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Dr. Newsome was raised in North Carolina farm country.  During his childhood, he learned a strong work ethic and a love of nature.

photo-6_19_14-1He received a BA in American history from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1971.  He received his medical degree from the Bowman Gray School of Medicine (now Wake Forest University School of Medicine) in 1975.  He completed his residency and certification in family medicine in 1978.  In 1992 he received his certification in Geriatric Medicine.

In 1978 he returned to King with his wife, Betty, to begin his practice in family medicine.  As part of his practice, he staffed the community hospital and the county health department.  He also began a county jail health program and continued to care for patients in local long-term care facilities.

He has two sons.  Carlton shares a love of writing and lives in Raleigh.  Justin lives in Winston-Salem and is an engineer at B/E aerospace.

Sam continues to live with Betty, his wife for forty-five years, in King, North Carolina. He continues to be fully involved in his medical practice.

His first novel, Jackie, was published in October 2013.  It chronicles the life of an unfortunate child with autism spectrum who was bullied and abused in school till he was ruled uneducable.  As a young adult he is discovered to have a near supernatural ability that propels him to a historic destiny.

His recent effort, Joe Peas, grew out of his experiences in medical practice and explores the increasing demands for conformity in our modern world.  He does this in the setting of a long-term care facility that gives him the opportunity to both entertain and educate.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Joe Peas. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

joe-peas-jpegA:  James King is a family doctor who is bound by a life that is too full of structure and regulation.  His routine is interrupted by an itinerant Italian house painter, Joe Peas.  Joe’s free spirited life is a sharp contrast to Doc’s.  They bond, and eventually, after an accident, Joe becomes a rehab patient in Doc’s long-term care facility.  As Doc is drawn to his patient’s vagabond lifestyle, Joe begins to miss the family and human connections he never had.

The long-term care facility is populated by residents with problems including traumatic brain injury, stroke, colon cancer, and advanced age.  Joe’s infectious personality gets him involved in all their struggles and issues.

As Joe’s secret life begins to unfold, he creates a plot to help Doc with his own personal struggles. The Italian’s scheme is both unique and surprising.

Q: What do you think makes a good novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A:  Let me counter by my own question.  Why write at all?
I write to send a message.  In JoePeas, the main message is that we are becoming enslaved by conformity.  A continuing theme is a celebration of the individual.

So, a novel sends a message. It may be subliminal, or it may have the power of a sledgehammer, but it should say something.

Second, it should entice the reader to turn the page.  Humor, excitement and greed are all factors that contribute to wooing the reader to continue.  Sex is also a popular legitimate means of holding attention, but I have no talent for writing erotica, so I largely leave that out.

Third, secondary stories (plots) that keep the reader guessing, “Just where is he going with that?”

The fun is in the trip with the expectation of arriving at a destination.

What else is there?  So much that my puny talent can’t begin to fathom!

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A:    This story was character driven. It began with the four residents of a skilled nursing facility plus the Joe’s story.  Each character’s story was initially written separately.  Then they were woven together to provide interaction and, finally, the appropriate resolutions.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: My main character, Joe Peas, is based on a patient I treated for twenty years. The model for Joe was an adolescent during World War II and hidden by the resistance in Eastern Europe. After the war, like Joe Peas, he was given a choice. He could live in London, Toronto, or New York. He picked a very American name and became a New Yorker. That true story was too good not to incorporate in a novel at some point.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: There are two main antagonists in my story, as there are several simultaneous plots. One is so obvious, that I won’t expound on that here. The second is the extreme opposite of Joe Peas. He is a copy of every irritating front-row school student who continually asked questions to get noticed and raised the ire of the rest of the class. If Joe is the ultimate non-conformist, Professor Watley is a paragon of conformity.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Having several story lines helps. I want to address serious topics in some detail, but I want to make a “good read” as well. If I think I’m getting too serious, I let one of the other characters carry his story for a while. I’ll occasionally throw in a light moment or have him tell a joke. That allows the deeper thought to percolate a bit before resuming the deeper subject. Shorter chapters are placed at the areas where attention may lag. That gives the reader a chance to turn over and begin to tan the other side before resuming the book.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Correct, the setting is an important part of my story. I describe the long-term care facility and the struggles of running a facility. Statistics show that fifty percent of us will spend time in long-term care. A sympathetic narrative should peel away some of the stigma associated with nursing homes.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: The continued interaction of Joe and Doc was always the foundation of the story. The character studies were initially meant to be short stories. But I eventually felt they belonged as part of a single work and putting them into Joe’s story invites an interaction with a number of different people that highlights his Italian free spirited life-style.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?
A: I think that art comes first, then craft. As I reflect on my own story, I jot or type the story as quickly as possible (I guess that’s art). Then I go back and rewrite as necessary (that’s craft).

