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20 Q’s with Judy Penz Sheluk

Most of the time I’m jaded, at the very least internally jaded (thank God for kitten videos).  I feel as if we life in a society in which we don’t look out for each other.  Women specifically.  Thankfully this woman proves me wrong.

Judy Penz Sheluk has a weekly blog on Monday’s in which she spotlights a new or emerging author’s release.  She also has ‘author talks’ in which our peers share their experiences in the hopes that we’ll learn from them.

If you’re looking for a mystery look no further than one of the many titles from Judy Penz Sheluk including ‘The Hanged Man’s Noose’ which made her an International Amazon Best Selling Author.

 

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And now Judy Pens Sheluk answers my 20 Questions…

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

There are two: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read it when I was very young (about grade 4…resulted in me getting “accelerated to grade 6—thankfully schools don’t do that any longer) and thought…WOW, that’s how you paint a picture with words. Around the same time, I read the much-more age appropriate Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series). Emily was an aspiring journalist/writer in a time when women didn’t think of such things.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I’ve always written “in my head,” meaning as a kid I would walk to school and keep a story going in my head, and just keep adding to it every day. I thought everyone did that! Professionally, since 2003, which is when I left my day job as a Sales & Marketing Coordinator to become a freelance journalist. I started writing my first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose on Christmas Eve 2011, but I’d had a hundred or more magazine articles and a handful of short stories published by then.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

John Sandford, the absolute king of pacing. Stephen King, because, well…he’s Stephen King! Sue Grafton: I love her Kinsey Millhone series and have read every novel, A to X, plus her collection of short stories. Tana French, an Irish mystery writer who is just brilliant. I thought about inviting Truman Capote, but he’d get all sulky if it wasn’t all about him, and it couldn’t be, could it? Not with that cast of writers.

 

  1. What would you eat?

Pizza. My favorite food. It’s good for breakfast (cold), lunch or dinner. And everyone can get whatever toppings they’d want. I’d go straight cheese, no toppings.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Plot out? What’s that? Seriously…I’m a complete panster. I come up with a basic premise, and then “what if” my way to the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Mornings are best, but I do jot down notes on paper in the evening or whenever the ideas come to me (I even have an LED pen that lights up so I don’t have to turn the bedside lamp on…). But, I still have a couple of editing day jobs, so sometimes the deadlines for those take precedence over my writing preferred time. But I do try to write every day.

  1. Is there music on?

If I’m writing the answers to this, yes. Either Country or Classic Rock or 80’s/90’s type “oldies” depending on my mood. But if I’m writing fiction, it has to be talk radio. Maybe it’s a holdover from when I worked in a noisy office and snuck writing time in whenever I could without getting caught!

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I was in my lawyer’s office with my husband. We were there to update our wills, and he’d been delayed in court. I thought…what if I was hear to inherit …what if there were conditions to that inheritance…what if…and Skeletons was born.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Need any more titles???? I have lots of book envy!

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

TV

American Crime, a network series, is very clever, though I preferred Season 1 to Season 2.

Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul. What can I say? Vince Gilligan. Can I invite him for pizza too? Please?

The Gilmore Girls. I’ve seen every episode a dozen times. Love Lauren Graham.

Parenthood. Never got the recognition it deserved. Did I mention that I love Lauren Graham? But the entire ensemble cast was terrific, and the writing was beautifully layered.

Movies

Too many to mention, though I recently saw Brooklyn and really enjoyed it. My all-time favorite is Primal Fear. Brilliant.

Albums

Anything by Blue Rodeo or Jim Cuddy. Listen to the words to Bulletproof. Listen to Cuddy (who is also the lead singer in Blue Rodeo) and tell me you didn’t shed a tear.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Whatever actor Hollywood says would be a good fit works for me! But when I think of Callie Barnstable from Skeletons, I think of someone like Jennifer Lawrence. Strong, but with a mix of naïve and jaded. Alexis Bledel would make a great Emily Garland (from The Hanged Man’s Noose).

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I find short stories incredibly difficult to write. You’d think they’d be easier than a novel, but not for me. I started “Saturday with Bronwyn,” which is in The Whole She-Bang-3 (Sisters in Crime Toronto, Nov. 2016), about five years ago. After many stops and starts, I finally got it to gel. The fact that She-Bang was blind judged gave me hope…maybe some of my other stops and starts have a chance, too.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

Another short story, “Live Free or Die.” It was “inspired” by an event (or should I say a man) that happened to me when I was 21. When I finally sat down to write that story, the words just flowed.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’m hoping they get all of my stories…I actually don’t hear from a lot of readers. But Skeletons in the Attic seems to really resonate with folks. That said, some wish the ending were “tidier.” I deliberately left loose ends, not because I wanted to leave them for a sequel, but because life has loose ends.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

The sequel to The Hanged Man’s Noose. The sequel to Skeletons in the Attic. A short story…I’m usually working on more than one thing at a time. That way, if I get distracted or bored, I have another project to go to. It beats color-separating my paper clips or other diversionary tactics.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

My mom died recently, and in her belongings were her and my father’s immigration papers from Nottingham, England to Canada. They came separately, arrived at different ports (Halifax and Quebec City), and married in Toronto. I want to write their love story. I’m not a romance writer, but I feel that Anneliese and Anton have a story to tell. I wish my mom had told me more…my dad died of cancer when I was quite young…but maybe it’s better this way.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I met a couple of women at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh. They had met Louise Penny when she was starting out. They told me they thought I’d be the next Louise Penny. A girl can dream…

