Saturday, 26 June 2021

Branching Out with Author Shane Wilson of North Carolina.

 

 


Shane Wilson is represented by Creative Edge of Saskatchewan and joining us this week as part of the Creative Edge series of artists/authors.

 

When you visit Shane’s website, you are greeted by the following:  Shane Wilson: Realistic Fantasy with a Sharp Edge and a Big Heart.

The sentence certainly makes me curious. 

A further note tells us, …as he writes stories – with an emphasis on the magic of human experience.

Shane has kindly agreed to a Branching Out Interview and is sharing an excerpt from The Smoke in His Eyes.

 

Let’s have a chat with Shane.




 

Allan: Thanks for joining us this week, Shane. Before we chat about writing stuff, please tell our readers a bit about yourself, especially what we might not find in your bio. Born in Alabama and raised in Georgia, you now reside in North Carolina. Sounds like a story right there.

 


Shane: I don’t know how much of a story there is to the moving around. My folks were born and raised in Alabama. They got together and after a lot of trying, they popped out a little Shane Wilson. Sometime around my second or third birthday, my dad got a job at a papermill in Georgia, and we set sail for those greener pastures. I bounced around the state a bit for college and work before falling in love with a woman and moving to North Carolina. That particular relationship didn’t quite pan out, but I’m still thankful for all of it. North Carolina really feels like home now.

 

 

Allan: To quote a line from your website, which I mentioned above - with an emphasis on the magic of human experience. Perhaps you could expound on this.

 


Shane: I believe that the act of being human is a truly magical act. I mean, none of it makes any sense, and people have been trying to MAKE it make sense as long as they had the cognitive ability for reason. They invented stories and myths and gods forever all in the name of making sense of the chaos of life—love, loss, death, birth. It all feels like magic because at the root of it all, there is no explicit rhyme or reason to any of it. Artists are the people who make it their lives’ work to find the rhyme or the reason. Artists attempt to demystify in their explorations of the human condition. This curiosity that arises out of the magic—or chaos—of human experience is, at least, what drives my work.

 

 

Allan: Your debut novel – A Year Since the Rain – has garnished lots of great reviews. Tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copy.

 


Shane: A Year Since the Rain is a story about dealing with unexpected loss. The protagonist, Alan, unexpectedly loses his father. He projects this grief onto the people around him and he isolates himself from the people who care for him. He’s stubborn, though, and refuses to deal with his grief. Meanwhile, a sinkhole has opened up and threatens to swallow his entire town. This narrative device forces Alan’s hand, right? He either has to move forward or be swallowed up—by his grief, in a figurative sense, or by the literal ground.

 

 

Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

 

Shane: Because I’m starting to work on my first horror project, I’ve been thinking a lot about times when I experienced genuine fear. I keep coming back to this moment when I was a very young kid—maybe in first or second grade. I was pushing my bike up the big hill near my parents’ place and this big dog started barking. The people who owned this dog had an unkempt yard, and it was hard to even see the dog most of the time, but on this day, the dog came out of the brush and stood between me and home. He just snarled and barked. 



I threw my bike in the ditch and cut through the neighbors’ yard to get home. I was terrified. I even wrote a story about it for school. I’ve also been wondering if Stephen King went through something similar. Maybe that’s where Cujo came from?

 

 

Allan: Again, back to your website, where we discover your second novel – The Smoke in his Eyes. Tell us about the story, but first, is this part of a series?

 


Shane: The Smoke in His Eyes is not a part of a traditional series. Instead, I’ve set these novels in the same shared universe governed by a shared mythology. This series is called the World of Muses, and so far, it is home to the two novels, A Year Since the Rain and The Smoke in His Eyes as well as a stage play called The Boy Who Kissed the Rain.

As for The Smoke in His Eyes—this is a story about art and creativity. The main character here, TJ, is a guitarist who is plagued by overwhelming visions as a result of trauma from his childhood. He meets a woman, a visual artist named Muna, who helps him find the song in those visions—essentially teaching him how to create art from trauma. The novel explores the different reasons why people choose to create and share their art.

 

 

Allan: Your short story – The Boy Who Kissed the Rain – won the 2017 Rilla Askew Short Fiction Prize. Congratulations Shane. It’s a wonderful feeling to be recognized for your writing. Tell us a bit about the story and how it feels to be an award-winning author.

 


Shane: Awards are kind of cool, I guess. It’s always nice to think that someone believes that your work is worth celebrating. “The Boy Who Kissed the Rain” is a short story that operates as a sort of spiritual prequel to A Year Since the Rain. It’s set in the same town, but several generations earlier. It’s a sentimental and romantic story. It’s easily the most saccharine thing I’ve ever written, but I think it’s a beautiful take on a classic Romeo and Juliet/ forbidden love kind of story. I also adapted this story into a full-length/ two-act stage play.

