Sunday, July 29, 2012

Interview with Wodke Hawkinson, Writing Duo Karen & PJ

Karen Wodke & PJ Hawkinson 
 Suspense Authors

     Warning!! We have a special surprise for you this week but it's not for the squeemish! The interview takes place in the basement of an abandoned and derelict insane asylum ringed by a group of silent observers, former patients of the facility...this could easily be a setting from their novel, Zeke:
     “A row of dirty windows was set deep in the walls near the ceiling. Shafts of weak light filtered through the weeds outside. The first room stretched out on all sides to dark distant walls, one of which had several doors. This area seemed distinctly cleaner than the rest of the property, although it was still in poor overall condition. In the middle of the room were three metal tables with drains in the center; several deep sinks lined the wall next to some tall cabinets.
     Stacked along the shelves inside, they found rows of jars containing body parts suspended in formaldehyde. Next to the shelves stood a beat-up table lined with surgical pans and tools, gruesome reminders of the autopsies once performed here.”
     Okay, we might want to sit a little closer to each other. We've dusted the cobwebs off the chairs but keep your eyes open for creepy crawlers!

Reader’s Haven: Karen, PJ, welcome! Our readers are anxious to meet you both. Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Karen: People may not know that I spent years in a band and used to write songs before I started writing books.

PJ: I have been married for 35 years, have twin sons and two daughters who have given me 7 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. My husband and I use to go to Waynoka, Oklahoma and ride both dune buggies and 4-wheelers at the Little Sahara. Several years ago we bought a bass boat and now enjoy time on the water, catching and releasing fish as we compete with each other for the first, largest, smallest, and the last. I enjoy paint-by-numbers and envy one friend who has a natural talent for painting and needs no numbers. Above all else, I enjoy a good book. Even during the time Karen and I are writing novels, I am reading at least one book on my Kindle Fire and have another to listen to on my Ipod while mowing the lawn and other tasks that take more attention than the written word.

Reader’s Haven:  It's great the the two of you can write as a team. That's not an easy task. What made you want to become writers?

Karen: I love words. They fascinate me. I see them as building blocks or tools for expression. I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a child. But, I didn’t get serious about it until recently. I wrote some short stories and articles, but my first book was one for young readers entitled James Willis Makes a Million. After that, PJ & I began collaborating.

PJ: Like many people, I have always wanted to write but never had the time to dedicate. After reading the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, I decided to write Half Bitten (by PJ Hawkinson). I released the novel in 2010 under Trafford Publishing. As my first work, I now feel I can do better and am in the process of rewriting the novel, which will be titled: Half Bitten, Revamped, and published independently.

Reader’s Haven: (Deanna) Listen...did you hear that noise in the other room? If we stay here, close together, maybe it'll go away, whatever that was. I'm sorry. Just a bit jittery down here. Please share a bit about your new release without giving away any spoilers.

Karen: Like Betrayed, our latest novel, Zeke, is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; because, it contains graphic adult situations and violence. Zeke has just been released on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. It’s coming soon in paperback.

PJ: Zeke is a dark novel of sexual obsession about a guy who uses his looks, his smile, and a shallow charm to woo a naive college girl. She’s so hooked on him that she ignores numerous red flags and he talks her into leaving her home, going on the road with him. Once he has her isolated, his behavior grows increasingly deviant and erratic. Her folks refuse to believe she left willingly, so they hire a private investigator to track the couple. He thinks it’s a simple job, but as he trails them, he learns things about Zeke that lead him to believe his clients’ daughter is in danger.

Reader’s Haven: (Louise) Wow, I love a good suspense story! Do either of you write under a pen name?

Karen & PJ: We have both written solo books and those are under our own names. But all our collaborated works are produced under our combined last names: Wodke Hawkinson.

Reader’s Haven: What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Karen: I like reluctant heroes/heroines best, the ones who may not want to do the right thing, but end up doing it anyway because, well, it’s the right thing! I like stories where an ordinary everyday person finds himself or herself in extraordinary circumstances, ones that require a burst of strength, resilience, or resourcefulness they didn’t realize they had until they have to access it.

PJ: I enjoy so many different genres of books that I find I can’t nail down any specific type of hero or heroine; they come in such a variety of manner; from male to female and human to animal. Plus, you can find them in the most unusual of character. On one hand you have Samwise Gamgee and on the other Aloysius XingĂș L. Pendergast. Then there’s Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. I’ll have to pass on choosing a favorite type.

Reader’s Haven: Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Karen: My first daily action as a writer is to check email and social networking for messages or other things that need attention. Then, I usually go for a walk. When I get back, I address any writing/editing that needs to be done. Somewhere along the way, I try to squeeze in some promoting/marketing and networking with others of my ilk. (writers, lol) Usually, PJ and I spend some time on the phone going over revisions, new book ideas, or discussing promotional tactics, etc. I could be found writing at almost any time of day, though, depending on my schedule.

PJ: I do one of two things; first, I’ll get up early, work for a while, take a nap, and work some more; or, more typically, I’ll get up late and work late. There are some days I don’t even turn on the computer, but on those days, my mind is usually going over what we’ve already written, trying to come up with better wording or simply a better plot.

