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Archive for April, 2008

Author’s Bio:
Gabriella Goddard is a seasoned Success & Leadership Coach, an international speaker and the author of an inspirational range of self-help books, audio books and movie clips including:

• Gulp!: the seven-day crash course to master fear and break through any challenge
• Power Up Brand YOU
• 10 Ways to Fast Track Your Career
• “Remember” Video Clip

As a highly successful international marketing director Gabriella enjoyed an 18 year career spanning the globe including working in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, UK, France and New Zealand for companies like A.C. Nielsen and MCI/Worldcom. She thought her life was on track until one day a big change was forced upon her. The dot.com bubble burst and the start-up broadband company she worked for went bankrupt.

Overnight she was left without a job, an income and all the symbols of success that go with being a high flyer, including the expense account, swanky leather chair and big corner office.

This twist of fate was shortly followed by the devastating experience of a breast cancer scare. It forced Gabriella to take stock of her priorities and re-evaluate what was truly important in her life.

And that’s when she realized that the ladder she’d been so enthusiastically climbing had been leaning against the wrong wall!

She realized that true success comes from within. It comes from unlocking the innate talents and gifts we all have and allowing them to simply shine through. It comes from choosing to live our greatest life, one full of potential and possibility, rather than mediocrity. And it comes from knowing that we can make a difference, in our special own way.

So in 2001 Gabriella started Goddard International Ltd, a leadership development company dedicated to helping people to “leapfrog” to a completely new level of self awareness, professional growth and personal success by making fundament shifts in how they think, what they feel and what they do.

All it takes is a strong dose of inner clarity, vision, commitment and self belief. And Gabriella’s books, movie clips, coaching services and speaking topics are all aimed at catalyzing this shift.

Originally from New Zealand, Gabriella now lives a free spirited lifestyle with bases in London, New York and Spain.

Blurb:

“The book that could transform your life in one week.”

When you face a big change in your life…do you step back, or leap forward?

Most of us are scared of change. So when a cry for change is calling up from deep inside us, we tend to ignore it.

When change is thrust upon us by outside circumstances, we try to deny it.

We would rather have things stay the same. It’s easier that way.

But is it?

The trouble is, when we ignore and deny the natural flow of change in our lives, we rob ourselves of our capacity to grow and enjoy a more exciting and rewarding future.

Maybe you want to make a big career change or start your own business? Or maybe you dream of writing a book or learning the art of public speaking? Or maybe you feel the pull of adventure to trek Machu Picchu or work in an African orphanage? Or maybe you want to start dating again, get married, start a family or “find yourself” after the kids have left home. And maybe it’s simply time to be more confident, stand up to others and follow your own path in life.

Gulp! is the essential practical everyday guide designed to inspire real people to make real changes in their life. It provides a seven-day process that shows you how to turn your “gulp” moments of change, into opportunities for success.

Gabriella takes you by the hand and coaches you through:

• Recognizing the pivot points in your life that open the way to change
• Using your imagination to shatter the status quo – and do the things you never thought were possible
• Understanding the fear triggers – and the strategies to disarm them
• Cultivating the calm, well-being, and energy to overcome any challenge
• Turning off the naysayers, doubters, and those who hold you back

But most of all she will motivate you to STOP making excuses and START taking action – right NOW!

She’ll walk you through the step by step process and share real-life examples of how other people have faced and dealt with their own Gulp! moments.

Their stories are truly inspirational and show us all how to massively extend the boundaries of what we consider “possible” in our own lives.

Read my interview with Gabriella at Blogcritics.

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R. Leigh’s novel, The Winds of Asharra, combines elements of fantasy, romance, mysticism, and philosophy. In this interview, the author talks about her inspiration for the book, the creative process, and her writing habits, among other things. Most interestingly, she stresses the importance of a writer’s working environment.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What types of books did you enjoy reading?