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Authenticity matters. (Arabella Carpenter, The Hanged Man’s Noose)

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Every character has elements of people I have known and/or observed, but there are always detours along the way. I’m a people-watcher…if you have a habit of pulling your earlobe when you’re nervous, that might get folded into a story one day. If you take the meringue off your lemon meringue pie and eat it last, that might make it in. I’m always looking for believable quirks.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Arabella Carpenter. She’s the sidekick in Noose, and has a small role in Skeletons. She’s the protagonist in the sequel to Noose that I’m working on now. She’s feisty, flawed, passionate, and loves cognac, chardonnay and cookies. She’s probably the most like me of any of my characters. But I also really like Callie Barnstable in Skeletons. Honestly, it’s hard to pick a favorite.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on her blog http://www.judypenzsheluk.com and purchase her work from all the usual suspects, including Amazon: http://getbook.at/SkeletonsintheAttic. You can also find Judy on Facebook (https/www.facebook.com/JudyPenzSheluk) and Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk).

 

 

 

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An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose (Barking Rain Press), was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic (Imajin Books), the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016. Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, The Whole She-Bang 3, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri. Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

 

 

 

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20 Questions with Jessica Raney

I know a lot authors, but Jessica Raney was the first in which I was the published her work.  So keep in mind no matter how many rejections one might get, there will be someone who appreciates your work, and wants to give you the ability to share your voice.  It was my pleasure to be that springboard for Jessica.

 In the anthology ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ compiled by myself and Chantell Renee we were excited in include Jessica’s pieces (including my favorite The Middle Part which although horrifying is perfect for Valentines Day).

She’s accomplished in her own right long before she met me, including BFE Podcast in which she, along with two friends, interview interesting people (including myself and Chantell during The Amazing Comic Con which you can listen to here.)

Jessica reading a section of her piece Cold Comfort from ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

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And now for Twenty Questions With… Jessica Raney

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Hmm…well I feel like I’ve been writing and reading forever so it’s difficult to decide which book, but I probably have to go with “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I read it when I was in 4th grade, which is waaaay too young for that, but I was highly unsupervised as a child. The good news is it’s a pretty tame book. The bad news is it led me to read a follow-up book that I found in my mom’s closet that promised, “In the spirit of GWTW,” called “Sweet Savage Love” by Rosemary Rodgers. It was not so tame and yeah…that made me want to be a writer too. In addition, to find sweet, savage love with a scoundrel on a cattle drive across the American Frontier.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

Really young. Probably 7 or 8. I wrote a short story called “King Bong and Rose” which is a delightful tale about a crappy king who taxes the hell out of his people until a girl named Rose uses magic to threaten him with harm unless he adopts a more sensible economic strategy. I also wrote a play called “The Passing of a Pork Rind King” about a dude who builds a pork rind empire and is murdered in a washing machine. Go figure.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Neil Gaimen, Chuck Palahniuk, Margaret Atwood, and Beverly Cleary

 

  1. What would you eat?

Whatever Beverly Cleary wanted.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

Notebooks, diagrams, list upon lists upon lists. Then I toss them all and just write. I wish I were more organized about it but, meh.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Usually in the evening, but sometime all day if I have the time. One of my favorite tricks is to set a timer, write for 20 minutes, and then go do something like clean for 20 minutes. I get a good groove on and words just seem to flow better. Also, things get cleaned, like WHOAH.

 

  1. Is there music on?

Nope. I prefer silence.

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

I think the last one I wrote was “Moonlight Serenade.” I was on a trip to New Orleans and I saw a for rent sign in the French Quarter. It advertised that the apartment was haunted so the story is an answer to the question, who wants a haunted apartment?

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (A master of character and dialogue), Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one of the most unique and brilliant spec fic books I’ve ever read), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (No reason needed)

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Game of Thrones is amazingly well written and produced. Anyone who can trim GRR Martin down into manageable TV is a great writer. Parks and Recreation was one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time. For movies, I think Stardust is amazing. It’s so good it makes me forget I always want to punch Claire Danes. For albums, I would say Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Breakups and cocaine apparently make for genius songwriting.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Most of my projects are short stories, but I am working on a zombie apocalypse novel. I don’t know whom I see as the main character, hopefully whoever replaces Jennifer Lawrence as badass/hottie/sensitive girl, but for the villain, I see Helen Mirren because I think Dame Helen Mirren with a machete would be quite something to behold.

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

I have a short story called “To Stray From the Path” that is a take on a fairy tale that was hard to write. The first draft veered pretty far away from what I intended because I was caught up in sensory descriptions. As a result, I lost the point of the story. I fixed it but it was tough. Revising anything is always a pain.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

“The Middle Part” just sort of plurpted out. I knew exactly what to write and how to mess up the order of events. I did have revision help from my loyal beta readers so that helped but I pretty much got it right the first time.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

I’ve had people tell me that “Cold Comfort” freaked them out and they were wigged when their cat jumped in bed with them, so I would call that one a success.