 

 

Allan: Favorite authors? Novels?

 

Shane: I always point to Salman Rushdie as a big influence. I read a ton of his work in college and wrote my Master’s thesis about his novels, Fury and Midnight’s Children. I think reading Rushdie is a major reason why I write in contemporary fantasy, which is a cousin to magical realism. My favorite novel of the last little bit has been Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

 


 

Allan: Do you still teach or write fulltime?

 

Shane: I do still teach. I teach composition, literature, and creative writing full-time at a community college here in North Carolina. I love teaching. I can’t imagine a life where I’m not in the classroom at least some of the time.

 

 




Allan: You are also a musician and songwriter with a two-person band called Sequoia Rising. What can you tell us about this?

 

Shane: Sequoia Rising really only exists because of The Smoke in His Eyes. I taught myself guitar while I was writing that novel because I wanted the story to feel legitimate, and I thought that having experience with the instrument that the protagonist played would help me add that extra texture to the narrative. I learned a few songs off the radio, and I was hooked on the act of making music. I got together with a friend who plays percussion, and we started playing shows and writing music. Think: story songs in the vein of Springsteen and Jason Isbell. We just released our first record of acoustic narrative-driven songs. The album is called Of All the Things I’ve Ever Said, I Mean This the Most, and it’s streaming anywhere music streams.

 

Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

 

Shane: Honestly, I just hope people check out the stories and the music and find something they can enjoy. I’m all over the social medias at @ThatShaneWilson. Follow me and stay tuned for my next novel, which is due out in Spring 2022.

 



 

 

 

An Excerpt from The Smoke in His Eyes.

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

 

Munira was removing her winter clothes and hanging them up in a closet by the front door. “I did.” He looked toward her. She was in a tank and jeans, and he noticed how far the tattoos ran up her arms for the first time. She always had on long sleeves when he saw her, but here, with the skin of her arms exposed, he could see the intricate lines and images that populated her flesh. He turned back to the painting. There were figures there, but they were hard to make out. It was abstract, but the colors were bright.

“Do you like it?” she asked.

“I think so,” he said.

“That's an interesting answer.”

“I'm not very good at art,” he said. “I don't get abstract stuff.”

“That's no big deal. Here,” she took his hand and lead him to the sofa. “Let me show you something.” She pulled out a sketchpad and handed it to him. “Flip through that.”

Inside, the sketch pad was filled with pages and pages of drawings that were of clear and specific things—not abstractions. There were dragons and other fantastic characters. There were portraits. There were landscapes. “Some people hate abstract art,” she said, “because they think that people make abstract art when they can't make other more traditional types of art. They are wrong, usually, but whatever.”

“These are really good,” he said, still flipping through the book.

“Isn't that interesting,” she said, “that you look at these drawings and you know they are good, but when you look at the abstract pieces, you don't 'get' art? What makes these good?“ she indicated the book of drawings. “The fact that they look like something that you've seen before?” She paused and took his face in her hands, moving his gaze to the large painting against the wall. “What makes that bad? Because it doesn't look like anything?”

“I didn't say—”

“Shhh. I know. But maybe abstract art is about something else—maybe it's not about looking like it's supposed to look. Maybe it's about looking like it's supposed to feel. You make music. You should be able to appreciate that there are other ways to experience the world—other than with your sight. But if we could see some of the things that we can just feel. What would that be like? What if you could see your music instead of just feel it or hear it. That's abstract. And it's beautiful.” Her face was very close to his, and her hands had dropped from his face and fallen onto his leg. “And your music is beautiful,” she said.

He didn't know what to say.

She started again. “Earlier tonight, when Gill came up, you were saying something about your music. You seem to be frustrated or angry or hurting—your vibe is all messed up.” She moved to the kitchen and poured him a whiskey over ice. “You do drink this straight when you’re not hiding it at the bar, right?” He nodded. She poured herself a double shot of vodka and a gin and tonic. She was playing some version of catch-up, but she couldn’t catch up with TJ—not on that night. “Talk to me about your art.”

“I don’t know, Munira—”

She interrupted him again, “Please, TJ—call me Muna. Everyone in my life that I’m closest to calls me Muna. I want you to be one of them.” She looked long into his eyes, and he could feel his heart pounding in his ears. She made him nervous, but a lot of women did. Now—you were telling me about how you didn’t know about your art.” She smiled and leaned back into the corner of the sofa against the arm and drank her gin and tonic.

