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Dogs Have Beautiful Souls

Andrea Hahnfeld Author Interview

The Marvelous Misfits of Westminster follows a dog show judge who needs to connect two dogs with mystical abilities that can save lives. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

I wondered what would happen if one would not breed dogs for looks but for their souls. Every dog owner knows: Dogs have beautiful souls and unique souls. Out of that idea grew The Marvelous Misfits… and what better place for them to first appear than in the World’s most famous dog show?

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Most important to me is the theme of the shadow. I’m fascinated so many of us are haunted by shadows – invisible to anyone but us, but real and dangerous nonetheless. Edith is inspired by my grandmother who took her life and whom I imagine being haunted by shadows. To me, the story has a very painful, personal layer. 

What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer in this short story?

Actually, The Marvelous Misfits of Westminster is my debut, and I’m quite proud of it for various reasons. One reason is, that it was the first time I resolved to alter and tweak the story until it worked. It took me a lot of feedback from fellow writers and readers and even more revisions to get it to the final version. Now it is that mystical story that contains a deeper truth – and reflects exactly what I wanted to write. It’s just so satisfying getting a story to the page close to what you imagined it to be in your head.

What is the next story that you’re writing, and when will it be published?

Currently, I’m working on another Misfits story. This time, Harvey and Irving are saving a guitar player who has lost his hand and his will to live. The story is in its early stages, but I strive for publication in 2024. Nevertheless, a new book is being published this year: The Gift of Love. It’s a charming picture book for grown-ups about a couple of weird monsters who get a strange present at their wedding, and by caring for their present, learn what love really means. It features wonderful illustrations by the talented Ukrainian artist Anastasia Khmelevska and makes the perfect wedding gift.

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook | Website

What if dogs were not only man’s best friend – but also his last hope? Clement is a disgraced dog show judge whose wife, Edith, left him under mysterious circumstances. When he is asked to step in as a last-minute substitute to judge at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, he learns two things: Edith is about to be killed by a shadow and it’s up to him to prevent it.
According to the Hunts, the only way to save Edith is making sure Irving, a hideous mongrel dog with special abilities, wins Best in Show.

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen by Cameron A. Straughan is a collection of twenty-three chronological short stories about the day-to-day life of Anthony Zen. As illogical as this book may seem, the character is not fazed by the absurd adventures he has to face on a daily basis. Anthony is a man who runs to work without pants, owns a cat named Monty that rings, and finds this wacky behavior normal. This humorous tale of a man who lives his life to the fullest is wildly creative and entertaining. This eccentric story is full of shenanigans and outrageous creatures. It is a creative tale with backward logic that makes you laugh.

The book is brimming with wildly imaginative shenanigans and outrageous creatures that are sure to keep readers entertained. The writing is sophisticated and free of grammatical errors, making it a joy to read. Although I think the book would benefit from illustrations, the quality of the writing and the depth of the characters is enough to engage readers and take them on a journey through Anthony’s surreal world.

While most books with eccentric worlds have a set of rules that guide the reader, The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen does not. The author adds details seemingly at random, leaving readers in a state of anticipation, never knowing what to expect next. This unpredictability adds to the entertainment value and keeps readers in suspense.

The book’s structure is broken up in a way where each chapter functions as its own individual story, but the book consistently follows Anthony’s overall narrative. This non-traditional approach to storytelling is refreshing and makes the book stand out.

The Surreal Adventures of Anthony Zen is a well-written and creative book that offers a unique take on storytelling. It is certainly an enjoyable one that will leave readers both amused and engaged.

Pages: 191 | ASIN : B088LQF344

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Oliver the Oyster and the Cheerless Clam

Oliver the Oyster and the Cheerless Clam is an enchanting children’s book in the coastal town of Wellfleet, MA. The story introduces readers to Clara the Clam, a newcomer to the harbor who has faced difficult times and feels down. But, with the help of her new friends, including Oliver the Oyster, Cathy the Crab, and Miriah the Mermaid, Clara discovers the key to a happy life.

J.B. Auchter provides readers with a heartwarming story of friendship, kindness, listening to others, and not letting the fear of the unknown stop you from being happy. The vivid illustrations and descriptions of the harbor, the living creatures, and the surrounding environment transport young readers to the seaside world and spark their imagination.

Each page is filled with exciting information about the sea, enticing young readers and leaving them yearning for more. Through the characters in the story, Clara learns that everyone sometimes feels sad, but they don’t let that stop them from being happy. I appreciated that Clara’s friends supported her and worked together to cheer her up. This is a great message for readers: the right friends will nurture and value your opinions and emotions. The message in this book is solidified with every chapter with relatable content and allows the reader to come to the basic conclusion that life is hard and we all go through tough times, but friends who listen and give their time can make a sad time a fun time.

The book’s beautiful illustrations, charming characters, and engaging storyline make it an excellent addition to any children’s library. Oliver the Oyster and the Cheerless Clam is a must-read childrens book for young readers who love adventure, friendship and learning about the wonders of the natural world.

