5 Question Interviews

May 30, 2014

Interview with Laura Jennings--Hetaera Narrator

I'm delighted to announce that Hetaera (suspense in ancient Athens) is now available on Audible (as well as on Kindle and in trade paperback). Hetaera, is book one of the Agathon's Daughter Trilogy. (I'm working on book two, Priestess, but life and other writing projects have sidetracked me.)

Narrator, Laura Jennings, has done a wonderful job narrating the book--not an easy project with all the ancient Greek references. Laura just got back from Europe (the lucky so-and-so) and she had a wonderful time exploring ancient sites in the UK. No wonder she relates so well to Hetaera! She stopped by my blog and agreed to answer 5 Questions.

Laura Jennings

Laura mentions that she has a degree in creative writing, but I just found out (when I googled her) that Laura is not only a wonderful narrator, but also a writer! Her short stories appear in literary magazines including The Literary Lantern, Gulf Coast Magazine, and SCIFI-LITFI ezine.

Okay, let's get on with my questions.

Suzanne: Laura, you did a wonderful job narrating Hetaera--not easy, since there are lots of strange names and words. What did you find most challenging?

Laura: Regarding strange names and words, Hetaera was not that bad actually. All the specific names of things were easy to find and I found several sites that gave phonetic pronunciations to Greek words and surnames. You provided me with two excellent internet sites. There are a lot of sources on the internet citing classical Greek literature so there was plenty of information. That made the book even more interesting for me than it already was. Through researching pronunciations I learned quite a bit about Greek history that really put your novel into context. The biggest problem in terms of pronunciation is the one I have with every book. That one word you think you have been pronouncing right all your life - you really aren't. 

Suzanne: Yes! I noticed some of your pronunciations are different than I expected, but when I checked them out they're accurate.

I see, from your list of book on Audible, that you've narrated at least forty books. How did you become involved in narrating books on Audible?

Laura: All roads lead to Audible if you want to narrate audiobooks. I believe most big publishing houses with audiobook divisions work with Audible as well as companies that work specifically with audio narration like Tantor or Blackstone or ACX. As for my personal journey, I did a few commercials in the beginning but did not find it very satisfying. I have always loved to read and loved literature in general so moving to narrating audiobooks seemed like a natural transition. My voice coach said he had had good luck with ACX and so that is where most of my work has been. I have been very fortunate to get contracts for good books, like Hetaera.

Suzanne: Thanks, Laura. What's the most fun aspect of narrating a book? And the biggest frustration?

Laura: The most fun aspect of narrating an audiobook is absolutely falling into another world
and making it come alive. To be immersed in a story is one of the best things in life.
I think it's great fun to take a story and make it as three dimensional as is possible without 
cinematography. The biggest frustration is when you want your mouth to work and it doesn’t.
Sometimes it just isn’t going to be a good recording day. On those days all the green apple 
slices and hydration in the world doesn’t help. As Murphy’s law would have it, this usually
happens during a big push to get something out the door on time. 

Suzanne: Green apples for hydration ... that's interesting. Talking for such long periods of
time must be rough on your voice. You mentioned a voice coach; do you consider yourself
an actor?

Laura: That is a very good question. I am not sure I do. My family is originally from the south
where there is a grand tradition of story telling. It is really and art form in and of itself. So I
suppose I consider myself a storyteller. I have done a bit of stage acting but I have an MBA
in Creative Writing and so the written word in the form of novels and short stories is where 
most of my experience lies. I find the differences in reading a story and listening to a story
fascinating. If you wrote a story out the way you would tell it orally you would hardly 
recognize it compared to its written form.

Suzanne: Southern writers sure can tell a great yarn! (My mama came from Tennessee, so even though I grew up in New York, maybe I inherited some of that southern tale-spinning. But I digress. See Laura, give me a moment and I'm talking about myself! One more question. If you could time-travel to the past or future where would you land?

Laura: That is a tough question for a woman. History, as you know, has not been kind to our sex. So if I travelled back in time would I really be privy to the things I would want to see? I probably would want to go to the future. And since I only have Star Trek as a point of reference I would want to visit a future time where warp speed is possible. Being in Brussels in the blink of an eye? Bliss! Fresh croissants or signing of the constitution ..... definitely toss up.

