why?
Age of Empires II, Conquerors Edition. I just love it: building up a civilization and pwning everyone else.

Who is your role model and why?
Not sure I have one, per se. I look up to a lot of different people...my folks, various writers, etc.

What is it like living in a foreign country?
Foreign. :D I've only been here a month, so I'm still getting the hang of it...it's definitely a switch. Driving on the other side of the road, not being able to read most signs, different customs, etc. But I like it. :D

Who is your favorite actor and why?
Colin Farrell or Jared Leto. Better yet, Colin Farrell AND Jared Leto. Preferably...nevermind.

They're both hot, but I do rather like them both AS ACTORS too. They've both played some incredible roles and played them well.

Who is your favorite actress and why?
Angelina Jolie or Natalie Dormer. Hot, amazing actresses, hot, etc.

Do you know any Japanese?
VERY little. I'm learning, though. Enough to keep from insulting someone, but....damn. I used to be tourist-fluent in Spanish and Russian, but fat lot of good that's doing me HERE.

Where is one place you've always wanted to visit but haven't?
Komodo. I want to go to Komodo and see Komodo dragons in the wild. Why? Because they're badass.


12-14-2008, 10:02 AM
AW Day of Listening
Fishing for Facts: A Conversation with Silver King

By Celina Summers

Of all the many admirable people on AW, I don’t know why I ended up with a huge crush on Silver King—or Dino, as he’s known in real life. I mean, I’m not that big on fishing—I like them already dead, cooked, and garnished with capers and lemon on a nice porcelain plate. But there was something about Dino that spoke to me in a language I found impossible to ignore. I decided for the sake of my sanity, I needed to explore the reasons for that.

Once again, I started with the boring stuff. Straight up psychoanalysis: tell me about yourself. Silver King’s answer was straight and to the point: “Married with four children and three grandchildren, with another on the way. Forty-six years old. Two degrees (English and Education). Published in Field & Stream magazine.”

My first thought was Wow, he gets paid?

I already had a reason to be jealous.

Dino continued. “I married young, so my focus was centered on raising a family early on. I was a teacher for a couple of years at a junior college then had the opportunity to start a business. I've owned a company ever since.”

I wanted more information. “What was the one thing you swore you'd never do with your life?”

“Get married at a young age.”

“Did you end up doing it and why?”

“I fell in love, the head over heels type of love. I'm still crazy about my wife and I fall in love with her all over again on average of once or twice per year. It's happened about fifty times now!”

Well, damn. There goes my crush.

After I suffered through the disappointment, a thought occurred to me. How rare that was, how utterly amazing that a man who is only *mumble mumble* years older than I could be such a romantic and loyal sort of person! I mean, the divorce statistics for the generation that Silver King and I share are staggering. Once upon a time, I’d added to them. Dino hadn’t and was proud enough of that fact to share it with me. He had to be a pretty special sort of dude. I needed to learn more.

“What brought you to the path of the writer?”

“I don't consider myself a writer, but more of a literary hobbyist. Until about five years ago, I hadn't written anything except school papers and business letters.”

“Is writing a compulsion or a calculated plan?”

“A compulsion, for sure. I was curious to know if I could write well enough to be published in a top tier magazine.”

Up to this point, his answers had been honest but succinct. It was obvious that I needed to delve deeper, that somewhere there had to be a question that would tell me more about this enigmatic gentleman with an unfortunate fish fetish. “If you could go back to the age of twenty, what would you change now that would affect your situation today?” I looked back at the answers I’d gotten to this point and added, “Nothing is an acceptable answer.”

“I would've waited a few years to have children. By then, I already had two. I still managed to work and go to school full time, but it was very, very difficult.”

I thought about some of Silver King’s posts and remembered that, despite his assertions to the contrary, he was a great storyteller. So, handing him a cyber beer to lower his inhibitions, I ventured, “Tell me a story, one that shows how you handled a moment of great decision.”

He thought for a few minutes, killing off the beer much quicker than I thought a normal human being could, and then he spoke. “I was on a friend's boat in rough seas when the motor conked out. There were no life preservers on board. We were surrounded by an angry sea that tossed the vessel to and fro, the winds howling and salt water stinging our eyes. Unable to steer the boat into the waves, it was only a matter of time before we'd be swamped or the vessel would overturn. I told my friend that our only hope was to abandon ship. He looked at me as if I had gone mad.

“’I can't swim,’ he said. ‘You know that.’

“I emptied the contents of a large storage cooler and tied a dock line to each handle.

“’You won't have to,’ I said. ‘Give me your hand.’

“I lashed one of the lines to his wrist and the other to my own arm. We held the cooler before us and on the count of three we jumped into the roiling sea.

“The cooler was perfectly buoyant and held our upper bodies as we paddled with our legs. The wind was at our backs and we rode a following sea toward shore. Now and then, we'd turn to see the boat floundering and finally it was overcome by a mountain of waves and disappeared.

“It took four hours to reach land, during which I used every opportunity to give my friend a hard time for leaving his life jackets at home.

“He was quiet most of the way.

“’I said, ‘Was the boat insured?’

“He shook his head.

“’It wasn't?’

“’No, it wasn't. Are you happy now?’

“Yes, I was happy: Happy to be alive.”

You know, that’s a very revealing story for any person to tell. Here’s the rub: there are so many things about Dino I—and probably you—want to know. After the story he’d just told me, I wanted to delve into something more ethereal, more intimate. I could only hope he would trust me enough to share these things with me. I took a deep breath (scared right out of my wits) and asked, “What is the most perfect scene you've ever witnessed—a moment of such beauty and significance that it sticks in your mind constantly?”

I was expecting a comment about the sunset over the ocean, or the silent, silvery beauty of the sea under a full moon. But something in Dino changed at that moment. He was suddenly diffident, as if he felt that I would mock his response. His voice was quiet. Not his actual speaking voice, but the voice that whispers ‘I am a writer and this is what I think’ in the heads of only a very few special people.

“I walked into the room and saw her sitting with some friends. Someone motioned me to the table. She smiled and offered her hand. When I touched her, a shock burned through me, all heat and buzzing electricity that sent blood roiling through my senses like wild rapids cresting and falling and cresting again. I grew dizzy as my shoes seemed to melt into the floor. I sat next to her. She leaned in close, her lips almost touching my cheek, and whispered her name. I tasted her breath, hot and sweet. Then my chest expanded as she entered my soul, forever embossed upon the true essence of my being.

“Though many years have passed since then, I still feel the intensity of that first gaze, and how even when I look upon her now, there continues an upheaval of emotions that fuels a desire that can never be quenched.”

When Dino and I discussed this interview, he was worried about this specific statement, this declaration of the immediacy of love and desire that every mortal wants to experience and so few of us find. I am fortunate enough to understand what Dino was saying, because I am blessed enough to have experienced it myself. But for this man, a man who can feel so deeply and who can see so intuitively into his own psyche to make such a confession to me—the smartass on the other end of the line—was an honor that blew me right out of my chair.

No one could contrive such an emotional experience; one can either live it or envy it.

I choked up. I admit it. I couldn’t go back to smartalec after that.

“What do you think is the single most important gift a parent can give to a child?”

“Humility. Children need to learn modesty at a young age, to understand that, though their accomplishments are significant and should be rewarded, there's no need for them to boast or to ever think they're better than anyone else.”

“What is the most underrated human characteristic or, conversely, the most overrated?”

“In our society, one of the most underrated characteristics is greed. In many instances it's celebrated as the American Way, the idea that you should build personal wealth, and to hell with everyone else. The most overrated has to be physical beauty. Nothing means less than outer looks when inner splendor is lacking.”

I couldn’t doubt it any longer. I could learn a lot from Dino. I’d always known that in the back of my mind, but this conversation, this interchange of trust had confirmed it for me beyond question. So for my final inquiry, I asked him a question that I have often asked myself—and have not yet been able to answer.

“If you could wake up in one of your dreams and find that it was reality, what would you want that dream to be?”

“It would be nice to wake up twenty-five years ago and have a chance to reshape my life. I've made a number of poor decisions I'd like to have back. Though I don't dwell on the past too much, I'd love to have one or two ‘do-overs’ that continue to haunt me and will gnaw at my conscience for the rest of my days.”

How wonderful a feeling it was for me at that moment! I realized that he had answered my deepest and most difficult question for me. We know Dino as Silver King at Absolute Write. I now know Dino as something more.

I know him as my friend.

12-14-2008, 10:36 AM
Here's the dirt you've been waiting for, folks. :D

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?
Hmm...not sure there's anything basic that folks don't already know. I'm female. 32. I like writing and I like reading.

That's about it!

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
The last job I had was temporary and I'm currently, um...unemployed. Which I'm embarrassed to admit.

Not married although I would like to be. I've been single for most of my adult life (bar a few brief flings and affairs) and either I'm horrendously ugly, or very picky.

No children, don't want them. Ever. Never have, never will.

And pets? None. I had a hamster, but he died.. :( RIP Gort.

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?
I'm not sure when I realised I had talent but I can tell you when I realised I didn't have it. After reading back my trunk novel. Unfortunately, I did this not before submitting it (oh the shame) but a few years later. It hit me like a ton of bricks that it was rubbish and no wonder it got laughed out of town.

I committed every sin in the book. Headjumping, telling-not-showing, dialogue tags and worst of all...my heroine? She looked in the mirror to describe herself.

Oh the humanity!

I've always enjoyed writing though. It's been both entertainment and escape. I suppose from a young age it was the only part of my life over which I had control, so I threw myself into it even more deeply.

As for it being a viable career option, see the 'favourite memory' question, below...(ignoring the bit about punching someone who deserved it).

What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?
I've never written a short story in my life. The stories I think of are far too big to be 'shorts'. Come to think of it, I never even considered anything else besides novels; they're my default setting.

I occasionally write poems - and poetinahat's been very complimentary about my Sapphic odes, which only encourages me to write more.

My poems are autobiographical in that I wax poetic about snapshots of my life - just brief moments, so I don't give too much away. (Which makes me question my own sanity, doing this interview...) It tickles me to think people could read my poetry and wonder if I'm talking about them. Maybe I are, maybe I ain't...

My novels are, however, completely made up. They may be inspired by true events, but by the time they're finished, they bear no resemblance to the events, conversations or people who inspired them.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?
Ooh, favourites? Well, for writing...I fall most easily into women's fiction. Or chicklit? Hmm...erotica lately. YA urban fantasy? I honestly couldn't tell you. It depends on my mood, where I'm at in my life and what sort of idea presents itself.

When it comes to reading, I'm just as fickle. I read everything. There isn't a single genre I haven't read. Poems, sport, bios, history, westerns, war, romance, erotica, chicklit, YA, MG, children's...you name it, I read it.

How do you generate story ideas?
I wake up in the morning.

Srsly. (See? LOLCAT spk!!!) I find just living my life gives me ideas. Every conversation, every happening, every meeting, every incident, I'm constantly thinking, "How would I write about that? Could I fit that into my WIP? If I use it as a starting point, what genre would it be?"

I love words, and I'm always thinking of how to rephrase conversations and rewriting history.

Ever go back and have a better conversation with someone in your head? That's me.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.
I lie in 'til midday, get up and drink 5 mugs of tea and have some rice krispies. Then I have a bath and straighten my hair. Eat some sweets. Go out, do my volunteer work or visit my (step)dad. Loaf about at his place, help myself to whatever I find in his kitchen. Go to the library. Come home, chat to thethinker42 on MSN for hours, then cram 2,000 words into an hour or so, before going to bed. Rinse and repeat.

But on a good day?

I get up at 8am, bath, straighten hair, breakfast. See to my chores (or volunteering for a few hours), then when I get home I spend the afternoon/early evening writing.

Sometimes I take the morning to myself and go into town and write in a cafe or in the library.

I don't outline. I just open up the file, scroll to where I've written up to, and crack on with it.

Sometimes I find it hard to get in the zone but as I don't believe in writer's block, I put this down to tiredness, life stress or migraines to which I'm prone. When I plan to write, I just...write.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?
Apparently I'm funny. So I've been told. I write dialogue well, although as I'm allergic to dialogue tags I perhaps don't use them enough. (Thanks for the heads-up, thethinker42).

And I can write a lot in a short period of time. I respond well to deadlines.

Your weaknesses?
Finishing. I start projects and even though I can take a month to get so far into the novel I only need another 10k to finish, that final 10k takes me an age to write.

So you could say my biggest problem is self-discipline, which is strange given how regimented I am about everything else...

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

It's a beautiful city and if the reality is half as beautiful as the photos, I'd die happy.

If I was with a S/O, so much the better.

What inspires you to write and why?
I can't not.





But the truth of it is - an absolute desperation for this not to be all there is to my life. I want more. More of what? I don't know. Just more.

What is your favorite book and why?
I Know This Much is True, by Wally Lamb.

I've never read a better book about mental illness and the search for one's roots. It really touched me on the sweet spot and I read it in floods of tears.

Bit of a Hollywood ending, I'll admit. Everything fit a tad too well. I like loose ends in a novel, to give it some veracity, but...well, Lamb gets away with it because he's such a damn good writer.

And as it was about the search for completeness, it was fitting that the end was so very, very complete.

It's one of the few books I've read which has made me think, "I wish I'd written that."

What is your favorite genre and why?
I'll read them all. I lean towards fiction, of course and I'd say my tendency recently is towards literary fiction, although genre is also my bag, man. Sorry. General answer there but my reading appetite is voracious. I'm an omnireader.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?
Kazuo Ishiguro - his novels are terribly, terribly British, despite his Japanese origins. He's succinct, always to the point and he says in a few words what others take 100,000 to say.

Anita Shreve - I love the poignancy of her works. I'll always remember the refrain from Fortune's Rocks, which I read after the break up of my last relationship: "He was not hers. He was never hers."

Wally Lamb - anyone who can gender-bend in his writing that well is either psychic, TS or a miracle-worker.

What do you think makes a writer successful?
First of all, talent or a natural aptitude.

Then the absolute determination not to ever take no for an answer. An unshakeable belief that this is the work I was born to do. Talent isn't enough, though it's still important.

You need self-discipline - probably more than I currently have.

A thirst for self-improvement.

So...drive. Drive is the most important thing in my opinion.

What are your goals as a writer?
To be published, make lots of money and win plaudits and prizes.

I'd love, love, love to win the Booker purely for the prestige and bragging rights.

And...I'd like for Colin Farrell to read my novels and be so impressed by my talent that he just has to sleep with me.

Several times.

With chocolate sauce.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
I write fast, so if you put all my writing sessions together, a first draft takes me around two to three months, tops.

The last 10k or so takes up most of that time...I have performance anxiety... ;)

If you have published a book, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase)
Not applicable...yet! :D

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?
Not that I'm published, but I'd try not to waste so much of my twenties on having a nervous breakdown, sleeping around and having mental problems.

I'd have spent more time writing and learning how to improve, rather than pissing my life away on lovers who weren't worth it and locking myself in my room cutting myself.

What have you learned about the publishing world?
That, um...it helps if you submit stuff.

And said 'stuff' ought to be readable...

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
Anne Boleyn. I don't think she was the harpy she was made out to be, nor the whore.

Or...Richard III, so I could tell him I don't believe he did it.

What is your favorite food?

Although I was rather fond of my gran's tatties 'n' mince when she was alive. (Well, people tend not to cook much when they're dead, duh...)

And rhubarb crumble. NOM NOM NOM!

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite place?
I love my bed.

What is your favorite memory?
Punching my mother in the face after taking 16 years of child abuse and telling her if she raised her hands to me again I'd kill her as she slept.

She believed I would, which was the main thing.

Ahem. But if you're looking for something less violent...

When I was seven, Mrs Perry read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to the class and I nagged and nagged for my own copy, but was refused. My mother liked saying 'no', because it made her feel important.

Anyway, my (step)dad suggested taking me to join the library and I was mystified. What is this library of which you speak? thunk I.

So, they took me there - they went into town once a fortnight to get the groceries in, and for some reason I had the day off school. A holiday, maybe. I tagged along and my mother whined and moaned about me being there, but my dad took me into the library and my eyes nearly popped out of my head.

Bear in mind this is the central library in Birmingham (England) so it's not small...

And when my dad told me I could take any book home with me...three in fact...for over a month...free!!! I nearly died.

And after that...it slowly dawned on me...all those books in one place. Someone must write them, surely? And...when people buy books...they get money for them, right? So...the person who writes the books must get some money too?

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?
I would like the ability to seduce any man or woman I fancied. I haven't had nearly as much (sober) sex as I'd like.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?
Connected to my last answer in a way, I've been celibate for nearly five years. This has led, at times, to accusations of lesbianism, threats of rape, laughter, astonishment, disbelief and admiration. I'd rather have no sex than bad sex. And I'm praying the law of karma exists, 'cause I'm in for some good times soon, if it does.

I'm an all or nothing person, hence my decision. From one extreme to the other.

How has your experience of being abused informed your writing, or has it?
I'm not entirely sure it has. Unless it was a natural tendency that became an obsession when I needed something into which I could escape. Certainly reading was.

I suppose being abused taught me to depend on myself. This, in turn, made me something of a loner or at least one who can cope with being on her own. Not that I always enjoy it, mind...

And in turn this has made me lean towards more solitary pursuits. And I'm not just talking about self-abuse.

Writing...well, it's been the one constant in my life, so...I don't think abuse has influenced the content of my writing, just the fact that I write at all or so much and writing has definitely helped me cope with my background.

If you could change your actions at one single occasion in your life, what would you change and why?

Hmm...At first I took that to mean 'changing one thing about your past' but it reads differently now.

Of course I can't change my actions about anything because I didn't know then what I know now and I did the best I could with what I had. Still...

When I was seventeen I was at university studying physics, maths and biology. Hit the party scene, yadda yadda yadda. One night I got drunk, and a guy took advantage. I freaked out and ended up leaving the course a week or so later.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have stayed. Brazened it out, even. But I was a kid at the time and had been a virgin up to that point; couldn't handle all the crap that came with it, including him getting his friends to threaten me with 'more where that came from' if I told anyone.

If this is too much, let me know. But that's the one situation I would have changed. I'd have stayed at university and maybe my 20s would have been different; more structured, less drifting.

Or perhaps I would have changed courses. I always ended up studying the sciences while my true passion is the English language.

But I feel like my late teens/early twenties was a crossroads and that's the point where I would have taken a path different to the one I did.

I still would have ended up writing, though. Nothing would ever change that.

Thanks for doing this.
My pleasure. I think...

So my interview doesn't read in too pessimistic a manner, or like I'm saying "Woe is me, I had a bad childhood," I just thought of something...

I might have been through some dark moments but compared to my timeline as a whole they were only moments and I'm grateful for whatever it was that saved me. Whether it was God or my own inherent desire to live a better life, I don't know, but it was there and I'm still here. :)

12-14-2008, 10:50 AM
wrightmor is a relative newbie around these parts, with a whopping 28 posts to his credit. I first came across him in the NaNo forums, and was intrigued by this guy who seemed to fit in without having been here all that long. :)

I was also impressed by his slow but steady approach to writing, and I thought, "This is someone who I don't know that well, but would like to know better." Hence the interview.

So here goes:

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

Raised in rural north Georgia (Lilburn).
Grad of Decatur High School (Decatur, Ga)
Finished BA at Southeastern Bible College (Birmingham, AL)
Spent about 10-13 years on South Texas border doing missionary work.
Pastored churches in GA & FL
Worked as electrician here in FL.
Then as Medicaid Eligibility Specialist.
Then as Probation Officer.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)

Retired in July. Signed up for substitute teaching, but so far not much is happening.
Married for 45 years (same beautiful woman), 3 grown children (baby is 32). Two pets- Lady (our laid back cat) and Julie (our hyper rat terrier).

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?

I remember writing short stories when I was in 4th and 5th grades, just for fun, of course. When I was in high school I sent a letter to our church headquarters in Nashville and asked how I could submit some Christian writing I had been working on. He wrote me a nice letter, but it said I would have to take years of training, blah, blah, blah. I had mixed emotions. I was thrilled that he would take the time to read my letter and even more that a big important man like that would respond. (Somewhat akin to the way I take rejection letters now).

What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?

Right now, I am tackling nothing more looming than short stories and fillers. I am also trying my hand at Biblical devotionals.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?

I like to read suspense, mystery and espionage.

How do you generate story ideas?

Years ago I read something about Right Brain, Left Brain (wish I could remember her name- it’s a classic with at least one sequel). Anyway, she suggested writing the word for your focus in the center of a piece of paper and then circling the word. Then draw sticks to smaller circles around the focus word with words that you associate with the focus word. The picture comes out looking like one big spider, but I have had some success finding a story in there.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.

I have made it an iron clad habit to go to the library from 10:30 to 12ish. I spend at least an hour of that time writing or editing what I wrote the day before. The first half hour is spent reading Writing Instruction or Inspiration books. Then I spend time at night (not so regimented) at home at my Dana, either journaling or polishing my work. I normally make a to do list for the next day so I won’t be looking for where to start.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?

I like to read. I like to analyze what I read.

Your weaknesses?

I like to read too much.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

Northeast Tennessee. That location is our (wife and mine) ultimate destination.

We like that area of TN because of the beautiful view of the mountains. (I had mentioned my trips to see Uncle Bill when I was a kid. Even back then I dreamed of one day having a place in the mountains). Also, I just want to go someplace where there is a definite division in the seasons. Florida is not that place!

What inspires you to write and why?

Reading the jackets on the books written by favorites such as Dean Koontz, Tom Clancy, Michael Connelly, David Baldacci. Also any biographical or even interview material by these authors is of real interest to me. I think because so often, their normality impresses me. I reason they really aren’t that different from me.

What is your favorite book and why?

Probably Lord Jim. This is a book I was forced to read in High School and I fell in love with it. I had to write a paper instead of taking final exam and it was more a pleasure than a chore. I like all of Joe Conrad’s books.
He had a knack for painting the settings and moods that I haven’t found in any contemporary books.

What is your favorite genre and why?

I like suspense and mystery. I also like some borderline spook or science fiction. I guess the suspense/mystery is my favorite. I guess Agatha Christi introduced me into this genre years ago. I like the puzzle of trying to figure out who did it and why.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

Joseph Conrad- Moodiness, isolation, puts me there in the scene almost literally.
Dean Koontz- Realism, his books are so well researched.
Tom Clancy- A little heavier and at times hard to follow, but I like the way he continues the story of some of the main characters into the sequel novels.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Practice, patience and perserverance.

What are your goals as a writer?

Bylines in some major magazines.
A few good novels, probably mystery
Some biblical articles of note.
Would like to have a fairly nice supplemental income
from my writing.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

N/A unfortunately.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

The patriarch Abraham. I would like to learn more about his lifestyle of faith so unswerving. I would like to hear it from him how he managed develop such insight.

What is your favorite food?

Almost anything Mexican.

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite place?

Blue Ridge Mountains

What is your favorite memory?

Visiting my great uncle Bill in the North Georgia Mountains during the summer. He was an rare individual and he loved entertaining us kids when we came visited. that’s been a lifetime back but is still vivid on my memory.

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

I would like to play the flute (Native American Music)

12-14-2008, 11:21 AM
Sad but true admission here: I've been wasting time on these boards since Jenna had the server powered by hamsters. There are times when I've been absent, 'tis true, and at points for almost a year at a time. But I still post enough to maintain a posting average of 3.25 posts per day, and remember that Office Party doesn't count anymore. Heck, I pre-date Office Party itself!

And this November, whilst hanging out with the NaNo crowd, I met someone I've never seen around these parts before. Someone with twenty-four thousand posts, or six times my own post count!

I was flabbergasted. How could this happen, I asked myself. And who is this Shady character? Male or female? Teen or senior citizen? I honestly could not tell just by reading her (for Shady is indeed female) posts. And watching her NaNo count grow, I was even more amazed. My goal became to cross the ten thousand word mark before she finished her fifty thousand word goal for the month. We crossed those two wildly divergent word count goals on the same day, November 8th.

That's right. Shady Lane had written fifty thousand words in less than eight days! I simply had to interview her, and became even more sure of that when I read her profile. But enough of the intro. Here, for your reading pleasure, is my interview with Shady Lane:

My number one question since I met you (a little tongue-in-cheek, this one ;) ):

I've been a member of this board for going on four or five years now. Even since before the crash of '05. I've got over 4,000 posts, and posted in most of the forums on the board. And I'd never even noticed you were a member until we met up on the NaNo board, and you have SIX TIMES my post count! How'd you manage that??? (Told you it was silly... :) )

I've been a member here for almost two years now. I joined as soon as I found this place, and I've been really active ever since then. When I first joined, the YA sub-forum was really lackluster. I did most of my posting in novels, occasionally in Roundtable. I have a few posts in OP, but it's not really my thing...I always feel like it's all a big joke everyone gets but me, so I feel kind of stupid posting there, to be perfectly honest.

In Novels, a lot of people started asking me what the guidelines were for "Edgy YA"--since there were so many uninformed people saying stuff like "you can't have homosexuality in YA, you can't have sex, you can say fuck twice per book but no more"--uh, okay, I've got tons of sex scenes, my NaNo was about a boy/boy relationship, and my Simon Pulse book has the word fuck 87 times. So when I told people these things, they asked if I could create a comprehensive thread--that's how "Shady's Edgy YA" was born. It's a sticky in YA now. After that, Megan created the "Random Musings About Your Writing" thread which as over 100,000 posts now...and most of my posts are there. Really, it's our own mini office party.

I also have tons of posts on the thread Game: Your MC's Voice which started out as a multi-person thing involving tons of people having conversations in the voices of their main characters. About 400 pages ago, it diverged into this massive role play between Sage and me. It's incredibly geeky and somewhat embarrassing, but also SO fun. We've been doing that for almost a year.

So that's where the posts come from... :D

How long have you been writing? How and why did you start? Tell us a little about how your first published book came to be published.

How long have I been writing...the short, cliche answer is, 'forever.' I remember my first day of second grade at my new school, I was nervous and sat down and wrote a story instead of talking to the other kids. I've gotten far more social since then, haha...but the writing continued. In 5th grade, I started working on my first long thing...it was an adult book (imagine, a 10 year old trying to write an adult book) about a hospice nurse. At that same time, our school was reading The School Story by Andrew Clemens, a fantastic MG book about a middle schooler who publishes her book with her best friend playing her agent. My best friend (the same friend who's in the hospital now, actually) decided that we needed to try that; she would be my agent. Since I never actually finished the hospice nurse story, that didn't happen...but I think it planted the idea in my head. I don't know if I ever would have understood the publishing world so well without The School Story, and it remains one of my very favorite books.

So. I finished my first real manuscript when I was in 8th grade. I queried one publisher--Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux. Got a form 'no.' My query letter was two and a half pages long, full of newbie mistakes...it was awful. But I didn't get too down about it, because I was already working on a new manuscript at that point. I submitted this one to the Delacorte Press Contest for first young adult novel, of course didn't win. Next manuscript I submitted to a few independent publishers, got a few form rejects and one partial request. Nothing else. I started working on my next book. It was winter of freshman year.

At this point, I was fed up with the publishing industry. I know that's absolutely ridiculous--half a dozen no's and I was fed up? But I was fourteen. My friend--same friend who was going to be my agent--and I decided the way to do it was to print up the books, get them bound ourselves, and just stick them on the shelves at Borders and Barnes and Noble to see what happened. Totally crazy plan, but an accurate representation of our personalities. The plan never got off the ground, but we did create a Myspace page, where we got in touch with the owner of an independent bookstore here in Maryland. He was interesting in helping us and asked, at one point, to see my manuscript. The one I showed him was The Sublime, my most recent manuscript.

Sublime's not an even a novel; it's about 26,000 words. It was the first one I wrote over the course of only a week or two. It's a strange, almost existentialist little thing. I'm proud of it. He loved it and asked if he could show it to an independent publisher friend of his. I said sure, not expecting anything to come from it. A few months later, bam, contract for an e-book with a later paperback edition. Obviously not a big thing, but still very, very exciting. This was also the first time my parents found out I wrote, so they were pretty shocked...

I got a lot of local publicity for that, but only sold about 100 copies of the e-book. There was zero marketing done, so that's expected and it was still exciting. I'm still waiting on the paperback, and I'm not sure when that's going to happen. I was told September, then November...it's not really a concern, though. Bigger fish to fry.

So right after I got that contract, I found AW and realized I needed to be querying agents. So I started doing so around May of sophomore year. Junior year was agent year. I queried queried queried all through the year, got my first offer sometime in early February and three more offers later that same day. Phone conversations, deliberations, stress--this was during tech week of Guys and Dolls, so I was at school everyday until nine, not a lot of time for email and phone conferences--I chose Jenoyne Adams of Bliss Literary and couldn't be happier. She sold Break, which I wrote in a week during the fall of junior year, to Simon Pulse in July. My contract just arrived today, and the book's coming out August 25th, 2009. Right now we have a new book on sub to my editor there--These Humans All Suck, which I wrote during spring of sophomore year. It's both me and my agent's very favorite, so here's hoping...

Anyway, I guess that wasn't brief, but the real answer is that "my first novel" is a judgment call. I'm still a little lost as to how to refer to Sublime.

I have three other finished manuscripts polished and ready to go on sub. So we'll see what happens...

I notice you've applied for college. What program are you hoping to be in? Do you plan to make writing your life's work, or do you have some other career in mind?

Hokay so college. I applied Early Decision to Brown. I hear in six days. I am dying of anticipation.

I'm applying as a Literary Arts major--so yep, writing. I actually intended all through high school to be a biology major, and just recently changed my mind. I'm so glad I did, even though I had to rewrite a bunch of my college essays. Writing is what I want to do with my life, so why should I pretend it isn't? My goal right now is to never have a "real" job. I know that's silly, and I know a lot of people would say I'm robbing myself of experiences I could use for writing. Hey, there's always volunteer work if I'm hurting for inspiration. But I think I'll be okay.

If you could accomplish only one thing in your lifetime, what, at this point in time, would you want to accomplish?

If I could accomplish only one thing...that's hard. I'm going to have to say I would like to have a family. I would like very very much to have a family. My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost two years, and we're those naive high schoolers who think they can stay together forever. Honestly, though, he's everything I could ever want, and if we get through college (we applied to different places), I'm gonna marry that boy. Whenever either of us is sad, we just talk about our plans for the future to cheer us up. I stay at home with the kids and write books, he goes out and does...something. He's not sure yet. But we're sure of the books. And the kids. And the happy.

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?

YA contemporary and YA contemporary. I'll read the ocassional adult book, but I don't write them.

How do you generate story ideas?

Usually I think of one sort of plot 'element'--right now I'm fixated on writing from the POV of a kid whose dad just got sent to prison. I'm waiting until I think of another element--one that doesn't obviously fit with that one--and then I'll mush them together. That's what I typically do. My favorite ms (th eone on sub) was kid going to meet his older brother's birth family + immaculate conception.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.

I'm a TERRIBLE example, because I don't write every day at all, and when I do write, it's in front of the TV, lying on the couch...all the things you're not supposed to do. generally, I go on bursts--I'll write a novel in seven or eight days, edit it slowly afterwards. I'm not writing anything right now--haven't written since NaNo. This isn't a problem for me. I'm not a page-a-day kind of person. Different strokes, I suppose.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?

I'm a teenager who writes teenagers. That's an easy one. I have a good ear for dialogue. I think of strong plots. I don't typically get bogged down in middles.

Your weaknesses?

Unpredictability. I write several books a year, but I can't predict when I'm going to have these books written. Luckily I have three manuscripts polished and ready to go when my agent asks for them, but I can't promise when they'll be another one.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

New York City. I haven't seen a Broadway show in months. This is a problem.

What inspires you to write and why?

Movies. Definitely movies. I get so inspired by movies. Break was inspired duely by Fight Club (more the movie than the book) and Into the Wild. You'd never know it from reading it, though...

I think because I respond well to things I can see. Nothing gets me like a camera shot of one character going through some sort of emotional change. You can write a whole book out of that change.

What is your favorite book and why?

Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving. Because it's amazing and painful and raw and beautiful.

Also up there--Indigo's Star by Hilary McKay and Sins of The Fathers by Chris Lynch. And The Stranger by Albert Camus. I have Adult, MG, YA, and...The Stranger represented there. :)

What is your favorite genre and why?

YA, definitely. I'm a young adult. I love to read about young adults. I think the authors are some of the most daring writing right now. And the people working in YA fiction are so amazing and inspiring.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

John Irving--he's a genius
John Green--consistently amazing
Ned Vizzini--inspiring inspiring inspiring

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Obviously it depends what you consider successful...but I think a knowledge of the business end is absolutely crucial. You need to know what your role is as a writer in the writer/agent/editor relationship. You need to know what you control and what you don't control.

And whatever stress is around, however you work, whatever your method is, you need to create a consistent product. You can surprise your readers, but you can't let them down.

What are your goals as a writer?

Right now I say that I hope to never have a real job. I want to be able to support myself and a family someday.

I want my picture in Entertainment Weekly.

That's it, really.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

First draft? A week or so. All the drafts? About a month or two.

Not including my novella out with a small publisher, my novel coming out this summer, and my novel currently on submission, I have three polished and ready to go. The order is strange--the order is strange...here, a handy list!

In order of completion:
Book A--out with a small press
Book B--waiting its turn
Book C--on submission
(Book D-- truuuunked! it's bad)
Book E--coming out this summer
Book F--waiting its turn
Book G--waiting its turn

So the book that's being marketed as my "first novel" is not really my first novel at all. And my second will have been written before the first.

If you have published a book, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).

The Sublime is out on e-book with Cantarabooks. Came out in September 2007. That's available at www.cantarabooks.com

Break is coming out with Simon Pulse on August 25th, 2009. It'll be on Amazon and in major book stores and such.

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?

Not sure I can say that publicly.

Let's just say I would have asked more questions...

But I have no real regrets. I love where I am, and I can't say if I would have gotten here if I'd done something differently. So we're good.

What have you learned about the publishing world?

What you do matters. People are watching. And no matter if you're fourteen or forty, you have to act like an adult. This is a business. Have to treat it as such. I didn't get that at first.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Albert Camus...but sadly, I don't speak French.

We could talk existentialism. Not that it would really matter...

What is your favorite food?

Hmmmmm....I like lemon meringue pie, like, a LOT. And creme brulee. Desserts...

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite place?


What is your favorite memory?

Running around Bethany Beach with my best friends. My friends are my life.

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

I wish I could play an instrument. I can pidgen-play piano, and I sing, but I can't play an instrument.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?

I really am normal. Really.

I act just like any other teenagers. And I hate when people insult teenagers and when I get offended say I'm an exception. No, I'm not. All teenagers are brilliant.

I'm just loud about it.

ETA: Hannah sings in ASL (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G76IPfgdW3U) :D

12-14-2008, 11:30 AM
First off, an apology to Steve. I knew I couldn't get away with four perfect posts, and I messed up big. Steve's user name is smsarber, not smbarber. Sorry for any problems that caused to Steve and others. Now on with the fun. :)

I met Steve in Uncle Jim's thread, and he struck me as a sensible guy with a lot to say about life. It always impresses me when someone can overcome adversity and turn their life around, and by this measure, Steve is one of the most impressive guys I've ever met.

Tell us about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

I was born in St. Louis, April 6, 1976. I am the oldest of three boys, Nick, 24, and Josh, 19, are my brothers. My early home life was good, but I got into a rebellious streak at 15, about the same time I started drinking. Being so much older than my brothers was good for them. They saw me trying to throw my life away, and were able to learn from it. And they had a lot to learn from. When I was 19, I broke my neck and back in a car accident. Unable to work I started to sell drugs. I had traffic in and out of my parent's house constantly. I drank openly in front of my family, I played my guitar loud and fought with my dad. When I was 24 they finally threw me out.

