Saturday, July 25, 2020


MIKE SCANTLEBURY - author of ‘Scanti-Noir’, the best romantic suspense stories in the UK

Please tell us about your latest book.

I am Mike Scantlebury and I’ve never been shy about jumping on the latest bandwagon, such as
last year, when my novel was about the dangers of allowing a foreign power to supply
computers and chips into our Western markets. What could possibly go wrong? (It does.)
Meanwhile, my new book is going to be called ‘Co-Vid 2020’. You might suppose that such a
novel would be about disease. Not so. MY ‘Co-Vid’ stands for ‘Co-operative Videographers’ and
follows on from my 2013 novel, ‘The Golden Chip’, including some of the same characters. Still,
‘Co-Vid’? It got your attention, didn’t it?

What can we expect from you in the future?
I’m always open to new ideas. I specialise in nail-biting thrillers but, as someone said to me last
year, ‘You’ve never done a cliff-hanger ending’. Right, so my last two Mickey and Melia books
were split in two and included our heroes hanging by their finger nails, literally, at the end of
Part One. (Luckily, they both managed to escape and proceed into their respective Part Twos).
This led me to the idea of splitting ‘normal’ sized novels into parts, three parts. You might call
each one a Trilogy. However, since I’ve started my ‘Rewards’ mailing list, I’ve taken the
opportunity to with-hold the last part of each novel and only make that section available to
people who have signed up. So, as far as regular members of the public are concerned, they will
be faced with Trilogies that only have 2 parts! (As an extra treat, I am using National Novel
Writing Month this year (NaNoWriMo) to add Part 4 to Mickey’s latest Trilogy. That’s one of my
new ideas. uNUSAL, Isn’t it?)

How do we find out about you and your books?
I remember when I started self-publishing, many years ago, that people kept saying to me,
‘Great, you’ve written a book, where can I find it?’ My promise, then, as now, is to reply that,
‘You can find my books where you find every other book’. In other words, I WILL be on Amazon,
Kobo, Nook, Apple, Google, and every other bookshop, online or off. In fact, try it. Go into your
local bookshop, on the High Street, and ask for the new Mike Scantlebury. Their answer is likely
to be, ‘We haven’t got it in stock, but we can order it for you’. Exactly. You can get my books
everywhere. (Failling that, try out my website:

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
My regular hero, Mickey, is big, tough, strong and not bossed about by anyone. In other words,
the complete opposite of me! As I said, when I was a teenager, ‘I might look like Stan Laurel,
but inside, I feel like John Wayne’. (Sorry, guys. Look up them people on Google!)
Secondly, I always base my stories around the local area where I live, Salford and Manchester,
in North West England. But that’s only the beginning. You see, some Creative Writing teachers
say, ‘Write about what you know’. But I don’t subscribe to that. It wouldn’t be very interesting.
I’m not a spy or a Secret Agent! No, my philosophy is, ‘Write about what you know, and make
that your starting point’. In other words, it’s fine to begin in your own back-yard, but then let
your imagination soar, and get your characters out there, into the wider world (and Universe).

