Monday, February 21, 2011

Carnival in Rio has lost one sparkle...

There are times when you receive a surprise, so unexpected, it instantly seems a gift. My introduction to Zaira Brilhante was one such moment. Her first contact was merely a hello, but has opened a doorway with a gorgeous view. She is the founder of an online culture expo, which touches all aspects of entertainment, and she is building a literary showcase within that new site. She said hello to me, because of a book.

Let's get one thing out of the way, so it won't clutter the discussion:
Guys! She's engaged.

Partnered with her fiance, this Brazilian Journalist, Filmmaker, soon-to-be Literary maven, has created Cultzine. I have warned Zaira, my connections in the self-publishing world are growing into a monstrous network. When I broadcast that she hopes to meet authors, and learn of their experiences...a flood will come. (I bet that in Portuguese, a maven would be...maven.)

Connected as we all are, some of us with addiction-like passion...we prowl in desperation for a new outlet. Imagine being showcased alongside every current event in entertainment the world over. Yes, people browse the Internet for books, but how many more browse for Music, Theater, Movies, etc.? Oh, yes.  Millions and millions more. A single click aside from those attractions on Cultzine... a button with our name upon it... Zaira's doorway to something grand for every name mentioned. The world will be at our feet.

Ok, that's hyperbole. But, it will be so cool! So cool! I'm about to say groovy. (for Brazilians living in England, who are younger than a few of my pairs of shoes...groovy means very, very nice.)

Tell us, in twenty words; who is Zaira Brilhante
Zaira is a Brazilian Journalist passionate about filmmaking that decided to move to London to direct films, is it 20?
Exactly 20. You've passed my test; you are a journalist.

With whom are you partnered, to create
My partner in Cultzine is my partner, full stop. My husband to be Olly Hunter, who is also a journalist.

Do you have links to any of your filmwork?
Yes I do, but they are all short films or extracts of short films. On my director's website, you can check the latest productions I worked on. Here is the link to her IMDb director's listing.

How long have you lived in London?
I've been in London for the past 3 years

Is the Literature category of your baby?
Cultzine is my baby. I love Literature and Cinema, so I think I can say they are both my favourite topics to write about.

I know you have been crushed under other work - when do you plan to begin publishing literary content to that section of the website?
As soon as possible. To be honest, we are running behind schedule, but this upcoming week we should have our first two Literature articles published.

Name some of your favourite authors.
I love most Brazilian classic authors, but Carlos Drummond de Andrade is by miles my favourite. I am also a big fan of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa. I think to say Shakespeare it is a given, but I love him. Contemporary writers, I love Brazilian Luis Fernando Verissimo, but I read everything, really. And I admire a lot what J. K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, how she kept it fresh, differently from all these other "sagas" that I don't need to mention the names but most of them only money makers.   

Which do you prefer, a printed book or the new electronic formats?
Printed, always printed. I love to go to bed with a book, to sit comfortably on a sofa and feel the paper on my hands. Call me old fashioned, but I love to look at a bookshelf! The same with my cds and dvds... I  do understand electronic formats make it sometimes more accessible, but I still prefer the paper version.

What publications have featured your writings?
Wow, that's a tricky one. If you think as a Journalist, the list will be big... But recently, besides Cultzine, I write also for Jungle Drums Magazine and website. Recent articles here; here; here. 

Are you a story teller, or a journalist?
Mainly a Journalist, but if you think of filmmaking as story telling, then I would have to say both, as I do write scripts.

Have you traveled extensively? Ever been to America?
I've traveled a bit, but I wouldn't say as much as I'd like to. I've been to America, actually, I lived in a tiny village called Wilmington, in the South of Vermont for about six months and I had the opportunity to visit Boston, Albany and New York. In Europe, besides the UK I've been to the classic touristy spots, Paris, Rome... But I did go on two trips I loved, in one I crossed Norway from Oslo do Bergen on a train, stopping in small towns and villages on the way, and on the other I went from Dublin to Kilkee, in Ireland. 