Suzanne: Yum! Fresh croissants and cafe au lait for me! I know what you mean about time travel for women ... a lot of times were not so great. No wonder you write science fiction. 

Thanks so much for stopping by, Laura.

If you enjoy historical suspense, check out Hetaera--suspense in ancient Athens on AudibleYour first month is FREE

List of books Laura has narrated

April 2, 2014

Interview with Christy Lynn--Rosy Narrator

It's difficult to express how exciting it is to listen to my story, Rosy: a novel, brought to life by narrator Christy Lynn. She did a wonderful job with all the characters--male and female. I hope you give it a listen. Listen to a sample at Audible. If you're new to Audible, you can get the book for FREE.

Christy was recently one of thirty narrators chosen by Audible/ACX to attend a talent event! She is really terrific. Contact Christy Lynn at Christy Lynn Voice Overs 

Meanwhile, Christy has been kind enough to answer 5 Questions:

1) Christy, you’re not only a wonderful narrator, you’re great at creating different voices. How do you come up with a voice?  
Thanks so much!  Well, to come up with a voice for a character I usually think about how they might look, walk, carry themselves.  If they maybe have a tick or some habit to them.  I watch a ton of tv shows so a lot of times I'll be watching a show and I'll notice something about how a character sounds, then I'll use that for maybe a character in a book that I"m having trouble coming up with a voice for.
2) That's so interesting. I wonder what it's like to watch a movie with you! How did you get involved with Audible? 
A friend of mine also a VO talent, told me about ACX.  I had no idea it existed!  When I heard it was Audible and Amazon together I thought - well this is gonna be awesome!
3) Yes. Amazon is definitely ahead of the pack. I imagine, as we continue getting busier, more people will be listening to stories. How do you view the experience of listening to a story versus reading?  
For me there are good aspects of reading a book and listening to one.  Listening to one is definitely better if you need to be mobile.
4) Listening is great for older people too. My mom and dad listen to a lot of books--but I haven't told them about Rosy ... too personal! Does your acting career include other mediums like stage or screen? 
I was a total theatre geek in high school, lol.  I was in so many community shows outside of school that my high school voted me Thesbian of the Year!  I also studied at SUNY Purchase in NY for two years, it's kinda like the college version of the high school from the show Fame.
5) SUNY Purchase is a great school for theater! No wonder you really got Rosy! In your experience, what makes a great character? 
Good question!  Well hard to say exactly, but for me I think a great character is one who does something out of character.  A mob boss adopting a cat from a shelter or something like that.  Something that makes the reader/listener go "Wow, didn't see That coming!"
Christy Lynn ...or her cat?
                This is the only photo Christy Lynn would allow me to post ... 
no surprise that she likes mobsters who save cats!


March 6, 2014

Zané Sachs stopped by today. She's created a new blog: Zané Sachs-Going Downin anticipation of the release of her new book, Sadie the Sadist. The blog features forensic informationabnormal psychology, and Sadie's (questionable) recipes.

The interview didn't go as planned. Frankly, Zané Sachs is the strangest author I've ever met.

5 Questions:

Suzanne: Hi Zané. Why are you wearing that apron?

Zané: Hi. I've been in the kitchen--testing Sadie's recipes. Is that your first question?

Suzanne: Not really...what's that red stuff on your apron?


Suzanne: Really? It looks like blood.

Zané: Is that your second question or your third?

Suzanne: What inspired you to write Sadie the Sadist? 

Zané: Working in the corporate world. Specifically, a supermarket. Any day now, we're going to be replaced by robots. Seriously. While I was working, Sadie appeared--a full-blown character. She started whispering stuff to me, and I transcribed what she said.

Suzanne: Will you give us an example?

Zané: "Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill."

Suzanne: Kill who?

Zané: Just about everyone. That's your sixth question! You can read a chapter called SEX IN THE BATHROOM on my blog. Here's a snippet:

Sex in the Bathroom

Over the past few days a lot has changed at the supermarket.