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
I wrote some poetry in my teens, some stories, and a few songs, but the idea of writing a novel
seemed like having to climb Mount Everest. To make it easier, I decided to write about
something I knew, folk singing, and write about my own experiences as a budding singer-
songwriter. Then all I had to do is add in my dreams about achieving fame and fortune, and
come up with an ending. It just proceeded in a very logical fashion.
The finished manuscript sat on my table while I wrote enquiry letters to publishers. I wrote 66
letters and submitted the full thing to 9. They all turned it down, one saying that ‘folk singing
isn’t popular’. Later, I tried kitchen sink realism, science fiction, then turned to detective stories.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
My annual schedule revolves around the month of November, which is National Novel Writing
Month. Their challenge is to produce a 50,000 novel in that month, which I do, but only after
several months of previous planning. That gives me the first half of the year to work on another
book, and since Britain has elections in May, I’ve often started a political story in January, and
then my writing can include actual events through to June. It’s an odd timetable, but it gives me
a lot of structure.
As for a daily routine, NaNoWriMo requires a daily output of 1,750 words, which I mostly
achieve by doing an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening. When not constrained by
these targets, I can aim for about half that figure in the first half of the year.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there
constant interruptions?
Things were difficult when the kids were little, but now the children have moved out, I find the
house much quieter and my hours more free. I often work with my missus on joint writing, and
we have books we’ve done together. We also write songs and perform together, in a folk style.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
The last few months have been completely different, with our local COVID Lock-down and not
being able to go out. Usually, me and my missus like to walk in the countryside, then stop for a
nice Cream Tea or a meal out. Having that prevented, we spend more time in our garden. It’s
not large but we’re keen to grow stuff we can eat, fruit and veg. We like to eat healthily, and
we make use of all the space we have, with Raised Beds and climbing plants. I’d recommend it.
It’s great, connecting with Nature, and with most people at home and little traffic, it’s a chance
to listen to the birds singing.

Where do your ideas come from?
When I’m thinking about a new novel, I like to collect ideas. I know some Teachers will tell you,
‘Don’t forget the Sub-Plot’. Right, so you need a Main Plot - maybe a murder, kidnapping, bank
robbery and so on - and then there needs to be something else, like the main character going
through a divorce, or having drink problems, or losing their pet. No, I don’t subscribe to that. I
like several plots going on at once - a bit like Soap Operas, maybe. I use a cast of characters, not
just Mickey and Melia, but their boss, Melia’s cousin, Mickey’s pal the policeman, and so on,
and I like to have each of them having a story happening, all at once. It can be confusing for the
readers, sometimes, but, as a writer, it’s great to swap the focus, move the spotlight regularly,
and have a break from the key protagonist’s problems. (The only trouble for me is to make sure
that all the ‘loose ends’ get tied up at the end. Sorry, folks, sometimes I forget something - but
Hey, that gives me an idea for the next book in the series!)

Do you feel humor is important in books and why?
Well, I can’t help humour creeping in. After all, Crime Fiction is all about murder and mayhem,
isn’t it? But it isn’t Real. It’s Fiction. It’s made-up. So, with the best will in the world, it’s
sometimes hard to take it seriously. The plot twists in my books can be so unexpected and
outrageous, you just have to laugh. And sure, I know that there’s serious stuff going on in the
world, but that’s out there. When you’re engrossed in my world, I’m going to ensure you have a
few laughs in here.

Please tell us about yourself.  
My name is Mike Scantlebury. As someone said to me last year, ‘That’s a fine old Lancastrian
name’, Well, it may be, but though I live in Lancashire now, in the North West of England, I was
born and grew up in South West England, in the city of Bristol. And, according to my Dad, the
family comes from Cornwall, even further souther, further wester. Still, I’ve loved living in the
exciting northern city that is Manchester - full of life, music, football, innovation, science and
industry - and now living across the river in the even more historic centre that is Salford. The
people are wonderful, you can get to know your local politicians, nobody is too proud to talk to
you and there’s alway help available. There’s music here too, and me and the missus comprise
The Jane and Mike Band (you can find us on YouTube and iTunes). It’s a bit smaller than
Manchester and the countryside is not far away. Also, we have the River Irwell just down the
road, and the old Docks to wander around - new shops, new cafes, and the BBC has set up its
Regional Centre here. (That gives me plenty to write about in my crime novels. Oh, lots of Crime
here too.)

 What do you think of critique groups in general?

