Saturday, 7 December 2019

Guest Author Susan Bernhardt of Wisconsin, US

One of my regular guests suggested that Susan Bernhardt - author of The Ginseng Conspiracy - would be an ideal candidate for a guest on the Scribbler. After perusing her website and Goodreads page, I couldn’t agree more. An accomplished author of cozy mysteries, she has published six novels to date and working diligently on the next one. She has kindly agreed to a 4Q Interview and is willing to share an excerpt from one of her novels.

Thank you, Allan, for having me here today. I appreciate being on the Scribbler.

I was born in Wisconsin and received a BS in Nursing from UWM. We moved to numerous cities in the western U.S. with my husband's job eventually moving back to Wisconsin.

I started writing ten years ago as a challenge for myself. It was never a dream of mine to become an author. I was into reading cozy mysteries at the time and had a favorite author, M.C. Beaton. After reading her first cozy a few times, I decided that I could write a cozy as well as she did and set that as my challenge. Throughout my life, I have challenged myself. Perhaps my biggest challenge was receiving a Programming Degree with High Honors, where on the first day of class, I didn't know how to turn a computer on. After getting that degree, I went back into nursing. I held my nursing license for 40 years, giving it up last year.

My goals as a writer were to become a traditionally published author, to have my book on Amazon, and to sell fifty copies. I took numerous writing classes and began writing The Ginseng Conspiracy. The book was picked up by a Canadian publisher. And now my mysteries are in libraries.

Since the publication of The Ginseng Conspiracy in January of 2014, there are four additional Kay Driscoll mysteries and an Irina Curtius mystery. I average writing one book a year.

4Q: First off, tell us about Kay Driscoll, who is she and what inspired her and the stories?

SB: Kay Driscoll is a retired public health nurse who worked on occasion with the police in Boulder, Colorado. She moves with her husband to the small town of Sudbury Falls in northern Wisconsin. She's a vibrant, dynamic sixty year old who volunteers at the local free clinic. Her husband, eats, breathes, and lives jazz. She has two best friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed, modern woman Elizabeth. Together the three women are a force to be reckoned with.

Kay has a strong sense of justice. What's right is right and wrong is wrong. No matter what, no matter who. Justice must win out in the end, regardless if the victim is the most obnoxious, repulsive person. Justice always needs to be served.

Kay doesn't have a lot of respect for the Chief of Police in her new town. She finds him inadequate, clueless, and at times crooked.  In the end, Kay and her friends solve the crime(s) and the Chief of Police takes the credit.

All of my books and characters, even the plots are inspired by real life. Kay and her family are based on me and my family. We have had several Christmas parties in our home over the years. One year fourteen of my invited guests were the inspiration for characters in my Kay Driscoll series. I had great fun at the party that year, just thinking about that. 

 4Q: Kay appears in five novels and now there is a new kid on your block, Irina Curtius. Tell us a bit about her and is this a series that will take her to further adventures?

 SB: Irina Curtius is a retired ballet dancer who lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and runs a ballet studio for young children. She also volunteers helping women and children in a crisis at a homeless shelter. She has carried a secret much of her adult life since she danced in Lithuania with her ballet company during the Cold War. In the book, A Manhattan Murder Mystery, Irina's life turns upside down by the surprising return of an old love, a suspicious death of a friend, and a stranger who seems to be everywhere she is.

Irina takes the reader into the world of art, ballet, and music.

The story will continue with Manhattan 2.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

SB: My childhood is filled with memories. I come from a large family. I grew up in a city on Lake Michigan. My childhood in the summers was spent between playing on the beach and swimming in the lake and at my neighborhood Park and Rec summer program. At the program I spent the days playing games, making crafts, participating in sports, taking baton lessons, participating in contests, etc. I was in the Fourth of July parades on my bike and marched in the Lantern Parades with beautiful lighted floats and carrying our handmade crepe paper and cardboard lanterns.

There was also a beauty contest, all in great fun, for our playground to elect a Little Miss Franklin. I won the year I was five and went on to the city competition with the winners from the other playgrounds. My mother bought me a new swimming suit which was quite a big deal as I had three older sisters (and three older brothers) and was more used to hand-me-downs. Also it was the year that my father had just come out of a being on strike, a strike that lasted six years. It was the longest strike in U.S. labor history.