What would you like to do with the Literature section of Cultzine?
The idea of CultzineWith the Literature section, in particular, we don't want to only review books, but to give authors an opportunity to talk to their readers through us.

Will you have weekly features, or monthly features?
It is more likely to be weekly. We started less than a month ago, but what we are aiming for is to have an article a day and a feature a week.

Can you outline your requirements for submissions to your website...
If it is about culture, if it fits in anyone of the tabs in our menu, then it is more than welcome. Of course, we don't want it to become a self-promoting thing and we will look carefully at the tone of any article we receive. But other than that, we are open to every suggestion and our team of editors, that is what we are working on at the moment to define, will make sure we keep up with the quality journalism standards we want.

What other website links can readers use to find you?
Well, I have my filmmaker's website: There is a blog on this website that I've been using recently as a portfolio tool, so everything I write that gets published on other vehicles is linked there.
I also found this cool site. 

Cultzine trumped quite a few other publications with the Oscar nominations this year. How were you able to pull that off? Is it a journalistic secret?
Haha, there is no secret, everybody knows today that with online journalism you need to be quick on the draw. I believe we were lucky to be able to watch it online (a few years ago that wouldn't have been possible) and, being an independent project, not to have the text passing through the hands of editors and IT teams before it could go online. But I didn't do it alone, Olly helped me. It was amazing teamwork. As I was putting together the article and doing all the blogging business, he was there telling everybody we had the information. 

Where in Brazil is home?
Rio de Janeiro, the most beautiful city in the world to me!

Have you danced in Carnival?
I have! And don't think because I am Brazilian this is a given, because it was completely random. But one Carnival I had a call from a friend that had a spare costume offering it to me and I thought "why not?" And there I was, hours after, dancing in the middle of the parade. But it was never something I would have planned, although I enjoy watching it, I usually see Carnival only as a long holiday to enjoy with a group of friends. 

What is your favourite music?
I like so many types of music, hard to pick one. But I can say my favourite group is Travis and that the album I can't stop listening at the moment is 21, by Adele.

As a film maker, where are the best films being produced now? Is Hollywood really out of ideas?
I don't think Hollywood is out of ideas. I think producers don't want to take risks anymore. It is all about going with the safe option, the money maker option. The same happens all over the place. It is hard to get studios or funding bodies to give a chance to first feature directors/producers. But there are many good films being made independently. I think the UK at the moment is a great place to be, I am still betting on it. But I recently watched a great independent American feature called Chronicles of a Love Unfound, by LA director Michael Eugene Peter, that proves there are lots of good ideas surrounding Hollywood, people just need to buy it.

What type of books do you read?
Everything, no prejudice. But nowadays I've been spending most of my time reading filmmaking books.

Are you completely immersed in as a business, or are you merely following your passions?
There is a business side to it, but we are at the moment seeing where we can get with it. Cultzine is a mirror of a previous successful experience I had with a very similar website in Brazil called Re-vista!, unfortunately when I left Brazil I had to leave it behind and the project died after a few months. But we managed to establish ourselves at that time as one of the first cultural online magazines in the country and after a while we moved to the events business as well, organising films screenings, exhibitions and promoting small concerts of independent bands that had featured in the magazine. I started Cultzine intending to follow Re-vista!'s steps. But I was naive enough not to think that today, more than ever before, when you're writing in English on the web, you can't think local. Although 63% of our readers today are from the UK, but there are still 37% percent, mainly from US and Brazil, that we cannot, by any chance, ignore.  

Thank you, so much Zaira, for taking this time with me today. I had warned you how many connections I have with outstanding authors. Are you prepared to be flung to the world of passionate writers?
I am!! Bring it on!!