Sorry, people. I started running a Creative Wiriting workshop in 2010 and I soon learned that
‘critiques’ can get you nowhere. I think writers flourish with encouragement, so I’m always
looking for good points to praise and good writing to build on. The idea that someone else has
written stuff that is somehow ‘wrong’ is, I believe, based on the mistaken belief that there are
‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ that we can all agree on. Really? So how come a book that left out all
punctuation won the Nobel Prize?
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have opinions - of course you can - but please try and
acknowledge that they are mostly based on your own personal preferences. Okay, you don’t
like something. Say so, but don’t try and justify it by calling in high-falutin’ talk of ‘standards’, as
though we all know what they are.
As I said in my blog, ‘The 3 levels of Criticism’, most critics start with Information. That’s fine.
You’re sharing what the writing is about, where the story goes and who the characters are. We
can all use that information. Thanks for sharing.
The next level is ‘Opinion’. Sure, tell us. You like it, you don’t like it. It’s too fast, too slow, too
long, too short, too wordy, not wordy enough - FOR YOU. All those ‘bad’ things are things that
you don’t want to read, and you’re entitled to say so. Everyone has preferences, of course.
State yours. Say what you like to read. The writer didn’t give you what you want? Sure, you’d be
foolish to bother with them again. But then -
You slip into the third level, that of ‘Action’. That’s when you start telling the author what to do
- Change the ending, Have less chat and more descripton, Less description and more action -
Hey, stop! All you’re really saying is that you would prefer reading something that met your
needs. Okay. But wait - other people might prefer it the way it is. Just like in a restaurant, some
people eat fish and some steak. That doesn’t mean the fish is ‘bad’ if you don’t eat it. It just
means you like the taste of beef. Okay, but don’t tell me, as a fellow diner, that I should NOT
eat the fish, just because you don’t like it, and certainly do NOT tell the chef he should stop
cooking fish, for those who do like it - that’s just arrogant.
But don’t get me wrong. I can take advice. Many years ago, someone suggested I try writing in
the Third Person and give up ‘all that First Person ego stuff’. I tried it, and I haven’t looked back.
Great. But I took that as a positive suggestion, that’s why I listened. I’m afraid that I just don’t
listen to negative. Life’s too short.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
My words to all writers is just ‘Write, Write, Write’. That way, you’ll have a body of work that
people can sample, and most of them will find something they like in there. Don’t get hung up
on a single book or story. Nobody is ever going to like everything you do, so there’s no point in
believing you will ‘please all the people, all of the time’. The most you can hope for is to
develop a small following who enjoy your writing, and then you can forget everyone else and
focus on what you know you are good at, writing the stuff that pleases you.
Then, when you’ve got something you’re pleased with and feel is publishable, don’t hesitate -
publish it yourself. I wasted many long years waiting for a traditional publisher to notice me. So,
what did I have? Drawers full of manuscripts and not a book in sight! Then I discovered Lulu dot
com and started publishing myself. Soon I had a pile of books to hand out and share with
friends, and their appreciative comments just spurred me on.

Whatever you do, don’t believe that thing that ‘real publishers don’t want books that have
been self-published before’. Really? Like ’50 Shades’, maybe? Don’t worry. If you publish
yourself and get some sales online, traditional publishers will beat a path to your door. The
important thing is that having a shelf of your own books in your own home might finally
convince you - Hey, I really am a writer - and if you can take yourself and your work seriously,
then you’re nearly all the way there to getting other people to accept you.
Above all, never believe anyone telling you, ‘You’ve tried. That’s enough’. Really? J K Rowling
got a manuscript accepted by the 17 th publisher she sent it to. What if she’d stopped at
Publisher No 10? What if she’d stopped at Number 16? No, keep going. That breakthrough that
we’re all waiting for could be anywhere in the future, true. Or just around the corner.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Writing tip #2 Don't Bore Your Reader

There is a place in this world for all sizes of books. Don’t bore your reader with all kinds of filler pages to make your book appear to be larger than it is.

It is perfectly fine if your story is meant to be a short story. If your story has a lot of detail, action, suspense or drama it is fine for your book to be a larger novel. What is not fine is to fill your pages with nonsense to make it look like your short story is a novel.

Your character wants a glass of iced tea.

Don’t do:
Mindy got out of bed and walked toward the kitchen. She stopped in the hallway after spotting a small piece of paper on the floor. She bent down to pick up this less than an inch piece of paper that she assumed had fallen from the notebook she was carrying the night before. She tossed in in the trash as she walked to the kitchen for a glass of iced tea.  Mindy got a glass from the cabinet and walked over to the refrigerator. She put four ice cubes in the glass and then closed the freezer door. Then she opened the refrigerator and got the tea container and filled her glass.