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: First, is there something to be said? Otherwise, what’s the point?
Second, A novelist needs a grasp of what it takes to be a good storyteller. Can he successfully tell a joke?

Third, does he have the patience to methodically piece together? Can he see find imperfections and be honest enough to discard and rewrite?

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I don’t see that. I relate writing to an illness, an obsession—an obsession that is mollified by “writing it down.”

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?
A: Those would be great, and I fully intend to avail myself of those in the future. Like many authors, I am fully employed. I am, In fact over employed, so workshops will have to wait.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I’m not sure that there is a single formula for a great novel. There are as many different ways to construct a good story as there are novelists. Please write. Make good stories and enjoy the process.

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Lynn Steward, a veteran of the New York fashion industry and a buyer on the team that started the women’s department at Brooks Brothers, created the Dana McGarry series, set at a transformational time in the 1970s world of fashion and in the lives of multigenerational women. What Might Have Been is the second volume in the series. A Very Good Life, Steward’s debut novel, was published in March 2014.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, What Might Have Been. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I always enjoyed business-related writing and thought a non-fiction self-help book, with life-lessons I learned along the way, would be a fun project.  But, as often happens when you put yourself out there, I discovered another path and took it: I developed a TV pilot about New York in the seventies because, as they say “Write what you know” and I know New York. I’m a native of Long Island, and between attending school and working, I spent twenty-two years in Manhattan. I was so overwhelmed with ideas, the TV series expanded to five seasons! Appropriately placed in the New York City of 1975, which was International Women’s Year, the plots in the series intermingle fashion legends, business icons, real events, and untold stories, providing a behind-the-scenes look at inspirational women in the worlds of art, fashion, and business.

After meeting with professionals in the entertainment industry, I realized that the main character, Dana McGarry, needed more drama and the plots had to be developed, and I felt the best way to do that was to convert the pilot and first season into a novel and A Very Good Life, was published last year. My new novel, What Might Have Been, is based on season two

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

A: Dana is underestimated by her soft demeanor but she has fortitude and will stand her ground for what she believes and wants to achieve. She will find a way to reach her goals.

 Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

A: I started developing the TV show approximately four years ago, spending the first year and a half researching historic facts, places, and events from the period, and creating the characters.   I did not have writers block or any bumps along the way. The stories for the five TV seasons/books  just kept writing themselves.  Characters I thought would play an important role, never made it to the page, and others, I least expected, became my favorites.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A:  I again go back to “Write what you know.”  New York City, especially Murray Hill, is home to me.  As a child I was often in Manhattan visiting my grandparents in their Italian neighborhood on 106th St Street. There is so much to draw on when writing about a place or topic that is familiar, or part of your soul. And, of course, my in the fashion industry has provided many personalities, events, and experiences for inspiration.  I lived many years a few blocks from B. Altman, and I was in the store practically every day.  I have great affection and enthusiasm for the real and fictional characters, and the period, and I think that is translated to the page.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

A: No anxiety at all. I think it helps to be prepared with good research, photos for inspiration, and organized files, readily available when an idea is sparked at the keyboard. I think, no matter your subject, organization is key. Your mind cannot possibly keep everything neatly filed and available when you need it. My iPad has been tremendously helpful for note taking, and I constantly use it in conjunction with my computer.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: My favorite time to research and write is early in the morning, preferably around 5:30 a.m., when my mind is clear, it is peaceful, and there are no interruptions. I won’t allow myself to even peek at e-mails, I don’t want anything to distract me for at least three hours. I am always surprised and disappointed how fast that time goes.

Q: How do you define success?

A: Being at peace with one’s self, happy to face a new day.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A: I believe that may be a problem. I quickly learned that writing becomes an all-consuming passion; you effortlessly and selfishly block out everything and everyone. I enjoy reading author interviews in The Paris Review and I have new insight into the minds and lives of writers. While all are very different people, they share an intensity about the amount of private time they need to think and write. With that being said, I think if you really long to get your story on paper, you will find a way;  structure a routine, a time of day to be alone. Just try to curb your enthusiasm and don’t expect others to care what your favorite character did in the last chapter; trust me, they rather wait to read the book!

