Author Interviews

Raven Tale – Episode 1

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Jerry Underhill interviews fellow Raven Tale horror author Charles Ray.

Dusty Saddle Roundup

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I was honored to be the first guest on Peter Alan Turner’s ‘Dusty Saddle Roundup’ podcast. Go to this line to listen:

DS Productions To Hold Virtual Book Signing

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October 27, 2021 – DS Productions (DSP) – the home of some of the biggest selling Western authors in the genre – is excited to announce that they will be hosting a multi-author virtual signing event, Best Sellers Live! The event will be a historic first for the Western genre and a revolutionary step forward for Western authors, readers, and publishers.

About the Event:

Six best-selling Western fiction authors have teamed up with DSP to put together The Signature Classic Collector’s Edition: Hunt of the Mountain Man. Each author has contributed a short story featuring the popular heroes from their Western novels. Each book purchased for the event will be signed by all six of the authors.

The virtual signing will take place on Thursday, November 18th at 9:00pm Eastern Time via Zoom. Everyone who purchases a book for the event or wishes to attend the event will receive a Zoom link to join. The authors participating in this highly anticipated event are none other than C. Wayne Winkle, G.P. Hutchinson, William Joiner, Charles Ray, Peter Turner, and David Watts.

You can visit the webpage for the event to purchase your book and for more information:

About the Authors:

C. Wayne Winkle

C. Wayne Winkle is an Amazon best-selling author of Westerns that depict the heroism and dangers inherent in the American West of the 19th century. He was a board-certified family psychologist with over 40 years’ experience prior to retirement. His intent in his writing is to bring back the history (good, bad, and indifferent) of the American frontier. He is married to the same wonderful woman for 50 years. She has been, and continues to be, his anchor in this wild and wacky world. Their six grandchildren keep both of them busy when he isn’t writing. His Christianity forms the basis of his life, even though he falls short of its ideal on a daily basis. His motto? ‘I can’t not write!’

G.P. Hutchinson

A resident of Texas for a number of years, Hutchinson’s visits throughout the West have only served to deepen his enthusiasm for the region and his appreciation of its people, history, and folklore. He’s currently a resident of upstate South Carolina, along with his lovely wife, Carolyn. Besides writing, Hutchinson enjoys forays into the mountains, horseback riding, and exploring the history of America’s national pastime, baseball.

Peter Alan Turner

Maybe it’s because Peter Alan Turner lives on Rattlesnake Ridge. Or perhaps it’s because he grew up watching television Westerns that he was drawn to writing about the Old West. As a former history teacher, Peter strives to be authentic, create likable characters, and tell a good story. With more than a dozen books and a four-plus star rating on Amazon, he must be doing something right.

Peter lives with his wife of fifty-three years and their cat Moxie in Western Maryland. Peter is lucky that his children, grandchildren, and great-grandson all live close by. When he’s not writing, Peter enjoys woodcarving, fishing, and pampering his classic Jaguar. Mr. Turner donates a portion of the profits from his books to Veteran’s charities.

Charles Ray

Charles Ray is a man reborn. After 20 years in the US Army and 30 years as a diplomat, he has reinvented himself as an author. He has been writing since his teens, but really got into it in 2008 as he was approaching the end of a half-century government career. Ray writes in a variety of genres, both fiction and nonfiction, but in a further reinvention, this Texas native who now calls Maryland home, is currently best known for his tales of the western frontier. He writes stories that are historically accurate and reflect the diversity of the Wild West, but never lets history interfere with telling a compelling story. Ray currently lives in Woodbine, Maryland.

David Watts

David Watts grew up in Texas and participated actively in farming and ranching. As a teen, he watched cowboy movies every Saturday at the Ritz Theatre. He has published nine very successful Westerns, drawing upon his range of personal experience and is currently working on a chapter-challenge collaboration with William Vlach. Previously, he worked in poetry, short stories, mysteries, Christmas memoir and radio commentary. He is an accomplished musician and composer and a retired television and radio host. His professional life is in medical health care.