Growing up. I read anything and everything, so favorites were changed as frequently as socks, making it difficult to answer. My favorite authors were really more like a variety of appetizers before a meal. My preferences for them would shift depending on my appetite or mood. One day, it might be the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs if my pulp adventure sweet tooth was calling me. The next day, I might be craving something inspiring like Lost Horizon by James Hilton. In general though, even with such a smorgasbord, my tastes ran toward the hopeful, the noble or the larger than life in the fantasy or science fiction genres. That having been said, it’s not surprising I ended up with a focus on the positive, mystical, fantasy and philosophical elements and attempted to create my own literary delicacy that included all of these ingredients.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

My current novel is called The Winds of Asharra and it is a 600 page opus that is a bit difficult to classify. It has more than enough fantasy elements (intelligent trees, evolved felines, musical dragons, etc.) to be considered a fantasy, but enough raw sizzle to be seen as a romance (with multiple happy couples by the end). It also spends considerable time outlining a complicated yet positive alien philosophy and culture. Yet, apart from all of those elements, it is a journey of self discovery really, both for the characters, certainly for myself and perhaps for the readers as well. As far as inspiration goes, I spent many years studying a variety of diverse cultures, religions and societies. Frequently, I would rejoice over the discovery of some little “nugget” of wisdom or example that people could really be in harmony with their world and be happy. However, the more tidbits I amassed, the more I felt ultimately unsatisfied, since the result was a crazy patchwork that didn’t quite fit together.

Asharra changed all that. This strange and sensual alien world, seen through the eyes of two American teenagers suddenly transported there, was my backdrop to explore the concepts of a better and more natural way of life. The term “Asharra” to the native Asharrans means “the home around us” and applies to their planet and every living thing on it. They believe you don’t even have to be born there to be Asharran, so long as you are natural and “true” (in their terms). Thus, when one native Asharran tells the two main characters (from Earth), “welcome home,” it is because Asharra is simply the home they have never seen yet. I suppose then, my inspiration for WOA was an idealistic dream of a better world and a better way of living.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It was definitely a stream of consciousness. Ten years prior to writing The Winds of Asharra, I had written a science-fiction book (now out of print) called 3 Passports to Paradise. That experience was the exact opposite of this one. I created the world, the plot and the characters in that previous work, by the proverbial book, taking all of the necessary steps that authors are told they should make. With The Winds of Asharra, it was the reverse. The words flew from my head so rapidly that my fingers could not keep up at the keyboard. I suppose you could say that the overall tone or setting for this book took ten years to subconsciously percolate inside my brain, but regardless, when I ultimately sat down to write it, I was surprised how easily the characters, the setting and the concepts flowed.

Describe your working environment.

I am very influenced by environmental factors, so surrounding myself in a “special” writing space is of paramount importance. Since The Winds of Asharra is set in a fantasy environment where things are larger than life, my writing atmosphere had to match. I painted my study a deep reddish purple, adorned it with dark blue drapes and started looking for posters of dragons or at least ethereal landscapes. There was always some mystical music playing in the background (David Arkenstone, Himekami, Enya or even Yanni) during the actual writing process. As the novel took shape, I even managed to acquire some life-sized props (large crystals for example) which are central to the story, to help “transport” me to my novel’s setting. It may not be the most conventional way to work, but it has been a greatly enjoyable technique.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Given the creation of this warm and cozy atmosphere (my writing study) that I just described, the subject of discipline was minimized for me since the atmosphere was so inviting. Naturally, the fact that I had 600 pages of nagging itch inside my brain coaxing me to allow those characters to “come out and play” was also a central factor. I did not have to laboriously set aside a specific amount of time or a specific amount of pages or words each day. Instead, I willingly found myself drawn into that world (or as close as I could come) and instead, had to remind myself to take lunch/dinner breaks, much to the amusement of my spouse.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Many writers quote the famous line “write what you know” as their personal mantra and favorite advise to pass along to others. I would have to tweak this and change its entire meaning. For me, it’s not a case of “write what you know” but rather “write what you feel.” If your work is truly to be a vibrant, living reflection of your inner passions and thoughts, it must be filled with your feelings, even more than your thoughts. Every one of the characters in WOA is someone (or something) with whom I can identify in some way, even if some of them are not even human! For me, caring about the characters is central and identifying with some aspect of them or their situations is central in the enjoyment of the writing (and hopefully the reading) process.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

At this point, it is difficult to say, since I am literally sampling many of the various methods simultaneously. It is certainly enjoyable for me to be interviewed or post on blogs since I hope that my own enthusiasm comes through. At the same time, I’ve been experimenting with book trailers, banner advertisements and even had some fun with some online chats and newsletters.