In July of 2004, I suffered three blood-clots in my right lung. The clots caused an infarction, or tear, in the lung tissue. The tear became a large abscess. The abscess was drained, but the scar tissue remained.

Early May 2007 I began to have breathing problems. I didn't think it would be a big deal, I've had severe asthma my entire life, but the x-rays showed a significant portion of my right lung was non-functional. The scar tissue was growing, and choking out the good tissue. Surgery to remove the balloon of scar tissue would be the only solution.

Three years after the original embolisms, July 23, 2007, I went in to have a thoracotomy/bullectomy. The surgeon would spread my ribs, cut out only the dead tissue, then staple me back together. Major surgery, so it was estimated I would remain in the hospital for a week. And the surgery went fine. The first two days of recovery went fine.

I don't remember the third day. I threw another blood clot, my body filled with infection, and the doctors put me into a coma. When I opened my eyes again it was the middle of August. At first I couldn't even understand what my wife and my dad were telling me. I saw their lips move, I heard the words coming out their mouths, but I couldn't remember what the words meant. Of course, that first day I spent less than an hour awake.

Over the next four weeks I had three more surgeries, two of which were minor. Two of my four chest tubes came out. I got stronger. My appetite came back. Then it was decided that they would have to put a wound in my back to promote good tissue growth on the inside of my rear chest-wall. This wound would be twelve centimeters deep, at a downward angle, nine-to-ten long, and about nine wide. They took a couple-inch wide chunk out of three ribs, and they just happened to be the ribs adjacent to where my back was broke.

If I hadn't been sober when this happened, I would be dead now.

What are you doing now?

I am disabled. My wife Crystal and I have been married for seven and-a-half years, married May 5, 2001. We have a 7 year-old son named Randy, and a rabbit of indeterminate age and sex, named Yin-Yang-Yo, after the Woo-Foo rabbits in the Disney cartoon.

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?

I always knew it was there, I just never had the patience to write when I drank. While I was in prison I started to write, it was horrid stuff, but I knew then that I could do it. And now that I am no longer able to work, it may be my only shot at a real career.

What do you write?

Short stories, novellas, novels

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?

Horror Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers, Horror Comedy

How do you generate story ideas?

Many times it starts as a line or two, an opening. Then the idea builds from there.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.

Frustrating! No, seriously. The only place in our apartment I can fit my desk is in the living room, so I have no peace to write. I really need to get a laptop!

I read Stephen King's On Writing, which isn't really a guide-book, or anything, but does contain some useful stuff. He says the most important thing is to have a door you can shut. In my case, it's not possible, but it sure would help. I used to write at night, after Crystal and Randy were in bed, but since I have to get up in the morning to take Randy to school that is not an option anymore. I do my best to write during the day, but it has been hard to retrain myself to do it that way. But I'm getting there.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?

I speak the truth, as best I can.

Your weaknesses?

Stubbornness when people offer criticism and advice. But I've improved drastically in that area. Before I started this interview I looked over my rep point list, and in the beginning there were a lot of comments that boiled down to “rude!,” but now they are supportive. I'm particularly proud of that. I'm growing, and it feels nice.

I'm still working on “show vs. tell,” I know what it is, and how to do it, but I seem incapable of recognizing it in my work.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

Egypt. It's warm there; I don't do cold well. And the history and culture would be inspiring.

What inspires you to write and why?

Various things. Lately, stories on “Cold Case Files”. If you want real horror, just look at what humanity has already done.

What is your favorite book and why?

Hard question. Ask me one day and it will be The Stand by Stephen King, ask me another day, and it's Fear Nothing by Dean Koontz. Genetically altered monkeys... creepy!

What is your favorite genre and why?

Horror. As a kid I got scared easily, so one day I decided to read the stories in Stephen King's Four Past Midnight. And every weekend my friends and I had sleep-overs watching movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th. Pretty soon I was hooked.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

Stephen King (bet'cha guessed that one already),
Dean Koontz,
James Patterson,
they're just good storytellers.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Semantics. Successful in business might not be successful as a writer. I want to be able to make a living writing, but not write to make a living, if that makes sense.

What are your goals as a writer?

Publication, independence, and respect.

How long did it take you to write your book?

I've been working on it for two years, but I've only been seriously writing about six months longer than that.

What have you learned about the publishing world?

Don't use Publish America!!

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was an awesome, ground-breaking blues guitarist who struggled to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. He did overcome, then tragically died in a helicopter crash.

What is your favorite food?

Probably hot-wings. Contrary to popular belief you can eat them without beer.

What is your favorite color?

Blue or Black, depending on my mood.

What is your favorite place?

Home with my family.

What is your favorite memory?

What memory?!

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

I've played guitar for twenty years, and am a fair artist.

Is there anything you'd like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?

Well, since I talk openly about my time in jail and prison, that probably won't surprise anyone. But it was an integral part of my life. I spent eight months in county jail, got released on probation, stayed sober one month, and spent the next year (June '04- Sept. '05) hiding my drinking as well as I could. All the while hatred was growing inside my wife.

September 29, 2005 I was arrested. After five DWI's it was time to go to prison. And it saved my life and my marriage. I didn't just dry out in the pen, I got help. The day after Christmas '05 Crystal told me she planned to divorce me. I couldn't believe it, but at the same time I understood it was time for a change. She agreed to wait until I was released and she would see how I did.

I've been sober ever since.

The professionals say you stop growing emotionally when you start drinking. If that is true, then I emerged from prison a fifteen year-old boy. And I know the way I have dealt with some things certainly have been immature. But I am growing. My writing is improving, and one of the coolest things I have is a son who loves me, not just because he's my son, but because I'm around, and he knows me. The old Daddy missed his second and fourth birthdays behind bars. Now he makes his own books. But even if he doesn't follow in my footsteps I will support him in whatever he wants to do, just like my family supports me in this dream to be a writer.

12-14-2008, 01:59 PM
Aruna interviews Laurie Ashton.

1 Where were you born/did you grow up?

Born in northern Manitoba, but grew up all over western Canada, mostly in the northern places. We moved a lot. By the time I left Canada, I’d live in well over 30 different houses/homes/abodes.
I’ve lived in small towns of 3000 to large cities of a couple million and everything in between. I’ve lived far enough north that -40C in the winter was no big deal. And we had colder temperatures than that on occasion. When you live places like that, you always carry around a first aid kit, jumper cables, a shovel, kitty litter, and extra blankets, gloves, scarves, and so on in the car. Well, if you drive junkers like I did. :D And I usually drove small enough cars that I could push it out of a snow drift on my own. Which I’ve done. More times than I care to admit. 
One place we lived, Fort McMurray, Alberta, is far enough north that, in the winter, the sun comes out around 10 am and goes down around 2pm. So, it’s dark when ya go to school and dark when you get out. You only see the sun from the classroom window or during recess. And the Northern Lights up there are so incredibly brilliant. I don’t care if you’ve seen the Northern Lights from a thousand or two miles further south – it ain’t the same. Not even close.
And, as a side note, I’ve been to the Arctic Circle. While visiting my sister, who lived in the North West Territories at the time. :D Whole other life up there, I tell ya.

2. I know a little about your going off to Sri Lanka to join Fahim, I think sight unseen, and I'd love to hear more about this! It's the main reason I chose you! How could you be so sure? Were you nervous? Did you leave a back door open, or did you "know" it was for life?

Left Canada because of Fahim, yes, but even before that, still moved around a bit. That’s an even longer story.
The Fahim thing I’ve written in more detail at http://laurieandfahim.laurieashton.com. How could I be so sure? Well, if you believe in God and prayer, it might make sense, but if you don’t, you’ll just think I’m nuts.  My airplane ticket was return – it had to be for me to even be able to enter the country – but by that point, I was about 99.99% sure. Probably more. :D
And honestly, I’ve always wanted to see the world by living elsewhere. Before the Fahim thing happened, I’d already started making plans to move to Belize, where I’ve got a ton of relatives who’d help me get settled. Of course, that didn’t happen – I went to Sri Lanka instead.
Was I nervous? Of course! I also spent most of my layover time in Hong Kong crying. Well, maybe not most, but a lot. I was leaving everyone/everything behind.

3. Can you name, describe one decisive moment in your youth, one that changed the course of your life, either in a physical, mental or a philosophical sense? Or, is there an experience you had as a youth which lives on in your memory, influencing your life now in either a positive or negative sense?

One day when I was fifteen or sixteen, after a nasty argument with my mother (they were all nasty, but that’s beside the point), she said to me, “If you don’t like how I raised you, change yourself!” Ignoring the part where she said it in absolute hostility and nastiness, the lightbulb went off in my head. Yeah, I don’t like how they raised me, I don’t like how I ended up, and yeah, I AM going to change. And that started Laurie v. 2 beta. And, by the way, it’s been a rousing success. I’m not the child my parents created at all. I think I’m probably closer to version 3.5 by now, honestly.

4. Describe the street you live in, the view from your bedroom/living room window, or the route you take to work each day!

From our upstairs sitting room, where Fahim and I sit all day as we work/play on our computers/write/watch television or movies, there is a window to my right and a balcony at my back.
From the window, I can see bits of the neighborhood, but mostly just the tops of trees. The closest tree is the one right in front of our house and has pink flowers which attract hummingbirds, brown birds, black and white birds, black and yellow birds, bright green parrots, and more. It also attracts the four neighborhood monkeys sometimes.
The balcony is where I grow plants – aloe veras, local spinach, mint, lemon grass, and a sort of edible ginger plant. It will expand. The empty lot beside our house has a couple of banana plants, palm trees, and various other bushes and trees along with the usual wild plants that quickly grow and carpet any unoccupied area in an immediate green. That’s also where my cat Oberon is buried.
I can see the entire neighborhood, really. I get a great view of the four neighborhood monkeys as they wander the power line highway as they search for food (flowers, bamboo, and so on). I can see the cows wander, or occasionally stampede, up and down the road. I can see all the pesky neighborhood cats and dogs, starving, emaciated, mangy, unhealthy. I can see the snake charmer as he tries to earn a living, and I can see the people wandering up and down the road, banging on everyone’s gates, as they try to sell products that no one wants or beg for donations for who knows what. And there are also the fish and vegetable peddlars, with fish or produce in the back of their bicycles.
Down the road about fifty paces are a couple of typical neighborhood shops. A person can buy short eats (buns, rolls, deep fried pastries, basically quick little transportable appetizer type dealies), produce, eggs, lentils, and so on. When we get eggs there (Rs.10 per egg as opposed to the grocery store’s Rs.160 per ten), Fahim brings them home in a plastic bag. Loose. No egg carton for you! Yes, they’re sold individually, so buy one, three, or thirteen.
There’s also a hardware shop with basic hardware supplies. Very basic.

6. Describe the room you are sitting in right now!

We’re at Fahim’s parent’s other house right now. Yesterday was Eid ul Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice, the second most important holiday to Muslims. Yesterday, everyone – the aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on – went to Fahim’s omama’s house (grandmother on his mother’s side) for the main event. Thirty or forty people sitting on mats on the floor around a communal rice platter which they all ate out of. I didn’t – problem joints, wouldn’t be able to stand or walk after if I tried that – so I got a plate to eat on a chair. But I still eat with my hand – it’s local custom, so why not? And cows were sacrificed for Eid. Fahim and I, his parents, and his brother’s family, get together to buy a cow which is then killed in ritual Islamic fashion. A portion of that cow MUST go to the poor. A portion can be had by the people doing the sacrifice, and a portion may go to relatives.
None of which is actually answering your question, but does explain why we’re here. :D
Fahim’s father is watching the news. Or was – he’s just switched over to a movie, sounds like a Tamil move (with Sinhala subtitles). Fahim’s sitting beside me, writing a script for a client. Fahim’s mother is grabbing a newspaper, but to do what with, I don’t know.
This room has a very high sloping ceiling – perhaps 25 feet at the height. The floor is covered in rosy pink tiles and white tiles in a box pattern. The door is open – it always is during the day to let a breeze run through. The walls are painted rosy pink and the space is very open. Two steps down on my right to get to the dining room with another set of full-length windows which were just shut. In the front yard, there’s a fairly big – to me – mango tree, but it’s not fully grown yet by any means. When the fruit’s on it, the fruit bangs on vehicles coming in the driveway.
Across the road from the house is an open field with palm trees, papaya trees, and so on. It’s very peaceful and relaxing here. 

7. Referring to questions 5 and 6: do you see yourself in this same place in two/five/ten years time?

Hard to say. It really depends a lot on the politicians and how badly they wreck this country.
At present, inflation’s been sitting at around 20-28% per month. But food prices have just recently dropped for some items. Eggs were at Rs.160 per ten, but now can be had for as low as Rs.100 per ten. They were Rs.40 per ten five years ago. Coconut oil was as high as Rs.1400 per 3 liters, but is now down to something like $980 per 3 liters, but five years ago was Rs.500 per 3 liters five years ago. But not everything has dropped, and not everything has dropped as dramatically.
As well, the civil war is killing the country. Literally. Bombs, grenade attacks, gunfights. Not pleasant. Security checks, men with guns everywhere. You never know if you’re going to be a statistic simply by going to the mall.
Then there’s the corruption. Absolutely nothing, in my opinion, about this country will move forward in any way until the corruption is eliminated, at least partially. Corruption is a way of life here, and everyone wants their dues. Can’t complain about the noisy neighbors with the extremely loud music that you can hear well over a block away because you know that, if the noisemakers give a big enough bribe, they’ll know it was you who complained and then they make your life difficult in ways that people who’ve never been out of the west can possibly imagine.
The corruption is rampant. Problematic. And it’s pulling this country even deeper into a pit.

8. What was your education? What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work? How does writing fit in?

I used to work as an accountant back in Canada. Self- employed for the last nine years. I didn’t play well with others in the sense that I didn’t exactly enjoy doing the work of three or four people, getting paid for one, and getting none of the credit but all of the blame. Yeah, not a team player. I’m the independent over-achieving perfectionist sort who was anal retentive enough to be an excellent accountant. C’mon, you know the type. Stick a lump of coal up an accountants butt and you get a diamond in two weeks. That type. :D
Being self-employed was totally better. Sure, I got the blame when I did something wrong, but that wasn’t very often. Better, I got all the credit and got paid much, much better. And companies which had messed up accounts hired me since I had a reputation for sorting out the worst possible messes and making sense of it. Yeah, I was good. And yeah, as sick as this might sound to some, I enjoyed it.
Plus, I could work from home, work the hours I wanted, take holidays or time off when I wanted, and basically live my life however I wanted. Which was a good thing for other reasons, too. As in, declining health caused by a genetic defect (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility type for the curious in the crowd). I can’t work full-time anymore, and haven’t been able to for more than a decade.
I don’t enjoy accounting anymore. That stopped in the last couple of years of working as an accountant. It was too much same-old, same-old, no challenge.
Plus, I’d changed. I was around version 2.8 by then and no longer the version 2.1 I was when I started out in accounting. I was more in touch with myself, my emotions, and all that other stuff that nauseates some.  It just didn’t work anymore. I wanted to become a writer. I wanted to write science fiction and fantasy. Well, I’d wanted to do that for years, but never really believed in myself or my ability to tell a good story or write decently enough.
Now, I write. Whenever I can, for whoever I want to, whenever I want to. It’s my choice. Which is good because of that chronic illness thing which hugely prevents me from actually being able to be as productive as other people. I do freelance writing and editing as well as writing fiction. But honestly, fiction is what I love doing more than the rest.

9. What is the quality or qualities you value most in a life partner? Is there such a person in your life right now?

Second question first. Yes, and his name is Fahim.  First question. Where do I start? Integrity, honesty, caring, concern, understanding, loving kindness, compassion. The only way I can really sum it up is to say that everything I need in a mate, he is. Even the stuff I didn’t know I needed. He’s the best man for me of everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life. He’s the best friend I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some damn fine excellent best friends. I actually could go singing his praises for a very long time, and then I would start to cry because I’m just so grateful that I have him. He’s made my life far better than I could have imagined, and being a science fiction writer, I’ve got a pretty huge imagination!
Oh, yeah. AND he writes as well as reads science fiction. I mean, seriously, that was such a huge coincidence to us both when we met online that it was a huge part of the reason why we, well, continued getting to know each other and felt that it was meant to be. Silly? Yes. But so what?

10. Dogs, cats, both, neither, and why?

Not dogs, ever. I’m a cat person, but Fahim isn’t and various assorted family members are allergic, so when my fat cat Oberon died, I knew that would be it. Unfortunately. Cats have a much different life here – there are so many nasty, diseased strays that it makes it difficult for a domesticated cat. Oberon, even at five times their weight (he weighed around 15 pounds, while local cats tend to weight around 2 or 3), could never win in any fight, so he’d walk away looking like he lost the fight, which he did. He was a softie, completely, and cats like that just can’t survive here unless they’re completely indoors, and that’s just not realistic with the allergies and other difficulties here. No, as much as I’d love another cat, it’s just not realistic. Unfortunately.

12-14-2008, 02:17 PM
Aruna's interview with Maestrowork

1 Where were you born/did you grow up,/live as a child? What are your memories of this time?

I was born and raised in Hong Kong, on the Kowloon side of the city. In my memories, Hong Kong was hot, humid, miserable in the summer, dry and cold in the winter. And I looked forward to the typhoons so I didn't have to go to school. That said, I actually liked school. I didn't like the studying but at least I did pretty well. What I loved the most about school were my friends. I was a very gregarious child; I made friends very easily. I was also very loud and a bit obnoxious as a boy. I was the class clown as well. The comments in my report cards tended to say, "intelligent and studious, but needs to learn to keep his mouth shut." I was also kind of a bully, believe it or not, and got into quite a few trouble with teachers and principals. I remember getting into a few fights as a young boy, winning them by fighting dirty. But generally, I really enjoyed school because home was "boring" to me. I was very rambunctious and I needed the stimuli at school to keep me preoccupied. I would stay at school for as long as I could.
My favorite memories involve my summer holidays. I looked forward to that every day, even though we were often overloaded with tons of summer homework. I remember having to finish 1000 Math problems by the end of the two-month vacation. But what summer meant to me was a lot of fun. My brother and I would go to the public swimming pool almost every day. I'd have camps, swimming lessons. I'd ride my bicycles everywhere. And I loved going on fishing and swimming trips with my dad and his colleagues. Every summer they would rent a huge sailboat and take their families out to the ocean and remote islands from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. We'd do a lot of swimming and diving. The adults would go scuba diving and bring back tons of fresh fish, conches, scallops, clams, and the occasional octopuses and lobsters. By sunset we would start a feast that would last until we docked. I can still taste the salt and smell the fish now that I think back on that time.
I was very poor, but happy. I didn't have the things my peers had, and I wore my brother's hand-me-down every year. There were times I wish I had the money to get the kind of sneakers everyone was wearing, or the graphite tennis racket instead of the wood. At the same time, I understood my family's situation and I never demanded my parents to spend money on "frivolous things." What I really wanted, I saved my allowances until I could afford to buy them. And then I had to hide these frivolous things from my parents. I remember hiding my favorite robot from my parents for a whole year before they discovered it -- but they didn't say anything, so the whole thing about hiding from my parents was really stupid. My parents were very liberal and permissive when it came to me. I was roaming the streets when I was six or seven years old. I could stay up late with my friends as long as I told my parents where I would be. My parents often had to work double shifts, and so it was up to my brother and I to take care of ourselves -- we would cook, wash, and clean the house before bed when sometimes both our parents were at work, or one of them were still sleeping. So we trained ourselves to be very independent from a very young age. I remember feeling the freedom and also the responsibility, because I never wanted my parents to worry about me. One time my brother severely cut through his forefinger and instead of calling my parents, we rummaged through the medicine cabinet and I helped bandage and treat his finger -- I was only 6 years old.
I didn't have much, but we also had plenty. The worst memories I had were when my parents fought, which was almost every day, usually about very trivial things. I hated every minute of those fights. At the same time, I also felt immense love from them. Never would I doubt my parents would abandon us or that they didn't care about us. I appreciated the freedom they gave me, while making sure I knew I was loved and cared about. Being on my own was my sanctuary, to be able to explore and experience the world on my own terms, but I always knew I had a home to come back to, and my parents would always be there for me, that I could always feel safe.
I remember a lot of things about my childhood, but the ever-present feeling was that I could do all those things and experience my childhood in the embrace of real love. I felt secure even though I didn't have a lot. I felt free even though my parents would do anything to protect us. I knew what love felt like even before I knew what love really meant. And that's a gift that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

2. What circumstances moved you away?

I moved to the US at the age of 18. Years of being independent had trained me for the day I finally left home, to be on my own. And not just anywhere, but more than 10,000 miles away in a strange country, where people ate hamburgers and spoke English. I didn't really want to leave home, my family and all my friends, but I understood why I had to. There was no future for me if I didn't get a college degree, and it was almost impossible to get into the universities in Hong Kong. My parents sacrificed a lot for my education, because they truly believed in the value of it, an investment that is life-long. They literally spent their entire life's savings on my education, to send me to the US. As a foreign student, I (and my family) must prove that I had enough money to support myself through four years of college. What impressed and touched me the most wasn't that my parents did all that for me (of course they would). What touched me the most was that they didn't push me -- the decision for me to move to the US was a mutual, consensual one after a very mature discussion. I understood the stakes, and I understood the reasons behind the decision. I never felt that my parents were abandoning me, that I wasn't wanted. Instead, I was honored and touched that they trusted me and respected me. They trusted me enough to let an 18-year-old boy go to a faraway land all by himself (I ended up not going home for six years) because they understood the value of education and they trusted my independence. Sometimes they knew me more than I knew myself.
I ended up in Pittsburgh, not sunny California or cosmopolitan New York, but small town Pittsburgh. I went to Duquesne University, a private Catholic school for the first semester, then transfered to the University of Pittsburgh. I also worked part-time at a Chinese restaurant. In my spare time (when not studying or working), I traveled around the country. I felt that I was given an incredible opportunity and the best education I could get was out of the classroom. It was some of the best years of my life, even though I missed my family very much. Coming to America changed my life in more ways than I could imagine.

3. Beside your parents, who was/were the most influential person(s) of your childhood? What did you learn most from him/her/them? The most influential person you've known as an adult?

I can name three teachers who influenced me the most, who helped shape me to be the person I am now. The first was my elementary school headmaster; regrettably I don't remember her name now. When all the teacher treated me like a clown, or one of those forgettable boys who probably wouldn't amount to anything, she had faith in me. She was stern with me, but instead of punishment, she put her trust in me and asked me to work with her, to help her. Receiving that kind of responsibilities made me realize I could do better, and I wasn't a nobody after all.
The second teacher was my Form 1 (equivalent to 8th Grade in the US) teacher. She was graceful, elegant, and kind. I think I had a major crush on her. She also put me into a lot of extracurricular programs and she made me realize there were knowledge and experiences outside of the classroom. She made me question my abilities, talents and what I wanted to do, instead of what others wanted me to do. She was also a great example of a kind, wonderful, selfless human being.
The third teacher was my Chinese teacher in high school. She was incredible sharp, witty, and stern, but she also understood me. She knew I hated memorizing books or doing quizzes, so instead she gave me projects to do. She was the first person who roused my interest in creative writing. She encouraged me to write stories, plays, whatever that explored my creative side. She was critical but at the same time very interested in what I had to say. She was a great mentor, someone we should all be lucky enough to have in our lives.
I'm not sure who is the most influential person I've known as an adult. I tend to be free thinking and I tend to do my own thing. There were certainly people I listened to, admired, or studied, but to me, they were part of this whole universe of knowledge and wisdom that I'm, to this day, eager to learn and absorb. Everyone from Jesus to Martin Luther King to friends I've made throughout the years. I honestly can't say who the most influential person was.

4. Can you describe one decisive moment in your youth, one that changed the course of your life, either in a physical, mental or a philosophical sense? Or, is there an experience you had as a youth which lives on in your memory, influencing your life now in either a positive or negative sense?

There are many moments of my life that changed or shaped me to be the person I am today, but three earliest memories stood out for me. The first one was when I was 8. I was playing a game with my friends during recess when I fell on my head. My concussion was so severe that I was in a coma. I had no idea how long it had been, but the first thing I remembered was my mother by my side. I couldn't remember much except the comfort I felt when I heard her voice. It was the first time I understood the concept of dying, and that I could die. It was also the first time I really, really understood what love was, and what love meant. That understanding has guided me through most of my life since.
The second moment happened during a detention. May I say the teacher was a *bitch* and she was determined to keep us there for hours. I hated her so much. And I thought my parents would kill me when they found out I was in detention for two hours, thus missing my ride home and dinner. So I prayed to God that I would be left out soon. I spent my entire time there praying and asking for God to grant me that one wish: to be home in time for supper. I had never prayed so hard in my life. And what did I know? Lo and behold within an half-hour the teacher told us to go home -- she changed her mind and she would just let us go. It was the first time (as silly and wrong as it sounds now) I truly believe there was a God, or some higher being, and that God was listening.
The third moment happened when I was 10. I was at my worst behavior that year -- call it rebellion, acting out, or what have you. I'd threatened my parents, hit back, and tried to run away from home. I flunked out of a couple of classes, and I forged my dad's signature on a report card. My teacher (the one mentioned above) was not stupid, however, and she caught me. She called me into her office, and asked me if that signature was mine. I told another lie and said "yes." She then told me she was very disappointed that I lied again. But instead of calling my parents or telling the principal, she made me sit next to her, and told me why she was disappointed, saddened -- because she was sure that I could do better, and that she saw things in me that no other teachers did. That afternoon, she knocked some senses into me, and I promised her that I would change. And I did. My grades went up and my temper went down. And then one day during class, when we were trying to talk about the upcoming picnic, she told the class to quiet down and then she said something like this:
"There is one person in this class that has impressed me the most this year, and not because he has the best grades, or he is the best behaved, or he does everything I told him, too. It's because he has changed the most. He's made the most effort and he's made a 180 degree change. He's proven to me, all by himself, what he's capable of. And with that, I'd like to make him your new class president."
And then she said my name. That was the proudest moment of my life up to that point, and I will never forget how it changed my life.

5. Describe the street you live in, the view from your bedroom/living room window, or the route you take to work each day!

It's a major street but relatively quiet, lined with beautiful pear trees and maples. Spring is beautiful with white blossoms on the trees and new greens everywhere, expansive lawns and lovely stone houses. The street is on a downgrade and it curves, thus creating an impressive vista of the neighborhood where the abundance of trees and grass and flowers and hills paints an idyllic picture of a quintessential American life.
The living room has ceiling-to-floor windows serving as perfect picture frames for the outside vista. The expansive bedroom windows overlook the front garden, and the Japanese maple is at its most glorious during Fall, with its golden pine leaves.
Off the driveway there are two ways to go: turn left and I would drive past the state university onto a oak-lined thoroughfare that winds its way through a few neighborhoods before it ends in downtown. Turn right and I would go up a hill and reach the business district of my neighborhood with cafes, restaurants, a movie theater, shops, and a serene city park. A few blocks away is a major university campus.

6. Describe the room you are sitting in right now!

I'm in my kitchen, which, through the expansive windows, looks out to the backyard which is a vast hill-slope overgrown with ivy, shadowed by a canopy of 100-foot trees. The kitchen is spacious and rather messy at this point. The counters are littered with appliances such as a toaster, two coffee-makers, a juicer, a MagicBullet mixer, a blender, and boxes of vegetables. Piles of bills, papers, magazines take up most of space on the table. There are plants on the windowsills. On my right is a cart of alcohol (you name it, I have it), a wine rack, pots and pans, and an AeroGarden, in which the basil, lemon basil, chives, parsley, oregano, and thyme are growing in abundance at the moment. On the walls is a set of Japanese porcelain plates.

7. Do you see yourself in this same place in two/five/ten years time?

I'd like to. It's a quiet, peaceful, contemporary home. But you never know what life brings you. In ten years I would probably move out to California to be closer to my parents. Or start a family on my own -- this house is definitely a bit small for a family.

8. What was your education? What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work?

I have a Bachelor degree in Computer Science, and a Master's in Telecommunications. I also took classes in Creative Writing. I've been Software Engineers, IT specialists, architects, and consultants. I've also been business analyst, project manager, and technical writer. Right now, I just want to write, make music, and see where life is taking me. I also act from time to time (when my agent calls me). I try to do what I love and love what I do, and am in no hurry to sell my soul for money.

9. What is the quality or qualities you value most in a life partner? Is there such a person in your life right now?

I'm very picking when it comes to someone I'd like to spend the rest of my life with, and sometimes I don't even know if I NEED anyone; I think I'm perfectly content with myself. However, I do think that everybody needs somebody, and there is probably someone out there for me -- someone who completes me (even though I don't think I need to be "completed"). I've been in a few long-term relationships -- engaged to be married once -- and I never regretted them, even if they didn't last. I've learned a lot, and the connections I felt are forever. Speaking of which, I think a "connection" is what I value the most. Often when a relationship didn't work, it was because we'd lost that connection, or that connection was never there to begin with. We could all delude ourselves by thinking we're madly in love, or that we must sacrifice or do something to earn love, to change and bend ourselves so we deserve to be loved. I believe love should be a natural thing, and I anticipate that. It's all about that special connection. I don't look for certain particular qualities, although some things seem to repeat, thus they must be rather important to me: a sense of human, kindness, selflessness, independence (I hate clinginess and neediness), a sense of adventure and fun, lack of ego and jealousy, complete respect and trust for me. And friendship -- I can't fall in love with anyone who can't be my best friend. That undeniable connection is very important to me. Sex and looks may fade, but the connection is the real thing. I look for "real" -- and if you had read my novel, The Pacific Between, you would have a glimpse of my philosophy and views on love.
The biggest hurdle I have had with my past relationships, I believe, is that I'm not an easy person to understand, and I yearn for someone to really, truly understand and accept me. To let me be. More often than not I feel that I'm misunderstood, or that others can't understand what I'm about and who I am. Or that they have a specific expectations from me, and they want me to fit into whatever vision they have. They would start taking things apart, or accusing me for something I did not do, or what I wasn't. It was always heartbreaking to have to prove myself once again, or have to remind others what I've already explained a thousand times. It's not as if I were a complicated person, but most often than not, I just don't think people listen or pay attention. And they forget.

10. Tell me about your writing journey. When did you start The Pacific Between? Was it your first attempt at a novel? How long did it take, and how long did it take to find a publisher? How long do we have to wait for the next novel?

I've always loved to write, or do anything creative: music, art, etc. I was quite a storyteller when I was growing up and actually published a few things in high school. But all that stopped after I went to college -- life just intensified (what if my future being at stake); I just didn't have the time to write. Or read anything for fun.

I began to dabble in writing in the mid-90s when I was an editor for a community newsletter. First it was just news and articles, then it was short stories, etc. I guess I got the writing bug again when we held a writing contest -- and I won! That was when I really thought about writing fiction seriously. I took some classes and they helped me understand there was more to the craft of fiction writing than just putting words on the page. There were things I didn't know or understand: point of view, dialogue, plot development, etc. It was quite an eye-opener for me.

I first got the idea of a contemporary coming-of-age love story in 1998 after I took those classes. It just seemed to be the right thing for me to do, especially as my first novel. The original idea of the story was a bit different -- it was somewhat more cliched and cheesy and more of a romance than a "personal journey."

Then the final idea germinated from a love letter I discovered -- one I had never read until then. My parents had kept that letter from me for years. The initial shock and nostalgia (I didn't know what happened to that girl) prompted me to write the first chapter of The Pacific Between in November, 2001. The story became more of a journey than a romance. I showed the first chapter to a few colleagues of mine, who were avid readers of contemporary fiction, and they liked it. That was all the confidence I needed to continue.

It took me about 18 months to write the first half of the novel (about 50,000 words -- I had set the goal on about 100,000, eventually completed at 95,000), then another 4 months to finish it. I took another 3 months to polish it (cutting out the first 15,000 words and restructuring the opening chapters) and work on my queries. I had 12 versions of the query letter. It was definitely a steep learning curve. I started querying in February, 2004, and I sold it in November the same year.

When I first started working on the novel -- yes, it was my first novel -- I didn't think I could or would publish it. It was more like a test for myself, to see if I could actually finish a book-length novel. I had written and published short stories before, but never a novel. When I finished it, it was a personal triumph for me, especially because the story was near and dear to my heart. After a few beta readers told me the book was good enough for publication, I gained enough confidence to go through the submission process, so I really owe them my gratitudes. If not for these brave souls who encouraged me and egged me on, I would have given up a long time ago.

I'm still working on my second novel, while having all kinds of ideas for future projects. It's story that spans three wars (The Pacific War, Korean War, and the Gulf War) and contains magic realism. It tells the story of a Chinese-Malayan boy and a British girl. Probably the best pitch would be something like Doctor Zhivago meets Memoirs of a Geisha.

I'm trying to be patient. I don't want to have to force my creative process because I enjoy writing, and I don't want this to become a chore. I want to be moved by what I write, and I think I'm accomplishing that, even though the process has been going on longer than I'd anticipated. I'm currently at about 80,000 words and I think I may have another 40,000 to go. I'm really looking forward to reaching "THE END" once again. I think this is going to be a much better book than The Pacific Between, one that I can be proud of.

11. Dogs, cats, both, neither, and why?

Both. I like animals anyway. But I don't think I can handle a dog at this point of my life. Did I mention I hate clinginess and neediness? I think a dog is simply too clingy and needy for me. I prefer the aloofness of cats, actually. And their independence is something to love. Perhaps a cat would be the perfect life partner for me? Nah, now I sound like one of those crazy cat ladies.

12-14-2008, 03:02 PM
I love the av and had to get to know the lady behind it,
so here's IdiotsRUs aka Julia!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

Julia: Hmm well what can I say. I'm a Brit who kind of fell into this writing thing - but I've always had characters in my head. Until recently I didn't know what to do with them.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)
Julia: Married, two kids, work part time just to pay the bills

What is your favourite food?
Julia: Thai

What is your favourite colour?
Julia: Blue

What is your favourite sound?
Julia: Ooh it's a toss up. Either the sound of my kids NOT arguing or the secret silence of a moonlight night.

Who is your favourite person?
Julia: My kids, closely followed by my Old Man

What is your favourite place?
Julia: Lochailort, Scotland. A weeny little village (where they filmed the bar scenes for Local Hero btw) and I've never been quite so relaxed.

What is your favourite memory?
Julia: My honeymoon in Lochailort

What is your favourite article of clothing?
Julia: Jeans. Always the jeans. I have a fair collection of wrestling t-shirts too.

What is your favourite word?
Julia: Gout. It keeps cropping up in my writing and I have to go through and cull them all! Other than that, pendulous sounds so round.

What is your favourite writers' quote and why?
Julia: First get it written, then get it right. Because you have to write to get better - this is the perfect reminder that you can always fix it on the rewrite.

What is your most favourite quality about yourself?
Julia: I'm not sure if there's a word for it (there should be!) but I always tend to see the best in people.

What is the least favourite quality about yourself?
Julia: Insecurity. I hates it.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
Julia: Lake Baikal in Russia. I've read / studied / seen so much about it. The geology, the ecology, the local culture. It fascinates me. I always wanted to be a Cossack as a child...Endlessly fascinated with Russia.

What inspires you to write and why?
Julia: The people in my head. Or I'd be in an institution.

What is your favourite book and why?
Julia: All time? Chronicles of Morgaine. I could feel every wound, every heartbeat of Vanye.