See what I mean? None of that is needed. The reader doesn’t care that she saw a tiny piece of paper on the floor and why it was there and that she picked it up and then she threw it away. The reader doesn’t need a step by step play by of all of that. None of it is even relevant to the story. She was going to the kitchen to get a glass of tea.
Next issue; The reader doesn’t need to know exactly how many ice cubes she put in the glass. All this stuff is filler nonsense to make the book and story look longer. The reader is going to skip over this stuff.

What you should do:
Mindy lay there on her bed with her mouth dry. She got up and walked to the kitchen for a glass of sweet ice tea. She knew that was exactly what she needed in the hot Summer night.

So instead of all these lines of filler stuff that has no relevance to the story at all. You said the same thing in just a lot less lines.  In these three lines you gave detail. You told what she wanted. You told how she felt and nowhere in the story did we need all these lines of filler stuff to make the book longer.

In this romantic comedy Jack and Jade, who have been best friends since childhood are both dating all the wrong people. After a date they meet up and discuss how horrible it was. Their dates generally go from bad to worse. Jack has been on dates where the girl is marrying them on the first date and Jade has been on dates where the guy asks her to help him rob a bank. They continue on down this long road to love leaning on each other through all the wrong turns.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Guest Blogger: L.B. Carter


Larkynn Bern had prepared for death. Instead, life won’t let her go.

A painful death was inevitable as cancer ravaged Larkynn’s body, but the reaper’s pull came much sooner. And it toyed with her. After a near-death fall that did kill her best friend, her mind dragged her to the bowels of Hell. Locked in a psych ward, she hallucinated demons, zombies, and her deceased friend.

She should have joined them, but Larkynn slipped right through the reaper's fingers.

Larkynn's soul has gone missing from Hell, and it's up to a plucky cast of souls to find her without the living becoming aware. But they’ve got their their own troubles. Can Larkynn escape on her own? When it comes to saving her soul or thousands of others, will she let humanity suffer or sacrifice herself by making the ultimate deal with the Devil?

From Internationally Bestselling author L.B. Carter comes book four in the Loan Soul Series, the popular dark paranormal contemporary fantasy with a sardonic twist! Fans of sardonic humor, slow-burn romance, brooding demons, and snarky heroines will love this quirky series finale. Perfect for fans of Supernatural, Lucifer, and Good Omens.

Grab your copy and prepare for this award-winning series to possess your soul or start the series with One Loan Soul for FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Helpful writing tip #1 Don't Write in clichés

Don't Write in clichés

It’s a bad habit to write in clichés.  Here are some examples:

The character can’t seem to eat. Male or female. I’ve seen it done both ways. The character goes to take a bite and they miss and get a little food on their mouth and the love interest has to lean over and wipe the mouth. We all learned to eat when we were toddlers. LOL This isn’t romantic or sexy. It’s old and out dated.

Don’t have the woman running in the woods and fall down. Again, we all learned to walk and run a long time ago. Even being scared I think we can manage to run away from the danger. This is outdated. It doesn’t bring action in or suspense. It’s simply the same old same old and the reader gets bored.

Try to stay away from the age old things like this and be more original.

#36 in Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 45 minutes (22-32 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy

Kelly wasn’t like other women. She was locked in a castle. Ghost by day. Human by night. Day after day, the same thing. She was cursed. She could never leave the castle grounds.
There was only one way to break the curse but it had to be done by somebody else and she couldn’t tell them how to do it. They had to figure it out on their own and she had to find this person.
Would she ever find them? Would they break the curse?