Here are some peeks at the site; links galore...
Olly Hunter
Journalist with a passion for sports, film, music and to his fiance's dismay, Football Manager. Olly also writes @ and

Zaira Brilhante
Journalist, producer and director that moved to the UK in 2008. Loves films, theatre and music and web design. Zaira also writes @ Her filmmaker website is

Cultzine could brag of having the quickest fingers to the keys at the recent announcement of the Oscar nominees; they published the names with lightening speed, turning more than a few heads in doing it...

The site has a lean, savvy look to it; designed to be more click friendly than other entertainment sites. The lack of pure clutter is astonishing. 

Zaira will pilot the Literature segment, when she has built a bit of a foundation for it - chiefly, connections to authors who interest her, or who show some sparkle of their own which will attract others.

I look forward to seeing this effort take off, to see where Zaira will be led. The tides are swift and strong out here. We wish her all the best.

From her personal website...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Burning Rome twice in one Emperor....

February is Snowdown celebration in Durango. For some reason, always the most bone-chilling weekend of the winter. Locals line Main Street downtown, stomping, waiting for the single firework above the train station, which marks the beginning of the parade when the first evening stars peep over Smelter Mountain. Crowding close, straining the man-barriers, people eagerly look south to see what they really came to see...the balloon gondolas. Resting on flatbed trailers, they come up the street with burners alight, trying with all their might to send their tongues of flame over the three and four story buildings on either side of the street.

The crowd Oohs and Aahs, and raise their hands to the warmth.
Suzanne Tyrpak plays a fiddle on a crowded corner.....

Only the fiddle is fiction in that paragraph. Suzanne might not have been there this year, the whole town has been sick, for nearly a month. I'd heard she'd been traveling and might have been tired. She travels a lot, which I envy. Her job for an airline at the county airport gives her that wonderful freedom. I don't blame her for hopping over the mountains at every chance. Once, she hopped over the pond, to the Med.    Italy.      Rome.

There was a flame-lit night in that city's past. Remember that?

How cool is that tie-in? Yeah, I'm feeling pretty smart.

Suzanne met me for coffee a few weeks back, to swap books, say hello finally, talk about what we love. Her book is new enough, I couldn't beg a copy. 'Vestal Virgin'. She posted me so I could get the file, and I jumped right in. Something had been admitted in that meeting, and I wanted the truth of it, to see what result had come of it.

Vestal Virgin was edited to the bone after she completed her first draft. It's her method; authors have those, you know. I was aghast. Cutting one of my MS would draw blood from me.

What happened to those words? Were there holes in the text? The book is about Rome, at the time of the burning. Would this novel have scorch marks, and voids in it from her handiwork, like the burned corners of the Turin Shroud? Could I read this and see the perforations?

No. Suzanne is an accomplished author, and I'm a dork. An editor once told me; anything can be edited. Done by an expert, it works. Ms. Tyrpak knew which threads to pull out, where to reshape. Here is my review of the result.

To the bone.... (her words)
What a bone! There is a feast of Ancient Rome within those pages; a banquet awaits anyone who loves the harshness of the stunning place. But, I would love to read the original draft. Send that Suzanne, instead of a print. :)  I'm that kind of reader. You can't give me too much of a beloved subject.

Now, let's talk about her other book; Dating My Vibrator: and other true fiction.
(I blush fire-engine red. So glad you can't see me right now. I bet you could sell that for $42.95, and it would still fly.)

So, what do I mean by burning Rome twice?
Hehe.  There were two fires smoldering there. Suzanne brings sparks from both into her text. Nero ruled, tyrannated, corruptivated... abused the citizens, at the time that Christianity was taking hold. It was creeping into place, doing what it does, replacing the voids within the downtrodden souls it touched. Rome, her citizens, was seething with a passion for something different. Rome had endured too much, from without and within, and was a tinderbox in too many hidden places. When those sparks ignited... Rome disappeared into smoke, and The Way began to bloom.

I keep seeing Donna Reed in that book cover.....