William H. Joiner Jr.

Other than summer jobs as a teenager, Bill has always been in business for himself. He has owned businesses that included: residential and commercial construction; brokering and trading commodities; owning and operating multiple insurance agencies; horse breeding, syndicating, training and racing; dog breeding and field trialing; owning and operating multiple gyms; owning and operating oil wells; brokering, researching title and consulting (regarding the buying and selling of oil and gas properties); as well as brokering and facilitating international fuel purchases.

He finally found his calling as an author, drawing on life’s experiences for the inspiration for his books.

About the Publisher:

DS Productions (DSP) is a leader in Western fiction with a strong catalogue of authors and Western novels. DSP has consistently placed their authors inside the top one hundred and is also known for taking new authors and turning them into a success using their sales formula. Their personalized, winning publishing techniques have made them one of the leading publishers in Western-themed fiction.

Meet Kelley Kaye – A Cozy Mystery Author to Watch For

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 I haven’t done an author interview for some time, but when southern California author Kelley Kaye reached out to me to review her Chalkboard Outline series, and I finished the first one, Death by Diploma (which will be reviewed in tomorrow’s blog), I knew I had to know more about her and share that newfound knowledge with my readers. She taught High School English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken. Her knowledge, and love, of learning comes through very clearly in her books, but rather than bore you with my nattering, why don’t we let her tell you about herself and her writing.



How long have you been writing?


I have loved writing since birth, practically. But I’ve  only been writing to share since my first published short story—a horror story called “Wobegone” published in Crimson magazine in 2000. I’ve only been able to write full time since October of 2013.



When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?


I am book obsessed—have been since I was three years old. It has always seemed like such a natural progression, from being obsessed with reading stories to wanting to dissect them and wanting to create some of my own. New obsession!


Is being an author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen?


I feel like my life all around just happened, just keeps happening, and YES it is all I ever dreamed of. I work hard to keep it happening, though. I mean, once it starts. If that even makes sense.


What inspired you to become a writer?


People always talk to me like this was some sort of a choice. I’ve always loved stories, have read obsessively since I was three, and because of this there are always stories in my head. The stories have to come out, somehow. It’s crucial to my mental health. So I let the stories out, and then there’s much less likelihood of a meltdown. Meltdowns bad, stories good.


No, seriously, when I read good writing it makes me want to make my own stories better. Other writers inspire me to write.


Who are your influences?


My biggest influence is most definitely my dad. He was this obsessive reader and adventurer who ended up opening the first-ever used bookstore (in the U.S. anyway. I think Europe has always had them). He traveled back and forth to that store—Salt Lake to Grand Junction and back—usually with his knees gripping the steering wheel and a book splayed across it, for years (true story), and he brought us any books we wanted. He also brought books HE liked, and shared those as well. My love for YA started with Madeline L’Engle (our books), and for mysteries started with cozies by Nancy Pickard, Jill Churchill, and Julie Smth (his books) and graduating to more hard-boiled fare by James Lee Burke and Harlan Coben (also his). He died in 2012, and I found out he, himself, had always wanted to write. I was heartbroken to hear of this unrealized dream. I hope I can do justice to those dreams, in memory and in honor of him.


What books have most inspired you, and who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?


To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book, in my opinion. But there are so many others—books inspire me because of the way the author turns a phrase, paints a picture or makes me hungry for the next moment. East of Eden. Cat’s Cradle. Something Wicked This Way Comes.


Harlan Coben is the one who inspired me to write a mystery—I wanted to write something where the reader laughed a lot and didn’t know how the book would end. Dean Koontz has always inspired me because I think he’s such a great storyteller. My friend Shawn told me once to read TickTock because the rapport between the two main characters sounded a lot like my voice as a writer. I read the book and was so flattered to have a comparison made like that! Stephen King is, also, in my mind a genius storyteller. 11-22-63 had so many moving parts to it and he made them all come together in this amazing machine. Plus I feel he’s a romantic and a feminist and an optimist—all wrapped up in this word package that can scare the bejesus out of you.