I didn't win the city competition. Rumor had it that the father of the girl who won was a big shot in our town :) , but every little girl won some title and mine was for “The Shapeliest Legs”.

4Q: When Susan Bernhardt is feeling the most creative and itching to write, where is her favorite spot? What kind of writing habits does she cherish?

SB: Lately I've been writing mostly in cars, on planes, even at the beach. We love to travel. My favorite writing spot at home is sitting on the sofa in the living room with my laptop and typing away. I have a wall-sized window where I can look out over our neighborhood or watch the birds build their nests in our yew tree in the spring. I have a little make-shift side table, a Red Wing crock where I keep my teacup filled throughout the day. When I'm not watching my carbs, I often have a scone sitting next to the teacup slathered in lemon curd and clotted cream.

Before my husband retired, I wrote most days for about 3-4 hours. After his retirement, I went down to two to  three days a week.

4Q: What’s next for you Susan?

SB: I hope to go on an exciting trip. :)

Writing-wise, I'm working on the first draft of Manhattan 2. I don't have a title yet or a cover. Beyond that, when the book is hopefully published in 2020, I haven't a clue. 

4Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

SB: Since my initial challenge is over, I write now because it's fun. It entertains me. My mysteries have much humor in them, mostly dry and I love that lots of readers get off on my stories. The mysteries are quite thrilling and exciting and have been called meatier cozies. I hope the fun never ends.

. . . . .

“Another holiday, another murder. At least no one got murdered at Thanksgiving dinner! How did I end up, in the season of peace and goodwill toward men, investigating another homicide?”
- Kay Driscoll in Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2) -

An Excerpt from Murder Under the Tree

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)

**Since Christmas will be upon us soon, I thought I would include an excerpt from the second Kay Driscoll mystery, Murder Under the Tree. In this excerpt Kay is impersonating the murder victim's sister to get information from a private detective as to what his findings were regarding the director of a retirement home where the victim worked. The victim had hired the P.I.  And was suspicious of wrong doings by the director.

It was an easy part of St. Paul to get to, just off of I-94. I was right in the Midway/Frogtown district at Snelling Avenue and University. The area looked a little rough around the edges, with pawn shops on every block and check cashing places. It was dotted with Asian restaurants. I parked my car around the corner from the agency and made my way to DeMire Investigations, sandwiched between The Golden Chow Mein restaurant and Price Rite Liquors. 

The bell at the top of the door tinkled when I entered. A woman in her late thirties, with excessive makeup sat behind the desk. She sported a dodgy, low-cut coral lace top. Her long, bleached hair hung in huge curls. There was nothing about her that didn’t look cheap. 

“Can I help you?” she said, looking down at her nails. She then did a second take at my hat. 

I had asked Elizabeth if I could borrow her black wide-brimmed hat she had worn on occasion. Fluffy, black, chandelle feathers adorned the crown. It had a bit of a veil that came down in front. I didn’t know if I felt it was a disguise or some sort of protection. 

“I’m here to see John DeMire,” I said in my slight accent. “My name is Melissa Hollingsworth.” 

Raising her head, she looked strangely at me, glanced at the inside door, then ran her long purple fingernails, with starbursts painted on them, over the appointment book.

“I don’t have an appointment,” I started. “I thought I could...” Before completing my sentence the inner door opened. A man with his sleeves rolled up, sporting a five o’clock shadow, came out chatting with a familiar looking woman in a smart tailored suit. Where had I seen her before? The man had a tattoo of a mermaid with a snake coiled around her waist on his right forearm, and on his left, a Medusa head. He must of had a thing for snakes. They both fell silent and looked at me standing there.

“Mr. DeMire,” the receptionist said, nodding towards me with a smirk, “this is Melissa Hollingsworth.”

He looked over at me with a shocked expression which quickly fell back off his face. Must be surprised to have two clients in one day; the place looked tired. Or it could be the hat. The woman’s mouth opened and shut a couple of times, but she remained silent. It must be the hat. I went over to him, extended my hand, and looked closer at his forearm.