The check stands have been moved so the contractors they hired for the remodel can redo the floor, plus they’ve rearranged the aisles again. Bandages are no longer next to macaroni; you’ll find them on Aisle 6 across from Oatmeal.

There’s this new guy in Deli. He’s about my age, not a kid, but not an old man either. His glasses make him look intelligent and I like his legs. They’re muscular and tan. I know, because he wears shorts to work. (We’re allowed to wear black, knee-length shorts from Memorial to Labor Day.) I met him on the freight elevator. I was bringing down the trash cart, after emptying all the garbage cans, when Ranger rolled in a U-boat of roasted chickens destined for the dumpster. His name is Richard, but everybody calls him Ranger. He helped me load my garbage into the compactor—the bags from the trash cans outside the store are especially heavy—and, in return, I gave him a BJ in the employee bathroom. It’s unisex, down in the basement, and the door locks.

Now the poor schmoe is in love with me. Women sense these things, and we lefties are intuitive. He’s obsessed. I feel his eyeballs on my butt whenever I walk past.

But blowing Ranger is not the big thing (no pun intended).

The big thing is: Justus is dead, and I’m not sure if I killed him.

Release date: April or May 2014

Visit Zané's blog, Zané Sachs-Going Down

Follow Zané on Twitter 

Like Zané's Facebook Page


November 3, 2013

It's a chilly Sunday morning here in Colorado. The usually blue sky is overcast, and only a few yellow leaves cling to the tree outside my window...great weather for reading. With thousands of books available, it's great to know I have instant access to my own librarian. The Fussy Librarian helps me select the perfect book for my mood--and she'll help you too. 

 My historical novel, Hetaera--suspense in ancient Athens, will be featured on the Fussy Librarian tomorrow, November 4th. I've put the book on sale for a week through Amazon's new Kindle Countdown Deal, so you can pick up a copy for just .99 cents (list price $3.99).

Jeffrey Bruner, who works closely with the librarian, was kind enough to answer 5 Questions:

1) Please explain the service The Fussy Librarian provides to readers.
We provide a daily, personalized ebook recommendation service to readers. You select from 30 genres, answer a few questions about your preferences regarding profanity, violence and sexual situations, and the computer does all the rest. All of our books cost $5.99 or less -- many are 99 cents or free.

2) How is this different than other services?

The Fussy Librarian is the first -- and only -- service to factor content preferences into the database that generates the personalized email. It makes a huge difference in the books you get in the email.

There's a lot of different types of mysteries, for example. With us, you can guarantee you only learn about cozy mysteries that don't have sex, violence or profanity if that's what you want. But if those things don't bother you, you'll hear about a wider selection of novels. The content filters make it easier to readers to try new authors with confidence that they won't get to chapter four and find something that really turns them off.
3) How has the ebook revolution changed reading and book buying habits?
For one thing, an ebook never has to go out of print. Ever! Think about the implications of that. Your choices are no longer limited to what's available on the shelf of your bookstore and that alone has enormous implications for American culture. Ebooks also dramatically lower the cost of publishing for authors and it frees them to write what they want.

As for book buying habits, the only downside is the negative pressure ebooks have put on book prices. Americans have been getting so much for free in the digital era -- news, music, video -- that I think a lot of readers expect their books to be free, too. Those people need to put food on their tables, though. They're not living off of trust funds. I'm not arguing for going back to the $18.95 novel, but we do need to condition readers to accept $2.99, $3.99 and $4.99 as reasonable prices for something that might take an author a year or more to write.
4) With all the instant media available, why do you think people continue to read books?There's nothing more powerful than your imagination. I think books tap into that in a way that movies or television can never do.
5) Why are novels important?

People love a good story and a good novel takes your imagination to places and times that would otherwise be impossible. When you start to read a book, you're giving the author permission to start telling you a story ... and there's just something magical about that.