When did you begin writing, and what was the very first thing you ever wrote?


I have always loved writing, the way words can be combined in so many ways to create so many feelings. Stories can go anywhere I want them to go. Unlike life, which is much harder to

control. I’ve always liked messing around with words—stories for my Barbie dolls, captions for my yearbook—but I didn’t really start working on fictional stories and poems until my college creative writing class. I wrote a sci-fi story while listening to “Unforgiven” by Metallica (betcha didn’t know I was a Headbanger from way back), and my professor, Charles Clerc, thought it was good enough to enter it into an L. Ron Hubbard short story contest. I didn’t win, but the process of letting the story in the song inspire me to write a totally unrelated story was intoxicating.


How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?


I people-watch and eavesdrop. A lot. In Death by Diploma, Emma was the name of my college roommate and current friend, and Leslie is one of my closest friends and colleagues from Colorado. The other names are just random ones I pulled out of my…hat.



The storylines can come from anywhere, I guess—news, television, myths. I taught high school English and drama for twenty years, including mythology—one of my favorite classes to teach. You can get a lot of ideas from mythologies and fairy tales, plus it’s SO fun to tell those stories in the classroom.



POV is tough to decide. I experiment with it all the time—the Chalkboard Outlines series is third person attached, but the Foundation series (YA Paranormal) alters between first and third person. And the YA standalone Down in the Belly of the Whale is first person, present tense. I’ve never done second person—maybe that’ll be next!



What do you think makes a good story?


Interesting characters with difficult decisions to make. I like it when I’m constantly asking “why did THAT happen?”; “who the heck is THAT?”; “why did that guy choose THAT path?”; etc. The questions are what keep me reading, and the people in the story make me care what’s going to happen as a result of those questions.



What does it take for you to love a character?


I need to believe their actions are true to their belief system and history.


How do you utilize that when creating your characters?


I ask that question of myself whenever the character decides to do something.


What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?


I have a small “office”— AKA a chair—in the corner of my bedroom, complete with laptop and picture of my late father, bookseller extraordinaire. There is a schedule taped to the side of my dresser, laying out chunks of time for each writing project and each social media outlet. Seven days a week!


Do you work from an outline?


Ha. I WISH I were organized like that. No, I take whatever my basic story premise is, combine it with whichever characters I pick, and then we’re off to the races. It goes where it wants to. I bought this pretty pink three-ring binder. With pockets. My intention was (is) to have a section and a pocket for each of my characters, with journal entries, magazine pictures, objects, anything that would contribute to my knowledge of the story. Isn’t that a great idea? A mystery writer, Michele Scott, gave me that idea. It’s still sitting on the shelf next to the computer—pretty, pink, and empty. I’m lucky if I can find pockets of time to do both marketing and writing, much less organizing my life that way.


Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?


I don’t know that I have a philosophy, per se. I have a compulsion to write stories or observations which expand upon people and situations. I hope to find an audience who likes the stories, but I will continue writing them no matter what, because if I don’t my head will explode.



What is your writing style? Outliner/planner or seat of the pantser?


My writing style has most definitely been pantser, but I’m in the middle of a book which is neither— instead it’s about tapping in to the brain’s evolutionary REQUIREMENT for story. It’s called Story Genius by Lisa Cron and so far it’s super interesting—I’m excited about implementing elements of this “blueprint” which is neither outlining nor pantsing, and I hope it helps me get better and better, which is always what I’m trying to do…




Can you tell us about your editing process?


I don’t edit anything until the entire first draft is finished. Then I give the manuscript to several beta readers, compile all their comments and ideas, and then dive in to the editing.


Do you listen to music as you write?


I have this recording I picked up at a “Write Your Book in a Weekend” conference. It’s sort of a beach-y, meditative type track with music and ocean sounds—also coyotes howling in the background. I know, right? Coyotes? But it puts me in a mind space that helps the words come out, for sure.


