Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jurisprudence - The Philosophy of Law in the UK, with a darling wig.

Our Maria has a Gold Star on her
health report. :)
Dame Maria Savva Elena Clarissa Bucket: she's my representation in the UK, so back off! At 6' 2" (1.8795 meters) Maria may be one of the tallest Indie authors I've read. She's difficult sometimes, to interact with, because England was parked on the other side of the Atlantic millions of years ago. She's usually in bed when I'm awake. Our messages have a fair lag time between them. I call her Maria, to save time.
I swear, the first week we became acquainted, I though that was a W in her last name. My poor eyes could not help my brain realize those are Vs. Two of them. Is that a British thing? Isn't one enough?  Then there is that language thing. Their book page numbers are in stones, or something. She calls herself a solicitor. Over here, we hang up on those people. I had to look it up to find out she's a lawyer. Maria explained, thinking it helped, that she could be called a barrister. Over here, we visit those for coffee, right? Jeez.

She may be the only woman I know, who wishes for more pounds. I know she simply craves them.

We cross paths, or byte trails, usually on Bestsellerbound, which is getting entirely too much attention these days. Maria is somewhat to blame for that. (don't go there. it will suck you in.) When she's active in her daytime (Brits are not nocturnal - like Aussies), she is making the rounds of her web-connections. They are vast. She's trying to fill the Atlantic with posts. Why would a solicitor, with plenty of credentials for the difficult job in British Law need any web connections at all? It was her poor choice to become an Indie author, I'm afraid, that's made her life so hard.

British authors, who self-publish, get no better treatment than any of us. No one cares they invented the language. Reading Maria, you are being blessed by better speech that you ever try to use in daily life, but when her wig comes off, she has to hit the web like we do. Since nothing is printed in Britain anymore, except the books by "she-who-must-not-be-promoted", Maria is building a world-wide following, one reader at a time. She has a lovely advantage over most though. She is promoting some excellent books, and readers are noticing.

Maria admits to being inspired by people - and their lives - from her experiences in her career, sometimes in Family Law. Her heart is in it, and that makes her an astute observer, she catches tiny details, and those appear in the novels and short stories she writes. She's been called on to help people, some in the worst situations of their lives, and Maria has the compassion to remain by their side, perhaps as the only help they can find. She has a wealth of observation to draw from when writing, and she paints characters into her books with very subtle strokes of emotion.

What do I mean by subtle? Read 'Second Chances'. I believe that is a beautiful, loving story. It is filled with terrible pain, and emotional distress, both MC's are lost and brokenhearted. With little more than the barest of tender moments between these two people, I read every page knowing they love one another. You feel love in that book, and Maria did not put that color into her text as she painted the story. She seemed to write something entirely opposite, and yet it is still there to be felt. Subtlety become mastery.

Maria's searched for connections across the vast world-wide seas, from the itty speck of land that once had a famous king...that search somehow connected her to Stacy Juba and Darcia Helle. I haven't the foggiest how it all came about, but they created Bestsellerbound. The process is too tedious to get into, but the results are remarkable. Maria Elena did not just post a few times, then claim jet-lag. She competes with a vengeance for post numbers, and topic starts. We play along, cause she sounds funny.

One person she's latched onto, is Jason McIntyre. Together, they penned a tale - online - about a book reviewer with a sour disposition. Maria began to go all British on that character, causing him to die slightly. (We've not stopped playing with the corpse.) We were shocked, naturally. The sweet, tall, quiet lady with the powdered wig, just tore the guy to shreds. He may be very famous someday, an Internet meme if we can help it; with a Union Jack sticking out from between his eyes.

Maria gets to be famous first, however. Here is a link to my review of  'Second Chances'.

Here is the link - which I am required to state, by British law, is not related to the designer of really snappy women's clothing - link to Maria's own website.

Update:  Maria has been so busy she's only a blur. Shortly after this feature posted, she and Jason released 'Cutting the Fat', the entire tale about the reviled Nestor Maronski. That can be seen in the previous posting. But, Maria Elena has knocked us down tossing out books and short story collections - she's a darling pest and we just can't say no when she asks for a read.

'Fusion' snuck up on me though. I was just distracted by so many other Maria things to read. What I found inside was just wonderful. Stories that are vignettes, and not just tales. Rich with imagination, Maria seems to have just glimpsed something that caught her interest, and these delightfult stories were the result, and they are fully formed. Maria does not write story ideas and call them shorts. They are perfectly formed, and perfectly concluded. Always with an unexpected twist. Maria has a subtle wit, and powerful skills to observe the human condition.

Two other colletions are mentioned further below in this feature.

I have the pleasure of calling 'The Dream' a great book, and as of today it's not actually released. It will appear in all the usual places shortly. In this novel Maria asks what we might do differently if we felt we were about to make a terrible mistake. Her character, Lynne, begins to feel crushing doubts about her upcoming wedding, and she's having some haunting dreams that warn her someone will die if she marries Adam. She cannot rid herself of the fear that causes, and she wonders, seriously, if she should call the whole thing off.

This book doesn't seems subtle, but it is. We are privy to every worry that enters Lynne's thoughts, and she does begin to obsess about those warnings in the dream. Wouldn't we all? Wouldn't we all lose our composure? At the point we become overwhelmed as Lynne has...Maria moves us all into the mysterious posibilities of change. What will happen if Lynne changes her mind?  Watch for this book, and snatch it.

Maria is pounding her shoe on her keyboard, to get into this discussion with objections:

You do realize, I keep my laptop on overnight, so I will have more hours logged into BestsellerBound than you?
Ha, ha! No actually, I don’t spend that much time on BestsellerBound, I can most frequently be found on Twitter and Facebook.  But I do check in on BestsellerBound at least once a day to make sure I keep up with what’s going on.  Of course, I spent much more time on there recently writing the Nestor Maronski story.

Explain to those who don’t know: who is Nestor Maronski, and how did he come to be?
Nestor Maronski (such a great name - wish I’d made it up, but that award goes to Jason McIntyre, my co-writer).  He’s an evil reviewer (Nestor Maronski that is, not my co-writer LOL).  Nestor is a fictional character, an evil book reviewer who hates self-published authors and always writes bad reviews for Indie authors.
He is the main character in BestsellerBound’s online novella, written by me and Jason McIntyre. The idea for the story came up in a discussion about reviews.  Darcia Helle had the original idea that all of us should jointly write an online novel about an evil reviewer who gets murdered.  Jason loved the idea and wrote the first chapter, and the rest is history.

How many behind-the-scenes emails did you and Jason pass?
Hardly any.  I didn’t really know Jason well.  I’d met him on Goodreads or Twitter (can’t remember which) and then invited him to BestsellerBound a few days after I’d met him online.  We’d chatted a bit on the discussion boards, but didn’t really know anything about each other or our writing styles when we started writing the online novel.  After we’d been writing it for about a week, Jason sent me an email to say that he wasn’t sure we could really continue it for much longer, but I think he was trying to get an idea as to how committed I was to it, because I’d just left Nestor hanging from the ceiling in his bedroom at the end of the previous scene, but Jason had gone on to save him and he’d ended up alive and well in hospital.  Jason thought I wanted to end the story by killing Nestor, but I’d been trying to create a murder mystery , so the novel would continue with investigations as to who’d killed Nestor.