“Mr. DeMire, I’m Melissa Hollingsworth,” I said with my accent. “I spoke with you on the phone yesterday. I’m Les Hollingsworth’s sister. You asked me to come in.”

“What?” The woman exclaimed standing by his side. She looked particularly displeased by this announcement.

I looked over at the woman and frowned; what was up with her, and then looked back to Mr. DeMire. He hadn’t extended his hand to shake mine. I looked at his yellow fingers and felt relief that I wouldn’t have to touch them. “My dear brother died. I have a note from his executor authorizing the release of information.” I lowered my hand and started to take out the release form I had printed out on the computer from my purse. 

Mr. DeMire coughed to interrupt me. I stopped rustling around in my purse and looked up. “May I introduce you to my client’s sister. This,” he put his hand on the woman’s arm. The woman glanced at his hand on her arm in disdain, “is... Melissa Hollingsworth, Les Hollingsworth’s twin.”

Damn! My heart started to pound. No wonder she looked familiar. I could see the resemblance. The same eyes, nose, and mouth. 

He sneered at me. “Would you like to explain yourself before I call the police?” 

Muscles tensed in my back. My heart started to pound in my ears. A swish swish noise.

Thank you so much for being our guest this week Susan. All the best with your writing endeavors.

Thank you, Allan. It's been a real pleasure. 

For you readers wanting to know more about Susan, Kay or Irina and their stories or where you can get your hands on them, please follow these links:

My books, both in eBook and paperback, can be found on Amazon.

The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1) -

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2) -

Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3) -

Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4) -

Murder Misunderstood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 5) -

A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery) -

My author FB link is:

Twitter: @SusanBernhardt1



My website of 12 years is currently down for redesign. 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Guest G M Lupo of Atlanta, Georgia

An award-winning playwright, actor, photographer and author, G M Lupo, is our special guest this week. Thanks to our mutual author friend Bobby Nash for bringing us together. Lupo’s website is titled Raised by Wolves – Musings of a Georgia writer. Going to be interesting. He has kindly agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from Atlanta Stories: Fables of the New South.

G. M. Lupo is an author and award-winning playwright, originally from Atlanta and currently living in Central Georgia. His play, Opposites Detract, premiered at AmpliFest, Merely Players Present, Doraville, GA in May 2019, and A Debt to Pay premiered at Tapas III, Academy Theatre, Hapeville, GA in June 2018. His most recent published work is a novel, Rebecca, Too (2018). Another Mother, his first full-length play, won the 2017 Essential Theatre Play Writing award and received its world premiere in Atlanta in 2017. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Merely Writers.

4Q: It’s a real treat having you as a guest this week GM. Let’s chat about your award-winning work as a playwright. I can’t imagine anything more difficult to write and you seem to be quite successful at it. Tell us about this experience.

GML: It was a true honor to have my first full-length play, Another Mother, produced by The Essential Theatre not just in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, but in West End, the neighborhood where I was born and lived until I was twelve. In fact, the theater where the play premiered was once the home of the public library where I learned to read as a child, so it was a place that already held a lot of good memories for me. The Essential Theatre award is the only one given exclusively to new work by playwrights who reside in Georgia. The very first recipient of the award in 2001 was Lauren Gunderson who’s gone on to become the most produced playwright in the country, so it’s a great honor to be among the distinguished writers who’ve been recognized as such. Another Mother explores the question of what makes a mother, nature or nurture, and was based on an earlier, unproduced work that eventually became my novel Rebecca, Too. I took full advantage of the experience, attending every audition, rehearsal, and performance and I learned a lot, not just about writing, but what goes into producing a show. Since the premiere, I’ve made many revisions based on what came out of the process, so it was a rewarding experience for me on every front. Working with director Peter Hardy and the excellent cast was incredible, and I have a lot of great memories from the endeavor. I’ve sent it around to some other places and hopefully, it will get more performances in the not-too-distant future.

4Q: Please tell us about Atlanta Stories – Fables of the New South.

GML: Fables of the New South, which takes its title from Henry Grady’s “New South” speech from 1886, was the first entry in what I refer to as the Expanded Universe of Fictional Atlanta. Many of these stories have been floating around in my head in some form for years, and in college, I conceived a series of stories set in a fictional town which eventually became a fictionalized version of my hometown.