What is your favourite genre and why?
Julia: Fantasy. Because I was born in the wrong century. Ahh the days when men were men and sheep were nervous lol. I love the romance, as in the tales of Arthur etc rather than boy meets girl. The thought that men could rise up and better their nature. Needless to say I love a hero who can rise above his faults and be noble.

List your three favourite authors (any genre) and why?
Julia: Well today they are... C.J. Cherryh, because there is SFF and just the right amount of romance. Because she can always make me fall in love with her heroes. Jim Butcher, just for the joy of the story and the superb voice. Tery Pratchett - for the completely warped slant on life. That said I do have a Lord of the Rings tattoo.

What do you think makes a writer successful?
Julia: Perseverance.

What is it that makes you successful as a writer?
Julia: Um perseverance. And the fact that on a good day I am my character. I live in their heads, I know what they are most afraid of, even when they are telling everyone how they aren't scared.

What are your goals as a writer?
Julia: Short term. To have people who like my books. Long term? Become richer than JK Rowling (a joke I get constantly due to the fact my initials are...JK)

What is the best tip you can give to fellow writers?
Julia: Keep at it. remember there is always more to learn. Just keep at it.

What do you hope to provide your readers with through your writing?
Julia: Nothing fancy, no literary symbolism or anything. A story that tugs at their heartstrings.

List your three favourite online writer-resource sites and why (include URLS).
Julia: Absolutewrite.com of course!
Also read a lot of agent blogs, but only pop into other writers forums really.

If you have published a book/story, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).

Julia: My first book is coming out in e-book form January 29th 2009, with print scheduled for the autumn 2009. Published by Samhain Publishing, Ilfayne's Bane. (http://samhainpublishing.com/coming/ilfaynes-bane) A great company, and extremely friendly and author focused. Couldn't have had a better intro to the business. I'm currently writing a second in the series.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?
Julia: Three years - however the first year was spent as a hobbyist being so gobsmackingly awful I shudder to think of it! Seriously, I started a year ago.

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?
Julia: Find Absolute Write earlier.

What have you learned about the publishing world?
Julia: It's a business like any other. Publishers WANT to please the fans, if only because that makes them money

This is your chance to 'Talk Back' to your readers. What would you like to say to them?
Julia: If you have bought / are planning to buy it, thanks! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What's the one thing that you want them to know about your writing?
Julia: I sweated blood for this you know! LOL, ok not really. I wrote the kind of story I wanted to read. I hope you want to read it too.

Thank you Julia, for sharing I really appreciate the time and effort.

12-14-2008, 03:04 PM
All about a delightful lady who's become a great friend: Reigningcatsndogs aka Mary!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

Mary: I am incredibly boring... if you manage to get through this, you’ll agree.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)

Mary: I live on an acreage with cows (there are not enough of them to consider them cattle), lots of fruit trees, grape vines, a large garden... and it is heaven for me. I home school my boys, the older one will be heading to university in the new year, the younger one is in Grade 12. In my spare time, I write, hang out on the internet, sew, cook, clean...

What is your favorite food?

Mary: Seafood. Any kind of seafood.

What is your favorite color?

Mary: And so it begins. I can’t just pick one of something. Yellow makes me smile. I love yellow, but I wouldn’t wear yellow because I would look like Big Bird with his legs cut off. I love red, but there is no way I would wear it because people always look at the person wearing red. I like pink when it's in a sunset, the new baby-green leaves when they pop in the spring... I’m either wishy-washy or preparing myself for a career in politics.

What is your favorite sound?

Mary: Quiet, for now, although I suspect that will change when the Grubs are gone from home. On a summer evening, just at twilight, there is a very brief moment of time where you can hear the frogs and crickets starting to sing, but also birds as they are getting ready to nest for the night, with the odd owl tossed in as it's getting ready to start another day. For me, sitting on the back deck, that’s heaven. The laugh of a baby, that uncontrolled belly laugh, is a close second.

Who is your favorite person?

Mary: Anyone who, in some way, might be related to a publisher or agent? People are something where favorites just don’t exist for me. It would be impossible to single out one person. It would be impossible for me to pick one least-favorite person as well... most days anyways.

What is your favorite place?

Mary: Home. Hands down. Home.

What is your favorite memory?

Mary: It’s not my wedding day. Not the days my boys (the grubs) were born, because I was knocked out for those days and don’t remember much at all. When I was four, my brother, who was 17 years older than I was, took me in his green Volkswagen beetle to A&W. That was when you pulled in and left on your lights so the girl would roller-skate over and take your order, and when they brought it they would hang the tray on the outside of the car window. I had a baby burger, fries, and orange pop. It was something that never happened in our house as a rule, and it was the only memory I have of my brother spending time with me.

What is your favorite article of clothing?

Mary: Fuzzy socks.

What is your favorite word?

Mary: There are a couple that seem to fly out of my mouth a bit too often these days, ones that I can’t print here. Right now, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Niblick.

What is your favorite writers' quote and why?

Mary: Rudyard Kipling – You’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din. I have met so many strong people... the sentiment by the poet is true.

What is your most favorite quality about yourself?

Mary: I suppose that I try to be open-minded, and I love to learn, especially about and from other people.

What is the least favorite quality about yourself?

Mary: I can only pick one thing? Physically – I’m overweight, but I am working on that with the help of a few friends. Character-wise, I am not nearly as strong as I would like to be, am very easily intimidated, and am shy. Oh, and I am a crier, and that gets worse the older I get.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

Mary: Florence, Italy. Ireland. The east coast. I have family roots that extend to Ireland and the east coast of Canada and the US. I would love to go and see where I came from. Florence just because I want to see it.

What inspires you to write and why?

Mary: A comment at a dinner party a couple weeks ago got my wheels turning. A song lyric can do it as well, but mostly it must be the muse. When I feel myself lagging, though, either chatting with another writer, or music will get me back on track.

What is your favorite book and why?

Mary: The Dictionary is my friend. I talk to way too many people who are way smarter than I am.

What is your favorite genre and why?

Mary: To both read and write – literary and mystery/suspense. For the longest time though, I was totally addicted to reading biographies. I wouldn’t write one because I would become a basket case worrying about the accuracy of every word and all the ways each one could be misinterpreted, but I devoured them when I was growing up.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

Mary: I’ve always liked Kipling maybe because I was first exposed to him quite young and because what he said made so much sense to me. I could understand him. Lucy Maud Montgomery is another favorite. She was Canadian, so I was proud of that fact when I first started reading her, and now they are like warm stew on a very cold day for me. They warm me up.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Mary: Having the courage to sit down and commit words to paper. I think it takes a special kind of brave to do that. Many people shred the papers they write on so people can’t see what they have written because it exposes them. Writers are exhibitionists. We lay it out for all to see, warts and all. Almost everyone talks about writing a book. A lot of people include it on their life’s ‘to do’ list. Anyone who takes that first step is both a writer and successful. Someone reading what you have written is the icing on the cake, and if even one other person is in any way influenced by something you wrote, in any way, that’s heaven.

What is it that makes you successful as a writer?

Mary: Grub 1 has started to write. If what I have done with writing has accomplished nothing else, it has instilled a love of words in my boy. That would define success for me.

What are your goals as a writer?

Mary: Something more than an audience of one would be nice. I never started writing with a ‘goal’ in mind. I had a story in my head that wouldn’t go away, so I thought putting it on paper might make it stop. It did... for that story, but once I was done the first, then the next one started, and the next. It’s just never stopped.

What is the best tip you can give to fellow writers?

Mary: Listen to the muse. Never ever argue with her, but always listen to her.
What do you hope to provide your readers with through your writing?
Mary: Escape, entertainment, an understanding that we are not alone in where we find joy or pain or hope or fear. Mostly I want to give them a story that they can understand, that they don’t have to work to read.

List your three favorite online writer-resource sites and why (include URLS).

Mary: The CIA website – they have the best information, most current, about anything you want to know about any country. CIA Web Site
The Writers Block – it feels like home... small, quaint, quiet... I do my best thinking there without being too distracted. Writers Block
Duotrope – I am always looking for new places to send Rejection Requests, and they have one heck of a list. Duotrope - Rejection Requests

If you have published a book/story, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date, and company, where it is available to purchase).

Mary: Oh, dirty secret time, heh? I had an aunt who was incredibly supportive of my writing. She wanted to see something in print before she died. Some ‘people’ put together the money, and I self-published eight novels. We did 200 copies of each, because that got us the best price from the printer. As a home schooling project, the grubs edited, designed the covers, did the layout for each book, took care of marketing, set up a website, kept track of all accounting and inventory, and pounded the pavement to place the books in book stores. They moved most of the books.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

Mary: Not counting the stuff I goofed around with in school, starting from Grade 6 when I wrote my first murder mystery, I began my first novel in 1999. I have completed 22 manuscripts of varying quality, rewritten several of those, and I have three on the go right now. How long it takes depends on the muse and what’s happening around me. My best time is three weeks for one (first rough draft completed). I have one that has been lingering for a couple years.

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?

Mary: Although I loved the lessons it provided for the boys, I would not do it again. My aunt got to see them and read them (she went blind and then passed away shortly after that) but no, no way I would do a repeat performance of that.

What have you learned about the publishing world?

Mary: That I much prefer to write and leave all the rest of that stuff to someone else... perhaps someday I’ll get to that point.

This is your chance to 'Talk Back' to your readers. What would you like to say to them?

Mary: I have readers?

What's the one thing that you want them to know about your writing?

Mary: That it is hopefully still improving.

Thanks Mary, I really appreciate the effort and time. I enjoyed learning more about you.

12-14-2008, 03:22 PM

Where do you live in Sri Lanka?

In the capital of the nation, Colombo. I live in a region that is predominantly tamil. (I am a Sri Lankan tamil).

What is it like in Sri Lanka?

It is my motherland, but I take no pride in saying so. Due to my ethnicity I am discriminated against by the very forces that are supposed to protect us. I see no pleasant future for myself in Sri Lanka and am expecting to leave in the coming months. The current political situation is -quite possibly- the worst ever. The country is very unstable and teetering on the edge of genocide. Due to its small size, there is little news coverage.

Does the war in your country influence your writing?

Currently no. I hope to write a novel one day involving a pacifist who achieves world peace. It is a very ambitious project so I wish to gain much more experience before attempting such a story.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

In the past year I've gone through numerous challenges that delayed my international college applications. Despite this, I hope to see myself as a medical practitioner in 10 years time and a part-time writer (whether published or not).

Is the market in Sri Lanka primarily local or foreign writers?

To tell the truth, I do not read Tamil literature. I am much more fluent in English. There are numerous shops that sell both Sinhalese and Tamil books. However, the market for foreign books is big, though not as big as I'd like. Several famous titles are not available. My views may be prejudices as I live in the city. Considering the country as a whole- locals writers are probably more popular (at least I assume so. Again, 85% of the nation is Sinhalese - a language I do not understand- so I cannot speak for them).

What would you like people to know about you?

This is difficult to answer! It would depend on who exactly is meant by 'people.' However, on the whole one of my greatest wishes is for the international community to understand the situation in Sri Lanka and bring peace to the nation.

What is your favorite place?

Egypt. I've never been there but ever since I was a child, I've been fascinated by the Ancient Egyptians. I hope to visit the country one day, and also to base a novel on that.

What is your favorite memory?

When my Ordinary Level results (An important exam similar to the GCSE) arrived. I had achieved A s in all my subjects which is what my parents had been working for for 15 years. Despite the war, displacement and suffering they gave me a very good education knowing that "knowledge is power." And educated man can go a long way in even the most desperate circumstances. Their own education was disrupted by the war. My parents' reactions upon the arrival of the results sheet is something that I will never forget.

What job would you never want to have?

Piloting airplanes. I'm paranoid. The fear of crashes will render me useless.

What is you favorite scent?

Freshly baked bread. It-is-irresistible.

What are your goals as a person?

1) My parents sacrificed a lot for me and my sister. I wish to attain a strong financial position in life so that I can provide for them and grant them a long retirement.

2) I wish to become a doctor so that I can relieve the pains of others. I've seen a lot of suffering. Doctors restore hope, life and joy to numerous families. I wish to attain that status and create a little more happiness in the world.

3) Due to a somewhat distorted childhood, I'm somewhat shy. I wish to overcome that and be more open and friendly with people. I've yet to achieve that.

4) Many of my close relatives (all living abroad) turned their backs on us when we needed help. I was astonished to see my own parents' siblings behave this way. We have been looked down upon and considered as 'losers' for remaining in this country. I wish to change that and attain a social position that will prove to them that my parents made the right decisions. I am on my way towards this goal and these 'relatives' have already intervened to try to dissuade me from my chosen path. I know this sounds crazy but these people really are unbelievable.

If you could be one person alive, or from history for one week, who would it be, and why?

Thiruvalluvar. He is a very old sage in Tamil literature. He made numerous predictions, and his knowledge is legendary. Tamil calenders feature his advice on every page (the ones that you tear every day). There is a giant statue dedicated to him just off the South Indian coast that was fortunately undamaged by the tsunami. I would love to experience all that knowledge in my mind at once.

If you could be one fictional character for one week, who would it be and why?

I would like to be Seisi from the anime series 'Gundam 00." He is involved in an organization that fights to eradicate war from the world. The entire anime is set 400 years in the future. The fundamentals of that organization, and consequently those of the character, are acceptable and just. A world without war is the best thing I can imagine.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

In a nation that is free from war and terrorism. I want an average, peaceful life. I want to live in a place where I can leave my home with confidence that I'll return. I want to live in a country where the daily news doesn't involve killings and massacres. Last week, a friend of mine almost got arrested for absolutely no reason other than his ethnic origin. He was extremely fortunate to have been released. I rarely travel more than 3 km from my home because it isn't safe. Due to my ethnic origin and race and since emergency laws are in effect, I can be arrested for virtually no reason and there is little anyone can really do.

Has your life influenced your writing?

I am new to writing and have no allowed my experiences to affect it. As I mentioned, I hope to include my experiences in a future novel. Nevertheless, my life has shaped me and my writing is influenced to some extent nevertheless.

What draws you to the genre you write?

I write fantasy. In fantasy, the writer is God. The world functions the way he decides. I find the extreme freedom very comfortable and exciting. Fantasy tends to focus around medieval Europe. I hope to combine fantasy with Ancient Egypt one day. Should be interesting!

What are your goals as a writer?

Getting published.
Having an audience who want to read more of what I write.
Eventually I wish to be able to raise awareness of the war in Sri Lanka via writing. I can only hope that a resolution arrives before I reach that point.

What was the worst thing said to you as a writer?

From a friend: "I can't believe that you are so jobless."

What was the best thing said to you as a writer?

A friend insists on being my first beta reader. His frequent nudges asking me whether the story is complete have been very inspirational. He is really expectant and I'm truly grateful. On the down side, I'm paranoid that I won't be able to live up to his expectations. Needless to say, this delicate balance has made me edit the story several times. Without his dedicated inspiration, I'm not sure where I would be today.

Do you want to convey a message in your writing?

Presently no. I'm currently writing for the fun of writing. I love reading fantasy novels. They feeling I get after finishing a good story cannot be described. I hope to be able to deliver the same feeling.

Has joining AW changed or influenced your writing?

My writing began with AW. My foundation stone is this website and I shall never forget that. I went through that last 70 pages of threads in the fantasy forum before I started to write. The information gained is invaluable. The members of AW helped shape my writing style from the very beginning and I'm forever grateful for that.

What is the one thing, you would want your readers to know?

I do not think I am neither wise nor mature enough to answer this question just yet. As I said, I've been writing for just 5 months. Next year, Regdog, I hope to provide a solid answer to this.

12-14-2008, 03:24 PM

Where do you live?

Mid-70s longitude, USA.

What would you like people to know about you?

That I'm creative but not at all intelligent.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Locked up in a lunatic asylum, if I haven't managed to land a book deal by then.

What is your favorite place?

The woods, located a 1/2 mile away from me. No one ever goes in them so I pretty much have the joint to myself, in company of squirrels and chipmunks ^..^

What is your favorite memory?

Fishing with friends, back in my teen years. There was a boulder we used to cast our lines from that became submerged at high tide. We often got stranded on it and had to swim back to shore with our catch.

What job would you never want to have?

Store manager. They make good money but have to work an unbelievable number of hours and are accountable for everything that goes wrong.

What is you favorite scent?

Pine tree or apple orchid aroma.

What are your goals as a person?

To be kind and considerate towards others and put their welfare before my own. I was steered towards this goal by an especially kind member and role model on this site, who continues to remain dear to me :-)

If you could be one person alive, or from history for one week, who would it be, and why?

Eric Dolphy. It would be awesome to be able to play a musical instrument like he did. The cat had character!
If you could be one fictional character for one week, who would it be and why?

Tom Bombadil. Living in a hut in the woods with a genial wife would be divine.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Right where I am now. That expression about the grass looking greener on the other side really is true, as I've found.

Has your life influenced your writing?

A bit. I don't write realistic fiction so I draw more on my imagination to create stories.

What draws you to the genre you write?

I've always had a knack for humor. People never take what I say seriously, either, so I figure I might as well make the best of it.

What are your goals as a writer?

To write a non-fiction, non-funny book. I have the material for it but just can't seem to get it down on paper :-(

What was the worst thing said to you as a writer?

"You'll never make it as a writer. You lack the ability."
- college professor / creative writing class

What was the best thing said to you as a writer?

"I love this work," of yours.
- my lit agent

Do you want to convey a message in your writing?

Probably, but when I'm at work on a story I'm so wrapped up in the reality I'm weaving that I pay little attention to instilling messages and the like.

Has joining AW changed or influenced your writing?

It's made me much more aware of the business end of writing. It's also given me an appreciation of modern-era authors. There are some really fine ones on this site. One day I hope to be as good.

Does your family understand about your writing?
It's been awhile, but I believe they thought I'd flipped my lid when I brought it up, back when.

What is the one thing, you would want your readers to know?

The horror of existence, which is rather ironic as I write humor and basically strive to draw guffaws.

Would you ever stop writing?

No. But if I could start my life afresh I might choose an easier career, like the one those guys in the movie Wages Of Fear had, delivering nitroglycerin in a jeep.

12-14-2008, 03:32 PM

Where do you live?
Spring Hill, Florida

What would you like people to know about you?

That I've been writing since I was ten-year-old.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Probably in an assisted living home, but hopefully still writing and getting published.

What is your favorite place?

Being on AW and with Mr. Susie.

What is your favorite memory?

The day I married Mr. Susie.

What job would you never want to have?

A surgeon.

What is you favorite scent?

Chocolate, what else.

What are your goals as a person?

Having more of my greetings accepted and other writing.

If you could be one person alive, or from history for one week, who would it be, and why?

Jackie Kennedy. She had a great life.

If you could be one fictional character for one week, who would it be and why?

Cinderella, after she met the prince.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Hawaii, laying in the sun with Mr. Susie and sipping a Margarita.

Has your life influenced your writing?

Definitely. I wrote about my back problem right away.

What draws you to the genre you write?

I just love love. That's why most of the things I write are romantic.

What are your goals as a writer?

To have more acceptances.

What was the worst thing said to you as a writer?

I never had anything bad said to me as a writer. Either my work got rejected or accepted, but no real negative comments.

What was the best thing said to you as a writer?

That I had talent.

Do you want to convey a message in your writing?

That love is possible for everyone.

What do you like best about writing Greeting Cards?

That others will be reading my words and hopefully enjoying them.

What is the one thing people don’t understand about writing Greeting cards?

While it looks simple to write, it's very difficult because the greeting has to be sendable to a large number of people.

What is the one thing, you would want your readers to know?

I thoroughly enjoy writing and hoping that my readers get good feelings out of my writing.

Would you ever stop writing?

No,can't do that. It's something inside me that has to come out. Even at night when I'm sleeping, things come to me and I have to wake up and write them down.

12-14-2008, 05:59 PM
What was it like moving to Mexico?

Hectic. We found out we were moving three days before we got on a plane. My husband's mother was dying and he hadn't seen her in twelve years so we knew we had to go. We also knew that by going, he wouldn't be able to return because he was there illegally. We flew to Mexico on New Years Eve and I stayed with him for one week, then returned to Chicago to shut down our lives. I quit my job, subleased our apartment, sold a car, battled passport problems, plus many many other things.

My mother-in-law died the week after I left Mexico and it was frustrating not being there for my husband. We'd only been married for four months at that point and spent two very long months apart. In March my dad and I drove my car (stuffed with as many belongings that would fit) from Michigan to Mexico and he stayed for a couple weeks while I got settled.

We lived with his family for three months in a house with no running water and many other people. We shared a twin bed in a room without a door, in a town where no one - including my family - spoke English. That was very hard. The town we're in now is more touristy so while my Spanish has improved, there are people who speak English. It's been a challenge for sure, but I've grown immensely because of it.

Do you know enough Spanish to get by?

I was fluent in high school then minored in Spanish in college, so the language is there in my head, I just have trouble getting it to come out sometimes. I understand better than I speak, but most people say I speak well enough.

Will you and your husband ever be able to move back to America?

We are currently waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to approve or deny his visa application. We were supposed to find out this winter, but now it's been pushed back to this spring (March-May). Depending on the verdict, we will return to Chicago or apply for visas to Canada. We don't want to stay here in Mexico.

If you could, would you want to move back to America or stay in Mexico?

lol, see above. Mexico is a wonderful country and I'm glad we've had this experience, but I'm ready to go back to the "real" world, as I call it. If we can't return to the US we'll try Canada.

What is your favorite kind of writing?

I tend to read mostly mainstream/literary books or mystery/suspense, but I like the occasional chick lit or historical fiction. I do like memoirs and read a lot of health-type magazines. And I'm addicted to pop culture. I recently bought my first vampire book (Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles) and I picked up Twilight, but I've yet to read either.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

I'd say making it on my own as an adult. My parents helped me a lot through college and I'm grateful for that, but being able to get a job and an apartment in a city where no one knew me was quite an achievement. I worked as an graphic designer/art director for over ten years before quitting to move to Mexico.

As a child, what did you dream about becoming?

An artist.

Love or money?

Well, seeing how I quit my job to follow my husband to Mexico where we now have very little money, I think that's obvious.

Is it tough living in a different country?

Yes. There are a multitude of things that are different from my old life, but that doesn't mean they are all bad. Mexico certainly has backwards ways of doing things, but there are also systems in place that I think would be useful in the US (the way they sell gas, water, and handle trash pickup, for instance).

The hardest thing for me has been being away from my friends and family back home. We haven't made many friends here and because I'm a very social person, it's hard sometimes. I'm very grateful for all my online friends - they really help me get through day-to-day life.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

First choice, Chicago. Beyond that, Spain or Italy.

What is one piece of advice that you could offer to my generation?

When you get out of school you'll be starting over with a clean slate, don't get too wrapped up in the little things now. They will have little to do with who you are as an adult.

What is the hardest part about writing for you?

Sitting down to do it. Once I get going it usually flows for me. (I'm supposed to be writing right now.)

What is your absolute writing goal?

Being published, hopefully many times.

What is your absolute favorite move, and why?

There are so many. Probably Moulin Rouge. I love the story, the directing, the singing, the actors...

What is your absolute favorite book, and why?

Again, too many. I've been saying Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Her memoir spoke to me at a time when I was floundering and helped me see the the good things in life.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?

Abolish racism/bigotry and all the behaviors that go along with it.

What is one material thing you could not live without?

Lately, my computer.

What is one thing you would take with you on a deserted island and why?

A fully loaded Kindle.

What did you major in when you went to college?

Mass Communications with a concentration in Visual Communications.

When you lived in Michigan, what was your favorite part about living there?

Nature. I love outdoor sports and everything you can door outside in the different seasons.

12-14-2008, 06:03 PM
What is your favorite thing to write?

Personal anecdotes and humorous essays are awesome, but I really dig fiction.

Love or money?

In the end, love holds much more value.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live and why?

We love where we live (on a lake in the Midwest); in many ways, it's ideal. But if I wasn't scared to uproot and move from the only state I've ever lived in, I'd relocate to the Colorado Rockies. My husband, an avid skier, has always dreamed of living there, and I'm drawn to the beauty and peace.

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Choosing to follow my dream.

What is one of the hardest things you've had to go through in life?

Determining how much of my happiness depended on another person, and deciding what to do about it.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to my generation?

There is life - so much more than you ever expect - after high school. It's not all wrapped up in the present, the way it feels to be. Don't get so caught up in the now that you can't see the bigger picture. You have to move ahead from disappointments and heartache with your head held high. Amazing life waits.

What is one thing you would bring with you on a desert island?

My family.

What is your writing goal?

I aim to be a published novelist. I don't need fame and bestsellers, but a following of supportive readers who will give me reason to write book after book.

As a child, what did you dream about becoming?

Loved. Accepted. Happy. Don't get me wrong... I was all of those things as a child. But it's what I saw for my future, too.

What is your absolute favorite book and why?

I know it sounds trite, but I'll say the Scriptures. Every emotion, every kind of story, every answer: It's all inside.

What was growing up like for you?

My parents worked hard to give us (my sister and me) what we needed and, as often as possible, what we wanted (as long as it was reasonable). But they also taught us how to be good and happy people.

Some of my favorite memories are holidays and visits with my extended family - the biggest group of fun and loving hickabillies you've ever met. I have the most amazing family.

Where is your favorite place to visit and why?

Dillon/Silverthorne in Colorado. The mountains, the hiking, the scenery and air, the outlet shopping. It's all great!

What is your absolute favorite movie and why?

I've always said Forrest Gump, because it struck so much inside me. And it's still a favorite, but there are too many movies I love to narrow it down to an absolute.

What are you most proud of in your life?

The kind of person I am.

What is one thing you've always wanted to do but never have?

Visit Maine and stay in a beach house.

How did you and your husband meet?

Blind date set up by a mutual friend.

What is the greatest joy in your life?

Being a mom.

Who is your role model?

I admire my dad. He has struggled with disease and varying health issues for twenty years, but he's never complained or asked 'why,' and he continues to be a funny and sweet man who would do anything (ANYTHING) for anybody.

What is one thing you wish you could change about the world and why?

I wish more people would try to see things from others' perspectives. If we understood where others came from, we could get along better.

What was your favorite age and why?

I hope to have a lot of age left ahead of me, but I have to answer in a generic sort of way and say my adulthood has been best. I've learned who I am, and who I want to be, and that's huge.

12-14-2008, 06:14 PM
1. If money wasn't a problem, where would you travel to and why?

Ireland, England, Scotland for a summer, even longer. Most of my family is from these countries and I love learning about and exploring my heritage. I'd backpack through the countries and just take the time to explore and soak it all in. I get goosebumps just from looking at pictures, in person would be an incredible experience.

2. Same concept, but where would you want to live?

Charleston, South Carolina. While there are tons of cities that have such a great depth and history to them, I've always had a fond spot for Charleston. It's a beautiful city with access to both the ocean and the mountains with in a reasonable drive/distance. I'm closer now than I've ever been, living near Ocean City, MD. But I also love living here too. As long as I'm near the ocean, I'm all set. It's my favorite place to be.

3. What is your dream job?

I'm actually working in my dream job: teaching. I love working with kids and helping them explore the world around them. The moment where they finally 'get' a concept or something they've been struggling to learn, that 'a ha!' moment is what I live for. It's such a great feeling for them and for me. Even now, substituting, I've had kids ask if I was going to be there for more than one day because they liked having me there. To have that kind of an impact-- even short term-- is an incredible feeling.

4. What was growing up like for you?

There were times when I thought I had it hard, but working with at-risk children now I know that I haven't suffered 1% as much as they have. My dad was a coal miner (I'll pause for the Coal-Miner's-Daughter jokes now) and my mom worked part time at a doctor's office. We weren't well-off by any stretch of the imagination, but we did just fine. It was a true test when my dad was laid off from his job my senior year in high school, but even then, my family showed its strength. He went back to school (we even went to the same college for three years!) and earned a degree while all of use worked either one or two jobs to make ends meet. My dad actually worked two jobs and went to school full time. It was probably one of the bravest things I've ever seen anyone do. I was always taken care of, fed, clothed, and loved. Growing up wasn't as hard as I thought it was at the time!

5. What is one piece of advice you would offer to my generation?

Don't let attitude and being 'cool' rule your life. There's so much more than that. I've seen so many kids (and some adults) make stupid mistakes because they want to be a part of the 'in' or cool crowd.

6. Love or money?

Love. Definitely love. Money doesn't mean a thing if you don't have someone you love to share your life with.

7. What is the one thing you've always wanted to do, but haven't had the chance to?

Travel to Scotland, England, and Ireland. I had a chance to go there a while back, but decided to go back to school for teaching instead. I don't regret the decision, but lord, do I want to go over there!

8. What is your greatest accomplishment?

Finishing my Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education. I wasn't sure I could get through it, but I did!

9. Who is your absolute favorite author and why?

This is a hard one. Because I love different authors for different things. And since I've really started writing, people that I used to enjoy reading don't hold as much appeal for me now that I know more about it. Anyhow, currently? I do love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. They always make me laugh!

10. What is your absolute favorite movie?

All time: Lawrence of Arabia, hands down. The music, the story, the acting. It is a movie I will sit and watch any time.

11. Where is your favorite place to visit and why?

The beach. And now I live so close, it's absolutely fantastic. I don't go in the water all that much, but I love to lay in the sun, or sit in my chair under an umbrella and just listen to the sounds around me: the surf, the birds, children playing. It's such a relaxing place for me.

12. When you went to college, what did you major in?

Which time? Heh. My first college was Indiana University of Pennsylvania and my major was Spanish for International Trade. Then I went to Wilson College and got my Elementary Education degree. Recently I just completed my Masters in Early Childhood Education through the University of Phoenix on-line.

13. What is your favorite childhood memory?

Going to my Aunt Patty and Uncle Sam's house for weeks at a time during the summer. I adored both of them and their family (seven kids altogether!) and it has always been a great memory for me.

14. What is one material thing you cannot live without?

My computer. It's my connection to so many things both personal and professional. I would go insane without it.

15. What is one thing you would bring with you on a deserted island?

Someone I love. (I know you said 'thing', but that's my answer anyhow. LOL)

16. What is your favorite computer game and why?

Oh there are so many! Although, I like the simpler games like Cubis and Jewel Quest. Those two are my favorites right now. I love puzzles and games that make you think, but for me it helps to do those more difficult ones on paper where I can write down my thoughts and 'see' what I'm thinking. For my computer games, I like them a little more mindless, so to speak. Something I can play and just go with the flow. I also like those two games because, while there is some skill involved, it's also a lot of chance. No two boards, or even the same board played multiple times, are ever the same and there are countless ways to play and complete them. I love to challenge myself to beat previous scores and times.

17. Who is your favorite band and why?

All time? Crosby, Stills & Nash, hands down. They take songs and harmonies that are so unique, they are beautiful even without musical scores. I've seen them three times in concert, and every time I'm struck by the multiple generations in the audience. Their music started out geared towards a specific generation and then they transcended that. Plus, Southern Cross? (One of their songs) just rocks!

Currently 3 Doors Down is giving CSN a run for their money as my all time favorite. The music and lyrics are beautiful and they can go from soft ballad to all-out rock in 60 seconds or less!

18. Who is your favorite actor and why?

Jamie Bamber. I've been a fan of his since A&E filmed the Horatio Hornblower movies. His stint on the new Battlestar Gallactica just solidified his position for me. His American accent is spot on and his British accent is adorable. I had the chance to meet him two years ago and he is so genuine. One of the nicest people I've met. That, and when we had our picture taken I was kind of... well, I turned into a bumbling idiot, and he still called me adorable. Yeah, he's my favorite!

19. Who is your favorite actress and why?

Michelle Yeoh. The woman can do anything she wants to. She's beautiful, exotic, can be funny and dramatic. Plus, she could kick your ass six ways from Sunday without breaking a sweat if she wanted to! I love to see strong women in strong roles, but still keep that allure and vulnerability there as well. Just an all-around fantastic actress.

20. Who is your role model and why?

Hmmm.... my dad. He was laid off from his job my senior year in high school. He could have just chucked it and gotten a no-brainer job that got us through, but he didn't. He went back to school and earned a degree in Management Information Systems. Not bad for someone who hadn't been in school in nearly 20 years. He had gone to college for one semester and didn't want to be there at that time and left with a 1.8 GPA. But, he did have two classes where he at least passed, but in order to keep those credits and be able to transfer out of that major, he had to pull a 4.0 for two straight semesters. And he did it while also working 2 part time jobs. We went to school together for 3 years, even taking one class together. It was probably the bravest thing I'd ever seen anyone do. I'm a Daddy's girl, and my dad and I have always had a special bond, but he showed me there that anything is possible too.

Mr Flibble
12-14-2008, 06:17 PM
And here is an interview with Nakhlasmoke, AKA Cat. I picked her because, er she wanted to lol, and because when it comes to the writing process we're twins. I'm the evil one natch.

( And I completely pilfered the questions from Heron hehe)

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

Erk. I'm mostly harmless.

What are you doing now?

Writing, mostly. And hopefully doing a bit more pro belly dancing in the upcoming year. A man's gotta eat.

What is your favourite food?

Vegetarian pizza with extra pineapples and chilli.

What is your favourite colour?


What is your favourite sound?

The Muslim call to prayer at dawn

Who is your favourite person?

My Slave and my kids (yeah, I'm cheating)

What is your favourite place?

Cape Town

What is your favourite memory?

OMG I have a shocking memory. next.

What is your favourite article of clothing?

My sparkly MC Hammer Harem Pants of Doom, but I don't get to wear those in normal public situations, alas

What is your favourite word?

Skerry. Or fuck. I use one of these more often than the other.

What is your favourite writers' quote and why?

Everything Can Be Fixed In Revisions - sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me at it when I'm in the writing doldrums.

What is your most favourite quality about yourself?

The ability to empathise with people I disagree with.

What is the least favourite quality about yourself?

I lose my temper fast, and with violent results

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

The Atlantic ocean, so I can stand on the edge of the world and let cold water swirl about my ankles as I sink into the sand.

What inspires you to write and why?

Ha. Other writers' words. Good writing makes me happy to be alive.

What is your favourite book and why?

Tender is the Night- Fitzgerald. It's the combo of characters and language. I love that book like whoah

What is your favourite genre and why?

Fantasy, although I'll pretty much devour anything. I just love the fantastical and strange

List your three favourite authors (any genre) and why?

Margaret Atwood - she's the Tori Amos of lit. Or something.

Jasper Fforde - because he does metafiction so fantastically

Ballard - because Crash basically changed my life. Between that and Diana Wynne Jones's Dogsbody, I knew I wanted to write.

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Talent, work ethic, an ego that can be deflated or inflated as the occasion demands.

What is it that makes you successful as a writer?

Uh....I learn more with each book I write.

What are your goals as a writer?

To write something worth reading. To have those books stay in print. To win a Hugo (snerk)

What is the best tip you can give to fellow writers?

Your first book is shite. Probably. Throw it away and start a new one. Oh, and I'm also often wrong so don't listen to me.

What do you hope to provide your readers with through your writing?

A new world to immerse themselves in and characters they fall in love with.

List your three favourite online writer-resource sites and why (include URLS).

well...uh AW. Do you really need the URL?


http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Worksho...-revision.html (http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/one-pass-revision.html)

If you have published a book/story, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).

Oh wait, I do have a published short out there. It's this Reflection Of Me, in Jabberwocky 3, and since it's the teaser for the antho, you can read it online free of charge. Wheee!


How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

I can write a book in three months. it's the rewriting and revising that takes forever.

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?

Be more proactive with promotion.

What have you learned about the publishing world?


This is your chance to 'Talk Back' to your readers. What would you like to say to them?

Hi mom!! *waves*

What's the one thing that you want them to know about your writing?