About Jeffrey: Jeffrey Bruner has been a film and theater critic and currently works as an editor for Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper company. Under the pen name Alex Adena, he has written one novella, Signs and Wonders, and one novel, Finding Grace. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wonderful wife, Stephanie, one goofy mutt and four bossy cats.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, Jeffrey. You're providing a wonderful service for readers and writers.  I know you've received over a thousand books this past week. I'm sure you'll be receiving thousands more, and that's a lot of books to sort through. Thank you for your hard work!

Sign up for The Fussy Librarian newsletter here.


July 27, 2013

I had the good fortune to meet my friend and mentor, Elizabeth Engstrom, years ago when she was coordinating the writers' retreat at the Maui Writers Conference (now defunct)--a dream-come-true conference and retreat that was held in Maui, Hawaii. The conference featured amazing, NY Times Bestselling writers as speakers and teachers: Terry BrooksElizabeth GeorgeSusan Wiggs, and many others.

Guess what?

They're back!

At the Wordcrafters Writers Conference in Eugene, Oregon--March 7, 8, 9, 2014 (There's a writing retreat the week before, but sign up fast, because space is very limited.)

If you can, I urge you to attend. I'm sure this will be one of the best writing conferences on the planet, and the retreat will be amazing. Find out more here

Eugene, Oregon

When I heard about the conference, I felt compelled to ask Liz 5 Questions. Here's our exchange:

Wow. The lineup for the Wordcrafters Writers Conference in Eugene is impressive! Terry Brooks, Elizabeth George, Susan Wiggs. And I love that you and Susan are offering a preconference writing retreat for twenty lucky writers. This reminds me of the magical Maui Conference—no longer in existence—an event I attended many times.
Truthfully, I have a lot questions for you, but I’ll limit it to 5:
1) Please tell me about Wordcrafters—when and how did it form?
First of all, Wordcrafters is more than a conference. We intend to pull together many literary events in the community, from poetry slams to summer teen writing camps, community-wide book club, to special presentations by authors, editors and agents. Wordcrafters is all about the craft of writing. Everything we do is geared toward improving the craft, with the Conference being the centerpiece. There will be no promotional programming at the conference: no agents, editors, pitch sessions, social media, self-publishing, etc. at all. In 2014, the focus is on fiction.
So to answer your question, the idea of a writer's conference in Eugene has surfaced many times, but suddenly a core of people came together in that synergistic way that sometimes happens, and boom, Wordcrafters in Eugene was born. This group formed an enthusiastic and talented board of directors, crafted a mission statement, and we were off and running.  Our first general interest meeting was in November, 2012. Now we have nonprofit tax status, the tireless  Patricia Marshall as our Executive Director, Daryll Lynne Evans as our Volunteer Coordinator, and a wonderful lineup of events, both pre- and post-conference.
2) What inspired you to put together this conference?
I have missed being part of the conference inner workings since the demise of the Maui Writer's Conference. We did not want to compete with the San Francisco Writer's Conference nor the Willamette Writer's Conference, as they do what they do so well. So we created a very specific survey, which was sent far and wide, to find out what people wanted in a writing conference, and we designed the curriculum accordingly. We didn't want to reinvent the wheel, we just wanted to tweak it.
3) What can attendees expect to experience and come away with?
One of the things that was clear in our survey was that the attendees wanted a professional to look at their work. So in addition to the incredible lineup of speakers and presenters, we will have the Craft Lab, where every attendee will have an opportunity to sit one-on-one with one of the presenters to discuss their project. We'll have a couple of interesting social events to promote a little writer-to-writer networking. 2014 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion, and as Ken and the whole Kesey family is an integral part of our local literary heritage, we will have some events to honor that milestone in his career. 
My vision for this conference is that everybody will get back to the love of crafting good stories. With all the emphasis these days on marketing and publishing and promotion, we hope to be a little oasis where it's all about the writing. Good writing.
4) You are an amazing writer and teacher; what is the best advice you can offer aspiring writers?
That's so nice of you to say. I guess my advice is to write every day, and don't expect that everything you write is worthy of being published. We have to practice our craft before we can become professionals.  But with dedication to learning the craft, and persistence in seeing your projects to completion, your best work can be out there for the world to appreciate, and it will be something you can be proud of.
5) Who has been the greatest influence on your writing, and why?