Pages: 127 | ASIN : B0BHKZFS34

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Crafting Something Creepy

Ray LeCara Jr. Author Interview

Dark Awakenings is a collection of haunting short stories that take readers into the darkness and show them the horrors that are hidden in the dark. What was the inspiration for this collection of stories?

Each was inspired by something different. Written some time ago, “The Awakening” was my take on the vampire genre. “Mabel” is a twist on a story I cover with my Creative Writing students. It is much darker in tone and turns the original plot on its head.  “Keynote,” a twist on something I saw on television as a child, is a risky effort. Reminiscent of The Twilight Zone or The Night Gallery episodes, it can be difficult and even offensive to read if the point is overlooked. These three may be the most unsettling, with “Mabel” perhaps more so once the reader pieces together what happened.

“The Oracle Board” is a creepy story inspired by real events that occurred during Ouija Week when I was a college freshman. How this impacts the reader will depend on their faith and any experience they may have had with a Ouija Board.

“Hear More” was inspired by a number of things… people, events, and dreams. It didn’t come alive for me, though, until I was able to bring in Father David Tomassi and Joseph Carpenter. These are characters from The Forgotten Prophecy , my debut novel.   “Hear More” continues their story within an already established world set in the early 1980s. I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of hearing aids in a paranormal world. Imagine how torturing it would be to literally hear more than the average person, especially if it was the taunting voice—or voices—of evil at every turn. That the individual is an aged exorcist further complicates matters . Exploring faith and mental faculties in an aging state, I think, adds layers to this story even in its brief form. 

What intrigues you about the horror and paranormal genres that led you to write this book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the genre because of intense dreams and past paranormal experiences. The challenge is putting those experiences into words, crafting something creepy enough that is haunting in its brief form no matter how it is unpacked and unique enough to hopefully be different from what already exists.

The thrilling part about writing short fiction is that the crafting of these bite-sized moments may bring about more questions than answers, leaving it to the reader to fill in the blanks. That’s the way I felt as a reader when I was a kid. Some of the collections I read as a youngster remained with me far longer than any novel because they were left open to my interpretation. Then again, it didn’t help that I dreaded the shadows even though I was certain there was no one in the room. Like when I’d have to traverse a dark basement in search of the light switch. Remember what that was like? That was the aim. 

How did you decide on the title of this novel?

I released three short story collections in 2022. The original intent was to put them together in a larger collection, but I couldn’t think of a fitting title. I think it was because they were all so different. It was only after deciding to separate them by genre that the titles revealed themselves. For this specific collection, the title makes sense since each of the protagonists are literally awakened to some form of darkness surrounding them. 

Do you plan to write another collection of horror stories, or will you branch out into a new genre?

The next horror story will most likely be a sequel to The Forgotten Prophecy, but knowing I could also revisit any one of these shorts to expand on their story and further build that world is inviting. The question is would it be as exciting as what readers come up with when they fill in the blanks?

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Dark Awakenings. Five stories about characters unexpectedly awakened to the darkness surrounding them. Those haunted places hidden in the shadows but always within the periphery. The places seldom talked about but very much feared. Get ready for tales so creepy and unnerving you may want to leave the lights on. You’ve been warned.

Here Are the Pros and Cons When You Decide to Bring the Bedroom to Work!!

Here Are The Pros and Cons When You Decide To Bring The Bedroom To Work by Melissa Owens is a gritty and unflinching look at the complexities and nuances of dating a co-worker. Through a series of short stories, the author delves into the various scenarios that can arise when personal and professional lives intersect. From falling in love with a co-worker who is already in a relationship to the aftermath of a breakup when the employer is dating an employee, Owens paints a realistic picture of the pros and cons of dating someone at work and the potential impact on one’s job.

Owens masterfully crafts vivid scenarios. After reading the first few stories in this book, readers would be led to believe that Owens aims to create a didactic work with her writing where workplace romance is absolutely bad news. But stories like ‘EMT and Outreach Counselor’ as well as ‘Maintenance Man’ cast new light on how different the outcome of bringing the bedroom to work can be.

Through these relatable tales, Owen astutely illustrates the pros and cons of workplace romance while weaving in valuable life lessons. One of the standout features of the book is the author’s unfiltered writing style. The language is raw and unapologetically graphic, making the characters feel all the more realistic and genuine while distinguishing this book as a ‘tell-it-as-it-is’ book. Although there is little artistic polishing to the writing, any form of aesthetic relish that can be enjoyed from it can only come from how easily the stories flow. It all ties up to make it an easy and enjoyable read despite the weighty subject matters it explored.

The author does not shy away from tackling controversial topics such as power imbalances and harassment, and she presents them in a way that is both honest and sensitive. Here Are The Pros and Cons When You Decide To Bring The Bedroom To Work is a valuable resource for anyone considering dating a colleague and anyone who wants to learn more about the complexities of workplace relationships.

Pages: 100 | ASIN : B09H7R93YW

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Unlike Anything I’ve Read

Ray LeCara Jr Author Interview

Of Space & Time is a collection of thought-provoking short stories about humans’ colonization of space and the challenges that come with this adventure. What was the inspiration for this collection of stories?