“I can’t write.” This confession snuck out of his mouth. He was used to hearing the words bounce around in his head whenever he was trying to write, but he wasn’t accustomed to hearing them out loud. 

“What do you mean?”

“I sit down with paper and pen and guitar, and I try to write every day, but everything that comes out is shit. It’s worse than what I played tonight.” And he explained the way he used to write, and he told her about Lila’s directions and how she pushed him in a positive way, but it ended up making him doubt his abilities. “I know I have enough talent, and I know that I know enough to write good music, but I don’t know how to unlock it—I don’t know how to put it together in a way that sounds natural. I don’t want people to feel like they are listening to a song. I want them to experience the song.” He could have thanked Lila for this evolution in his craft, but he wasn’t thinking about it in those terms quite yet.

“Exactly,” she said. He had clearly said something by accident, and she must have read the expression on his face. “You need to get out of your head,” she started. “Think about what you said—‘I know, know, know.’ When you sit down and try to write, you’re thinking about what makes a good song—just like you did with the sketches in that book. A song is only good if it sounds like something you’ve heard before. But you know better than that. You want your audience to experience the song—you have to get out of your own way. You need to find something to write about instead of finding something to write.”

“You’re right.” What she was saying made sense to him. She was so passionate when she discussed art, and he was drawn to her. Her brown eyes got big, her voice got louder, and she leaned forward, gesturing with her hands, and touching his leg. She finished her drink and put the glass on the floor. She looked at him. He wanted to kiss her, but he remembered being rejected by Lila all those weeks earlier.

“Of course, I’m right,” she said.

“I think I want to kiss you,” he said.

“Then you should,” she said, moving her face even closer to his. His hand moved to cover hers, and as he tightened his fingers around the flesh of her hand, he leaned in toward her face to feel the skin of her lips brush against the skin of his—just for a moment—before he fell into the kiss—his eyes closed and mouth open. He moved his hands over her little body and found all the creases of her that he could find through the fabric of her clothes. And she kissed him back and pushed her body against his and worked to find his creases as well.

 




 

 

Thank you for being our guest, Shane. Wishing you continued success with your writing.

 


 

And thanks to all you fantastic visitors and if you want to discover more about Shane and his writing, please follow these links:

 

http://www.shanewilsonauthor.com

http://www.facebook.com/thatshanewilson

http://www.twitter.com/thatshanewilson

http://www.instagram.com/thatshanewilson

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Branching Out with Returning Author Marjorie Mallon of Great Britain.


 

It’s been much too long since Marjorie’s last visit and we are extremely pleased to have her back. On her previous visit, Marjorie talked to us about her novel Curse of Time. If you missed it, please go HERE.

 

A considerable amount of time has passed and Marjorie is announcing a new deal for the Curse of Time novels 1 & 2. An exciting time for an author and we are happy to share the news with our readers.

 

Marjorie has kindly accepted our invitation to participate in a Branching Out interview and is sharing an excerpt of The Old Man of Snow and The Snow Snake from Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose.

 

Let’s chat with Marjorie.


Update: - June 25thThrilled to announce that my YA Fantasy Bloodstone, The Curse of Time #1 has released. Blog post to celebrate the release below - please do pop over to celebrate! https://mjmallon.com/.../bloodstone-the-curse-of-time.../    

Buying link: http://mybook.to/bstmm

 

 

Allan: It’s a pleasure to have you back, Marjorie. Before we talk about the new novels, please tell our readers about yourself, where you live and your family.


 



Marjorie: Hi Allan, it’s so lovely to be back chatting with you. I live with my husband David in Cambridge, UK, a city I love so much. Though, my heart also belongs in Edinburgh, Scotland where I grew up and often return to. Further afield, it is my hope one day to live in Portugal but with the pandemic…. etc, etc, we shall see. Hubby and I are now empty nesters, our two lovely daughters have both flown away, our youngest Georgina to Manchester. She has just finished her Fashion/Business degree and has just started a new job. Our eldest Natasha is pursuing a career in teaching secondary English in Scotland. During the day, I work in an international sixth form in Cambridge as a Receptionist/Administrator where I meet and greet many people and see the progress, trials and tribulations of our lovely students.


 


 

Allan: An all-new publishing contract for the Curse of Time novels. How exciting! Please tell us more.



Marjorie: Yes, it’s been amazing! I sent off my manuscript to Next Chapter Publishing and low and behold they replied back with we’d like to publish Book 1 and Book 2 of the series - Curse of Time! So, to say I’m excited is an understatement. Next Chapter Publishing is a small independent publishing house who publishes in all the usual formats: kindle, print, hardback and audiobook. I believe they also have links to companies who translate manuscripts too.