'Vestal Virgin' is Suzanne's debut book. She's approached self-publishing the way lions approached the early Christians - she's devouring it. She has some impressive admirers. Check out her thoughts on the e-book revolution in this publication:   Here is a link to her websiteAs a gift to her readers, and any new ones meeting her for the first time here, Suzanne has agreed to give an e-book copy of 'Vestal Virgin' to anyone who comments below, and also goes to her blog to sign up and follow! The winner(s) will be selected at the end of the feature this week, and will be given a Smashwords code by email.

Ready Suzanne?

I’ve been shy about reading ‘Dating my…’  Am I a prude?
The stories are basically PG. Most of the stories are set in Durango—so you might enjoy it just for the setting. I’ve read a couple of the stories at the library, and no one called the police or threw me out so I think you’re safe reading the collection.

How many times a year do you hop a plane out of Durango?
I work for an airline so I travel a lot. Sometimes more than I want, because I often go to training up in Denver. Mostly, I travel in the slow seasons—never on holidays. I just got back from New York, where my family lives. While I was there I did research for my next novel; I visited the Roman and Greek wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At the end of this month I’ll be going to the Seattle area, meeting up with another writer friend who recently moved there, Shannon Richardson. I try to get away about every other month.

Have you ever worked in the café at the airport? The local joke, you know, everyone out there works at least once in the café…
There’s a cafe at the airport? No Joel, I don’t work at the cafe, but I often play piano out in the parking lot.

A three foot snowstorm doesn’t close that airport, does it. Have you ever been trapped out there?
Sometimes I work extremely long hours due to snow and rebooking. 4:30am till 9pm and later. It’s a tough job, but I enjoy it. And the airport is a great place to study people. I see people at their best, and sometimes at their worst. I check you in, and check you out.

You discovered your desire to write Vestal Virgin while on a trip to Rome. How long were you there?
My first visit to Rome was a dream-come-true—I traveled with a group of writers including Terry Brooks, Elizabeth Engstrom, John Saul, and Dorothy Allison for about a week. We hung out at cafes, wrote, wandered around the city and beyond. It was incredible. I got the idea for Vestal Virgin when I read a short blurb in a travel guide. There were only six vestals at any given time, and they were the most powerful women in the empire—sworn to thirty years of chastity at age seven, if they broke that vow they could be entombed alive. I thought: there’s a story!

The book took you back again, to complete research didn’t it?
Yes, I went to Rome a second time with a friend from Durango. We spent about ten days traveling through Rome, Florence and Venice. While we were in Rome, I hired a private tour-guide, a scholar who focused on A.D. 63-64, the time of the great fire—the year I write about. He showed us around the Forum Romanum, and gave me all kinds of interesting details I hadn’t found in books.

Some of the locations you visited that second time – those were not normal stops for tourists were they?
Most people don’t get the kind of details I got from the scholar tour-guide. For example, we walked around the site of the Domus Transitoria (Nero’s palace that burnt to the ground), and he knew the entire layout. I walked from one area of Rome to another, so I could get an idea of how long it would take to get around by foot. For example, I walked the route Elissa, my main character, walks from the Forum to what once was The Circus Maximus.

You’ve traveled to writer’s conferences, too? Where?
I attended the Maui Writers’ Conference and Retreat where I studied with New York Times bestselling writers including Elizabeth George, Terry Brooks, John Saul, Karen Fowler and Dorothy Allison. I’ve also attended Thrillerfest in Phoenix and New York City, World Fantasy Convention (don’t remember where), the Historical Writers’ Conference in Salt Lake, and one year Blake Crouch (Desert Places, Locked Doors), Shannon Richardson (Deadly Deceptions) and I attended Left Coast Crime together. We flew standby on my flight benefits to San Antonio. That’s where I first met Joe Konrath—the King of Kindle.

Are they ever going to finish that damned construction on Florida Road?
I believe construction is scheduled to be finished early in the next millennium. They’re currently building an overpass leading directly to the Rec Center, which will allow travelers to bypass Florida Road  - the toll will be $5.00, but I think locals get a discount.