(I have to interrupt, to let people know, Maria and Jason killed an ass, not the Christmas donkey.)

When Jason realised that I hadn’t wanted to end the story there, we carried on writing for another week or so, again without exchanging emails.  Finally, it came to the point that the online novel was taking up so much time, and Jason had a lot of commitments at home and work, so he sent me an email suggesting that if I wanted to continue the story on my own, he was happy to let me do that, or we could jointly kill off Nestor in the next couple of chapters.  By that stage I thought of the story as a joint effort and didn’t want to carry it on without Jason’s input, so we wrote the last two chapters.  At that stage we did discuss in an email how it should end.

Jason wrote the penultimate * chapter and sent me an email with his suggestions for an ending, but left it up to me.  I ended up writing the ending using a couple of his ideas to tie up some loose ends, but ultimately I wrote it as I’d been writing the other chapters; without a plan.  It seemed to work because we had some good feedback from the readers and over 1000 hits on the discussion thread for the story.
*penultimate: British word for set-up to the finale.

You called out to the readers, to join in if we felt the urge. We just sat by, amazed at what you two were doing. How does that feel now, being exactly one half of that story?
It’s a great feeling of accomplishment, more than anything else.  If I’m truthful, I was so blown away by Jason’s first chapter I didn’t think I’d be able to continue the story and nearly chickened out.  But then once I started writing it, it was so much fun, I couldn’t wait from day to day to read Jason’s chapter so I could write my own.

You and Jason were quite destructive with Nestor; was that a new twist for you, writing something fairly violent?
Yes, definitely, and to be honest I think I was a bit of a wimp.  Darcia made a comment at the end that she wished Nestor had suffered more, and I think that some readers would have been thinking something similar.  I was even thinking it when I was writing that I should write something more violent, but to be honest I find it hard to write anything too gruesome, it’s definitely not my forte.  I don’t think you’ll find me writing any violent crime fiction any time soon. I was glad that Jason’s penultimate chapter contained so much violence against Maronski, all I had to do was finish him off.

It’s not well known, you were an intern psychologist at the Clerkwood Women’s Correctional Facility in Leicester, for two years. Is that what drove you to complete your solicitor exams and become a barrister?
LOL. How did you find that out?  I thought I’d managed to keep it a secret.  I should have known that when Darcia Helle was released from that facility she’d blab... she always was a bit unstable.

Do you wear the wig?
Yes, I wear it all the time, especially when I’m out shopping.

Can I get one?
Yes, you can even get them on Amazon these days. That’s true, by the way, I’ve just looked it up.

It is certainly true that you circled up all the toddlers in your infants school first year class and read Keats to them, isn’t it.
Of course that’s true, and Shakespeare as well.  (she was one of those students! we call that cheeky.)

I discovered your involvement with a great outreach charity. What would you like to tell me about Shadow Forest Authors?
Shadow Forest Authors (SFA) was created by Christine Jones, a fellow author I met through  It's a charitable organisation set up with the aim  of stopping illiteracy worldwide.  Authors from every genre are encouraged to donate just one copy of their print book to one of the beneficiaries listed on the website, which include Book Aid, Education Aid and various prison and school charities which collect donated books.  The idea is that these books will be sent where they are urgently needed.
There is a list of authors on the site who have donated books.  Anyone can support SFA's work by buying one of the listed books and donating it to one of the charities listed.

How did you become involved with them?
I was invited to donate my books by Christine Jones, the founder of SFA. I have donated a copy of 'A Time to Tell' and 'Pieces of a Rainbow'.  Anyone can go onto the website and buy those books, or any of the others listed in order to donate them to a cause.  I would encourage other authors to get in touch with SFA and donate a copy of their books.  The listed beneficiaries are working hard to make sure donated books are given to people who really need them.  Illiteracy is a major issue worldwide, and we as authors are in a prime position to help out.

Do you have trouble driving on the left, or is it really easy? It doesn’t look it.
I’ve often wondered that about driving on the right.
(I've been informed that Maria is famous for getting lost in London.)

David Tennant or Paul McGann?
David Tennant

What exactly is a Toss-Pot?
It means an idiot; it does have a rather ruder meaning, but as this is a family website I won’t tell you.  You’ll have to look it up on Wikipedia. (if this is a family site, I going to have less fun than I expected.)

James, in ‘Second Chances’, is so accurately drawn, I really felt some of his frustration. Was it troublesome; writing a man’s perspective on a life-completely-under-the-bosses-thumb?
I wrote it from the perspective of a female author writing about a man’s perspective on life-completely-under-the-bosses-thumb, so no it was quite easy really. But seriously, I didn’t think too deeply about whether I was getting it right or whether a man would read the book and say ‘this is what a woman would say or do’.  I just wrote it from the perspective of how a woman thinks a man would behave in a given situation, and as you must know by now, women are always right about these things.

Between James and Pamela, you walked a narrow line of objectivity. I know that you have a preference for one opinion over the other. Did you work to keep it hidden? (I won’t ask with whom you sided most often.)
I didn’t see it like that when I was writing.  When I was writing Pamela’s feelings I was seeing this from her viewpoint and so I agreed with her then, and when I was writing James’s feelings I wrote from his point of view and would also agree with that.  I think the essence of this story is that there is really no one to blame when relationships break down, both parties will feel hard done by and both will have valid reasons to hate the other along the way.  It’s how people deal with their emotions and feelings that really matters.

It's only hours before this posts, no time for interaction; let's see if Maria will answer this in the comments.
I honestly feel that Kate played a villain's role in that book. Not to give away plot, but she was hardly helpful. Does it surprise you I would feel that way?

Do you keep your work, as a solicitor, out of your books, or does it actually enhance how you write?
I think it enhances my writing to an extent because in my job I meet a lot of people and  hear a lot of stories.  That way I get a lot of inspiration for characters and stories.  And of course, James, the main character in ‘Second Chances’ is a solicitor.

Have you considered writing a courtroom drama?
No.  But it might happen one day.

Have you created a character that you truly disliked? Who was it?
Nestor Maronski

What inspired ‘Coincidences’, your book about a woman’s search for her father?
That’s going back about 13 years, so I can’t be sure what inspired it exactly.  I do remember that the idea to write a novel came after I read Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’.  It’s such a simple book, but it says so much and is one of my all time favourites.  I think I wanted to write a book with that much power, to change the way people think about things.  I don’t think I’ve succeeded yet, but that’s the fun of writing, we’re always learning, always improving.  Every critical review of a book will give an author the spur they need to challenge themselves to be better.  When I look back at ‘Coincidences’, I know that I have come very far as a writer since I wrote that.  But even though I am afraid to read it because I know I’ll be hypercritical of it, I’m still proud of it as it was the start of something.