  1. What are you working on now?

I’m working on a vampire comedy about the least suave and debonair vampire of all time. I hope that by this time I also have a short story collection about various horrific love stories complete.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

I’m going to finish an epic vampire series before I die. And if I don’t, I’m going need a vampire to bite me and give me immortality so I can finish it. I hope that it’s a cool vampire. Not that gross Nosforatu dude or that sparkly douche from Twilight. Like Eric Northman or Pam. Yeah…Pam.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

Do I have fans? I don’t know about that but I can tell you that the first book you ever sign for someone is a trip.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

“You’re never going to finish that puzzle. Fat Larry ate the llama’s nose piece.”

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off real people?

Absolutely. However, I can’t go into details because I’m afraid they’ll want money.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

Of mine? Hmm…probably the ghost in “Moonlight Serenade.” I admire tenacity and fabulous style.

 

 

You can find out more about the author on their blog Jessica Raney’s Blog and purchase her work ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ from Amazon..

Scary Human Skull, Crying Blood
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20 Q’s with…Russell Little

I strongly believe that in order to be a truly superb storyteller one must live a full life.  Russell Little is one such author.  One feels at ease in his presence, but the fact that he takes his experiences throughout his life and fuses it into his writing makes him a rare gem.

An affair gone wrong is not an uncommon theme, but Russell Little takes you on a ride that has more twists then someone lost in downtown Houston.  His characters, especially Marylin, are infamous, and unforgettable.

Start the new year with ‘Murder for Me’ by Russell Little which will pump some adrenaline into 2017.  If my words aren’t enough then read his answers to my 20 Questions which will give you insight into the mind of a vivid author.

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20 Questions with Russell Little

Question 1:  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer. What’s yours?

Answer:    The first book that influenced me and made me want to write was Little Pony – I read this book for the first time in the second grade. The book was filled with pictures of black and white ponies. I liked the book, and all the pictures, so much that I began to draw my own ponies, and then I wrote a pony story.

That was when I first felt a desire to write. I had a lot of reading and writing disabilities, but they did not stop my desire to write.

At the beginning of each school year, the teacher sat with each student to read. Since my abilities decreased over the summer while not in school, I was always placed in the lowest group. By the end of the year I would work my way up and be moved from the lowest group to the first.

I didn’t like the look on the faces of the kids who did not move up, who stayed in the lower groups. It was a horrible way to separate children.

In the 7th grade I wrote another story on horses. The teacher stopped the class to read my story. Very exciting. That was the beginning of my journey to become a published author.

Question 2:  How old where you when you started writing?

Answer:    I was in the second grade when I started writing. I was also in the second grade when I began to speak and be understood. I spoke before that and only my mother and first grade teacher understood what I was saying.

Question 3:  Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Answer:    Franz Kofka – The Metamorphosis

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World – His vision of future may be more accurate than some of the others.

Leo Tolstoy – The younger Tolstoy when he wrote as a young writer.

Chekov – He later became mean and demented.

Question 4:  What would you eat?

Answer:    Chicken Parfait on raisin toast with champagne

Question 5:  How do you plot out your work?

Answer:    Once I get a story in my head I graph it out and outline, then outline by chapters, then re-graph with characters. It is a long arduous task, but that is the way I begin each new book.

Question 6:  Do you write in the morning or evening?

Answer:    In the evening. I practice divorce law all day.

Question 7:  Is there music on?

Answer:    Yes. I love to work while listening to Italian opera; sometimes Russian opera, and sometimes classic Indian music.

Question 8:  What inspired your last story?

Answer:    I am currently working on The Artist, a serial book about a serial murderer who is being chased by OC Sims, the detective from Murder for Me. I was inspired because I wanted to write a chapter from the viewpoint of a woman serial murderer one Sunday afternoon when I was bored. The serial novel is coming out over the next two years. That will teach me to be bored.

Question 9:  Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Answer:    Every Man – Philip Roth

Ana Karenina – Tolstoy (second half) made you see and feel what the characters see and feel.

Sun Also Rises – first half. The first part of the book talks about their Paris café life.

Question 10:  What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

Answer:    Modern family because it makes me laugh. When I watch television I am looking to laugh.

I also love Sherlock BBC series – well written

Question 11:  Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Answer:    I am not going to talk about protagonist or antagonist, but in my book, Murder for Me, Leonardo de Caprio would be great for one of the characters in the book. When I saw him in the movie Departed, I knew he could play two characters at once.

Question 12:  Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

Answer:    All of my pieces are hard to write. I have to write them so many times to get it right. Writing is a burden I choose to inflict upon myself. Its hard, but I don’t do it because it’s easy.

Question 13:  Which was the easiest?

Answer:    I write nothing easy. I have to graph and rewrite because nothing I write is easy. I wouldn’t do it if it was easy. I would go on to something else.

Question 14:  Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Answer:    In Murder for Me, I have a character named Marilyn. I have had a few readers send me emails or talk to me about what they thought about Marilyn and who they thought she was. I find it humbling that readers put so much thought into one character in my book.

Question 15:  What are you working on now?

Answer:    Killing Thoughts – It is the sequel to Murder for Me. It begins about 6 months after the end of Murder for Me. Some of the characters that survived are back. Killing Thoughts is different from Murder for Me because it is written in a wider universe with many new characters. It begins in Tel Aviv and Paris. I am very excited because I get to include places around the world that I have traveled.

Question 16:  What story do you have to write before you die?

Answer:    I don’t have a story that I have to write before I die. Writing stories is a lifestyle that I will do until I die.

Question 17:  What’s your best fan story?