The stories are tied together by the central theme of characters coming to Atlanta to reinvent themselves. Early versions of some of them appeared on my blog, Raised by Wolves, and some of the characters originated with the play that became the novel Rebecca, Too. Most of the stories are set in the 1990s through approximately 2006, and feature references to events and places such as the 1996 Olympics, and the Braves. The excerpt I’ve submitted, Dead Man’s Hat, is set in 1966, the first year the Braves played in Atlanta, and features a kid from my home neighborhood of West End who may show up in future works.

In my writing, I’ve chosen to concentrate on telling stories, without worrying so much about medium, so a short story could inform a chapter in a novel or become a play. In fact, A Debt to Pay, one of the stories in Fables, became a ten-minute play that was produced at Academy Theatre in Hapeville, Georgia in 2018. I’m currently working on a follow up to Fables of the New South that will be titled Reconstruction and will expand on the characters and stories in Fables. My play, Rebecca, Too, became a novel that’s since been turned back into a play. The conventions of a play are very different from that of a novel, so quite a bit of juggling went into recreating the play, such as combining two characters into one and condensing the story quite a bit.

The Expanded Universe was born when I realized that there was a tie-in between my current work and a story I was writing in the late-90s or early-00s. It was about the tech boom in Atlanta around that time and featured a web developer who started a company and took it public, becoming a billionaire. In the story, he insults a real estate developer in town, and when I created the characters in Rebecca, Too, I made them the daughters of a real estate developer. I realized their father was the same person insulted by the main character of my earlier story. Nearly twenty years after creating him, that character finally made it into print in Fables of the New South.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

GML: Most of my memories from childhood are tied to my grandmother, that is my mother’s mother, who lived down the street from us when we were in West End, so I spent a lot of time at her place. She’s the only one of my grandparents I really knew well. My mother’s father and my father’s mother died before I was born, and, though my father’s father lived with us when I was a child, he left around the time I was five or six, so I have very vague memories of him. My grandmother was a presence in my life from a very early age until I went to grad school, and when I was a child, we’d occasionally hop on a bus and head downtown to Rich’s and spend the afternoon roaming around downtown, usually having lunch at the S&S Cafeteria. She had this large steamer trunk full of clothes and games, and whenever I’d visit, she’d open it up. I have the trunk in my living room now only with my stuff in it.

4Q: Where is that favorite spot we might find G M Lupo, the author, when he’s writing a novel, story or a play. What writing habits make you productive?

GML: My main computer for writing is my MacBook that sits on a table in my bedroom. That’s where I type everything into Word to edit it. I’m always writing, though, composing stories using Notes on my iPhone, making notes, or using the voice recorder when I’m walking, and ideas occur to me. I have a lot of helpful tools, such as Acrobat, which allows me to edit PDF files on my phone, and I have several Cloud accounts, which allows me to work on my writing from just about anywhere. When I’m ready to put a book together for publishing, I move over to a Dell laptop I have in my office, which has Photoshop and InDesign that let me typeset and create covers for my books. I do most of the graphics for my books, usually using photos I’ve taken in Atlanta or elsewhere.

I’ve developed a method of composing snippets of stories on my iPhone that I can then publish onto my blog in early drafts, and often I edit the text on my blog before I publish there. I then transfer the snippet to Word for expansion and editing, so what’s on my blog changes significantly once I start putting it into a publishable form. As I develop the stories, I save them as PDFs that I can markup with changes and corrections, which I make on the Mac. Basically, I write or edit anyplace I have a decent Internet connection.

I have no definitive style, just whatever works best for getting the story told. Sometimes I’ll have a beginning and will develop the story as I go along. For others, such as Phoenix in Fables, I develop the entire story in my head and flesh it out on paper. I may start with a title, a phrase, a snippet of dialogue, or a description of a character or event and build the story around it.

4Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?

GML: One of my favorite activities is taking long walks, particularly in the woods. It’s not only good for my health, but I also find getting out and walking helps with the creative process. I can’t count the number of stories that have come to me in the woods at Stone Mountain, and I pay homage to this in the first chapter of Rebecca, Too. I also like to read, though I can sometimes be sporadic about reading, especially when I’m writing. I enjoy research and have been working on my family’s genealogy for more than twenty years. If a subject catches my attention, I’ll spend time researching it, sometimes obsessively.