Few authors can generate enough energy for a narrative that spans half a lifetime. But you did it with ‘A Time to Tell’. What did you have to do, to keep track of your characters’ stories over such a length of time?
It isn’t easy.  At one stage I had to do a sort of family-tree plan because I was losing track of everyone.  You also have to keep cross checking everything to make sure everything makes sense.  It’s a lot of hard work.  It took me about 7 years to finish, but was well worth the effort.  I am fond of that book.

We had just about got you Brits somewhat straight; what with ‘Are You Being Served?’, ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Mr. Bean’ and such. Then along comes Jo Rowling, and she paints you lot out to be all quirky again. Haven’t you just wanted to cross her chin with a fiver?

‘Cross her chin with a fiver’ isn’t a phrase I have come across before.  What does it mean?
(nicely avoided!)

Quickly, without naming them, think of your favorite three books, written by men. Now, think only of the author’s first names.  Then, write them, first names only, on a sheet of paper. (doesn’t matter, side-by-side, or over one another) Look at the name in the middle. Yes, or no; you would totally date that man if you had the chance?
Yes, totally.

If you were called by an agent: they had seen you all over the web, and quietly read one of your novels. All you had to do, to be published world-wide, was surrender all your self-publishing and drop those ISBN numbers. What would your next thought be?
How much will they pay me?
I love self-publishing and the freedom that goes with it.  It would have to be a very large sum of money to entice me away from it...  And the only reason money would entice me now is because I am out of work and penniless.  If I could earn a decent wage from my self-published books, not even that much, maybe the equivalent of the average wage, I would prefer to be self-published, because when you go with a mainstream publisher you have to give up some of your rights in the books.

The other thing that would attract me to a mainstream publisher would be if they could guarantee that one of my books would be made into a movie.  I love films and have always dreamed of seeing a film made from one of my books.
(she painted that rainbow)

Which of the two has self-publishing been for you: a struggle, or a joy?
Both.  The struggle comes with the editing, which is a never-ending cycle of stress and anguish.  The joy is just about everything else.

You admit to a phase in your youth, when you read horror and thriller stories. Have you thought about writing something spooky?
I have written a couple of spooky short stories, which are featured in my upcoming collection ‘Fusion’.  But I haven’t written horror.  I don’t know if I ever will.  When I was a child my dad used to love horror films and we’d all sit in front of the TV as a family and watch them even though they were really scary.  So if anyone was wondering why I’m so deranged that’s the reason.

I used to be obsessed with ghost stories at one stage.  Me and my sister watched a horror movie about a doll who came alive and killed people, when we were really young, definitely under 10 years old.  This stayed with me for ages.  I remember being scared of one of my sister’s dolls for a long time.  Why am I telling you this?  I have no idea.  I think what I’m trying to say is that I probably would be able to write a decent horror book because of my background, but as yet I haven’t felt the urge. (Nestor agrees)

Back to ‘Second Chances’ (a twisted pun, that.) It stands out from your other works, as a Romance without any romance at all. I admired that, and believe I complimented you for it. How did that amazing bit of control happen?
I am quite a romantic person, but not overtly, so I suppose that it’s part of my character that has come out in the novel, without me even realising it.  I don’t read romance books nowadays, although I read the entire Mills & Boons collection when I was in my teens, so maybe some of my romantic ideals come from that.  These days, I prefer books with a bit more substance, that are not formulaic, so when I’m writing my own books this preference comes out.

Is there one person, who has not written their review, in spite of the pleading you have stooped to doing? May we call them out here, and tell them to get cracking?
Well, okay, I’ll make a public plea to everyone and anyone who has read and enjoyed my books to please go onto Amazon and write a review.  It will only take a couple of minutes and it helps greatly.  I am making that plea on behalf of all self-published authors.  We need your help, as readers, to let the world know about our books.  You don’t have to write a long-winded review, just a couple of lines about why you liked it.  You can be sure that whenever a self-published author gets a good review on Amazon, they are smiling, and it means more to us than you’ll ever know.  End of plea.
Which means her sister is off the hook again.... :)
Thanks, Love!

I'm hearing that Maria is a stunning cook, and that an invitation to dine in her home is considered a tremendous honor. I've promised my informant I would not reveal their name, but there is a favorite tale circulating about an incident with pheasant and the wrong wine. She has been pestered by friends who want her to write a cookbook. With her stature, figuratively and literarily, she could be another Julia! Praps I should add that to her name?

She loves me now, BTW.

Here are the links to her song dedications from the teaser page.
Carlos Santana - Maria Maria
Blondie - Maria
Scooter - Maria (I like it loud)
Ricky Martin - Maria
All Time Low - Dear Maria, count me in
Bobby McFerrin - Ave Maria
Café Tacuba - Maria   my fav.
Susan Baca - Maria Lando
Maria! Maria! Maria!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Megaphone for a small mind...

'Cutting the Fat' now available on Kindle. Finally learn what happened to old Nestor.

Kermit Ladd  arranges an interview with Isabelle Forbes, former Maronski maid, on West of Mars Blog...

Darcia Helle's interview with exonerated suspect, Dar Templeton, on A Word Please Blog...

Jaleta Clegg's interview with suspect, Richard Jameson, on The Far Edge of Normal Blog... 

Maronski abduction suspect, Russell Fleming, interviewed on The Secret Writer Blog...

That was the front page of the Post two weeks ago. As of this morning, Mr. Maronski has not been located, and the police are still investigating.

That investigation included this very interview, written for this blog, just two weeks before the attack on the critic. Mr. Maronski’s disappearance has shaken many who were known to revile him, even those who never made their dislike public. There have been dozens, this blogger included, who had much to say about him, and about his reviews. That should in no way imply that we wish anything other than his safe return.

Nestor Maronski interview; taken by phone. (October 12, 2010 – planned release: October 25.)
This interview has been cleared by the Police department for publication.

I was very surprised that you accepted my invitation to this blog interview. Thank you. You are not known for using this forum at all. Do you get many invitations?
Do I get invitations?  Do I get invitations?  Have you been living in a cave? I'm THE Nestor Maronski.  Oh, I don't know why I agreed to talk to you. Look, I'm going to spend five minutes answering your stupid questions and then I'm going.  I'm a busy man.  Do you have any idea how powerful I am? If you don't ask me anything intelligent, I'll log off. And I'll get your website banned.

Your career did not begin with any literary background or study at all. Was it difficult for you, learning as you went along?
You obviously haven't been listening to me. I own this town, do you know that?  I could make sure you never work again.  Ask me something that makes sense, damn it! 

You were unpublished, anywhere, before you appeared in your column at the Post?
How dare you accuse me of being unpublished... I was never 'unpublished'.  Are you trying to associate me with your self-published friends?  I've heard all about your forum.  That's one of the reasons I came here, to set the record straight... Self-published writers are a cancer in the literary world.  

You seemed to be instantly known, syndicated into fifty publications within half a year. That first six months only produced five full book reviews. Wasn’t the syndication helped along by your father’s fortune?
Are you even listening to what I'm saying?  That question has nothing to do with my reply to the last one.  Ask me about your friends, the self-published author brigade.