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

A: Orwell got the driven part right, but I did not have a horrible experience. It is surprisingly exhausting, considering I am seated in one spot for hours and not running a marathon. But, yes, the editing is stressful and tedious; you pull one thread, and everything else falls apart. The passion, however, or as Orwell said, the demon, returns you to the same place the next day.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A: I have met the most wonderful people on this new journey: kind, helpful, and patient. I have had two high energy careers, and I am enjoying the peaceful world of not only writing, but of writers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dad 2Robert V Baynes is concerned about the direction this country is headed. He wrote this first novel as a message to warn people of what could happen here if things continue as they are. In his spare time, he loves to spend time with his family. He also likes to vacation in new places, fish, read, garden and cook.

Twitter / Facebook / Website / Amazon

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Day the Dollar Died. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it.

A: My book is the story of an ordinary farmer and how his life has been very good in this country. Then things begin to change as the financial foundations of this country start to crumble. The main character, John, struggles with what to do and eventually loses everything he has worked so hard to build. He ends up having to make some very difficult choices to try to save his family.

I chose to write this book because I wanted to warn people of some of the dangers I see coming to this country if we do not change the direction we are headed.

Q: What do you think makes a good political novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: I think one of the most important aspects of a political novel is that it gets a message across. I think the authors’ point of view should be fairly obvious. I also think it is important for the novel to speak to current events. If it is not about current problems, people do not feel compelled to read it. Third, I think a political novel should be fairly easy to understand.

There could be other aspects, but I think these are the three I would narrow it down to.

book cover (1)-1Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I knew the basic story line I wanted to go with when I started the book. However, much of the story came about as I wrote. I felt like I just saw the story unfold and I wrote it as I saw it.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: My protagonist came about as a mix between my personality, what I would like to be and just an ordinary farmer. I didn’t do a character sketch prior to writing, but I just wrote what I saw in my head.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: For the antagonist, I chose a character that has an almost opposite point of view as myself and then tried to picture why they would think that way. This was an interesting exercise to do.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:I tried to keep the narrative exciting by trying to make everything as realistic as possible. I always tried to think about how a person would realistically react in each situation. I also threw in a few twists.

For tips, I think some of the best writing is as realistic as possible and is descriptive enough that you could picture yourself there.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I tried to throw in cues about what the breeze was like or what the character might have heard. I tried to throw in subtle cues about the setting as the book went along.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I knew the basic theme of the novel from the beginning. I discovered many of the details as I wrote. I am currently working on my second novel and the theme is similar but changed.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A:I think you need both art and craft to be a good book. They have to work together. A good job of editing would enhance rather than destroy the creative work of an author. A good edit, makes a book easier to read and understand.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: First of all, they have to be someone who can tell a good story. They also have to be able to stick with one project for years or months until they can get a project finished and to market. Third, I think they have to be able to figure out how to publicize and market their work after that.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: That point of view certainly has a lot of merit. An author is also someone who gets to tell stories for a living. However, being an author does take a lot of work that is not always fuin.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:I can’t think of any resources I used to learn to write. I have been an avid reader all of my life, so I think that has helped me to be able to write.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Writing is like doing anything else. It take some work when you don’t feel like it and the more you do it and get good feedback, the better you can get at it.

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Author PhotoA native of Massachusetts, Sophia Bar-Lev divides her time between the Fort Worth, Texas area and Israel.  A former school teacher and adult education lecturer, Bar-Lev now devotes the majority of her time to writing.  Sophia Bar-Lev is also the author of Pasta, Poppy Fields, and Pearls and Pizza and Promises. The Silver Locket is her latest novel.

Connect with the author on the web:

http://www.sophiabarlev.com/

http://www.sophiabarlev.com/#!blog/cnf7

https://www.facebook.com/SophiaBarLevAuthor

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, THE SILVER LOCKET. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: This novel is celebrates the triumph of the human spirit over tragedy and heartache.  It chronicles the lives of two women whose lives are linked by a child that belongs to both of them but in different ways.  Their common devotion to motherhood and family ultimately leads to a powerful and fulfilling reunion. The power of a sensitive and difficult decision years earlier is realized as two families join their hearts and lives because of one special daughter they share. My inspiration came from the true story of a friend who wanted her story told and was delighted that I would write it for her.