4Q: Anything else you’d like to add? Raised by Wolves?

GML: I’ve decided, if I ever write an autobiography, I’ll entitle it Raised by Wolves. My name is the Italian word for “wolf” and my ancestors were Sephardic Jews of Spanish or Portuguese origin, who traveled to Milan, then Venice, and were recruited as viol and violin players to the court of Henry VIII in 1540. I’ve learned many Sephardic Jews identified with the Tribe of Benjamin, who’s identified in Genesis 49, verse 27 as a “ravenous wolf” so the origin of my family name appears in the Bible.

I’ve also run across references in Shakespeare that sound suspiciously close to details about my ancestors. For instance, in the New Year’s gifts of 1585, where courtiers exchanged gifts with the monarch, my ancestor, Peter Lupo is identified as “Petruchio Lupo” and, at the time, his wife’s name was Katherine. Petruchio and Katerina (or Katherine) are the main characters of The Taming of the Shrew. In Elizabethan England, the Lupos, who played violin and viols, were closely allied to the Bassano family of recorder players, which included Amelia, who’s been identified by some scholars as the Dark Woman in Shakespeare’s sonnets (some have even identified her as a credible candidate in the authorship debates).

I’ve noted several interesting references to “wolves” in Shakespeare’s work, and the plays are peppered with musical references, especially to the fiddles and recorders. My ancestors would have provided the music whenever Shakespeare’s work was performed at court and later members of the Lupo family were part of the musicians who played with the King’s Men, as Shakespeare’s company was known under James I. 

An Excerpt from “Dead Man’s Hat” from Atlanta Stories: Fables of the New South.

(Copyright held by the author. Used with permission)

Inspired by “Small Change” by Tom Waits

Lenny heard the shots. Hell, everybody on the block heard the shots, but nobody saw anything. Nobody ever saw anything, not even those who were there, looking right at whatever was happening. They were the ones who especially didn’t see anything because they knew what would happen to them if they did. Lenny knew, so he made an extra effort to not see anything. Like when he saw Artie go by and enter the arcade. Lenny knew it was only a matter of time before he’d need to look away. So, he did.

Arthur Desanto had been in town for about a week, from Chicago, he claimed. Lenny hadn’t met many people from Chicago. He’d get a lot of New Yorkers asking him if he knew where they could find the Times, but Artie was the first one from Chicago, or at least the first to say so. Artie got really quiet when Lenny asked why he was in Atlanta, and Lenny knew not to press him. Other than that, Artie had been pretty talkative, asking about the night life, such as it was. Lenny told him about the San Souci and the Domino, but Artie had already found them and didn’t seem too impressed. There was also the Clermont over on Ponce, which Lenny mentioned to Artie.

Artie was staying in the Grady Hotel, which was why Lenny had the opportunity to get to know him a bit. Artie never seemed to have anything to do from two to four, so he hung out near the diner, chewing an enormous wad of gum and quizzing Lenny about baseball players on cards he had in his pocket. Artie was a collector, he said, though Lenny couldn’t figure out why anybody would want to hang on to those things once the gum was gone. As a kid, Lenny had been a fan of the Crackers and went to games with his father when they played on Ponce but didn’t follow the sport on a national level. He didn’t know much about this new team they brought in from Milwaukee and hadn’t yet been out to the stadium they built for them south of town last year. Artie was fairly knowledgeable, but Lenny got the strong sense Artie was just showing off, which didn’t really impress Lenny all that much, but he didn’t want to seem rude. Lenny figured Artie just needed someone to talk to and Lenny didn’t have a whole lot to do until the afternoon edition came out anyway.

Lenny was a news boy, hawking the Journal in the afternoons on Peachtree between Ellis and Cain Streets downtown. He’d been doing it for about a year, among other odd jobs, after dropping out of Brown High School to help his Mom make ends meet following his father’s death. Lenny was the oldest of two boys and two girls, so he saw it as his responsibility to step up once his father was gone. He liked working for the Journal, even if he was just selling papers, because his dream was to be a writer, covering the mean streets of his hometown of Atlanta. Because of this, he always kept his eyes and ears open, and only turned away when he knew it was in his best interest to do so. He liked to study people, how they dressed, how they carried themselves. He could usually guess someone’s profession by what that person was wearing and working outside a hotel he encountered a fine mix of people from all over.