Can you tell us about the two years you worked in the Classics Restoration department of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City? I’ve heard they still remember you.
Are you trying to be funny?  This is an interview about my reviews.  You had better cut that question out or I'll make sure you regret it!

Mr. Maronski, you gave only two four star reviews in the first three years, and only one five star review in that time. Can you explain how those reviews, since it is public knowledge that all three authors have been associated with the Maronski corporate empire?
The Maronski corporate empire, as you call it, was built up over many years and prides itself on only doing business with the crème de la crème, the best people.  Of course those authors were associated with us, because they were good, unlike all the self-published fools who masquerade as writers.

It isn’t a secret that the majority of your reviews resemble scathing attacks on the authors themselves, not just the work you have read. Why do you lean so heavily on the authors?
Authors?  You call those people authors?  A moment ago you were saying I didn't have a literary background and now you are showing yourself as the charlatan you really are. Huh! Authors?  They all wish they could write, but unfortunately they are just embarrassing themselves.  I'm doing a public service with my reviews.  I tell it as I see it.  If they are talentless then I have to let the world know.  We can't let just anyone write a book, you know.  Do you want your children to be educated by reading a self-published book at school? No, I don't think you do.  That would be a travesty! The grammatical errors, the typographical errors.  It is so hard to get through these books sometimes.  You know the best thing would be if we had a national holiday where we burn self-published books, like a celebration of literacy all around the country.

Authors to love to talk about you, not always discreetly, behind your back. Can you comment on that incident last year with the self-published author, Dar Templeton?
Finally. A question appropriate to the topic at hand. How the literary world is generally abuzz after my reviews emerge--

Well, no, sir, I'm asking about Dar Templeton. The author? You had a run-in with him at a gala dinner.  Wasn’t he an invited guest to that event? He did have a right to be there?
Dar Templeton had no business being at the annual gala for book reviewers. To my knowledge he and some indie cohorts snuck in by way of the kitchen. I was giving a speech on the declining quality of popular fiction in this country.  Everyone was listening intently as I explained how authorship needed to be managed by the few, an oligarchy, if you will -- when that little weasel stormed up to the podium and assaulted me--

Didn't he throw a cream pie in your face?
Well yes. What does this have to do with my work?

And didn't you get in...a tussle?
I had to get him under control! This was a prestigious event filled with my esteemed colleagues.

Were charges pursued?
I pressed charges and he pressed counter charges. Now, now, now, this isn't the sort of thing your readers will be interested in. Dar Templeton is a lousy, failed author. He had a grudge to bear. Some writers have thin skin and cannot handle an accurate assessment of their skill. He was clearly a nut. I'm just thankful he didn't have a weapon at hand. Now I have security with me at all times when I'm outside my home.

If you have such trouble finding worthwhile books in the Indie arena, why devote so much time there? Aren’t there a thousand other authors, in the mass market industry who are begging you to review them?
In all honesty, the editorial staff at the Post is moving more in this direction -- against my advisement. They go on ad nauseam about how independent books appeal to a younger readership and that the Post Online version sees hits to the indie sections of the website. I appease them to a degree--if only to expose the atrocities being executed by the so-called writers of independent fiction.

There has been rabid speculation that the publishing disaster ten years ago: ‘White Hot Summer’ by Natte Pyre was really a Nestor Maronski experiment. That book was panned before the first twenty-five thousand prints were delivered. Will you own up to that, or do you still deny it?
I deny nothing. And I confirm nothing. Natte Pyre is a fine, impeccable author. The fact that the book received negative reviews only serves to bolster my argument that reviewers in this country are also suffering a foul degradation of their quality. It's as if writers and reviewers are one in the same now. Very distasteful.

Will you verify any truth to the latest rumor, that you have restraining orders against certain unnamed persons? Are some of your past reviews causing you a bit of grief?
My past reviews display the utmost affection for the written word. At least, that which displays quality. For you to ask me, Nestor Maronski, to verify such rumors is preposterous. I suggest you get this line of questioning back on track. Pronto.

What is the next book that you plan to review? Is it another Indie book?
Indie indie indie!  Why this incessant preoccupation with the numskull writing of a few talentless hacks? My next review, sadly, was mandated by the editorial board at the Post. The writer's union, of which I am a member and sitting board member are under scrutiny for a few...indiscretions. It's a book called "The Red Barn", and, actually, from other reviews and the synopsis, I may be pleasantly surprised. This one might be a diamond in the rough. But I reserve final judgement until I've read it and concluded my review. As always, your readers may look for my weekly reviews in the Saturday edition. I encourage them to read my thoughts as I have become --how would you say?-- a bit of a crusader in the fight against poor prose.

Have you had offers from any publishers, to print the first Nestor Maronski novel?
I am always fielding offers. None of them have quite managed to come up to the level my novel deserves.

What comments do you have about the upswing in self-publishing in general?  Isn’t it a good thing, so many authors finding readers when traditional publishing is ignoring new talent?
Phhh. Talent. If these self-published "writers" had talent they wouldn't generally need to go it alone, now would they? They'd have contracts and buckets of money thrown at them if they actually had talent.

Why do you still only review, when your influence in the industry would seem to make you a shoe-in success as a publisher, or even an editor?
I've done it all. Editing. Publishing. However, the satisfaction I receive from sharing with the world what is good writing and what is bad, that's where I derive the most pleasure.

Name the truly worst book you have ever read.
That dreck of what's-his-names -- Day of the Vampire? or some such. Few years back. Dreadful. Just dreadful.

Name the truly best book you have ever read.
Haven't come across any that springs to mind.  Still looking.
All set here? Good. Must run. Have the finished interview sent to my office. I'll review it, provide my edits, and let you know if it can run. Ta ta!

Mr. Maronski concluded the interview at this point. Has he ever had the displeasure of reading anything of mine? He did not say, though I doubt he would have passed up the opportunity to say so.

Mr. Maronski refers to the self-published novel 'The Red Barn' by Richard Jameson. The review, published just days before the critic was attacked, has been approved for display here, as it has widely circulated in the public eye; Mr. Jameson is listed by investigators as a 'person of critical interest' in the case. I was not permitted to discuss any of this matter with the author, however, a few of my colleagues assure me, they will be speaking to him very shortly.

We sincerely hope those are not Mr. Maronski's final published words.
Comments to this post will be closely monitored.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Encouraging authors out of their shells...

Charlie has given me the thumbs-up to second victim has been pestering me for two months to give her some space. This might be what she meant.

So, I posted this on Facebook, just the other day:
Imagine that you have written a book, and market it as well as you might, for a very long time. Then - with just the right connection, just the right promotion - you end up #1 on an list, and your book gets downloaded 10,000 times. Bam!
Does your head spin? Do you cry with joy? Ask Darcia Helle she knows the... answer now. :)  'Enemies and Playmates' is well deserving of that notice.

She replied:
Thank you, Joel. The answer is, you sit and look dumbfounded at the screen, trying to figure out who could have made such a ridiculous error in calculations. :)  And now she's had nearly more than 30,000 hits!

