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

I was telling stories before I could write. My Dad was a great story-teller, and he encouraged me to make up stories. The adults indulged and applauded and spoiled me. I wrote my first poem in second grade (I was about 7) and it was published in our very small village’s weekly newspaper. I started a newspaper in the 5th grade, a little weekly that ran 2-3 pages. Started writing stories about then, too.

Yes, I have another job. I teach in the Theatre Division of The Boston Conservatory, a very fine Theatre/Music/Dance private college in Boston. I teach History of the Theatre, Cultural History, occasionally Acting.

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

Yes. I especially loved animal stories, and action stories. I read a lot of comic books, too. I read all the kids’ stuff — loved Robin Hood (I wanted to be Robin, not Marion), Mark Twain, Stevenson, the Nancy Drew Dectective books. I liked poetry books and I read the dictionary. (It was a children’s version.)

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

JEMMA7729 is a rather dark action-adventure, futurist story, set in North America in the early 23rd century. The government is rotten and repressive —it’s a government that tells Big Lies and holds the country together with fear and intimidation. Once Jemma discovers that what she’s been taught is not the truth, she sets out to discover the truth for herself and becomes a rebel, a saboteur, and the government tries to stop her.

I got the idea one day thinking the “what If…” mantra. What if there were a government so repressive it just lumped all crimes and misdemeanors into one huge category: Inappropriate Behavior. That was the original title of the book. I’m sure that the discomfort and anger that I’ve felt (and many many other Americans have felt) over the past eight years of bullying and repression by my own government has a lot to do with why I wrote it.

The theme may be one reason that I got frame able rejections from American publishers and it wound up being taken by a Canadian publisher.

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’t work with outlines. I had a hard time starting the novel. I just couldn’t get past a few pages until … it sounds hokey, but there was the morning when I sat down to write … and Jemma walked into the room. The novel had to be written in the first person. That’s not my favorite voice, but nothing else worked. The whole book comes off Jemma’s ideas and personality.

Of course I manipulated the character, but she’s a strong personality, and not a particularly comfortable one to carry around in your head for years.

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

For-Evaaa! Or so it seemed. I wrote it first as a short story in 2000. Then a novel in two parts, and finally I turned the first part into JEMMA7729. From the time the publisher took the novel to its publication was about 2-1/2 years.

Describe your working environment.

I live in an 1860 farmhouse at the edge of a small Massachusetts town, with a huge yard and a protected wetland just beyond my back yard. Very pleasant place, even though the age of my house means windows don’t fit well anymore; it’s hot in summer and cold in winter and the floors are uneven. There are two stories. My study is a huge room on the second floor, with a window beside my desk that looks out to a street and a wonderful maple tree I planted in 1976 which is now taller than the house.

My study is very messy and full of bookshelves, files, two desks — the computer desk and one that came off a 19th century sailing ship. There’s a sound system, too. Sometimes like music when I write — music of all kinds. Mozart is good, so are Dixie Chicks. Depends on what I’m writing.

I use a Mac. I am generally accompanied by one or more of my three cats. If they aren’t sprawled some place in the room, they come to interrupt me periodically. The big catboys (Max and Mouse) like to sit behind me when I write. I have a big leather chair, so there’s room for them, one at a time. The little cat, Jenny, likes to sit under my feet.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Yes. I like to write in the morning. I’m an early riser — usually waking at 5:30 or 6:00, and after the cats are fed, I’m at the computer. I write something every day.

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

Yes and it’s a rotten state of affairs. I think only once has it be really disabling, and that was early on, because I wasn’t able to sell any of my stories. I’ve been a nonfiction writer, and , generally, everything I wrote, I sold. These were articles and a book about endangered species and marine mammals, short plays, some theatre stuff.

Then I did begin to sell the fiction, and that helped to get me back on track. The trick I use when my Muse is failing is to open the dictionary at random, stick my finger on the page and write something using or about the word I’ve pointed at.

One of the times I did that, I had pointed to “name.” I wrote a weird horror story called “Names,” which I’ve just sold to Inkspotter Publishing for “Backless, Strapless and Slit to the Throat: A Femme Fatale Anthology.” It’s due out sometime soon.

