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Welcome Award-Winning Author John R Schembra

Mystery/Thriller, Supernatural, Military

In Blood Debt, San Francisco Homicide Investigator and Vietnam veteran Vince Torelli strives to clean up the violence in San Francisco. But, after a suspect in a double murder is killed during an attempted arrest, he finds himself protecting the good police officers of the city he considers family. His efforts put him in the line of fire when he’s targeted. The brother of the suspect victim wants revenge on the officers responsible, and he’ll stop at nothing. He kidnaps Vince, a man obsessively loyal to his job as well as those he works with and defends, a man as smart and committed to his principles as the criminals he catches almost without fail. Vince knows best, though; a blood debt always demands payment.

How long have you wanted to write? When I was a young boy, my mother instilled in me a love of books and reading. I read mostly adventure stories, in particular, a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and  I admired how he could spin such wonderful stories. I vowed at a young age to write my own stories someday, as I knew the joy I got from books. I wanted to someday write books that would give that joy to others.

How long did it take you to reach your goal of publication? Many years! With growing up, school, college, the Army, becoming a police officer, marriage, and raising two children, there just wasn’t time for me to write, though I never lost the desire. The opportunity came when the kids were in college, and I had finished my master’s degree.  One afternoon, another sergeant and fellow Vietnam Veteran and I were swapping stories from our tours in the police department briefing room. Other officers heard us and stopped to listen. They told me later that day I should write my stories down, they would make a good book. That night, I began writing.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? Traditionally published. I researched small publishers, on the advice of a genuinely nice lady, and very prolific author I had met at a writer’s conference and was lucky enough to have one accept my manuscript. I have been with them, Writers Exchange, for 18 years, and all five of my books have been published by them. I have two new novels currently in their queue undergoing editing. I hope to have them published by mid-2021. By the way, that nice lady and I are fast friends and have been for 20 years.

Where do you write? A small 4th bedroom in my house was converted to an office/writing room. It gives me the privacy I need to concentrate, with no interruptions from family (other than the dogs). I have a TV in there. I tune to soft rock music, at low volume, as a background when writing. I find I am more proficient when writing with the background music. It helps me concentrate.

Where do you find your characters? How do you name them? All of them are drawn from real life, at least the main characters. I’ve patterned them after friends, family, and other people I know or have known. Obviously, I change the names, but I have had some readers recognize the character and ask me if the character is based on them, or on so-and-so. I usually tell them, “not entirely.” A couple of times, I have used their real names, with permission, of course, because the name suits the character. Those persons really get a kick out of being in the book!

I try to develop names that suit the characters. If a tough guy is needed, I’m not going to name him Chad, or Chip, or Timmy, etc. I chose Vince Torelli as the name for the protagonist in five of my books—a tough, dedicated, homicide inspector with San Francisco PD. An Italian name, to me, rings of toughness. Of course, the character’s personality has to echo the tough name. I also like to have the protagonist exhibit compassion at times, too. I try to avoid cliché names like “Reaper,” “Savage,” and the like.

Real settings or fictional towns? I use both. In M.P., a Novel of Vietnam, all the locations were real, and all the military units, from whichever side, were real and operated in the area at the time setting of the book. All the areas mentioned in the Torelli books, in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, are real, as are all towns, streets, highways, hotels, restaurants, etc. I even used the address of my childhood home in one of the books! I like to think it adds a sense of realism when the reader knows or has visited the areas where the scenes take place.

If you could have written any book already written, which one would it be? Any of the Tarzan books!  ERB is my absolute favorite author, and I have read almost everything he has written (80 books), a lot of them more than once. His writing is what got me hooked on reading and inspired me to become a writer. By the way, I have 73 of his books in my bookcase.

One other book is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. An absolutely amazing book, skillfully written. I felt I was on the boat with him. Some of the best descriptive writing I’ve read.

You’re stranded on a deserted island.. what must you have? All my ERB books, my reading glasses, and a Lazy-boy recliner

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? As I mentioned, I have written seven books—five published (in Kindle and paperback) and two at the publisher’s. I have posted the first chapters of all my published work on my webpage, including a couple of short stories (non-published). Please take a few minutes to visit the site, learn more about me, view some photos, and read the excerpts.  Between the five books and a short story, I have been fortunate to receive eight writing competition awards.