 

They are currently editing the interior manuscript for Book One which will be republished. More news about that soon…

 

Cover reveal !




  

Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

 

Marjorie: I lived in Hong Kong as a child and I remember going out on a trip with my dad. I squeezed his hand and gave him the biggest smile as we passed by a toy shop! Of course, his heart melted and he couldn’t say no. We have always had a close bond and I suppose being the only daughter meant I was good at getting my way! Family is so important to me. My mum and dad have always supported and believed in me. Now that I am older and wiser, the anecdote about going shopping makes me smile! My parents are so proud of my writing and ecstatic about my latest news!


 


 




Allan: A lot has happened since your last visit and today. Besides the Curse of Time news, what else have you accomplished since your last visit?

 

Marjorie: I’ve worked extremely hard, especially over the lockdown periods in the UK. I was furloughed for a long time, which allowed me the time to collate my first anthology. This Is Lockdown which is a collection of my diaries, (in the kindle version,) flash fiction, poetry and contributions from international authors, poets and creatives. Compiling my first anthology was a wonderful way to stay busy and productive during this scary and worrying time. It was fantastic to engage with old friends who contributed to this project and to discover new writing friends too.

Thereafter, I wrote Lockdown Innit poems About Absurdity, a short collection of poems about the absurdity, frustration and surreal quirkiness of this strange time. I hope this little book captures that strangeness well.




Prior to that, I released Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose which is a collection of poetry, short stories and photography inspired by nature, the seasons, and the circle of life. Two fascinating gents became the inspirational characters in this framed story. I saw them one morning in a coffee shop in Cambridge. Unwittingly, they became siblings William and Harold and I added their sister Annette. I’m thrilled how this little book came about and I love how it also showcases my love of photography.

Also, during this time I became a regular contributor to Dan Alatorre’s horror anthologies. These taught me a considerable amount about short story writing. I’d recommend joining in anthologies as they are a great way to make connections and to develop your writing craft.

 




 

 

Allan: You are well known amongst our writing friends as a person that shares and cares. We all need a lift and you do it so well.  Tell us about your blog and blogging experience.

 

Marjorie: Ah, that is so kind of you Allan. I blog at https://mjmallon.com. My blog’s name is Kyrosmagica which means crystal magic. I share fellow authors’ reviews, blog tours, and news of my books and new releases. I try to be inspiring and magical!




I truly believe we achieve more and are rewarded if we help others. I’ve received so much help from the blogging community, it is only right that I give back what I can. So, with this in mind, I write reviews and share new releases and the like. I’ve met many wonderful bloggers in person at the previous bloggers bash events in London: Ritu Bhathal, Willow Willers, Mary Smith, the late Sue Vincent, Sherri Matthews, Graeme Cumming, Sacha Black, Esther Clinton, Hugh Roberts, and many more! Plus, many online friends who have been unbelievably kind and supportive: Colleen Chesebro, D G Kaye, Sally Cronin, Adele Marie Park, Robbie Cheadle, Didi Oviatt, James Cudney, Richard Dee, Heena Rathore P, Darlene Foster, D L Finn, Lizzie Chantree, Charli Mills, Sarah Northwood, Helen Pryke Domi, my reviewers, beta readers, your good self The list just goes on and on. Blogging enriches your life in ways you can only imagine. It’s changed me so much; I have become much more adventurous! I recently participated in my first FaceBook Live hosted by Helen Pryke Domi in her wonderful group Meet The Authors. Prior to this, I had the opportunity to read my work via Charlie Mills 5 at the Mic. Now, I feel more confident to do more!




Allan: Favorite books? Favorite authors?

 


Marjorie: Oh, for YA fantasy Jay Kristoff - Nevernight Chronicles, and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Historical Fiction - The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak. And where would I be without magic? The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 

 

 

 

 

Allan: Is there are any Marjorie Mallon characteristics in any of your characters? Where does the inspiration for character development come from, for you?



 

Marjorie:  No, I don’t think my personal characteristics play a big part. For me, character inspiration comes from observing and sometimes listening (eavesdropping!) I tend to modify aspects of character of those I’ve met or seen. For instance, I created a character from this curious person I kept seeing in a shopping centre. He was standing in a tiny space right by the shopping centre entrance, as if he was hiding. Then I saw him sitting upstairs adopting a strange pose. He became the inspiration for a horror character in my short story Scrabble Boy in Nightmareland.  The poor guy had no idea! That is the power of writing - it allows you to get up to all sorts of mischief!