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Locked In A Castle -- Chapter One

             Chapter One
Kelly heard a car coming up the long drive and hurried to the window to see who it was. Looking out, she saw her guardian, Jack, coming. For a moment hope ran through her body. “I wonder if he has another man ready to come to the castle? Someone that will free me from this curse.”
     Kelly Taylor moved through the castle to greet him. It was the same as it’d been every other day since the warlock had cursed her. She was trapped within the boundaries of the castle’s grounds, waiting for the one man that could break the curse. Many have come but they were always scared away. A sadness fell over her face when she thought about all the men over the years that were too scared to even talk to her much less fall in love with her so the curse would be broken. She was trapped year after year never able to leave the grounds and never aging. All she could do was hope and pray that one day her guardian would send the right man to her. Knowing that the curse would be broken was all she had to hold onto. Every day she would be in ghost form and every night at midnight she would get her life back and be human but only until morning. Even as human she was trapped to the confines of the grounds never able to leave until the curse was broken.
            She slowly made it through the great hall and past the white ivory fireplace that Jack always kept going. Along the walls were paintings of all of her ancestors. She didn’t know much about them but never felt like it was right to remove the photos. Kelly drifted into the room to wait for Jack.
 Jack was an immortal shape shifter. He had been with her since the beginning. He was like a father to her. As the years passed, he shifted into a new face so the town’s people never questioned why he never aged.
            She waited patiently as Jack parked the car and walked into the castle then met him at the front door.
            Jack smiled as he saw her. “Good morning Kelly. I do have some good news for you.”
            Kelly smiled back at him. She loved it when Jack had the time to come see her. He was her only friend. “What do you have for me? Or should I say who do you have for me?” She smiled. “I’m guessing there is a new man all ready to come here for me to scare off as soon as he sees my ghost self.” The smile faded from her face.
            Jack walked over to her. “Don’t give up on me Kelly. I think I have found the perfect guy this time. I really do feel like it’s going to work. Be strong. Don’t let him win.”
            Kelly put on a fake smile for Jack. She didn’t want him disappointed because he had tried so hard over the many years. “I won’t give up, Jack. I know it will work. But when it does and I’m finally free I’m going to get my revenge on him.”
            Jack shook his head and firmly said, “No, you are not. You are going to break this curse and then live a happy life. You are not going to anything other than be happy. Besides, you know he isn’t alive anymore. I’ve told you the story over and over about his death. Just be happy that the curse is broken.”
            Kelly saw Jack was genuinely worried about her. “Okay you win. I will behave myself. I won’t go after anyone in his family. As long as they don’t come after me. But what I don’t understand is why didn’t it break when he died?” She wondered. “So, tell me. What’s the story on the new guy and when does he get here?”
            Jack started to walk into the kitchen. “I’m going to go grab a soda before we get started.”
            Kelly followed behind. “This can’t be good if you don’t want to tell me. What is wrong with him? I don’t want to waste my time if there isn’t a chance of him being the one.”
            Jack got a soda from the refrigerator and popped the top. “Kelly, we don’t know what is going to happen until the guy gets here and we let it all play out.”
            She walked closer. “Okay but what are you not telling me about him? I can tell when you are hiding something.”
            Jack looked at her and with hesitation said. “Okay, here it goes. This one is a not going to be super easy. I wanted to make sure this time that the guy would not get scared off and run.”
            Kelly interrupted. “Yeah and how exactly did you make sure of this?”
            Jack sipped his soda. “Hear me out. I found a great guy. I decided I would get somebody who would be more able to handle that you are a ghost. So, I turned to only looking for somebody who was a witch or shapeshifter. This way he would have something in common with both of us. I had a stack of witches to interview for the position. I didn’t break any of the conditions. I didn’t tell him there is a ghost here and I didn’t tell him that you are a witch. We didn’t break any ‘rules’. When I finally decided on the guy, I had him sign a contract saying that he would be awarded one million dollars if he was able to stay here at the castle for a full year. The stipulation of the contract says he is only allowed to leave for an hour a day to run errands and get groceries. Anything he needs to do he can go do but can’t be gone more than an hour.”
            Kelly started pacing back and forth. “So, you are keeping him trapped here with me?”    
            Jack walked over to the table and set his soda can down. “I’m not really trapping the guy. I’m simply giving him an incentive to stay. All the other guys were scared off when they found out you were a ghost and they never got to know the real you. This time I’m making it possible for him to get to know you.”
            Kelly rubbed her forehead. “I don’t know how he is supposed to fall in love with me if he’s only here for the money.”
            Jack smiled. “Oh, but my dear, that is where you come into it. He won’t be able to not fall in love with you once he gets to know you.”        
            Kelly loved the way Jack always took care of her. It really didn’t surprise her that he would go to these lengths to try and save her. He was an amazing guardian and once her curse was broken the council would find him another witch to be the care giver for.
            “When can I expect him?” She asked.
            Jack started to walk to the door. “He will be here first thing in the morning.”
            “What did you tell him about me?”
            Jack looked up at her with caring eyes and a smile. “Don’t worry, Kelly. I wouldn’t have sent somebody if I didn’t think they had a chance. I told him that a wonderful woman lived in the castle too that he might run into from time to time. The rest he will learn in time.”
            Kelly wasn’t sure that she completely liked the idea but at this point it’s worth giving it a try. “Okay thanks. All I can do is see what happens. Until tomorrow.” She said as she walked Jack to the door.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Guest Blogger: Kevin Bouchard

