DEFENDING THE PEN – is all about murder . . . and romance . . . writing it! I post interviews, book reviews, and flash fiction, and occasionally it's all about me. Careful . . . you may end up the victim . . . of fun!
Stuart West agreed, a bit reluctantly,
to submit to an interview. He recently used an old-fashioned grilling technique
to get me to admit something very personal in an interview for his blog. If
you're curious as to what secret I shared, please visit Stuart's Blog – Twisted
Tales from Tornado Alley.
What I've learned is that
Stuart is not only a master interrogator. His books are funny, irreverent, and
yet brilliantly written. He has a deep understanding of teenage angst and
portrays it with sensitivity.
YR: Stuart, thanks for the interview and for agreeing to make it
SRW: (Grousing…) I guess,
Yolanda. Not like a had a choice in the matter…
YR: Tell the readers about each of your books: Secret Society, Zombie
Rapture, Tex, the Witch Boy, and Bad Day in a Banana Hammock.
SRW: Gotta couple of hours. I’ll
try to be brief and painless…
Secret Society is a serial
killer thriller with a dark vein of humor coursing through its unhealthy veins.
It involves Leon, a serial killer who only targets abusers, going toe to toe
with an evil, mysterious corporation that funds serial killers. Things don’t go
well. It’s the first in a proposed trilogy. The second should be out early in
Zombie Rapture was my twist on
the ol’ zombie tale. My protagonist, Hunter, has fallen in love with one of his
high school classmates. Problem is, the world turns topsy-turvy. Most of the
population has died and they think it’s the rapture on earth. Of course they
want to “save” the few living by killing them. All Hunter wants to do is find
Jordan, the love of his life, who’s now missing. Again, it’s a suspense
thriller (not really a zombie book) with lots of humor and Buffy-like snark.
Tex, The Witch Boy is the
first of a quartet of YA paranormal, murder mystery, comedy, suspense, romance,
high school issues books. Whew. I think there’s a kitchen sink in there
Finally, Bad Day in a BananaHammock is my first straight-up comedy. It’s a murder mystery (practically a
cozy…sorta) about a vapid male stripper who wakes up with no memory of the
preceding night, no clothes. And next to a dead man. He turns to his sister, an
ex security specialist and eight months pregnant, for help in proving his
innocence. And above all, to prove he’s heterosexual. Available now!
SRW: By being bored out of my mind and sitting on
the “husband bench” at a store waiting for my wife to wrap up her shopping. I
started studying the rest of the bench’s male occupants and wondered…what if
two of them were there to meet for nefarious purposes? The opening chapter
introduces my protagonist and antagonist (two very different types of serial
killers) meeting at the mall. The book took off from there.
YR: You've written about murder, serial killers, zombies, and witches
– and in each one, there's a bit of romance (well, sex). How important is a romantic entanglement to
the plot of your stories? BTW, I think you handled each scene brilliantly.
Kudos Mr. Stuart.
SRW: You’re putting me on the spot here, Yolanda! Okay, okay, I
admit it…there’s a bit of romance in all of my books. What can I say? It’s
universal, everyone’s experienced it. I believe it grounds my protagonists in
situations that otherwise may not be all that relatable. To make a reader care
about your characters (whether they be serial killers, witches, zombie hunters,
what have you), they have to relate.
YR: I have a tendency to take scenes from my own life to add the
believability of my characters and the settings. Do you? Does writing what you
know interfere or help while writing? Is research part of your writing process
or do you just wing it?
SRW: Whenever my wife and I are out, I listen in on
conversations. I like to think of it as research. She calls it eavesdropping.
Whatever. But yes, I do take parts of my life and lob them into my crazy plots.
The Tex series is based in part on my high school experiences and my
daughter’s. Except, of course, for the murders, witchcraft and ghosts. Oh! And
you’ll be glad to know I’m not a serial killer.
But I do kind of wing my
books. Once I get the characters laid out, they pretty much dictate where the
YR: I enjoyed the Secret Society; it was totally irreverent and
entertaining. Zombie Rapture was a unique take on the genre, and you definitely
left it open for more books in the series, but Tex, The Witch Boy had a message
about bullying and you've written a series around Tex. What about this series
was important to you?