See the end of the post for a rundown of the Kindle Boom that rocked Darcia last year.

Darcia Yvette Helle (pronounced HAY-LAY) ;)  is another someone a bit rare in self-publishing; she is an author who devotes most of her time just talking books with others. Eavesdrop her conversations on the web, and you will hear encouragement, humor, compassion, sympathy, and - most helpfully - honesty about what this game entails. Plus, she agonizes over reviewing books which are not particularly well written. (It is not easy to mentor authors, none of us have any flaws....) The generous Darcia is simply a hoot to know, and that is at odds with her writer's nature. That Darcia (which means 'dark' in French) would be wondering if your legs have to be chopped to put you in that box.

Her heart must match her hippie-chick smile, wide open and happy. One new place where all those good qualities come gushing from the screen, is - a haven in a confusing self-pub landscape - it's a product of her website QuietFury Books. While other bookish sites are slowing, or dying outright - just from too much junk on the pages, BsB is attracting members from all over. And those members are welcome to blurb and promote their books. Upon arriving, they seem to sigh with relief. The entire site is cool, smart, clean, easy, and the talk about books just comes naturally. Her success in this blog/forum arena is due to her great personality and web media savvy. I ask her about that below: she is one of three founding members, and she takes almost no credit for what is growing there (the demure Darcia). I'll let her remain humble. Sometimes, all it takes is a good seed.

There is no question that she can write; her characters are expertly defined. But, they are only themselves, and not much guided by her. When her characters speak - Darcia seems to just step aside. Skye Summers, her MC in 'The Cutting Edge' is a perfect narrator, and Darcia's natural talent with humor just shines.  Sometimes you can feel an author trying to be funny; not with Darcia.  [blatant theft of quote from her website] Here is how she describes the characters in her head: "The characters that float through my mind can be unrelenting and often lead me in too many directions at once. They become like children who lack discipline. And apparently I lack parenting skills."

That is a writer.

Did I mention that she is an accomplished murderer?

Read her. People DIE. And she giggles about it. I squealed at her, when she shattered my nerves with 'The Cutting Edge'. But, she defeated my wimp. I've read her twice now, and still squeal. She puts images in my mind that are too real. I need that - the riveting visuals that make the stories wonderful to read. Then she brought back some torments from my past, with 'Enemies and Playmates'. She made me wince, and keep reading. It is not easy to make people feel what you have written. There are hundreds of mass-pubs out there who still cannot do it.

Oh! Was stone-house publishing just mentioned in a derogatory manner?  It should be! Have a chat with Darcia about how little mass-pub does for authors. No conversation with Darcia strays very far from publishing, whatever the form. She champions self-publishing, for a simple reason; it is bringing very talented people out of the shadows so they can be read. Take a look at an open letter to Amazon, which she penned shortly after launching BsB.

Remember now, she just had 21,000+ people chose her book - on Amazon - all she needed was visibility in the marketplace. But, traditional publishing is looking at the Indie phenomenon, using the same twisted logic the music industry tried to apply - if the product does not fit their marketing outlines, it must therefore be inferior. Everyone in this game knows now, traditional publishing refuses to embrace anything 'Indie' as a good product. When you begin reading Indie works, you quickly realize how blatantly stupid the publishing world has become. They are ignoring the biggest change in publishing in our lifetimes, and self-published authors are finding alternate ways into the market, with a very good product.

Darcia writes a damned fine product. EVERY TIME SHE WRITES. Some whimpering agent should improve their stats next week, lighten their workload, by picking up a copy of Darcia's work. 21,000 people understood what they were doing when they clicked to download 'Enemies and Playmates'. I'm so thrilled for her I can't express it properly.

Here are the links to my reviews of 'Cutting Edge' and 'Enemies'.
Here is a link to her website store: look to the bottom, to the cool carousel widget.

And Charlie was kind to remind me of something I can't do. (I love it when women do that to me) : "Joel, don't forget to mention that people have the chance to win "Hit List" by Darcia Helle at the Gratitude Giveaway (begins this Wednesday) Nov. 17th at Bitsy Bling Books." What I can't do, is give you that URL today. Keep watching - it will post here in a couple of days.

Darcia was very sweet to allow me a few questions, but, as I have said, she enjoys a dangerous streak. It suits her, quite nicely:

Forgive the teasing about your name. I want to call you Miss Hell, and you've known that a good while; your books and posts all reveal a bit of a feisty personality. Spell your name phonetically so I can ignore the proper way to say it.
I like being called feisty. Thank you! My name (both first and last) is mangled more often than not. I find it rather comical now. I’m typically called Darsha Hell. Here is the phonetic pronunciation:
Dar-SEE-ah HELL-ee. In French, the ‘e’ on Helle would be silent. I kind of like it that way. :D

When did you realize, "Oh my! I'm going to write a book!"?
That happened about 15 years ago, when I was a few chapters into my first book (which I have not published). I always wrote. At that time, I’d written a lot of dark and probably horrible poetry and a few short stories. I’d run scenes through my mind each night. Honestly, sometimes I’d lie awake for hours, “writing” this entire story in my head. I couldn’t tell you now what prompted that first book. A character stepped into my head and wouldn’t go away. I sat down and wrote a scene. That scene turned into a chapter and I haven’t stopped since. Click to see her latest bit; a free short story.

Your readers know well that you love dogs, and are a vegetarian; those elements are prominent in your books. What have you likewise revealed, that readers might not pick up so easily?
I think we writers sprinkle bits of ourselves in all of our work. A running theme an astute reader might notice is that I am a wee bit obsessed with the why behind human behavior. I’m not content to write about a vicious killer, unless I can explore what caused him or her to become that way. The majority of murderers are not born sociopaths. Something made them that way. I need to look inside and see what that was, then show it to my readers.

I recognized your desire to explain Kyle in ‘The Cutting Edge’.  His near-conversations with his mother gave me chills, as Norman did in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. But, I don’t recall any effort to define Alex’s madness in ‘Enemies and Playmates’. Did I miss it, or did you really not go there with him? (Alex is piercingly accurate, BTW. I’ve seen the self-love, and its fallout, first hand.)

Alex was a bit harder to portray, since he wasn't a POV character. I tried to give hints of his decline, through brief memories and observations by his family members. His obsession with power and control as he rose in stature within his profession and his community was his ultimate downfall, though, for me, Alex was one of those people who was born with a missing link. Kara overlooked those signs early in their relationship. She was searching for that American dream, with a successful husband allowing her to stay at home, comfortable, to raise her children. Kara reacted as many young women do. She didn't see (or perhaps chose to ignore) those early signs of Alex's controlling nature. Often, we see what we choose to see in our relationships.

I'm thrilled that you think Alex's character is accurate, though I'm sorry to hear that you've had personal experience with someone like him. I don't think the general public realizes how easy it is for a woman to fall into that kind of relationship. It happens for a variety of reasons and rarely does it begin at a full level of abuse. As I'm sure know, given your own experience, men like these can be remarkably kind when they choose to be. They show the world a different face.
Now I want to go back and kill Alex all over again! :))

Your books embrace a lot of physical danger for your characters. Can you sit and watch movies like 'Saw: Parts I-XXVII' ?
No! I’ve never watched any of those 'Saw' movies. However, I can watch psychological suspense or even thrillers with lots of violence, providing the violence is interspersed with a good story. For me, movies like 'Saw' feed on the graphic gore and don’t offer enough substance.