Dating my Vibrator (and other true fiction) is an honest discussion about your life after divorce? Was that a difficult step to take, to write your own self onto those pages?
It’s not a discussion—honest or dishonest. It’s fiction, a collection of nine short stories. Yes, I used my experience as a jumping off point, but I do that with everything I write. Because some of the stories closely reflect my own experience, writing the stories saved me hundreds of dollars that I might have spent on therapy.

How many times have you ridden the train up to Silverton?

Do you bike?  Know 60 people who do?
Yes. Know in the biblical sense? That question is waaaay too personal!

How many bears have you seen near your place?
Last summer I had a group of friends over for dinner, and a bear cub showed up at the dumpster. We all ran out to see it—even the kids—before we figured out that might not be a great idea.

They say you are a local in Durango if you’ve ever spent a dime on Main Street. How long have you been here?
Where do you get these sayings Joel? I moved here from New York, Christmas of 1982. Threw my belongings into a VW hatchback and drove across country by myself. It was an adventure. I’m generally up for an adventure.

Is a new book in the works yet?
Several novels and another collection of short stories. I plan to bring out another historical suspense novel this coming December, Agathon’s Daughter. It’s set in Classic Greece. Here’s a description:

Agathon’s Daughter:
Born a bastard and a slave, Hestia has a gift—the power to read people’s hearts. This gift brings her notoriety and takes her on journey through the upper echelons of Athens. Sold to Lycurgus, a prominent statesman with sadistic tendencies, she becomes his consort. As Hestia’s wealth and fame increase, so does her despair. Determined to escape her cruel master, she faces enemies at every turn, but the fiercest enemy she faces is herself. To gain freedom, she must unravel the mystery of her past and confront the demons in her own heart. 

Online marketing is a struggle, at best, and we all have our favorite outlets, but you are partial to Kindle Boards aren’t you?
I think marketing online is fun—even addictive. I enjoy connecting with readers and writers via my blog, Facebook and Twitter. My fave hangout is Kindle Boards. It’s a friendly forum where readers and writers connect. I learn a lot there, exchange information and keep up on the latest epublishing news. I also hang out at a few Amazon forums in the US and UK.

Tell me what your typical writing day entails. Do they happen often enough?
At one point, before my divorce, I had time to write for hours every day. Now I write when I can. I like to have a chunk of time, so I can get lost in the story—but it doesn’t always work out that way. I write when I’m not working at the airport.

Highest peak you’ve visited?
The twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Explain what you meant by ‘cutting to the bone’ on Vestal Virgin. Why did you feel that was necessary?
I write, and then cut. I prefer economy in sentences. My first draft or two is usually over-written. I like to leave room in my writing for the reader’s imagination. For example, I stay away from detailed descriptions of a character’s appearance and allow my readers to create the images. Less is more.

Is traditional publishing your ultimate goal, or have you reached your desire already?
My ultimate goal is to support myself writing fiction. Thanks to epublishing, I think I can reach that goal in about three years. Traditional publishing was my dream for a long time—I’d love to work with a great editor and see my books in libraries and stores—but traditional publishing no longer guarantees those things. These days, with all the changes in the industry, I’m not sure if traditional publishing would be beneficial or a hindrance. 

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing seriously for about thirteen years, but I’ve always been a writer. In school, I used to entertain my friends with short stories, and I’ve always written (mostly bad) poetry. I’ve also written a few plays.

What is the perfect product, in your mind; an outstanding story, or something so unique that it simply stands out on its own?
A great story well told.

Have you ever boated/rafted down the Animas?
I did one of those tourist raft trips once. And I’ve cruised up the Nile. Researching a story—natch. Does that count as rafting?
Yes, it counts. Thank you bunches, Suzanne. Coffee is on me next time...