What caught Lenny’s eye when he first saw Artie was the hat. A porkpie, they were called, dark brown and made of felt — not the sort of hat one usually saw around Atlanta, which is why it made such an impression on Lenny. He never saw Artie without it, not even when Artie was in the diner, eating. He didn’t take the hat off or hang it up like other guys would do. It was always perched atop his head, like Artie expected to run out at any minute and didn’t want to risk leaving it behind. 

Artie was a nervous sort, small and wiry, and not much taller than Lenny, who, at sixteen, was just a hair over five nine. During one of their discussions, Artie let it slip that in Chicago, he was known as “Small Change” and Lenny felt the nickname suited Artie, who seemed small and unimportant, the sort most would pass by unless he gave them a reason to stop. Beyond that, Lenny had no idea what Artie did for a living, if anything, and Artie wasn’t the sort to volunteer the information.

In the aftermath, people would say Artie was an idiot, thinking he could run to Atlanta and be safe. Nobody was safe in Atlanta, but most of them didn’t know it. Artie knew it. He wasn’t safe anywhere. There are just some folks you don’t mess with and the consensus was that Artie should have known that. Lenny was never a hundred percent sure exactly what Artie had done to or to whom, but whoever it was wasn’t the sort to forgive and forget.

Artie seemed to sense the end was coming. Each day when he’d stop and talk, he’d seem more nervous: looking over his shoulder, asking if anyone had been inquiring after him. Once, when a car backfired, he practically jumped out of his skin. 

Whatever it was, he wasn’t telling Lenny. “The less you know, my friend, the less you know,” Artie would repeat, often without prompting from Lenny.

Both the Constitution and Journal fudged the details of the crime, stating only that Artie had been shot multiple times by an unknown assailant, most likely a robbery gone wrong. Lenny had seen him, though, sprawled on the ground, his head resting against the base of a gum ball machine. Lenny knew the real story — five shots, one in each shoulder, one in each knee, then the final one between the eyes, with a single, unspent cartridge beside his head. Everybody on the streets knew whose signature that was, even the cops. Nobody could prove it, though, and that was the show stopper. 

The kicker was, whoever did the deed used Artie’s own gun, the .38 snub nosed revolver he kept in his coat pocket, which was found, empty, a few feet from the body. Lenny imagined Artie going for it but being a couple of seconds too late. The type of men he was facing needed to be surprised to get the drop on them. It takes a special kind of man to look someone in the eye then shoot him multiple times and Artie just wasn’t the type. The guy who killed Artie probably went home, had a nice dinner with the wife and kids, and never gave it a second thought.

Lenny was halfway down the block, just a few yards away from the entrance to the arcade when it all went down. He’d seen Artie nervously head inside, after ignoring Lenny’s usual greeting, “Hi ya, Artie,” as he passed. Lenny had also seen the man in the black suit and the grey fedora pass by with two other fellows dressed less formally, who entered the arcade behind Artie. He’d seen the flow of teenagers leaving quickly and that’s when he knew it was time to turn away, to focus on something else for a few minutes, until he knew all was clear.

It took maybe five minutes, but then the shots came and the three men who’d followed Artie exited, not in any hurry, and passed Lenny as they headed to the end of the street. One of them even stopped to buy Lenny’s last paper, and waved off the change Lenny offered him, with a cool, “Keep it, kid,” before they disappeared around a corner.

Then the buzzards descended, Wally from the shoe shine stand, Hazel from the coffee shop next door, Frankie from the clothing store across the street. They grabbed what they could easily remove from the body and beat it quickly. By the time Lenny got there the corpse had been picked clean, no watch, no wallet, no cufflinks or ring. But there was one thing left, and, for Lenny it was the prize. Lying just to the right of the body, away from the quickly spreading pool of blood was the hat, where it must have fallen when Artie reacted to the first shots, or maybe while the men were “talking” with Artie beforehand. Lenny stepped over and picked it up, examined it to be sure there was no trace of blood, then walked to the mirror and tried it on. He’d need to grow into it, but he had to admit, it looked pretty good on him.