Answer:    My favorite is my most recent fan story. I was traveling to Philadelphia and got stuck in an airport for 4 hours. They allowed a few passengers to leave the plane because we refused to stay on it. I stayed in a bar where I met a group of Pop artist and started a conversation with them. They left with a copy of Marilyn and we have a picture of them with Marilyn. That is a good fan story.

Question 18:  What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

Answer:    “Just because I’m not real, what makes you think I am not going to kill you.”

Question 19:  Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Answer:    I base a lot of my characters on blending groups of real people. I base important characters on unique individuals that have inspired me to write about those characters.

Question 20:  Who’s your favorite character?

Answer:    My favorite character is Marilyn. She is my favorite because she is the one I hear most about from my readers. My readers have the most diverse opinions about Marilyn. She has provoked the most emotion out of my readers and become very visible in the book promotions.

You can find out more about the author on his blog Russell Little’s Author Blog and purchase his work from here-don’t forget to leave an honest review after you’re done.

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20 Q’s with D. Marie Prokop

I do know a lot of authors, but this girl is one of my favorites.  I not only love her work, but like me she plays the guitar (although she is much more proficient and plays a myriad of instruments (and writes her own music)) and knits.

Basically I couldn’t wait for her to answer my 20 Questions.  You’ve seen pictures of her before on my blog not only because we’ve been to many of the same writing events supporting our peers, but we shared a booth at Amazing Comic Con.

She’s an amazing mother, writer, musician, friend, and has some great hair that I’ve had the pleasure of coloring before.  I hope that you enjoy her answers to my 20 Questions, check out her blog, and purchase one of her titles on Amazon including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ in which two of her pieces are included.

Scary Human Skull, Crying Blood

Twenty Questions With…D. Marie Prokop

1.  Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

Um…mine? Seriously, I’ve read a lot of books. While I’ve loved many of them, none of them made me want to write a book. The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped me discover my love for writing. The experience of writing my first story, The Red String, during NaNoWriMo in 2011, made me want to be a writer. I’m hooked now.

  1. How old where you when you started writing?

I kept a journal for years, and I started writing poems and songs in college. I jumped in headfirst and wrote my first novel in my late thirties. Now I’ve added short stories and flash fiction.

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

Just four??? Okay, how about just women? Agatha Christie, Madeleine L’Engle, J. K. Rowling, and Pearl S. Buck

  1. What would you eat?

Eat? Yeah, right! I wouldn’t waste a minute talking with these authors. But if you would like to know my favorite foods, I’ll tell you. I have a weakness for Asian food (especially Korean and Indian), bubble tea, French fries, and cake.

Mmm…now I want cake.

  1. How do you plot out your work?

I write my ideas, sometimes attempting to put them in order, and then all heck breaks loose. I have a lot of epiphanies, which include such profundities as, “Crap, these two characters’ names rhyme!” I do write outlines, but they’re fluid. My inspiration and research documents are more important. As a story progresses, I revise my plot outlines and keep a record of character traits. At the very least, my outlines become reference guides.

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

Morning and afternoon. I save evenings and weekends for my real life.

  1. Is there music on?

No. I can write with music on, but it’s super distracting. Besides, I talk to myself. And I read aloud a lot. It’s pretty noisy with just me!

8. What inspired your last story?

I like challenges and goals. I found a YA short-story contest seeking fantasy stories—real fantasy, like with elves and dwarves—which I hadn’t tried yet, so I did. I created a story called The Spell Dragon. It’s a “be careful what you wish for” kind of morality tale. All I really intended to do was successfully write a fantasy story with magic, dwarves, and a dragon.

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

The Harry Potter Series, A Christmas Carol, and A Wrinkle In Time

I’ve read them more than twice.

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

This could take a while… I’ll limit it to four each.

Television: Avatar—The Last Airbender, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, Doctor Who

Movies: Slingblade, Sixth Sense, Life Is Beautiful, The Princess Bride.

Albums: (This is the hardest one to keep short! I listen to a variety of music, and lyrical depth is very important to me as a songwriter and as a listener. Tastes and needs change, but these four albums will always remain in my top twenty.)

Over The Rhine- Meet Me At The Edge Of The World, Sufjan Stevens- Carrie & Lowell, The Essential Indigo Girls, Matisyahu- Light

I feature a different musical artist every Friday on my blog, Days of the Guardian. You can check out my eclectic taste there. If you want to hear my original music (and ukelele cover tunes), search for Diane Prokop on You Tube and Reverbnation.

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

Hmmm…someone short? (Emerald is a teenaged dwarf.) How about Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things? She can wear a wig with yellow braids and eagle feathers.

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

It depends on your definition of “hard.” What’s hard for me are the choices.

For example, the last book of my Days of the Guardian Trilogy, The Red Knot, was the most difficult writing experience because ending a series presents many hard choices, even if you thought you already knew how it would end. It’s like going to buy groceries at the store. I’m from Pennsylvania and I always buy Heinz ketchup, but now there’s organic and spicy and original and whatever. Writing is an adventure of choices…like shopping for ketchup.

  1. Which was the easiest?

The beginning of writing Tigress, my new superhero short story, was like shopping for ketchup at a convenience store: there was only one bottle on the shelf. It was an easy write. Then I had an epiphany and the story presented me with harder choices. I went big-box-store-ketchup-shopping for the second half of the story.