Q: What do you think makes a good contemporary novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: A novel doesn’t deny reality; it interprets reality.  The novels I appreciate and enjoy reading relates to the contemporary reader in a way that adds value to his/her life. This what I endeavor to do in my writing.  The importance of character development cannot be overstated.  Imagination must blend seamlessly with realism to produce for the reader a sense of connection or identification with the personalities in the book.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: In the case of THE SILVER LOCKET, I knew the basic story ahead of time so my primary task was to follow the real life plot as told to me by my friend.  However, in my other novels, I start with an idea which morphs into an overview but as I write, very often the characters pull me into directions I didn’t anticipate when I started the project.  Personally, I’ve never outlined a book ahead of time.  I tend to write more spontaneously and, as they say, ‘go with the flow’.

Book Cover - The SIlver LocketQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:  For this novel I invested considerable time in learning everything I could about the two women who are the primary characters throughout the novel.  My friend’s descriptions and insights into her birth mother and adopted mother were very helpful and gave me a solid basis for building the narrative.  Yes, I did write up two character interviews while I was writing the book and later revised them after the book was finished.  I found the practice very helpful not only for this novel but for my other novels as well.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: This took a bit more imagination than the development of the protagonists.  Actual information about this person was sketchy so I did some research into the general traits of the kind of person he needed to be in the story and received some advice from a local police officer as well, not only regarding the criminal but also about the types of laws applicable at the time.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: To keep a reader turning the pages requires enough mystery or suspense to create continual curiosity.  As a writer moves through the chapters, unexpected twists to the story act like bait to ‘hook’ the reader to keep going.  In this novel, I inserted events and conversations at strategic intervals to create or increase the suspense and add depth to the story.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Descriptions must be written in such a way that the reader can paint a picture in his/her mind of the various settings in the course of the novel.  Carefully chosen words, similies, analogies and references will all contribute to dynamic settings so that – in a manner of speaking – the book becomes a movie in the mind of the reader.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: In this case, yes I knew the theme from the beginning.  In my other novels, I had a general idea but the themes developed as I wrote so that by the time I completed each novel, the theme was clear and distinct.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Craft and art – art and craft: which comes first? Hard to say. I think the most successful novel is the result of free-flowing ‘art’ or creativity, which is later reviewed, revised and edited so that the level of the craft enhances the art contained within the novel itself.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Persistence, diligence and a passion for excellence are imperative for any writer to become a successful novelist.  Actually, I think these three qualities are essential for success in any area of life but as we’re discussing authors, I would add that every author has to be willing to throw away as much or more than they actually publish.  Writing is a ‘practice’ as well as an art.  I write every day and much of it ends up in the dust bin but it’s not wasted time; it’s practice and practice makes perfect.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A:  I love writing so if this is homework for the rest of my life, bring it on!  I’m a firm believer in the maxim that if you love what you do, you won’t ‘work’ for the rest of your life.  Your ‘work’ becomes your joy.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:  Yes I regularly read postings from Writers’ Digest and subscribe to their magazine as well. I attend writers’ workshops as often as I can and read books about writing.  I found Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING and BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott helpful and inspiring.  I’m also a great fan of the series of books for writers by Julia Cameron.  Her works continue to be a resource I go back to frequently.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I have a small book on my desk which a friend recently sent me.  It’s entitled, YOU’RE A WRITER SO ACT LIKE IT.  I haven’t read the book yet but I love the title.  Anyone who aspires to be a writer needs to put in the time to develop the skills that a creative imagination requires in order to marry ideas to effective expression.  I daresay there are many potential writers who are not lacking in ideas but in the will and persistence to do the work required to turn their imaginations into printed material.  Great ideas are not enough; the mechanical skills for producing a winning manuscript are essential.  And that, my friends, takes work.

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Title:  THE SILVER LOCKET

Genre:  Women’s Fiction

Author:  Sophia Bar-Lev

Website:  www.sophiabarlev.com

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

When The Silver Locket opens, it’s July 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts. War is raging in Europe and the Pacific. But for two young women in a small town in New England waging their own personal battles, the struggle is way too close to home.

When extraordinary circumstances bring these two women together, one decision will alter the course of their lives.  And with that one decision, their lives will be forever changed…and forever intertwined.