You have six books; an impressive bit of work. Which took the least time to complete?
The Cutting Edge, my last one, was the quickest to write. That was also the closest to anything autobiographic in content. Skye Summers, the main character, is a hairstylist suffering from serious job burn-out. I was a stylist for 15 years in a salon in the very same small town I set the book in. One reviewer recently said that I had created the most obnoxious (and I’m paraphrasing here) clients ever to walk into a salon. That comment made me laugh out loud, since every single one of those clients was closely based on a real client in that real salon.
I should take a signed copy of that to my stylist's shop. The ladies there would love it.

Which of your books is actually your favorite?
That’s like asking me which of my children is my favorite. It depends on the day!  :D

Do you ever open them again, and twitch to make some edits?
I have not actually read any of my books since publishing but, yes, I do twitch to do some editing. Once the book is published, I don’t think about editing in the sense of reconstructing sentences, etc. At some point, you have to let go and be satisfied with the word choices. That, for me, comes at publishing time. However, I did all my own editing at first and that is not something I recommend. I read my own work so many times that I was regurgitating the words in my sleep. Still, I missed things. My mind was seeing what it was supposed to say, not what it truly said.
I now have an awesome editor! His name is Bob Helle and he is, oddly enough, not a relative. Or, if he is, those ties are distant somewhere in my husband’s ancestry. He edited 'The Cutting Edge' for me and has just finished 'Hit List'. I’ll be making the corrections and releasing the revised edition soon. I hope to have 'No Justice' done next.

What other book have you read more than twice?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book more than twice, particularly fiction. There are millions – billions? – of books on the market at any given time. About half of those are on my to-read list. (Seriously, you should see it!) I don’t have time for all the new ones I’d love to read, much less time to re-read the old ones.

What other author have you read completely?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I read a diverse amount of genres and topics, both fiction and nonfiction. When I was younger, I faithfully followed a handful of my favorites, which included Tami Hoag and John Sanford. But different authors and different genres soon distracted me. Now I’ve been veering off into the Indie world and exploring a lot of new authors. Aside from authors who only have one or two books out at this point, I can’t name any offhand whose complete backlog I’ve read. Though there are many whose work I do want to read every bit of.

Have those books and people influenced you?  What did?
Yes and yes. Each book, good or bad, influences me somehow. As writers, we read differently. Or I do, at any rate! I pay attention to sentence structure, word choice, characterization, etc. Even when I’m lost in a book, somewhere in my subconscious I’m aware of what that author is doing or not doing to keep me turning pages.
As for people, all of them absolutely influence my writing. The people close to me who support me and the readers who take a moment to send me a note and/or write a review for one of my books encourage me, whether knowingly or not, to keep writing. People that I meet, even briefly, influence a trait I give a character. An exchange between people that I overhear in a store might spark an idea for a scene or a complete novel.
Life, with its great moments and its misery, are strong influences in everything I write.

Do you get to write as much as you would like?
No! The balance between marketing, promoting, networking, working on various projects and writing is incredibly difficult to maintain. To make matters worse, I am absolutely not a morning person. I’m not a late sleeper but my brain cells continually misfire until around 11 a.m.

Indie marketing is a complex activity, (duh!). How much of your day is spent with your online connections?
A very good example of letting your books have
the loudest voice on your webpage.
I was going to say ‘too much’ but that wouldn’t be accurate. Over the past few months, I’ve developed an amazing network of fellow authors/friends and I do spend some time each day interacting with them via email and on our message board. But a lot of my marketing time is a more solitary activity, in which I organize projects, write interview questions, seek out promotion ideas, etc. It’s still too much time, time that I’d like to use to write.

We've discussed query letters on BsB, you say you've given them up. Were you ever obsessed with sending out query letters?
The mere mention of query letters causes me to shudder. Yes, I was obsessed. Then disappointed. Then dejected. Then obsessed again. A ridiculous cycle. When I first set out to become published, the Indie world wasn’t even a fantasy. Self-publishing options consisted of those horrible vanity presses that will publish anything for money. I was a neophyte and had no idea how difficult the publishing world was to break into. All those form rejection letters were disheartening, to say the least. Agents based their opinions on a one-page query letter. How do you judge creativity based on one formal query?

You are at the helm (approaching 1,000 posts) of the explosively popular Has that success surprised you?
I’d love to strap on my ego and say that I expected it to be a success. But, in all honesty, I am surprised. I created the message board on a whim. I’d been trying to find ways to network and had joined a variety of reader and writer forums. The reader forums were, for the most part, unfriendly. I often felt like some sort of pariah. Writers were forbidden from discussing their writing on any level. If you crossed that line even slightly, you were publicly berated. I understand limiting self-promotion or even banning self-promotion. However, writing is what I do. It goes hand-in-hand with reading. Other members discussed their hobbies and their jobs but I was not allowed to discuss either. Where did that leave me, as far as how to interact? The writers’ forums were all about self-promotion. That’s all they did. No one discussed books they read or authors they enjoyed. Members would pop in, talk about their books, and leave. There was little support or interaction and no discussion of books other than their own.
I’m sure this is not the case for every forum but it’s what I ran into. I wanted a place where readers and writers could hang out and discuss the things we love without fear of persecution. Since I couldn’t find that place, I decided to create it. But I need to be clear in stating that all I did was create that spot. The members are the ones who make that place special.

What do you single out as the most pleasing feature of that site, for you?
The absolute unwavering support each member offers the others, regardless of background.
I need to point out that Stacy Juba and Maria Savva are her partners in the BestsellerBound creation. Both are accomplished and acclaimed authors as well.

If you could put your book in a certain person's hands, who would that be, and what book do you wish they would read?
Such a great question! With each of my books, I take on a subject that I would like all of society to think about, perhaps on a different level and/or from a different perspective. If I had to choose one book for one person, I think I’d pick Enemies and Playmates. I’d put it in the hands of one woman who is making excuses or blaming her own behavior for the husband or boyfriend who has raised a hand to her.

What's the next D.H. book?
I’m working on the third book in my Michael Sykora series. No title, yet.

If you are going to curl up with a book, what are you snacking on?
I don’t often eat when I read. Usually, I’m too absorbed in the world unfolding with the words. Plus, I don’t want to risk getting my books or my eReader smudged. But my favorite snack is ice cream from Marble Slab, Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs.

Audio books. They are becoming popular! Could you read your own book for a recording?
No. An emphatic no. For one thing, I don’t think I have the right tone of voice. To make a good audio book, you need to have the type of speaking voice that is strong and soothing, like a radio announcer or actor. That would not be me. Also, I have difficulty with speaking aloud and maintaining that type of concentration for any length of time, due to neurological complications from chronic, late-stage Lyme disease. I’d be tripping over my own words and stuttering. That might make for a comical break but I doubt it would be a big selling point.