What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?


I am most challenged by the number of ideas I have in my head and on my plate, and the inability to find enough time to spend on them all. I don’t deal very well with it, I think. I’m trying to just attack one thing at a time, because that’s all anyone can really do, isn’t it? I just wish I did it better.



I feel lucky that dealing with this constant challenge means I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. I have so many projects happening at any given time—right now I’m trying to finish a humorous self-help memoir (you’re right. Not an actual genre. Yet.), I have to change the POV on one YA Paranormal, COMPLETELY overhaul a YA Paranormal that is first in a series, and I need to finish Chalkboard Outlines® Book Three, which I am very excited about even though Book  Two—Poison by Punctuation, is brand new and nobody’s really read it yet. So you see? If I get blocked on whatever I’m working on, then BAM, I shift to a different project. It’s nice that I have constant assignments for my magazine job also, because it’s a completely different type of writing, as are my fiction and non-fiction projects. Allows for whatever state my brain is in!


One more challenge—I have MS, have had it since 1994. Two symptoms I have are crushing fatigue, and the pesky problem of my right hand not working so well after a certain amount of activity on the computer or on the paper. Same problem with my left leg (on the street, not on the computer). I deal with those by living my life as a champion napper (I have a scooter, too). At least once a day I have to stop everything and lie down for a while. I did this when I was teaching, too. It’s awesome. I think everyone should do it.



When and where do you do your writing?


This is my office, AKA a chair and a laptop in the corner of my bedroom:

Soul Alley – Black Soldiers in Vietnam

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A soul-searching documentary by filmmaker, Ted Irving:


My interview on Wild West Showdown

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Go here to hear my interview on Wild West Showdown with J.C. Hulsey.

Interview with Historical Novelist Mirella Patzer

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I’m privileged to feature an interview with Mirella Patzer, a Canadian author who specializes in historical romance fiction. She writes sweeping historical, with a touch of romance, set in an exciting period of world history. But, why don’t I let her speak for herself.

Author Mirella Patzer
Author Mirella Patzer

  1. What got you started writing historical romance fiction?


To tell you the truth, I never intended to write historical romance. What launched my interest in writing was my desire to write about my family’s history during World War II Italy. The Battle of the Moro River occurred on my grandfather’s vineyards, lands that are still owned by my mother and her sister. 2000 Canadian soldiers died, but the won and freed my mother’s town, San Leonardo, from the Nazis. It is a tale of survival and devastation as experienced by my mother who was an eight year old child. The family had to live in caves because their home was bombed. I haven’t written the story yet, but it is definitely on my list of future books to write. Before I do so, I want to visit those caves and experience the November cold and rain my mother had to live through.

  1. Why do you write about the period that you chose for your stories?


Because of my strong Italian roots, I have a great passion for historical fiction set in the medieval era. Almost all the novels I have written are set in Italy between the 10th century and 17th century.

  1. How much research did you do for Orphan of the Olive Tree?


Orphan Cover with BRAG Medallion Large PrintI have been working on a biographical novel entitled The Prophetic Queen, a novel about saint and queen Matilda of Ringelheim for approximately 10 years. Years of medieval research into Italy and Germany have created a comfort zone for me because I’ve acquired so much knowledge. So, it was easy to place the story in Italy. I did about 6 months research into superstitions, the Battle of the Monteaparti Hills, and the daily life of peasants and knights during that time. All the rest came from previous learning I acquired because of my research.

  1. Are your characters based upon historical figures, or totally made up?


All the characters in Orphan of the Olive Tree are purely fictional. After being steeped in so much research for my biographical novel, and trying to write with a high degree of accuracy, I wanted to work on another project that would allow me some creative freedom. I let my imagination run free and unfettered, and the result was Orphan of the Olive Tree, which is my biggest seller!


  1. Do you write in other genres? If so, which ones?


I stay strictly with historical fiction, a great passion of mine. My novels so far span from the 10th century to the 17th century, however, I would love to write a western one day and have a story forming in my mind. I would never write a contemporary novel, simply because I find historical fiction more challenging and love the research.