Durango is a river town. Our lovely little Animas. The Spanish named the river "Rio de las Animas Perdidas", "River of the Lost Souls". Named, truthfully, for the Native Americans who resisted Catholicism, the Animas is a river that kills; if you attempt it during the runoff, too high up from town. There are places where the current is so strong, lost kayakers are not found for days. There were currents in Rome, during the rein of Nero, and he was their cold source, emotionless as snowcapped peaks in May sunshine. Caught in his icy grip, even loving friends might die, friends who loved, but were not.
You thought you had heard that about him? Suzanne rafts you through those waters, but you will be chilled through. And, it's not even Nero's story...

Remember to stop by her blog, after leaving a comment below. We will notify the winners a day or two after her feature post.

Monday, February 7, 2011

When a simple happiness is a blessing...

Imagine having no safe home.

That isn't a question about just having a roof over your head. Imagine having no safe place where you can feel safe at all. Every small happiness, becomes a gift of tremendous value. Endure a lifetime of need, and surprise at even simple things.... Valerie Maarten asks you to feel that, as you read 'The Gift of Joy'. Such is the reality for many women; women and their children, who look to others for the barest of comforts. Women who need shelter from harm.

I'm so pleased to feature Valerie this week, in her first author's interview. I got a picture of Valerie! Yay!

She has not written a depressing novella for you to slog through. Contrary to that, Joy's experience is uplifting when you become friends with her. Understanding is a wonderful thing to come to. Especially with this subject. You only need to care, to let yourself care. It's how Joy deals with the pains in her past; she runs a shelter for women in need.

Writing a reality based fiction, with this sadness and want at its core, must be done by someone who exudes generosity. I believe that describes Valerie. I've seen her promote other authors with vigor on her website. She seems a giving person, if a bit shy. She certainly gave herself to this text, 'The Gift of Joy' is a labor of love for Val, and I've been curious exactly what sparked it. Perhaps it doesn't need to be told. Nothing would change about this story, knowing where it began to shine within the author. Let's say that I will be satisfied that she wrote it, so it could touch other people. Some people need even a small encouragement. It could make tomorrow somewhat easier to bear.

Here is the link to my review of her book. I've not read 'Second Chances' but the reviews are similar, people love what they are reading.

No, there aren't any St. Bernards. But Valerie rescues sea turtles...Orlando is her home. Every few weekends she can be found walking the marshy beaches near Edgewater - a turtle under each arm. Unless a Shuttle launch has been scheduled on the Cape. She will drop whatever task is at hand, to brave the endless traffic to be close as possible. I bet she's taken a few turtles along from time to time.

Where do those turtles go? She won't say, but I've heard NASA has a turtle removal task force at the Cape, and she might be keeping them busy. I think her backyard might be a bit of turtle heaven too.

*** If this is your first visit to Thing, always - always check the comments, stuff crops up. And say hello. :)
What prompted you to write this story, 'The Gift of Joy' ?
A little girl named Joy that always seemed to haunt my thoughts and live in my heart.  Although she was make believe, her story was real.

Was this your first novel?
This was the first novel that I published.  I have many WIP that are clamoring for my attention.

You read a variety of subjects; what are your favorite books?
In non-fiction I like history, particularly the medieval period.  As for fiction, I’m very eclectic.  I’ll read anything that grabs my attention.

Give us some insight to your writing process; how do you approach your page?
This is an interesting question because I’m always wondering about other Author’s methods for writing.  I’m a little old fashioned in my writing style, I guess you can say.  I have to write every word out in long hand then I do my re-write, edits as I’m typing.  Some Authors seem to be comfortable sitting in front of the computer screen as the words flow from their fingers.  It has the opposite effect for me.  My thoughts flow easiest when I’m writing.
You've brought my eyes wide open at that! I know very few people who can do that, it is a remarkable thing to know. 

Have you exposed your work to agencies? Do you send out queries?
I have to admit that I haven’t done that.  To be quite frank, I never thought that I’d become published because I didn’t like the idea of having to go through the formality of query letters, finding and agent, etc.  So, I resigned myself to the fact that my work would be mostly enjoyed by me and a few friends before it was relegated to a Rubbermaid bin in the garage.  It wasn’t until this new-fangled idea called ePublishing came about that I ever considered publishing seriously.