Thank you, DeeCee. This has been a fun chat. Don't be surprised to get a new question before the week is out.
Feel free to pull bits of me from wherever you find me!
Cannibalizing text? That would be just like her....
Darcia loves arcane facts, bizarre subjects, (one of them linked above) and loves to post articles about the stuff she digs up, like here; here; here; here; She posts like an insomniac on BsB, which, BTW, is an outstanding readers site - anyone who loves books is welcome to join. Just register and introduce yourself. Hers will be one of the first welcoming posts you get. She Twitters, too, but those are mostly tweets about dogs and cats...or her shrunken head collection... @DarciaHelle

What exactly DID happen between Kindle and Darcia? Somehow, they decided her title 'Enemies and Playmates' was worthy of placement on their Free Download list. She is also available in e-book on Smashwords, and was offering that book free there. Amazon prefers to be the lowest Kindle e-book price available, and state they will match lower prices. Apparently, they keep tabs of pricing on titles in the Kindle format, and Darcia somehow became visible to them. They have yet to communicate with her about any of this - so, it just happened. Boom.

Suddenly, with the featured status, and the free price, Darcia's book was flying out in downloads. But, remember, it was a free book. She did not earn a dime on all the action. Neither did Amazon. What the entire whirlwind of notice brought, was only that. Kindle had a massively attractive author on their list, and Darcia found herself in so many hands she couldn't believe it. She is being read on nearly 30, 000 Kindles by now. Way more than that...remember, this is an old post.

There is a huge debate over the way pricing is structured, and the way commissions are paid. At first glances, it is difficult to understand. Darcia could have earned on those downloads, but was unable to see the event shaping up. Amazon might have overlooked her, if she had been structured to actually receive commission on any is now a case of could have, should have, but isn't the whole thing wonderful!

Yes, it truly is. We all dream of being read in such numbers. Darcia is no longer free on Amazon, and is selling so well that her book is now on the opposite top 100 list. Her other titles are enjoying an upswing as well. She's had her picture on the Amazon Kindle front page, so to speak. Darcia is an author whom TENS OF THOUSANDS can read. I bet she would squeal to have the whole thing happen all over again.

It could. Read one of her books. You will come back for more. So will almost 30,000 other readers. 50-60K by now?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our first victim...(A very satisfying abuse.)

Exactly as warned; this blog changed during the week. Charlie and I were not finished. She has been kind enough to take the lead in defining my purpose, by defining my subject: Indie authors. She has done that at the very top of her interview, and then answers two more questions for me, just for fun....

Charlie Courtland is a shy, unassuming Indie author who blogs and reviews with the strength of three people. Known by thousands as the voice behind Bitsy Bling Books. She works a lot of marketing magic for authors in a wide range of genres, but, she writes historical fictions with very dark, haunted subjects. Her masterpiece work is the stunning tale of Elizabeth Bathory, the sixteenth century 'Blood Countess'.

Constantly active on the web (try and count the blogs where she's featured), Charlie seems to hardly sleep. According to her own admission, she works at her own pace, with nary a glance to any clock. Her time is controlled by her reading schedule, and her stack of waiting books is massive. Following her about on the numerous feeds that she haunts, one gets the impression that she reads and blogs simultaneously. And, somewhere in that storm of activity, she finds time to promote other authors with contests and expert reviews. A review from Charlie is a valuable gift to Indie authors who crave notice. Charlie attracts a lot of notice. Her 10 Best of 2010 list had publishers getting in touch. She was positively spot on with her #1 pick. Give her a Google, and watch more than ten pages flip by with her name in the listing.

She may enjoy more fame for her three sentence rants on Facebook, as likely about football as they might be about her neighbors. You get the strong impression that if you tried to join her for a televised game, and rooted for the wrong team, she would make you leave, and smile while holding the door. Charlie wouldn't be described as very cautious, I'll wager. (No. Not at all. Since this feature was posted Charlie demonstrated some raptor-like behavior on a few occasions. If she's marked you for death - buy your casket.)

You need to know, recently Charlie has been obsessing over this little tale on the right. 'The Secret of a Spicy Jalapeno' appeared as if by magic - she had been very quiet. I had only heard hints, but suddenly a beta copy was available, and I found myself in one of the most inventively macabre stories I'd read in a great while. And the gem is pure Charlie Courtland; she is very precise with her details. Very Precise. I won't reveal the one element that had me giggling like a little kid. If you can't find it on your own, then...tough on you. However, I will tell you this - she researched how something would smell.

Yes, that's what she did, and when I read that passage my jaw dropped. I've read a lot of details in novels, that just seemed mindless filler in the text. Not from Charlie.

Now available in the usual places - the link goes to amazon - you would do well to hurry and get this on your TBR. As I said, it is pure Charlie, but not at all like her amazing Blood Countess series, which is detailed just below. I loved this book, and wanted to share it by updating this post. (here is my review.)

Three years of research and obsession...


'Dandelions in the Garden' and 'The Hidden Will of the Dragon' are the result of those passions. Charlie found that little had been written about the notorious 'Blood Countess', who was descendant from Vlad Tepes himself. Such a powerful - yet unexplored figure - Charlie was drawn to Elizabeth Bathory and compelled to create a story that would stand up to the legends. She achieves that with genius - her imaginative account follows the Countess from her youth, to beyond her tormented life - through the eyes of Elizabeth's only lady-in-waiting, Amara. What those two endure, and survive together, is a lifetime on the very edge of madness.

Though Amara herself is a creation of the author's, the scope of the narrative is grounded in meticulous accuracy. Charlie has explained in several blogs how she endeavored to place real people in correct time and place around the Countess, in her sometimes sequestered life. Elizabeth may have been ignored most of her life, but she was royal. Even her tormentors were required to circulate her in proper society. From the real history of the courts and kings, Charlie weaves a story that is utterly believable and a masterpiece.

Here are the links to my reviews of both books: 'Dandelions' - 'Dragon'
It has become a dream of mine, to own a Charlie Courtland rating and review. Sadly, as of this date, she has steadfastly refused to read anything I've written...


I believe that writers should write for themselves. Then they should share what they have written. There are more ways to do that now, than have ever existed before. People who have that desire to write books, deserve to be read. Charlie explains why.

Would you please define, for our readers, what is an Indie author – and, why should they be supported?

I-N-D-I-E is short for independent and I'm told that the proper spelling is with 'ie' and not the 'y' (indy) which refers to Indiana or car racing. 