  1. What are you currently working on?

I am currently polishing and completing the final edits of The Prophetic Queen, which will need to be divided into two books – The Scarlet Mantle and Crown of Discord. I anticipate the release date to be 2015.

  1. Any writing advice you’d like to offer my readers?


Yes, I have two pieces of advice that I do my best to follow.

First, if you are an aspiring author, but afraid or unsure about getting started, the best advice is “just do it!” Writing is a constant learning curve. Do not be afraid of failure. Your writing skills evolve the more you write and through feedback gained from critique groups, writing groups, or other authors.

Second, always pay yourself first. What I mean by that is it is easy to get distracted with life and daily tasks such as email, blogging, critiquing, reviewing books, or other distractions. Train yourself to sit down and write for an hour or two first. Pay yourself. Then move on to these other tasks! That will keep you moving forward in your writing career.

I’d like to extend a big thank you to Charles Ray for discovering my books and for his kind invitation to visit his blog.

For more information about me, my books, and my blogs, here are some links:

PnP Author Spotlight – Leonico Opio

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Check out the latest spotlighted author on PnPAuthors Promotions:

Interview with Author DV Berkom

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DV Berkom is the creator of the Leine Basso and Kate Jones thriller/mystery series. Here she talks about her writing career.



  1. How did you get started writing?

I’ve written short stories since I was a kid: the earliest one I can remember was an illustrated tome on the joys of housework when I was seven (yes, I was into satire even then J). It wasn’t until 2005-6 that I tried to write a full-length novel. “Tried” is the operative word here. I finished it, thought it was great, and sent it out to publishers and agents, gathering a bunch of form rejections. Once I got over my disappointment I decided to try again. And again. I learned how much I didn’t know by writing and re-writing, attending workshops and classes, etc. The one thing that became clear to me was that I had a LOT of work to do before I could even consider submitting. I’m still learning, which is one of the many things I enjoy about being a writer.



  1. What motivates you?

Money. (LOL. Just kidding. Publishing is so not the business to be in if that’s what motivates you J) In all seriousness, my main motivation is to entertain readers. I want them to finish one of my books and immediately want to read more. I want them to feel as though they lived the story with the characters and were able to escape into another world for at least a while. That’s what I like to have happen when I read a novel. I’m always so grateful when a reader lets me know how much they enjoyed my books.



  1. What is your favorite genre, and why?

Crime and suspense. I’m fascinated by what makes people do the things they do, especially when it’s outside the norms of polite society. But I also need fast-paced action and minimal description in what I read and write, or I’ll get distracted. I LOVE to write action scenes—probably because I love to read them, and I really enjoy writing dialogue—both elements that move the story along at a good pace. That’s not to say I don’t read slower-paced books—I do—but my absolute favorite genre is suspense.



  1. Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

Everywhere! News stories are particular catalysts for my overactive imagination, as are vivid dreams, but a snippet of a conversation, or someone on the street, or an online article, are enough to get the hamsters in my brain running…For instance, Bad Spirits and the Kate Jones Thriller series came out of news reports about the escalating violence in Mexico due to the rise of the drug cartels. Yucatan Dead was in response to the homegrown militias forming there. Serial Date was the result of a vivid and seriously freaky dream I had. And Bad Traffick was inspired by a documentary on child trafficking. A One Way Ticket to Dead, the latest Kate Jones novel, has some news references, but it grew in a more organic way from what had happened in the rest of the series.



  1. What are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing the third in the Leine Basso thriller series. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Leine’s head, and it’s been interesting getting into her character again. I re-read both Serial Date and Bad Traffick to refresh my memory and to help me get back into that specific voice. It’s also a point of view shift for me, as the Kate Jones books are all first person and Leine Basso’s books are all in third. Both POVs have their challenges, and both have their strengths. I especially like to be able to tell the story from another character’s POV. There’s a little more freedom than with first person.