Reader’s Haven: Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Karen: I think they are all very different. There is a sort of unavoidable theme between Zeke and Betrayed in that each novel places our female main character in harrowing circumstances. But our short story collections contain a variety of genres, and our next two books are a sci-fi and a fantasy, respectively. So they will bear little resemblance, at least plot-wise, to each other or our other novels.

PJ: To date, our novels have had the common theme of men abusing women. But we have also written three short story volumes: Catch Her in the Rye, Selected Short Stories, Volume One; Blue, Selected Short Stories, Volume Two; and Alone, Selected Short Stories, Volume Three. These three books run the gamut of story lines and were very enjoyable to write.

Reader’s Haven: How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Karen & PJ: A story? Not very long, actually. A novel, a long, long time. Months. The editing is especially grueling and time-intensive.

Reader’s Haven: Do you have to be alone to write?

Karen: No. But it helps to have no distractions, although when I get deep into the writing process, I tend to tune out my surroundings.

PJ: Usually the only other person around is my husband and I have no problem writing with him here. In fact, he is extraordinary.

Reader’s Haven: How do you go about naming characters?

Karen: It varies. In Betrayed, we actually used the names of our children for some of the characters.

PJ: I don’t have any technique. Usually I just grab a name from the air and fit the character to it; unless it’s a main character and then I might have someone in mind and pick a name appropriate for the face.

Reader’s Haven: Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Karen: In Betrayed, we did use pictures as inspiration for our characters. We know exactly what Brook and Lance look like, as well as each of the gang members who abducted Brook. The lesser characters, we didn’t do that with. But I think it’s a good idea. We do it with places as well. For instance, in Zeke, we know all the stops he and Sue made on their road trip, but we changed the names of most of the towns. And some of the abandoned buildings they explored do (or did at one time) exist, but may not have served the purpose we ascribed to them, and are not necessarily where we located them. Before starting our upcoming fantasy novel, we will be doing extensive world-building and planning of characters in advance of writing. Pictures will be useful in that endeavor, as well as diagrams, maps, and a ton of imagination.

PJ: Generally, I have someone in mind prior to writing; other times Karen has a vision of who our character should look like. In Betrayed, we went online and found pictures of the villains that aided us in creating their characteristics. We also found pictures to use for Lance and Brook. However, Zeke went simply by our imaginations, with no visual aid.

Reader’s Haven: We love hearing the method authors use to create their worlds. Maps seem to pull in readers for a fantasy story. How do you pick locations for your stories?

Karen & PJ: Sometimes we choose places we’ve been before. Betrayed is set in Kansas and Colorado; we live in Kansas and have both spent time in Colorado. Other times, we research areas or create them in our minds, like the planets and cities in Tangerine. We tend to take artistic liberty with actual locations, though. It all comes down to the storyline as to where we set the location, who are characters are, and how they portray themselves.

Reader’s Haven: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

Karen & PJ: We originally released Tangerine on our own. It has since been picked up by a publisher who wants some rewrites on it. So, out of necessity, revisions on Tangerine are on the front burner. After that, we plan to write the fantasy mentioned earlier and release some short story singles. On the back, back burner, our fourth collection of short stories, Night Roads, still patiently waits.

Synopsis of Zeke:

     Zeke is a dark novel of sexual obsession, psychological manipulation, and looming peril.
     Sue Cox is a naive college student who falls for the exciting new clerk at the local used bookstore. Captivated by Zeke’s brooding good looks and menacing but irresistible charisma, Sue capitulates to his will, leaving her wide open for exploitation. Zeke begins to exert subtle control and entices her to leave town with him. As they travel, his behavior grows more deviant and increasingly volatile.
     After Sue’s car is found deserted in an outlying cemetery, the police dismiss her parents’ concerns since it appears Sue left willingly. The Coxes immediately hire William Falstaff, a small-town private investigator. He begins his inquiry with only two objectives: first, to verify that Sue’s departure is voluntary, and second to provide her family with information on her whereabouts. A simple case; however, he soon finds himself locked into a chase to save Sue’s life. Will he find her in time or will she become another victim of a cunning sociopath?