Were these two women thrust together by happenstance—or fate?   A tragedy. A decision. A pact. Lives irretrievably changed. A baby girl will grow up in the shadow of a secret that must be kept at all costs. But will this secret ever see the light of day?  And what happens when—or if—a promise made must be broken?

Adopting a child is not for the feint of heart—but neither is being adopted…

A sweeping and suspenseful story that unfolds in a different time and a different place, The Silver Locket explores universal themes that ring true even today. Secrets. Unbreakable bonds. The healing power of love.  Deception. Anguish.  Redemption.

In this touching and tender tale, novelist Sophia Bar-Lev weaves a confident, quietly moving story about adoption, finding hope in the face of hopelessness, and how true love can overcome any obstacle. With its brilliant juxtaposition of the wars fought both on the battlefield and internally, The Silver Locket is a poignant novel, resplendent with drama.  Featuring an exceedingly real and relatable plot, and characters that will stay with readers long after the final page is turned, The Silver Locket is a sterling new read.

 

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jonathanJonathan Raab is a veteran of the Afghanistan war, where he served as an infantryman assigned to a combat advisor team. He is the editor-in-chief of Muzzleland Press and an editor for the War Writers’ Campaign. His work has appeared in The New York Times’ At War Blog, CNN.com, the Military Success Network, Literati Presents, The Stars and Stripes, and many others. His second novel, The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, will be available in late 2015. He lives in the Denver metro area with his wife Jess and their dog, Egon.

Connect with Jonathan Raab on the Web:

Website / Facebook /Twitter 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Flight of the Blue Falcon. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

The novel is about three men who serve in an infantry platoon deployed to the Afghanistan War. It follows their training, their deployment, and a little bit of them coming home from it all. I wanted to tell the story of men serving in the Long War, especially from the National Guard perspective.

Q: What do you think makes a good military novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

War writing tends to be nonfiction, but I think fiction is the best place to tell war stories. You can tell more truth that way. Every war is different; every war is the same. But every good war story should have good characters, be accessible to civilians, and tell something new (if possible) or true (as true as a story about war can be).

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

I tend to outline everything from the start, but that outline changes as I write. It’s a constant process of writing to catch up with the outline, and discovering that the plot is moving in new and unexpected directions.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

I have three protagonists in the novel, which is something I wouldn’t recommend to aspiring writers! Each character offered a unique perspective on the book’s events. They’re all based on guys I know, in whole or in part. A little bit of me is in each of them, too.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

There’s no real antagonist. The Taliban is in this book, of course, but they’re not really the focus. This is more of a character study—how three men deal with going through the Big Green Army Machine.

flightQ: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

I tend to write short, focused chapters. That helps the reader feel accomplished as they go—hey, I finished another chapter!—and so they keep reading. Each scene should communicate something new and important about your characters, the plot, or (preferably) both. If your scene doesn’t do that, cut it. Cut it right out.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

There’s several settings here—but the prevailing setting is that of the Army culture itself. The use of specific language, cultural tropes, and illustrative anecdotes or scenes helps to communicate that to an audience that may not have served in the military. Try to tell larger truths about the setting or culture in small, focused ways. For example, there’s a scene where our characters arrive in Afghanistan on a big command base. Instead of being greeted by enemy fire and soldiers around them ready for combat, they’re screamed at for minor uniform infractions. That scene tells a lot about the culture and the situation, and what’s to come for our characters.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

The broader theme is that war is stupid—on several levels. I knew that going in, and my characters and plot didn’t disappoint in that regard.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

Editing should refine the creative thrust. If it compromises it, it’s not really editing, it’s revision. That said, authors need to know when to throw out those lines or scenes they really love—we can convince ourselves something is really good when it is in fact unnecessary or even distracting.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

1) The novelist finishes a novel. 2) The novelist is open to intense but fair criticism to make the book better. 3) The novelist keeps writing, and keeps improving.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

It’s like homework, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun. It’s also very frustrating. It’s a love-hate activity, for sure.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

This is a cliché, but Stephen King’s On Writing is really, really good. I’ve taught a part of it in my English class. I’ve never been to a workshop, so I can’t speak to that. I will say that you don’t need a fancy MFA or creative writing degree to be a writer, although those things can certainly be helpful to many people.