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

Starting. I need the first sentence. That is sometimes tough to get. I just keep writing first sentences. I don’t let myself give up. I have rarely changed those first sentences. I certainly didn’t with JEMMA7729.

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?

When JEMMA was first shopped around, I had an agent. I don’t have one now. We had all those glowing rejections. Then nothing happened, my agent couldn’t think of where to send it any more. Once I was on my own, I started sending it to small presses, and finally sent it to EDGE. It took them about six months to get back to me, but they bought it.

Just don’t give up. If you believe in your work, keep trying. Often, the problem is that what publishers are looking for is a narrow band. You have to fit into that band. You have to find the compatible fit.

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

I don’t know yet.

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

I would love to write like Connie Willis. Her fabulous time-travel novel “The Doomsday Book” is one of my very favorites. I’ve read it many times with pleasure. And I like George R . R. Martin, and Suzy Charnas.

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

That one is simple: write from your heart.

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

Yep. http://www.phoebewray.net. It’s under construction, but readable.

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

JEMMA7729 is my first published book. I’ve got four setting on my desktop. A magic realism series, Tales of the Winter People, and a thriller.

The Winter People series is partly based on my adventure of being a working environmentalist for eleven years, I worked several times with Native American people, and became fascinated with the old tales of how the tribes integrated new technologies into their societies without losing their culture.

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

think people who can write ought to. We’ve become so wifi and anime and other techno things that sometimes we can feel overwhelmed. But I’m about to teach Drieser’s “Sister Carrie,” published in 1900, and it captures the fin de siecle in America as nothing else. Words ARE.

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

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Roadworks
By Gerard Readett
Writers Exchange E-Publishing
ISBN: 1876962771
Copyright 2001
International Thriller/Futuristic
Author’s Website

If you like international thrillers about terrorism, you may consider getting a copy of Readett’s novel, Roadworks.

The setting: Brussels, Belgium
The year: 2022

What if all transportation in the city—rail, road, underground—abruptly comes to a standstill? What if a bomb is placed in each hotel where a head of state is staying, as well as in buildings nearby? What if a terrorist group demands the greatest humanitarian aid package the world has ever seen?

This is the scenario in Roadworks. Thus comes the protagonist, Hugh Ryan, a Transport Authority controller who has recently lost his wife and who tries to come up with a plan to outwit the African terrorist leader. The web of intrigue is pushed deeper by a man named Wellens, a crime lord who originally was helping the Africans but whose devious plans have taken another cunning path.

Why is vital information leaking out of the Transport Authority? Who are the spies? As tension and chaos escalate and time runs out, Hugh must unravel the mystery in order to bring order to the city and save innocent lives.

The book is tightly packed and moves at a quick pace, with the author relying mostly in clear-cut dialogue and short action narrative to propel the feeling of suspense. The scenario is realistic and Readett does a fairly good job in describing what Brussels would be like in the future. The novel is plot driven rather than character driven with the main story taking place in less than twenty four hours, adding to the tension as the reader can’t help wonder what’s going to happen next.
The only aspect of this book I didn’t like was the tiny print; even with glasses it was a strain on my eyes. Also, I feel the quality of the writing deserved a better cover. All in all, this is a well-written, entertaining novel that most readers of the genre will enjoy.

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Cosmic justice has many faces, and this time it has the face of plants…

For egotistical, arrogant Bertram Luce, life couldn't get any better. He's a famous author. He's rich. He lives in a gorgeous mansion and drives luxurious, expensive cars. Oh yes, and he's also gotten away with murdering his kind, plant-loving wife. That is, until the world of vegetation decides to avenge her death and make him pay; and pay he will, in the most bizarre, unusual way possible…

In the beginning, Luce believes the strange incidents to be coincidences, but it's not too much later when he realizes the 'accidents' he's been suffering have a lot more to do with premediated acts than with mere chance. But is he going insane? For how can a tree branch or an orquid mean him any harm? Is there such a thing as a unified, vegetative consciousness? Or is this simply his own guilty conscience playing tricks on his psyche?