 

 

Allan: Tell us something we don’t know about you, either personally or as an author.

 

Marjorie: I hate cleaning! Any chance I get, I will try to avoid it. I detest the mundane; I like to live as if every day is a day for fun. So, chores tend to go to the bottom of my to do pile. I’m always amazed by people who love to clean, iron, dust and the like. I’m like, What?


 


 

 

Allan: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

 

Marjorie: I’m working on an exciting idea for a New Adult supernatural short story. I’ve written around 6,000 words. So, it’s quite a long short story. It’s different. There are vampires, demons, otherworldly creatures. At a later stage, I hope to develop it further. I’m thinking perhaps a crime aspect too. I’m excited about writing in two new genres and curious to see where it may lead me.

Also, later in the year I hope to publish my next poetry collection Do What You Love - Fragility of Your Flame - an inspirational collection of my poetry and photography under my self-published imprint Kyrosmagica Publishing.

 

 

 

 

 


 

An Excerpt from Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose - a short story excerpt - The Old Man of Snow and The Snow Snake and the Poem: My Heart is A Cave.

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

 

Quote from a 5 star Goodreads review by Balroop Singh: ‘The Old Man of Snow and the Snow Snake’ may appear to be a fabulous fantasy but is a magnificent comment on the avarice of man, eager to plunder nature.

 

 

The Old Man of Snow and The Snow Snake

 

Today, the moon is full and high in the sky and a group of nineteen men travel with brave hearts to the mouth of the Snow Snake Cave.

The wind is biting cold. Each man carries a pack of provisions on his back and thoughts of his loved ones in his heart. They know that this journey might be one to their deaths and yet they trudge on.

At last after many exhausted steps they arrive at the forbidding entrance of the cave. It is no ordinary grotto. For centuries men have fashioned the cave out of layer upon layer of snow. The mouth of which is an ice sculpture of a snake’s jaw gaping, its eyes furious and wide. The old man above is exquisite, his hair and snow beard fall in intricate icicles. He is leaning to one side, his hand of snow pushing down on the snake as if to coax it to move.

The Old Man of Snow startles the men, he stirs, his snow encrusted eyes open wide as he bellows,

‘Dare you approach us? I think not little men. I will crush you like ants and feed you to my friend the Snow Snake.’

The men stop so suddenly that they almost fall over with exhaustion. Several of them stagger backwards frightened by the sheer size and forbidding nature of the Old Man of Snow. But, one amongst them stays still, resolute and strong.

He squares his shoulders, takes a deep breath and replies. ’I wish to meet with the Old Man of Snow and the legendary Snow Snake to discuss what you’ve done with the countless others who have ventured here. That is all that I and this brave group of men want–our old friends back. We are not greedy men. We don’t desire wealth, or gold, we only want happiness.’

‘Happiness?’ the Old Man lifts his hand and pulls at his beard. The Snow Snake winds his tail back and forth causing a volley of tiny snowballs to fall.

‘They are lying Old Man,’ said the Snow Snake, hissing. ‘They mean to trick us. Don’t allow them passage. If you do, I will swish my furious tail even more and it will crush them under an avalanche of snow.’

‘Silence, Snow Snake! I am sick of your reptilian attitude. Let them speak. I have never heard a human ask for so little before and I am curious if they speak the truth.’

The humble man bowed before the Old Man of Snow and then kneeled on the cold earth. ‘I swear by the almighty that I tell the truth. I, and my men are simple farmers, we tend the earth, eat our crops, and milk our herd. We don’t need riches and fame.’

‘You are a wise man. Unfortunately, your friends who came before you were foolish and greedy. They tried to steal from the Snow Snake, and that made us very angry.’

‘They were wrong to do so and I apologise on their behalf. Please forgive me for asking but what happened to their foolish souls?’

‘Within the cave there are a multitude of tiny snow snakes who wriggle free when they smell greed. These tiny snakes are lethal, one bite of their venom stilled these greedy men’s hearts and froze them for all eternity. Here, come. I grant you entry to see the power we possess so you will not dare to steal from us. The ice sculptures of your friends are exquisite.’

The men muttered. Some made as if to turn back but the leader spoke again.

‘Men come with me, we must pay our respects to our old friends.’

One replied, ‘Are you mad? They may do the same to us. How can you trust the Old Man of Snow, the Snow Snake and his allies the tiny venomous snakes?’

‘I only know what is right and good,’ replied the humble man.

‘So, will it be,’ said several of his followers, but many turned away, retracing their steps back from where they had come.