Image preview


Please tell us about your latest book.
My latest manuscript is a mystery-thriller tentatively called The Devil Comes to Nazareth. The story takes place on Cape Cod and follows the further exploits of Gwen Quinn and the characters from my last novel, The House of Ophelia Raine. I've also decided to bring Eve Teschal, the detective from my previous novels, Blue Moon and Cry of the Cat into the story.

What can we expect from you in the future?
How do we find out about you and your books? I envision more stories involving Gwen Quinn and Eve Teschal in the future. The best way to keep tabs on future novels is to check my Facebook pages and my web site Also the Solstice web site features an up to date bio page that also lists all my published novels.

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
 A great deal of my personal experiences make it into my novels though I alter and adjust things as needed. And I suppose some aspects of my personality make it into my stories as well.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms? I wrote my first short story when I was in the sixth grade but it was decades before I considered trying to publish my work. My wife talked me into sending out my first short story.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow? I try to write every evening but sometime I get an idea and just have to crack open the lap top and have at it.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries? My wife is pretty patient with my writing. Regarding battery recharging I like to read, work in my yard, play my drums or hit the Bowflex and weights in my finished basement. These activities make me feel great.

Where do your ideas come from? Blue Moon came to me while I was mowing the lawn. Cry of the Cat came to me after watching a Night Gallery episode. I read a book about the Christa Worthington murder on Cape Cod and The House of Ophelia Raine was born. My newest manuscript, The Devil Comes to Nazareth started out as an idea for an X Files episode. I simply expanded it and adjusted it to suit Gwen Quinn and the South Port Pose'.

Do you feel humor is important in books and why? Some people are funny; some characters should be funny. Laughing is human.

Please tell us about yourself. 
I am a 59 year old retired teacher who loves to write. I am a musician; I have worked as a drummer in both original and cover bands playing in and around Boston. I live in South Coast Massachusetts.

What are some of your favorite things to do? I love the beach. I love good movies and music. Summer concerts are a must.

Who are some of your other favorite authors to read? Phil Rickman, Stephen King. I find myself drawn to the book as opposed to the writer.

What do you think of critique groups in general? I'm not too familiar with critique groups.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I see myself writing books.
How many books have you written, how many have been published? I've written several, three have been published.
After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it? Always.
Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine? I like all of my books but there' a special place in my heart for The House of Ophelia Raine and it's heroine Gwen Quinn. I have no idea where she came from but I'm glad she came to the meeting and insisted that she be the heroine.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer? Everything.
If you weren't writing, what would you be doing? I'd be playing drums in a rock band.