Vegetation is an unusual, enjoyable read, one filled with bizarre and sometimes downright hilarious scenes. The writing is crisp and vivid and the pace flows well. In spite of the attacks of plantlife on the protagonist being a bit repetitive at times, the author keeps a strong sense of suspense and, to be fair, it takes ingenuity to create so many segments where Luce is attacked by the various plants and flowers. Since the protagonist is such an unsympathetic character, the reader will perversely enjoy all that befalls him until the very satisfying, surprising ending.

LaFlamme continues to prove his talent and skill as a horror writer. His first novel, The Pink Room, which I also had the chance of reviewing, makes for compelling reading as well.

 

Order Vegetation from Amazon or from your local bookstore.

–Mayra Calvani

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The Book:

Have you ever thought what the world might be like if the present-day vices of society are allowed to continue to run rampant? That is the subject of The Last To Fall, a look at the legacy we leave our children. Civilization as we know it has fallen and the United States has been broken into a series of dictatorships, each with its own army. Death and disease, poverty and starvation, walk hand in hand with greed and madness. Three teenagers seeking a safe haven are caught up in a commune’s battle for survival against the armed might of a power mad resident and his henchmen.

The Author:

Anne K. Edwards enjoys writing in various genres and experimenting with new ideas for stories. She likes writing mystery novels, children’s stories about the misadventures of a dragon named Elvis and the little boy named Jeremy who outwits him. Anne also writes short stories about Death and the Detective that are published occasionally in an online mystery ezine. She’s editor of The Voice in the Dark ezine. Visit her website.

The Excerpt:

Jeanne Foster brushed a weary hand over her stinging eyes. It was impossible to see anything through the hanging mist that mixed with the smoke of burning buildings. What streetlights there were cast shapeless, bluish blobs of light. Buildings appeared as shapeless blackened ruins in the yellowed haze.

Worried, she studied Lester as he sagged against a grungy brick wall for support. It seemed hours since they’d started for the hospital, and their goal was no closer. He sank to the sidewalk coughing, a nerve-shattering sound in the predawn silence.

His thin body shuddered as he tried to draw the polluted air into his damaged lungs. “Jeanne, get help,” he gasped.

She felt a rising hopelessness. “But nothin’s open.”

“Get someone,” he begged as a new spasm seized him. His bloodshot hazel eyes pleaded with her. “Please.”

“I’ll try.” Unhappily, she moved away. The swirling yellow murk immediately engulfed his skinny body as he sprawled on the walk.

Turning her head in an effort to keep him in sight, she collided painfully with a public phone stand that loomed out of the mist. Rubbing her bruised shoulder, she shoved the lowered plastic privacy shield up into its groove and fumbled in the change slot seeking a stray coin. Nothing! The box was greasy and smelled of souring humanity. The line was dead. Just like all the others.

“Damn–” She set her jaw and fought against the pressing tears of frustration.

The choking stink of fire thickened. Her eyes watered as she blinked rapidly, squinting to see what lay ahead. She’d never traveled alone through northwest Washington, D.C. and had no idea where she was. Through an unexpected break in the fog, she spotted the blurry shape of a blue and white police vehicle moving slowly along the street. Running toward it, she shouted for help.

* * *
Officer Delon Stimm heard a girl yelling and swung his vehicle to the curb. He and his massive partner, John Kersey, got out. They kept their hands on their weapons, poised for trouble.

“What’s wrong?” Delon asked the slim, brown-haired girl who came out of the fog like a ghost.

“I need help. My friend’s sick,” she spoke in a voice shrill with urgency.

“Jojo?” He bent to look into her frightened brown eyes. It was the latest illegal drug to take over the younger generation.

“No! He can’t breathe.” She covered her face with her hands and began to cry.

“Where is he?” he asked with a sigh. The morning was to be a continuance of the night before–nothing was going right.

“About a block from here. That way.” Impatiently, she pointed, wiping away tears with the back of her hand. “Please hurry.”

The fog closed in again.

“Get in.” He held the door for her. These kids… He shook his head. They get garbaged up and then cry for help.