I grew up reading Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Shirley Jackson, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and even Ian Fleming.  I read voraciously, everything I could get my hands on, and these early forays into great literature of our time had a profound effect on me. I always knew that I would write, and when I had enough life experience to have something to say, out poured a body of work that is clearly an homage to my early literary heroes. 

Thanks Liz. And thanks for organizing the retreat and conference. I'm sure it will be wonderful. I hope to attend!


Today I'm delighted to welcome Debora Geary to my blog. Her debut novel, A Modern Witch has sold thousands since its release, only a few months ago. While I have the modern witch here, I thought I'd ask a few questions.

1) You’ve had quite a stellar rise, over the past few months, as an indie author. To what do you attribute your success?
My book found its audience. A combination of giveaways, an author friend who most generously shared his readers, and some sheer luck caught my book a ride on the amazon algorithms. People got to see my book (visibility is a huge challenge for all of us!), and some of them chose to give it a chance.

Sounds simple, but it isn't. Not every good book takes off like mine did, and I'm eternally grateful to every single one of my readers. Even the ones threatening to duct tape me to my chair so I'll write faster...

2) Okay, I have to ask, are you a witch? If so, how do your beliefs influence your stories? If not, what drew you to the topic?

I believe we all have a little witch in us (or a little magic, if you like), but I don't have a bigger share than anyone else :-). I'm not a practicing witch, but several of my readers are - and I'm delighted they embrace the spirit of the very fictional witches I've created.

What drew me to the topic? The seeds of A Modern Witch sprouted one night while I was sleeping. I'm a bit of a geek, and I've always loved books about witches, so it's probably not a surprise my dreams headed that direction.

3) What advice can you give to other writers?

I've been a writer for less than nine months. I don't think I'm qualified to be handing out advice yet!

The most important lesson I've learned in this short time? Find your readers. Talk with them, hang out with them, treasure them.

4) Please talk about the Pink Snowbunnies from Hell Flash-Fiction anthology: What inspired the idea? What are your hopes for the collection?

I was on Kindleboards, in a thread on grammar and taxes. Isn't that how all great anthologies are born :-)? I responded to some point made in the thread with a "fat chance" reply - only I'd had no sleep for a couple of days, and my exhausted mind melded pink pigs flying and snowballs in hell and who knows what else, and my response came out as "pink snowbunnies will ski in hell, first". Two hours later, one of our resident pranksters posted the graphic that will be the anthology's cover. I take no responsibility for what happened after that...

The stories in the anthology are a wonderful showcase of Kindleboards and indie talent, and the really oddball stuff writers can come up with given a silly enough story prompt. I hope readers will laugh, roll their eyes a time or two, and discover some new authors to explore.

5) What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Sleep. It used to be that only my kids and my cat disrupted my sleep on a regular basis. Now my characters do, too.

Thanks, Debora! Only nine months as a writer--and she doesn't claim to be a witch. Check out Debora Geary's Amazon Page. Aside from her novel, A Modern Witch, Debora also offers "nibbles," her shorter work.
And be sure to watch for The Pink Snowbunnies from Hell -- Flash Fiction Anthology

I invited author, Martha Marks, to post on my blog, because we write about the same time period: AD first century Rome. If you like my novel, Vestal Virgin (suspense in ancient Rome), chances are you will also enjoy Rubies of the Viper

Here's a description:
When her brother is murdered in first-century Rome, Theodosia Varro inherits the family estate, going from poverty and isolation to great wealth and a prestigious position in society. Unfortunately, she lives in a time and a place that deny women of her class the very things she most desires: personal freedom and self-determination. Only by identifying her brother's killer can she feel safe, yet her efforts take her in quite the opposite direction. After her own actions and the scheming of others lead to catastrophe, Theodosia struggles to survive and recover what matters most in her life.

The book is available in eformats and in paperback

I asked Martha 5 Questions about her writing:
1.  1)  Rubies of the Viper is set in ancient Rome. If you lived in this time period, who would you be? And why?