They granted the few that remained a passage into the mouth of the Snow Snake’s cave. But the snake hissed and rattled his snow tail in a show of extreme displeasure.

The Old Man of snow stamped his snowy boots, and the snake stopped.

Once inside the cave, the humble man and his band of followers saw nothing but ice and snow. They heard no sign of life, no trickle of water, but still they walked on.

As they turned a corner, the cave widened, and they entered a room which was ablaze with a colourful array of magical stones. For a moment it tempted even the humble man to pop one of these magnificent stones in his pocket but then he remembered the Old Man’s warning.

 

 

Quote from a 5 star Review from Balroop Singh: ‘My Heart is a Cave’ is beautiful and poignant; as it brings out the loneliness of a sibling who is yearning to be reunited with her loved ones.



My Heart Is A Cave


My heart is a cave.

Hidden dark and mysterious,

Stalactites and icy caverns,

Rock pools and hiding places.

***

No one visits anymore. I’m alone.

The ice is melting, and the stars seem so far away.

I long for light, life and laughter to discover me again.

I wait.

***

While I wait ice drips in darling drops,

Drip, dripping.

The moon is high,

An orb of brilliant light, it grins at me.

***

I remember my past, days ago,

Children, a husband, lovers - even.

So, I wait for someone to come,

For a torch to shine.

***

It comforts me that the moon is full.

Abundant.

Soon I will be reunited with you.

I imagine you smiling down on the cave.

 

 

 

Thank you, Marjorie, for being our guest this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.

 


Thank you Allan, I appreciate your kindness so much and I’m delighted to be a guest on your blog again.

 


For all you dear visitors wanting to discover more about Marjorie and her writing, please follow these links:

 

Amazon Buying Links:



Mr. Sagittarius: http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Lockdown Innit: http: mybook.to/Lockdowninnit

This Is Lockdown: http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com


Authors Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L

Authors/bloggers Rainbow Support Club #ABRSC: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493/

Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/m-j-mallon






Saturday, 12 June 2021

Branching Out with Award Winning author Ken Baird of Florida.

 




 

I was recently introduced to Ken by another Scribbler guest, Heather McBriarty, author of Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, who suggested Ken would be a good fit for our author interviews. I’m glad she did. You can read her interview HERE.


I have been gifted Ken's debut novel - Yukon Audit – and I have read this terrific story. I’m eagerly anticipating reading book 2 in the series – Yukon Revenge.


The detail is remarkable in the story. Baird is a pilot and when he takes you flying, you can feel it. A fine storyteller.


The novel has garnered a ton of 4 & 5 star reviews on Goodreads. See them HERE.



Let’s have a chat with Ken.

 

 

Allan: I have trouble finding a bio on you. Is that intentional?


Ken: Before I answer that, let me first say thanks for the opportunity to talk to the Scribbler clan. I love talking books with people who love books. 

*** You are most welcome, Ken. It’s a pleasure having you as a guest.

 

Now to your question. At the end of each of my novels is a brief two-line bio which is also   included in the bar code meta data for each print version. So that two-liner should be accessible somewhere on the net. But I’ll save everyone the trouble and recite it to you now. It succinctly states: 

“Ken Baird operated a Yukon gold mine for ten years. A former receiver-manager and private pilot, he now lives in Florida.”


And that’s the extent of my online persona. I’ve never been a fan of social media, and in particular of those scoundrels running Facebook, and have never used the internet for any kind of promotion. I have no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Amazon Author page, in fact don’t even own a smart phone. My writing is my product, not me, and I’ve always let the merits of my books stand on their own. Thankfully they’ve been well received by readers who continue to post plenty of positive reviews, and nothing sells books like positive reviews. The word-of-mouth strategy has worked well for me.



So, with regrets for your time spent looking, you were not going to find a more comprehensive bio of me posted anywhere online. Is that intentional? Probably.

 

 

Allan: Before we get into writing and such, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.

 

Ken: Well, I’m a Canadian and damn proud of it. Still listen to CBC radio in the car. Been all over Canada and around the world. Had a lot of adventures and did some dangerous things. Hated every minute of every day I ever spent in school. And I wish we were nicer to the animals. And I really, really wish we would start to get serious about managing the planet better, which among other things will mean smaller houses, smaller families, and smaller people.   

 

 

Allan: From reading an intro in Goodreads, I discovered you spent many years in the Yukon and the vivid descriptions in your novel can only come from someone who’s been there. Can you share a little about this experience and how it affected your writing?

 

Ken: Ah, the Yukon. Well, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is, and for me that will always be the Yukon. I went up there for the first time in 1979 for an office job, left a year later for a so-called promotion in the city, and not long after took a big demotion to return just as fast as I could. Next thing you know, I’m a gold miner.