There’s a whole industry designed to separate writers from their money, so don’t go chasing expensive conferences, retreats, or seminars. They might be helpful, but you can probably learn more from joining a free writers’ group or just plugging away at the craft. Books are cheap, so read all the time. And it doesn’t cost you anything to write and share your work with trusted friends who will give you open and honest feedback.

You just have to be ready to be told that your precious baby of a story sucks, because you will write something that is awful. And that’s okay. What matters is how you deal with your failures—large and small. Don’t quit. Keeping writing. Even if it takes you the rest of your life to get published.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

Don’t let your own ego get in the way of producing better work. Also, don’t worry about being a perfectionist—write, write, and write until that project of yours is finished. You can fix all of your issues in editing, when you open the door to others, and when you can read your own work with fresh eyes.

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arnaldoArnaldo Lopez Jr. has been employed by New York City Transit  for twenty-eight years and was formerly employed as a dispatcher with the NYPD.  Mr. Lopez is also a speaker and trainer, speaking on subjects as diverse as terrorism and customer service.  He created the civilian counter-terrorism training program currently in use by New York City Transit and many other major public transportation agencies around the country.

As well as writing, Mr. Lopez is an artist and photographer, having sold several of his works over the years.  As a writer he’s sold articles to Railway Age magazine, The Daily News magazine, Homeland Defense Journal, and Reptile & Amphibian magazine; scripts to Little Archie and Personality Comics; and short stories to Neo-Opsis magazine, Lost Souls e-zine, Nth Online magazine, Blood Moon magazine, and various other Sci-Fi and/or horror newsletters and fanzines.  He was also editor of Offworld, a small science fiction magazine that was once chosen as a “Best Bet” by Sci-Fi television.  Chickenhawk is his first novel. 

Connect with Arnaldo Lopez Jr. on Facebook and Twitter.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Chickenhawk. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity.

Two NYC homicide cops are after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while murdering young, male prostitutes in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.

Q: What do you think makes a good thriller? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Yes, I believe that for brevity’s sake we can narrow it down to its three most important elements. 1. Have a good antagonist. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) most people find the antagonist the most interesting character in a book. 2. Have a good protagonist. Even though the antagonist can often wind up stealing the show, he or she still needs a good protagonist to use as a foil. 3. Build a believeable, well-researched story in which your reader can become fully engaged.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: Once I had a general idea of what I wanted my story to say and who the main characters were, I did character outlines of most of the characters and a general outline of the story itself. As I worked on the book, the characters often drove the story on and pretty much filled the blanks.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Yes, my main protagonist is actually a combination of my brother, father, and a former boss of mine. Since I know all of these men intimately, I just needed to observe and interview a couple of older police officers to completely flesh the character out.

arnaldo 2Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: My antagonist is also a composite of several people that I’ve known over the years. I tell people that among other things a writer is a collector. He or she should be a collector of people – mannerisms, quirks, names, habits, dress – basically any and everything needed to create realistic and compelling characters.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Keep the prose and your characters moving – keep things lively by having the dialogue and interaction of your characters drive most of the story. Also try to end your chapters in such a way that the reader will want to know what happens next.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: My setting is New York City and that setting in itself is so dynamic that little is needed to bring it to life. Still, I do describe lighting and weather conditions in spare detail to add to the atmosphere. I try not to be overly descriptive when it comes to describing the setting.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: Oh yes, I was well aware of my novel’s theme(s) from the start – infidelity, madness, guilt, and police work being just a few. These and/or similar themes will find their way in subsequent works that will feature the same characters.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: I believe that the initial draft of any writing is closer to art than craft. At this point you are writing from the gut, with craft coming into play during the editing process. Overzealous editing can, of course, damage an author’s creative vision, but all in all, proper editing can enhance that author’s vision.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: 1. Finish what you start. 2. Research. 3. Editing.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: It certainly can feel that way at times, but the exception is that this is homework you assigned to yourself and so ultimately there are no right or wrong answers.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Yes, the Writer’s Market, the Writer’s Market Guide to Literary Agents, the Writer’s Guide series of reference books, and Roget’s Thesaurus.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Yes. Tell your story first and foremost. Forget about dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, you can always get to that later. Don’t get so bogged down with the writing that you forget to tell your story.

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Title: Chickenhawk

Genre: Thriller

Author: Arnaldo Lopez Jr.