A big thank you to my friend, and award-winning author, George Cramer, for inviting me to post at his blog.

If any of you read a book of mine or the short stories, I would love to hear from you. Please post a review at Amazom.com, or send it directly to me so I can post it at other sites.

Thanks for taking the time to read about me and my writing. I appreciate it.

Best wishes, John

Website and links: www.jschembra.com   https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-John

Our Guest Today is Michael A. Black

Author names: Michael A. Black, aka Don Pendleton, aka A.W. Hart

I met Mike through the Public Safety Writers Association. He is always willing and ready to help others, whether it be writing or life in general. Mike has become a friend and mentor. Mike is holding a copy of one my favorite Michael A. Black novels: Legends of the West – A Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves Western.

Genre/genres you write in: It’s always been my goal to be published in as many different genres as I could. So far, I’ve been published in mystery, thriller, western, sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, mainstream, new pulp, sports, historical, and horror. I’m still working on a romance story.

My latest ones are westerns under the name A. W. Hart, who’s an Amazon Bestseller. My titles in the series are Gunslinger: Killer’s Choice, Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand, and Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost. I try to blend historical accuracy with the traditional American western. Actually, I have some legitimacy in this genre. Author Zane Grey was a distant relative of mine.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? I’ve always had an interest in writing. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade and read it in front of the class. The teacher scrawled D—Poor work across the front of it in red pen and told me never to do it again. Naturally, I didn’t listen to her. I look back on the experience with fondness. I didn’t know it at the time, but it sort of foreshadowed my entire writing career to come: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, and my first rejection all in the space of about three days.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? I struggled for at least ten years trying to get published. In those days, they’d send you a rejection slip with your returned story. I had enough of them to paper the wall in every room in my house. One day I got another story back in one of my self-addressed-stamped-envelopes and noticed the one editor had scrawled something along the seal: Close, but no cigar. Too long. Try again. I was ecstatic. I’d finally gotten some actual feedback for an editor. I promptly rewrote the story and submitted it to another magazine, and it turned out to be my first published story.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? All of my stuff has been traditionally published. However, I started out in small press magazines. The market was a bit different back then. They didn’t pay a lot, sometimes only with contributor’s copies, but it gave me a place to learn. As Elmore Leonard once said about the old pulps: “They gave you a place to be bad.” I’ve been published by small press, big press, and a lot of them in between. To me, it makes little difference. I’m just as proud as of my stories that have appeared in those small press mags as I am the big houses. Although the money is nice, I always try to be professional and give my writing the best effort each time out, regardless of the size of the publisher.

Where do you write? I like to write at the kitchen table on the laptop. Once I’m into my zone, I don’t have to worry about anybody bothering me except one of my cats. I’m very leery about writing outside of my home because of my concern about being vulnerable. Some people say they like to write at a restaurant or coffee shop. For me, this would be virtually impossible due to me constantly watching my surroundings.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? I’ve tried listening to music, and it usually distracts me more then it helps. Normally, I don’t listen to any music and try to remain free of distractions.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? Being a military vet who served overseas and having been a police officer for thirty some years after that, I’ve had a ton of experiences to draw upon. I’m hesitant to use very many of them because so many involved victims of crimes. I’d never want a victim or a victim’s family to read something I’d written and think that I was capitalizing on their suffering, so I always mask these experiences heavily. Mostly it’s about what the characters experience, and I use the emotions and feelings that I experienced in my writing. I know what it feels like to experience danger, injury, be stabbed, have a bullet whiz by my head, etc. And I know what it feels like to be scared, and I know what it feels like to be lucky. As Winston Churchill once said, “The most exhilarating feeling in the world is to be shot at without result.”

Describe your process for naming your characters? Names are a double-edged sword for me. I tend to repeat them often. The name Jim turns up in my writing a lot for some unknown reason. I keep a character log listing each name I used when I’m writing a book. It’s one way of keeping them straight.