I’ve also taken the unusual step of actually offering an e-book of the Winds of Asharra totally free on our website. Naturally, we’re hoping that the readers will sample it (it is 600 pages long) and ultimately “upgrade” to the paperback or hardback editions, but for us, it’s about sharing this fantasy world and the inspiring story of the main characters. If readers agree, they will determine if it is worth parting with their dollars. Naturally, it’s available at the major online channels like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

Many authors loudly proclaim that their latest book is for everyone. We would like to add a caveat to that. While WOA is indeed designed for fantasy fans, romance fans and even New Age philosophy fans, it is definitely NOT for everyone. It’s not often you hear an author admit that. While we are very proud of the adventure and the humor we injected into the 600 page opus, (centering on the journey of Victor and Ionera, two earth teenagers, who arrive on this world of the purple sky) we must make one point clear. Since Asharra is a very natural and sensual place, The Winds of Asharra is definitely not for a pre-teen audience. We certainly hope that any Hogworts graduate of the Harry Potter books will explore the world of Asharra, but they must be of legal age. The excitement in WOA comes not only from the adventures but also from the sizzle between some of the characters. The joy of creating a crossover product is that it can include a much wider audience than just a single genre. However, we feel it is our responsibility to also point out the proverbial flip side, when an audience segment (in this case pre-teens) should be excluded. While we’re hoping that many readers will be “carried along” by the Winds of Asharra, we want to make certain that it finds the appropriate audience.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Sure. We’re located at thewindsofasharra.com.

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Black Magic Woman
by Justin Gustainis
ISBN: 9781844165414
Solaris Books
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Paranormal Thriller

Author’s website: www.justingustainis.com

Quincey Morris isn’t your typical private investigator. For one thing, he happens to be a straight descendant of Bram Stoker’s Quincey Morris. He also specializes in supernatural cases involving vampires, werewolves, succubis, and other terrifying beings.

In this first book in the series, Quincey is called to help a family who is being tormented by, supposedly, a ghost. On closer inspection, however, it becomes evident that a simple ghost isn’t the culprit, and that darker, more sinister and eminently dangerous forces are at work: a powerful curse dating back to the time of the infamous Salem witch trials. Together with his partner Libby Chastain, who happens to be a white witch, Quincey sets out to undo the curse in order to save the tormented family. The investigation takes them to Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York as they try to discover the identity of the black witch who is the root of all the problems. At the same time, innocent children are being abducted for utterly despicable reasons. Are their killings related to the curse? Will Quincey and Libby outwit the evil witch, fight the villains who work for her, and stop the murder of innocent souls?

Black Magic Woman is one of the most enjoyable paranormal suspense novels I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing recently. Black magic, witches, and a thoroughly sympathetic supernatural detective team, together with the plot’s many exciting twists and turns, make this book a thrilling and enjoyable read. The author combines elements of traditional witchcraft with Zulu fetish witchcraft–truly creepy, truly fascinating.

The protagonist possesses just the right amount of boldness and braveness, strength and sensitivity, and has the perfect sense of justice. He’s the good guy next door–except, of course, his job is investigating paranormal events and destroying supernatural fiends. The secondary characters are very well drawn as well: the villains are evil without being stereotypical. Indeed, the characterization of some of the minor characters, and not only the witchcraft, is what makes this novel truly terrifying.

The action doesn’t let up, and the ending is satisfying and will leave readers hungry for more. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the sequel, Evil Ways. If you’re a fan of paranormal thrillers/mysteries and urban fantasies, you’ll want to add Gustainis to your list of favorite authors.

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The Fountain Pen, April 2008

In this Issue…

From Mayra’s Desk
News
Articles

“Demystifying Virtual Book Tours,” by Mayra Calvani
Interviews
What Does Amazon’s Decision Really Mean?
Historical Novelist Catherine Delors
SF Author Phoebe Wray
SF Author Lee Denning
Romantic Suspense, NY Times Bestseller Author Lisa Jackson
Dark Fantasy Author Justin Gustainis
Illustrator K.C. Snider
Multi-genre Author Hill Kemp
Reviews
The Darkest Evening of the Year, by Dean Koontz (paranormal)
Monkey Trap, by Lee Denning (SF)
Jemma7729, by Phoebe Wray (SF)
Sleep Before Evening, by Magdalena Ball (mainstream)
Joey Gonzalez, Great American, by Tony Robles (picture book)
On the Go with Rooter and Snuffle, by Shari Lyle-Soffe (picture book)
Knowing Joseph, by Judith Mammay (middle grade)
Book Club
Resources

Read The Fountain Pen here.