Lenny straightened his jacket and walked out of the arcade wearing the hat. He breathed in the early evening air, then turned right and headed south, just as the first of the police cruisers rounded the corner with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Lenny didn’t stop. Nobody had seen him going in or coming out. Nobody ever saw anything. 

He had no idea how the situation would eventually be resolved, but he knew he was going to write about it. In two years, after all the commotion had died down, he’d turn it into a human-interest piece about life and death in the city, which would become the first byline in the Journal for Leonard Stringer. As he strolled away from the scene, words began to form in his head.

“Small Change — rained upon with his own .38,” he thought and nodded with satisfaction. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket and headed off to the Journal to collect his day’s pay, with a slight bounce in his step.

Thank you, GM, for being our guest. All the best in your future writing.

For all you readers wishing to discover more about GM Lupo and his stories, please follow these links.


Author page at Amazon:

Rebecca, Too at Draft2Digital:

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Guest Author Carol J. Marshall of Georgia, USA.

Sci-fi, Horror, Dystopia and Dark Humor. All the subjects Carol reads… and writes about. Thanks to fellow author Bobby Nash for bringing Carol to our attention. She has a large body of work with four and five star reviews that her readers rave about. She has agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from Ella is One of Many, a science fiction thriller with a strong horror vibe.

Carol James Marshall is a horror and memoir author living in Warner Robins, GA.  A California native Marshall moved to Georgia three years ago with her husband and two boys.  During the day Marshall works as a Spanish translator and spends her free time reading, listening to, or writing books. 

4Q: It’s a real treat having you as a guest this week Carol. We’re particularly interested in your Woman of the Grey series. Starburst – Book 1 and Red Drug – Book 2, Stainless Steel - Book 3, the complete trilogy. Please tell us about them.

CM: What I am about to say sounds made up. As if a lightbulb moment story that I have fabricated.  I promise you I did not.

I had been thinking of the concept of an alien race of women for two years. I was having a hard time pinpointing the lead character and where I wanted to go with it. 

Then one day I watched the Miss Nothing music video by The Pretty Reckless. The way the singer strutted, the lyrics, the everything of Miss Nothing sparked the trilogy. I sat down and started Starburst that night. Taylor Momsen is my muse for Lisa the protagonist in the trilogy. 

That is often the case with me. Many of my characters are inspired by songs and music videos. When I need to get the “vibe” of a character I’m writing I listen to their song and 99% of the time inspiration hits. 

The Women of the Grey trilogy is mix of science fiction and horror. One reader called it “An original dark disturbing blend of horror and sci-fi.”  I love not giving away too much. I want the reader to wonder what comes next. My goal as an author is to never be predictable.

The Women of the Grey trilogy is great for readers who love to be creeped out by aliens while also exploring the characters emotions.

4Q: Please tell us what it is about the dark side of things that inspire you to write.

CM: It is often said that writers, write what they love to read. I love creepy. I love scary. I triple love things that come down from outer space to earth with bad intentions.  I also love female characters that are complex and kick ass. 

That said, the answer is simple. I write what interests me. I couldn’t write a romance or a sweet mystery if my life depended on it because those stories don’t hold my attention. 

I write about the dark side of things because that is where you’d find me.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

CM: I was raised very Catholic. In my home The Exorcist was a documentary, not a movie. When a large earthquake hit California (I don’t remember the year) I was sleeping in my bed. The shaking startled me awake by my bed bouncing. I let out a hair curling scream. I truly believed that the Devil was in my bedroom that night.  Now I laugh at the little girl me thinking I had really done it this time I was clearly possessed my bed was bouncing off the ground.

4Q: Where is that favorite spot we might find Carol Marshall, the author, when she is writing. What writing habits make her productive?

CM: I have a very busy lifestyle. I work full time as a translator plus I own my translation business add family, sleep, and the occasional shower well it leaves little time for breathing let alone writing. Therefor I write in small spurts almost daily. 

I have written all my books in 20 to 45-minute intervals. I write when I catch a bit of time to myself. You’d be amazed what you can accomplish in 20 to 45 minutes a day. That’s 6 books for me so far. 