     Sue looked with horror at the darkened recess in the wall. “Me? Well, okay, give me the flashlight.”
     “No, just stick your hand in there.”
   “Are you serious? There is no way in hell I’m putting my hand in that hole. There could be spiders in there, or a rat.”
     “Listen, I'm looking for something, Sue. I read about it online. There's supposed to be a map hidden in this place somewhere. A treasure map. My hand won’t fit so you have to do it. Now, just reach in and see if it's there.”
     “I’m not sticking my hand in there!” Sue pulled back, but he seized her arm and jerked her closer.
    “Put your damn hand in that hole and see what’s in there,” he demanded. “I’m not kidding, Sue. Do it or I’ll drive away and leave you here.” He glanced at the crowd in the doorway. “With them.”
     “You wouldn’t, would you? Zeke...” A chill rushed down her back.
     He took Sue’s arm in an iron grip and forced her hand into the black cavity, ignoring her struggles. She squealed with revulsion and clenched her fist tightly. Other than some wispy cobwebs and fine powdery dust, the hole was empty.
     “Well, what’s in there?” Zeke asked, holding her in place.
     “Nothing!” Sue cried. “Nothing but dirt and spider webs!”
     He released her arm and she swung out at him; her fist connected with his upper arm. “Don’t ever do that to me again!” Her voice was filled with hatred.
     Zeke’s response was immediate. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her violently. The flashlight dropped to the floor in the process and rolled around a little, its light playing across the walls. The only things visible in the blackness were the beam of the flashlight piercing the gloom and the silhouettes of the watchers at the door. Zeke released her as he bent to retrieve the light.
     “What the fuck did I tell you? You brainless whore! Don’t. Ever. Hit. Me.” In a state of fury, he threw the light at her. It missed, bounced from the wall near her head, and broke.
     “Shit! Now look what you've done!” Zeke towered over Sue. He grabbed her and pulled her toward the doorway, cursing her and calling her names. Sue jerked away from him and stumbled, but he caught her before she fell to the floor. She tore free of him.
     The ghostly people had vanished, perhaps frightened by Zeke's rage. The open doorway was a rectangle of light and Sue charged for it, Zeke on her heels. She lurched out of the blackness into the autopsy room, which by comparison looked almost welcoming and safe. Zeke stormed into the room seconds later, his face contorted with an anger he struggled to control.
     Crying, Sue backed into an autopsy table and cringed away from him. “Why are you doing this to me?” she shrieked. “You’re scaring me!”
     Immediately, a change passed over Zeke’s face and his features settled into an expression of sorrow and remorse. “Oh god, Susie,” he choked, his hands hanging at his sides. “I’m so sorry. It was an automatic response. It comes from my childhood. You see, my dad used to beat me and I’m still not over the effects of it. I just reacted without thinking. I would never hurt you.”
     “But you did hurt me.” Tears ran down her cheeks as she held her arms where he had grabbed her.
     “I didn’t mean to, honey.” Zeke was contrite, his eyes moist. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I kind of lost it there for a minute. Come on, bunny. You know I wouldn’t hurt you on purpose.” He edged over to Sue and timidly put his arms around her. He pulled her to his chest and murmured comforting words into her ear.

Reader’s Haven: Great excerpt, makes me want to grab a copy now! Readers, find out more about them and their books below:

Sites for Karen & PJ

Our site for readers & other indie authors: 

Zeke Buy Links

Half Bitten Buy Links



James Willis Makes a Million Buy Link




Twitter: @WodkeHawkinson

Contest: We’d like to give away an e-copy of Zeke via Smashwords coupon to one lucky commenter. Thank you for having us!

Click on the links below to read an excerpt of Wodke Hawkinson's books:

Catch Her in the Rye Short Stories Volume One: Doctor

Blue Selected Short Stories Volume Two: Blue

Alone Selected Short Stories Volume Three: Troll




James Willis Makes a Million

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Interview with Trip Williams - Suspense/Thriller Author

 Trip Williams
Suspense/Thriller Author

     Welcome back to our Haven where you can sit back and relax to enjoy reading about this week's author who lives in Calgary, Alberta in Canada! He's busy working on more books for your reading pleasure and he hopes you visit his sites to check out his current and upcoming releases. Trip is also running a contest which is listed after the interview so be sure to read that and leave your comment to be entered. Come on, let's go meet Trip!

Reader’s Haven: Trip, welcome to our Haven! We're excited to learn about your suspense books and are glad you're here to chat with our readers. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Trip: Boy… that’s a loaded question!  LOL  I guess the one thing that they should know about me is that most of what I write is from personal experience.  That may seem like a stretch at times and yes – literary license DOES apply, but I do believe that the best writing comes from actually living, tasting and breathing the experience.  It brings a depth to the writing that is only achieved by living it.

Reader’s Haven:
That does help lend more of a reality to the writing! What made you want to become a writer?

Trip: I have wanted to be a writer all my life I guess.  At about grade nine, I was starting to write but as most kids are, I was lazy!  Didn’t have the discipline to see it through.  In high school, I would write short stories for fun and turn them in to my English teacher.  He would read them and sometimes I would get extra marks for them.  By grade twelve, he wanted me to compile my writings into one uniform theme and write a novel.  The week before his request – I cleaned my room and threw out the entire lot!  Ahhh…that was disappointing to say the least.  Most of my themes back then were about apocalyptic events.  You know, along the lines of “The Omega Man”.

Reader’s Haven: Please share a bit about your new release Silent Waters without giving away any spoilers.

Trip: Silent Waters is a Bandit Creek Books suspense thriller, set in the mountains of Missoula, Montana.  My hero, Jake McCord is awaiting a flight that will take him to Africa where he will begin his new life as a photo journalist.  But not all is calm in Bandit Creek… When the crack of a gunshot ripples across the mountainside and Jake witnesses the murder of a young woman - he begins his quest to find the men responsible and return the favor on her behalf. 
Silent Waters – by Trip Williams

     For Jake McCord, Bandit Creek comes with an expiration date. But when Jake starts to find the bodies of women, whom the town folks have never seen before, that expiration date may become a life sentence.