Sorry, mom, I doubt I'll be giving up genre for "real" writing anytime soon, but thanks for asking.

12-14-2008, 07:48 PM
Michael O’Mahony, known as Godfather, was born in London but grew up in Limerick, Ireland. He is a young man out to see the world, and through his poetry, to allow his audience to see it with him. The school system never made a big impression on him, he says. His teachers were unremarkable, as was almost everyone else. “I actually wear my graduation ring around my neck to remind me to be cynical.” While attending, history and English were his two favorite subjects. Those two interests, history and love of language, are what drive his writing.

Godfather believes that the pursuit of intelligence and greatness is a very noble thing, and is something he respects very much; but, it’s when he takes the time to step back and just look at things, at humanity, the raw sincerity of it, that he experiences an unspeakable joy; this is what interests him most.

His desire for his poetry, is “to go to greatness”. “I think that’s a necessary direction in which to improve.” Recently, Godfather returned to London to study art. Coming from a small community, he knew he wanted to go somewhere bigger.

A continuous thread of pursuing the bigger ideal of love, land and literature permeates Godfather’s poetry. As you travel with him through a succession of lived loves and love of life, you will find yourself on a marvelous journey experiencing Godfather’s passionate expression through his poetry.

Following, I present my interview with Godfather. He allows us a glimpse into his postcard life and the memorabilia he carries in his bag of souvenirs that is always packed to seek new destinations:

(I originally sent Godfather the questions for the interview, as I composed them on line. I had thought that he would reply with his answers accompanying the original questions. As he deleted after answering them, there was no other copy. That said, I have attempted to reconstruct, to the best of my recollection, the questions that I presented to Godfather. Hopefully, my reconstructed questions will give a clear enough basis for the particular answers that he submitted to me. I apologize for any lack of clarity and take full responsibility.)

1. Q: In the Best Love Poems Thread, you quoted Yeats, “I have spread my dreams under your feet, tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” Were you relating your quote to a particular feeling or person?

A: I was with a girl a few months ago, and it was the beginning of our relationship. Man, but she was beautiful. She was writing an essay on Yeats at the time, and so I pulled my own Yeats book off the shelf, and found this poem. I read it and reread it. It was a beautiful poem which heralded the beginning of a mad love affair with a beautiful girl.

I was smitten at the time, we were fresh and pretty, you know? The reasons for being drawn to this poem at the beginning are obvious. But it turned out to be the most telling, beautiful, and misplaced relationship I've had, and that poem followed me through it. I could see my failings, and hers, through the poem. It was grounding, something to compare myself, and us, to.

That relationship and that poem showed me that I can't be the perfect boyfriend. I can't be the quintessential-Jude-Law-esque character, I can only be myself. I wish I could offer perfection, but I can only offer myself, my infidelities, revelations, doldrums and joy. Like in Dylan's 'It Ain't Me, Babe', I can only be myself. If I could give heaven, I would, but all I have to give is the world.

2. Q: Are the women that end up in your poems different women or often referencing the same woman, or the ideal woman you carry with you?

A: Different women? Yes, of course. Some are made up, some represent singular characteristics, some represent ideals, and some are real. For example, 'a last song for the goddess, a first song for the woman' was written with a specific girl in mind (the same girl as above), but it was about something more than just her, so I didn't include a subtitle. Sometimes though, a poem is purely about one person, and is exclusive to them, in which case I will include a subtitle ('My Severed Tongue', 'In Prague').

I've always been romantic, enthralled by that better gender. For most of my life, I had no access to the world of women, except through dreams and stories told by my friends. In my anti-hygiene and self-pity, I was not to be fallen in love with. I was, due to my foolishness and childishness, outside of that world, and more frustrated day by day at being outside. And so, day by day, girls became more unreachable and the pedestal grew taller and taller. Once I mustered some self-respect, I had my first kiss. It was comparatively late. And so I moved into a different world, now of sex, smiling and fighting. And this world didn't disappoint, the pedestal has thus far been justified.

I moved through the months, the love affairs, and the kisses. Man, I tell you films never did do kisses justice with their storming violins. I never did see the tender touch and frantic closeness on a cinema screen. Kisses were better than I had imagined, and that's really saying something. There was so much to it, sometimes I still employ objectivity during a kiss and just imagine how things have changed - this pretty woman wants me and I want her. It is still bizarre for me, and brilliant.

I guess I am always looking for my perfect woman, who isn't? But I'm 18. I know that we listen to too many pretty songs and expect too much at our age. There is nothing I want more than to fall terribly in love, but I don't expect it to happen at this age. Now, I can fall in love for 15 minutes in the highest reaches of London apartments, and the quietest living room in Limerick. I suppose I am waiting for her, but what better waiting room than youth? Now, I'm discovering what Dylan meant when he sang, and what Picasso meant when he drew. What poems could I write, what paintings could I paint without this necessary subject? Politics are lame without love, I could paint myself, but I'm nowhere without women.

3. Q: In the Best Love Poems Thread you reference your appreciation for the beauty of nature, “I was at a friend’s who lives in the country - one of the clearest night skies I've ever seen - just beautiful. If I can admire beauty in a sky, I can sure as hell admire it in a girl.” Would you elaborate a little more on your concept of beauty?

A: Beauty? Well, if I can respect natural intelligence, or an innate musical talent, why shouldn't I respect natural beauty? It's pure, and can sometimes escape

pseudo-intelligence. Unfortunately, people confuse beauty and sex appeal, and beauty can be lost in this artificial sex appeal, eating disorders and bizarre, trendy haircuts. But I'm biased - poetry is an infidelity - art is my faithful lover. There's something raw and real about a great painting - a Francis Bacon painting can knock me down. Form and color is so natural and base, beauty is so unaffected.

4. Q: In a critique by AM Crenshaw of your poem Russia and me and our electric innocence in London, he asks the question, “Do you pay this much attention to the choices of your words?” When you reconsider your word choices to find the best way to express what you want to express, do you find that you have favorite words that seem to find their way into your poems?

A: Favorite words? Ha, ha, I guess "woman" would have to be one of them, wouldn't it? Actually, I was at girl's apartment a few weeks ago and she asked me to choose ten words, and then whisper them to her. Mountain, piano, yellow, hips, blue, ass, poppy, lips, I guess they're all weighted in meaning, instead of syllables.

5. Q: In the ensuing dialogue between you and AMCrenshaw, you responded, “I find that dictionary definitions are less important than the understood meanings of words. What I mean is (and, be warned, i can be dreadfully inarticulate) that the sensuous associations of words, appealing to the senses rather than the intellect, is essential; or, something like that.” “Furthermore, people understand words through association. For example, I made up a word once, for a poem. The word was 'yugoslaveeing', and though there is no definition for it, nor could I supply one, I know that people understand it, using their instinct. For the sake of this interview, could you give me your best attempt at defining “Yugoslaveeing”? Does the word somehow relate to Yugoslavia?

A: Yugoslaveeing |ˌyoōgōˈslävēə;ˌyoōgə-|
1. The process of disintegration, evanescence, crumbling, breaking up, losing coherence and cohesiveness.
2. The destruction of something significant (and mountainous).

Of course, there are the connotations of what a place may represent in a particular context. For example, I've never been to Yugoslavia. However, when I put the poem in the context of a place, it means something more than just mentioning it. In 'In Prague', the first line is 'I long for you in cities that are steep and cobblestoned', which is an inherent characteristic of Prague (and other European cities, like Bratislava) old town. Normally I don't base a poem in a place I haven't been, because I can't know if it’s a suitable context.

I do love traveling. This summer, my brother and I traveled around Europe. Maybe I have restless feet. I once told a friend I wanted to lay the world, I don't want to miss a thing, I want to go everywhere and see everything. Next on my list is South America. That would be something else.

6. Q: Chronologically, by many, you would be considered a young man at eighteen. Often, in your poems, the voice of the poet is a man of many experiences, women and travels. Is this voice that of your fantasies or real expression of who you are in some sense?

A: Generally, the protagonist in my poems is me, or certain aspects of myself. Everything in my poems reflects an aspect of my life, because I don't know anything else. That being said, his character can vary between poems (the vengeful, determined romantic in 'the great pretender', and the hopeless, destroyed romantic in 'My Severed Tongue').

7. Q: In a thread, you said, regarding the word “freight”, “It has a fantastic folk music and beat stigma.” “It has one of the most romantic images I know.” Have you ever hopped a freight?

A: No, I've never hopped a freight, but man, I'd like to. Wouldn't that be something? Rumbling and sailing in a big empty boxcar with a whole country rattling past you, instead of through the double-glazed window of an air-conditioned dining car. But of course, it’s not what it was before. People don't hop freights anymore. I want to do it for the sheer hell of it, but I know it won't be what I think it should be. In the first chapter of his autobiography, Woody Guthrie describes a freight train going to California in the Depression. He's there with his guitar,(or his "meal ticket") and everybody there is poor and looking for a job, and they all wind up breaking into song and shortly after, a brawl. Those days are gone. Those were the real bona-fide camaraderie of moneyless and desperate fellows headin’ out to Califor-N-I-A. At least freight trains will never disappoint, because I have no expectations.

8. Q: In response to a critique of The Wrench Musician, you said, “It stands as a testament as to how my work was two years ago.” How different do you see yourself as a poet now, as compared to then?

A: I'm a very different person as to who I was two years ago. I change constantly. Then, I was floundering; I didn't know what a poem was, how to write one, why I wanted to write one and what was the whole damned point anyway? I don't claim to be any good at it now, but I understand poetry a hell of a lot more than I did then. I read poetry now, and can relate poems to my life. Poetry is important to me now. I guess I was testing the water then. Now I know exactly where I want to go, and why.

9. Q: In response to your poem entitled craw, lawd kree, you mention the phrase “char chroi which translates “heartbreak” in Irish. Are you Irish?

A: Yeah, I'm Irish. Having recently moved to London, my Irishness bears increasingly more weight. Naturally, when I'm back home, being Irish is largely irrelevant, but in another country, it lends a degree of identity. The significance of one's nationality becomes apparent once you separate yourself from it. Particularly in England, the people are so different for being so close. Being Irish is important to me, I have a strong interest in Irish history and literature (hell we have James Joyce and W.B. Yeats and Oscar Wilde).

It was very significant for my 'Irishness' to reconcile itself with the side of me that sings the blues, wonders about freight trains, and dreams of gypsy princesses in red white polka dot dresses and Cadillacs. (Actually, I documented the reconciliation in 'the death of bo diddley'). It is the combination of these two elements that makes me who I am.

Regrettably, I don't speak much Irish. It is, frankly, a dead language, and the Irish educational system is to blame. Its bizarrely childish approach to teaching the Irish language has crippled it. Teachers are lame. It is compulsory for 14 years, though you can get a passing grade with the most basic knowledge in your final exams. It's a damned shame, and I'm only sorry I didn't develop an interest in the language sooner. I'm sure I would have if I learned about Irish literature, history or music a little sooner than at 17 years old. What nonsense.

As regards other languages, I have a passing knowledge of German. In Russian, I can say 'wine', 'good morning' and 'elephant'. In French, I can say 'Don't you know that God is Pooh Bear?', and in Turkish I can say 'I'm a steady rollin' man'. I do enjoy languages though, and plan to learn French. (Actually, I'm going to start that after Christmas.) My mother is a translator, my aunt is French, it’s a pretty language and French girls are beeeautiful. I can't think of any reason not to learn French.

10. Q: In response to a critique of your poem The Wooden Groove, you make the comment regarding math, “nothing going on – all mathematics.” Did you fare well in math while in the school system or was that a subject you shied away from academically? Do you ever see a place for mathematics in poetry?

A: “Nothing interesting going on?” Well, that was silly of me. I guess I don't agree with that anymore. Math has never interested me because there was a right way of doing things, and I never saw the point - it bored me. I'm fairly good at math, but I abandoned it. However, I do acknowledge the importance of math, and respect it. Without it there's no rhythm or structure, and so math is necessary in poetry, music and painting. I haven't thought directly about math in my poetry.

A friend of mine is exploring the whole notion of geometry in paintings, and I'm finding it more and more interesting. Though I don't believe it will ever be a subject, it will most likely find its way into my poems. In fact, its quite ironic because 'The Wooden Groove' is quite a structured, and thus mathematical, poem. How silly of me, indeed.

11. Q: Your poems tend to portray the poet as a well traveled, experienced ladies’ man. Do you believe this is an accurate portrayal of yourself?

A: I don't feel I present myself as those things. It’s probably a fair derivative, but its not my intention to put these things forward. I don't try to present myself as anything, I just try to present moments and feelings. I mean, I've seen quite a few countries, but I wouldn't call myself cultured or anything. I guess I'm fascinated by these things, rather than understanding of them. As regards women, I'm no Black Jack Davey, but I've kissed a few girls.

Elaine Parny - kdnxdr

12-14-2008, 07:52 PM

I really enjoyed inerviewing Reg and her answers are very interesting.

l. What is your favorite genre to write in and why?

I believe and hope in love, so I write romance. I wanted to tell my niece, who lives in another state bedtime stories, so I write children’s books.

2. What don't we know about you?

I’m very gentle hearted and nice. And I have always had a deep sense of right and wrong, and I have to do the right thing, even if it is the unpopular thing. And I can knit and make balloon animals.

3. Do you own any pets, what kind?

1 pug, 1 cocker mix and 6 cats. Yes 6, don't ask why, it wasn't the plan.

4. Where would you like to be in five years with your writing?

Published and earning enough money to support myself from my writing.

5. How often do you write?

Several days a week, but I am trying to be more disciplined and write everyday.

6. Do you have any trouble finishing what you write?

Yes, I have several unfinished works.

7. Did you have a dream that came true for you?

Not yet

8. How did you find AW?


9. What television shows do you like to watch?

Deadliest Catch, Dirty Jobs, Price is Right, Avatar The Last Airbender, and yes my guilty pleasure, Dog the Bounty Hunter

10. Who is your favorite actor?

Honestly don't have one.

11. What movie do you love the most?

Lord of the Rings Trilogy


You can delete the last PM I sent with the old questions. You came up with a good list. I'm glad we did this

12-14-2008, 07:55 PM
Kit's answers are such a nice read and I really liked interviewing Kit.

l. What is your favorite genre to write in and why?

Science Fiction/Fantasy. I suppose it's because I watched alot of scifi with my Dad as a kid and I read a lot of fantasy...well that and every Nancy Drew novel my mom owned.

2. What don't we know about you?

Unless you've read my profile, most people wouldn't know that I half wrote a novel when I was 16. It wasn't very good, looking back on it now, but it's what got me seriously into writing.

3. Do you own any pets, what kind?

I have two kittens, Zeus and CJ (Coonbear Jr.). I put their pics everywhere!

4. Where would you like to be in five years with your writing?

I'd like to have at least one book published, if not a couple from the fantasy series I'm writing.

5. How often do you write?

When inspiration strikes. It's a cruel mistress, but when she hits, she hits hard!

6. Do you have any trouble finishing what you write?

Eventually everything gets finished. It's a matter of how long eventually takes.

7. Did you have a dream that came true for you?

Yes. I met a man (Kthrok) who not only loved me for all my flaws, but encourages me to write. He's my biggest inspiration and supporter. I'm so glad I was smart enough to marry him!

8. How did you find AW?

By sheer luck when I did a google search one day at the library.

9. What television shows do you like to watch?

I don't watch much TV these days, but when I do it's usually not shows, it's hockey games. I love my hockey.

10. What is your favorite actor?

Sean Connery. I love the accent!

11. What movie do you love the most?

I have to pick one??! Ok, I'd have to say Scrooged. It's a modern take on a classic story. That and it's a tradition my Dad started with me to watch it every Christmas Eve.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
12-14-2008, 08:37 PM
AW Day of Listening, December 14, 2008

(I went about it a little differently... I mixed the original purpose of the Day of Listening with AW's version, and stirred in a bit of research from my current WIP. And if you listen closely - you'll learn a lot about America's history and a little about me.)

Life has never been easy, and for the women of the mid- to late 1800s, the argument could be made for their lot being one of the worst of all. It was a time of Westward Expansion in the United States, and more often than not, the women found themselves uprooted with little warning and sent from a place that was at least familiar into the complete unknown. Forced to abandon homes they knew and people they loved, they endured loneliness, depravation, fear, uncertainty, sickness, death and the birth of the generations to come.

Two of those women were integral to my family. They were two of the grandmothers responsible for the existence of this Ol’ Fashioned Girl and her Ol’ Fashioned Boy. And these are the interviews they might have given, if I’d ever had the honor and the joy of sitting down with them for a chat.

Interview with Clara Dahl


Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very pleased to introduce my grandmother-in-law, Clara Maria Swanson Dahl, who joins us today from another time in another place, with a life story few of us can imagine.


Clara… thank you so much for agreeing to come today. I’m going to try to keep my awe in check and just ask the questions. Please feel free to tell us as much – or as little – as you wish.

OFG: When and where were you born?

Clara: I was born in Fiskebäckskil, Sweden, September 22, 1875. I have brought some pictures… this is the view from dockside. It’s a little fishing village, hasn’t changed much from when we lived there… my brother used to fish in this little cove.


OFG: Who were your parents? What did they do?

Clara: My papa was Johannes Swanson and my mama was Christina Maria Pettersdotter. The Swedes, they do the naming different. My name is really Clara Maria Johannesdotter, but your way… it is easier. Papa was a cobbler, and the rich people came from far away to buy his shoes. There was no time for him to make the shoes for the poor people of the village. Mama did the sewing. She made the fancy shirts, with rows and rows of little tucks in them, for the same rich people who bought papa’s shoes.

http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q172/liadano/JohanSwanson.jpg http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q172/liadano/ChristinaMariaPettersonSwanson.jpg

OFG: Were there a lot of rich people in Sweden?

Clara: Not enough. Though some people liked to act like the rich people, it brought them nothing but sorrow. It is better to be what you are.

OFG: I can’t argue that. Tell me more about life in Fiskebäckskil. Why did your family leave?

Clara: I was the oldest of four. I had two brothers, Sven Joel, and Karl, the youngest, and a sister, Jenney… Jenney died in childbirth, took the babe with her. But Karl and Joel grew up in America and married good Swedish girls from the community and had big families.

http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q172/liadano/JoelSwanson.jpg http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q172/liadano/JenneySwanson.jpg http://i136.photobucket.com/albums/q172/liadano/KarlSwanson.jpg

We went to school and studied our lessons and, when we weren’t needed in our garden patch or to help with the meals and the house, we got to roam the shores and go into town to buy fish when Brother couldn’t catch any and what we couldn’t make for ourselves from the other villagers. When I was about twelve or so, Papa’s brother wrote again from America – he was writing all the time – trying to convince Papa to come, move from our village and come to someplace called‘Nebraska’. Nebraska Territory. He said there were many opportunities there and life was easy, easier than in Sweden. And there was much in Europe happening that worried Papa. Great unrest. The Communists. The famines in Ireland and China. He was finally convinced it was time to leave his homeland and join his brother in America. So many were going to America! I wondered many times if there were any left in the world when we all got to America.

OFG: Why Nebraska? Why did Uncle John choose Nebraska?

Clara: Land. Almost for nothing. And many Swedes had gone there to settle. Papa was going to be a farmer.

OFG: How did that work out? For a cobbler to become a farmer?

(Note: Clara laughed at the question, and I must record that her laugh was deep, full-bodied, and infectious.)

Clara: Not well. When we first come to America, we must live with Uncle John, Papa’s brother, and his wife and family. My aunt… she was not so happy to have the six of us move in with them. She made Papa and Mama send me and Joel out to work.

OFG: ‘Out to work’?

Clara: Ya. Joel went to live with a family who had no sons to help with the farming. And I went to a family who had no daughters. All our wages went to Uncle John’s wife to help with the support of my family.

OFG: How did you feel about that? Didn’t you miss your family?

Clara: Oh, yes! I was very young… I wanted Mama and my sister and even though I was promised trips home to visit every Christmas, I never got to go. I never got to go to the school, either, like I was promised – only two and a half months of school in all the years I was gone. Something was always about to happen to keep me there with the people who’d taken me in. Babies, mostly… that woman was always having the babies! One time, twins. The next time… oh, it was bad. The baby comes out backwards… Missus didn’t have any after that, but still it was five or six years ‘til Papa had land of his own and Brother and I were brought home for good to help build the sod house we would live in until we could afford a proper wood house.

OFG: What do you remember most about your first years in America?

Clara: The flies! I hate the flies! We did not have the big flies in Sweden like we had in Nebraska. And the language. As long as we stayed in the Swedish community, there was no problem. But if we went outside, the language was hard. And there are so many American words for things! And missing Mama and Papa and my brothers and sister… and being run over by the wagon.

OFG: Run over by a wagon!?

Clara: On the way to church. Something frightened the horses and I was thrown out. The wheel rolled over my back. They got me back in the wagon and we went on to church, but when we came home, I went right to bed and stayed for many days.

OFG: What did the doctor say?

Clara: Doctor? There was no doctor… Here’s a picture of the Swedish sod church and most of the Swedish community.


I suppose I should have died… but we were so ignorant. It is terrible to be ignorant. It is so very terrible to be ignorant… we did not know to go for a doctor, and he might not have come if we had. Ignorant… I taught myself to read. And I made sure all my sons, all four of them, had good educations so they would not be ignorant.

OFG: So… when did you meet Rudolf? When did you marry?

Clara: He was a bachelor farmer. He was from Sweden, too, and part of the Swedish community. I was twenty-six when we married in 1901.


We moved into a sod house he had built to prove up his own homestead. Here’s a picture of us and the four boys – Carl Waldemar, our first born; Lawrence Walfrid; Einar Segfried, the baby; and Clarence Rudolf.

Me and my boys…


Later, much later, we had a proper house… but all my boys were born here.

OFG: So you lived in a soddy all those years? ‘Til you got your farmhouse in the ‘20s?

Clara: Oh, no. Rudolf got homesick for Sweden and sold everything! I did not want to go, no matter how hard it was in Nebraska… but Rudolf was like that. What he would say, would be the law. So we moved back to Sweden in 1912, into a tenement house in Vanersborg, the town where he was born.

I only thought I had missed my family when I was away working for the other Swedish families in America. Now there was an ocean and a sea between us… and everywhere the talk of war. We moved out to the country, to a twenty-acre farm, but poor Rudolf! He was no better at farming in his homeland than he was in America… he was such a city boy!

Things were very hard… and the war talk went on and on. Whenever Rudolf would go into town for supplies, it was all he talked of for hours when he came home. So… once again… he sells everything and we bring our boys back home to America. That was in May… no, April, 1915. We come home on the Lusitania.

OFG: The… Lusitania? The Lusitania that was sunk by the Germans? (You can see a picture of the dress Clara wore on her voyage at the end of the interview.)

Clara: On the way back to England. Ya. Such a terrible thing. So many people killed. I think often of those poor people. Their children. We were so lucky.

OFG: So it was back to Nebraska then?

Clara: So it was back to Nebraska, ya. But it was not the same for me there. My sister was dead… Papa was dead and Mama was living with my brother, Joel. We stayed with them, too, all six of us, until we could find eighty acres to buy in Dry Valley. We worked very hard and raised our boys there, added acres a few at a time until we had 240. We had a very good farm… mostly because of the boys. They all went to school, to college, and they were good farmers. I would not let my boys be ignorant.

But they could not stay with us forever… and then it was 1929 and everything was very bad everywhere in America. We tried to hold on, but we had to sell the farm in 1932. They came and auctioned everything we owned… my house. My chickens. My furniture. Everything. Monday, December 12, 1932.

OFG: Where did you go then?

Clara: We moved to a little house in Loomis, Nebraska, with the help of the boys. It was the best house I ever had… I didn’t let anyone change a thing. I wouldn’t even have any of that indoor plumbing. We stayed there until I couldn’t take care of Rudolf any longer, then we moved into the Christian Home in Holdrege. I didn’t much like it there, but what to do?

Rudolf died in 1956… and I followed him six years later. It was a hard life, but it was a good life. I believe I did well.

OFG: What do you see as your greatest accomplishment?

Clara: After raising my boys and making sure they got an education… why, child, it’s got to be coming back here… to talk to you.


Ol' Fashioned Girl
12-14-2008, 08:39 PM
Interview with Jenny Dee

1876 – 1906


Jenny Dee, my grandmother and from whom I get my name, died in 1906 – when my father was three. It would be forty-seven years before I came along, another forty-seven years before I saw a picture of her; and, since Dad was so young when she passed, there are precious few stories that could come directly from him. My uncles, fortunately, were old enough to remember their mother and it was from them the sparse facts of Jenny’s life came to me… until today.

OFG: Jenny? Jenny Dee Robbins?

Jenny Dee: Yes, that would be me. Well, Sarah Jane Dee Robbins… but they called me Jenny Dee.

OFG: You’re my… grandmother.

Jenny Dee: That I am. Your father, Sidney, was my last child. Well… there was Roy, but he died the year after he was born, and the one I was carrying when I died… but she didn’t count.

OFG: She? How’d you know it was a she? It was – what? – 1905? 1906? Over a hundred years ago.

Jenny Dee: 1906. And I knew.

OFG: When and where were born… er… Grandmother? Gramma? Jenny? What would you like me to call you?

Jenny Dee: Mmmm… Grandma. I never got to be called ‘grandma’. Or anything but ‘Jenny’ and ‘Mama’, for that matter. Call me ‘Grandma’.

OFG: Grandma, it is. So… when and where were you born, Grandma?

Jenny Dee: I was born March 29, 1876, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. I was the second of twelve children, the first girl, and the first child to survive infancy. For some reason, we were on our way to Texas, where my sister, Cora, was born in 1877, but the following year we were back in Missouri. Stayed there ‘til ’87, when we moved back to Texas again for the birth of the last three of my brothers and sisters.

OFG: Any idea why your parents moved so much?

Jenny Dee: Daddy. He was flighty. Artist type. Poet. You get your writing ability from him, I bet.

OFG: I’m no poet! Best I can do along that line is a limerick.

Jenny Dee: Ah, but poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, Granddaughter. Between Daddy and Sidney, who wove some pretty fish stories in his day, the prose won out.

OFG: So you were in Texas when you met Charlie?

Jenny Dee: I was. We married in Bonham, Texas, in 1892. Nine months and thirty minutes later, your Uncle Clarence was born.

OFG: You were one of twelve… and you had – how many?

Jenny Dee: I was pregnant 10 times from the day I married ‘til the day I died. After Clarence, there were Gertrude and Jerome, the twins. Then came Mable and Claude and Charles, Jr., William, Emmer, Sidney, and finally, Roy. Mable died when she was six… Emmer, Emmer was just eleven months. He died the year your daddy was born.

OFG: Catholic?

Jenny Dee: Catholic. Very much Catholic.

OFG: Were you living in Oklahoma by then?

Jenny Dee: Well, no, not exactly. It was still Indian Territory. Didn’t become Oklahoma ‘til the next year after I died. Your grandfather was leasing Indian land, working it for lumber and food when he wasn’t down in the mines around Coalgate, digging for coal.

OFG: Hard life.

Jenny Dee: Very hard. Cold. Windy. Hot. Stormy. But we did alright. Kept the kids fed. Kept body and soul together.

OFG: Until you died and the family had to be split up?

Jenny Dee: Hard for a man with seven living children, all under the age of twelve… especially with a two year old and a three year old. And it wasn’t like there were women lined up to marry a man with a ready-made family that size.

OFG: So what happened to you? How’d you die? What went wrong?

Jenny Dee: Gangrene, Granddaughter. Cantankerous milk cow and a clumsy woman big with child. She jerked her head around to swat me off and her horn caught me right here, beneath my ribs.

OFG: When did that happen?

Jenny Dee: February, 1906. I kept thinking it’d get better… but it didn’t. Once the gangrene took hold, I was all but gone in less than two weeks.

OFG: Hard way to go.

Jenny Dee: Harder for your granddad. Passin’ on was the easy part for me… then Roy died the following October and my mama stepped in from DeQueen and took your daddy and the next two youngest. The older boys stayed with Charlie and tried to make a go of the place ‘til Charlie finally found him a woman willing to take him and his kids on.

They had one of their own before Charlie died of typhoid in ’12… but that boy died, too, soon after. By then, Clarence and Jerome took off on their own, thinking they were old enough to make it, and the rest went to Charlie’s brother. I guess they all turned out alright, didn’t they?

OFG: They all turned out alright, Grandma.

Jenny Dee: You lose track after awhile, Granddaughter. You follow along for a time… but then you wake up one morning and you’ve lost your place. You can’t find it and you begin to forget… and people down here, they begin to forget, too, until there’s no one left who remembers who you were. No one left who remembers your name.

By the way, Granddaughter… what’s your name?

OFG: It’s Jenny, Grandma. Jenny Dee. That’s the only thing Dad remembered, so he named me after you.

12-14-2008, 08:57 PM
Interview with jcomp:

Where were you born/did you grow up?

I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, then lived in Hawaii until I was 5-years-old (I remember next to nothing of the island, unfortunately) but I “grew up” in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Are you still living there, if not, what circumstances moved you away?

Now I’m back in Texas. San Antonio. My folks were in the Air Force so we moved relatively often. I’m one of the military brats who managed to never leave the states, though. My dad was sent overseas often, while my mom was stationed in the states, so I spent most of my childhood with her. The Air Force finally linked my mom & pops together again when we got to San Antonio, around my sophomore year of high school.

Beside your parents, who was/were the most influential person(s) of your childhood? What did you learn most from him/her/them? The most influential person you’ve known as an adult?

Great question. Thinking… thinking. From my childhood it’s very hard to say. I don’t know if any specific person really influenced me when I was that young. It was just a combination of family, immediate and extended. I always felt like I was sort of on the outside looking in to an extent when I was a kid, and kept a lot of it to myself. Not that anyone really made me feel that way, I was a just a quirky, slightly awkward little dude who couldn’t quite figure out why I was such a square. I’m still not sure why I’m such a square, but I’ve got a much better handle on it now.
Honorable mention to my 5th grade teacher Sister Gayle and my 11th & 12th grade English teacher Mr. Comer for encouraging me and helping me with my writing.
As far as my adolescence / adulthood, my biggest influences are probably my oldest brother and my grandfather. During my teenage years I unconsciously started behaving a bit like my oldest brother, adopting some his mannerisms in a desperate bid to find my cool before I figured out that everybody has their own cool, you can’t steal somebody else’s--to do so in fact is anti-cool.

Nonetheless, I got to see him raise his kids and grow with his wife and find is spirituality right before my eyes. He never preaches or anything, he just sets the example, and the circumstances surrounding his childhood with my other two brothers (also older than me) forced him to step into a leadership role and gave him perspective on things he never lost. I’m still trying to be like him in a lot of ways.
I definitely get my corny sense of humor from him. My grandfather, likewise, helped mold me. I lived with my grandparents one year --freshman year of high school--while both of my parents were stationed elsewhere. The man literally built his own business. Raised four great, successful kids, putting three through college (the fourth elected a different route, but she’s doing good for herself nonetheless).
He helped me get through my awkwardness a lot that year and was way more understanding than I imagined he could be. You know, he’s an old school guy, hard worker, hard disciplinarian, but there were some major screw ups I had when I lived with him and he never lost his cool. I know I must’ve frustrated the hell out of him some times, and there were some absolutely idiotic things I did that fully warranted getting the whole damn bookshelf thrown at me, but he just took the opportunity to teach me about life and accountability. He’s a great man. I also learned how to tell a story and hold a conversation by listening to him. When he’s “on” he can entertain anybody.

Can you name, describe one decisive moment in your youth, one that changed the course of your life, either in a physical, mental or a philosophical sense? Or, is there an experience you had as a youth which lives on in your memory, influencing your life now in either a positive or negative sense?

I’m going to go with two, and both seem fairly trivial and / or superficial and / or after-school-special-ish, but they still sort of follow me around. When I was in kindergarten I went to a daycare that some older grade school kids would also come to afterschool until their parents got off work to pick them up. One day some of the older girls got the kindergarteners together to basically have an impromptu spelling / English lesson. The girls would write the word on the chalkboard and we’d have to say it out loud. They made it a sort of contest, going around the room with each kid guessing the word on the board until they got it right. And I blew everyone else out of the water. Wasn’t even close. Soon I was basically competing with myself, no one else even wanted to try to answer anymore, and these older girls are up there by the blackboard making a big deal in front of everyone about how smart I am, and gradually I begin to realize that this is just going to keep on and on until I miss one of these words. I also began to notice that the kids my age were giving me looks like I was some sort of alien. The word I missed was “maroon.” I remember knowing how it was supposed to be pronounced and then intentionally mispronouncing it (as “marine”) so I could be free of the dirty looks. That marked the first time I ever really felt smart, and the first time I ever felt like being the smartest cat in the room wasn’t really a good thing, and I still occasionally have trouble with that. The second moment was orientation day at my new high school in ninth grade. I’d spent 8 years in Mississippi basically being king of the nerds, with 7th and 8th grade being especially nerd-tastic. So then I moved to the pretty small town of Belton, Texas to live with my grandparents. Freshman Orientation day came and I went to school with the plan to make myself as invisible as possible and just try to get through the day without revealing myself as a mega-geek to be ostracized by even the normal geeks. What I failed to realize was that I was the new guy in a place where new guys were pretty rare, and since I didn’t dress like a stereotypical nerd I was not immediately identified as such. In fact, wonder of wonders, a few girls actually took the initiative to introduce themselves to me. Seemed interested in me. We went to a water park after orientation and there were girls talking to me and asking me about where I was from and if I thought they were cute and what I was going to be doing later, maybe I wanted to hang out. It blew my mind. I assure you I am not engaging in arbitrary self-deprecation here. At that point in my life I had basically resigned myself to being shunned (and occassionally punched) by most of my male peers and found unattractive by my female peers. Of course, being a nerd at heart, I managed to undo my brief popularity at the school within a couple of months, but that was the first time in my life I ever felt anything close to confidence in myself. Since then I’ve developed a borderline-arrogant persona as a sort of backlash against my insecurity, and somehow the two identities converge to create someone who I hope is a pretty decent guy.

Describe the street you live in, the view from your bedroom/living room window, or the route you take to work each day!
I wish I had something interesting to say about any of the above. My street isn’t too busy or too quiet. It gets its share of traffic, has its share of stores and restaurants flanking it, and has inconvenient, seemingly unnecessary construction that’s made almost no progress for months at one end of it, adding another 10 minutes to my morning commute. Standard stuff in my city, unfortunately.
From my bedroom or living room window I can see the apartment complex next door to my own, and a Time Warner Cable billboard asking “Why is AT&T Afraid of Our Rates?”
My route to work each day usually consists of me taking a side street in a hopeless attempt to dodge traffic, eventually making it to the highway, then sailing on in to work. If I get up early enough it’s not so bad. On the way I almost always stop at the gas station near my apartment to buy an energy drink to kick-start my day. Horrible habit, that stuff is terrible for you, but if I don’t do that I’m sluggish clean through lunch…

Describe the room you are sitting in right now!

Quick side note: I initially read the above statement as having an urgency I’m sure wasn’t intended. “Right now! The clock is ticking! Cut the blue wire!” My living room is pretty basic. I wish it was bit jazzier, but alas it’s ordinary. White walls, off-white carpet. No pictures or paintings on the walls… I need to rectify that. A chair, a futon, a television sitting on a white stand with my DVD player and Xbox underneath it. Wall unit in the corner that acts as a bookshelf and also has two compartments where I keep my DVD’s (kept in alphabetical order, divided by genre, and woe betide anyone who disturbs that order). Computer sitting at my desk with paperwork embarrassingly disorganized at the present. 7. Referring to questions 5 and 6: do you see yourself in this same place in two/five/ten years time? Lord, I hope not. I’d like to be out of the city within two years. San Antonio’s not bad at all, I hate to give the impression that I’m denigrating the city. I just want to be someplace a little more exciting, a little more fun, a little less sweltering. Still not quite sure where I see myself just yet, but I’ve got a few cities that I’m looking into visiting pretty soon to try out.