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Lee Denning is the pen name of not one author but two–Denning Powell and his daughter Lee, who apparently make an awesome science fiction writing team. In this interview Powell talks about how they went about writing the first novel in the series, Monkey Trap, as well as other aspects of writing and publishing. The sequel to Monkey Trap, Hiding Hand, is scheduled to be released by Twilight Times Books this August.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

After 30 years of science and engineering and starting/running a consulting business, I decided to go back to my inner child. I Decided I needed a retirement job I could go to naked, so I picked writing. Not being totally wacky, I still do engineering work part-time to pay the bills. My daughter Leanne, poor dear, got sucked into the creative process and we write together, but she works full-time in the psych/marketing area.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Read everything from comic books to the Bible (well, a little). The earliest was Edgar Rice Burroughs, his Tarzan and Mars books, and Heinlein/Clark/Asimov was the next phase, I think.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

I conceived Monkey Trap in 1971 while I was in the Air Force, in a boring staff job at Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon, and actually wrote about 100 pages longhand. Then I got an opportunity to go upcountry with an Army Special Forces unit and life got interesting and I later got busy building a career after the Air Force so I put the thing down for 30 years. In 2001 I dug those 100 pages out of the attic and read them. The writing was crap, and I threw it all out, but the ideas were good: humanity is on the cusp of an evolutionary development that could bring great good or great evil, and a test has to be run to decide whether to let the development progress or pull the plug (i.e., are the human monkeys smart enough to avoid their internal traps?).

How did you and your daughter go about writing the book? Did you take each a subsequent chapter?

Our approach wasn’t particularly organized or specified to begin with, but has evolved as we progress…

For Monkey Trap, I’d already structured the story, gotten organized, and was up to about chapter 8 on the actual writing when I happened to mention to Lee what I was doing. She was in college at the time and got very excited about it. She asked to see what I’d done, and started feeding me ideas, and then really got sucked in and started contributing some writing, and by the end of the story, she’d told about a quarter of the story (I think her grades suffered a bit in her senior year, but I didn’t say anything).

What about for your sequel, Hiding Hand?

For Hiding Hand (publication date August 2008), we started that book jointly from scratch, and were much better organized. The sequence was… an email concept/brainstorming effort that we called Table A, followed by an email plotting/character development effort that we called Table B, followed by an email story outline/structure that we called Table C. (Our collaboration is mostly email because she’s on the west coast of the US and I’m on the east coast.) Table C was what we actually wrote from — it laid out for each chapter what we needed to accomplish, and described the scenes that had to take place (typically averaging 5 scenes per chapter). Lee wrote a lot of the female character scenes, and I wrote a lot of the male character scenes, although there wasn’t any hard dividing line. I mostly did the bad guy mullah Muhammad Zurvan, because — hahahaha — I just really like working with the bad guys; and I mostly did the boy hero Joshua… probably so I could redeem my own misspent youth. Lee mostly did the female good child Eva, because she’s a lot closer to the female inner child than I can ever hope to be; and she also did the old Crone Hessa because of the psychological and metaphysical conflictedness of the poor dear. But, we traded scenes back and forth and marked them up, so we both had an almost inseparable involvement in developing each of the characters — I don’t think either of us can claim any one character as solely our own. This sort of collaboration probably explains why the characters in Monkey Trap rang true through the story, and hopefully readers will feel the same about the characters in Hiding Hand.
For Splintered Light (now in progress) we followed the same basic Table A/B/C organization, but the Hiding Hand experience taught us that there’s no point in getting too directive or overly organized about Table C — once you start the actual writing the story starts to tell itself and you’d best go with the flow. At the scene level (to get back to one of your earlier questions about structured versus stream-of-consciousness) the writing becomes almost all stream-of-consciousness. The structure we’d set up to guide it (i.e., Table C) sometimes works pretty well (maybe 40% of the time), and sometimes not at all (maybe 30%) and sometimes sort of works (the other 30%). We’re realistic about this — when the muse beast has the bit in its teeth, you gotta give it free rein. But we never abandon the structure, because it’s a good context for the story — it reminds us exactly what to accomplish in each chapter and scene. So if what we wrote doesn’t accomplish what we intended — and if we think what we intended is still valid — then we try to reconcile the left-brain and the right-brain differences across the corpus callosum of two people who are quite different in many ways. Somehow that always works, because Lee and I are also quite similar in many ways besides genetic, and because — as they say — love conquers all. To tell the truth, I really don’t know quite what to make of the process… but it’s a lot of fun…