SRW: Every horrific bullying
incident in Tex, the Witch Boy happened to either myself or a friend of mine
from high school. I think it contains a very strong anti-bullying message and I
wanted to relay that in a hopefully non-preachy and entertaining format.
second book, Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia is based on a true story that
happened at my old alma mater several years back. It deals with suburban gangs
and identity. Finally, the third book, Tex and the God Squad is “ripped from
today’s headlines!” and the villains are a thinly disguised Westboro Baptist
Church. Themes include homosexuality and religion. Finally, the last book,
Elspeth, the Living Dead Girl, revolves around drugs and teen suicide.
know they don’t sound fun, but I really tried to make them so!
YR: Your settings are all in Kansas, are you a Kansas native? Does
writing about Kansas win you readers and recognition?
SRW: You write what you know.
Sigh. Lifelong inhabitant of Kansas (at least I live in a KC metro suburb). Not
that I wouldn’t mind leaving this dang state behind me in my rearview mirror
some day! Somewhere warm, preferably. As far as Kansas based tales gaining me
readers and recognition? Are you kidding me?
Most people are still stuck in
“Toto” jokes! I actually went to college with a Venezuelan native who thought
we still had cowboys and Indians running around blasting people. Pardnuh!
YR: Zombie Rapture was an enjoyable story, and Hunter's Grandpa my
favorite character, although Scout also made points for her bravery. I'm
curious though, were you afraid you might piss off a few readers with all the
'rapture' talk? I mean being politically correct seems important today.
SRW: Yep, I loved the
characters in Zombie Rapture, too. As far as being politically incorrect? I
figured the book might tweak a few noses, but, hey! Controversy’s good! Besides,
I think I was fair (as I am in Tex and the God Squad) to all beliefs. (Kinda.)
YR: I enjoy each of your books but especially your novella Bad Day ina Banana Hammock. I particularly liked the very pregnant but badass Zora, my
kind of gal. The story was funny, very believable. I also loved learning that
this story came about because of a dare. I wrote my first zombie story based on
a dare. Please dish.
SRW: Banana Hammock was
something different for me; also the easiest thing I’ve written. I liked the
results so much, I’m considering a series. Yes, it was written as a dare. I was
kicking around stupid ideas with a writer friend of mine. I thought, “What
if…what if my hero’s the stupidest hero ever? How about…a vain male stripper?
And he wakes up next to a naked dead guy! And all he cares about is proving
he’s not gay!” My friend said, “I dare you!” Like you, I couldn’t resist the
Only thing was I soon realized
the guy couldn’t carry the whole book alone.
Hence the birth of Zora, his
gun-slinging, bad-ass, mega-pregnant sister. Who, by the way, is proving to be
quite the early fan favorite!
YR: Do you write for your pleasure or for the readers? Did you choose
the genre or did it choose you?
SRW: I write the kind of books
I’d like to read. If the readers join me, awesome! As far as genres, I’m all
over the board. I intend on writing all of ‘em at some point. (Even have an
idea for a romantic comedy…just don’t tell anyone. Wait!...)
YR: I see that you've published three books a year for the last three
years, very impressive. You blog and I'm assuming, participate in social media.
I know you hate the typical interview questions, but would you be willing to
give us some insight into your writing habits. Share a few secrets; give us
less prolific writers some words of inspiration.
SRW: First, I drink heavily.
Then procrastinate. No, not really. I mean, the second part. Or wait…
Let me start over. There’s no
secret, other than I’m committed. And it helps my wife let me retire early.
Couldn’t handle the corporate world any longer. In return, I cook, clean,
provide (ahem) arm candy. But I do force myself to write five days a week. Even
if what I turn out is crap. But that’s what revisions are for. The hardest part
for me, by the way, revisions. I can knock out a first draft in 1/3 the time it
takes to revise.
YR: What's next on your agenda, do you have any more stories coming
out after a dare.
SRW: Up next on my agenda?
Rule the world. After that? Keep writing. No more dares. But I have many
projects lined up. Haven’t told anyone this yet, but I just contracted for a
children’s picture book: Don’t Put Gum in the Fish-Bowl.
Next year should see
the release of Demon with a Comb-Over (a darkly comical horror tale about a
stand-up comedian who heckles a very angry demon); a prequel tale about the
demon’s history, The Book of Kobal; and a thriller entitled Dread and Breakfast
(the less said about the plot twists, the better). Also, be on the look-out for
the second Secret Society book and a sequel to Bad Day in a Banana Hammock.