Was that what the crumbling society he served did to its children? So many walked the streets looking for something solid to believe in and found nothing. So they turned to jojo and each other. It did not bode well for the future of the country. What future there was, he thought.

He exchanged knowing glances with John. Kids had to learn the hard way. In the rear view mirror, he saw the girl huddle into herself, shivering as she searched the street for her friend.

They found him where she’d left him, a convulsed heap of long blond hair and old blue denims. One of his sandals had fallen off.

“Lester, they’ll take you to the hospital,” she told the boy, bending to touch his shoulder.

Delon could tell by the way Lester tried to push himself up, the police were the last people he wanted.

In spite of his protests, John and Delon carried him to the car. Skinny kid. Not any bigger than the girl. Wonder when he ate last. They placed him on the back seat, his head on the girl’s lap. “Looks like bad stuff to me,” Delon muttered.

“I told you, he’s not on anything,” she said fiercely through renewed tears. “It’s his lungs. He’s got emphysema or asthma.”

“Could be.” John Kersey started the car. “Could be. The air’s rotten. All that smoke… Don’t know why anyone would start fires now. My nose burns all the time from this polluted rot we call air.” He grunted as he turned the car around.

Delon nodded in agreement. As soon as the sun rose above the haze enveloping the city, the smoke would mix with heated humidity, making the air almost too thick to breathe. His sweat-soaked, light blue uniform shirt was already clinging to his spine against the plastic seat covers. Everything smelled of smoke. He shuddered involuntarily.

This wasn’t the first trip they’d made before daybreak to The Old University Hospital, nor would it be the last.

“The hospital isn’t going to like this,” he mumbled over the boy’s wheezing gasps. He hoped they didn’t run into any of the roving military groups searching for looters or streeters. He’d have to turn these children over to them.

John caught his meaning. “We’re becoming an ambulance service,” he said as he steered the car into the emergency entrance, passing the remains of the sign that bore the once-proud name of Georgetown University. Peering through the rounded swaths the wipers made on the windshield, he said, “Going to be an ugly day. Sun isn’t going to break through this muck.”

* * *
White-coated attendants wheeled out a squealing gurney to meet the cruiser. Jeanne waited impatiently as the dark-skinned officer opened the rear door so she could stretch her legs to get rid of the cramps caused by holding Lester’s head in the confined space.

Sniffing at the stale odor of heavy pine-scented cleanser used to cover hospital odors, she reluctantly followed them into a dim, green-walled corridor.

Officer Stimm drew her to a battered counter set to the left of the scratched glass doors.

Twisting a lock of her long brown hair, she watched sadly as the guerney carrying Lester’s twitching body disappeared through double steel doors on the right.

A round-faced clerk with green-tinted hair and discontented mouth handed Jeanne a sheaf of forms and a pen. “Are you a member of his family?” she queried, eying Jeanne suspiciously.

Jeanne shook her head.

“Where have you been living?” the officer asked, his teeth flashing white against his dark skin.

“Two thousand two Connecticut Avenue in Northwest,” she mumbled, twisting the hair over her left eye. The old hotel, once an uptown address, had long ago been condemned. It was home to dozens of young streeter couples like herself and Lester. She’d miss it, but without Lester, she didn’t belong.

“I see,” he said flatly. “One of those old places beyond DuPont Circle. Not a safe neighborhood for a girl.”

She didn’t answer.

“Do you know his family or where he’s from?” he prodded.

She shook her head, avoiding his kind brown eyes. His unspoken sympathy would only increase her need to cry. She had no idea who his people were so she focused on the forms, placing them on the counter. “I can’t fill these out.”

“They have to be filled in,” the clerk tapped her chewed pencil on the counter.

“I can’t. I don’t know if he’s allergic to things. I don’t know if he’s been sick before.” Jeanne’s temper edged into her tone.

“Does he have hospitalization?” The girl flashed Jeanne a quick look.

“He never told me,” Jeanne snapped. Most people didn’t have it.

“Does he have a bank account?” The clerk reddened, scrawling angry notations on a pink form.