Real settings or fictional towns? I use both and often use fictional settings within real cities. I try to keep things realistic if it’s set in an actual location. I think a bit of artistic license and discretion is a good idea in regards to setting. It’s never good practice to portray a real place in your book in a negative way.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? I’ve had a lot of characters with quirks, so this is a hard one to answer. Writing the Executioner series (as Don Pendleton), I have to come up with James Bond-type villains who are larger than life. I usually try to put a dose of kink into some of the villains, but it’s also important to give the bad guys one of two good aspects, so they don’t come off as cardboard. An agent once advised me to give one of my villains a severe dental problem or a pet dog to which he was fiercely loyal. So I did the next best thing and gave him a phobia about tooth decay and had him brushing his dog’s teeth religiously. Since no good deed goes unpunished, I had the dog subsequently urinate on the guy’s rug.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? This is a tough one. I’d have to pick one of the books that I was forced to read in school, perhaps The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick … maybe one of Faulkner’s such as Light in August. I’d choose any one of the above, so I could cut all of the excess out of them and make sure they had satisfying endings.

Everyone, at some point, wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? I haven’t thought about it much. There are no do-overs, only regrets. But that’s why life is bittersweet.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? I don’t suffer fools gladly.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Food, water, and a quick way to get back to civilization.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? I’ve had quite a few, but I’d have to say pulling KP in the army was one. Well, maybe latrine duty … But these gave me the incentive to apply myself to become a squad leader, so I didn’t have to pull those anymore. When I was 19, I had to drive a truck around the South Side of Chicago delivering tires to gas stations. That was pretty bad.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Wow, this is a tough one. There have been so many. I suppose the best one is Deliverance, by James Dickey. He was a nationally recognized poet in the 1960s. He spent ten years writing a first-person thriller about four city dwellers who go on a canoe trip into the mountains of Georgia and have a horrific experience that changes them forever. It has the best first line of any book I’ve ever read:

It unrolled slowly, forced to show its colors, curling, and snapping back whenever one of us turned loose.

Man, that guy could write. When I finished the novel, I went back and reread that first line and realized he had summed up the entire book with that one sentence.

What’s on the horizon for you? That remains to be seen. Hopefully, more books and short stories to be written. I’m currently working on a new series for Wolfpack publishers about modern day bounty hunters. We’re calling it the Trackdown series. The first one is due on in October, and it’s called Trackdown: Devil’s Dance.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? My books are meant to be entertaining. I always try to write the kind of book I’d like to read, and this is essential because, as any writer knows, you have to read your own book several times before you turn it in.

Contact Information, Website, and/or blog links: Right now, my website is out of commission. I have an Amazon Author’s Page as well as author pages on Crossroad Press and Wolfpack Press. Anybody wanting to chat, my email is DocAtlas108@aol.com.

Julaina Kleist-Corwin

Teacher, Author, and Story Coach

Julaina, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

For the last twelve years, I’ve taught creative writing classes. My attendees have published several books during that time, and I’m always delighted to hold their finished products in my hands. Many of their short stories, memoir-essays, and poetry are in three anthologies that I published on Amazon.

Genre/genres you write in: My stories are in the creative non-fiction, science fiction, and women’s fiction genres. Two of my novels are in the editing stage:  Hada’s Fog and Norman in the Painting. The book I’m planning to publish by the end of this year, 2020, is My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t.

I understand you were interviewed by Dona Kozik earlier this week. Please tells us about that. The interview is about me and the first chapter of my book, My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t which will be published in January 2021. This chapter is published in an eBook called Rising Stars, A Kindle Sampler by Donna Kozik. There are 4 other featured authors’ chapters in the book. https://amzn.to/33HjqRk. It was fun being interviewed by Dona. The interview is on YouTube at https://youtu.be/7LRK59ISU7s.

Most people know someone who has cancer. In 2020, the estimated number of new cancer cases is 1.8 million. I am writing my mom’s experience with this rampant disease to tell about the effects of crucial delays in diagnosis and treatment decisions. I also share how we dealt with it physically and emotionally. Our story could help other people who have a loved one and feel alone in the struggles to keep that person alive.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels? In 6th grade, I wrote a story that my teacher took away from me because I was writing during his lessons. He wanted to check out what I was writing. He returned it without any comment.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? It took about four years before any of my stories were accepted for publication. Then I won awards for stories in a few contests.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? My stories and essays are traditionally, and hybrid published depending on where I submitted them.

I indie published three anthologies that are on Amazon. The first one is Written Across the Genres for readers to experience a variety of genre examples. The second anthology is Captivate Audiences to Create Loyal Fans. I accepted some stories the members of my writing class wrote to illustrate techniques that improve writing skills.