Publisher: Koehler Books/Café Con Leche books

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Chickenhawk is an urban crime fiction novel that showcases New York City’s diversity, as well as the dark side of race relations, politics, sexuality, illness, madness, and infidelity. Eddie Ramos and Tommy Cucitti are Manhattan North Homicide detectives after a serial killer that manages to stay below their radar while the body count keeps climbing in a city that’s turning into a powder keg.

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MooreBook2014_4922A native of Tacoma, Washington, M.D. Moore worked as a therapist in Washington State’s most acute psychiatric hospital. Moore currently serves as a rehab director at a long term care facility serving veterans and their families. A member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, M.D. Moore lives in Gig Harbor, Washington with his wife and sons. Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy is his debut novel. Visit M.D. Moore online at: www.mdmooreauthor.com.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: My story is about a middle-aged son of a paranoid schizophrenic mother who has the problems of the world on his shoulders, but doesn’t have the skills to navigate them all successfully.  He has a mentally ill mother who still is the cause of chaos in his life, a life threatening illness, a failing business, and a host of people who want to see him fail on all fronts.  He also has two legal strikes (a third would result in a sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole) and anger issues.  He is forced to see a therapist against his better advice who seems to have as many issues as he has.  The only bright spot in his life is his reunion with his high school sweetheart, but even she is just recently divorced from his high school adversary who has the power to destroy what Harmon has worked to build.  The story focuses on how he navigates and untangles the messes of his life to a logical conclusion.

I worked in my state’s largest psychiatric hospital for several years and one of the patients had a husband and two teenage boys which was very unusual.  Most of the patients had never been married or if they had been, had been divorced.  The family’s dedication to their wife and mother was very touching, but I always felt sorry for all of them realizing how hard it must be for each one for their own reasons.  It inspired this story of a man and his schizophrenic mother and the life they have shared.

Q: What do you think makes a good family saga? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: I think the single most important element of a family saga is it has to feel real.  Many of the occurrences in my book would be far fetched to readers who are not familiar with the mentally ill and what struggles they face, but I believe the reader could still see the plausibility of the events.  Now, this may sound somewhat contradictory to condition one, but you must also make it exciting enough that it doesn’t sound so real, that it could just happen to anyone, especially the reader.  I’ve judged several writing contests and one of the biggest flaws I’ve seen is that people make their stories sound so real, they could’ve easily happened to the reader.  Ok, your protagonist is buried in bills – been there.  Oh no, your protagonist had a fight with their wife or kids – done that.  Shoot, your protagonist is fat and needs to lose weight – it would be a bigger stretch if that person was in shape.  Make real world problems, just make them someone else’s real world problems.  The last element in a family saga, or for any realistic fiction for that matter, is to make your characters relatable.  Make your protagonist someone like your Uncle Paul or your grandfather with maybe a little scar here or there – make your person someone who could exist.

Waiting for the CoolQ: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I tried the free-flowing method and I ended up making a mess all over myself.  There were pieces of book all over the place and a story that got me more lost than my first version of Mapquest.  Unfortunately, and I say unfortunate because I wish I had the skill to just “let the story happen,” I am a meticulous plotter.  My chapter summaries are almost as long as the chapters themselves.  I need to know where I’m going so I don’t waste too much energy trying to find my way with a sundial.  Give me a programmed GPS and just let me write.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: My protagonist, Harmon, is actually a combination of a lot of people.  He shares character traits of a couple of family members and friends and physically, he’s also a combination of several people.  I actually had a little photo album, the type you’d get as a kid, that had several pictures in it that I would reference on occasion when describing Harmon.  In the editing process, however, I ended up taking a lot of physical description out as I like to let the reader develop their own image of the characters based on their own experiences.  As for behaviors, in the end, Harmon basically did what I would do.  I’d like to write a character someday that is a far departure from me, but with this being my first novel, decided to stick with what I know.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: He was a little easier.  Since Harmon had known Frank (the antagonist) since childhood, I just thought of kids that I didn’t like when I was young and used them for the childhood antagonist and as Frank aged, I just created a history that would put him on a path to continue being an asshole.  I have known enough of those in my lifetime that I had some folks to draw from.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: I think exciting narrative comes from exciting characters.  Having motorcycle gang members, chronically mentally ill patients, outlaw therapists and the like in the book made for easy, fun narratives.  I had the hardest time keeping Harmon interesting because his character was the most real of the bunch and real life isn’t typically that exciting.  The only tip I have is to really pay attention to narrative during your rewrites/edits.  Write it all during the first draft, but try to weed out the garbage the second and subsequent rewrites.  Better yet, have a trusted reader go through and tell you what doesn’t work or where your work really starts to slow down.  Another reader is a super valuable tool.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Again, make the setting as interesting as you can.  The type of story you write will dictate how interesting that will be.  A sci-fi set in space will definitely be more interesting than a family drama set in Washington.  One of the most helpful things I did for myself was to really pay attention to my surroundings before and while I was writing the book.  I worked at our states largest mental hospital and it still had some of the old, creepy buildings from when the grounds were an army fort in the 1800’s.  This was easy to make interesting.  Harmon’s business and home were a combination of this old antique store in Tacoma, WA and the residence of an acquaintance who lives over a bar whose home used to be used as a hotel (which I then turned into a brothel).  Pay attention to your surroundings, even going for a drive and taking notes, and you’ll find plenty of places that will work (given your story is not set in space or underwater!)