I’ve also been working on the audio versions of Cruising for Death and Bad Traffick. Cruising for Death has recently been made available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes, and I expect Bad Traffick to be in a couple of weeks. Serial Date and the Kate Jones Thriller Series (Vol. 1) are already available in that format. Both narrators are fantastic, and both ‘got’ the characters. I can’t really ask for more than that!



  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years, regarding your writing?

Good question. I hope to have several more books completed, with a solid reader base for both existing series. I also expect to start another series in the near future. Beyond that, I have no idea. As long as I’m still writing and people are still reading my work, I’ll be one happy author.



  1. Anything you’d like to say to my readers about writing?

The only thing I’m certain of in this business is if you want to be a writer, or if you want to continue to be a writer, then write. That’s it. Keep writing, keep learning the craft. Learn from your mistakes, and for heaven’s sake, don’t be afraid to make them, either. One more thing: keep the faith. Because I can guarantee you will wonder at times why the heck you’re writing and possibly even consider giving up. Don’t. Take a break, come back to it when you’re ready. But Don’t. Give. Up.




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Author Interview: Fantasy Author Yvonne Hertzberger

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authorphoto2-1Introducing fantasy author Yvonne Hertzberger. Yvonne came to writing late in life, but with her Pendulum Earth series she’s  making up for lost time. She currently resides in Canada where she uses her skills in observing human nature to create a fantasy world that will amaze fans of the genre. In addition, she shares her take on writing on her blog. In this post, she gives us an insight into her writing process.

1. Tell us about yourself and what you write.

I like to call myself a late bloomer. It seems I did everything positive in my life later than most. Writing is a good example of that. I didn’t begin to write until I was 56 and retired from ‘paid’ employment. So far I have written three novels, a fantasy trilogy titled Earth’s Pendulum. It was really difficult to find a category or sub-genre because it doesn’t fit neatly into any existing ones. Some readers suggested it ought to be historical fiction but as the setting is not real I can’t do that. Others have called it magic realism because the way I use the paranormal would be considered real in many societies. There are no mythical creatures and no big spells, only a seer who gets messages from the goddess Earth and who can occasionally converse with animals and can tell if someone is telling the truth. There are many societies that would not think this strange in the least.

I chose to write fantasy because it allows me to explore human nature free from the restrictions of ‘real’ mores, stereotypes and customs. Yet, I still try to make my ‘world’ plausible and somewhat familiar so that readers can easily immerse themselves in it.

2. What in your life most influences your writing?

My life has not been an easy one. In order to survive I became keenly observant of human behavior and interaction. As a result my writing is very character based. I believe my studies in psychology and sociology have added to my understanding of human nature and have influenced how my characters think and act as well. I have also always been interested in the beliefs and customs of other cultures and religions and how these contribute to both conflict and peace. Those tend to creep into my writing as well, but only as they might affect my imaginary world.

3. What do you enjoy most about writing? What is your biggest challenge?

I have already alluded to the importance of character development in my writing. When I began I thought I was crazy when my characters told me who they were and how they wanted to grow. Since then I have learned that this is quite common. Meeting, introducing and developing my characters has been the easiest and most rewarding aspect of writing for me. I love it when a character does something unexpected. So often it is the characters that help me develop the plot. They know where they need to go. My job is to help them get there in a logical, believable way.

The biggest challenge for me is description. My grade eleven English teacher told me my prose was ‘too terse’. I’ve been told to add more descriptions. The other challenge is fight scenes. They don’t come up often, but when they do I tend to keep the action to the minimum so I don’t show how little I know. Hey, I’m a non-violent person.  Fighting’s not my thing. lol


4. Do you outline, or do you just let it flow?

I am mostly a ‘pantser’. I have a beginning, and end point and one or two key events in my head to guide me. Aside from that it’s all by the seat of my pants. If I were to try to plan things out more formally I’d get stuck and my writing would become stiff and artificial.