How long have you been writing? What other things have you done?
For fear of sounding too cliché, I’ve been writing ALL of my life.  Poems, short stories, plays…anything.  I love to read and I love to write.  It’s a passion that’s been inside me since I can remember.  I can recall my first book I ever read, but if I tell you the title I’d be dating myself so I’ll refrain. 

Okay, okay.  Stop twisting my arm.  It was “Fun with Dick and Jane” and “See Spot Run.”  I told you.  Now I can hear the computer in everyone’s head calculating when those books were published and tacking on another 5 years for good measure.  For the record, I’m 25 years old *sneaky grin*

Did this story spring entirely from your heart, or did you research any parts of it?
“The Gift of Joy” was entirely from the heart.  I grew up in a time when Domestic Violence was a personal affair where no one got involved or intervened and it was rarely treated as a criminal offense.  So, I always wondered what if…?  What if you’re the product of a home where this was commonplace?  What type of person would you become…how would it affect your relationships with other people, etc.?

I’ve always carried this little girl in my heart and in my mind.  Finally, I decided that her story was too compelling to remain untold.  I wanted people to know Joy, feel her pain and loss.  I needed to make her human so people would know how their inclination not to get involved could affect another person’s life, especially the life of a child that has no one else to protect them.

Have you worked or volunteered in a Women’s shelter before?
I’ve never volunteered in a Women’s shelter, but I have done volunteer for church where we serve hungry families and give away gently used clothes to the needy.  To be quite honest, I don’t think my heart would allow me to work under those conditions.  I’m too empathetic towards those types of situations and I don’t know how I would react under those circumstances.  Maybe that’s just my selfish way of protecting my own heart from the pain.  I don’t know how else to explain it.

Why would a contract writer desire more time at the keyboard, to write a novel? What is a contract writer?
If I had to guess at what a “Contract Writer” is, I’d say it’s more like a freelance writer.  If this is true, then I would think that writing a novel would be less lucrative for them since they would have to make great sales in order to acquire the fee they’re probably accustomed to by writing bits, blogs, etc.  Though I could be wrong…I’m just guessing.

You are very careful with Gabe in ‘The Gift of Joy’. Were you doing that on purpose, or did Joy cause that?
It was a little of both, I’d say.  As an adult, Gabe had a better understanding of what Joy must have gone through in her childhood and to couple that with his own guilt for not doing anything about it, though he was too young, was another reason he had the temperament he had with Joy.  But overall, I didn’t want an overpowering, “Alpha” male to overshadow the message I was trying to convey through Joy.  Believe me, it was a delicate balance of which I hope I’ve succeeded.

I’ve noticed that you are shy about self promotion; you even admit you were brought up to believe it could be a negative trait. Is that changing for you, as you connect with more people? Are you learning to open up a bit, for the sake of your books?
Some things are just inherent in you.  Bragging or boasting or calling attention to oneself was just a “no-no” when I was growing up.  However, I did have to learn how to promote in order to sell books.  Though there doesn’t seem to be a method to the madness, I’ve experimented with various ways to do it.  Some ways were quite successful and others, not so much.  I still have a learning curve in this arena, but I am comfortable enough now to at least try.

Tell us a little about ‘Second Chances’.
“Second Chances” is another one of those, what would happen if…?  I wondered, what would happen if a person spent their entire life believing something to be true, to the point of it festering into a poisonous, debilitating hatred, only to find out later on in life that it was a lie?  Would that person continue to use that hatred as a shield?  Or would they be strong enough to let it go and begin their life anew?  It was experimental, but I hope I was able to convey the antagonism it could cause in a person’s life if they chose to hold on to it…and all that they stood to lose if they didn’t let it go.
Here is a link to a Smashwords reader review of 'Second Chances'.