What was your education? What do you do for a living? Do you enjoy your work? I went to college for a year, screwed around and wasted my opportunity. I keep telling myself I’ll go back “next year,” then next year comes and I’m conspicuously absent from any classes.
Right now I work as a Business Analyst for a web development company. Do I enjoy my work? Eh. Somewhere within me there’s some-damn-goofy-thing that can’t fully abide taking orders from any grown man who isn’t my father or grandfather, and I’m also constantly uncomfortable with the idea of my means of income and therefore my present and future not being entirely within my own control.
That said, I’m definitely grateful for the gig. Times are getting hard out there and I’ve got a pretty good job, so I can’t complain. I’ve learned a lot about web design on this job and I’m working toward building sites for people on the side and seeing where that takes me.

What is the quality or qualities you value most in a life partner? Is there such a person in your life right now?
So… recently I actually put together a list of qualities I’m looking for in a life partner, at the behest of sister-in-law, who is also my unofficial psychotherapist. Here are the barest essentials:
Kind / Considerate
Appropriately Into Me
That last one, the way I see it, it’s always better to be wanted than needed. If someone gets too into you and feels like they “can’t live without you,” it strikes me as an affection that is almost fear-driven, instead of fully volunteered. I want someone to enjoy my company, not fret over losing me, you know?
Right now, I’m still single & dating. I haven’t had a serious, exclusive girlfriend in two years now, and even that was something I rushed into. Ah well. I like to believe that my dream girl isn’t in San Antonio, and that’s yet another reason why I need to move away, but who knows. I might bump into her today, she might reveal herself as one of the young ladies I’m seeing now, we might spend our whole lives almost crossing paths but never actually meeting each other. For now, at least, just the idea of all the different possibilities is part of the fun of being single.

How and when did you know that you wanted to write fiction?

Good question. Hard to say when I "knew." I always liked telling stories. I used to write these incomparably lousy short horror stories when I was in grade school. My friends would read them and since we were all a bunch of goofy kids who didn't know any better, we all thought it was sort of cool.

Throughout high school I'd pen (equally dreadful) stories whenever I could for a writing assignment. In college I decided to write a screenplay and remained oblivious to the profound lack of improvement in my writing. Finally, when I wrote a story as an assignment for one of my professors, he gave me my first actual critique. My writing was too wordy, my tenses were time-traveling, my dialogue was an insult to language... but the plot was okay.

I came away from that thinking, all right, so I have decent ideas, I just don't know what the hell I'm doing. That's about when I realize that I really wanted to pursue this, and also realized that I needed to take it more seriously then, and start learning how and how not to write.

Is there any one book which inspired you, where you felt: that's what I want to do! or, I can do better?

I've always been a bookworm, but I can't think of one book that stands out as inspiration. When I was young I was the nerd who looked forward to Book Fairs like they were extra Christmases. And I was always a sucker for horror stories even though they kept me sleepless. I'm guessing that something I read back then put the idea in my head that I could write my own stories, and it just gradually evolved from there.

What stage are you at with your novel writing?

Is "Should've Been Done Already" an official stage? If not, it needs to be...

What is your genre? Which writers inspire you?

I primarily write horror, though I've been exploring the world of crime-thrillers lately, and some part of me is a hopeless sucker for a good, mainstream story about love and relationships, so I've dabbled just a bit into that as well.

The writers that inspire me: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Robert McCammon, Ray Bradbury and Elmore Leonard. I've also been recently introduced to novels of Richard Price and immediately became a huge fan of his writing style.

What is yor writing process? ie do you outliine, do you have regular hours of writing, are you disciplined? How much do you write each day?

My process is to sit down and (ideally) write what comes. I have an outline in my mind, and started working with putting outlines on paper to give myself benchmarks, help monitor my progress, but that hasn't been as successful as I had hoped it would be.

I'm disciplined about trying to write everyday. I'm terribly susceptible to overthinking, though, and some days I'm stuck staring at the screen, ideas bouncing in my brain, never making it to the page.

I don't know really how much I write each day. I set a goal for two-thousand words that I haven't come close to reaching in months.

What kind of success do you seek, fame, fortune, literary prizes?

Would it be terrible of me to say all of the above?

I always imagined that, if I'm fortunate enough to be blessed with the type of success I seek, one day some interview will inevitably ask the question, "Did you ever in your wildest dreams think you could accomplish all of this?"

And I'll answer,"Well, yes, but in my wildest dreams I also had telekinetic powers. And drove the Batmobile." The interviewer will likely think I'm kidding, and I'll just go on letting him or her believe that...

What woud you prefer to write, a flash-in-the-pan best-seller that vanishes after the first year but makes you a lot of money, or a slow but steady growth of readership, literary obscurity but posthumous fame?

This is actually a really tough question. I can't lie, I'm rather fond of money. I realize that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy great food, a nice house and snazzy clothes, all things that I'm positive I would enjoy.

That said, a very significant part of me cares about leaving a legacy. About being known, read, discussed and remembered well after I'm gone. Ego is a hell of a thing.

Weighing each option, from a practical standpoint, I'd have to go with the money. What fades into obscurity but makes tons of money now vs. what stands the test of time but is largely overlooked when initially published, I don't write with one or the other in mind. I'm just writing the stories that pop into my head as well as I can. So the fate of my work is determined by the readers, and if it is money vs. a legacy, I'll choose the money and keep writing just because I love it--even if it turns out I'm not all that great at it--and search elsewhere for my legacy.

What do you consider your writing strengths, writing weaknesses?

Strengths, I'd go with dialogue (which used to be my biggest weakness) and ideas. I'll never have a problem with running out of ideas.

My biggest weakness is patience and just getting the damn words written down. The latter affects the former. I spend so much time dissecting every little sentence and plot point, wondering what to do next, that I eventually get fed up and start rushing through a project, which leads to be less-than-stellar efforts.

Your own character strengths, character weaknesses?

Hmm... not really sure about strengths. Weaknesses, hell, more than I care to list. I can stand to improve (or in some cases, just find) my patience, focus, consideration, determination, humility... so many things.

Strengths... I dunno. Lord knows I've got an ego and I'm not trying to be coy, but I think that if I list something as a strength it implies that it doesn't need to be worked on. Things I would have considered strengths two or three years ago are some of the things I'm working hardest on now, and even as far as weaknesses go, some of the steps I've taken to improve some of those things proved to be horrible decisions.

All in all, you know, I'm still trying to get better at just being myself.
Dogs, cats, both, neither, and why?

Ah yes, the really, really big question. Not much of a cat or dog person, actually. I’m not against either one, but I just don’t see myself as much of a pet person. Although…
I’ve always thought it would be cool to have a shark. A big one, like a sand-tiger. I don’t think I’d engage in much frivolous spending if I had CEO money, but I’d definitely splurge on a giant shark tank. Build it below my personal office, give the office a glass floor, invite my competitors over for “friendly negotiations” while Mr. Teeth McGillicutty swims underneath.
That’s the dream, anyway…
Thanks for interviewing me. I’m all sorts of flattered…

12-14-2008, 10:53 PM
When and where were you born?

I was born in 1968 in a West Virginia hospital. My mother's first words on seeing me for the first time were, "Oh, she's homely, but she's cute!"

Tell us about your life when you were growing up.

My home life until I was about seven was rather typical, probably. It was the early '70s; both parents worked and shared household duties and child care. My father was an exceptionally good Dad back then. He and my mother did not get along very well, and I think he poured all his love and energy into enjoying and teaching my brother and me, and he gave us great times. I remember spending nights in the backyard with him as he taught me constellations. And there were bike rides and matinee movies and trips to the library. He taught me how to play chess, too.

After my parents divorced and my father left, his "new" family occupied his time, and my brother and I did not fit in well, there. My father legally adopted my stepbrother and stepsister, and he and my stepmother had two sons together.

My stepmother is a rather jealous woman and didn't care to have my brother and me around as reminders that my father had loved someone besides herself or her own children. Whenever we lived with them, my brother and I were often singled out as being "problems," no matter how hard we tried to get along with everyone else.

The benefits of living with them were that we had regular meals and adequate clothing, and adults we could depend on to meet our basic needs.

Whenever we lived with my mother, life was a great deal more chaotic. After the divorce, both my parents remarried almost immediately -- but my mother's subsequent marriage was very spontaneous. And it lasted only three weeks! She didn't even know, for instance, that her new husband wore dentures until after they were married.

She didn't know he could be domineering and abusive, either. So before the first month was over, my Mom, brother, and I waited until Mom's soon-to-be-ex-husband and his kids left for church one Sunday morning -- and we loaded Mom's little blue Ford Pinto with as much as we could stuff into it (which wasn't much!) and drove away, my Mom's hands trembling as the road to freedom passed directly by my stepfather's church.

People behaved much more freely during this period, my Mom included. She used the magazine "Cosmopolitan" as her bible and wanted to live carefreely. The problem was that my brother and I were a bit too young to be left to our own care. But she didn't seem capable of taking care of herself, let alone two children. We were left alone a lot, and often without sufficient food. There were also times that I wore my mother's clothes to school because I didn't have enough of my own clothes that fit, or that were clean.

My mother would often go straight to "happy hour" at the bar after work, and wouldn't call to let us know where she was; I was certain sometimes that something had happened to her. I'd run screaming and sobbing through the house. The sound of any siren when my mother wasn't around could provoke that sort of reaction. It's ironic that as an adult, I became an EMT and was responsible for driving the ambulance with "lights and siren"!

There were also times that my Mom would just take my brother and me to the bars with her in the evenings -- but never late at night. My mother was attractive -- and despite having two kids with her, she did not seem to lack attention.

The one bar we frequented looked seedy, but wow -- it had such interesting people! The bartender answered to "Bad Eye" because he'd lost the sight in it a while back. And it did look like a Bad Eye. It looked like an evil eye -- always red and angry-looking and staring at nothing while his other eye actually did match the friendliness the rest of his face showed. He always poured me root beers in the pre-frosted beer glasses.

There was one man who was there often; he and my mother dated off and on for a good while. He was tall and heavy, shaped like just the opposite of an hourglass. He loved my mother and he treated me and my brother as though we were just as important to him as she was. Whenever he was there, he and I would dance some sort of silly step he called "the Sylvester," named after the cat that was always sneaking up on Tweetie bird -- we'd start out face-to-face in the typical dance position, but we'd start low and act like we were creeping across the dance floor as though we were going to spring up and attack something on the other end of the room. He was the only guy my Mom ever dated that we called "Mister." He was also probably one of the only ones my Mom dated who deserved that respect, as well.

I did find some solace in my relationship with God, even as a very young child. We weren't really taught much about God; my father considered himself an agnostic at the time. We did attend church on occasion before my parents divorced -- probably four or five times each year and during special occasions. However, I always found myself drawn toward stories from the Bible and felt comforted by the idea that God loved me.

During the time we were with my Mom, I did attend a Baptist church by myself. The church had a bus that drove through my neighborhood every Sunday. Although the church did not seem to know how to minister to kids very well -- fire-and-brimstone preaching seemed a bit much! But there was something in me that felt comforted when I attended.

By the time my brother and I ended up living with my father and stepmother for the first time, they had become very devout and rather unconventional Christians. They were very enthusiastic about God -- they praised and worshipped loudly and did whatever "the Spirit moved them to do" which was sometimes raising hands, clapping, shouting, jumping up and down, and speaking in tongues.

We continued to live with my father and stepmother off and on during our childhood. They became increasingly fanatically religious, but I was okay with that. I tried my best to do whatever was required of me and what God might require, as well. So I dressed differently than other kids, wearing skirts and headscarves sometimes. And ultimately their religious beliefs took them -- and by virtue of being one of their children, me -- to living on a number of different communes when I was a teenager.

What was school like for you?

I loved school, but teachers often did not know what to do with me. When I started first grade, the school ended up putting me in a second-grade classroom for most of each day because I already knew so much of what they taught in their first grade. I was already reading at an advanced level and well -- I don't know what they were thinking, really. They didn't double-promote me; they ended up putting me back in the first grade classroom and giving me advanced work. So I started school with the sense of being singled out.

After my parents divorced, I bounced back and forth a lot between them. And they all seemed to move frequently -- so I ended up attending thirteen schools in twelve years. At the time I was in the public school system, I often dressed differently and was very religious, and was regarded as just "odd." However, I was also very friendly and did well in my classes; I was considered mostly harmless.

When I lived on the communes, I was still considered odd, I think. Because unlike most of the other kids there, I had not grown up in that environment and seemed more "worldly" to them. Also, at fifteen I left my family to live alone on one commune in British Columbia. I was also struggling with a serious depression and with the realization that as much as I wanted to fit in somewhere, I was still the oddball.

Ultimately I had a teacher who recognized that I needed help and support and love -- and she was able to reach out to me in the way I needed. With her support I was able to find my way through that crushing sense of futility and find hope for myself. To the point that I realized I liked living communally and at the least, away from my family and its chaos. I still keep in contact with her and see her every couple of years; I treasure her even more now, I think.

What was your first job? How did you feel when you began it?

I got my first job at sixteen; it was after my father and stepmother left communal life because of a bad experience on the farm where they were living. I was determined to go back to where I'd been living in time for the next school term, so I found a job living in with three elderly people -- a farmer and his wife and his oldest sister -- and I assisted with daily care for the sister and cooked and cleaned and kept them company.

When I first took the job, I cried for a good day -- here was yet another big change in my life! And I'm living with complete strangers and what was I thinking, that I could even do this? But even as I was pressing my face into my pillow so they wouldn't be able to hear me crying, I knew that it would just be a matter of adjusting yet again. The job was by design, only four weeks long, anyway. I settled in quickly and was grateful that commune life with all the chores and requirements they required had well-prepared me for this job.

The weeks did go by quickly, and when it came time for me to leave, both the farmer and I had tears in our eyes when my father arrived to pick me up.

What are your strongest recollections of your working life?

Whenever I think of any job I've ever had, it's the people I was around that I remember most strongly.

In my final year of high school at a commune in Canton, Ohio, I took a job as a nursing assistant in a local nursing home. In that type of job, given the low pay and enormous workload they put on their employees, it can be easy to slide into seeing the patients as chore-generators. I could never do that -- I always wanted to know about the people in my care, and I was in awe of how much each one of those people must have seen or what they went through. I wanted to know their stories.

Do you belong to any clubs or groups? (Other than AW! :) ) Tell us about them, and what you do.

Right now I attend a local church and have been involved with teaching the kids. My goal has been to get them to view the world as a place where they can be a positive influence in some way, with a heart toward serving others in whatever way might be required.

These days, there are so many ways people can help their neighbors -- and it doesn't have to be through a church to do it. There are many organizations that take volunteers. It's just the idea that we need to be open to opportunities around us and be ready for God to use us wherever we're needed in some way. (That is a statement of what I feel Christians are required to do, and isn't a comment on what other people may or may not do based on their own religion or lack of it.) ;)

What has been the most rewarding thing about raising your children?

When I see my children try something, even though they aren't certain they'll succeed. Or when I see them behave well in difficult situations, like when someone is mistreating them and they respond with grace and dignity. There are those days when I feel like I'm Best Mom Ever! But admittedly there are days that I would be happy with Merely Adequate Mom.

My children have also made me realize, through helping them to find and follow their dreams, that I need to do the same for myself. And that's actually how I found AW.

What do you feel are some of the best times you have had as a family?

Our best family times have been when we do things together. Yesterday we drove for two hours in a blinding snowstorm to get to a park that has an elaborate Christmas light display. Santa Claus was there and my kids each enjoyed telling him what they hoped he'd bring them. They also have a laser light show -- and sitting there with one of my children leaning against me as she ooh!ed at the laser pictures was a moment I'll treasure. My kids love hearing stories from when their father and I were younger, as well. Vacations are also places where we make treasured memories.

And the best time of every day is when I'm tucking each of them into bed at night -- getting a chance to give them one by one my undivided attention and getting to tell them how special each of them are. Saying to them that "I'm so glad you're my kid, and that I'm your Mom!" That routine of sameness that's as comforting and warming to their minds as the blankets are to their bodies. And the quiet peace after they're asleep and the feeling that they're all safe, all is right with the world.

Other than your family, who are the people who play the biggest role in your life?

My best friend and I spend a good bit of time together -- we've known each other for more than twenty years; she was at one time my sister-in-law. The marriage to her brother was a BIG mistake. But what I gained from my friend has made that mistake one I can't entirely regret.

My online friends are priceless, as well. Shweta (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=7234) and I became very good friends through the chat room on AW, and I'm very grateful to count her as a friend. Unique (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=1208) is another valuable AW friend; we've spent time "in real life," as well. There are a great many others from AW that I could name!

What makes you laugh?

Personal tragedy, really bad jokes, really good jokes, other people laughing, my kids doing something silly, random people doing odd things in public that one catches them doing when they aren't aware someone is watching, sex... well, pretty much everything can make me laugh in the right situation.

Give us the details of one of your favorite jokes you've played on someone. :)

I have to choose a favorite? Okay -- this one, because it's a Christmas-themed one:

I once worked as receptionist/sales secretary for a manufacturing company, and one of my jobs was to prepare form letters for the sales manager to sign -- letters to people inquiring about the product that referred them to a distributor.

One day I realized that the boss never looked at what was on the letters; he merely assumed they were all basically the same. And that it would be really easy to put something in there just a little bit different. So...

I wrote a different letter. One that had the basic letter parts in the same places. I stuck it in the middle of the stack of the other letters I'd prepared for him and I put the whole thing on his desk.

I got them all back about an hour later, which was good. Because I was leaving early that day, and I didn't want to be around when my joke was discovered.

Years have eroded the exact wording from my mind, but here's the gist of it:

Dear Santa,

I am 55 years old, and I have been a very good boy this year. For Christmas I'd like membership to all the local golf and country clubs so I can go golfing whenever I feel like it. I love golf! And I also want my very own golf cart. I want to take it to work so I can run down the other sales staff when they're in the halls. Vroom! Vroom!

Please don't send me a lump of coal like you did last year. I promise I've been trying very hard!

I posted the letter (on company letterhead, of course) on the bulletin board in the staff break room, right where everyone stands to pour their cups of coffee. And I left.

The next day I came into work, as usual. Boss came around the corner as soon as he heard me enter. "You're fired," he told me.

I just laughed at him and started the day. It never occurred to me until years later that he might have been serious!

Do you have a favourite book or author? Do you have certain books that you turn to when you want comfort?

Oooh -- that's a hard question. Depends on what I'm in the mood for. Some books are the equivalent of junk food. Entertaining and a good diversion, but not memorable or filling. Murder/mystery/suspense have become like that, for me, just because I've read so many of them. My Mom raised me on Agatha Christie books.

I'm more of a SFF reader than I realized, even though I don't really follow the genre much. Shweta has pointed me toward some really great books, as has my husband. I like the occasional Stephen King novel and still admire the way he can turn a phrase.

About the only books I long ago gave up on are romance novels. Although I'll admit that if someone were to suggest a good one to me, I'd go looking for it. I know there are some well-written ones out there.

I love David Sedaris books, especially the essays. He's been able to make me laugh and cry myself to tears within the same essay.

Oh -- and I love memoir and biographies. I've always hungered for other people's stories.

Speaking of non-fiction, I get my kicks reading about one subject or another and learning as much as I possibly can about something within a given amount of time. Like the time I latched onto bike-packing and bike maintenance and thought it would be really cool to take a long trip somewhere and back. I never did take that trip except in my imagination.

Do you have a favorite movie? What is one of your favorite movie moments?

One of my favorite movies is a James Stewart/Margaret Sullivan gem called The Shop Around the Corner (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033045/). They've remade it a few times. Most recently, it was done inferiorly as "You've Got Mail." But the original is sweet and wonderful and funny and romantic. My favorite part is at the end and it would spoil the ending should I describe it, but here's an exchange between Stewart and Sullivan that's cute:

(Stewart): There might be a lot we don't know about each other. You know, people seldom go to the trouble of scratching the surface of things to find the inner truth.

(Sullivan): Well I really wouldn't care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I'd find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter... which doesn't work.

But any movie that moves me in one way or another -- gets me to laugh, or cry, or think twice about something, or even that gets me to forget about something for a while! Those are winners.

You're an artist. What do you like to portray in your artwork?

Whenever I've attempted to express something visually, I have long tended to draw characters in somewhat ambiguous situations. My people are androgynous and/or with no distinct facial features -- which was always done purposely in order for people to possibly identify themselves with the person in the picture. I have always wanted to create a powerful emotional reaction to my images, too. I want the viewer to identify with whatever they think the figure is feeling -- as if the figure is telling the viewer's story too, somehow.

What would you like to achieve in your life-story writing? Do you write about moments that change a life, or perhaps those that define a new direction for a person? Tell us about what is driving you in your work.

With regard to life-story writing, my goal is to tell my own story in such a way that even though my experience might be foreign to the reader, they can understand that what has happened to me could easily happen to them, too. I would like to show that we don't perhaps know ourselves as well as we think we do, nor know each other as well as we might assume -- that we are complex, beautiful, compartmentalized creatures.

In my own memoir, for example, I'm working on showing that I was desperate to tell myself a terrible secret, yet just as determined that I'd almost rather kill than know what that secret was.

I think I tend to write about moments that change a life. At least my essays seem to deal with such moments of revelation.

The odd thing is that it's often very difficult for me to talk about the issues I am addressing in my memoir, which deals partly with a crushing depression, or even to think that my story is one worth telling. And yet at the same time, I'm so willing to tell my story. When I think of the hellish roads I've traveled inside my own mind -- knowing that the treatment I received at the hands of so-called "professionals" was sometimes anything but helpful or professional -- I believe that other people need to know what can happen to a relatively "normal" person: how miserably inadequate our treatment of people suffering from depression, and how unkind the social stigma that accompanies admitting one suffers mentally, especially within religious circles, can be.

But "what can happen" can also be positive. An important focus of my story is one particular person, and the lengths they went to, to save me from myself. That person was my first therapist, who died recently and suddenly from an accident while he was on vacation. I know, from his example, that there are people out there willing to believe that one life is worth anything to save -- and I hope that sharing that will make for an uplifting and interesting read.

12-14-2008, 11:41 PM
Hi Gang!

Some of us took the Day of Listening thing literally:

Here's a link (http://www.roe25.com/aw/stew21_and_williebee.mp3)to download

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3109/3109110061_794cfca217.jpg?v=0 Williebee's interview with the every lovely Stew21 (http://www.roe25.com/aw/stew21_and_williebee.mp3)http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/customprofilepics/profilepic6473_1.gif

Please "right click" on the link and save it to your computer to listen to.

12-14-2008, 11:46 PM
The ever enchanting Miss Perks was kind enough to let me talk her ear off for a bit, as well.


Perks' interview with Williebee (http://www.roe25.com/aw/perks_and_williebee_edit_2.mp3)
Again, please "right click" on the link and save it to your computer to listen to.

DL Hegel
12-15-2008, 12:43 AM
Please tell me about yourself.

--I was born on a balmy afternoon in the adult diaper aisle in Wal-Mart, which when you think about it, explains a lot about me. Unfortunately for me that backstabbing, idea stealing Billie Letts stole my life’s story and turned it into a best selling novel and a movie before I had a chance to. Well, okay so I never had any intentions of writing an autobiography. I mean really, who wants to read about a baby born in Wal-Mart? Apparently Oprah, which means EVERYBODY!! I’m still kicking myself in the butt for that one.

I always knew I was gifted and meant for great things. When I was in Kindergarten, I wrote a play entitled “Major Mouthwash and the Great Cavity Caper” and then starred in every role. West Side Story has nothing on me. When you’re a molar, you’re a molar all the way. From birth until dentures. You resist plaque and tooth decay.

I had to go into hiding for many years, due to the paparazzi and my huge fan base, but I couldn’t hide my talent. So, I spent those years as the mime, Mildred the Magnificent, doing street performances and birthdays. But alas when I became world renowned for my trapped-in-an-invisible-box impression, I had to wipe off the black and white face paint and rejoin the dregs of society to escape the mime cult following. I so did not want to drink the purple kool-aid.

Now I spend my spare time (when I’m not thwarting the elaborate ruse to steal my great American novel) as the Geriatric Avenger, beating old people silly with newspapers. But don’t let it get around to Billie Letts she might just steal my next story, “Where the Plot Is”. --

Well unless of course you meant a real bio LOL. The made up ones are so much more interesting though.

At the moment I live in Novato, California with my husband and three year old son. I work from home as an artist, freelance writer, web designer, as well as a steady gig being a recipe columnist for an online magazine. Art wise I design custom tattoos, graphics, avatars, paintings, illustrations, as well as a lot of graphic design. In my spare time I experiment with food, try to write on my own novels, as well as write and illustrate my own children's books. If I'm not writing, I'm drawing, and if I'm doing neither of those I can be found horsing around with my three-year-old.

What are your drives for combining art work and writing?

My drive is necessity. I'm not happy nor complete without some sort of creative output in my life. Both writing and art feed different parts of my soul and I'm incapable of doing just one or the other. When I write I see the worlds in my head, and my fingers as they dance along the keys itch to grab a pencil and start sketching. It's a compulsion I guess.

Do you have any work published ? If so Please list.

While working as an adult literacy tutor at the San Francisco library I had the opportunity to illustrate a financial workbook of a company that worked closely with the program I was affiliated with.

I've sold numerous freelance articles to various places.. mostly online.

I've designed and sold custom tattoos for clients

I've designed and sold custom artwork and paintings

I am actively designing the website http://www.ginikoch.com (http://www.ginikoch.com/) as well as all the custom graphics for the site.

I have sold numerous business card and letterhead designs

I've won a few contests with humorous shorts.

I was also approached by an editor of a small publishing house to write six children's short stories with complete illustrations that will be available for purchase when I finish the project.

I've been a paid blogger.

What some of the challenges you have encountered trying to balance art and writing?

It takes me twice as long to get anything done. LOL Since I do both and with my ADD it's hard for me to sit and work on a project from start to finish. So I find that I really need to schedule my time with each aspect of what I do so I have enough time in the day to get it all in. Between being virtually a single parent (long story), and my paid work, I try to balance that with my pet projects. So it always feels like I have a ton to do.. but I like being busy so it works out.

What kind of music do you listen to when you work if any? Do you ever use music to inspire or fuel work?

Music is like breathing for me. I have something playing at all times. I listen to all kinds of music but when I'm working I like music I can sing and dance to. So I listen to a lot of punk and alternative. I detest scream metal.. love the 80's.. and Tchaikovsky is my FAVORITE composer.. then Mozart, then Beethoven.

First writing or art memory?

When I grew up I was never going to be a writer or an artist... It was something I just did like eating and breathing. I was going to be a Marine Biologist or something science related. So I don't have a specific memory because it seems like I was always concocting stories and writing them down as well as drawing pictures and decorating my room with them.

I didn't have a storybook childhood unless we're talking the original Brother's Grimm before they were Disneyfied. So art and writing was my escape as a small child to a better place and then an outlet for my angst as a teenager. I know I wouldn't be alive today without it. Funny, seems like you should be able to remember your first when it's such an integral part of your life -- but I always did and always could.

Tell me phobias or fears that relate to what your work? Inspirations too?

My one flaw is I really don't have a modest bone in my body when it comes to my creations. If I didn't love them and think they were awesome then why would I show them to anyone. Coupled with that is I take criticism extremely well because nothing is perfect and everything can benefit from another set of eyes and a second opinion. My biggest fear about my work is losing my hands so I can't create anymore. I'm 32 years old and have had arthritis in my hands since I was 15. I battle the pain everyday to do what I want to do.. and it terrifies me that my hands will become claws and I wont' have the dexterity for the things I love.

My inspirations are the world around me and as clichéd as it is my son. I'm a better person for having him in my life and your insides reflect out.. my work that much better because of having him. I look at a person, a place, the shape of a pile of laundry and I see inspiration for an art piece.. I look at the curve of my son's cheek as he sleeps and see the possibilities.. the way a word sounds or looks and I can create an entire world.

I don't believe you have to have a horrible life to tap into your creative side.. but I think you see deeper and feel more and it reflects stronger in your work when you come from nothing and make something of yourself. There will be those who disagree.. those who's lives where the stuff that my dreams were made of.. and I don't begrudge them their opinions or their talents...

What is your ultimate writing goal or dream?

I'm rather pathetic.. I gave up dreams for myself long ago.. how sad right? All I want is to be able to support my son doing something I love.. and if I had to give it all up tomorrow to make sure he had a roof over his head and mac-n-cheese for his belly. I'd put it all down and turn my back on it. Well.. LOL except for my personal pet projects that'd I'd squeeze in at the end of the day.. because really it'd be like trying to stop breathing to stop creating anything.

Do you wear boxers or briefs?

Neither.. I sport granny panties all the way, baby!!!!!!

DL Hegel
12-15-2008, 12:46 AM
Please tell me about yourself.

I was published in Darkfire (and writing buddy of mine has the feature story of this month) http://usersites.horrorfind.com/home/horror/darkfire/home.html (http://usersites.horrorfind.com/home/horror/darkfire/home.html)
My first published piece in print was in the premiere issue of the Willows. http://thewillowsmagazine.com/index.htm (http://thewillowsmagazine.com/index.htm)
Iv'e even been published internationally (damn that almost sounds prestigious) in Murky Depths http://www.murkydepths.com/ (http://www.murkydepths.com/)
I placed in a novel excerpt contest for the gaming website EnWorld. http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/189391-another-big-competition-vote-pick-your-favourite-author.html (http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/189391-another-big-competition-vote-pick-your-favourite-author.html)
I run a shadow Urban Fantasy blog (taking bits and pieces from other, better blogs) http://spikeo.bravejournal.com/ (http://spikeo.bravejournal.com/)
I have a Facebook profile with links to favorite writers (most of which aren't more then a hour's drive south from my house!) http://www.facebook.com/editpicture.php?success=1#/profile.php?id=1296772174&ref=name (http://www.facebook.com/editpicture.php?success=1+/+/profile.php?id=1296772174&ref=name)
I was in a nowhere band called the Trouble with Charlie. I played bass and rhythm guitar. Then I played drums for my youth group band, Flame and the Sparks. We toured a handful of the Four Square churches in the area. Ya, can you just picture a trash mouthed, Marlboro smoking, beer chugging Pike ministering to the youth? Spooky. I worked community theater, behind the scenes for several plays like A Thousand Clowns and Same Time, Next Year. The ladder gave me a fondness for Nat King Cole.

What are your drives for writing horror?

I was always a fan of the old black and white monster flocks. My favorite was the Wolfman. From there I grew up on an unhealthy dose of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits. I'd have to say it was movies and television that turned me onto horror. Later, it was all about pinning someone into a corner so vile, so hairy that no rational person could think there why out of and seeing where my thoughts and writing carried me. Now I’ve been delving into Urban Fantasies, enjoying the amalgam of my favorite fantasy elements and tainting them with a seething pile of Horror.

What makes you lean towards horror?

Honestly, I didn't have the best childhood so I find it hard to write about goodness and happy people. It's not envy or bitterness I just don't often connect with that. I can connect with the darker elements of life.

What kind of music do you listen to when you write if any? Do you ever use music to inspire or fuel scenes?

I listen to instrumental pieces, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Dougan - anything that produces a dark, background noise to drown out my internal editor and the thoughts of the day banging round in my head.

First writing memory?

I dabbled with stories for years but never very serious with it. The real writing began about ten years ago when a buddy and I started working on a graphic novel. He's a much better artist then I so I hammered out the story details. It didn't get very far but I enjoyed the story crafting.

Tell me phobias or fears that relate to what you write?
Fear of abandonment, being utterly alone, forced to make horrible sacrifices, heights, among others.

Inspirations too?

There are too many to tell. Underdogs coming out on top, horrible news stories, political intrigue and abuse, breakthroughs in science, wild action movies.

What scares you?

What ultimately scares me is having an extreme responsibility placed on my shoulders and I totally botch it up.

What is your ultimate writing goal or dream?

To find my novel on a shelf at a huge book chain and catch someone checking it out. That would be a rush!

DL Hegel
12-15-2008, 12:51 AM
Please tell me about yourself.

Mother of 2 teenagers, one of those craft-y types: I make homemade candy and hand lotion, have been told I’m a good cook, and knit and crochet clothing and jewelry. Oh, yes, I also write. Horror, paranormals, mysteries, and speculative fiction. BA in English Lit from The Catholic University of America, which was pretty useless, since I landed my first job out of college pretty much because the manager never looked above my neck during the interview. Meh, but it paid my student loans.

I was Founder and Chair of the Greater Bflo Christian Writers (2005-2008). I write for BuddyHollywood.com (http://buddyhollywood.com/), and have written for other websites as well. My fantasy, “Light,” was pubbed in the Help antho that benefitted Preditors and Editors.
And since it’s what gives me cocktail party conversation for the rest of my life, I was also a Franciscan nun. Right out of HS, completely wet behind the ears. They don’t come much more naïve. Wore the (modern) habit—no Flying Nun outfit, sorry. Got out from under the brainwashing 4 years later and jumped the wall.

What are your drives for writing horror?

I love a good scare, even though it takes a lot to make me jump now. Always have liked horror—dad and I used to watch the Friday night horror movies when I was as young as 5. Plus, Catholicism is loaded with horror fodder. I’m reaping the benefits of all that religion getting stuffed down my throat from the cradle (practically).

Do you have any horror work published ? If so Please list.

Alas, not yet. I subbed to the Dybbuk Press Biblical Terror antho. Here’s hoping!

What kind of music do you listen to when you write if any? Do you ever use music to inspire or fuel scenes?

Anything that isn’t in English, otherwise I get distracted. I play medieval music, opera, Irish, and plain instrumental. When I’m writing crucifixion scenes for my spec fic, I do put on the CBS Jesus movie or The Passion of the Christ soundtracks.

First writing memory?

A back-to-school poem at age 9.

Tell me phobias or fears that relate to what you write? Inspirations too?

I skeeve spiders, but have no problem writing about them. I’m afraid of being trapped in either a small space or captured and tied up, unable to move. My poor vampire and his GF both got subjected to that in the latest WIP. I take inspiration from everything I learned about the Crucifixion, and it’s a lot. A boatload. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

What scares you?

Anyone messing with my mind: hypnotism, the creepy stuff in The Ipcress File, things like that.

What is your ultimate writing goal or dream?

To be sitting in a public place and see the total stranger next to me reading my book. And liking it too, of course! OR being scared out of their mind by it. I’m flexible.

DL Hegel
12-15-2008, 12:54 AM
Please tell me about yourself.

Let's see.... I've been writing for as long as I can remember, really. Little stories, then shorts, then some (very bad) poems which thankfully was a phase I passed through quickly and unscarred. I won a number of awards throughout school for my writing, including a national award or two - but only honorable mentions. I published my first poem in... 98? I think? to a small mag - but hey, it got a good review. That was it for ten years on the fiction side when I published another short about a year or so ago.

In the meantime, I've written a number of nonfiction articles and columns. I worked as a columnist -freelance not staff - for the Shanghai daily when I lived abroad, and I've published articles in magazines and books. Most of that has been overseas, but I have three essays due out in a local book being published here. I taught while overseas, too, and I've lived in China and briefly in Europe. (Sweden rocked - honestly I think I'd rather live there than here.)