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I can do stream-of-consciousness for maybe five pages, after that it’s hopelessly inefficient — way too much total rework afterwards. Our novels are longish (180,000 words), and with two authors you have to be very structured, otherwise you run off into the weeds pretty quickly. So we structure, and draw diagrams (yeah, anal-retentive, but hell, I’m an engineer), and outline, and re-structure, and consider specifically the point of each chapter and each scene therein and how they feed into the story. It’s painful.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

About three years for Monkey Trap. In terms of time commitment over those three years? Between Leanne and myself we spent 242 hours structuring, 1305 hours writing, and 2466 hours editing/reworking. Yes… exactly… we now know what not to do. The second novel went more smoothly, and the third is going pretty smoothly too. It’s a learning curve…

Describe your working environment.

Small office, all resources at finger-tip reach. Few distractions except the cat demanding an occasional rub.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Totally disciplined as to good intent and sitting down to write. Once seated, though, I tend to fritter time away trying to actually start writing — I do a bunch of meaningless little chores to avoid plunging in. It’s like the water’s too cold and I have to dunk my tootsies multiple times. Anybody with a mental vaccine for that I’d love a shot of it…

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Never had the displeasure, or at least not long enough that I found it problematic. Lucky, I guess.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle with the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

Deepening characters by their actions or words (or sometimes lack thereof) rather than using exposition. That requires a fair amount of subtlety and usually multiple re-works.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

I dropped the manuscript for Monkey Trap (unagented) on the major sci-fi publishing houses. The general response was thanks, we put it in our slush pile, you may hear from us in a couple of years. So I pulled it back. My advice is to do what I did next — look over all the small houses, see if their niche matches your story, and send it to those (complying with what their submission process is, of course). If there’s no interest, consider the self-publishing route.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

Wish I had a magic bullet for this one. The best approach is to write something really good and then try to get some word-of-mouth buzz going (along with the internet equivalent thereof).

What is(are) your favorite book/author(s)? Why?

Lately… Greg Iles for his varied innovative plots, Lee Childs for his protagonist development, Orson Scott Card for his original ideas.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Same as in life — just be persistent, keep plugging, try to get better.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yep, it’s www.monkeytrap.us. It has the first chapter of Monkey Trap, a couple of PowerPoint synopses of the story, and a full-length screenplay (the story was designed from the ground up to be a movie). The first chapter of Hiding Hand also is on the website. No blog as yet, Lee and I currently are trying to figure out the most effective/efficient method.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Monkey Trap is the first of a trilogy about evolution of a new human species. Book 2 — Hiding Hand — is scheduled for publication in August 2008. Book 3 — Splintered Light — is in draft.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

There’s an incredible amount of good writing out there these days in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, much more than 20 or 30 years ago. So it’s a tougher market to break into… but on the other hand, the creative process has always been its own reward and one that’s worth pursuing.

When you read SF novels today, what are the plots/themes which seem to come up again and again?

Less emphasis on outer space and more on inner space — how the protagonist deals with the challenge, fails, grows, overcomes. Also, I think there’s much more of a (blurry) crossover between sci-fi and fantasy… you see it in mystical/spiritual themes that are either explicit to many stories or serve as their underpinnings.

What is the greatest challenge when writing science fiction?

Deepening characters is by far the toughest nut for me to crack. On the science side, it’s sometimes difficult to judge how much hard science detail to put into a story to get to that suspension-of-disbelief point where you’ve got the readers sucked in — too much tech set up and you lose certain readers, not enough and other readers will get irritated by the lack of plausibility. Lee and I go back and forth on that issue a fair amount.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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Author Justin Gustainis is the author of an exciting new paranormal series featuring kick-ass supernatural investigator Quincey Morris. I had the pleasure of reading this book recently, so look for my review in a day or two. In a few words, you won't be able to put the book down. In this fascinating interview, the author talks about his new novel, the writing process, creating his protagonist, plus he offers us a glimpse into the mind of the supernatural thriller writer. 

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

Let me answer the second part of that first: I’m a college professor. My field is Communication Studies, and my specialty is social influence (persuasion, argumentation, etc.) I teach in a mid-size university in upstate New York.

My academic colleagues refer to teaching as my “day job.” My publisher, on the other hand, calls writing my “day job.” I hope they never meet.