Regarding the Yukon’s influence on my writing, it’s the mystique of the place that inspires me. There’s no such thing as a frontier left anywhere in the world, satellites have put paid to that concept, but at least the Yukon still looks and feels like one (especially when you’re lost in an airplane). Can never hope to explain this adequately, but there were times when it was just me and the land and the wilderness, and I’d often be overwhelmed by this eerie spiritual reverie. I can’t count the number of episodes I had like that over my twenty years up there, many of which to this day remain vivid and palpable. If life is about weaving memories, then I had my fair share in the Yukon, whether digging for gold in the middle of nowhere, or flying in an empty sky, or crossing a big mean lake in a boat too small, or simply gazing at a mountain in the middle of the night, glowing like bronze in the midnight sun. And oh, I also had a couple of hundred adventures and a bunch of close calls too, but those are for another day.  

So armed with that nostalgia, when I sat down to write my first novel, guess the setting for the first chapter.   

 

             

Allan: Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copies of the Yukon novels.

 

Ken: Well, both Yukon Audit and Yukon Revenge are definitely thrillers, but thrillers with a difference, because the hero has to share the limelight with the Yukon.

The protagonist is a guy by the name of C.E. Brody, a reclusive bush pilot and handyman who lives on the Yukon River with two poorly behaved dogs. Brody likes to mind his own business and just wants to be left alone, which means he’ll do anything and everything to avoid any form of authority and the various trappings of a modern world. But trouble finds him anyway when a beautiful woman, and some very evil bad guys, walk into his life and turn it upside down.





I think the ways in which Brody confronts the threats and challenges he must overcome are what make these thrillers unique, because it’s the Yukon itself that ultimately provides him with the means to survive. Then there’s the cast of supporting characters, composites of the eccentric people I knew up there (aka the colorful five percent), and readers should enjoy their off-the-wall attitudes and perspectives on life. I also do my best to paint a picture of the land and delve into its gold rush history, its geology, geography and wildlife, as well as providing some exciting scenes with Brody at the controls of his beloved old plane. So there you have it, a pair of thrillers with a different kind of hero, some very evil bad guys, plenty of action and suspense, a sizzling romance, and an incredible setting. Something for everyone.  

 

 

Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

 

Ken: My whole childhood was an anecdote so here’s a shorter one from later in life.

I remember walking past a bookstore when I was in my thirties, looking cynically at the people inside, and asking myself, “Why would anyone buy a book?” Years later I sat down and wrote one. Guess you’ve got to try everything at least once, because life’s no fun if you don’t.

 

 

Allan: Yukon Audit is an award-winning novel. Best Thriller – Indie Book Awards. This is a great accomplishment. How does it feel to be recognized like this?


 


Ken: Yeah, who’d ‘a thunk? My first novel. Best Thriller. And it wasn’t just any book contest. The Next Generation Book Awards is the “world’s largest not-for-profit contest for independent publishers and self-published authors”, and “the Sundance of the book publishing world” claim the people who run it, the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. So talk about a longshot. Anyway, it truly was an honor to win, a huge surprise of course, one of the most rewarding moments in my budding career as an author, and an accomplishment that gets better and better every year. That said, I can also tell you it’s the only book contest I won, and I entered quite a few, so feel very fortunate for the recognition.

 

 

Allan: Please tell us about your writing habits and/or favorite spot to write.

 

Ken: Years ago, I bought this big old colonial desk, solid wood, weighs a ton, and little did I know at the time it would become the centerpiece of what I now use to produce my work. As to writing habits, I have none, preferring to work in fits and starts and whenever the moment grabs me. On that note, I keep my computer on 24/7 and so on a whim can sit down at my desk any time, jiggle the mouse, and up comes my manuscript. This has proven to be very convenient, especially when I have an epiphany in the middle of the night and feel compelled to get up and write.





 

Allan: What’s next for Ken Baird, the author?

 

Ken: Right now I’m writing the third C.E. Brody novel, Yukon Justice, and it might well be the last of what would then be the C.E. Brody trilogy. Not sure what’s next after that, but perhaps something different. I had a job in a big city once and was appalled at the disparity in fortunes between the people like me working in the glass towers, and the hapless homeless souls living on the sidewalks below. Sometimes we literally had to step over them on our way home after work. That disparity in fortunes still bothers me to this day, and I have some ideas for a story to bring it to light.

 

  

Allan: There is a clich̩ amongst authors РWrite about what you know. What are your feelings on this statement?