A screaming Caterpillar diesel reverberated between the giant stands of Fir and Hemlocks.  Spewing a steady column of clear shimmering hot gases, the slow lumbering tracked machine snarled along the narrow cut-line, on the south-eastern slope of Crow Mountain. 
The blue and white Energence Energy seismic data recorder continued climbing higher up the mountain.  The boxy blue Nodwell cab and large white instrument dog-box had been home for Jake McCord for the past twelve weeks as they plied the mountains around Bandit Creek looking for oil.  Under Shell contract, they were not allowed to let the local folk know what they were actually doing. 
Heaven forbid the poor town folk find out that their little part of the world was like the rest of Lolo National Forest and under-siege by the oil companies!  Not a popular bid during an election year.  For now, what everyone understood; they were under contract by the United States Geological Survey Services - earthquake testing.
Best he could figure, this trail was on an old cut line from about ten years past. Tipping back the large three and a half inch brim of his Akubra hat, Jake glanced up at the torn page from a magazine showing an African landscape he had taped to the roof of the cab.  Giving a correction tug on the right steering lever and placing two fingers to his lips, he touched the picture. 
Three more weeks and he was on a jet to Nairobi to join the National Geography Society on a one year contract.  Lead photo-journalist covering the illegal primate trade of the African Bush Babies, this was his big break doing what he loved most.  Adventure, snapping pictures, fame and ladies.
Taking hold of his new Pentax P3 camera from the soft bag he kept beside his seat, he checked the 200 power lens.  Setting it on his lap, he reached for the radio mike.  Lifting it from the dash clip; Jake keyed the button on the aging Marconi radio set.
At the same instant, his world changed.
“Jesus Christ!” Pulling hard on the left steering levers, both man and machine jerked hard to the left and hammered to a stop.  The shrieking engine ramped down, quieting to a low rumble, as the Nodwell lurched to a rest up on the slash pile.  Releasing a huge sigh, Jake lifted off the seat and looked across the cab.  Out the far window was a vast valley reaching towards the Idaho border.  The cut line was gone!  “You’ve got to be shitt’n me!” he stammered.  “Where the hell is my road?”
Snatching his clip board from the metal folder tray attached to the cab door, he flipped through the surveyors chaining notes.  Hand drawn sketches outlining the detour around the beaver dams on the line they were working were supposed to put him back onto the eastern slopes above Lost Lake.  Retracing the drive in his minds eye - it brought him right back to where he sat.
“Those dumb…” Picking the mike off the floor boards from where it had fallen, he keyed it hard.  “Hello, Frank,” he yelled.  Waiting only a moment for a response, he tried again but patience was something that was very thin right now. 
There was only had a few more days on that line before he had to be on the final prospect line that had to be shot.  The drills were finishing off today and it would be just him and his line crew.  Surveyors were still supposed to be here or at least in town but now, there was a nagging doubt as to there existence!
“Hello Frank,” he repeated.  “Hello Bugsy – hello line crew.”  Adjusting the squelch on the radio, he listened to the soft crackle before sending the mike skidding across the dash – no one answered.  Killing the engine, he grabbed the hand hold on the door jam and swung out of the cab.  Lightly dropping onto the track, he jumped to the ground. Jake looked under the machine at the front track that had run up the slash pile.
An athletic five-foot-ten with a solid broad chest, powerful arms and legs.  No gym for this cowboy.  Life had been nothing but hard work and building this body was the result of his thirty-four years of doing so.  Pulling his hat from the cab, he ran his fingers through his dirty-blonde hair, and placed it on his head. Snapping up the Pentax camera, he bent low and looked again at the track embedded in the slash pile – he swore.
“Son-of-a,” Jake spun around in disgust.  Four grouser bars holding the two halves of the rubber tracks together had snapped in half on a tree root.  Carrying only one spare bar, he would tear the rubber off the wheels and loose the track completely, if he tried driving out. Two dead bars together he could do.  Not three—
Noticing the set of the sun, he checked his watch.  It was five-past-six.  That drunk of a mechanic would probably be sidled up beside his new best bud JD at the Powder Horn Saloon. 
The sun was burning a fast trail across the Montana sky and seemed to be in a bloody hurry at that.
Taking a hold of the bush guard, he rounded the front of the Nodwell and looked over at the front right track and at the free air space beneath the first four feet. Nothing but a hundred and fifty feet of clean mountain air held up the front of the Nodwell track.
“Damned close that was,” he said.  Jake lifted the lens of the camera and snapped a few shots of the scree slide that dropped away from his parking spot.  At the base, it splayed out for another few hundred yards and disappeared into the forest.  “No one will believe this.” 
Snapping off a few more pics, he spotted a mountain finch nervously hopping from one branch to another, searching for bugs and other tasty morsels.  The shutter winked rapidly. Lowering the lens, he turned away; time to call for help on the mobile phone.
Jake froze – a terse shiver coursed through him.  Across the valley below, a woman’s scream echoed.  Before he could react, a gun shot ripped through the forest splitting her screams into fragmented reechoes…

Reader’s Haven:
Westerns are very popular with readers right now! That one sound intriguing and we love the cover! Do you write under a pen name?