Finally, I’ve recently released Ghosts of Gannaway, a sprawling
decades-spanning historical ghost tale. This sucker was heavily researched and
took forever…not doing that again!
YR: Okay, okay, you're a prolific writer. We got it! But this has been the longest interview to date, folks have to get back to watching funny animal videos! Still, Thank you, for taking time away from your writing to share with us.
Well readers, take your pick,
Stuart West has quite a library of books, and they're all entertaining,
humorous, and skillfully written. I dare you.
for another WEP - Write...Edit...Publish Flash Fiction Challenge. For this
challenge we asked folks to write a story about a Holiday Celebration that's
out of this world.
words or less with a science fiction theme.
the dozens of celebrations that occur during this time of the year, picking one
wasn't difficult, but adding an off
planet mix, made it a bit more intriguing.
is my contribution. Enjoy.
please follow the links to read the others!
PURPLE GREEN & GOLD
Jaysa put an X on the calendar, marking another day gone, and surprisingly another year. New Year's Eve had always been her favorite holiday. She looked forward to the promise of new beginnings. Tears threatened. To distract herself, she prepared a cup of chamomile tea. Lost in her memories, Jaysa wandered to the front window and gazed outside.
The panoramic view of the alien valley below raised her spirits. The temperature outside registered a minus fifty degrees, warmer than usual. Trees that bloomed bright gold and red in the summer now stood as frosty sentinels around the compound. Winds from the West blew in gusts of seventy miles per hour, but the mature trees stood tall and unmoving. The younger trees, however, swayed; doing a dance resembling a yoga sun salutation.
The planet Verre Koude, meaning “distant cold,” was in the Andromeda Galaxy. The Sun was one and a quarter times farther from Verre Kouda than the distance of Earth's sun, so winter was the dominate season.
Jaysa and her husband, Jules, had volunteered to establish an outpost and do research on this new discovery. Their spacecraft was equipped to make the one-way trip and serve as their lodgings. Jaysa and Jules meant to raise their family on Verre Koude and send their discoveries to earth via a state of the art communications pod.
NASA had made no promises for future settlement or even supplies. It was an opportunity to be pioneers without a lifeline. The newlyweds saw it as the perfect adventure. Equally excited by the possibilities, they married on New Year's Eve, and one month later, took off for their new home. Their craft carried everything they needed, a comfortable apartment, greenhouse, medical and research lab, and the all-important communications pod. With enough supplies to get them through ten years, they realized survival would depend on ingenuity and skill, but they assumed more explorers would eventually join them.
However, a meteor storm during flight had destroyed one-third of the ship. The communication pod and the two small crafts, which were supposed to provide them with the transportation to explore their new world, were gone along with half of their supplies. The autopilot had jettisoned those compartments to save the ship.
Jules was confident he could find enough parts from the rest of the craft to create a new antennae that would allow them to communicate with Earth. He would use the undamaged communication equipment from the flight deck once they landed.
They'd settled their craft on a high mountain plateau with the valley and ocean spread in front of them. Jules had called it a good defensible position; Jaysa appreciated it for the view.
Their communications problem was the first thing Jules tackled while Jaysa gathered data and plotted their first movements across the planet for exploration. Jules was partially successful with his repairs. They could send messages and data, but they couldn't receive confirmation back from NASA.
It took months for Jules to build a receiver. Every evening they listened to static, hoping beyond hope that someone would return their messages. Two-way communication hadn't happened, but they'd settled into a regular routine.
Jaysa yearned for children to make their stay less lonely, but Jules refused to allow her to get pregnant. He didn't want his children to be alone with no hope of returning to Earth. Jaysa tried to convince him that NASA would send another ship, but Jules argued that the billions in funds that NASA had spent for this trip would be a political hot potato.
Procreation was the only source of discord between them.
Now Jules was gone. Maybe lost forever. She was alone. If he had granted her wish, she might have a child, maybe even children, to keep her company. Now all she had were the birds and beasts of Verre Koude, some more vicious than others.
Six months ago, Jules had left for the ocean intent on having fresh fish for dinner. He never returned. Jaysa searched for him for days, weeks, even months, but she never found his body.