5. Where do the ideas for your stories come from?

I wish I could answer that. The short answer is “I have no idea”. For the trilogy I thought I would write a short story. Look what happened. It grew – a lot. I have done a lot of reading in the fantasy genre so I suppose that helps, but I like to think my stories are unique.

The new novel I am working on now came to me in a dream. Go figure. ???BFC cover



6. How do you market your work?

Marketing is the biggest challenge for me. I have a website/blog, a Facebook author page, a Facebook profile, a twitter account and a Linkedin account. I try to keep some presence on all of them. While they have helped me make some wonderful contacts I can’t say they have resulted in many sales. My biggest success has been locally with the actual launch parties. I sell far more paper books than ebooks. Maybe I just haven’t reached critical mass yet. Here’s hoping that happens soon. I also participate in a half dozen closed Facebook groups that deal with writing, publishing, and promoting. Again, these have resulted in a great network of contacts where we all pay it forward for each other.  I have not paid for advertising. From what others tell me their success is largely a crap shoot and I have no money to spend unless it gets results.

7. What are you currently working on?

Yes, the idea for my current work in progress came to me in a dream. I rarely remember my dreams so this is really surprising to me.  The new book will also be Fantasy with even larger elements of magic realism. Where the trilogy was set in an early medieval society, this new one will be in a much more primitive setting. It begins in a Kalahari type desert, moves into a huge cave and then into another agrarian society that is more imaginary. It will be a little grittier than the trilogy but have many of the same character elements. I am not a fan of stories where the characters have few if any redemptive traits. Dystopia does not appeal to me. So, while the characters will go through some rough times, I like them to show what I call some ‘humanity’, i.e. some goodness.

TKE cover

8. Where do you see yourself, in terms of your writing, five years from now?

Why, rich and famous, of course. No, seriously, I hope to keep writing. My sincere hope is that if I do, eventually I will gain some recognition and respect as a writer. I plan to continue to self-publish, as from what I see the trad publishing industry no longer serves either authors or readers well. The entire industry is in a state of major transition. These times are always chaotic but I believe that, in the long run, it will be good for Indies. There are so many great writers that never get a trad contract. OK, so that means I won’t be rich and famous. I guess I’ll settle for respect.

TDC cover





9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I want to thank you, Charlie, for having me here and sharing my story with your followers. I truly appreciate it.  I enjoyed writing this. It seems that every time I am asked to reflect on writing I learn something new about myself. This was fun.




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Author Interview: Ninja Mom and Author R. J. Crayton

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Starting with this issue, I plan to periodically showcase outstanding Indie authors. R.J. Crayton, who describes herself as a Ninja Mom and author, and who has penned the ‘First Life’ series that can be found on Amazon and other retail book sites.  Rather than bore you with my ravings, though, let’s allow R.J. to introduce herself.


1. Tell us about yourself and what you write.

My name is RJ Crayton and I’m your typical All-American gal. I literally come from an All-American city (Peoria, IL, 4-time winner of the “All-America City” award).  so far I’ve been writing thrillers with a touch of romance. My first published novels are part of my Life First series. That book is set in a dystopian future whose society lives by the mantra of “Life first.” As such, they put the preservation of life as a whole, above any specific individual and mandated organ donation to needy patients. Kelsey is not game for giving up her kidney, when called upon and flees.

These books were a lot of fun to write, and in them, we really get to know Kelsey, her best friend Susan and Kelsey’s boyfriend Luke. I’m also about to release a short story collection, which is about four different mothers. It’s not really a thriller, but the stories all raise really interesting issues, just like Life First.  For example, one story in the collection looks at a woman facing a crisis of faith after her daughter nearly dies from choking, and another looks at a mother-child relationship when the child repeatedly doesn’t live up to the mother’s expectations.