Trip:  Nope… just Trip Williams. I think that name kind of stands alone.  Don’t you?  LOL  I have been asked a lot about my name and the one thing that keeps coming to mind is; “What kind of mother names her child Trip Williams?”  I always say that my mother was a pole dancer living a wilder side of life.  She doesn’t see the humor in it… 

Reader’s Haven:
LOL  Oh, I doubt she would! What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Trip: Well, for a hero, I always like to portray my characters around me.  Sounds conceded but it’s not meant to be!  I have lived an extremely full life filled with adventures and travel. From the South Seas on a Canadian Navel destroyer, to the East African coastline and jungles, and to the northern arctic - I have seen and done many things.  So I find it a natural fit to see myself in these adventures.  Not only that, I get to live an alter ego through my stories that allows me a whole new experience as well.  Let’s face it, we can’t ALL be James Bond!  LOL
     Now… for the woman!  She has to be a strong independent type of gal.  Physically up to the challenges I throw at her and yet still remain a woman.  I am a romantic at heart and believe every good story should have a great love interest in it. That being said, she doesn’t have to have the matched experience of the hero but she has to measure up when the boots hit the pavement and be up to the challenge. Now THAT… is a gal that catches my attention! 
Reader’s Haven: No pun intended, but those are big boots to fill for your heroine! Our readers love to hear how days are spent writing. Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Trip: Well as of late, not much to tell!  Lol.  I’m just settling into my new ranch along the banks of the Highwood River, just south of Calgary, Alberta. But when I am writing – I like to start my day with welcoming the world as the sun breaks the eastern skies.  With a hot cup of good coffee, I let my mind start to drift off into my stories.  For the next few hours, I recant the story as I run through dialogue and scenes.  You have to understand, that my mind runs a book like the scenes in a movie.  I see, feel, smell and breathe the story as it unfolds.  So for me, a book is a movie.  As it plays out – I write it.  Once I get myself immersed into the story, I then put pen to paper, so-to-speak, and that - is when I start to write. 
     Usually, I write for about four hours before I take a break.  Sometimes I’ll come back but other times, I call it a day.  Depends on my characters moods mostly.  After all, they are the ones writing the story!
Reader’s Haven: Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Trip: So far, they all are a series actually.  My first story is in the Bandit Creek anthology Fools Gold.  It’s a light hearted tale about an April Fools joke played on a young girl on a seismic crew.  She is unwittingly drawn in by Jake and his cohorts into a wicked little gem of a spoof.  In fact – this little story is an actual true story!  I was working as an operator a number of years back south of Brooks Alberta in the early winter.  I played this exact joke on this gal and believe it or not, LOL, it actually played out the entirety right down to the end scene as it is written.  I had a great time with that one!
     This first tale set the stage for Jake McCord and Colleen McWilliams.  They both return in Silent Waters as the main characters but I am building the stage for the next series of full length novels that are underway.
     I also have a Steampunk Paranormal that I have been working on nut it had to hit the back burner while I finish the Mkeri series.  It’s a fun muse for something different.  My first love, though, are the action thrillers.

Reader’s Haven: You definitely are busy! How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Trip: Wow… that is loaded. LOL  When I’m serious!?!  About three months start to finish for a full length novel.  Novellas I can write in under three weeks and edits takes about another two.  Depends on the distractions on my life!  I usually am, VERY distracted, in the summer months but come fall and winter, I am pretty darned serious.  This year will be the exception as I am working on the Mkeri series completion for Christmas but that doesn’t mean all four will be bookshelf ready by then.  The first three however, will be.

Reader’s Haven:
 Do you have to be alone to write?

Trip: Absolutely!  I can’t have any distractions at all when I’m writing.  The conversations in my head start getting confused!  LOL   …and then, there are the characters.  The great thing about my new ranch, is that there is no one else out here and that allows for some very peaceful writing.  Don’t let that fool you though, I’m a social butterfly!  LOL  I love mingling and chatting with people so I won’t be bound to this place all the time.  Hanging at Chapters with my friends or chill’n with a brew at the Wild Rose Brewing Company is my preferred haunts back in cow-town.

Reader’s Haven
: Those breweries do have some good beers! How do you go about naming characters?

Trip: Cool factor for guys – unless I plan to kill them.  Women, they have to have either a sexy, or sensual name that suits who they are.  Have you ever read any of the books on names and their meanings?  Very interesting reading. The name HAS to suit the character first and foremost.  I draw from those books and from names of the nationalities surrounding the origins of the characters as well.

Reader’s Haven: Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Trip:  I actually do both.  But quite often, I have already visualized the person before I find the picture.  Wow… this is where a very careful character building is important.  Too easy to lose sight of whom your character is.  Pictures help keep you focused.  Especially if you take a break longer than a few months from the story. happens!

Reader’s Haven:
 We agree about the pictures keeping you focused. How do you pick locations for your stories?

Trip: That’s easy.  It is all based on the story itself.  What is the overall theme and where would that be best placed. It has to suit the characters as well; at the least for their home port.  After that, you throw in the mix of the challenges and new locations; usually foreign to the character themselves.  Adds another depth.  But more to the point – it’s all about the story content.  That itself will set the location.