Aside from that, I've done work freelance editing and worked - albeit briefly- for an educational publisher. I've got more degrees than I know what to do with, including a stint in law school and grad school, neither one of which worked out but left me with more debt than I can shake a stick at, and other than that... I can't think of anything.

What are your drives for writing horror?

I don't know, really. This stuff just kind of fascinates me. I could get all Freudian and say I'm exploring my inner id or some such, but honestly, it's just fun. I will say a lot of my stuff tends not to be straight up horror, but more of a blend, and I prefer the suspenseful and atmospheric to shock value.

Do you have any horror work published ? If so Please list.

Only two pieces of fiction I've published so far were both horror. The first was a poem that borrowed heavily from TS Eliot - if he'd been having really bad nightmares. The second was a short story set in the afterlife, complete with demons.

What makes you lean towards horror?

I suck at romance novels.

What kind of music do you listen to when you write if any? Do you ever use music to inspire or fuel scenes?

I have it on almost constantly. It depends on what my mood is mostly, but I've seen certain scenes in what I write set to music. (I have a series of short stories - led off by the one I published - where the background music plays an important part in setting the scene.) My tastes are very eclectic, so i have scenes that I saw set to Nine Inch Nails and others that I saw set to Muddy Waters or Thelonious Monk, or even some of the more esoteric stuff like Mike Oldfield.

First writing memory?

Folding a piece of paper in four squares to draw little four page stories. I did the illustrations, too, though it was clear early on that was not were the bulk of my talent lay.

Tell me phobias or fears that relate to what you write? Inspirations too?

Hands. Or feet. I have not read, nor seen, nor will ever, Stephen King's "Misery." And yes, it's because of *that* scene. Makes me shiver. Blood drooling vampires, headless ghouls, I take those in stride. Put a pencil through the protagonist's hand? Ick. Also, I have a real-life phobia of wasps and their kin. Not the fuzzy bees, which are vegetarian, but their nasty and ill-bred carnivorous relatives. Inspiration is trickier. I think every writer, on some level, has that "what if" part of their brain switched on "high." Where you look at something and go, "what if?" Some people see sunsets and happy ending. I see sharp objects and bloodletting. Yes, I'm aware there's something wrong with me.

What scares you?

Failing my daughter. Really, that's it. Everything else I can handle.

What is your ultimate writing goal or dream?

I'm not aiming for Stephen King levels of fame or fortune, but I'd settle for seeing my name in hardbound at a book store as the featured buy. You know, the one where you walk into the store and it;s the first thing you see with a table to itself? Shallow, perhaps, but I've already been positively critted - for the poem I wrote - and I've won awards. So that kind of leaves the money aspect. I guess I'll know I've made it when something I've done becomes the Sci-fi Channel movie event of the week. One of the good weeks, not like that snake movie with the Hoff.

12-15-2008, 01:01 AM
Maxmordon, is a wonderful young man from the country of Venezuela. I felt compelled to interview him because I believed he would have a unique perspective on the writing world. I was not disappointed, I hope you won't be either.
What is your favourite food?

Hard to say... I think I have to say breaded steak with broccoli and mashed potatoes or perhaps cachapas, that are sort of corn pancakes.

What is your favourite colour?

Green, but not shiny green; either soft green or dark green.

What is your favourite place?

My bedroom, is like a sanctuary to me.

What is your favourite article of clothing?

A red and black striped polo shirt.

What is your favourite word?

Why do I have to choose a word? A word can be as beautiful as we use it. But I would have to say... either Madrugada, which is a Spanish word defining early morning since makes me think that no matter how dark is the night, we know that the sun will rise the next day and Redemption, knowing that people can touch bottom and redeem themselves if they have the will to do it.

What is your most favourite quality about yourself?

My creativity, I guess... or how I manage to keep myself calm facing bad situations.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

I really don't have idea. I guess I am where I want to be... (gosh, how cliched does that sound?)

What inspires you to write?

Stories that I think must be told and a way to express myself. I see the world around me and think how many things in our lives are untold... how little details that are quite interesting could be exploited...

What is your favourite book and why?

I can't have a favorite book; it would be unfair to the other books I have loved through the years. I love Papillion at the same time I love Gulliver's Travels and One Hundred Years of Solitude or A Brave New World. I just can't choose one since one loves books for different motives... would I ask you which is your favorite child?

What is your favourite genre to write in?

Fantasy... the posibility of what you can make seems limitless... is a blank slate where you can make whatever crosses your mind. It can have Tolkien and China Melville sharing the same genre. Tell me where else you could find such contrasting figures writing under the same blanket?

Where do you see yourself as a writer in 3 years?

With my current WIP finished, edited and seeking a publisher.

What language do you prefer to write in and does that impact your potential audience?
I prefer to write in Spanish since is my first language and the one I feel more free and confortable. But it's hard to get an audience... see? I only can name one writer of epic fantasy in Spanish, one writer of urban fantasy and a long list of Magic Realism... the Latin American boom finished almost 30 years ago and now, most people read either books tranlasted from English, Italian or Portuguese or the same big figures from the Latin American boom (García Márquez, Vargas Llosa, Cortázar, etc.) who we must live at their shadow... sometimes I think I would be far more succesful in English than in Spanish...

12-15-2008, 01:06 AM
What is something most people wouldn't know about you here?
The first story I wrote, a horror piece, was well received. I recall being hauled down to the principals office, my Grams being called, and spending a lovely fun filled week being grounded. Coincidentally, I was unable to sit comfortably for about the same amount of time. I continued to write a lot of short stories. I never stuck to one niche-- horror, sci-fi, historical fiction, and slice-of-life stuff.
In HS, I was published all four years, in two different annual scholastic statewide publications. Works included: seven poems, two essays, and one of those slice-of-life stories. Attracted to loud music and hearing loss, I published my first live show review at sixteen. At twenty I went to college for broadcasting to put my big mouth to some use.
Work, I have held tons of jobs. Other people travel, see the world, I change jobs. Most times, I worked two or three jobs at a time. Some of them are: on-air and club DJ, host of a local cable news show, and freelance music columnist /reviewer. I wonʼt list the most hated jobs--which is about ninety percent of the rest. The mags I have written for are the internationally distributed Jet Lag, SurFace, and 15 Minutes Magazine. All are extinct, now.
I am currently a martial arts instructor, who gets to do all the marketing and pr writing for the school. I love teaching and helping children, as well as, adults accomplish their goals. I still write constantly and some of it, makes sense.

What is your favorite food?
Coke and pop rocks are delicious and nutritious.

What is your favorite color?
Depends on whatʼs being colored?

What is your favorite place?
My own mind is where I spend my off hours.

What is your favorite article of clothing?
Depends on who is wearing it?

What is your favorite word?
I donʼt have a favorite word but I do have a favorite phrase,
la petite mort. Donʼt know what it means but I am pretty sure itʼs not about a short guy named Mort.

What is your most favorite quality about yourself?

Varies, which personality are you asking?

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
You are restricting me to this time and space, bummer.

What inspires you to write?

I am inspired by life, music, pain, joy, loss, my friends, my enemies, my loved ones, and red bull.

What is the most influential book you have read and why?
The Richard Bach novel, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, is the one book that had most impact in my life. It changed how I looked at the world. I wonʼt philosophize or get too hall marky --itʼs a damn fine book and if you havenʼt read it, you should.

What is your favorite genre to write in?
Any, I feel like. I am a well rounded (flighty).

Where do you see yourself as a writer in the future?
Where I am now. I write for myself. If I never publish another piece, I wonʼt be deterred in the slightest. I have been praised and despised as a writer--to me--they will always be the same, someone elseʼs opinion. I write because--I need to, I have to, and I want to--no event good or bad--will change that--barring--accidental decapitation.


12-15-2008, 02:45 AM

Grades, Guys or Groupies. Of those, what was most important to you in high school and why?

Grades. I was a nerd, and it wasn't because getting good grades was more important to me than Guys or Groupies--I was just too dang shy for my own good. I had a good group of friends (ironically, mostly guys), though.

You've written on your blog for about two years. You started it as a means to vent about an online role-playing game. Now, you're talking about your father's health. You seem to keep up with it. Is your blog important and why should we go read it?

My blog is important to me, but in the grand scheme of things, not that important to others (unless you want to listen to me vent, chat about movies and books, or talk about my own writing). You're right, though, about its origins, and I've come a long way from the painful moment that birthed my first blog post.

Why should you go read it? To be entertained a couple of times a week. To learn more about the process of signing with an agent, making a sale, and seeing a book through the various stages of production. To learn a bit more about me and my writing habits, favorite books and TV shows. To eventually participate in release-related contests.

I'll even bribe you with cookies.

Name one of your mentors and what s/he did to set you up to be where you are now.

I really wish I could point to one person and call them a mentor, but there isn't any single, huge influence on my life as I know it. No Obi-wan Kenobi for my journey. Just a lot of people who touched my life enough to help mold it.

Writing-wise, the closest person I can identify as a mentor is a man named Kris Young. He's a produced screenwriter, and I took a screenwriting class with him seven years ago. He liked my storytelling instincts, and he was the first professional writer to tell me I could make it. In a way, his faith in me is what kept driving me forward toward my goal of publication.

A hottie's across the bar, smiling at you. You've GOTTA meet and greet him. Write YOUR best pick up line and what your expected response from the hottie.

My best pick-up line and his response? Oh dear...if a hottie was staring at me from across the bar, I think I'd turn around first just to see who was behind me.

Me: *saunters over, drink in hand, trying to be casual* *trips and spills drink into his lap*

Him: *trades me a towel for a dry-cleaning bill*

Can you tell my pick-up lines need work? Hehe.

In reaching what many on AW consider the Holy Grail (publication by a big publishing house), you've made "a leap" from progeny to, well, author. What new responsibilities do you have and how are you carrying them out?

As a member of AW (and especially as a mod), I've always tried to give honest, informed answers to questions asked in the writing-related rooms. I've offered suggestions in the Sandbox and SYW, and I've been supportive of members outside of threads, as well. As far as new responsibilities, I think it's doubly important to do those things, especially the "honest, informed answers" part.

When I was a newbie, I had great respect for the published members, and especially for their advice. I'm not saying anyone needs to give great weight to my words now that I'm joining that group of published authors, but there may be someone who does. And my responsibility to that member, especially if s/he is a new writer, feels a little bit larger now. (I hope that doesn't sound conceited, because it's not mean to be, it's just a hard question to answer)

The three things on your Christmas list you really want but won't receive this year are ... ?

A copy of my book, dammit!

The next eight Harry Dresden novels (I only have the first one, but don't expect the entire rest of the series to land in my stocking).

Digital camcorder (cuz they're 'spensive).

How does the brand of SF/Fantasy in your writing separate itself from the vast amount of SF/Fantasy stuff that's already out there?

The mythical creatures I use in my books aren't typical of what's popular right now in urban fantasy. My vampires aren't sexualized creatures--they can't even bite humans without dire consequences. I have shapeshifters, but not a single werewolf in sight. My heroine isn't the illegitimate daughter of a human and supernatural creature, nor is she the unwitting descendant of a line of Powerful Beings. All of her abilities are obtained by training or by outside influences.

Yes, I do have a snarky, first-person narrator (who swears like a f*cking sailor), but that's because I love those types of narrators.

You have the choice of continuing to write your own novels for the next five years or working to develop the new Star Trek franchise with JJ Abrams. Which do you choose and why?

My own novels. Now, if I could work with JJ to develop an original series, I'd be all over that.

Speaking of Star Trek, which crew member of the USS Enterprise do you see yourself as and why?

NCC-1710, 1701-A, 1701-D, or NX-01?

Was that really geeky of me? Engineering skills aside, I kind of relate to Trip Tucker (from "Enterprise"). We're both pretty easy going; we're good leaders of small teams, but still work best when someone else is in the big chair; we're intensely loyal to our friends and will do whatever we can to defend them; we have a natural curiosity for new things. And we can both hold grudges and be cynical about things that have negatively affected us.

Do you see writing as your means of removing the title "sales leader, Pier 1 imports" from your business card, or something else? If something else, what and why?

I was a writer long before I worked in retail. Retail was always a means to pay the bills. It's not a career, and it's never something I'd put on a business card. I do, however, have a nifty business card now that says: Kelly Meding, Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Author.

Writing is... for me it's that thing people are talking about when they say, "It's not really work if you enjoy what you do." I love writing, even when it frustrates the hell out of me. It's what I want to do for as long as I am able, even if people stop publishing what I write.

12-15-2008, 03:45 AM
Are you rack or stand-alone?

Rack. And a great one. I mean, a great rack. My rack stands about two feet above the other racks, which seem to be sagging under heavy loads lately.

Why a server? Why not, say, a handheld GPS or an iPod?

Location location location. Do you want to be mounted in someone's '96 Chevy Caprice Classic or being part of the belief team playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" thinking the pounds are going to melt away while hanging off someone's sweaty arm? Besides, I hear they're going to co-locate the files for the new "Star Trek" web site right next door. I say all the right things and, boom, I'm a redundant server for JJ Abrams. That's how things work in this town.

You've had a couple of crashes ...

Look, when you've got 26,000 members with 650,000 different database entries running on your backside 24/7, you find time to get in a latte, breathe in some forced fan air and keep running. This is hard work. The processors have threatened to quit twice. The motherboard bus is already trying to unionize and the networking system is talking about a sit in. I'm just trying to keep things rolling along. Meanwhile, I'm getting megabytes of data on fistbumps and someone's wardrobe? C'Mon. I've got better electrons to process. If I stumble once or twice a year; cough up a little data and allow you people some free time, excuse my hospitality. And I'm not being defensive. So, you know, shut up about it.

What do you think is your greatest strength and your biggest weakness?

Well, strength, that's obvious -- speed. I'm the Hussein Bolt of processing posts. Want to edit that post -- BLAMMO -- it's done. Need to throw some crap into that thing you call a landfill -- BLAMMO -- done. So, that's something that me and another guy named "Hussein" have in common. My biggest weakness? [click] Goat porn.

Do you credit popularity or need for your amazingly high workload output?

For some of these meatheads, it's need. Baffling to me how many green light bulbs I have to change -- while no one is LOOKING either, mind you -- because some of these "can't unattach the AW umbilical cord" folks get their butt out of the Internet chair and in front of the writing chair. However, I have become popular. I have asked my agent -- last name Google -- to look into some franchising and marketing. This Xeon processor's got bigger plans that just building people's profiles and keeping up with newbie posts.

Is there any writing you're fond of on the site? If so, what?

It's all just 1's and 0's to me. However, there was a piece a few weeks ago -- all 1's. I mean, the RS-232 interface and I were HOWLING. And then the guy had the nerve to say it was "Harlan Ellison-like." I've seen Mr. Ellison's 1's and 0's. And that binary don't hunt.

Plenty of people are just plain paranoid about putting their info on the Web. How secure are your operations?

Ixnay on the onversationkay about the icuritysay. The En-Ess-Ay ightmay eBay isteninglay. K? Or should I just expose all those PMs and rep points now?

Any downtime we should know about coming up?

Does Bill Gates tell you about what bugs are going to bite you in the keister when Windows crashes? Does Steve Jobs let you know when the little Bomb is going to pop up when one of the magical Apple apps snorts fiberglass and goes down like a cheerleader on prom night? Like I know these things ...

What's the future for the AW Forum and how you're running it?

There's plenty more space in the database for members. However, I'm thinking of creating a one cent fee for every field I fill once we hit 50,000 members. I figure every cent can go to trimming Rolling Thunder's beard and buying some consonants for Robaeae.

Any last thoughts?

LINE: 71

Just kidding. ;-) Glad the Day of Listening includes those of us without a corporal shell. Luv ya.

12-15-2008, 07:34 AM

Who was the biggest influence on you at a young age?

My parents for sure, Dad more than Mom. Mom was terribly sick during all of my memory years, and she died when I was 13. Dad worked the night shift, and at Mom's death we three kids became latch-key teens; worse than that, we were home alone every weekday evening until Dad got home sometime after 3 in the morning. Dad was asleep in the morning when we quietly left for school, and during sports seasons I never saw him from Sunday night to Saturday morning. Yet, almost every night we went to bed on time. Every night we did our homework. Every night we self-limited our TV watching. Never did any of us go out at night when we were not supposed to. Wednesday night my brother and I walked the quarter mile to boy scout meeting and home again, never deviating from the shortest, safest route. Mom and Dad so instilled in us the idea of obedience, that we never thought to do otherwise. May I insert here the poem I wrote about this?

Remembering Mom and Dad
Mom died at night--a painful death, they say.
Three children mourned. Then age thirteen, I cried,
though not as much as Dad about the way
Mom died.

Despite his night-shift job, this hero tried
to raise us right. He faced the world's array
alone. Steadfast, he took no second bride

who might divide his time. Would he betray
his sacred trust? No way. I've much relied
on what Dad taught, and always kept the day
Mom died.

You’re a U.S. citizen but you’ve lived in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. How did living abroad change your approach to life?

My five years in the Middle east has given me a global perspective on life. I'm not so concerned about buying American. I'm not always concerned about "What's best for America," but rather what's best for the world? I certainly have a better understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and a much greater appreciation of Israel as a result of those years. And a greater love for America, and for the freedom we have.

What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?

In terms of physical things, it would be either the pyramids in Egypt or the Great Wall of China, both seen on vacations in our expatriate years. In terms of events, our trip to China in 1983, where we spent two weeks in six cities, was an amazing time. The poverty and suffering of the people was incredible. Our kids were 4 and 2 at that time, and most Chinese had never seen a blond child before. They were the stars of the show, and where ever we went we always had a parade of Chinese following us. Also on that trip, we had a few days in Hong Kong and visited a missionary from our church. He asked us to carry Bibles into China and deliver them to a man in Beijing. We agreed, got them through customs, and carried them all the way through China until, on our last night there, we made contact with [name withheld], a man who had been imprisoned 21 years in a Chinese prison camp for his Christian faith. That was an amazing moment. So, I guess you could call me an international Bible smuggler.

What do you consider to have been your biggest time-waster over the years?

Hmmm, only one? Daydreaming of greatness.

What first attracted you to your wife? What attracts you to her now?

My wife and I met at a singles retreat for our denomination in 1975 and were married eight months later. I saw a spark in her, that her Christian faith was real. She had been raised in a devout Christian home where it really meant something, whereas my religious raising (despite having good parents) was ritualistic and more or less meaningless. She had what I wanted as far as a Christian walk. Her most attractive quality continues to be her love for Jesus, and her dedication in following Him. She has great compassion for others in need, and will seek to right injustices. A few years ago she gave away a bunch of our kitchen stuff, including my favorite carving knife, to a family in need. We became foster parents mostly because of her compassion for kids.

What’s the best thing about being a parent?

Having the kids move out when they grow up! Seriously, seeing them develop into good citizens. While neither our son or daughter has turned out exactly as I would have liked, they are good citizens, hard workers (go-getters), self-starters, kind-hearted. That's really the most a parent can ask for. In terms of being foster parents (which we were for nine months in our 50s, before we broke a rule and they shut our house down), it was feeling we were making a positive difference in the lives of those four kids.

Your tagline is “Engineer Sonneteer”. How do your skills as an engineer cross over to your writing and vice versa?

I love formal poetry (rhyme, meter, and structure), which may have been influenced by my engineering background. As a civil engineer involved in designing heavy construction projects, I am responsible for producing construction drawings and specifications that show the contractor, in the clearest, most concise, and yet most complete way, what to build. This probably carries over to my poetry, and I guess to my prose as well. I'm not much for hidden meanings. Deep plot points are okay with me, and subtle hints early in a book that become critical later for importance, but not those poems where you have to unpeel umpteen layers to figure out what the poet is saying. I like it plain and direct. What I've learned of the craft of writing, in turn, has worked back into my engineering writing, especially business letters and reports. I'm always looking to avoid passive language in my business prose, avoid excess modifiers, and try to make it more interesting.

What aspect of literature really moves you?

The writer's ability to make an unsympathetic character interesting, either in fiction or prose. I won't mention specific books, but I have read a number of them where a character is destable because of his/her actions or beliefs, yet by the end of the book I am almost on his/her side because the writer has done such a good job of character development.

Do you write from the heart or from the mind?

From the mind. My definition of poetry builds on something Wordsworth wrote: Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of emotions of the heart, remembered in tranquility, which find their way to paper or pixels only after a lengthy stop in the brain.

Why did God make David Todd?

That question has yet to be answered fully. To worship Him. To serve Him by serving others. To proclaim His message in everything I do. To develop my mind as fully as it can be developed.

How has God worked through you in the lives of others?

I witnessed to my sister, and she later accepted Christ as her Savior. I was chairman of the building committee at church, for a $2.6 million dollar project. Otherwise, I just hope the life I've lived and the example I've set have been a positive influence towards the kingdom of God on others.

Do you play any sports?

In high school I played football (end and defensive end) and ran track (half-mile and mile). In adult life I've played only softball. I'm now at the age and in physical condition that I don't play any competitive or recreational sports any more. Well, maybe a little ping pong from time to time.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

I suppose it was the two weeks during senior year in college when I tried to be a short order cook, and failed miserably. Or, it might have been junior year in college when I worked a week at a yarn factory, and couldn't get the hang of the machinery. In adult life, the four jobs I've had have been good.

What’s in your CD player right now?

At home, some Christmas CD. At work and in the pick-up, I don't have CD players, only cassette tape players, and I rarely listen to cassettes, preferring the radio. I'm not one to purchase the latest gadget. I don't have anything that will play an MP3 file (whatever exactly that is), and I don't go off and buy a CD player when a cassette player does just fine. My preferred music is of a different era, and I have all I need on my cassettes. At home, we have one CD player, and all of our CDs have been picked up at thrift stores. It is all Christian music, not the rock kind.

You seem like such a cerebral and even-keeled guy. Under what circumstances do people around you get to see the less-composed side?

I get riled when people question my integrity or intellectual honesty. I hate arguments and fighting, and really struggle to not return anger for anger. I've seen two Internet poetry communities die because the poets fought each other. How silly. So I have decided to live my life on an even keel, taking this Bible verse to heart: As far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men." Romans 12:8

If you were on national TV for thirty seconds, what would you say?

I can't really answer this, because it would depend on the context. Would it be engineering? Christian practice? Literature? Genealogy (my hobby)?

And, should I ever write my autobiography, I fully expect the title to be, "The Journey Was A Joy".

12-15-2008, 08:17 AM
When did you start writing? What prompted you to give it a go?

I only started writing with any intentional of getting published a few years ago. I always enjoyed writing, or, to be more specific, I enjoyed the creative aspect of coming up with ideas. I never gave much thought to doing anything with it. Then one day I had an idea I particularly liked and sat down and wrote a novel, or the biggest part of a novel. Like many people who have never written much except in school, I thought the hardest part of writing was coming up with a good story idea; once you had a good story in mind it should be relatively easy to write it down. Well, no, it’s not quite that easy. The novel I wrote, as far as the writing itself was concerned, was awful. I still have that novel written in longhand in a dozen or so notebooks somewhere. I can’t even bare the thought of rereading it. Someday I might try to go back and redo it (I still think the storyline is good, and original), but I’m in no hurry.

Anyway, I decided that if I were going to do any more writing of a serious nature I better learn more about the craft. So that's basically what I’ve been doing. Writing and more writing. Trying out different things, different genres, different approaches. I have had only a few things published so far; I really haven't submitted all that much. I'm still working to be a good writer, not just someone who writes.

Who are some of your influences?

That’s a tough question. I’m sure I’ve been influences by any number of authors, but I didn’t really think about it much at the time. Some of the ones that I can actually point to as being influential as far as fiction is concerned include W. Somerset Maugham, Raymond Chandler, Poe, Thomas Wolfe, Carson McCullers, and the short stories of Ernest Hemingway and a host of others as I've always enjoyed short stories. I also like Sherlock Holmes stories, and to a lesser degree Agatha Christie, and those may have been of some influence on the mystery stories I’ve written.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? What types of personalities do you best relate to?

That's another tough question. I don't have a favorite in mind. I think I relate to the type of character who is a bit of a loner, or at least goes his own way; who is maybe searching for something (even though he might not know what); a character pursuing something that's more understandable to himself than others; a character who is willing to take calculated risks. I know he's not fictional, but if he were I might have said Thoreau. Walden has always been a favorite of mine. Some of Hemingway's characters might fit the bill, as would some of those by Jack London, Raymond Chandler, Jack Schaefer, Thomas Wolfe, and even Maugham (the main characters in Of Human Bondage and The Razor's Edge comes to mind).

Tell me a little about your day job in engineering. How does it jive with your writing? Is it a creative draw or boost? Does it give you free time to write?

Unfortunately, there is little in the way of a symbiotic relationship between my work in engineering and writing. I work for a major structural engineering firm (literally, billions of dollars of construction every year), and while the projects can be interesting and impressive in a certain way, I don’t find the work very fulfilling creatively. Another 20-story office building? Yawn. I used to work more in the architectural field, but switched over to structural engineering some years ago (it’s a long story). Still, my job is relatively secure, and I make a reasonable amount of money (enough that I plan on retiring early in a few years), so I can afford what I need and don’t have to spend my free time fretting over such things.

Over the years I have learned that a job can take all your time and energy if you let it, so I try not to let my job do that. I’m one of those people who has to have a fairly large amount of time alone (as does my cat) and time to work on the things I enjoy, and that’s also a factor in how I try to conduct my life. On Friday nights, after a long workweek, I often go home and turn into a vegetable. I don’t want to go out with friends, or even answer the phone.

Retiring: Tell me something that you plan to do or would like to do in retirement, something that your friend's wouldn't expect out of you.

Write, paint, fish, walk in the woods, maybe volunteer at either a school or the local art museum (I went through their volunteer training program a few years ago but decided I really couldn't make the time commitment), build a house, travel a little, be lazy . . . be really lazy. There's probably nothing I could do that would surprise my friends all that much; most of them are well aware that I follow the beat of my own drummer . . . even though I sometimes think my drummer is either drunk or half nuts.

What would you like to write, but haven't tried? Any plans to try? What are you currently working on?

I’ve at least tired my hand at most of the genres and types of writing that I’m interested in, so I don’t see myself expanding in a new direction very much. I would like to try a novel again since most of my work so far as been short stories (both general fiction and different genres), children’s stories, plays, and screenplays. I keep putting it on my “to do” list but haven’t done much towards it so far. Some day . . . maybe.

I’m currently working on a novella for the Black Orchid story contest. I also did a number of children’s stories during the summer and submitted them to major publishers (I also have a number of other children’s stories that I have not submitted anywhere, or didn't quite finish). I probably need to go back and see if any of these stories can be improved and possibly resubmit them somewhere else. The usual time to wait for a reply for a children’s story is four to six months and it’s coming up on that time frame. I find that letting a story "age" often allows a writer to see the story with fresh eyes. It like the writer is just "too close" when he or she is first writing it; later they're able to see their own work more objectively.

What is it about children's stories that you're drawn to? Do you try to teach a lesson? Why or why not?

It's partially a matter of remembering when I was a kid and loved to hear or read a story, and partially because I like children and like to make them smile. Generally I don't set out to tell a lesson, but it often happens. For example, one of the story I wrote last summer was about a kid who wants a new bike but his mother can't afford it. Instead he's given a rusty old bike by one of his neighbors. At first he's disappointed, but then all of his friends pitch in and help him to shine up the bike until it's as good as new. The old bike is actually a rare and expensive bike worth many times what a typical new bike would cost and the boy is offered a lot of money for it but the boy won't sell it because now it's special for more reasons than just being a great bike. In the end, it turns out that having good friends is better than even the best new bicycle. I didn't set out to tell a story with a moral; it just happened to work out that way. I did make a point of NOT adding a good lecture at the end about the importance of friendships (it was tempting to do so); I wanted the story to carry the message by itself. If a reader found that message in the story, great; if not, then I hope they enjoyed the story anyway. By the way, I submitted that story to a well-known children's publisher but haven't heard back from them . . . so it might have been a great story anyway. I think I'll resubmit it somewhere early next year.

What do you read on a weekly basis? (Newspapers, blogs, magazines, etc…) Why do you chose those sources?

I usually glance at the morning paper, and read a number of special interest magazines (writing, ancient coins, financial, home design). I don’t read blogs unless someone posts a link to a blog with a bit of information I might be interested in. I just don’t have much interest in transient reading; that is, reading something that I would forget all about in a week or two, or which does not provide me with solid information or entertainment. That’s why I just scan the newspapers. I really don’t care what a New York Times columnist’s opinion is of the auto bailout or George Bush or Timbuktu. There's too many good books I'll never have time to read; I don't think I'm missing anything by not reading about another train wreck (to take a nod from Thoreau).

My main reading is books, either nonfiction or fiction. I guess I read about 60% nonfiction and 40% fiction. Some of my nonfiction interests are house design, history, nature, biography, and, of course, writing. I subscribe to The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Script, and a couple of other magazines devoted to writing, as well as read books about writing.

Whose biography do you find most compelling and why?

I assume you mean the person whose biography it is, rather than who has written the best biography. In that case, Robert E. Lee. A few years ago I made it 3/4 of the way through the Lee biography by Douglas Southall Freeman (the four volume set), and I've read other biographies of Lee as well. Some of the other biographies I've read and which have stayed with me include those of Churchill; Teddy Roosevelt; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; and many painters, writers, and historical characters

Has living in TN influenced your music choices? In what way? Have you always lived there? If no, where else?

I don’t really think it has. My dad was a big country music fan and when I was little we would go to a lot of their shows. I got to meet a lot of the performers who were “big names” at that time; back then it was easier to meet them. You basically just walked up and said, “Hi, I enjoyed the show.”

When I got a little older I was a rock music fan as were 98% of my friends. I like groups like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, the Stones, that sort of thing. Of course, Nashville is the home of country and gospel music, but most people don’t know that Nashville has a world-class symphony orchestra, or that it was once a center of soul and R&B (less so now).

Living in Nashville, I’ve met or become friends with a few of the people who are well-known now (Keith Urban probably being the biggest name among them). We try to keep that sort of thing low-key here. If someone who lives in Nashville sees a “star” in a restaurant or store, the acceptable thing to do is to leave them alone. Of course, tourists are not expected to follow this "rule".

I have lived in Tennessee most of my life, except for a time when I was going to college. I like living in Tennessee; I love the rolling hills and mountains, the lakes and rivers, the hardwood forests, and, for the most part, the way of life here. It's not perfect, but then no place is. I would like to spend a year in Europe some time, especially around the northern Mediterranean (southern France, Italy, Greece, Spain). I don't really enjoy traveling when I'm just going somewhere for a week.

Tell me about someone who changed your life. In what way? How do you feel about that person, now?

Well, I could say my parents, who not only changed my life but created it. Instead, I'm mention one person who was been important to me--my best friend Cheryl. We have been friends for over twenty years; we have seen each other through good times and bad. Even though we have different interests about some things, we always enjoy sharing time together. We have never intentionally hurt each other. She knows if she calls tonight and needs me I'll be there; if I call and need her (as I very much did one time), she'll be there for me. A true friend is worth their weight in gold. I think Cheryl and I have a very special relationship. Oh, my other "best friend" is Melissa (so much so that we refer to ourselves as "big brother" and "little sister", My wedding gift to her was her wedding dress. I think I've said enough about friends however; I'll save this for another time.

I know you like to cook, so describe for me your favorite meal. And why? Who do you like to cook for?

I don’t know that I would say I like to cook so much as I don’t mind it and it can be fun at times. I like to be able to go home and cook anything I want. Here lately my favorite meal has been a big pot of chili! I don’t know that I really have a favorite meal (other than the always popular steak, burger, and pizza). Basic southern cooking and Italian are probably my favorite types of food, but I like a variety of other ways of cooking. In the past couple of years I’ve become a bigger fan of Middle Eastern/Northern African cooking (but don’t ask me to name many dishes just yet).

Cook for? Ha! I’m a single guy -- I take women out to expensive restaurants. My female friends have no qualms about letting a guy buy them dinner, trust me. ;-)

You've mentioned that you enjoy art. Who are some of the artists that you're drawn to (ha!) And why? Have you ever tried throwing a brush to canvas? Why or why not? And with what result?

I like the old masters (Rembrandt in particular), the Impressionist, and art of ancient times. I’m less interest in “modern art”.

I have tried both watercolor and oil painting, but I’ve done more drawing than painting. When I worked in architecture I was often the guy who did the presentation drawings for a proposed building; this was done using a number of varying techniques. If I had more free time I would probably do more drawing and painting than I do now. It’s hard to fit everything into one’s life.

One comment. People will sometimes talk about being “in the zone”, a sort of effortless, subconscious mindset while doing something, whether it's writing, or drawing, or playing music. When I’m doing a drawing I can easily get “in the zone” very quickly. I have had this happen when I was writing from time to time, but much less so, and not as fully or as intently as when drawing.

And last but not least: Why is Alleycat your user name?

My last name actually is Alley (as a few people already know), so Alleycat has always been a natural nickname for me. When the Internet came along and I was always needing a username, I just choose Alleycat. I’m alleycat on probably a dozen forums. Oh, and I do have a cat; a Russian Blue named Anna.

12-15-2008, 08:30 AM
When did you start writing?

I’ve always wrote, but for myself, never to publish. And I started a book club for 13 elementary students many many years ago. We invaded the libraries and read. Then we’d write, write and write. I had their works published in our local papers, had them write letters to themselves to be mailed to them on their 16th Birthdays. …Letters to the president, parents and each other. But we quickly morphed into a three dimensional facet club after I learned many of them simply could not change a light bulb and or boil an egg. I taught them about different cultures and traditions through reading and writing and how to boil the egg and change that light bulb. We learned about astronomy and I had them find their own star, name and write stories about their own star. More importantly, I encouraged them to do random acts of kindness for their families and communities. I decided when they turned twelve, to get the group; adult, infant and child CPR certified, then let them go. They protested, but in my heart I knew they had outgrown the club. They’d morphed into teens. ; )

What prompted you to try it?

My book started out as a childish diary to get through the emotional roller coaster I was experiencing at the time, then became a childish outline which I gave to William, the male protagonist inter-weaved throughout my book. To show him his own self worth and to thank him for giving voice to victims long silenced. But unbeknownst to me, William had taken my childish outline to an author and famous film producer in N.O. in 2006. They told William, “this lady needs to learn to write, tell her to go to IUniverse.” I was furious, embarrassed, but in the end grateful. The words were wise, indeed! Except for the IUniverse thingy. ; )

Was there an author or person who inspired you?

I come from a long list of ancestral authors, artists and composers, so maybe somewhere along the line, I inherited some of those creative writerly genes, at least I’d like to think so. And I can get inspiration holding a piece of old slate, looking at a muddy river or digging in my garden.

I know you write some poetry and we'll touch on your memoir, is there anything else that you enjoy writing?

Yes, I enjoy short stories and dabbling in children’s as well. And I generally will pull life lessons into all my writing.

Where do you usually write?

If I’m trying to work out serious problems in my writing, I head to my farm retreat. Otherwise it’s a small dining room nook I’ve carved out for my office. I have stain glass windows and the sunlight streams in and I can see trees and sky.


I can interact with my family and see my two pound puppies romping about outside.

Do you listen to music during the process or do you prefer to be undistracted?

Music, eclectic, no borders and crossing every genre, and played very loud. For editing I prefer quiet.

Your new book, The Unbreakable Child, is due out in April 2009. What was your writing process like, in writing your memoir? Did you find it cathartic or difficult? A mix of both?