My literary “career,” if it may be called that, has two stages. The first was abortive. Years and years ago, I thought I might try my hand at writing. I wrote off a few short stories, and sent them off to some magazines who published that sort of stuff. Imagine my surprise when the stories were all rejected!

I guess I lacked commitment, because I just – stopped.

Quite a few years later, I was going through a stormy period in my marriage, and I got the idea for a novel and started fooling around with it. I didn’t consciously realize it at the time, but I was using writing as a way to get away from my problems for a while. And it worked! Once I really got in to it, time would pass effortlessly. I’d look up from the computer, and two hours (or more) would have gone by.

There’s a guy named Csizszentmihalvi who, a while back, wrote a book called FLOW. The term refers to a state of utter absorption in what you’re doing. Different people achieve it different ways – sports, playing chess, building a house. For me, “flow” comes through writing. And it led to my first novel, THE HADES PROJECT.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was, indeed, an avid reader. In fact, I tell people that I’ve never had a creative writing course or taken part in any kind of workshop (although that’s about to change: I’ve been accepted for Odyssey this summer). What I know about writing comes from reading about a zillion books.

My progress, beginning at about age 7, was: comic books, nonfiction about World War II (the show “Combat” was popular at the time, and sparked my interest), followed by “books for boys,” especially the “Rick Brant Science Adventures,” then Sherlock Holmes, The Saint, then Bond, James Bond. This takes me up to about age 14, and after that I was off to the (literary) races.

Tell us a bit about your latest book.

BLACK MAGIC WOMAN is an urban fantasy about a family living under a curse that dates back to the Salem witch trials. The curse appears life-threatening, so the family seeks the help of Quincey Morris, occult investigator. Quincey is a direct descendant of the Texan by the same name who appeared in Stoker’s DRACULA, and gave his life in pursuit of the Count’s destruction.

Quincey realizes he’s in over his head and calls in Libby Chastain, a “consultant” who is a practitioner of “white” witchcraft. The two of them cross the country on the trail of the “black” witch responsible for the curse. But then she learns of their pursuit, and uses all the evil power at her command in an effort to destroy them.

At the same time, the FBI is investigating a series of child abductions and murders with strong occult overtones. The Bureau sends for an expert from South Africa, who knows more than a little about occult murder. Detective Sergeant Garth Van Dreenan is a member of the country’s Occult Crime Bureau (which really exists, BTW). Van Dreenan is partnered with African-American Special Agent Fenton, and the two of them attempt to overcome their cultural differences long enough to discover who is behind the murders, in which the children’s bodily organs are removed while they are still alive.

The two cases appear unrelated. They are not. Both eventually come together – with a vengeance, you might say.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

For the first book, THE HADES PROJECT, I started with an idea and a character, and kept writing because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. The same is true, pretty much, for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN. However, for the third book, EVIL WAYS (a sequel to BMW and the second “Quincey Morris Supernatural Adventure”) I had to compose an outline in order to secure my contract from the publisher. I’m writing the book now, and frankly, finding the outline rather confining – because this is the structure of the book that I have, more or less, committed to write, so I can’t change it drastically.

Your protagonist, Quincey Morris, is one of the most likable heroes I've encountered in a novel in a long time. How did you develop this character? Did he come naturally or did you want him to have specific qualities to suit your plot?

Quincey evolved gradually, but, looking back, I can see that he reflects qualities and attributes of three friends of mine – one of whom is a Texan, like Quincey. Or, another way to look at it is, Quincey Morris is the man I always wanted to be. Give or take the vampires.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

THE HADES PROJECT took about a year and a half to produce the first draft. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN took about a year. Keep in mind, I have a day job. Or so my fellow professors say.

Describe your working environment.

I have an office at home where I do most of my writing. It’s decorated with “occult detective” memorabilia, since that’s both what I write and what I love to read. I’ve got “Constantine” and “Hellboy” movie posters on the walls, mugs from “Twin Peaks” and “Millennium,” Mulder and Scully action figures, and a prop from “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” (the original, not the more recent, pallid attempt). There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Not nearly as much as I wish.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

In the case of finding the publisher for BLACK MAGIC WOMAN (Solaris Books), it was a combination of persistence and dumb luck. It’s a very long story, and I’d rather skip to the second part of this question.

My advice is simple, but I mean it sincerely. Don’t quit. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop revising, and don’t stop sending your stuff out. This doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published – but the other choice guarantees that you WON’T be published.