Reader’s Haven: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

Trip: My new series is called Mkeri.  I have finished the first in a series and am working on the second novel now, but I don’t plan to release any until the third in the series of four, is completed.  Has to do with marketing and all that jazz.  The first however, will be launched before Christmas of 2012.   This series carries on the themes set in the first books.  The pronunciation of the name Mkeri [pronounced Ma-Keer-ee] is a bit off from how it reads.  The first book is titled “The Bridge”.  It’s followed by “Beneath Mkeri Waters”, “Mkeri Rising” and “Mkeri Blue”.  Can’t give it away but I am really excited about these books.  You’re going to learn to love and hate Jake in these books.
     Not sure how Jake will fair overall, but I suspect he will be on his way to a whole new series once he leaves Mkeri.

Reader’s Haven: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Trip: You can follow me on Twitter @TripWilliams, or through my blog, I haven’t launched my Facebook page but I will be very soon.  I’m sure it’ll be Trip Williams – Author. But who knows!  LOL  Readers can also write me at if they have any questions or comments for me.  I promise to respond.  Well… unless they get nasty! LOL

Reader's Haven: Trip, it's been great talking with you, thank you so much for hanging out with our readers all week! Readers, thank YOU for stopping in to meet Trip. Enter his contest and leave him a question or two!

CONTEST: I will give (5) book sets of Bandit Creeks "Fools Gold" anthology with my short story in it and my novella "Silent Waters".  The first five people to email me the name of the boat I was raised on will do for a bit of a scavenger hunt. All available through my blog.

Twitter:  @TripWilliams

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Mike Mathias - Fantasy Author

Mike Mathias
Fantasy Author

     Welcome to our space today as we chat with multi-talented Mike Mathias! If you love dragons, his fantasy worlds will pull you in and keep you for good! You won't want to leave! We'll let Mike tell you a bit about himself before we get started.

Bio by Mike Mathias:

      The jewel you see glowing in the ring in my authors photo isn't really a jewel at all. It is the crystallized tear of a real dragon. In my novel "The Royal Dragoneers" you might find the moment where this wonderfully magical tear drop fell from a green dragons eye and hardened on its way down to land in a mess of troll corpses that the dragon was laying on.
      My grandfather died before I was born, but the ring was given to me by my mother, after my grandmother recently died. My grandfather had apparently won the ring in a poker game near the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma sometime in the early 1900's.
      It has been a boon, the magic of the teardrop, for it brought you here to me didn't it? Now treat yourself to something fantastic and try out the free sample of one of my novels. I hope you enjoy the journey. It will be spectacular.

Reader’s Haven:  Mike, we appreciate you taking the time to meet with our readers. We know you're busy writing about and creating more worlds and characters! Tell us a bit about yourself  that our readers might not know.

M.R. Mathias:  I WROTE a Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand (750,000) word epic trilogy in longhand in a prison cell. It’s bigger than The Count of Monte Cristo and Odyssy.  The word “WROTE” is capitalized because most people who call themselves writers are really just typers. (Never take me too seriously)

Reader’s Haven:  That's lot of words! We both salute you! What made you want to become a writer?

M.R. Mathias:  I read about half a thousand books in school and then in jail and decided that I could do as good, if not better. There is a mundane but entertaining pattern in most published novels. The greats find ways to twist that on the reader. “Plot Twists” is the technical term. You may think you know what’s going to happen when you start reading one of my novels, but you don’t. I wanted to become a writer because it’s about the only career goal you can have in the solitude of Maximum Security prison in Texas.

Reader’s Haven:  Please share a bit about your new release “The Wizard & the Warlord – The Wardstone Trilogy Book III” without giving away any spoilers.

M.R. Mathias:  Well, in book one, the character Inkling the imp, was a direct tribute to the Oxford “Inklings” which included C. S. Lewis, and J.R.R.Tolkien. In book two Flick the wizard gets a go. He is a direct tribute to Terry Brooks who wrote one of the all-time bestselling fantasy novels ever. There are a few other tributes throughout the trilogy. Wardstone is every fantasy book that I’ve ever read all rolled up into one fantastical tale. But the tribute character in The Wizard & the Warlord is a lot more obscure. Only an “Inkling,” or a truly devoted fantasy fan will get it. I’d be surprised if any of you do. I’ve had the unfair advantage of years and years of idle time to read and write. Anyone know who Paksenarrion is? It’s not her….lol

Reader’s Haven:  Do you write under a pen name?

M.R. Mathias:  My real name is Michael Robb Mathias Jr. I write fantasy under the name M. R. Mathias and horror/thrillers under the name Michael Robb Mathias. So no I don’t really have a pen name??? Or do I?

Reader’s Haven:
 What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

M.R. Mathias:  The kind that stride excitedly into danger. Dirk Pitt is the kind of hero I like. (Al & Rudy too.)

Reader’s Haven:  Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

M.R. Mathias:  I have several novels that I wrote in prison. Three or four days a week, a typist takes dictation as I read them to her. I spend a lot of time online tweeting, surfing and Goodreads. I read stories on wattpad, dink around with the guys and gals at Independent Author’s Network and I always check Fantasy Book Critic’s latest post. If I have time I tweet these folks via @dahgmahn I write a page or two every day too. Usually flash, but as soon as Wardstone II is comfortable, I will start my next thriller. It’s mostly written in my head.   