The book was nourished with tea, typing n’ tears, I like to say. And thousands and thousands of hours of mistakes and learning to correct is not cathartic. It became painful. Even more so, I had many agents wanting it, I just couldn’t deliver--move it from 3rd to 1st POV at the time. Finally, in April 2007 a wonderful agent wrote me a letter and said, “Kimmi, for the fourth and final time, I’m sorry to say, I must again reject.” I looked at that letter over and over for a clue—a fifth chance, then jumped in my car and headed to the bookstore. For the first time since writing, I picked up a memoir, another, then another. They were all written in 1st POV! I just sat on the floor of the book store like a deranged idiot, tearing up, surrounded my 50 books, too dazed to even move. When I came home, I told my husband. He said… wait for it Sara, ready… husband said, “ohh, that’s okay, honey, just change all the words to I.”

And then came a big twist (the book had a few already, but this was for me, by far the biggest) at the completion of my work. There was a hint of it (this twist) in the book and I had to rewrite to expand on it further. It was a mind-blower.

There is much more I’d like to share with you and others, but news media is talking with me now for interviews and I’ve been advised to wait.

For me my big catharsis came from another on board here at AW. It was one of many first baby steps; a true healing to finally share with someone—someone who connected and totally understood.

After completing the manuscript, what surprised you most about the publishing process?

The ease of talking to those in the publishing world. They didn’t mind if I accidentally ‘sweetied’ or ‘hugged’ them. And the generosity my agent and publisher gave me over final say--control of my book. As well they always showed kindness and compassion. I guess from former tales and some advice on AW, I’d expected a somewhat edgier relationship.

Given the delicate subject matter and considering it's a story of your life, how do you feel, now that the book is out of your hands? Are you at all anxious about family and friends reactions?

Being an orphan and abused was my secret – and thus silence was my biggest ally, weapon for protection for me and my family. And, I kept all this from my family, children and closest friends, until I realized it was going to become an open book. Only then did I share with my children and start talking and even then—now; it’s more of a whisper. And to this day many of my friends still don’t have a clue. However, I did let a close friend of twenty years read the first two chapters recently. And she started sobbing uncontrollable. It scared me. I’d never told her I’d been raised an orphan etc… and I took the book away and found myself hugging HER and calming her, reassuring her that all was fine and I was fine.

I’d survived my childhood and when I became a young adult, I decided to educate myself on child abuse and its effects on me and others, dump my childhood baggage in the first trash bin, kick forward and survive what life had in store for me next. I simply didn’t want pity from anyone, or want to have childhood monsters peeking up from under the bed and grabbing my ankle! Still don’t. So, I try to remain positive, push aside any anxious thoughts and can easily be grateful for survival rather than bitter for childhood lost.

Do you have another project in the works? If so, what?

Yes, I have three, but have reluctantly put them aside to focus on the promo of this book. I’ve committed to advocate groups as well to touring etc. They say writers are only half way there when finishing a book—the other half is promoting. And it’s true.

Just a couple questions about you!

You are the self professed "Laundry Queen." What other talents do you possess that we may be unaware of?

I like photography and have been given national recognition and awards in the past for such.

What's your favorite meal? And why?

*laughs* There is no favorite; I like all foods except one. Oatmeal. And you can read the book on that take!

Tell me about a major non-writing related accomplishment.

I’m still working on this one, as I’m one that always has a never-ending task that needs accomplishing, which usually involves others. And I move quietly and quickly to try and move small mountains for others. These are my true major accomplishments; trying to change another’s life for the better.

According to your blog, you like to find ancient treasures for gifts or yourself. What would you consider your most prized possession?

It’s very true I love old--odd things and more so their history. But it is family that is the prize. Why? I hope you’ll read The Unbreakable Child and find out!

12-15-2008, 08:47 AM
1) In the on/upon thread, you said "(you are) ready and willing to learn any new way of looking at the art of writing" and that you would like to find a "knowledge base" to work from.

In your bio you mention that you are a scultor by occupation and that you are also a singer. Do you find yourself inter-relating these different disciplines and do these very different mediums influence the other? Do you see your own experiences in these other art forms providing you with a "knowledge base" to drawn upon?

Good question. :)
I find that everything in my past influences my art, no matter which medium I’m working with. One of the benefits of maturity is having so much history to call upon when I’m seeking inspiration. I find this is especially true with writing.
Singing is actually a byproduct of my habit of constantly listening to music. Music helps me enjoy life, influences the creative aspect of my work, and keeps me awake when I’m reading. :)

2) Assuming that you are very busy with your varied interests, how serious do you want to pursue your writing?

I find that the more I get into writing, the more serious I become about it. My confidence level is very high. I believe I will write books that people enjoy reading. I’ve been learning about life, love, honor, faith, and finding your path from excellent authors my whole life, mainly because I enjoyed reading their books. I intend to be that author for someone else.

3) In response to a newbie introduction, you wrote "when you put pen to paper, you take your strife in your hands". You said you authored this statement. Do you find that your writing works as a type of catharsis for you, as way of dealing with stress in your own life?

I’m a creative person. Much of what I do (creatively) is cathartic. I’ve found this especially true of writing. It’s not physically demanding. I work with stone. Every aspect of working with stone is hard on my body. That’s a source of stress that I can’t control beyond making leverage my friend and working with the best tools. Writing is relaxing, very much like listening to mellow music. Unlike stone, I can leave a problem area just like it is and come back to it when I feel like dealing with it. I find that very freeing.

4) As a sculptor, do you ever see a poem in something you are sculpting or, vice versa, something to sculpt in your poetry?

I can’t say that I have ever done that. I try not to get too impressed with myself. Hopefully, somewhere along the line, my work has inspired someone else’s poetic leanings. I might be okay with getting a big head over that. :)

5) What is your preferred genre?
A good thriller with a Sci-Fi edge will always catch my eye first when I go digging for something to read.

6) In the Dark Fantasy Query thread, you mentioned "a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon". Often, writers have certain habits that help them "get into" their craft. Do you have any habits or do any "mood setting" to get yourself into your writing?

That was just me being a goof. :) To answer your question, though, I’d have to say that I haven’t yet developed any habits or mood setting techniques to get me ‘into’ writing. I hope I never do. I think it would portend the beginning of the end.

7) In the Remembrance Thread, you paid respects to Michael Crichton. You mentioned that you had been "reading or watching his work for more than thirty years. If you were in your 20's when you became familiar with his writing, do you believe his work would be appealing to 20 year olds of today?

Jules Vernes’ “Journey to the Center of the Earth” was published in 1864. It’s most recent cinematic remake came out in July, 2008 and was very successful. Some authors possess the rare talent required to create stories that have a timeless nature. I believe Michael Crichton to be one of very few authors about which this can be said.

8) Is your WIP, The Risen, your first attempt at writing a novel?

No, and yes. I took up writing when I was twenty, wrote a number of short stories, penned lots of poems, and started a novel. I spent two years in prison, so I had the time. Part of my generally misspent youth.
My current two WIP’s are a much more serious effort to write, finish and publish a novel. A third effort has possibilities. I’m actually most excited about the middle piece, in terms of having found my voice. It’s moving very well, and I have betas asking for more. :)

9) As a sculptor, and family person, when do you find your most opportune time to write?
During meals. My wife and I are big readers, and have always enjoyed our reading time at meals. Now she reads and I write. I also write at night. Like now. :)

10) Does your novel pull you away from your bread-n-butter work? Absolutely. I have a much harder time keeping my nose to the grindstone, knowing I have characters waiting for me.

11) Do you have a set schedule where you alot a specific amount of time for each craft? Asked and answered. :)

12) Your join date at AW is only 8-12-08 and now it's 12-08-08, and you over 500 posts. Quite a few of those posts are in various games and prompt threads. I and others have expressed how addicting AW can be and how easy it is to pass the time "just playing". Do you feel you are on AW purposfully most of the time or do you find yourself just killing time?
I usually go on and check the games first, then get to more important business. I enjoy reading SYW posts and offering critique, but I don’t consider that playing as much as learning. Every time I point out something another writer did right or wrong, I learn from it.

13) So far, how do you feel about your time spent here at AbsoluteWrite and the people you've "met" here?
Time spent on AW has been enlightening, fun, and extremely valuable as regards efforts to improve my writing skills. It’s an amazing ‘place’ to hang out, learn from and share.
Nearly everyone I have interacted with on AW has treated me with courtesy and generosity. I try hard to offer the same and contribute something of value to the site.

14) Besides haiku, prompt/games and your novel WIP, are you interested in trying other writing projects? I’m beta trading with a couple of other writers from AW, but I’m trying not to spread my available time too thin between additional projects.

15) Would you recommend AW to other writer friends?
Of course. It’s an incredible resource for any writer. I feel blessed to have all of the advantages of a site like AW at my fingertips. It’s offered me a real step up. Any writer could benefit from this site.

(Addendum to My Interview With Donkey)

Would you like me to use your real name? Probably not. It's best not to have your real name out there too much. (on-line)

Where are you from? Airforce brat, so all over. I attended 25 different schools between grades K-12.

Where do you live now?Oregon

I saw that you are in the Write A Lie About the Person Before You Thread alot...........and there are some pretty intriquing rumors that could get started in that thread. Could you please confirm the following:

1. Did you once sing a duet with Barry Manilow?
Or anyone else, for that matter? I only duet with my wife. What kind of guy do you think I am? Did I just ask a trick question?

2. Can you or can you not do Spock eyebrow raises? Do you attempt to do Spock eyebrow raises when in front of your bathroom mirror? Yes to both. One follows the other, unless you are muscularly challenged and without talent.

3. Are you secretly a Trekki? There's no such thing as a secret Trekie. People can tell. So, no, but yes.

4. Do you or do you not sometimes pretend to be Dr. Phil?
How did you feel when you asked that question? Did it make you sad or angry? Can your mother come on the show? Does anyone take your advice? You know what's funny about that? They don't take my advice, and then they expect me to take directions from them. The gall! Besides, nobody really knows how to get to Hell. Do they?

5. Are you at this time attempting to become pregnant so that you can be the second pregnant man? No, but I am lactating, and that's working out great so far. You know how expensive milk is. Why would you want to? I hear the benefits are awesome!

6. Were you ever really a pretty pony? HandsomeHandsome! pony. What happened to you? Sunning with baby oil. Quel désastre!

7. And, is it true that you are 100% ass? Good question. Should I ask your wife? Not unless you want every disgusting detail. Ask at your risk.

(If you could just help clear up these little misconceptions, it will help to deter any of this information from ending up in the AW rumor mill.)

Elaine Parny - kdnxdr

12-15-2008, 06:35 PM
I’ve read a lot of meerkat’s poem’s and his profile but I like him anyway. Seriously, I’m happy to contribute a slice of meerkat, even if it is a day late; I assure you it is not a dollar short!

1. What is your most vivid childhood memory, and how old were you when the event occurred?

My elementary school class in New Jersey took a brave, ill-advised field trip to Shea Stadium to watch a Mets game. I say ill-advised because some foolish twerp always wanders off to the bathroom in order to gawk at the vendors' nonsense, then cannot find my way back to wherever the seats were. After wandering around a little, I just selected a portal to pop out of (some would call this a lifelong modus operandi), and looked up at the thousands in the crowd. At that exact moment, my classmate Nickie B. stood on his seat to cheer, raising his head above the dozens of rows of gray adult blobs in front of him. This level of rescue-by-synchronicity has always been a reliable feature in my life.

2. Were you ever "obsessed" with a book or movie, such that you read or watched it repeatedly?
Many movies actually fall into this category, but I would say that the one I most frequently choose to watch when I have the house to myself is Saving Private Ryan. I was lucky enough to see it the first time in a near empty theater equipped with surround sound. The empty shell casings sounded as if they were falling on the floor behind each audience member's head. In my opinion, this movie best captures every aspect and emotion of army life, and best lets every generation know what horrors and sacrificial decisions are at stake.

3. Please give the name of three authors, poets, artists or musicians (any combination) whose work you admire or influenced you.
I have always thought that Alice Cooper and Donald Fagan were the two most under-appreciated musicians of our time. Okay, of my time (my kids call me Seventies Man, and I wear that badge proudly)... I learned how to play the guitar, playing along with the eight-track tapes of both artists (in lieu of studying, in both high school and college). The writer who has influenced me most is Ray Kurzweil. His brilliant work The Singularity is Near is the most astounding and instructive manual we could possibly have in our hands at this remarkable time in history.

4. Share a brief story about a really exciting time or moment in your life.
My midlife crisis was a humdinger. In a matter of weeks, I grasped "divorced, unemployed, homeless debtor" from the jaws of "rising community leader." That was a dozen years ago, and I am still crawling back. I can take no man seriously until this phase of his life is behind him.

5. Please contribute one poem that you've written.
Every poem I've written has been done here. The one of which I am most proud would be this:


such fragile marvels we
whose moods so freely swing
such drunken marbles we
whose paths once tempted err

what paper tigers roar
shored by unwitting allies
what shapes so quickly crush
or hold, with one choice word

Peace be with all of you, my fellow AW members!

12-15-2008, 06:42 PM
What questions do you dread that I'll ask?

“What’s your most embarrassing moment?” I’ll NEVER answer that! Only two other people were there; one was my best friend, and the other the stranger who witnessed the dreadful thing. As a result I’ll never forget this stranger. It happened on an ocean liner, I was 16, and that’s the only thing I’ll reveal!

Name some things that make you smile.

Cute babies, puppies and kittens. The ocean, a starry night, roses, mountains, the full moon, a tree in full blossom… you get the picture!

What excites you about writing?

Creating characters out of nothing, making them come to life, finding their stories and letting them live on the page.

What's it all about, Alfie?

The short answer:

I believe in love, Alfie.
Without true love we just exist, Alfie.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie.

The long answer:

OK, I’ve thought about it some more and decided I can’t leave it at this; it’s far too impersonal. So I told Poet to hold on to the interview so I can elaborate on the “Alfie” question.

If I’d been born to normal modern parents today, they’d probably put me into therapy. I could sit for hours doing nothing, and I refused to talk to anybody but my parents and close relatives. Once an aunt actually (Horror!) heard me speaking ) (I’d forgotten she was sitting in the back seat of my dad’s car!) and it seriously freaked me out! The only things that interested me were books and animals, though I did have a few close friends. When I sat all alone gazing at nothing or curled u[ in a corner I was actively thinking deeply about myself and my place in the world. I was trying to figure out things like “what are thoughts made out of?” and “what is in the space between two thoughts?” and “what makes me separate from other people?” but I found no answers.

Later I read all the books on philosophy and psychology I could find but I got no answers there, either. I’d been raised atheist so I got no answers in religion. So I decided to be cool like other girls my age, and became a party girl. All that happened was that I was far too square and insecure for boys to like me, so I ate too much to compensate for not being liked, developed a eating disorder, and got very fat. Boys called me the “Brown Bomber”, which didn’t help. I also smoked and got drunk a lot. My mother (she raised me alone) was very permissive so I could do anything I wanted, and all my friends who had strict parents thought I was lucky. But I was very unhappy.

By that time I was working as a staff reporter for the leading Guyanese newspaper, and they used to send me out to interview interesting foreigners who came to the country. One of these was a Yoga teacher from Switzerland. Long story short, I began going to Yoga classes and the very first class turned me around. I left it feeling as light as an air bubble, and in the weeks following as I kept up the practice I dropped all my excess weight as well as stopped drinking and smoking. And then I began reading the philosophy books related to Yoga, and they answered all my questions I’d had as a child; they were more concerned with the practical side of self-discovery, self-knowledge and self-improvement, rather than theoretical philosophical questions on the meaning of life, so it was right up my alley.

Another long story short, in 1973, aged 22, I left Guyana and travelled to India. I had no money but somehow that sorted itself out. I went via Switzerland, where I met some friends and worked for a while, and we all went together overland via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan. We arrived in India on a day when the war with Pakistan had ended (or at least a ceasefire had been agreed upon). And at the India-Pakistan border there was a red carpet laid out for returning soldiers and everyone else, and people were cheering and throwing flowers on us and blowing trumpets. That was how I entered India.

The place I went to was in the south, in Tamil country, and it was a journey in itself down from the north, but I made it and it didn’t disappoint. The following year was the happiest in my life. I lived mostly in a tiny hut at the foot of a hill ,without plumbing and electricity, living on very little, but I was gloriously happy. Back then the place was undiscovered (though famous in Indian antiquity) and there were few people, and they were all like me. I made some lifelong friends, Indians and Westerners. Now, the place has unfortunately become popular and it’s overrun with hundreds and thousands of people, especially at full moon, and had become all touristy with all the negative issues that brings. It still remains special to me, though, and I go as often as I can. It’s my home.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Back in my school days, we studied a new Shakespeare play every term, and from every play we had to learn at least one speech. We learnt sonnets by heart, as well, including this one. That doesn’t happen in schools today; at least, my children didn’t have to do anything of the sort. It’s a damn shame. When we learn such superb writing by heart our minds align with the greatness behind it, takes on the very shape of greatness, if only for a moment. It’s the very best training for a writer, both in terms of writing skill, and in terms of reaching out for grand ideas. The yearning for permanent love, permanent beauty, permanent fulfilment is perhaps the driving force in my life. Something beyond the ephemeral. Maybe I caught it from Shakespeare.

Is there a dream that used to flash like twilight lightning for you, but hangs limp in memory now?

I remember sitting, as a child, maybe seven years old, on a sunny Caribbean beach at Blanchisseuse, Trinidad, and being overwhelmed by the grandeur and vastness of the sea before me. It was a feeling of perfect, exquisite happiness, complete in itself, and I’ve carried that moment around with me ever since.

It doesn’t hang limp in memory at all, I can recall it at any given moment, and it’s as real and alive as ever. I’ve always wanted to return to Blachisseuse, and even investigated the price of property there recently! I don’t believe that it’s a dream that will come true, though, and it’s wrong to tie it to a particular place; the truth of that moment was that happiness quite literally is inside one.

"For the most part, people are... " what?

“…people want to be loved and respected, no matter who they are. Scratch beneath the surface, and that’s what you’ll find.”

How do you like your narrative voice to come across: what emotion, manner, outlook - what type of person - do you convey in that voice?

Most of all, writing is a manner of expression for me, a way of communication. As a child I was always a shy, withdrawn person, awkward and silent, too introverted to be understood. I desperately wanted to have a voice; at times I felt I was brimming over with things to say, but no words or medium of expression. I felt there was a huge space between me and everyone else. A lot of the time I felt stupid and inferior to others, especially popular people who always had such brilliant things to say, who were funny and eloquent and natural; that was what made them popular, after all! And I was just a wallflower. Writing was a way of bridging that gap. I found I could tell stories, and everything I ever wanted to say came out in that form. I was able to come across as strong and adventurous and even witty.

Is that person a reflection of you, either in reality or in some ideal or alternate persona?

It’s asif, when I’m writing a story and am caught up in the magic of creation, the shy, insecure me vanishes and the real person stands up; as if the writing me is the real one, and the everyday one a fake.

If you were to remain one age forever, what age would that be?

For a long time I’ve looked forward to being 80. It’s an ideal age for me. I believe that life is about learning and growing, and I dearly hope that when I turn 80 I will have reached a degree of wisdom and compassion that will allow me to live forever, a calm, wise, gentle old woman who people turn to when they are troubled! I wish I could just skip the intervening years, as I think they will be tough. That kind of ideal doesn’t come easy.

Does 'being a writer' effect any changes in you, any expectations of yourself in terms of character or manner -- anything other than writing itself?

Well… when I was first published I had to do all sorts of things to which I was totally unsuited: meet and impress industry people, give readings, talk to journalists, give radio interviews and once a TV interview, and once or twice, a workshop. So I was forced to come out of my shell, and I did try very hard to be that public persona. It’s important, I think, not to put on an act in such cases, but simple speak from the heart, which is the course I took. Most times it worked. But I will never be that perky, witty chatty person so beloved by today’s media. I guess I’m too serious, incapable of small talk. I’m more of an ivory tower sort of person, and would dearly love to change that.

What are the characteristics of a writer - the way you'd like to be seen and remembered as a writer?

I just want to write books that move people, books that live on in their minds, and if possible even change them into better humans. I’d like to write novels that people remember and pass on to others. I’m more eager for my characters and their stories to be remembered, than to be remembered myself.

But it might be over. Since finishing my last novel (sixth!) earlier this year I haven’t felt the least urge to write another. I don’t even feel as if I should be writing another: no guilt. I look back and everything seems trite and inadequate. Maybe all my stories have been told, and I need to go in a different direction. Non-fiction appeals to me, and Hindu mythology. Maybe it’s just that I am weary, as at the moment I’m carrying quite a few loads that have nothing to do with writing.

Are there any reading experiences you've had (emotions, epiphanies, impressions, etc.) that have shaped your conception of how you'd like your readers to react to your own works?

When I was about 19 I read a great book called The Book of Mirdad. It was one of those “What’s it all about, Alfie?” books; written by Michael Naimy, a Lebanese writer and intellectual who was a close friend of Kahlil Gibran. It bowled me over, both by the beauty of the language and the wisdom of its content. In a nutshell, it taught me that “we live that we may learn to love. We love that we may learn to live. No other lesson is required of man.”
The last lines of the book suggest that there is room for a sequel. The greatest thing for me would be to write that sequel, one worthy of its predecessor. Till then, it’s just scribbling.

Do you finish books you don't like? What do you get from them?

No. Life is too short. I throw them against the wall with a scream of torment.

Describe your favorite or ideal writing mise en scene -- that is, how, where, when you like (or would like) to be situated when you're writing.

An octogenarian, sitting on a wicker chair in a beautiful rose garden in India, under a honeysuckle pergola, with my favourite mountain in front of me.

You're a multiple-published novelist. What inspires you to switch gears and write in other forms?

One of my next projects is an autobiography of a famous politician from my country, Guyana. I know her, and I have her permission. But I do find switching gears very difficult indeed. I tend to want to dramatize everything, add my own salt to her already very spicy life, but I get the feeling she would not like that. She’s a very pragmatic kind of person, and I am not. So before I even start I have to kind of strip down to the bare essentials and just concentrate on the facts of her life. It’s not going to be easy.

Of the questions that you hoped I'd ask but didn't, which would you most like to answer? (Go ahead, then!)

This will sound like treachery, but if I had the choice to be a different kind of artist, I would take it… and I’d be a musician. I’d play the violin, or in a far second be a singer, and I’d play the most exquisite music ever heard on earth. For me, music is an even clearer self-expression than words; it’s direct speech, straight from the heart, without the need of interpretation through the brain. Just exquisite!

12-15-2008, 06:43 PM
What questions do you dread that I'll ask?

Now, if I were to name them, I’d feel compelled to answer them in defense of why I didn’t want to in the first place. And yes, I do that much mental tail-chasing all the time.

Name some things that make you smile.

The moon in the daytime. When I was about six or seven, I decided that seeing the moon in the morning on my walk to school meant good luck, that it would be a good day. I’ve never been able to keep from smiling at the moon in a blue sky ever since. Other than that, I don’t smile at all. It causes wrinkles.

What excites you about writing?

Finding a particular order of words that makes the thought in my mind solid and textured, so it looks on the page just the way it felt in my head.

What's it all about, Alfie?

It’s all about the travesty of Michael Caine being the most underrated hottie of all time.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Why not? I’m often humid and make greenery wilt.

Is there a dream that used to flash like twilight lightning for you, but hangs limp in memory now?

I think know what you mean, unless it’s a literary reference that is showing me up for the trailer trash I really am. It’s a hard question to answer. Most of my dreams are like that, vivid right up until I try to relate it. I do a lot of lucid dreaming, which is being aware, as it’s happening, that it’s all a dream. I can mostly change, stop, rewind, and jettison my dreams as it pleases me. I’ve never had to have that falling dream since I figured out how to do this. I didn’t realize that everyone didn’t lucid dream until I was in my twenties.

Or wait, did you mean ‘dream’ as in ‘aspiration’? If so, then no, I’ve always been short of ambition.

"For the most part, people are... " what?

A pain in the ass. That’s why I count the ones I enjoy as worth their weight in diamonds.

You often write with a first-person voice. How do you like that voice to come across: what emotion, manner, outlook - what type of person - do you convey in that voice?

So far, I’ve conveyed three different people in the first person: a fledgling ghost, a corrupt police officer, and a woman who wants nothing more than to be suburban normal, but she’s got… um… obstacles. So, when I think of this question, the answer that comes to me is that we can’t be anything other than the axis of our own lives. We are essentially egocentric, even Mother Theresa, because that’s how the world is – one life at a time, everywhere simultaneously. I want to portray that one-way filter of fundamental solitude.

First person is play-acting, and I think probably the easiest way to get prose to ring true, if you do it right. So sadly, I probably use the first person point of view because it’s an easy way out. That’s Path-of-Least-Resistance-Perks and she comes with all the accessories shown here.

I do have a novel nearly done that’s in third person, though. And it turns out I love that just as much as first person, if not just a teeny bit more.

Is that person a reflection of you, either in reality or in some ideal or alternate persona?

Sure. I think every person I’ve made up has hatched from some dream egg of my own laying. I’m greedy. I want a thousand lives. So, until my plan for body-snatching and soul-eating is realized, I live through these tendrils of my daydreams. Inventing adversarial situations and ways out of them is wonderful mental exercise. I think it makes our lives larger in a very real sense.

What’s really great is that I live just as fully through characters that other people create as I do my own. When a book is well-written, I absolutely ache to be in that fraternity, to be one of the people who can do that for others – create bigger, better playgrounds for their minds to run and fall and get dirty and push and shove and win and lose. All from the comfort of their very own bed, bus seat, airport terminal bench, hammock… you know.

If you were to remain one age forever, what age would that be?

Ha! I used to pretend that my Barbie dolls were twenty-eight. Always twenty-eight. I don’t know why. Twenty-eight was a good enough year for me, but as far as what age I’d like to stay forever, I haven’t hit that yet. Physically, I’d like to reverse gravity by a dozen years or so, but barring that, there’s always Botox.

Does 'being a writer' effect any changes in you, any expectations of yourself in terms of character or manner -- anything other than writing itself?

I expect of myself that I have to try harder than other people to make sure that fantasy does not supplant the reality that whooshes past me all day, every day. I can rewind my dreams, but I can’t rewind Thursday. Plus, if I’m mindful, I can use it.

What are the characteristics of a writer - the way you'd like to be seen and remembered as a writer?

That I was good. That’s all. I desperately want to be good at this.

Are there any reading experiences you've had (emotions, epiphanies, impressions, etc.) that have shaped your conception of how you'd like your readers to react to your own works?

Oh yes. The most obvious one is a book that hasn’t been published yet. I trade work with a guy who is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever read. Watching his book glitter as he tapped facets into it was the most inspiring thing I’ve ever witnessed.

He got both elements of fiction so right. It was a riveting story told through the most gorgeous words possible. And he knows what in a scene is most worth relating. His fly-on-the-wall is the greatest cinematographer of all time.

If I could do that…

I resist imitation as best I can, but everything I read, from the shampoo bottle to the next book in the stack on my shelf, can be chock full of examples of what I’d like to achieve or sins against verbiage that I hope never to commit.

Do you finish books you don't like? What do you get from them?

Sometimes. What I get out of them is the shame of being so damned cheap that I’ll throw good time after bad money.

Describe your favorite or ideal writing mise en scene -- that is, how, where, when you like (or would like) to be situated when you're writing.

I love my office. When this house was built, there was a small error in the plans and this room ended up smaller by two feet in both length and width. We tried using it as a guest room, but in all honesty, it was really more of a guest cell. So I moved my office area in here and it’s perfect. I’ve vowed only to have things I love in this room. Everywhere I look, I smile. Oh shit. I just betrayed my answer to question two as a fib. Sorry.

My husband asked if it bothered me that the room was too small to accommodate a chair for someone else to sit in, to keep me company. But the answer is – not at all. Mine, mine, mine, all mine. If you want something from me while I’m working, you’ll have to stand at the door and feel like a pest.

So, the short answer to your question, now that I’ve wandered around the block, is: any time, day or night, in my office with the window open and the neighbor’s dog not barking. It has to be quiet.

What inspires you to switch gears and write a poem?

I love it when that happens. It’s just a phrase that’ll pop into my head, a sideways arrangement of a point. Then I’ll build on it from there. And it’s funny, I very much prefer to write prose on the computer, but I have to write poetry by hand.

Of the questions that you hoped I'd ask but didn't, which would you most like to answer? (Go ahead, then!)

You didn’t ask me what my favorite flavor of ice cream is. Other than that, this was a really terrific set of questions and I really enjoyed working out the answers to them. Thank you.

Oh. It’s mint chocolate chip.

12-15-2008, 06:44 PM
<watch this space!>

12-15-2008, 08:09 PM
Disclaimer: I conducted this interview via IM. If things wander a bit, that's my fault as a newbie interviewer! I had a lot of fun interviewing Sean. Here's a cleaned up transcript of our conversation. (Cleaned up because I'm really awful about asides and tangents, lol)


Cranky: What is your favorite author? Why? And, what is your favorite genre, and why?

SPMiller: I'm most widely-read in speculative fiction, including works categorized as "literature" but are really F/SF/horror. Within spec fic, I prefer to read fantasy and science fiction over horror, but am fine with all three.

My favorite writer is hard to choose.

Cranky: Well, then how about your top three?

SPMiller: That's a little easier. I like Roger Zelazny, George R. R. Martin, and Margaret Ogden--each for slightly different reasons.

Cranky: Can you elaborate? You don't have to write a whole bunch about why, but maybe the biggest reason for each?

SPMiller: Sure. Zelazny is an excellent prose stylist, and he's the wittiest of the three by far. Martin is the best at characterization and plotting. Ogden handles perspective and character-immersion (especially in first person) very well.

Cranky: Would you say any of these three is the biggest literary influence you have? If not, who is? Or do you feel you have one?

SPMiller:I'd have to give that to Zelazny. Certain of his works really connected with me, and as a person he was apparently a hell of a guy.

Cranky: Which one of his works is your favorite, or which do you consider to be his most influential for you?

SPMiller: Well, like many F/SF fans, I discovered him through his amber series. He wrote a number of other novels, of course. He was one of the new wave guys, and although I haven't read all of them, some of them were amazing. I'd have to say it was actually a short story of his that hit me in the gut back in college that got me hooked on him: “The Engine at Heartspring's Center”

Cranky: Do you consider yourself primarily a novelist or a short story writer? Do you prefer one over the other?

SPMiller: I always aspired to be a career novelist. I have a lot of years ahead of me before I achieve that goal, but that's my target. Most of my writing output has been novels, simply due to their length, but I've written dozens of short stories as well. I don't, however, see much in common between those two forms of writing. Novel-length narratives are a totally different beast.

Cranky: What do you see as the main difference? I have my own theories, of course, but this is about you!

SPMiller: I haven't given that question much thought, so my response may be simplistic (and therefore wrong), but I feel shorts are more about style than substance. You don't have much room to build up a strong plot with unique characters and a distinct setting; you basically have to piggyback on genre tropes. So, shorts end up being "idea" fiction taken to an extreme. You have a quick hook into a very brief conflict, then you're done.

Cranky: So, to put it another way...there's more room to maneuver in a novel-length piece, to add more substance/complexity to the story? Is that why you (apparently) prefer writing novels to writing shorts? Or is that just the difference, as you see it?

SPMiller: That is indeed how I see it. I feel like the novel form allows me to really spread my wings as a writer, to use a hackneyed expression. As an addendum to my last response, I want to point out that I often write much darker fiction than most of my peers.

Cranky: Oh? How so? (I'm thinking of your living skeleton guy, by the way, and that was awesome!)

SPMiller: I’m usually struggling to free myself and my stories from the constraints of genre conventions.

Cranky: Can you give me an example? Then I have one last “writerly” question for you.

SPMiller: Well, to use some examples from that very story you mentioned, I wanted to write about an undead character that wasn't a vampire/werewolf/whatever. I had him start out in his coffin as a means of intentionally building up the reader's expectations that he turn out to be a vampire, when he's actually more lich-y. From that point forward, I used blood as a motif, but never in a vampiric sense.

Cranky: Yes, I remember. It was very effective, and definitely different.
SPMiller: I wanted to show how one might use blood in ways other than those often used by writers of vampire fiction.

Cranky: I think you succeeded with that. The story sure stuck with me.

SPMiller: If you want to throw that last writerly question at me, I might take a shot at it.

Cranky: Are you subbing this [the above story] around anywhere? (Gawd, if you aren't, I might have to slap you) And how long have you been writing seriously?

SPMiller: You just may have to slap me, then. I'm an unremorseful perfectionist, and something is missing from Hostus' tale--but once I find out what it is, I'll be subbing that story

Cranky: You'd better, dang it! Would you say that's a pretty fair representation of the work you try to do in your novels?

SPMiller: Yeah, I make a very deliberate effort to avert (if not subvert) spec fic tropes. I like turning convention on its head and showing it for the silliness it is.

Cranky: Oh, what a rich answer THAT was! :D
SPMiller: I've often said that escapism is too important to spec fic in general, which I'm sure wouldn't endear me to my audience if they knew I said that. And now that I've said it in this interview, it WILL be known!

Going back to your earlier question really quickly, I wrote my first novel when I was in the third grade. That's age nine, for those of you outside the United States.

Cranky: How long was it, and what was it about?

SPMiller: I'm not sure. I filled two spiral notebooks before I reached the end. One of the girls who sat next to me in class got a hold of one of the spirals and couldn't stop laughing. Allow me to assure you it wasn't because I was writing humor. ;)

I've been writing ever since. Sixteen years, I guess. but I didn't get serious about it until October 2007, when I swore that I would lay my ego on the line by making a straightforward, honest attempt at producing a saleable novel.

Cranky: And when do you anticipate (or have you already?) have a novel ready to query agents/publishers with? (And then for the fun questions)

SPMiller: That novel is still out to two beta readers at the moment. I had hoped to have a "final" draft ready by 2009, but I think it'll take a month or two longer than I expected.

Cranky: But then you'll be submitting?

SPMiller: Phew. I wish I felt that confident. Really, I'm nervous, but I intend to submit anyway.

Cranky: Well, good for you. You should. Okay, now...the most important question of them all! Original trilogy, or the "first three" of George Lucas' Star Wars saga?

SPMiller: I have no idea what you're talking about. As far as I know, Lucas only directed A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This talk of one trilogy, much less two, utterly confuses me.

Cranky: Awesome. Perfect answer. :D You're a software guy, right? Do you have a favorite techy gadget?

SPMiller: As far as software guys go--well, let's just say I've been called a Luddite. My true loves are language (writing, you see) and mathematics. Don't actually care much for software engineering, but computer science as an academic pursuit interests me. I didn't even get myself a cell phone until about halfway through my cs degree. That wasn't very long ago. Maybe four or five years, If not for my friends bitching me out for not having a cell phone, I probably still wouldn't have one.

Cranky: So, no favorite tech toys? A surprising answer.
SPMiller: I'd say my favorite tech gizmo is... the computer. I like tinkering with them. always have. that's how I ended up in CS. I carry weird tools on my person at all times, as well as a pair of black ink pens.

Cranky: Weird tools? Such as?

SPMiller: The pens are for writing, but the tools are for dealing with whatever odd situations arise whilst working on computers. Well, not all of them would be smiled upon by employers or lab managers if I described them in detail, but they do come in handy at times.

Cranky: Ah, so they're sooper sekrit tools? Fair enough, I won’t pry. LOL So...if you had the ability to do anything at all, what would it be? That can be superhero powers, or anything mundane that you don't know how to do but wish you did.

SPMiller: The ability to do anything? That's broad.

Cranky: Well, let's say if you could have any particular talent, then. and as a companion (and final question) do you have any hidden talents that most people don't know you have?