“No. He’s unemployed.” Jeanne turned away.

The girl chewed her fleshy lower lip in silence. “I see,” she said after a pause and picked up the telephone. She toyed with a pulled thread in her blue knit top. Something red stained the shoulder.

“Will they take care of him?” Jeanne asked, pulling on her own clothes to straighten them. It had been so long since she’d fussed over her looks, she rarely thought about it. All she had was what she wore, jeans and a faded blue blouse.

“Yes. Now, can you answer a few questions about yourself?” the policeman asked in a kind voice. “Do you have a family?”

She shook her head again. No sense in getting her mom involved. She’d only say she didn’t know where she failed, her excuse for everything that happened in her life. Jeanne didn’t want any more of those horrible crying scenes with the well-remembered recriminations. The recollection of the hurt they caused each other nudged her conscience.

“Do you have anyone at all?” he persisted. He guided her to some chairs with patched red-cloth seats along the wall.

“No, nobody.” She took the one nearest the exit sign. The fabric was unraveling and it wobbled when she shifted her weight.

“How old are you?” He sat next to her, putting his hat on his lap.

“Twenty. I left home last spring after papa died.” Tears pressed in her throat. In some ways Lester had reminded her of her dad. Now he was gone again.

She straightened her shoulders and looked at the policeman. Knowing he would want proof of her age, she handed him a driver’s license she’d found on the street. The plastic coating had cracked and water had distorted the features in the picture, but it looked a little like her.

“This is expired.” He handed it back, his expression reflecting his belief the photo wasn’t her.

Jeanne shrugged. “Don’t have a car anyhow.” She shoved her hair back from her face with shaking fingers. She clamped her lips shut. The license said she was twenty, but she felt more like a hundred.

He studied her intently. “We’re just trying to help. You kids come here looking for God only knows what. I see it every day. You get hooked on jojo or sick like your friend.”

She remained silent. The police always knew all the answers.

The officer stood. “If you have a family, go home and make up. This way doesn’t work.” He peered down at her, adding, “Wait here. I have other questions for you, but I want to check on your friend.” He put on his black hat, pushing it back, and walked away.

Jeanne eavesdropped as he spoke to the nurse who chewed the end of a pencil. She wanted Lester to be all right, but doubted he would be. He’d been spitting up blood this time. Fear formed a knot in her chest.

“How is he? Good news might help me get the truth out of her.” He nodded toward Jeanne who read concern in his gaze.

The nurse took her pencil out of her mouth. “You know University takes no public cases now that our federal funding has been cut off. The new owners are very specific about accepting only paying patients. The boy was been sent directly to Cartersea in Northeast with a few others. He was on oxygen when they left.”

“Thanks.” Officer Stimm turned to John Kersey, who stood near the unplugged coffee machine. “I guess that’s better than nothing. We’d better get the signatures on these new service cards to show how we spent the last hour. I miss the old days when all we did was patrol through our shift. This new paperwork is a pain.” He sounded tired.

The waiting gave Jeanne the jitters. If I stick around, I’ll get sent to the juvenile center. And they’ll get word to Mom. She felt the tears pressing again. I don’t wanna go home. It’s always the same thing.

She’d lost count of the times she’d been returned only to run away again. The burden of guilt her mother shifted onto her for her troubles was too much to face any more. The thought of it impelled Jeanne to her feet as the two officers were distracted by the nurse inquiring about the identity of another patient they’d brought in earlier. Catlike, she moved to the door to make her escape. Lester didn’t need her now.

He’d probably never leave the hospital or, if he did live, they’d send him to one of those detainment camps where people without permanent addresses were held. She shuddered. Much as she didn’t want to go home, she didn’t want to wind up in one of the horrible camps she’d heard about. Even if the rumors or torture and death weren’t true, the people were still prisoners.

Sadly, Jeanne accepted that she’d never see Lester again. The best thing to do was get away from D.C.

She headed into the thickening mist where she felt secure from curious eyes, but as dawn broke, the smoky tendrils began to lift and thin. Another ugly day in an ugly city.

Purchase the ebook from Twilight Times Books.

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