Reader’s Haven:  We envy your fantasy world creativity! Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

M.R. Mathias:  Love, betrayal, race, honor, respect, romance, battle, pride, grit, cowardice... It’s all here. Oh, and Dragons, Demons, hellcats, wyvern, Great Wolves, giants, pixies, dwarves, magic, Kings, Queens, and pulse pounding battles too.

Reader’s Haven:  Wow! How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

M.R. Mathias:  I DO NOT edit my own material. After my college educated typist gets it in word it goes to the UK to an English editor. After that it goes through two separate proof readers and then I read it one last time. If there are errors found after that I fix them as soon as I learn of them. Huge manuscripts are harder than small ones. WAY HARDER. That’s why Publishers are starting to keep books smaller. It sucks for fantasy fans. Thank the powers that be that I can publish what I want. The pubs would have made The Lord of the Rings a short story.

Reader’s Haven:
  That's true...they really don't like long books, that much seems quite evident with what's coming out lately. Do you have to be alone to write?

M.R. Mathias:  I wrote the entire Dragoneer Saga after prison, in 2010-11, but I was mostly alone. My grandmother had advanced Alzheimer’s and I feed and took care of her during the day and wrote at night when other family members could relieve me. I’d say yes. I have to have the radio on and Mr. Stubbs all drunk on milk so that he doesn’t get out of line. Under those conditions I write best. 
Reader’s Haven:  How do you go about naming characters?

M.R. Mathias:  Some have really deliberate names, like Inkling, and Flick. Shaella and Pael share the ae, as father and daughter. Mikahl sounds foreign, but familiar. Hyden Hawk Skyler, sounds cool. Linux is just funny, in a nerdy eReading geek sort of way. Jenka, and Jade go together like Baskins and Robbins? I don’t know? I just name them.

Reader’s Haven:  Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

M.R. Mathias:  I don’t have character pictures, save for Shaella riding Vrot the Black on the cover of Wardstone II. Sandara at made that image. It’s freaking Shaella to a “T.”

Reader’s Haven:
How do you pick locations for your stories?
M.R. Mathias:  I create them. 

Accolades for The Wardstone Trilogy:

     Overall The Sword and the Dragon - The Wardstone Trilogy Book One (A+) is an impressive debut - a traditional fantasy that manages to be fresh. It succeeds in offering a complete reading experience. See the full review here: -- Fantasy Book Critic
      Fans of Tolkien and CS Lewis will find much to enjoy to enjoy in M.R. Mathias' debut fantasy novel. This is a big book, with a steady flow throughout. Read this book. Take up your sword and get ready for a hugely enjoyable adventure. -- Book Smart UK
      I found myself going "wow" more than once reading the first two books of this trilogy. Each book tells a great complete adventure. -- E. J. Weatherby Anchorage, AK
      This is an epic fantasy, and I do mean epic. This book is LONG. I'm talking 200,000 plus words, here…probably three times as long as Harry Potter. A fat fantasy, the kind you would expect from a Jordan or Tad Williams. One should not be put off by the price, because you do get your money's worth. -- Bestselling Author, B. V. Larson
      "You've (Mathias) already achieved much, much more than so many people who like to think of themselves as writers." -- @Gollancz The Deputy Publishing Director of SF, Fantasy & Horror list of the Orion Publishing Group. 

CONTEST:  Mike has agreed to give away a few free copies of his books so be sure to comment with your email addy so he can contact the winners, to be picked on July 21st! Also answer what you like best about fantasy worlds when you read...

Surprise! Happy Birthday, Mike!!!

July 20th

Thanks for hanging around with us! 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Author Interview w/Carole Spalino - Romance Author

Carole McKee Spalino
Romance Author

     Joining us this week to share her books with all of you is Carole McKee Spalino. We're excited to help her find new readers and that's why YOU stopped in. She has a surprise for all of you when we're finished.
     She began writing in 1996, when she wrote a heart rending tribute to her black Labrador Retriever after he passed away. Her story brought tears and laughter to readers. Carole writes from the heart, a fan stated. Her writing always cleanses the tear ducts.
     She bases most of her writing around the Western Pennsylvania area, where she grew up and where she resided for much of her adult life. Now living in Florida, she attends Argosy University in Tampa as a non-traditional student, and is working on a Master's Degree. As demonstrated in the writing of her novel, "Perfect" her writing style conveys passion and emotion, inducing the reader to laugh and to cry with the characters in the story. "Choices" is the first of three in the series. Readers will fall in love with Lindy and Ricky as they evolve from youth to adulthood.

Reader’s Haven:  Carole, welcome to our Haven! Tell us a bit about yourself .

Carole:  Something readers may not know? Well, I love a challenge. I have worked in so many different fields and I have lived so many different places because I never stop wanting to learn new things. I have worked in  positions ranging from Nuclear Medicine Technologist to a machinist in a metal shop. I have degrees in three different fields--Nuclear Medicine, Business Administration, and Behavioral Health Science. The latter was a specialization in School Counseling. I have never considered any job beneath me--each one was a way to learn new things.

Reader’s Haven: Wow! That's quite a background and sounds like a lot of school! What made you want to become a writer?

Carole: I always wanted to write. I always felt I could write a novel, but just didn’t have the courage to try. Every teacher or professor I ever had told me I had a gift and I should pursue it.