SPMiller: I'll restrict myself in my response--obviously, choosing to be god would open up all other possibilities.

Cranky: Ah yes, no genie, no god.

SPMiller: Talent. I did okay with music, but I've always been terrible at visual art. Can't draw to save my life. I think in pictures and have a very vivid imagination; it'd be nice to be able to put some of that on paper in some other way than words. If I could choose any particular ability, I'd like to be able to understand other people, what they're thinking/feeling.

Cranky: You'd like to be empathic or telepathic?

SPMiller: To an extent. Not so much that I'd be tempted to eavesdrop directly on their thoughts--that should be sacred--but the ability to better connect with people would really help me out in many ways.

Regarding hidden talents, I'm just not sure. People often know me either through my tech/cs/math skills or my writing skills, and they express shock when I reveal my "other side". I try to hide my video gaming skills, but I don't think that'd count as surprising.

I haven't tried recently, but I could probably burp the alphabet, or read a short story entirely with burps

Now that's an endearing talent, I tell you what.

Cranky: That’s all I’ve got, Sean. Thanks for talking to me!

SPMiller: Not a problem.

12-15-2008, 09:23 PM
Same disclaimer as above! :)

Cranky: First are some writerly type questions, and after that, I guess I'll just have to wing it and see what comes up, if that's all right by you.

Medievalist: Sure.

Cranky: First things first....and forgive me for such an ignorant question, but do you write fiction or non-fiction?

Medievalist: :D I am currently making my living writing, but I loathe and hate and detest writing. It's too much like work. But other than working on early games, and sometimes brainstorming with writer friends, I don't do fiction. Teaching is much much easier.

Cranky: And you teach medieval history? Or literature? Or some other thing I haven't thought of?

Medievalist: English comp/writing, of various sorts, and English lit from 800 to 1832, otherwise known as The Good Stuff.

Cranky: So, that's where the moniker comes from then, I assume. Do you have a favorite writer from that era?

Medievalist: Anonymous :D In all seriousness, everything anyone would want to know about me is on the Web. http://www.digitalmedievalist.com (http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/)Really!

Cranky: I assume, then that you'll list your favorite contemporary authors there, too?

Medievalist: Somewhere there . . . it's a pretty big site. SF mostly, Cherryh, Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Donne, and then really early anonymous stuff--the Welsh Mabinogi, Irish myths.

Cranky: And then there is your blog on reading Stephen King. I know a little bit about how that came to be, but if you wouldn't mind explaining it a little more, that would be great. And also if you wouldn't mind telling us which one of his works you ended up liking the most -- or if you ended up liking any of them at all!

Medievalist: I'm still reading King. Here's what happened.

I was the worlds longest writing dissertation student. Ever. And around 2005 or so, Mac got to talking about King and how much she loved him. And I'd really not read anything. So we made a deal that I'd read her suggestions when I finished the Ph.D. (Mac wrote her M.A. thesis on King's Pet Sematary). So I passed my defense in May, and she sent me this &$ (*#&& huge list. Which she kept adding to . . . so far, Pet Sematary is my favorite. I've umm . . . well a blog post turned into an essay. A long essay. [cough]. Maybe twenty or so pages, not counting footnotes.

Cranky: LOL! And correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you originally start this project in the spirit of reading it for fun? :D

Medievalist: Umm . .. well. Yeah. But King is really really smart, and fun, and interesting--and he's actually very very sophisticated as a writer. He's deliberately playing off Hawthorne, and Melville and the Brontes, for instance.

And he's scary as hell. I won't watch the movies. And I won't read him at night before going to bed.

Cranky: I don't blame you for avoiding his work at night. Which one scared you the most?

Medievalist: I'm still reading the farking list . . .but Misery, I think. So far.

Here's the current version of my homework:

List I
> The Dead Zone
> Pet Sematary
> The Shining
> IT
> The Stand
> Dolores Claiborne
> Bag of Bones
> Lisey's story
> Duma Key
> Intermezzo
> On Writing
> Danse Macabre
> List II
> Salem's Lot
> Skeleton Crew
> Cujo
> Christine
> Misery
> Rose Madder
> The Green Mile
> Bag of Bones, then Lisey's story and then Duma Key.

Cranky: When you're finished with your homework, are you going to write any more essays on his work? And what do you have currently in the pipeline that you can talk about?

Medievalist: Right now, I'm I'm blogging for hire :D And not under my own name. It pays the bills. I really really do loathe writing.

Cranky: And yet, you do it. Why? A serious question, because I loathe it at times, too, and I don't get paid for it. Yet.

Medievalist: Because I can get paid for it, fairly easily. And particularly when I write about technology. Plus, I moved from SoCal to Washington, after I finished my degree, and I got writing work right away; a tenure track teaching job, or a geek job, takes a bit to find right now.

Cranky: And I would suppose that have some pub credits are a good thing to put on your resume, for sure. Publish or perish, yes? So, if you didn't have to write...what else would you like to do besides teach?

Medievalist: Yep. They are. And honestly, the life of a roving lecturer, someone without tenure, is miserable. If I didn’t teach, I’d develop software. Particularly content based software-- things like multimedia editions.

Cranky: Okay, explain that to the tech-challenged. Namely me. :D Multimedia editions...like interactive content?

Medievalist: Digital Shakespeare and Chaucer :D Things like a video performance, with an annotated text, and comparisons of video clips and essays. Like this: http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/bibs/mackers.html (http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/bibs/mackers.html)Which is now more than ten years old-- but still is the industry standard. It's hellaciously fun to teach with things like that.

Cranky: I can see why…it would appeal to all kinds of learners. I take it that this is currently too much of a niche thing to provide a steady gig?

Medievalist: Well, it used to. . . but a lot of the problem is that current technology can't do what we did way way back in the '90s. We did things like annotated Beethoven symphonies.

Cranky: Why ever not? Is it copyright issues? Compatibility problems? I know, I'm going off on a tangent here, but I'm really curious as to why.

Medievalist: It's two issues: one, rights now, those things are much much harder to obtain. And two, the basic technology. But we're getting closer.

Cranky: That's something you'd like to be a part of, with the software development?

Medievalist: My last job I created software for "cognitive fitness" -- essentially brain exercises for people in the early stages of Alzheimer's. So,yes. Even just text-based e-books.

Cranky: Oh, wow! Okay, before I take up too much more of your time with silly questions, I have some other questions. Where is the best place you lived, and why?

Medievalist: I grew up in very rural N. H. but I'm loving the Pacific Northwest. I love the weather, the people, the culture. So I'd say Washington, around Seattle. We have grapes, and grain, and cattle, and salmon, you know? What's not to like?

Here's just how much I love Washington: http://somethingpacificnorthwest.blogspot.com/

Cranky: Do you follow this blog or contribute to it?

Medievalist: It's all mine. :D I umm . . . I'm sorta a blog expert. It's part of the geek stuff. Community management/content management.

Cranky: Do you hire yourself out for that on a project basis? I could see that being a pretty lucrative gig.

Medievalist: Yep. :D It's way harder than teaching--even than teaching comp classes with all the grading and conferences--but I can make reliable income. So that blog, that's just because I needed to try some new stuff in Blogger's blog spot, and if I have to write, it's less miserable if I can write about something I'm interested in. And teaching--honestly, I think I may learn more from my students than they learn from me. They do most of the work, after all.

Cranky[/B[B]]: If you could have any ability that you currently do not, what would it be? And god-like powers are out. :D

Medievalist: I'd love to be able to drive a car. Really really love it. I'll never be able to though (poor vision and no depth perception, at all).

Cranky: A particular kind of car? Or just to be able to drive, period?

Medievalist: Just be able to drive. It's really not safe, and in some states, not legal. I can't pass the vision test. And honestly, the world is better with me not driving.

Cranky: Fair enough. :) Do you have a talent that maybe most people don't know about? Or an unusual hobby?

Medievalist: I can tell lots about a person's life just by hearing them talk.

Cranky: Really? Like, though linguistic tics, or something like that?

Medievalist: Yep. Dialect, education, lots of stuff. Partially just by having a good ear, but also, from training.

Cranky: Ah. So that helps you place people, to remember them? I imagine that would actually be more accurate than physical appearance anyway, since that changes so often. That's a pretty handy skill to have as a teacher, I would think. Any other ways you find it helpful?

Medievalist: Well, I really really can't see...and part of the problem with that, and dyslexia, is that facial recognition . . . well, I suck at facial recognition. But I do remember voices. And I really am dyslexic. So the %&*($* letters and words, even on a computer, are shape-shifters.

Cranky: Do they really do that? The symbols, I mean? I'm horrifyingly ignorant about dyslexia.

Medievalist: Yeah, they really do. It's . . . they shift, and move around. They don't even stay in the right order. I fell in love with computers because they had spell check, even on mainframes.

Cranky: Okay, and one (maybe two) last question: what do you consider to be your biggest achievement?

Medievalist: Finishing the %&(*$&8 Ph.D. and not killing a single faculty member! It was truly heroic.

Cranky: ROFL! What was your dissertation on?

Medievalist: It's about fairies. :D http://www.lisaspangenberg.com/scholarship/gfp/dissertation.html It’s boring as hell. The thing about a diss s that you don’t really get to write what you want. You get to write what the committee will sign off on. Then you revise it, and publish a book, and make semi-bitchy remarks about your committee in the footnotes. ;)

Cranky: I've got a good pile of reading material just from this interview! :D Thanks! And last question: Who was your biggest influence, either personally or professionally?

Medievalist: My mom, actually. After that, probably a scholar /rhetorician named Richard Lanham.

My mom is a Southern Woman :D She's 88, grew up in rural South Carolina, is rigorous, honest, polite, and demands more of herself than of anyone else. She left home at sixteen, and by her twenties was working in civil service in Europe.

Richard Lanham is retired from UCLA; he was a renaissance specialist, who mostly worked in the field of rhetoric. I was his RA for years. I learned more about how to write, and teach writing--or really, teaching people how to revise-- from him and his books.

I made this for RAL: http://www.rhetoricainc.com/ (http://www.rhetoricainc.com/interstitial.html)

Cranky: Awesome. Thanks very much for all the links and for your time. This was a lot of fun. :)

Medievalist: I can't imagine anyone not being bored out of their skull by me.

Cranky: Well, trust me, I am not bored, and I know there are people looking forward to seeing the interview, so I hope I can do you some justice.

12-15-2008, 10:08 PM
You moved to Australia, how many years ago?

Fifteen - I landed in August 1993. Six AM on Saturday morning, caught a cab to my corporate apartment, which was at one end of the Harbour Bridge. I got into the room, stowed my luggage, and hunted for an open cafe. I ordered a long black and toast with Vegemite - started in straightaway with the heavy fare.

I've been in love with Sydney and Australia ever since I set foot here.

And it was a contract that took you there?

Yes - I worked for an IT services firm (you'd know them) and came here for a three-month TDY. I was here to write enhancements to the mobile phone billing/customer care system for a large telco. The enhancements were to enable billing for a new service: SMS.

Your blog has a fantastic list of things you love about Australia. The wonder and fascination with the place is still there after all this time.. And you fell in love with it never left. Tell me about that.

I'd be delighted - but it's love, so it'll get boring if I go on too long. Here are a couple of snapshots:

Flying into Sydney is spectacular; the harbour reaches into land through the Heads, and the inlets finger in among the hills. Sailboats dot the harbour, and tiled roofs dot the foreshore (well, 'carpet' is more apt, but still, they're terra cotta!). Sun glints off the water in a way that, for me, feels warm even in what passes for winter (whoa, better put on the long-sleeved shirt!).

The seafood is exotic and delectable - would you have guessed that a Balmain Bug tastes very much like lobster? The coffee is espresso, but they have their own varieties - long blacks and flat whites are usual alongside the cappuccini and lattes. Sydney's beaches are gorgeous and accessible - and people are outside all year.

People drive on the other side of the road. When you hail a cab, you sit in the front. Even the money is beautiful -- there's a poet - Banjo Patterson -- on the $10 note.

People do say "G'day". They play several codes of football.

They tell you what they think - straight up. You might argue about it, but then you finish. It's over, and you're having a beer. No worries.

It's an absolute perfect place to fall in love with a sensational redhead and bring up two hilarious redheaded kids.

Do you miss The States?

I've never missed a place in my life. I miss my family, but only when we part.

Are there particular things you miss?

I get sentimental about America as Home - Little League baseball in Ohio country towns; summer in Wyoming; 3AM diner meals; used bookstores in college towns. New England clam chowder.

But it's all still alive for me. Ironically, I feel that I have more American friends, across more of America, now than I did when I lived Stateside. *Yes, good people of AW, I'm talking to you.*

Are you an American living in Australia, or an Australian who used to live in the States?

Great question. I'm on a continuum, and I think I'm a lot less nationalistic than I used to be.

When the US and Australia face off in sport, I'm in the green-and-gold -- this is my home now. I will never cheer against the USA, though; America is my homeland.

I'm lucky enough to have it both ways. That's not hypocrisy; it's love and respect.

Your job is a rather technical one, isn’t it?

In some senses, yes - in others, no. I'm a solution designer, which requires technical background, but which involves no actual technical work; I haven't written code at work in a few years. I write a lot of documents and have a lot of meetings.

That's both a relief and a frustration; building code that works is eminently satisfying; three-hour workshops are productive, too, but it sometimes doesn't feel that way.

And then your write poetry, which seems to be a vast deal different mindset than work. Does this help the writing by being completely different than your day job?

In a way, they are a relief from one another.
I don't know that my job helps my writing; if one has to suffer for one's art, then it certainly doesn't. It does liberate me from other concerns and has enabled me to find poetry, and this community of writers and poets.

I'm not sure about the whole idea of having to suffer for art. After all, as Martini Ranch asked in the 80's, how can the laboring man find time for self-culture?

And, as one of our most august poets here - William Haskins - has said: indeed.

How do you reconcile those two things?

I like to think I'm special - that I'm more than just my job. But that's hardly a unique self-vision.

In fact, I've come to find a former colleague of mine also writes poetry and hangs with poets. As it happens, he's brilliant and an excellent fellow. That reassures me that, whatever shadows I'm chasing here, it is meet and right for me to do.

I look at Mendoza’s and can see the calculations – attention to a detailed scene, precision of word choice, specific emotion and an exact scene and then I look at Mother, Wherefor? Which seems a far stretch from logical, but has such a strong meter that the details are in the numbers. You like writing form poetry and have tried your hand at Sestinas, Villanelles, and sonnets, among others. You also write free form. Is there a style you prefer?

That's amazing that you should mention these very two poems. Perks and I were speaking just today, and she mentioned the very same two.

I have this nagging feeling that one form or approach should make itself apparent to me, that I should have a distinct style. Trouble is, I can't find it.

Actually, that's not the trouble; the trouble is that I can't be okay with it.

The thing is that different forms, or non-forms, seem to suit different topics best. Sometimes I start with the form - for example, I aspire to write a sestina - then fill in from there. There is no reason that can't work.

Other times, I start with some word or turn of phrase. 'A Boy and His Taco' was the absurd challenge I set for myself one day: write about that, why don'tcha? So I did.

To be candid, I just can't define or guide myself to a single form. It's both my wings and my millstone.

I couldn't limit myself to any particular form; I have particular admiration at the moment for the modern sonnets I've read, such as those by cummings.

Does this carry over from that attention to detail mentioned above?

Probably. If I'm going to write a poem, I'm going to ensure that it's worth reading, or as close as I can make it.

There is *always* a right word, and the reader's time and attention are too valuable to squander.

Forsaking form is no excuse for inattention to detail; it's not enough to dump words on a page. The poet owes it not just to readers, but to her own vision, to make a poem worth reading.

I think that many people write poems because they can be very short and cathartic, and because formless poetry is very much acceptable. In short, anyone can be a poet, so anyone is a poet. That gets people in, which is marvelous; but it's not enough.

Poets should want to get good at writing poems - to get better at it.

Who’s your favorite poet?

I can't name a favorite. Outside AW, there's T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney, Dylan Thomas, Dorothy Parker, Richard Brautigan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Baudelaire, and many others. Inside AW, the poets whose works I love know it - I hope.

When did you first start writing poetry?

I wrote a couple of special-occasion poems in my late twenties. I didn't write poems in earnest until a few years ago.

I dabbled in it here, then got drawn in; poetry is a marvelous art, and AW is a fine community for it. There are a number of good poets here, and there are also people who are interested in discussing poetry. I started playing along, then before long, I was a poet.

What is it about poetry that you love to read?

It's the excellence of every word in place, the rhythm of the lines, the feel of the words on the tongue. It's the surprise of discovering majesty and magic in a small tale well told.

What is it about poetry that you love to write?

The satisfaction of building something beautiful within a complex form -- ideally, so beautiful that the form is unnoticed; it feels natural.

The hidden graft of getting the logjam of words out and frenetic, but in a just-so sort of way.

The thrill at a reader finding something I hadn't realised was there.

Do you have themes you like to use consistently?

Not that I know of; I'm not that organised. I actually have a very hard time writing to a theme, which is why I didn't get an entry completed for this year's Christmas poetry contest. I often can't coax a poem to meet a theme; the theme finds me.

Give us a metaphor that describes you.

A bag of marbles. I might amount to something if I could keep myself organised, but I'm soon off in every corner. I'm terrible at keeping myself together like that.

You have far ranging taste in music. Do you have a favorite?

I love this question. The answer changes all the time, and I'll give you a different answer tomorrow, but some all-time favorites are:
- Grateful Dead
- The Smiths
- John Coltrane
- The Specials
- Lyle Lovett
- John Lee Hooker
- Devo
- The Fall
- Everything but the Girl
- Led Zeppelin
- Grace Jones
- Duke Ellington
- Claude Debussy
- LV Beethoven
- Joy Division
- Mose Allison
- Thelonious Monk

You often quote lyrics. Poetry sometimes reminds you of song lyrics, or brings back a feeling of the way a certain song makes you feel. You have even written poetry about music (I’m thinking of that fantastic Jazz piece you did, The Ancients) You seem to maybe find music the same as poetry, only using a different instrument - words vs. notes. Is music another form of poetry to you?

Great observation. It must be. Poor lyrics destroy good music for me.

Tell me about the connection you feel exists between music and poetry.

The careful use of expected and unexpected elements to make the listener feel or respond. The involvement of both technique and emotion in the performance -- in both cases, technique is essential, but without emotion it is nothing.

Favorite song?

Instrumental? Probably Monk's 'Round Midnight. Or any of Debussy's piano work; both of these composers were utter alchemists.

Lyrical? Hard to pick one, but here are some:
- Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Can't We Be Friends?
- Grateful Dead, Cumberland Blues
- Everything but the Girl, Laugh You Out the House
- The Smiths, This Charming Man
- John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman, Lush Life (written by Billy Strayhorn)
- Cake, Comfort Eagle (fantastic example of Show, Don't Tell)
- anything by Joe Jackson
- anything written by Howard Devoto (Buzzcocks, Magazine, Luxuria)

I consider myself very lucky to have joined AW in a time when I could be patiently guided and mentored. I consider you one of those patient mentors. Always with a helpful critique, encouraging but honest. What is it that you enjoy about helping people get a grip on their potential inner-poet?

You're very kind, Trish. Thank you.

I've always derived a joy from assisting others to succeed - it's different from succeeding oneself.

Whatever I feel from writing something that's good - if I get there - is something I would hope other people can feel too. I get tremendous fulfillment from that.

Other poets always see things in ways I wouldn't have thought of, that I couldn't have done. Other people amaze me.

And the same question I asked William Haskins, what does potential look like?

A storm of coloured dots whizzing past your face. A pile of sticks and a ball of string. An obelisk with a blank plaque, and a chisel on the ground.

A baby.

Do you have a favorite word?


I mentioned earlier, and want to talk a bit more about Mendoza’s. It starts with a boy and his taco, doesn’t it? Tell me how this poetic place came about.

It does, and the original poem started as a dare to myself. I determined to write a poem, with no idea of a topic. I blurted this twist on a cliche onto a paper, then forced myself to write to it.

It’s so real to me in reading the poems, I’m sure it exists somewhere. One of these days I’ll find it. When I do we’ll have to meet for coffee and pie and talk some more. Can you give me any clues as to where I should start looking?

I would love to. This is my Australian paradox: quite possibly, if I hadn't moved here, I never would have set off the chain of events leading to me coming to AW. But now, well, here I am and there all of you are.

I took the name for Mendoza's from a Mexican restaurant in Port Clinton, Ohio, where we used to go sometimes in summer, when I came home to visit my parents. The town is something more like I remember Cody, Wyoming.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wish I would have?

Hey! I asked this question of my interview subjects. Excellent.

I feel like I should have answered the question, "So where have you been for the past year and a half?" Or, "Who shot your muse?" My muse is alive and fine; it is I who am lost.

Finally, it’s the day of listening. AW is listening. Is there anything you’d like to say to them?

Yes, but it's 4:30AM, and I'm fading. If I'm not making sense, you now know the reason.

Oh, yes: Love your own words, and love others' words just as well.

12-15-2008, 10:16 PM
smsarber interviews euclid:
Euclid is a fascinating character I met in Uncle Jim's thread . I shamelessly stole my questions from Yeshanu, who stole them from ShadowFerret; goes to show, never tell anything to a writer unless you expect them to use it!

Tell us a bit about yourself. What would you like us to know about you?

I have a masters degree in Mathematics and a passion for History. My working life was spent in computing and telecommunications in industries ranging from Oil through Pharma and manufacturing and including shipping. I was a computer consultant for 6 years.

What are you doing now? (Career? Married? Single? Children? Pets?)

Married, retired, 3 children (one of each).

When did you first realize you had a talent for writing? When did you start to believe it could be a viable career option?


What do you write? Novels? Short stories? Poetry? Non-Fiction? Which do you prefer and why?

Short stories (28 (8 SF) so far) and novels (3 so far).

What is your favorite genre to write in? To read in?

I like to write Historical Fiction. I read all sorts, but I love SciFi.

How do you generate story ideas?

I don't know; they just come to me.

Give us an example of a typical writing day.

I write from about 9:30 to 17:00 with a break for lunch. I try to do 6 hours every day. I usually write about 1,500 words each day. I keep meticulous records (in Excel) of word count for each day; it helps to keep me focused.

What are your strong qualities as a writer?

I'm good at Dialogue and Characterisation (my readers tell me).

Your weaknesses?

Everything else.

If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?

Brisbane, Australia, where my daughter is expecting twins in 2009 (one of each) !!

What inspires you to write and why?

Some stories just need to be told.

What is your favorite book and why?

HHGG (the first two books) by a country mile. It's difficult to say why.

What is your favorite genre and why?

Science Fiction. I've been reading it for years.

List your three favorite authors (any genre) and why?

A very difficult question. I could list 50.

Douglas Adams (you know why)
Samuel Beckett (master of dialogue and humour)
Richard Dawkins (yes, that R. Dawkins)

What do you think makes a writer successful?

Talent, hard work and a lot of luck.

What are your goals as a writer?

To write a bestseller and get it published in the next 2 years.

How long did it take you to write your book(s)?

Not counting the outlining part:
1. 3 months
2. 4 months
3. 6 months (so far) I started writing June 14

If you have published a book, tell us about your publishing success (title, publishing date and company, where it is available to purchase).

No such luck

What would you do differently if you could repeat the same publishing experience?

What have you learned about the publishing world?

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

R. A. Lafferty. A wonderful writer of whimsical SF

What is your favorite food?

Three piping hot Pork sausages in rolls with lashings of butter, washed down with Chilean wine (Santa Rita) and followed by profiterols and chocolate sauce.

What is your favorite color?


What is your favorite place?

The Grand Canyon, Arizona.

What is your favorite memory?

Can't remember.

If you could have any talent in the world besides writing, what would it be?

Playing the piano. I used to play guitar and harmonica, but the neighbours asked me to stop.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about yourself that might surprise people at AW?

Yes. No.

Thanks for your time and honesty.

12-15-2008, 11:31 PM
Sara's Interview of Clockwork (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=1326)

:) Here's the audio file for our conversation (http://www.roe25.com/aw/clockwork-sara-interview.mp3). We had far too much fun doing this. Chris was funny, engaging, and an all around pleasure to speak with. I have another 10 questions ready for him when his voice comes back ;)

Please "right click" on the link and save it to your computer to listen to. Enjoy!

12-16-2008, 05:05 PM
This is my interview with Puma, a fascinating well-read character, and a newly published author of Historical Fiction.

I see from your profile that you have a degree in American History, but I seem to remember from some of your posts that you are also qualified in some branch of archaeology, palaeontology, or anthropology. Is that correct?

Yes and no. I do have a degree in American History, but I would have to consider myself among the ranks of amateurs in the other fields. I've done a lot of studying, but it's been on my own without the accompanying credentials. I can rub elbows and do speak the lingo in those and actually several other scientific areas.

Would you like to list them?

a narrow piece of ciliate protozoology, aquatic invertebrates, tectonic geology - I'm actually pretty well versed in most areas of the natural sciences, native species, etc.

Is 16-3-3 your first published book? If not, what else have you published?

16-3-3 is my first published book. I've had a few articles published previously.

Do you have an agent?

No. Working on that for future works.

When did you start writing?

For fun, as a teen (The Devil Stallion and other equally now amusing stories). I've done a lot of technical writing over the years, but actually started seriously in creative writing less than five years ago.

Do you enjoy writing?

Yes. But it's also a challenge.

Who had the most influence on your writing?

My father who was an English professor (and published poet and author). When I was in college, I sent letters home weekly and always got a weekly letter from home. One week my letter from home was my letter to them back - all marked up in red - every flipping typo and missed comma!

What are you working on now? I have an idea it might be Science Fiction.

I have one novel in query stage, but part of my problem is what the heck it is - it's contemporary, ends as a thriller, but the underlying premise is The Seven Deadly Sins (and I had no knowledge of the Brad Pitt movie when I was working on this). I'm also in the process of reworking a scientifically accurate, slightly ahead of contemporary, novel which also ends as a thriller. And, because Festus issued another Western challenge, I'm going to be working on a humorous western piece to post about January 1.

So you like to have several projects on the go at any one time! Don't you find that confusing?

Actually I don't. I usually devote all my energies to one project at a time, but there are overlaps - obviously if I'm querying one and working on another. I try to work the AW challenges in to natural breaking points. After the first of the year I plan to devote all my time to the "sci-fi" manuscript.

What do you do in your spare time (family?, job?, hobbies? etc.)?

I'm still working full time but plan to retire at the end of the year (thank heaven's!). That decision was partly driven by needing to spend more time with my husband who has some health issues. We also have a daughter who keeps me on my toes. Hobbies - yes, you name it and there's a good chance I've tried it.

List your favourite authors/books (as many as you like)

All time favorite (which greatly influenced my life) Captain from Castille by Samuel Shellabarger (Conquest of Mexico). I read it when I was ten and from then on I wanted to go into archaeology. I also like many of the classics, actually like Doestoyevsky (although I probably mispelled his name), enjoyed reading all the Rafael Sabatini I could find. Of the more contemporary authors, I really enjoyed the early Crichton's - his later works just weren't on the same par with the early ones. Another more contempory was Arthur (?) Haley who wrote Airport, etc.

Have you always lived in Ohio? Have you travelled?

Always an Ohioan except when I was in school. I've travelled extensively in the continental US and Canada.

Is there something you would like the world to know about you?

My Dad pretty well pegged me when he autographed a copy of one of his poetry books for me - "a perennial wanderer on the uplands of romantic idealism"

Thanks, Puma and good luck with your projects-in-pipeline

01-06-2009, 01:10 AM
Though I don’t know why anyone would care to interview me I’m willing to go along. Some of the Mods said something about ‘playing ball’ and I got the drift. I’m only doing this because you’re so nice Suzie, how could I refuse? Well, that and the Mods not so subtle suggestion. Hope you have a lot of space this is likely to get long. So here we are and I see you brought chocolate; thanks. Ask away.

I am glad to have brad's answers from my interview. They're really interesting. Thx much, brad.

1. What is your favorite genre to write in and why?

I read most everything, from history and non-fiction to SF and Fantasy. I love poetry and have a few poems – lost a bunch in the great computer crash of ‘07’. Lucky for me I’d posted in a poetry forum and was able to go back and retrieve some of them; taught me a lesson in backing up stuff up on disc.

My WIP is mainstream/adventure fiction I guess you can call it. I like writing about the world we live in and I’ve been working on the WIP for years. It wasn’t until I interviewed this guy online who belonged to an organization whose purpose doesn’t necessarily involve freedom of choice that I knew I’d found the antagonists for the story. That was back in 2001 or ’02. After that I scrapped the first idea for the book and rewrote it. It’s finished but needs extensive editing.

2. What don't we know about you?

That’s a good question. Next. Just kidding. I’ve probably told a lot of it in the posts at AW - I’m pretty open about my life. I’m a firm believer in God and his love for us through Jesus. It’s what makes life bearable and gives me assurance that even in the darkest times we have hope. I’m not into religion by any means. Religion was something man dreamed up to keep people in bondage. The Pharisees of Jesus time is a good example – rules laid out based on Biblical principles to give them power over others. Knowing God isn’t about religion, it’s about a personal walk with God. Spending time with Him gives me great comfort, especially in these times of economic uncertainty. The financial crunch put a damper on business for now but God is seeing me through.

I’m in my 50’s and have yet to marry. Yeh, I know, to some that’s a stigma and others say I’m smart for not going that route. I watched some of my friends and both my brothers marry and divorce - that hurts a lot of people. I didn’t want to go down that road until I was certain. Besides, when I was younger I drank a lot and did pretty much anything that came down the pike. How could I offer that to a woman? I knew I wasn’t ready for a stable relationship. I stopped drinking and all that years ago; the best years of my life have been the sober ones. Maybe someday I’ll find someone, until then I just work on developing those talents with which God blessed me. He’s given me a lot of those, some of which are posted in my profile.

I am involved in my neighborhood group and sit on the executive board that is the umbrella organization that coordinates all the neighborhood groups. I’m also the Disaster Preparedness Coordinator for the neighborhoods and work with city and county disaster teams in case of emergency. We’ve put together an extensive neighborhood plan and hope to implement it city-wide. Some towns close by are also interested and I’m working on a booklet to distribute with that in mind.

3. Do you own any pets, what kind?

You know everything you’ve asked me means you have to listen to my stories, and of course one comes with this. Through most of my life I’ve had dogs – love’em - and I’ve had many. I thought cats were aloof and unlovable, until one crawled under a house I used to live in and started meowing. I dropped down a heating duct and put out food and water, didn’t want the darn thing to die down there. Long story short, she moved in and I’ve gotten along with cats ever since.

I have six cats. Now don’t think I’m that crazy cat-man down the street. This wasn’t all my own doing. I had a girlfriend who had four cats. She moved to Wisconsin and couldn’t take them with her so, me being a pushover, I volunteered to take them in. By then I had two of my own and now I’m that recluse bachelor monk living down the street with cats. Yeh, six cats is a lot and they are a handful, but I’ve grown to love them. I just love animals in general. I’ve had so many animals, including fish and a guinea pig, over the years and each one I lose hurts, but they’re good company. I’ve also become rather proficient in kitty herding when they mess up – round-up time to the basement. They forgive me.

4. Where would you like to be in five years with your writing?

You mean if the earth is still around as is? The Mayan calendar ends in December, 2012, and everyone knows that’s a pretty darn good indication the world will end. But I digress. I want to be writing full-time by then. After I get my WIP published, which will happen because the people who’ve read it says it’s great. We all know that with that as a recommendation on the book cover it’s bound to be successful. “Read this book because all of Brad’s friends love it! – Weekly Rag and Litter Box Liner -. How could that go wrong? I have the next book in mind and see a series in it. I’d also like to try my hand in other genres. I’m a history buff and wouldn’t mind doing historical fiction and basically write however God moves me.

5. How often do you write?

I try to write every day. It’s not hard in winter when business is slack, more so now with the financial crunch and everyone sitting on their money. When business is going good I don’t have as much time and am usually pretty tired when I get home. BOC (butt on couch) sounds better then than BICFOK (butt in chair fingers on keyboard). I’ve decided to make more effort writing and have several writing projects in the works; the aforementioned booklet on Disaster Preparedness and a monthly column in our neighborhood newsletter. Being around AW gives other ideas, as well.

6. Do you have any trouble finishing what you write?

It depends. Working on my WIP has been a long process, but when I got near the end I wrote almost non-stop. If the words are flowing I never want to stop the river. Now that it’s time to edit, the hardest part of writing, I’ve drawn back a little to let things I’ve learned at AW settle in. The feedback is great and has shown me a lot of weaknesses, mainly because I need to cut a 200,000 word book at least in half. I can be wordy as this interview is pointing out in a grand manner. Usually when I write I finish, an unfinished writing project is like a burr under my saddle. If I don’t work on it for awhile it looks at me pathetically like those things do, accusing me of being a slacker. Kind of like the Disaster Preparedness book is doing now.

7. Did you have a dream that came true for you?

Sure, but most of them have to do with personal development; those intangible things to better oneself that come on slowly over time as God works in us. The good thing about dreams is it gives us something to work toward, and when we realize one another rises. I have several now and time will tell.

8. How did you find AW?

Quite by accident. I was looking for agents since I’d completed my WIP and thought it time to get the publishing process in motion. AW popped up on one of those ‘Writer Beware’ posts and I followed the link. I started exploring the site and realized I had a lot yet to learn and do before thinking of looking for an agent. I joined and the rest is history.

9. What television shows do you like to watch?

I spend a lot of time listening to the news. Current events are an interest because it’s about the world we live in and my WIP has a lot to do with that. Fictionalizing the world today, I believe, helps to point out the inadequacies of politics and government, social values, and everyday things that affect our lives.

I also watch the History and Science channels on satellite TV. It helps to understand technology and what helped to shape modern times; important factors in the writing world. To relax I watch Sci-Fi, Fantasy, comedies and other shows of that nature; it helps expand imagination. I stay away from reality shows, they’re anything but reality.

10. Who is your favorite actor?

I don’t have any real favorite. Hollywood has gone downhill a lot. Most of what Hollywood has to offer these days is pure garbage, though once in awhile they surprise me. The best actors, as a whole, are the ones who were around as the industry grew. The actors I don’t care for are the ones who get in front of a camera expounding their lop-sided view of politics, thinking real people actually care about their opinion. It’s obvious they haven’t done research on their own or believe whatever it is the Hollywood crowd thinks is in vogue. Most are too liberal and their philosophies are based more on self than caring about others. I won’t go into far-left liberal views, I could write for days.

If I had to pick one I would say Paul Newman. I like most of his movies and his personal life reflected the goodness in his heart – a rare thing in Hollywood today.

11. What movie do you love the most?

I like a lot of movies and have quite a library of DVD’s and tapes. Yes, I still have VHS and a DVD player that handles both. Two come to mind as being personal favorites. One is the Lord of the Rings Trilogy - expanded version. Pete Jackson did a great job on that and I’m a special effects kind of guy. Though impossible to put Tokien’s LoTR in three movies, he did alright and came close to sticking with the original story.

The other is a Robert Redford movie, Jeremiah Johnson, about a guy who moves to the mountains because he’s jaded by life below to become a trapper back in the 1800’s, when America began expanding westward. I have a VHS of it and watch it sometimes. I’m amazed by the people of that time willing to undergo hardship to seek out a dream. We’ve become a somewhat complacent society in many respects and today not many are willing to take risks like Jeremiah did. It’s a good life-lesson movie.

Is that it? It didn't hurt much. May I please have some chocolate now?

Yes, you may. :)

12-11-2009, 08:43 PM
BUMP! Read again, laugh again, learn again...