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

Folks who’ve read On The Outward Appearance seem to vibe with the main character and embrace the theme. Anne is snarky and confronted by her own cynicism. It’s a bit hard to watch. I’m always surprised when people say they enjoyed it. Compassion and acceptance are the themes. Everyone wants those, right?

  1. What are you working on now?

This. These 20 questions are kicking my butt!

When I’m not filtering lists of best albums for Mel’s blog as if the world depended on it, I’m working on a co-writing project with my older brother, who’s slightly autistic. He’s the brains and I’m the heart. It’s an epic sci-fi space adventure which may take years.

I found two fabulous critique groups to commiserate with. And I’m writing more short stories and flash pieces and submitting them to sharpen my skills and learn how to handle rejection. After a recent hurtful experience with an editor, I needed to set aside a story I loved, a socially introspective novella all my beta-readers enjoyed. But one bad experience can overshadow all the good and it was tainted.

I have a goal to publish one novel each year. I have until December 31, 2017, so I hope I can resume working on the beloved novella soon. I guess you could say that the biggest thing I’m working on now is healing.

On a side note, I’m also planning to record an album of original songs inspired by poetry and art so I can mesh my worlds together.

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

What an existential question! Which amazing story do I have to finish in order for my life to have meaning? Well, here’s the thing: I wrote a book. Then I wrote five more. I started them and I finished them. And I shared them with the world. I’m not still thinking about it or dreaming about it; I did it. It was fun and difficult, illuminating and painful. They’re me. So I suppose I could die happy right now. I’m kinda surprised I’m still alive anyway. I guess I’ll just keep writing!

  1. What’s your best fan story?

I have a cool fan story, but it’s about a music fan. I don’t have a stranger/cooler/funnier author fan story yet.

One night I played a set of original songs on the electric guitar at an intimate coffeehouse show in a church, sporting a brand new shoulder tattoo. I confess; I rocked out. The first person/fan to approach me and rave over my performance was an 85-year-old grandmother. (Not mine.) She was awesome. Best fan ever.

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

 

I’m going to share a poem from my first book, The Red String. This is me.

The days are dark, the ocean surrounds

My fate is unseen, my fate is not ground

For God orders all, I am just a mist

Hovering still, waiting for bliss

The dark hides me well, my heart longs for light

I live by this creed- it is all for the bright!

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

Not completely. I may pull some characteristics from real life folks, but I don’t use everything. A character in my story, Going Home, (from the anthology Hair Raising Tales of Horror), Pop, shares some characteristics with my dad. Both are former boxing champions, widowers, smokers, live in small-town Pa., and are quiet until they’re pushed too far. But Pops is a farmer with a yappy dog and a dark, mysterious side and my dad is a retired engineer, a gentle soul who spends his evenings studying the Bible in his armchair. I probably shouldn’t tell him he inspired a character in a horror story! But since people seem to find Pop intriguing, maybe he’ll forgive me.

*There’s been one exception to my rule! But I asked permission to use this real life person in a story and I was prepared to change things about the character if necessary.

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

From my books—

The Guardian (Days of the Guardian) I can’t say why without spoiling the story! But this character was the most rewarding (and challenging) to write.

From another author—

Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

She’s deep and overcomes, but not without lots of introspection and honest pain. I admire this character’s personal integrity and spiritual grit.

Samwise Gamgee (J.R.R. Tolkein)

He’s the unsung hero of Lord of the Rings. His commendable character traits and sincerity make Sam a great fictional person to emulate in real life.

D. Marie Prokop enjoys writing and reading stories with riveting adventures, spiritual insights, and enlightening cultural or social critiques. Her favorite authors include Madeline L’Engle, Pearl S. Buck, and C. S. Lewis.
The National Novel Writing Month challenge helped D. Marie discover her love for writing fiction. A member of WriteSpace Houston and the Houston Writer’s Guild, D. Marie gains both education and comradery from her local writing community. She’s written and published YA science fiction/adventure, YA fantasy, and middle-grade fiction.
Marie is also a singer-songwriter and avid fiber artist/knitter. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, the former Yankee now resides in Houston, Texas, along with her loving family, their feisty cats, a beloved ukulele, and much, much yarn.

You can find out more about the author

My Author Page on Amazon-
My Goodreads Author Dashboard- 
My Blog Address-
My Author Email-
My Twitter Address-
 My Days of the Guardian Book Trailer-
Flash Fiction, pictures, Uncategorized

‘All the Men I loved’ a poem

I spoke with an author who told me that he’s falling in love.  It instantly made me think (and say aloud) “Oh it will be wonderful when you die, and years from now, when someone reads your poems to her, your love will live on in your words.”

Hopefully that reads less awkward then it sounded.

Either way the end result was this poem, a genre I haven’t written in since high school when I pledged to write a poem everyday.  The ten journals full of prose will be the handprint I leave for the future to enjoy, and long after I’m gone the love stories I lived will become immortal.


All the Men I loved

All the Men I loved

           Were lucky




            Not just because they had me

Nor that they could touch the edges of the flame inside of me

            But because I loved them through prose




            Each of them differed

Like leaves on a tree

            Changing in color from

            Green, yellow, orange, a hint of blue

            But it started the color of coal




            With the first I was uneasy  stilted

Stuttered

            Sha

ken

            In

            My

                        Words

            So I forgive him

            How was he to understand that I’d take his pain?

            And make it my own if I could

            When I couldn’t find the words myself?