The third one, published in 2019, is called The Choice Matters about how some choices we make change our lives.

Where do you write? I like to write in my home office. Many of my writer friends write at a café, but I find it too distracting.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? Silence is golden for me to concentrate on my writing.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? Probably 50% of my characters are based on people I know, but I change how they look, their backstory, etc. so they aren’t identified. I’m a pantser, so my plots write themselves.

Describe your process for naming your characters? My process for naming my characters is that I listen, and the name comes into my mind quickly.

Real settings or fictional towns? Usually, my settings are real places I’ve been to, but I fictionalize the names. The sci-fi novel I’m writing takes place in the small town where I live, but it goes way beyond as the story progresses.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? The best book I’ve read is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ve read all of her books, and I was delighted when she came to a local book shop to promote her newest book, and I had my picture taken with her.

What’s on the horizon for you? I will be publishing my latest non-fiction book, My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t by the end of the year. I was chosen as one of five authors who had a chapter published in an anthology, Rising Stars, by Donna Kozik, available on Amazon now. My first chapter about my mother’s cancer, was accepted.

Also, I’m launching my online writing course: “Tell Your Irresistible Story” in a couple of months.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I enjoy teaching writing classes and supporting the members in their writing goals.

Contact Information: You can find me at https://www.timetowritenow.com

Todays Visitor: Ellen Kirschman, Ph.D.

A Clinical Psychologist People call the Cop Doc

I write the Dot Meyerhoff mysteries: Burying Ben; The Right Wrong Thing; The Fifth Reflection. My non-fiction titles are: Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know (with Mark Kamena, Ph.D., and Joel Fay, PsyD); I Love a Cop: What the Family Needs to Know; I Love a Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know. Many writers use my non-fiction books as references and get story ideas from the vignettes.

Did you always want to help people and write? When I was a child and again after my second non-fiction book when I grew tired of reality and thought it would be easier to make things up. It isn’t. It’s harder.

Did it take long to become a published author? My first non-fiction book was picked up on the first round of submissions.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? I am traditionally published, but maybe try indie publishing in the near future.

Where do you write? I have a home office with a standing desk, and I use a computer.

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? I cannot write to music. My sentences have to have a certain rhythm. Music interferes with my ability to hear that rhythm.

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? My protagonist, Dr. Dot Meyerhoff, is somewhat autobiographical, although younger and thinner. As a psychologist, she does things I would have lost my license for doing; impersonating a public official, breaking and entering, and assault with a deadly weapon. I have plagiarized my husband Steve’s entire life for Dot’s love interest, Frank Hollis.

Describe your process for naming your characters? Dot Meyerhoff is named after my mother (Dorothy, aka Dot) and my maternal grandmother, whom I never knew, Rose Meyerhoff. The names of other characters just come to me.

Real settings or fictional towns? I use real settings with fictional names. This gives me the latitude to make stuff up and avoid getting email from readers telling me I got the directions wrong. I’m not consistent, I just finished a short story using real names of towns.  As a working police psychologist, I need to protect the identities of my clients and the departments they are associated with.

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has? Dot Meyerhoff loves popcorn with red wine. And she never gives up on anyone.

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? There are too many to name.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?  In terms of writing, I can get pretty riled up at books about cops who kill three people singlehandedly in one day and never suffer any psychological aftermath. As a police psychologist, this isn’t how it happens. Ditto for stories about abused children who grow up to be ninja warriors and kill their abusers.

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Bread, books, and my husband, Steve.

What was the worst job you’ve ever held? There are so many. Being a tour guide at Rockefeller Center almost made me crazy. Repeating myself over and over was torture. I’ve been a secretary/typist/cocktail waitress and gym instructor. Think “Mad Men,” and you’ll understand.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Once again, there are too many to list. I love language, so my favorites, be they mysteries, non-fiction, or literary fiction, have to combine beautiful sentences, deep characters as well as a compelling structure (aka plot).

What’s on the horizon for you? Don’t want to jinx myself, but just maybe another non-fiction book for cops. I also have a completed fourth novel in the Dot Meyerhoff series that is looking for a new publisher. And I’m having a great time working on a standalone. Thanks to the pandemic, I’m really focused.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? This was a different interview. Thanks for asking so many off-the-wall questions. I appreciate your interest. One of the many surprises of being part of the mystery community is how hospitable and supportive my fellow writers are.