Reader’s Haven:  Please share a bit about your new release Second Chances without giving away any spoilers.

Carole:  My latest release, “Second Chances” is a little different from most of my writing. The romance part isn’t the primary focus of the book. “Second Chances” is about a woman who believes that sometimes people just need a boost up in life to get ahead. She has found a way to give them that boost, leading to hope, a better way of life, and a second chance at survival. It’s actually based on my own philosophy and what I would do if I suddenly had a lot of money.

BLURB for Second Chances:

Melanie Thomas believes that sometimes people who are down on their luck just really need that little boost upward to improve their quality of life; and she can provide that.  Since she started her tee-shirt embossing shop she has made a difference in her employees' lives by giving them a new lease on life--hope--a second chance.  Her employees are grateful and dedicated to her, but someone else wants her property for his own purpose. Things start happening after he approaches her with an offer to buy her building--an offer she immediately turns down. When inspectors start showing up, Melanie believes it's a ploy to force her to sell and she silently laughs about it, because she knows she has everything in order. But when the building burns, she knows exactly who to accuse. It hurts because she was falling in love with him. Is she right? Did Tim start the fire? It seems everyone may need a second chance now and then.

Reader’s Haven:  Do you write under a pen name?

Carole:  Yes and no. My name was Carole McKee for years, until I married Mr. Spalino. Eventually McKee will be my name again, but I have to find the time to legally change it back.

Reader’s Haven:  What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Carole:  I love a gorgeous, independent woman with a sense of humor and a particular talent or skill--exactly like I would like to be. For a hero, I prefer a strong man--one that makes a woman feel safe. I like for him to be kind and funny and have a lot of respect for his woman. He is protective, but not smothering. I lean toward specialty law enforcement groups or athletics for their occupations.

Reader’s Haven:  Readers like to know how we spend our time. Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Carole:  Coffee, first! I get the coffee pot ready to brew and then I feed my cat. I take the readied coffee to the computer and answer emails, which can take up a couple of hours. After that, I play a mindless game just to clear my mind. I write for about 2 hours and then tend to household chores. Since I live alone, that doesn’t usually take very long. I’m fairly neat. I make any necessary trips after that (Grocery runs, pharmacy, bank, mail pick-up, etc.). If I have time left, I write until 5:00 or 5:30 until it’s time to cook dinner. I keep my evenings free for television and reading. I watch television shows and read during commercials. One show I never miss is Jeopardy. I play along and sometimes I do well! I’ve won as much as $24,000 in imaginary money!

Reader’s Haven:  Good job! LOL Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Carole:  I shoot for different themes. Some have damsel in distress, while others involve a man’s near demise. “The Full Nelson” is all about the villain in the two previous books telling his life story in a third book. My very first Novel “Perfect” is divided into three parts--the growing up years of the heroine, then the growing up years of the hero, and in part three they meet, fall in love, get married. I won’t say any more about that one, because the ending is a shocker to everyone.

Reader’s Haven:  That's should grab reader interest! How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Carole:  Writing a story varies. “Perfect” took almost a year, “Choices” took 4 months, and “Second Chances” took 6 weeks. I edit every 3 or 4 chapters as I’m writing, and then I go back and edit a book once it is completed. That is usually a 3 to 7 day process. When it’s done I send it to my editor/proofreader. She sends the corrections and then I edit it one more time before I send it off.

Reader’s Haven:  Edits and several read-thrus can't be emphasized enough for any author. Do you have to be alone to write?

Carole:  Well, I usually am alone. I have no family here in Florida. I have lots of friends that I get together with a couple times a week, if they’re available, but I’m used to being alone. I am always alone when I write.

Reader’s Haven:  How do you go about naming characters?

Carole:  This is a funny question. My heroes and heroines have names that I would name my children. Villains, antagonists, and such have names I don’t like or names of people I met and didn’t like. I didn’t even realize I did that until I thought about it.

Reader’s Haven:  Yes, our subconscious works for us, too! Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Carole:  I create an image in my mind and then find pictures to match. In “Choices” I knew what I wanted Lindy and Ricky to look like, and I searched until I found just the image to represent them.

Reader’s Haven:  How do you pick locations for your stories?

Carole:  Oh, I’m a Pittsburgher. Most of my stories take place in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania. Well, all but “Second Chances” which takes place in Florida. I know the whole area well and I believe you should write about what you know.

Reader’s Haven:  What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

Carole:  Currently, I’m finishing a third book in a series. The main characters are Kyla Stanford and Storm Galloway. She is a free-lance photographer heiress and he is a narcotics detective. They are both free spirits who end up together, but not before he has to rescue her after she is abducted by her old boyfriend. That is book 1, “Testosterone Poisoning.” Book two, “A Promise Kept” is about his near demise and I’m working on book three now, which will be entitled “Changes,” ‘For Better or Worse.’

Reader’s Haven:  We like those titles! Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

Carole:  Here are my links for readers to stop by and/or join me online:

I have two Facebook pages
please visit and feel free to ‘like’ the pages:

This has a listing of my books as well as a short bio.

FREE READS: OMG!!!  Carole has made her three books FREE all this week for those who want to grab their copies! Just click on her Smashwords link above and get your downloads!

Lacy & Angel