            But the rest of them didn’t get me

Not really

            Never truly understood the passion in my belly

            Or how it would continue to bubble

            Until my fingers began their work

            That whether it was ink to paper

            Or typing on a screen

            It was really my blood on the page




            All the Men I loved

Live on in my work

            As does our story

            Those tatterd and worn sheets

Torn out of my notebook

            Which I handed them in-between classes

            Ended up

            Shoved in the bottom of their backpack

            Forgetten




            They took my words for granted

Didn’t bother to deeply understand

            The way I let words tell me

            Where

            To

            Put

            Them







            All the Men I loved

Never knew how fervently I loved them

            How I could see through their skin

            Past their smiles which were brighter than the sun

            Deep into the color of their eyes

            Blue like the sea, green like 
            freshly cut grass, darker than the night sky

            Even alternating, with no reason, like 
            a broken mood ring.




            All the Men I loved

Were never carried away by my words

            Never wrapped in the warmth of my tone




            All the Men I loved

Left my poems in a crumpled mess

            Torn and mismatched like they left my heart




All the Men I loved

            Never really loved me


		
20 Questions With..., Uncategorized

20 Q’s with Jennifer Leeper

     Many authors surround me; although each of us does have different personalities (I mean we do hear voices but we’re completely normal people-swear it). I’m often surprised by how close we become after only meeting in person for a brief time.
     Jennifer Leeper is one of those authors. Both of us were privileged enough to be awarded for our pieces by Spider Road Press for their 2016 Flash Fiction Contest
     Our pieces might have been different, but I could see the glow coming through her as she spoke to me at the ceremony. It’s always amazing to see passion in another author’s eyes, the only thing better is seeing that look in a reader’s eyes.
     Her novella, along with my flash fiction piece ‘Thomas’, will be released in mid November in the collection Approaching Footsteps from Spider Road Press. The collection will also feature pieces by other award winning authors like Andrea Barbosa and Holly Walrath be sure to check out the latest from http://spiderroadpress.com

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20 Questions With…Jennifer Leeper

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?Wow, that’s a hard question to answer because I admire so many writers and so many authors have influenced my writing career, but I’ll narrow it down to Jack London for this interview. London was a constant seeker in his life and his art and I think this perpetual curiosity really shaped his writing. As an outdoor adventure junkie, I relate to him as a person, but as a writer still struggling to find my place in the literary universe, he is a strong touchstone for me.
  2. How old where you when you started writing? I started writing poetry around the age of 11 or 12. Fiction writing came later in high school.
  3. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Tony Hillerman, and, of course, Jack London.
  4. What would you eat? In honor of Hemingway, we would drink Mojitos. For London, I would request Hawaiian Salad. Hemingway was a big fisherman, so maybe some trout to go with the salad and for Lewis, a Chocolate Water Cake.
  5. How do you plot out your work? Very roughly in my head and then I flesh it out on the page.
  6. Do you write in the morning or evening? I’m definitely a night owl so after dark seems to be my most productive time.
  7. Is there music on? No music, but definitely television. It’s my go-to source for white noise.
  8. What inspired your last story? A lot of my stories are born in my imagination and my last one was no different, but typically some experience subconsciously originates these stories, and much of the time I can see these experiences threaded through my pieces once they are finished. I adopted my son, and my last short story focused on adoption and my protagonist finding his “whole self” by finding his biological brother.
  9. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. Elmer Gantry, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and East of Eden
  10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? TV shows: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, Felicity, Justified Movies: The Godfather, The Best Years of Our Lives, Dances with Wolves, The Revenant, The Deer Hunter, It Happened One Night; Taxi Driver Albums: Keane: Under the Iron Sea; Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison; Kris Kristofferson: The Silver-Tongued Devil and I
  11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? Graham Greene
  12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? It’s always the one I’m currently writing. 😉
  13. Which was the easiest? The last one I finished. As a writer, it seems like everything looks easier in the rear view.
  14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? It’s funny because for me this is kind of a trick question as my readers always seems to have a different take on my works than I do. I’m still hoping for that “get” from a reader. 😉
  15. What are you working on now? I’m developing a crime/mystery novel that takes place on and off a Tohono O’odham reservation in southern Arizona.
  16. What story do you have to write before you die? I know a lot of writers shy away from writing about friends and family for fear of controversy, but I’ve always written about the foreign and exotic as it relates to my life, so for once I’d love to write about what and who I know intimately.
  17. What’s your best fan story? Probably my first longer work of fiction, Padre: The Narrowing Path. It seems to be the piece that engages fans the most.
  18. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? This is more than one sentence, but for me as a writer, it’s one fluid thought that happens to be separated by punctuation, so here goes: He shook his head as he walked back toward the cave entrance. Maybe he wouldn’t let anyone else touch the body. It wouldn’t be right. He had killed the boy. He was a beat-up, old sicario, but he would move the body and bury the young man as he had always handled his bodies himself. (From The Reiger File)
  19. Have you ever based characters off of real people? Probably all of my characters are shaded with a degree of reality of the family and friends in my life, but in particular, I based a minor character in Padre: The Narrowing Path on a Catholic priest I know.
  20. Who’s your favorite character? That’s It’s like choosing a favorite among your children or pets. I’m really enjoying writing and getting to know Frank Acuna, the reservation detective’s character in The Poison of War, my in-progress project.