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A:  My theme is the oft-used, love conquers all.  Since this was a story about a man and his chaotic relationship with his mentally ill mother and since I wanted there to be redemption in the end, I always knew that this would be a book that would get wrapped up by the end between a father and mother who come to realize that they do love each other even if they didn’t necessarily get each other.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: This is a tough one.  I guess if I had to try and name this, I’d say that craft is what makes an author’s writing readable, art is what makes it memorable.  I believe that anyone can learn the craft of writing.  There are all kinds of resources – classes, books, workshops, critique groups – to learn the craft of writing.  One can learn to write very well by learning the craft of writing.  I’d go so far as to say that a lot of what we find on the shelves of our local bookstores are books that display good writing craft.  It’s the books that we keep on our shelves and are stingy about passing around that have nailed the art of writing.  I don’t believe that you can teach the art of writing – you either have it or you don’t.  Luckily for most of us, I think we all get a little lucky and show a little art mixed in with our craft.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: First, I think it’s important to study the craft of writing.  There are many writers who believe that just because they can craft a good sentence or write a good paper for a class, they have what it takes to write a novel.  I know because I was one of them.  It wasn’t until I read some of the crap that I initially wrote that I realized that I didn’t know the first thing about writing a novel.  Sure, I could write a good sentence, I just couldn’t write enough of the them in the right order to complete a book.  Take classes, read books, join critique groups, etc, and then practice, practice, practice to learn how to do it right.

Second, listen to the advice of others.  Find someone you trust and have them proofread your work.  The writer gets too close to their own work and they always know what they were talking about.  “My dog is really protective.”  Did you picture a german shepherd? a pitbull? a Doberman? A Chihuahua?  You know you were thinking about your yappy Pomeranian but your reader did not.  If it matters, a good editor will help you clarify or tell you when something is missing or has awkward structure.

The third trait needed is perseverance.  This is a long and grueling and highly competitive business and for the most part, only the those who persevere reach their goals.  If you’re not finding the success you believe is coming to you, you must do some soul searching and find out why.  If you’ve done everything you can, it’s time you just put your head down and keep sending out queries.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I’d say that that author either loved doing homework or was in the wrong profession.  I hate homework, but I love to write.  I also do woodworking and beekeeping, both of which took considerable work to get good at, but it was an enjoyable learning experience for both.  Homework is what I did for school and it sucked.  Work at home is what I do for me and I love it.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: There are a couple of excellent books on writing that provide a good roadmap towards writing fiction.  The first and best is Dean Koontz’s book How to Write Best Selling Fiction.  It doesn’t so much teach the mechanics of writing as much as it teaches about what goes into a great story.  It’s a little pricey if you can even find it.  It’s been out of print for a long time, but if you can track one down, it’s well worth having in your library.  The second is Stephen King’s On Writing.  It’s very similar to Koontz’s book, but just not quite as direct.  As for resources on the craft of writing, my best lessons came at writing conferences and from critiques.  I also read a ton of books (almost literally) about writing.  I thought I knew what I was doing until I tried to do it.  When I failed miserably, I began to read books on how to write books and everything started to come together.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I really believe that this is an endeavor worth pursuing.  It takes way more work than you think it’s going to take, but ultimately, if you work hard, listen to others who’ve done it before you, and learn, learn, learn all you can about writing and the writing industry, you can find success.  You may need a little luck along the way, but I do believe, more so than any other part of the entertainment industry, that hard work and perseverance are rewarded.

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