Somebody once said that “a published writer is an unpublished writer who didn’t give up.” I’m down with that.

What's inside the mind of the supernatural thriller writer?

I think it’s the knowledge, deep down, that the world is a dangerous place – and not all the dangers come from terrorists, diseases, and global warming.

There’s something out there, in the dark, just beyond the range of vision. It’s my job (and my pleasure) to give you a glimpse of it. Just a glimpse, mind – a full-on look would drive you mad with terror.

My credo is well expressed by the last line of the stage play DRACULA, a line spoken directly to the audience: “Just remember: there ARE such things!”

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I once read something attributed, I think, to Andre Norton. It’s about how becoming a writer is a simple, three-step process: 1) place butt in chair 2) write 3) repeat.

Works every time.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

You betcha. It’s at www.justingustainis.com. And, as long as I’m giving website URLs, here’s one for the publisher’s (Solaris Books) page dedicated to the book.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Well, I’ve already mentioned EVIL WAYS, which is due for publication in January ’09 – always assuming I get it finished on time. I’m also putting together an anthology of “occult detective” stories. Some very well-known writers have agreed to contribute: Simon R. Green, Rachel Caine, Kim Newman, Lili Saintcrow, and P.N. Elrod, to name a few.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

EVIL WAYS will be dedicated to the memory of my wife, Patricia Grogan, who died on December 22, 2007.

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Author Hill Kemp is a former Texas State Representative. Though his first novel, Capitol Offense, is a political thriller, he recently teamed up with his 9-year old granddaughter to write a children's chapter book, Lucky Penny. In this interview, Kemp talks about his books, writing habits and offers some writing advice. 

Did you always want to be a writer?

I wish. I didn’t start writing until I was 55! Now I can’t get enough. Where was this almost compulsive writer all those years?? I’ve gain, grown and taken flight since I opened up to writing.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

Lucky Penny from Guardian Angel Publishing is the joint work of me and my 7th grade granddaughter, Siena. The conflict in this tweener novel came right out of her experience in 4th grade. But Siena was truly the inspiration for Lucky Penny. She’s an avid reader and wanted to read my first novel, Capitol Offense, but we decided against that for a 9-year-old. So Siena and I built characters, used her experience and Lucky Penny is the result. The book highlights both the importance of friends and friendship and how it takes investment to sustain.

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

I write in bursts, stream-of-consciousness style. My books play out in my head like movies. My outline for a 100,000 word novel might have 12 or 15 major nodes with nothing listed under them. Only the major flow. Before any fiction, I write pages and pages on the main character(s) to get them fully three dimensional – almost a life history. Then I put them on the stage at the first ‘node’ and away we go. My characters are rich enough that they added 5 chapters in the first 40 in a novel I just completed. Writing a page or so each day doesn’t work for me. I try to block out a whole day (and night??) and get inside my story and go. Probably 5 – 7,000 words in a burst.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

My website is www.capitoloffense.com

What are you working on now?

I am working with my publisher to get the final shaping of A Lone Star Special , the sequel to my first novel Capitol Offense . I am part way through ghostwriting the memoir of a person who wants her whole story out now that the Statutes of Limitation have expired. People from 5 other states want me to do their state legislature the way I did Texas in Capitol Offense. I have my native Louisiana already framed and that will be my next project barring other interventions.

Where are your books available?

Amazon, B&T, etc., my website.

Any special marketing strategies you’d like to share?

Most of the money I’ve made selling books has been to impulse buyers at the entry of Kroger grocery stores. Over $20K. I have the option to sell in Kroger stores anywhere in the 105 cities where they are the dominant grocer. I just need writers in those cities. Anybody in Cincinnati?

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read, read, read any and everything you can find even close to your planned work. That old saw about write about what you know is mostly on target. Read the foundational book The Writer’s Journey. Try to remember that persistence stands almost equally with talent in actually getting a book into print. 80% of all books published are non-fiction. The average sales per published book is 200!(so don’t quit your day-job) Be open to let the writing process teach you, open you, scare you and inspire you.

Who are your favorite authors?

Grisham, Dick Fancis, Maeve Binchy

What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?

NEVER send out anything that has not been edited by an EDITOR (not you).

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

My inspiration quote by C. D. Lewis: “Do not write to be understood. Write to understand.” I gained a father I’d totally lost out of my fledgling writing effort.

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