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You can find out more about the author on their website at  __Jennifer Leeper’s website on Twitter  purchase her work from Amazon, Barking Rain Press and coming on 11/18 to Spider Road Press.

20 Questions With..., pictures, Signing Events, Uncategorized

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’

It’s definitely something you don’t want to read in the dark.

‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ is an anthology of 21 tales from 7 authors compiled by myself and Chantell Renee.  It includes newcomers like Jessica Raney (who interviewed Chantell and I for her BFE Podcast), multiple title authors D. Marie Prokop, and repeat horror writers like David Welling and Patricia Flaherty Pagan.
You’ll also see never before published stories from me including ‘The Girls’, ‘Birthday Cake’, and the hilariously horrifying ‘Even Aliens Watch Reality T.V.’.  Fan favorite ‘The Silencer’ along with others are included.  Each will be sure to leave you with nightmares.
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We’ll have a small gathering at  The Wilde Collection in the Heights on Thursday October 31 from 7:30-9 pm.  The contributors will read and sign the anthology.  There will be snacks and BYOB.

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Chantell and I will also be at the Houston Zombie Walk on October 29 which is a free outdoor event which raises money for students scholarships.  We’ll be in costume and would love for you to join us.

We look forward to seeing you there!
20 Questions With..., pictures, Uncategorized

20 Questions With…K.R. Thompson

Thank you for joining me for another edition of 20 Questions…this time with an author that I’ve never met (in real life at least).  K.R. Thompson and I have been corresponding via social media for at least a year, and both of us had books that were published around this same time.  Although each include a character named Jack, in my romantic thriller Blood On The Potomac he’s brutally murdered in the first chapter, while in Thompson’s Jack he becomes the only of the lost boys to grow up-then he falls for a mermaid.

Obviously we have very different styles but when I read Jack I was instantly drawn in by the sticky sweetness of the main character wanting to return home before he completely forgets his mother, only to meet a mermaid that makes him reconsider leaving Neverland.  You might think you’ve heard this story before, and in a way that’s true.  I have the strong belief that every story has already been told-it’s up to the author to make it their own.  Thompson exemplifies my belief in her writing; she’s truly a storyteller.

I hope that one day we can meet and grab a cup of coffee together because if she’s half as interesting as her stories then I’d be in for a treat.

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20 Questions with… K.R. Thompson

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?

 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Her characters literally jumped off the page when I read that book. They became so real that I felt I would know them if I passed them on the street.

 

  1. 2. How old where you when you started writing?

 

I’m a late-blooming writer. I didn’t begin telling my own stories until about seven years ago. (And nope, I’m not going to tell you how I am. 🙂 )

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.

 

Do they all have to be current writers? If not – Mark Twain, Diana Gabaldon, Mary Higgins Clark, and J.K. Rowling.

 

  1. What would you eat?

 

I don’t think I’d eat a single bite of anything if I were able to have lunch with any of them.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work?

 

I fly by the seat of my pants for the most part. I typically have an idea of the ending of my story and I know how it will begin. The middle is an adventure that works itself out as I go.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening?

 

I am -not- a morning person. All of my writing happens at night when everyone goes to bed. (It’s also the reason that I look like a zombie when I go to work in the AM.)

 

  1. Is there music on?

 

Nope. Silence is golden.

 

  1. What inspired your last story?

 

My last story, “Jack,” was inspired by the Lost Boys in the original JM Barrie tale, “Peter and Wendy.”

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.

Outlander, Harry Potter, and The Hunger Games.

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?

 

The Hunger Games, though I think that could be because it is based on the amazing books.

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?

 

I was lucky enough to have a model specifically for “Jack”s cover and I can’t imagine anyone else being him. (The model is Pirate Joe from the Real Mermaids.)

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?

 

The second book in my Neverland series, “Hook.” My husband is a huge nautical fiction fan. Every scene that I wrote, he tore apart. I had to re-write so much in that book it wasn’t even funny. But, it made it a much better story and it became more realistic.

 

  1. Which was the easiest?

 

My first story, Hidden Moon, because I didn’t write it intending to show anyone when it was finished. I had written it solely for me, so it was easy to write.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?

 

Ironically, “Hook,” has been the one that people have “gotten.” Once they read the reason why he became the villain, they understood him.

 

  1. What are you working on now?

 

I’m currently working on the next book in my Keeper series and also a fairytale mash-up that has dragons and a princesses.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die?

 

I pretty much write as the characters come into my head. None of them have given me a “dead”- line yet. 😉

 

  1. What’s your best fan story?

 

My best fan story is of one reader who took one of my books and read it to her mother before she passed away. That made it very special to me. You never know when your stories will touch someone or how far they will reach. This journey is a special one and we, as authors, are blessed to experience it.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?

 

“Ye’d have much better luck with rum, I should think,” the old man said as he stared into his own glass. “The ale’s watered down. Fit for a fish to drink, it isn’t.” (Hook: The Untold Stories of Neverland)

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people?

 

I do have one character who is based off of my daughter.

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character?

 

Ack. Just one? I can’t do it! How about two? Patches and Beetles, two of the Lost Boys in my Neverland series.

 

 

You can find out more about K.R. Thompson on her website http://www.krthompson.net and purchase her work from http://www.amazon.com/author/krthompson

Tic-Tock

Uncategorized

Where you can pick up some good reads

Thankfully I’ve been busy, and very satisfied, as the Junior Stylist at Green Apple Salon Montrose.  If you’re in the Houston area I highly recommend you stop by for a trim, blowout, and my speciality a dope fade.