 

Ken: I’m not sure, I suppose it depends on what you’re writing about. But one thing is certain, the instant a reader senses you don’t know what you’re talking about, then your whole story loses credibility, and so do you. A few years ago I picked up a popular new novel by a New York author about the Klondike Gold Rush. Only a few pages in he began describing the methods of mining gold in the Yukon at the time, and how the gold could be easily recovered from the creek gravel because the gold was so much lighter than the gravel. I was flabbergasted at what I’d just read. I mean come on, who doesn’t know that gold is heavier than just about everything else? I thought, “It’s the other way around, you idiot!” I almost called the cops on the guy. Needless to say, I tossed his book.




Which raises the importance of research. If you’re going to describe anything at all, then do your research and do it thoroughly. Get the facts and get them right. Diligent research is a big part of the writing process, and a crucial responsibility to your audience.

 

 

Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?

 

Ken: Only to say thanks again for this, that I’m still having fun with my new gig as an author, and to look for the third C.E. Brody novel in late 2022.  





 

An Excerpt from: YUKON JUSTICE (scheduled for release in late 2022).

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

 

Excerpt From Yukon Justice © 2021 by Ken Baird

 

ONE

 

The man in the back of my plane was in a body bag.

        At least I assumed he was a man, judging by the length of the lump inside.

        I’d just taken off from Franklin Lake, which is a hundred miles north of where I live, a dot on the map called Minto, on the Klondike Highway, in the Yukon.

        Two cops had loaded the bag into the cargo bay and told me to fly it to Whitehorse. They said some other cops would be waiting there to unload it. Of course they wouldn’t tell me who was in the bag, but seeing as how yesterday I’d flown a Yukon conservation officer into the very same Franklin Lake, and seeing as how the only other access into the lake was a trail still waist deep in snow, well I had a pretty good idea of who it was.

        Which was damn depressing.

        Because he was a nice guy.

        And just a kid.

        Which had me wondering what might have happened to him.

        I took off and climbed to three thousand feet, leveled off, eased back the throttle, and with a heavy heart pointed my old plane south.

       

        Naturally the cops weren’t going to trust a bush pilot like me with a dead guy in a body bag, and so I was accompanied on the flight by a Constable E. Saunders of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Saunders was a fierce looking woman with a crew cut, the personality of a fence post, and a body made out of concrete blocks. I’d met her last summer in Whitehorse where she’d given me a two hundred and fifty dollar ticket for using my cell phone while driving my truck.

        We didn’t exchange Christmas cards.

        She was sitting beside me in the only other seat in my plane, frozen like stone, hands clenched between her knees, face white as a sheet. She was fixated on the console, breathing in short gasps, except whenever we hit a bump and she’d stop breathing altogether.

        Guess she didn’t like flying.

        An hour later with Whitehorse on the horizon, I got up my nerve and decided to pop the question. With the press of a button on the wheel, I jutted my thumb over my shoulder and asked, “So who’s in the bag?”

        Constable Saunders didn’t respond though I knew she could hear me through the big green headphones on her head, same as the ones I was wearing. You’ve got to wear ear protection in my plane, the big radial engine is loud, and like it or not she’d had to remove her Mountie hat to put them on.

        “Is his name Blake? I flew a guy named Blake into Franklin Lake yesterday, but hey, I guess you knew that already. Right?”

        She said nothing, didn’t move, and remained transfixed on the console.

        “So what happened?” I said.

        Still the silent treatment. I gave her a good long look and could see she was in a personal battle to keep her lunch down. I know the signs all too well when a passenger is about to lose that fight. First they start burping, little ones at first, then the burps get bigger and more frequent and their cheeks will inflate with each one. It’s only a matter of time after that.

        I kept an eye on her, waiting and watching. The next time she burped her cheeks puffed up like tennis balls. “Hey,” I said, “if you’re going to be sick use that bag in the pocket beside you, or that fancy hat of yours for all I care. But don’t upchuck on the floor or I’ll have to add a cleanup fee to your bill.”

        When she turned and glared at me, I glared back and said, “It’s two hundred and fifty dollars.”

*  *  *

 


 

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Ken. Wishing you all the success you deserve.

 

 


 

 

For all you exceptional readers wanting to discover more about Ken and his stories, please follow these links:

 

Yukon Audit | Eyes & Ears Book Blog (wordpress.com)

Mystery/Thriller Book Review: Yukon Revenge by Ken Baird. Ken Baird, $18.95 trade paper (606p) ISBN 978-0-9973175-2-7 (publishersweekly.com)

Yukon Audit - Amazon 

Yukon Revenge - Amazon



Next week, June 19th, Author Marjorie Mallon will be back.