Have you had days when it just seemed impossible to write?
All the time.  Not that I don’t have a cache of stories in my head, but because I’m not disciplined enough to write when the spirit hits me sometimes.  Unfortunately, I’m one of those Authors that let life get in the way and I rarely do anything until I feel I’m “under the gun.”  I guess I work best when I feel I’m under pressure, even if I’m the one giving the deadline.

Do you snorkel, or are you a beach-babe-with-a-book?
Easy question to answer.  I’m a beach-babe-with-a-book.

Have you been deep sea fishing?
Never.  Motion sickness would not allow that to be a fun outing for me…or the other person.

How many Shuttle launches have you seen?
In person…none.  Standing in my driveway…all of them.  Fortunately I live fairly close to NASA, so I can see it from my house.  I know most people think it’s cool to see it in person, but they’ve never seen the traffic it causes when it’s over and I absolutely HATE being stuck in traffic.

Name your favorite amusement park ride.
Oh, I’m a wimp.  This is a hard one.  It’ll have to be the Tea Cup Ride or the ride in The Cat in the Hat.  I know, I’m a big baby.

Have you ever ridden an air-boat in the Everglades?
Did no one ever tell you they have alligators in the Everglades?  Heck no!  I’m scared.  You know I always wonder, what if?  What if something happened to the man steering the boat?  What if we get stuck in the marshes and it’s getting late?  What if…?

Does the Fountain of Youth exist?
Yes.  Ask my two grandmothers.  They are both ninety and beautiful, with very few wrinkles.  I’m still waiting for them to tell me where it is.

So, I teased about St. Bernards, you seem more the type to rescue Greyhounds. What’s the real story?
You’re a very intuitive man.  I would be that type.  Though I’ll admit that I love St. Bernards for their bravery and intelligence, I love Greyhounds for their agility and regal stature.  They’re both beautiful animals in their own way.

Which must-see tourist spot in Florida will you admit you have never, never seen?
I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never been to St. Augustine.  Each of my boys has been, but I’ve never made the trip.  That is definitely on my list of places to see.

Describe Val Maarten’s perfect day…..
Now you’re going to expose my simple life.  But here goes…  My perfect day is when I’m home alone, I have creamer for my coffee *always seem to run out* and I can read or write or chat with friends all day.  See, I told you it was simple.

I’m giving you one million play-dollars, to travel the world. Where are you going?
Yippee!  The first place I’m going is Scotland.  Then I’ll shoot over to Ireland, England…make a beeline to Italy and Greece.  Take a break for a few weeks then go to Australia.  Probably not in that order, but heck I have a million play-dollars.  I can do whatever I want, right?

Name the one person you could approach tomorrow, to hand them a copy of your books.
I would say Oprah so I could sell an instant million copies, since she seems to have the Midas Touch.  But I’d probably rather hand it over to Maya Angelou.  She was one of my favorite Authors growing up and she always seemed to evoke emotions from me and I’d like to know if I could do the same to her.

Will you send a picture, so we can post it with your feature next week?☺
Joel, I’m sorry that I don’t have any professional pictures of myself.  I promise it’s on my to-do list and you’ll be the first one to see me after my 'unveiling'.
What? My goofy shots are professional? I'm a master at obscure images...

Next day... 
I hope you're feeling better today.  I couldn't find a professional photo of myself, but I managed to crop one from my nephew's graduation.  It's not perfect, but it'll do for now.  If you can't stand to see my "mug", feel free not to use it and use a book cover LOL  I won't be offended.  I'm not really a picture person.

Beautiful! You are smiling out from so many places now....
Joel, I'm slowly coming out of my "comfort zone." One day I'll do a better picture, but this one will do for now. Thanks ♥


Valerie, you are very welcome. It is such a pleasure to have you here, to reach one more person with the uplifting messages in your books. And, folks, get over to her website again, right now, for the LinZ Muddy Buddy Treat recipe on her home page. Those might break my addiction to Gummy Bears....