She delayed her grief with false hope, but with her dream of adventure destroyed, Jaysa grew homesick. Instead of sending out data regarding her life on Verre Koude, she broadcast a repeating Mayday call.
This New Year's Eve would’ve been their eighth anniversary, five years of which they'd spent in cryostasis for their trip to Verre Koude. They'd had two and a half years of actual marriage and exploration, and she'd spent six months searching and grieving.
A pity party instead of a New Year's Eve party was all Jaysa had to look forward to, but something stirred inside her and she refused to allow depression to take control.
Dumping her cold tea, she went to the bathroom and showered. Putting on her most daring dress, and switching on her favorite music, Jaysa popped the cork on a bottle of Champaign and made her first toast.
"To you, Jules, and whatever the future may hold." She drank the glass in its entirety and sipped the next. Glancing outside, she noted the winds were calm, and the Aurora Borealis was providing a magnificent display of blues, greens and reds in a dramatic artistic swath across the heavens.
A strange light caught her eye. Jaysa thought it was a meteor but quickly realized the speed was too erratic. A ship on a crash course. Is this my rescue?
She changed into winter gear, grabbed her gun and skis, and headed down the mountain. Explosions and flames filled the sky. "Oh God, please let them survive!"
At the crash site, she found a man dressed in a t-shirt working to contain the fire. Tall and un-phased by the cold temperatures, his muscular arms glistened from his labors.
He looked up as she approached and smiled. She moved closer. Realizing that his dark purple skin meant her savior was alien, she stopped in her tracks, but his green-gold eyes conveyed delight allaying her fears.
Today Robyn Campbell, the host of Robyn Campbell's Blog is here today to
talk about Kissed by an Angel and what this anthology means to her. Thank
you Robyn, please, the floor is yours.
First of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart
for asking me to do a guest post about the Kissed by an Angel anthology,
Yolanda. For those who don’t know about the anthology,
my son Christopher was born with a rare brain disorder called Sturge-Weber
Syndrome. The money from sales goes to the Sturge-Weber Foundation, which aids
in research, supports families, educates, is a physician referral service,
supports medical education programs and more. In 2013 the gene that causes
Sturge-Weber was discovered. GNAQ! Now we have the opportunity for better
treatment options. And maybe even a cure.
Yolanda gave me some ideas about what I should write
about, and I chose to talk about my inspiration for the anthology. My son
Christopher has had a lot of problems due to this disorder. Seizures, Glaucoma, learning disabilities, and a host of
other ugliness. But one thing remains. His outlook. All through his life,
people (adults and kids alike) have stared
and mentioned to us they had makeup to
hide the port-wine mark, or asked me if I was embarrassed to have him out and
about. So when he was little, I told him
he was kissed by an angel. I said the angel wanted to make sure people could
see the specialness that was him. His life is an inspiration to me. I have observed
his reactions to people. He has such a gentle spirit. I cannot be mad or sad
and look in his eyes because I know I will smile and laugh and feel warm
inside. He’s my light.
His sweet face inspired the other authors in the
anthology. They added that to the blurb about Christopher being their
Sturge-Weber causes seizures, stroke, blindness,
paralysis, glaucoma, and blindness. Christopher’s case is rare in that the
port-wine mark covers 90 percent of his body. So it’s over his major organs,
heart, kidneys, lungs and liver. Anywhere that mark is can be affected. I used to worry constantly about all of this,
but now I take it one day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I came to
realize some things are out of my control. I had to let God have this, or I
would have never made it through the tough times. This past summer and fall we
went through some scary testing with Christopher. They thought he had an
aneurysm in his brain. It was a mistake. You cannot believe the relief we felt
after they told us the great news.
Christopher’s sister has an illustration for my story. So
that was a family affair. My story is true. It’s about when Christopher was
going for his black belt and having a lot of seizures. He used to have many,
many in a day’s time. Sometimes, close to 80. This did damage his brain.
I hope everyone will buy the anthology. It will be in
print and ebook. It launches this coming week. The other authors are (in
alphabetical order) Yvette Carol, Catherine Johnson, Lynn Kelley, Vivian
Kirkfield, Ellen Leventhal, Suzy Levinson, Hope Lim, Theresa Milstein,
Cheryl Secomb and my buddy (13-year-old) Erik Weibel. Erik is a fabulous
writer. I love him dearly. Of course, ALL these authors are dear to mine and my
family’s heart. Christopher and Erik are buddies. J Yvette Carol did the cover art,
Lynn Kelley the graphic design and Mikey Brooks the interior design.