What is your greatest desire? I would love to see one of my novels make a national best seller list and maybe even make it onto the silver screen. And I'd like to feel that I've made a difference.
Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers? It took me twenty-three years to get publushed. I never gave up. It ain't over 'till it's over.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Guest blogger: Robert Hoppensteadt

Please tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is titled Spawn of the Cataclysm was published in March by Solstice Publishing. The cover blurb is “Humans carelessly wielded their power to create new things, a power that far outpaced their understanding. It was only a matter of time until something went terribly wrong. Something did. Technology has been erased for millenniums, monsters spawned at the end of a world infest the forests and seas, and a new civilization has slowly risen from the long darkness. In sight of the looming ruins of what was once called San Francisco there is an evil growing. The people of New Gate are about to face their greatest challenge.” I think that is a good introduction. It is more of an epic adventure than a post-apocalyptic book

What can we expect from you in the future?
I am working on a semi-autobiography about a teenager who gets into a lot of trouble in the early seventies. Most of what happens is real, but I have re-arranged some timelines, changed all the names and taken a few liberties to move the story along. It follows the path of a young man from being a pretty good kid to someone who gets into a lot of trouble.

How do we find out about you and your books?
You can learn more about me at these links: Follow me on Facebook: Buy my books here on Amazon: or here at Solstice:
You can also follow me on Twitter @RHoppensteadt

How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
A lot, I draw on people I knew, emotions I have experienced and places I have been to make certain my characters are as authentic as I can make them.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first ms?
People have told me I should write for a long time. About 20 years ago I took a year out of my career to write a novel but it didn’t get very far. I had people to support so I went back to the corporate world where I was pretty successful. I wrote a lot of poetry over those years, some of that published. I was able to retire early and now I am writing full time.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I go with the flow, I am a night owl though and I often find myself writing until two or three in the morning.

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?
My wife doesn’t interrupt me, but my two cats have absolutely no sense of propriety.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
I live in a great historic and scenic area so I walk, I read, I go to movies, we travel, I do yoga a few times a week. Living in the DC area these days and there are a lot of very cool places to go, a lot of museums to see and most of them are free.

Where do your ideas come from?
I am not sure, sometimes I will see a story somewhere and run with a tangent, sometimes they pop into my head and won’t go away.

Do you feel humor is important in books and why?
If the story calls for it, some things aren’t very funny but even then scenes can contain humor as a way to ease tension and give the reader a break.

What kind of research do you do?
For my first novel, The Shelter, I did a lot. Average temperatures, sunrise and sunset, a lot of research on viruses, the CDC, the Alaska National Guard, Native Americans , Nome, local flora and fauna, everything necessary to be as true to the setting as I could be. Spawn of the Cataclysm required less as I was very familiar with the area where it takes place and most of the rest came from my imagination. I did borrow heavily on my knowledge of history to recreate the more primitive society that exists when this story takes place.

What do you think of critique groups in general?
I have been in some good ones and some bad ones. It really depends on the people you surround yourself with – do they do the work, are they empathetic and pay attention to detail, and are they good enough themselves to give valuable feedback if it is a writing group. I found it worked better for me in poetry where you could focus on the project and workshop it, and some of the people I had in that group have gone on to be successful poets.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully alive and still enjoying life.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?
I have written three books, one self-published long ago, two published by Solstice and one that was self-published many years ago that is now out of print..

After you've written your book and it's been published, do you ever buy it and/or read it?
I do but not for at least a few months, the editing process requires reading so many times I really don’t need to look at it. I do buy it just to see the finished product.

Among your own books, have you a favorite book? Favorite hero or heroine?
In The Shelter I did grow attached to Matt and Molly, the main protagonists. In Spawn of the Cataclysm I think my favorite is Tuk. He is not the main character but his ability to overcome fear hatred to find acceptance and a new family drives much of the narrative .

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Creating people and places tht don’t exist anywhere but in my imagination, and making everything real enough that others can experience them

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?
I have a lot of other interests I would be pursuing, probably focusing more on my hobbies. I like to collect things.