Website and/or blog links: www.ellenkirschman.com. I also blog with Psychology Today and contribute a column to the SinC Quarterly.

 

Mystery Writer Margaret Mizushima is Today’s Guest Author

Hanging Falls: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery

A deluge has flooded the high ground near Hanging Falls—but heavy rains aren’t the only menace descending on Timber Creek. While on a scouting mission to pinpoint trail damage, Officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo stumble upon a body floating at the edge of a lake. Robo catches a human scent, which leads to an enigmatic forest-dweller who quickly becomes suspect number one.

With help from veterinarian Cole Walker, Mattie identifies the victim and discovers an odd religious cult whose dress and manners harken back to the 19th century. As the list of suspects grows, an unexpected visit from members of Mattie’s long-lost family sheds new light on her childhood as they help Mattie piece together details of the fateful night when she was abducted at age two.

The tangled threads of the investigation and family dynamics begin to intertwine—but darkness threatens to claim a new victim before Mattie and Robo can track down the killers.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? During the nineties, I owned my own rehabilitation agency and worked long hours as both manager and speech pathologist. My husband ran a busy veterinary practice, and together we balanced the responsibilities of our household and the care of our children. One day I was waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, and as I gazed at the paperback novels on the bookstand, I was struck with the notion that I wanted to write one of those books, too. By the end of the decade, I was ready to sell my company, and I knew that novel-writing would enter into the next phase of my working career. That’s when I began to study the art and craft of writing fiction.

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? Quite a long time actually. I had to learn how to reshape my technical writing experience into fiction writing and all its many facets. I wrote five manuscripts that I consider practice, and that will never be published. It took a journey of a little more than ten years before I found my agent and my publisher.

Do you have a publisher? I’m traditionally published by Crooked Lane Books, a company based in New York, NY.

Where do you write? I’ve converted one of our bedrooms into an office where I also do the bookkeeping for my husband’s veterinary clinic and our Angus cattle herd. I typically write fiction there in the mornings and then spend the afternoons—when I’m often brain dead—doing the many tasks required by our businesses as well as the business of my writing.

Do you need music to write by? For me, silence is golden, and I often light a candle before I sit down. It helps me in that meditational state where I can focus on the movie that plays in my head while I record the action and details.

Where do you find your characters? My Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. I mentioned that my husband is a veterinarian, and though I’ve never worked in his practice daily, I’ve assisted him after hours and on weekends countless times. It was always apparent that his clients, and anyone else that happened to be in the barn when he made farm calls, were interested in watching him work, so I was inspired to include a vet in my mystery series.

I wanted to write police procedurals, and it seemed natural to create a second protagonist who was a K-9 officer. My husband put me in touch with one of his clients, who was a K-9 trainer, and he was willing to let me shadow him. I also have a friend who is a retired K-9 officer and trainer, and she has become a valuable consultant for the series. One of her past partners was named Robo, which is what inspired my dog character’s name. And finally, years ago, my husband and I trained two of our dogs in search and rescue. My experiences there have also been applied to my characters and to the dog behaviors in my books. So my real life has contributed greatly to my writing.

Where is Timber Creek? Timber Creek is a fictional town in Colorado inspired by the small town I grew up in and set in the mountains of the southwest corner of the state.

Please tell us a bit about your protagonist. Mattie Cobb suffers from repressed memories caused by childhood abuse. Thus she has a great deal of baggage that she gradually unpacks throughout the series. She struggles with nightmares and flashbacks and has sought help from a trauma counselor who recommended yoga and breathing techniques to combat her posttraumatic stress. In one book, her yoga breathing actually plays a part in saving her life.

You started writing in the nineties, how was the timing? I would have started working toward my writing career much earlier. But in reality, the timing was probably perfect considering everything I had going on in my life when I was younger.

Do you have anything in the works? I’m currently working on the seventh book in the Timber Creek K-9 series, and book eight is also under contract, so I’ll be busy with those during the next couple years. I invite your readers to give the series a try, and I hope they’ll enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy writing them.

Anything else you’d like to tell us? No, but I do want to thank you for hosting me on your blog. I always appreciate an opportunity to talk about my books.

Contact Information: Email: margmizu@q.com  Website: https://margaretmizushima.com/