Thank you, my friend,
for inviting me over. You are beautiful. Inside and out.
Thank you, Robyn, Christopher is a beautiful soul, an angel
sent to earth with a heavenly purpose. How blessed we all are by his presence.
Wander with us onto a magical island ship, uncover an
amazing secret, and solve a very fishy mystery. Discover a World War II
codebreaker, captivating garden, time machine, undercover agents, bug master,
plus more. And meet a special boy who was kissed by an angel.
Robyn Campbell is a children's author,
poet and Sturge-Weber mom to Christopher. She enjoys working in a mishmash of
genres for children. Picture books are her great love, and she hopes to find a
home for them soon. Some of her poetry can be read in The Poetry Friday
Anthology for Celebrations, Spiritual Writers Network Anthology and Glimpses of
Light Anthology. She has short stories published in numerous anthologies. Her latest projects are a middle-grade adventure novel and a children’s writing
book. Robyn is a member of SCBWI, The Writers Workshop, and the North Carolina
Robyn lives in North Carolina on a horse
farm where she has plenty of fodder for her stories. She is married to Gene,
and together they homeschool their family.
Ornithophobia is a type of
specific phobia, an abnormal, irrational fear of birds.
Add your story and read the other masterpieces just click the Blue Frog:
accept my apologies for not being as active with my comments these last few
weeks. Responsibilities and health issues have slowed me down considerably. I
will strive to make up for my absence while working to regain my strength and
and yours a very Merry Holiday Season
and a prosperous and peace filled New
The WEP is hosting a science fiction challenge this month
I'm truly pleased to welcome L G Keltner to my blog today to discuss her latest release and the all time holiday favorite 'outdoor lighting display.' Take it away, L G!
I’d like to thank Yolanda for letting me stop by to promote my novella Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family.
To get you all in the mood for some holiday fun, I’d like to celebrate outdoor lighting displays. Most people keep them to a reasonable level, but we’ve all encountered the people who go a bit overboard. You may even be that person. I’ve compiled a short list of signs that may indicate that you’ve gone a bit too crazy with the holiday illumination.
#1-Planes keep trying to land in your backyard.
#2-There’s been a sharp increase in the number of car accidents outside your home, and they’ve been caused by sudden-onset blindness or distracted driving.
#3-Angry neighbors have been stealing or vandalizing your decorations.
#4-Family members and friends no longer wish to be seen at your house.
#5-News crews show up to document your lighting display.
Do you put up outdoor lighting displays? Do you like your displays to be subtle, or do you like going all out?
Now I hope you enjoy a brief snippet from Self-Help 101 or: How I Learned to Take Over the World Through Tolerating My Family.
* * *
“Don’t blame yourself for this mess. Other people’s issues are responsible for way more of it than you could possibly be.”
I laughed. “You have to say that.”
“No, I don’t. You can’t punch me through the phone.”
Then we were both laughing. It was nice. This felt normal, and it took some of the pressure off.
* * *
Dani Finklemeier has decided to write a self-help book about how to take over the world, but she’s not sure where to start. After all, she’s only seventeen and looking for a better way to make money than babysitting. She buys a self-help book that promises to teach her how to write a self-help book in the hope of getting the job done.
Not that it’ll be easy to get any work done this holiday season. Her family is staying at the house for Christmas, and fights break out almost immediately. Dani also has to deal with the fallout from an unexpected kiss with her best friend Seth and the feelings that go along with it. On edge around her family and unsure how to interact with the one person she’s trusted with everything in the past, she can only take what inspiration she can from the crazy circumstances surrounding her and see what happens.
One way or another, it should be an interesting holiday.
* * *
L.G. Keltner spends most of her time trying to write while also cleaning up after her crazy but wonderful kids and hanging out with her husband. Her favorite genre of all time is science fiction, and she’s been trying to write novels since the age of six. Needless to say, those earliest attempts weren’t all that good.
Her non-writing hobbies include astronomy and playing Trivial Pursuit.