What is your greatest desire?
To live a happy and fulfilled life, to be of service to the people I love and care about, to have no regrets about things I wanted to do but never got around to.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Sure – just keep trying. I queried over one hundred agents and publishers before I found a home for The Shelter. There are something like eighteen million books out on Amazon, and agents and publishers in these days of electronic submissions can get dozens of queries a week. Do your best work, make sure what you send as a completed product is professional in its presentation and that you have done the absolute best you can with the story. Also, if you think writing is the hard part you will probably be wrong unless you are also a marketing genius and extrovert.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Guest Blogger: Paige Etheridge

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Rats: Finding Our Humanity in the Age of Aquarius and the Year of the Golden Rat

How we treat rats defines our humanity. 

The main inspiration for Sky from my novel “Cyber Knot” was Miranda from the game “Steel Harbinger”. Both women were transformed into bio weapons against their wills and their humanity is questioned in the aftermath. But unlike Sky, we don’t see Miranda as a human for long. Just long enough to watch her bonding with an albino rat before her father embraces her as she advocates for the mice of the lab. Right after she is drawn to her fate; the pod which would break out and transform Miranda into an alien-human hybrid. Her father feared what Miranda would become beyond that. Yet to me, it was always clear from the start she would stand for good. Her bond with a lab rat was the sole scene used to define her humanity before she was infected with alien DNA. Rat love isn’t just something you can shake off, even after being attacked by an alien tentacle. The love stayed with her and she saved the world. In turn, she also saved the rodents she loved. 

Rats are small creatures and their lifespans are two to three years generally. Yet in that time they are filled with a desire to love. They want to be with their owners. They bond with their fellow rats. They long for contact. Long for affection. Long for human love. The experience pet owners have with their Rats is a stark contrast to how Rats are imagined running through NYC subways.  Not to say you should go pet wild rats, just like you would show caution with a wild dog. But it’s important to note the distinction to the rats which are often around humans. Throughout human history rats were used as bloody entertainment and they are still used for scientific experiments today. Many are fed live to pet snakes. The idea being that because they are rats, their lives don’t truly count as something scared. 

But something happened during those live entertainment events involving dogs killing rats. Men from those events started breeding some of those Rats and in turn those Rats became pets. The value of their lives began to be seen. Humans started to connect with rats in another way. Even amongst the ways in which rats were still used, there were people turning around their views based on their experiences with Rats. 

Rats teach you the value of life, no matter how long or short it is. Short lives are still of value because in the scheme of the universe all lives are short. Being small doesn’t mean your life doesn’t have value. Being a non human doesn’t mean your life has no value. As long as you are alive, your life has value. 

Rats show you how universal love truly is. How easy it is for two individuals with highly different brains and experiences of the world to find love anyway. Yes, Rats show affection in ways humans may not be accustomed to at first. They’ll nip at you, attempt to clean the boogers out of your nose, tear at your clothes, paw at you. But they’ll also giggle and snuggle, which are forms of affection we are accustomed to as we learn their other expressions. Humans fight for success in the world, when truly love in all its unique forms is the most important of all. Rats show us that. 

According to astrology we are currently in the Age of Aquarius. The Humanitarian Age in which living beings are to come together. We just started this cycle which will last thousands of years, but we are getting deeper into the age each moment. We are reaching deeper into our own humanity and learning to come together. But it won’t happen overnight. Again, this is a cycle which will last thousands of years. But we can actively make progress during this age. Explore our own shadow. Find better ways to connect and love.  Rats are fantastic teachers.

It is also the Lunar Year of the Golden Rat and what a better time to propel ourselves deeper into the age of love?

We need to also to honor the Rat. Their ancestors survived the last mass extinction which killed the dinosaurs and in turn gave humans the chance to rise. We need to honor Rats for their contribution to science and astrology. See them as the intelligent, loving, and worthy creatures they are."

Paige Etheridge is the Author of "Cyber Knot" and "Kissing Stars Over the Rising Sun". She is also a new Rat Mom of Ziggy and Zoey: Towo Aries Virgo Moon Rats also born during the year of the Golden Rat. All three are obsessed with unique foods and the esoteric.

Cyber Knot Paperback

Kissing Stars Over the Rising Sun Kindle Edition