Usually I publish two books a year writing in spurts. I never force myself to write. When the feeling comes, it comes. Productivity comes easily to me in writing because I know I have a short-allotted time to create so I best make the most of it. 

I also never plot my books. When I start a new book or series, I know the concept of the story and how it ends. Usually, I know what the last line or paragraph will be. I work towards that ending, following my own yellow brick road of ideas. 

My favorite spot to write is my writing room. When my husband and I bought our current home, he got a music room, and I declared the dining room my writing room. It’s becoming my spot. That’s where my family knows to find me a trillion percent of the time.  

4Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?

CM: If I’m not writing a book, I’m listening to one or reading one. I live a very bookish life. I also love vintage horror films and documentaries.  

4Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

CM: Please take the time to review a book if you enjoyed it. Small indie authors like myself thrive off of reviews. A good review for one of my books can literally make me walk on clouds for days. 

An Excerpt from Ella is One of Many, from the chapter Cry Later.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission)

Three figures stepped out of the open doorway of a ship that had landed almost within reach of Dave. If Dave had the ability to move, he might have reached out his hand and touched the luminous steel.

The figures walked as if they had purchased that block and intended to evict every person on it. They wore clownishly large, bright red overalls that had no insignia or name printed on them in any language. There was nothing to indicate where they were from nor to tell if these figures were female or male. All wore buzz-cut hairdos. Some held guns in their hands; others merely lay their hands on the guns in their holsters. The guns looked as if they were purchased in bulk at a Dollar General.

If Dave could have looked directly into their faces he would have thought they looked surprisingly human with short white hair that had a tint of green to it, brown eyes that looked human except for the bright ring of yellow around the iris. At best the figures looked as if they were in a cult, one that wore toy guns. The whole thing appeared to be a massive and well-done cosplay.

Except that all humans within a designated radius were frozen in place. These humans were unable to run for their lives or defend themselves in any matter. If a fly had landed on Dave’s nose at that moment there was no way for him to shoo it away.

If the humans were capable of asking, they’d probably ask why they had to be immobilized like this, and the simple answer would be, “This was done so the Varanu could go grocery shopping. You see, Earth is our favorite place to pick up some goodies for the dinner table, and human beings are what we consider Kobe Beef.”

The humans taken would be examined and either harvested or not. After completing the harvest, a simple psionic wave would unlock everyone left behind, and they would forget everything that had happened. They would go about their lives as if the harvest hadn’t happened. The survivors of the harvest were left with a haunting doubt in their minds, that feeling of having forgotten something important but never being able to remember it. Those taken by the Varanu were never looked for because no one would remember them.

Those outside the radius could not see the ship, or the many dressed in red collecting humans. Their mother ship dominated the sky above, cloaked and shielded so that those that attempted to pass through would decide for no reason not to.

While Dave lay like a forgotten shoe in the street, the three figures surveying the wreckage of human bodies frozen in place fell to all fours. The humanness of the Varanu faded. Their heads tilted up only slightly, enough for them to see; their arms were bent, hands flat on the ground, but their knees didn’t touch the ground, only the tips of their feet. In this way, the Varanu moved forward, gathering in lines and rows as if marching to war. Their backs remained stubbornly ridged while on all fours, as if an inner compass pointed the way.

Scuttling down the street, one by one each Varanu broke off and headed towards a human, the desire to feed on such a delicacy racing in their thoughts. Trails of milky saliva shamelessly hung from their lips as each headed to a human and smelled them. If the human were chosen, the Varanu shoved their saliva-coated tongues deeply into the human’s mouths.

Unable to move, the humans watched and felt what was being done to them. Their screams of terror locked up in their throats, the humans would mercifully fall into a heavy sleep the second a Varanu tongue slid past their teeth. Those not chosen watched, the terror of their ordeal silenced by their inability to move. 

This was the Varanu harvest.

The harvest was more than a holiday to the Varanu. It was a time to feast.

Thank you, Carol, for being our special guest. All the best in your future writing.

For all you readers wishing to discover more about Carol and her stories, please follow these links.

How to find Carol James Marshall

Interested in reading Ella is One of Many? Use this link  ebooks, paperbacks, and hardbacks available.