            Assuming I’d been born female in first-century Italy, I would be Theodosia, my 19-year-old protagonist. She and I (in my younger days) share many basic traits: strong-willed, independent-minded, impulsive, stubborn, and naive. Of course, I could point out an equal number of ways that we’re different, too.
           At the start of my novel, Theodosia has just inherited a vast estate and a high social position, for which she is completely unprepared. She’s an easy target for ambitious men. As a child, her surrogate mother and only friends were slaves; now she owns thousands of slaves and struggles in her relationships with them. Her efforts to feel more secure by identifying her brother’s killer lead to trouble, as does her determination to buck social norms and live her life as she wishes. By the last third of the novel, she has dug a very deep hole for herself and can only rely on her wits and guts (plus a little help from her friends, both slave and free) to get out of it.
           I enjoyed creating the character of Theodosia and hope that under similar circumstances I’d have been as courageous and clever as she.
2.   2)  What drew you to this time period?

     I literally can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated by first-century Rome. At age seven, visiting RomePompeii and Herculaneum with my parents, I was certain I’d been there in a previous life. As a teenager, while my friends were reading Nancy Drew, I devoured—over and over—The RobeQuo VadisBen HurThe Last Days of Pompeii, and other classic tales of ancient Rome. Those books influenced me more than anything else I ever read, so it’s no surprise that when I began to write fiction in the 1980s, that’s the direction I turned.

3. 3)   You mentioned that you’re working on another novel. Is it set in the same period? Please say a bit about your next book.

     My in-progress sequel to Rubies of the Viper is tentatively titled The Ruby-Serpent Amulet. It picks up a few hours after the end of Rubies of the Viper and follows the lives of several major characters through the next dozen years. I’m enjoying writing it and hope to have it out by the end of 2012.

4.  4)    At one point you were represented by Richard Curtis, a major New York agent. Do you still hope to publish traditionally?

     Richard Curtis is a wonderful man and a fine agent. After spending 5 years writing Rubies of the Viper and querying a handful of agents, I was delighted in 1990 when he snapped it up. I still have his letters from that year, telling me how excited he was to represent my novel, how confident he was that we would soon find a publisher, and urging me to read this and that book or article so I’d know “what was about to happen to me.”

     Alas, it was not to be. After a year of kind, gentle “thanks but no thanks” responses from editors, we made the decision to pull it out of circulation. I promised to send him my next book as soon as it was finished, but then I got involved in other activities that mattered to me, and before I knew it almost 20 years had passed.

     Even in 1990, I knew Rubies of the Viper would be a hard sell. Ancient Rome was anything but a hot topic for fiction in those days, and ancient Roman mysteries were not yet recognized as a saleable category. Lindsey Davis had just published her first novel, but Steven Saylor and others who would eventually write great Roman mystery novels were not yet in print. The movie Gladiator and the HBO series Rome were still a decade off.
     By 2009, however, the publishing world had changed. New technologies like ebooks and Print On Demand meant that even a book that publishers wouldn’t take on might find an audience. So I hauled my two-decades-old manuscript out; shortened, tightened, and polished it up; and put it out on Amazon and other e-retailers. And WOW! I am so happy with the results. Both sales and reviews are great, and it’s clear the stigma that once accompanied self-publishing is fading fast.

     So, to come back to your original question: Yes, when The Ruby-Serpent Amulet is finished, I will probably offer it to agents again (perhaps even Mr. Curtis). By late 2012, Rubies of the Viper will have a 3-year track record of sales and reviews. And since lots of other authors have done well with novels set in ancient Rome, perhaps the commercial publishing houses will be more interested this time around. If not, then I will happily self-publish it and welcome the feedback of enthusiastic readers and reviewers.
5.  5)  You’re not only an author, but also a nature photographer. How does the photography influence your writing, or does it?

     Interesting question! Yes, my photography does influence my writing in both positive and negative ways.