2. What in your life most influences your writing?

They say to write what you know, so I think just everything that’s happened in my life goes into the mix when it comes to writing. Ideas for stories tend to pop into my mind as a kernel or nugget and if it sticks, it will slowly form into a story. My novel Life First was inspired by a news story I saw on a woman who refused to get a c-section because she didn’t want to get “gutted like a pig” and her baby died. There was lots of talk about whether doctors should have done the procedure anyway and the mental stability of the mother, and the like. For me, it led to the question of whose rights do we give precedence to when we’re asking one person to sacrifice their body integrity to save the life of another. Would we ask a man to slice open his body simply to save the life of his child? While the health of an in-utero child and mother are tied to each other, I think the broader question is still applicable. And I wondered what would a society look like if we demanded citizens slice open their bodies and be “gutted like pigs” to save the lives of others. So, Life First was inspired by a news story and my reaction to it. My reaction was probably based, in part, on my own pregnancy, which had some potentially life-threatening complications. Ethically speaking, pregnancy is a really interesting time, because doctors are always measuring the impact of what they do on the health of two people. As a related aside, I’ve been offered morphine twice in my life, and both times were while I was pregnant. Doctors felt my discomfort being alleviated outweighed any potential impacts morphine had on my in-utero baby (I was around 8 months at the time of the offer during each pregnancy). So, life in general impacts the way we process information and think about stories to write.

I’m actually publishing a short story collection next month, and the appendices will discuss my personal connection to each story. For short stories, I tend to write things that are emotionally meaningful to me, rather than riffing off the nugget of an idea I got after reading a news article.

 3. What do you enjoy most about writing? What is your biggest challenge?

Most? That’s a tough one to answer. I’ve always loved writing, so I think what I like most is just letting the ideas out, letting what’s in my head flow from me to the keyboard. It’s a nice release. The biggest challenge is editing. It’s always hard to look back over what’s come out and realize it’s not as awesome as it felt coming out. That said, editing is usually where the story starts to shine and really come into its own.

4. Do you outline, or do you just let it flow?

I’m more of a let it flow type. However, when I start a novel, I usually have a general idea of where I want the trajectory to go. I rarely just write without some type of end goal, even if it were to change somewhat by what is written.

 5. Where do the ideas for your stories come from?

Hopefully I didn’t misinterpret the earlier question, as I feel like this is touching the same area. But, my ideas tend to just come from life. I’ll just be doing something or reading something, and a thought will come to mind for a cool story.  The idea for Life First happened after reading a news article. I have been working on a young adult paranormal story, loosely titled Scented, and the idea came for that when my son (3 at the time) just walked up to me and told me I stank, though I didn’t. It was creepy and weird at the time–at least in my mind; and my mind is all that really matters for the purposes of my writing–and shortly thereafter, I started writing Scented. (Though, I put it aside to write other things; which is good, because it was another 4 years before the other main character in that story emerged in my imagination; That character was also based on a life event).

6. How do you market your work?

Marketing is tough, because it requires platform building and social media and other time-consuming things. I’d prefer to spend time writing, not marketing, but you don’t sell if you don’t market. So, the primary things I do are blog (my own and guests), author interviews, social media (tweeting, facebooking, pinning and recently, tumbling) and the occasional paid advertising. They say the best marketing is to write more books, so I’m trying to do that. It’s one of the reasons I thought I’d release a short story collection.

 7. What are you currently working on?

Right now, I’m in a major editing phase. I am editing the third book in the Life First series and I’m editing my short story collection. I need to finish both in the next two weeks. Once I do, I’m going to send my Life First finale (I have yet to give book 3 a name) to beta readers, and the short story collection (called Four Mothers) to an editor. After that, I need to finish writing Scented. I know what I want to happen. I just need to execute it.

8. Where do you see yourself, in terms of your writing, five years from now?

In five years, I hope to have at least 10 books published and to have amassed a good number of readers who enjoy my writing.

 9. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think you’ve covered a lot, Charles, so nothing to add by way of general content. However, my dad said it’s always good to close with a joke.  So, here’s one my daughter told me the other day. I thought it was cute.

Q: Why is it easy to weigh fish?

A: Because they come with their own scales.




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