Indie Author:  An obscure person which you only learn about from someone slightly more hip than yourself.  Often associated with persons affiliated with small publishing and not under a contract of a major house.  In other words, an author with little financial backing so they can claim they are not 'sell-outs', while leering in disgust at those who have fat advancements.  What is the importance of being Indie?  And, why do some of us actually choose this route?  Like the trail blazers before us in the music and movie industry, Indie is a state of mind.  A writer maintains a certain sense of freedom and empowerment when maintaining control over their written word.
So let's break it down:
I = Inspired -  Your gut guides, your brain motivates.  It's what you are meant to do.
N = Non-traditional - Understand the 'rules' but are fearless and can veer from them.  If everyone wrote the same, books would be boring!  Example:  Mass media trends.  Yuck. Amen!
D = Determined -  You're going to have to market anyway, so why not do it yourself?
I = Innovative - Finding new ways to reach people, network and love what you do.
E= Empowered -  Control, control, control.  Own it.  Don't wait for someone else or something to magically come along and say, 'Gee, we might like you.'  Yeah, it takes guts, but you can't go Indie without them.

What I-N-D-I-E doesn't stand for:  I can't get published or have been rejected so I went this route because I had no other choice.  Unfortunately, some very misguided individuals share this way of thinking and misinformed definition. 

Believe it or not, and I know this is a total shocker, but I am one of those CRAZY author's who chooses to go Indie.  I have never written a query or submitted a 300 word synopsis followed by rejection notices.  I thought, I can either spend my day and money on penning query letters and licking stamps, OR I can pay a fraction of the cost, have my work edited and do the rest myself.  At least when I make that $.64, it will be MY $.64 -- no one gets a cut or chunk.  Do I sell millions?  Nope, but most authors whether Indie or mass market don't. 

Is there a lot of drudge out there?  Why, all areas of entertainment from music to movies and most certainly in books.  However, some of the best music and movies I've listened to or seen, are classified as 'Indie' -- take the Sundance Film Festival for example if you need proof.  I'm from Seattle, so the grunge scene is near and dear to my heart.  You see where I'm going with this, right?  As I compile my best of 2010 reading list I'm not the least bit surprised to find my top choices are by Indie authors.  Truly, they were some of the best works I read this year.

What are your credentials, as an author and blogger?
I have a piece of paper from the University of Washington claiming I'm qualified. They gave me a license to unleash my opinions onto the world. (translation: BA degree in pretty book words.)

How long have you been blogging?
I began my blogs in September of 2009. I currently administer 3 blog sites.

Did blogging evolve from your efforts as a writer, or was it the other way around?
I set up the first blog to help promote my independent publishing endeavors. However, I quickly realized I enjoyed promoting my opinions about other works more. Like most authors, I really don't like talking about myself - but feel free to buy my books.

What is the hardest aspect of your working day?
The daily household chores and infernal domestic demands of life. I'm easily annoyed by laundry, dishes, and figuring out what's for dinner. However, I'm also a very neat and organized person. The family calls it OCD, but I prefer delightfully quirky.

You sometimes teach creative writing; how often do you get to do that?
Not often enough! Ultimately, I'd like to teach a creative writing seminar at the university level. Recently, I've tutored several high school students.

Who has influenced your writing most?
My refreshingly progressive creative writing professor, Allison. I really lucked out when I enrolled in her class. The most influential author is, hands down, Flannery O'Connor. That woman had moxie.

Is there a genre that you would love to write, but have not tried?
I'm interested in Steampunk and would really like to develop a story suitable for this genre. It's the Victorian aspects that attract me to it.

Is there a genre that you will not read?
I prefer certain genres to others, but I'll try anything once, or twice.

What is the most shared bit of advice that you give Indie authors?
I tell them that every book will eventually end up being a 3 star. I'm a fan of the law of averages. In other words, some people will love you and some will dislike you. The people who dislike your work are deranged. In all seriousness, take critique in stride but don't let it eat you up.  Most writers are acutely aware of their flaws. The goal is to keep moving - perfection doesn't exist in the artist world because it's subjective.

What is the strangest question you have ever been asked?
What 3 adjectives best describe you? You can't ask a writer to use only 3 adjectives! This took me days to figure out.

In your Elizabeth Bathory series, which male character might you have loved?
George. Most definitely, George. I'm still in love with him. I never said I had good taste in men.

Do you think that love might be evident in your writing?
Absolutely. I have an ongoing argument with a literary friend. He claims that deep down I'm a hopeless romantic. I tell him I'm a cynical romantic.

Patrick Stewart, or Kevin Costner?
Without a doubt, Patrick Stewart. He's more my type. Personally, I think one of the sexy men alive is George W. Bush.  I know...but, I think he's adorable and really funny. He makes up words and that turns me on.

I've heard you hint at a new project; what are you willing to divulge?
I have two kicking around the story machine at the moment. I've been researching the history behind the Harvard Mansion in Seattle. I think there is a good story waiting to be told which is based on the house. The other project involves the vampire conspiracies investigated by the archduchess of Austria. I have a particular interest in the legend of Arnold Paole.
Image from Mesa Oak Productions

Charlie needs this for Christmas. (Don't know if the site has them, but they have a free Steampunk Game. Clickyclicky.)

Steampunk is such a visual art, almost fractal in the layering of details. How would you write, even in a Victorian prose, and make the result feel how steampunk looks?
Humm...I'm actually struggling with this concept.  I really want to explore Steampunk, but I question whether I have the talent and imagination to pull it off. I've recently compiled a list of must reads from Steampunk authors.  I need to become familiar with the 'rules' of the genre and then decide what I want to take away or what I will chuck.  The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a good example of the direction I'd like to take.  H.G. Wells and Douglas Adams will help with other details as well.  I first have to be a student.

Thank you Charlie, for sitting still long enough for my questions; and for using the nickname I gave you. There is a story behind it, that I might share - someday. Happy First Blog Guest Day! You have my permission to put up your Christmas tree now...and, I'm upgrading my crush on you, to full blown infatuation.. :)

Charlie asked this question in the comments: "Ok Joel, I've got a question for you! Recently, I was contacted by a gentleman who asked if my books would appeal to a 30 something male? What's your opinion?"
When I was 30, Elizabeth was exactly what I wanted to read. But, that is not a fair opinion; Classic subjects are my favorites. You wove a remarkable fiction out of a colorful, true history.

Anne Rice was re-vamping Vampires when I was that age, and I read all her works. 30-somethings now? They have been raised with Internet access nearly all their lives, I don't know how to judge their attention span. You take your time weaving the tale, and require your reader to let the two girls mature. Can those two characters be viewed in modern terms? Yes. To me, Amara is hot; Elizabeth is a party-girl without a party. It should work for younger men, because you brought those women forward in time with the narrative voice. Guys should still like women who kick ass. Far as I know, they always have.

For the record, Charlie hosts the blogs: Bitsty Bling Books; Bitsy Bling's Book Reviews; What's Charlie Talking About?; and A Writer's Corner. That counts on my toes as four. She loves followers, and follows back, making sure to see what friends are posting. Told you she seems to never sleep; I'll not let her rest much this week - constantly adding little bits and fixes as I grow more bold with these tools.

You know she has a crush on me, don't you? Yeah, a dozen or ten tweets a should follow her/ @bitsyblingbooks on Twitter. (you thought that was a link, didn't you?)

Weekly Meme's Charlie does each week:
Magic Mailbox (every Sunday).  I post what books I've received the previous week.
Follow Friday (every Friday).  Blog hop, Follow Me and Enquiring Minds Want to know.