     The greatest positive influence is the fact that photography, like all visual arts, forces one to pay attention to the details of a subject and find ways to highlight what makes it special and interesting. I’ve tried to carry that into my writing. Whenever I read a review that praises the historical, cultural, and social details embedded in Rubies of the Viper, or applauds its word pictures, I know that’s my “photo eye” at work.
     Another positive aspect is that the photo subjects I most enjoy—wild birds in their natural habitats—get me out into nature. And that forces me to forget about the book for a while, giving my subconscious a chance to process whatever information I’ve been chewing on. I often find that my writing comes easier and is more artful after I’ve spent a few days outside with my camera and 500mm bird lens.

     The downside is obvious: when I’m spending time out in nature making images of birds and other wild creatures, I’m not sitting at my desk. Not writing. I’m a slow writer anyway, and having this other creative activity that I love doing makes me even slower. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay. Readers may wait a bit longer for my next novel, but it will probably be better for my escapes into nature.

     If anyone reading this interview wants to see my wildlife photo galleries, there’s a link to them at Martha's Art

     Thank you, Martha. And, if you're interested in ancient Rome, be sure to check out Martha's blog, The Purple Parchment where you'll find many interesting posts. 

By the way, in ancient Rome, important letters from the emperor we're scribed on purple-dyed parchment. Tyrian purple dye was extracted from sea snails, an expensive endeavor, and reserved for royalty. Sometimes the letters were scribed in silver or gold ink--another great luxury--but what did expense matter to those who saw themselves as gods? 


         5 Questions for Blake Crouch
Blake Crouch is not only an awesome thriller writer whose books will scare the sh*** out of you, but he's an awesome person. I'm fortunate to count him as a friend. I thought it would be fun to ask him a few questions--and the timing just happens to coincide with his hot new publishing deal with Amazon

If you haven't heard, Amazon is bringing out a fifth imprint called Thomas & Mercer. Five thriller writers will be published, and Blake is one of them.  He has once again collaborated with Joe Konrath on a new thriller, Stirred. (You can pre-order now.) 

Here's the description:

Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels has seen humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. She's lost loved ones. Come close to death countless times. But she always manages to triumph over evil. Luther Kite is humanity at its most depraved and terrifying. He's committed unthinkable acts. Taken human life for the sheer pleasure of it. He is a monster among monsters, and no one has ever caught him. Each is the best at what they do. Peerless. Unmatched.

Until now...

In Luther's experience, people are weak. Even the strong and fearless break too easily. He wants a challenge, and sets his depraved sights on Jack. But with a baby on the way, Jack is at her most vulnerable. She's always been a fighter, but she's never had so much to fight for. So he's built something especially for Jack. His own, private ninth circle of hell—a nightmare world in a forgotten place, from which no one has ever escaped.

It's J.A. Konrath's greatest heroine versus Blake Crouch's greatest villain in Stirred, the stunning conclusion to both Konrath's Lt. Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels thriller series and Crouch's Andrew Z. Thomas series.

Only one can survive. And it won't be whom you think.

Here are the 5 questions I asked Blake, and his answers:

1) You decided to publish your thriller Run independently, and the book has had great success—I think you reached #44 in all of Kindle. Why did you decide to go with Amazon for Stirred? 

I decided to go with Amazon, because they're doing a lot of very smart things when it comes to publishing, involving price, true collaboration with their authors, and their ability to reach readers is  tremendous. I'm all for self-publishing, but when an opportunity arises to work with a savvy corporate partner with the resources of a company like Amazon, the choice to diversify was easy.

2) You’ve collaborated on books with several other writers, including Jack Kilborn (aka J.A. Konrath), F. Paul Wilson and Jeff Strand. What makes collaboration so much fun for you? Is there anything about the experience that you found frustrating?

All of my collaborations to date have been tremendous experiences. No frustration at all. What I love about collaborating is that it changes the way I write and the way I think about storytelling...it sort of frees me up a little. It's very liberating and has made me a better writer, I think.

3) What genre would be the greatest challenge for you to write? Would you ever try it?
I've written across a number of genres, but the hardest was certainly what I did with Abandon, which was an historical thriller. The history research was so much fun, but it was a real challenge to take all the information I gleaned and figure out how to fit it into a story without bogging it down. Still, I'd love to do it again if the right idea came along.

4) What are you working on now? And what are you finding challenging?