After I prefect your hair I have a few events where you can show off your new look, and meet some talented authors.  First I’d love for you to help Spider Road Press celebrate their birthday, and listen to me read my award winning piece ‘Blanquita’.  I’ll post a video of the reading on my Facebook Author page that weekend along with pictures of the event if you can’t make it, although I highly recommend you do.

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You can find out more at Spider Road Press by clicking here.

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I’ll also be at the Amazing Houston Comic Con from September 9-11 along with some friends of mine who will be signing books along with me.  You can find out more about the event from the Amazing Houston Comic Con website.

pictures, Signing Events, Uncategorized

Comicpalooza 2016

For some people it was father’s day, or a chance to see the Dynamo or Astro’s, but for me June 19 was the epic final day of Comicpalooza (and ended with a blood filled episode of Game of Thrones).

It’s always great to meet new readers-of which I met several-to share my work along with the other great stories from local authors.  They got a chance to meet my character Samantha Locke who I cosplayed as for the event (although I was much nicer than Samantha would have been to a group of strangers).  I hope that they all throughly enjoy my debut novel Blood On The Potomac, along with my three short stories in Eclectically Criminal, and my short story The End which can be found in Eclectically Vegas, Baby all from Inklings Publishing and available for purchase via Amazon.

I hope that everyone that took home one of my pieces gives me an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads after their finished.

 

And if you go to enough of these events then you do have a chance to see your friends that live far away-which is always a pleasure.  I got to meet author D.L. Young’s family (he’ll be taking over my blog on July 1 when he answers my 20 Questions…), had a chance to catch up with awesome local artist Johnnie Rosales Jr. (who’s artwork literally is in every room of my house you can check out his work on Instagram), and had an opportunity to meet Daryl Dixon himself because of the kindness of fellow author Patty Flathery Pagan (more on that at the end of the blog, but check out Spider Road Press a local publishing house that has awarded me another honor this time for my piece Blanquita).

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It’s always great to connect with friends and make new ones-including the Ariel’s in attendance who were nice enough to take a picture of me although my shirt directed Ariel about to be eaten by Jaws (you know Shark Week is coming up…).

Although I didn’t get to meet him fellow author Andrea Barbosa and I were standing about 20 ft. from Charlie Hunnam star of Sons of Anarchy.  And I must admit the pic I got of him is quite funny, and he’s so handsome even pixelated.

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Finally one of the highlights of my life was getting a chance to meet and have Norman Reedus himself sign a photo for me.  My friend Patty couldn’t wait in line anymore (she’d already waited over an hour and it was her husbands first father’s day) so she gave me her place in line so I’d have a chance to meet him and get my own signed photo with him.  If you notice on my pic (the one on the right) it’s slightly smudged from his thumb which I think is super awesome!

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Norman is easily the most famous person I’ve actually spoken to which made me nervous (his handler told me to take a few deep breaths and had me repeat my name three times just so I’d remember to tell him what it was) but he was so very sweet.  There was a line of easy 50 people waiting for his signature and he knew we were hungry so he brought us all pizza and had his security pass out the boxes which we then passed through the crowd like body surfing (although I didn’t eat a piece didn’t want to mess up my makeup before I spoke to Daryl).  He came over the table and hugged a couple of little girls that were dressed like the princesses from Frozen and spent time talking to everyone that stood in line.

A young girl was about six people ahead of me, and you weren’t aloud to have your phone out when you were actually at the table (although I did take some pics as I waited in line which was allowed) so she asked me to use her phone to record her giving him a piece of fan art.  She started crying, Norman told her it was beautiful, and had someone hang it up under the banner behind him.

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It took me forever to pick which picture on the table that I wanted him to sign, but I think I chose a good one, and once I finally was face to face with him I totally forgot how to speak (which if you know me is super weird).  Here’s how the conversation went:

Norman: (shakes my hand) Hey, how are you doing?

Me: (not letting go of his hand then something that sounds kind of like English comes out of my mouth) My name’s Melissa.  I’m nervous so I thought I’d forget, but it’s Melissa.

Norman: (starting to pull his hand away) Your name’s Alyssa?

Me:  (I finally let go) No, Melissa.  My name’s Melissa.  You know like Melissa McBride (Carol on The Walking Dead)

Norman: Okay (he starts signing my picture but then really looks at my shirt and starts to laugh)  Your shirt is really cool.  (nudges his security guy who had an awesome fade) Look at her shirt man.  (Security guard laughs at Jaws about to eat Ariel the little mermaid)

Me:  Thanks it’s like my favorite shirt now!  I wrote a book (hand him a postcard with my book info which his security guard instantly takes) I should have brought a copy, but I forgot because I’m really nervous.  My name is Melissa by the way.

Norman:  (slyly smiles) Great meeting you, Melissa.

Me:  (Comicpalooza worker starts to motion me to move because my 30 seconds is up) No it was really great meeting you.  Sorry I’m weird, I’m just really nervous.

Norman:  It’s okay, have a great Con.

Then maybe I said something else, and on my way back to the Inklings table I did bump into some people I knew, but I was on cloud nine.  I’d originally planned on not washing my right hand, but I ate some nachos so I had to.

Although I am contemplating framing the shirt I wore because Norman Reedus said he liked it…

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