I'm working on a couple of projects, one being Pines, my next thriller, and also Stirred with J.A. Konrath. I'm having a blast with both of these. The writing is easy...the real challenge is staying away from distractions and putting up the number of words on a daily basis I feel I need to.

5) What is the biggest disappointment you’ve experienced as a writer, and what did you learn from it?

I don't want to go into a bitchfest about my experience with my traditional publisher, but it was disappointing on a vast number of levels. Financially and creatively. I learned from it that no one can sell my work better than I can, no one can pitch it better than I can, and no one knows the kind of thing I should be writing better than I do. 

Thanks for stopping by Blake!

Blake has just released Thicker Than BloodThe Complete Andrew Z. Thomas Trilogy
Check it out!

5 Questions for Victorine E. Lieske

Victorine E. Lieske is a phenomenon: a self-published, indie author, who sold thousands of copies of her debut novel, Not What She Seems, and made the New York Times Bestseller List for eBook Fiction.

I met Vicki on Kindleboards, my fave forum. She is always kind and polite (unlike me--sometimes the ex-New Yorker kicks in) and helpful to other writers. I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for Vicki's new release, The Overtaking, the first book in a series that combines science fiction with romance. I loved the book.

I wanted to ask Vicki a few questions, and she's been kind enough to answer them. This is the first interview I'm posting in a series called: 5 Questions

Please welcome my guest, Victorine Lieske:

1) Your debut novel, Not What She Seems, is classified as sweet romance. The Overtaking includes sweet romance, but it crosses over into science fiction. What made you take this leap?

It's funny because The Overtaking was a story I had started working on quite a long time ago, when I was first married. Like many things, I started the book, got a few pages in, and then got busy with other things. It never went anywhere. After having some success with Not What She Seems I dusted off the old beginning and took a look at it. It was horrible. I tossed the whole thing. However, I liked the concept, which was basically to have a population of people who didn't remember who they really were. I couldn't really take this concept and change it to a contemporary romance, so I added in the romance into the science fiction background.
2) I read, recently, that Not What She Seems took you four years to write. How was the process of writing The Overtaking different, and how long did it take to write?

If you're talking from when the concept started, I suppose it took fifteen years to write. However, from when I threw out the old and really started working on it in earnest, I'd say it took eight months.  The process was very different, because when I wrote Not What She Seems I wrote the first draft in one week, not knowing what I was doing, and then took four years to learn about writing and how to tell a good story. The part that took the longest was submitting chapters to a critique group and critiquing others. I submitted one chapter a week, and probably critiqued twelve other people per chapter that I submitted. And I did do this with the entire novel, twice. After doing all that, I found myself with the proper tools to write a much cleaner first draft of The Overtaking.

3) How does your own life experience influence the stories you write?

I think my life experience really does influence what I write. I'm a picky reader, and I like to be on the edge of my seat as I read, so that's what I aim for as I write. I also like romance in the books I read, but the characters have to have tension in their relationship, and I only like reading clean romances. All of these things reflect how I am in real life, and what I like to take in, from the television shows that I watch to the movies I go see.  

4) I also read, recently, that you may be writing short stories. In the past, I believe I read that you aren’t a fan of the short story form. What has made you change you point of view?

You're right, I feel very inept when it comes to short story writing. I'm not a huge short story reader, and writing them seems intimidating. However, there's a story that won't leave me alone, but I'm not sure I can flesh it out to a full length novel. So it's sort of an experiment for me to see if I can write a shorter work and be satisfied with it. Although it might turn into a novella or a novelette instead of a short story.
5) What is the greatest disappointment you have had as a writer, and what did you learn from that experience?

My greatest disappointment came after finishing the first draft of Not What She Seems, and then seeking approval from other authors that what I had written was good. I was lucky to find some very kind and honest authors who guided me in the decision to join a critique group and try to work on my writing. Of course I was disappointed that they didn't love what I had written, and didn't give me the praise I was seeking. But that's also the best thing that could have happened to me. I had no idea what I was doing when I wrote the novel, and looking back at it I'm glad for the guidance I received.

 The Overtaking is currently available as an eBook for $2.99