“Invasion” was one of a few early shorts I wrote that would become Future Destiny, the first book in the YA Torn Timeline series. This piece of flash fiction was initially part of a twenty-page treatment dreamed up on a drive home from a friend’s house, where the character HAMIL-E was born as an homage to my friend. A classroom teacher at the time, the character of Rustam was loosely based on me and HAMIL-E was his mentor.  I was having some fun because my friend was waiting for a story where he was a main character. After the seed was planted, the story then evolved from a fun playful exercise into a full-fledged sci-fi adventure.

“Tabitha” came out of COVID. “Rogue Moon” examines innovation that could be achieved a la Gene Roddenberry’s vision. That is, when all of society is brought together for a common purpose. Instead of the aftermath of war, however, it’s a threat from space that unites everyone.

“Batarakala” and “Goliath IX” were not composed as science fiction tales originally. “Goliath IX” was based on a beginning teacher’s first day of school and “Batarakala” was based on a couple facing marital problems. Adding science fiction elements to these two stories provided depth that didn’t exist initially.

Is there any moral or idea that you hope readers take away from this collection?

Rising to the occasion when the moment calls for it is one of the ideas I hope readers take away from “Invasion,” the first in the collection. But there’s also the idea that we don’t always know what we’re capable of until tested and we may not truly know people as much as we think we do.

“Rogue Moon” posits human evolution to possibly be the product of some extraterrestrial string pulling. The way the concept plays out is unlike anything I’ve read or seen before.

“Goliath IX,” though a space epic, challenges the notion of equality. Sort of a reflection of today. Can these ideals be upheld, or do they inevitably break down? What does that reveal about human nature?

“Tabitha” is meant to underscore the need to maintain hope even when it seems all hope is lost. 

“Batarakala” explores multiple ideas, from spouse loyalty and support to the loss of dreams to the definition of success and failure to the question of whether our lives are defined by where we come from.

What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?

When I was a child, I remember being obsessed with looking through a collection of short illustrated books of the planets that belonged to my father.  As I grew older, my fascination with science fiction only grew. Even today, I am drawn to anything released regarding the satellites and telescopes that take images of space phenomenon. When it comes to writing science fiction, I think Star Trek, the original series, and the six movies with the original cast have had the biggest impact. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica series and the Stargate SG-1 series were also impactful. But I always return to classic trek. The common thread in all of these is the elevation of story telling thanks to the genre. 

What is the next book that you are working on, and when will it be available?

After a busy 2022, I’ve shifted from writing to promoting two nonfiction titles that were released in November and December. One is a study skills workbook for young learners ( Essential Study Skills: A Holistic Guide to Learning). The other is a coaching book for those looking to transform their lives ( Who Are You, Really? The Search for Authenticity ).

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Of Space & Time is a collection of exciting science fiction shorts that hint at deeper meanings and larger narratives. 

Collection includes:”Goliath IX” – an L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Q2 2022 Honorable Mention recipient
“Batarakala” – an L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Q4 2022 Honorable Mention recipient
“The Invasion” –  flash fiction taken from Future Destiny, LeCara’s first book in The Torn Timeline series, a 2008 2nd place Spinetinglingers (UK) Book of the Year. Originally conceived before the novel as a writing exercise, it is the story that inspired–and set into motion–the larger narrative. 

That Unique Window Of Time

Barbara Black Author Interview

Music from a Strange Planet is a collection of short stories that explores thoughts and emotions in a unique and memorable way. What was the inspiration for this collection of stories?

The inspiration was the first story in the collection, “Mastering Surface Tension,” also one of the first short stories I wrote. It had a sense of humour, even pushing into magic realism, yet the subject matter (head injury) was serious. The story also involved an interaction with an insect that changed the character’s life and circumstances. It had a certain tone which became the blueprint for Music from a Strange Planet.

My approach was to write glimpses of people’s lives, to capture each of them at a crucial, intimate moment and to bring these experiences deep into the reader’s emotional sphere.

Your stories have interesting characters that span a range of personalities. What were some of the emotional and moral guidelines you followed when developing your characters?

My only moral guidelines, which would have been purely instinctual and not presupposed, were to recognize the character’s ability to move through a crisis and emerge changed, even if in the slightest way. Always, this passage through an unexpected event (whether negative or positive) was dictated by the character, not by me.

What experience in your life has had the biggest impact on your writing?

The moment in 2017 in Tyrol, Austria, when I test-drove my rental motorcycle (a Triumph Street Triple RS) in preparation for tackling the famous Silvretta High Alpine Road and immediately knew this was my perfect bike. It allowed me to ride with instinct. It let me take on challenges and go places I’d never thought possible. I had just started motorcycling in my 50s and, interestingly enough, I’d also just begun creative writing, too. And in that unique window of time, I learned to listen to my creative instincts, to take calculated risks, and to trust my unique voice and what fictional ideas it brought forth.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

My next book is a collection of flash and microfiction stories inspired by art, music, fairy tales, libations and the “authentic fabrications” of my ancestry. You’ll meet a lonely one-eyed monster who wanders the desert; a Medieval saint delighting in her “miraculous ruine”; a father and daughter saving species from extinction; a fisherman who falls in love with a giant herring …and much more. It’s a fertile microcosm of tales told with a nod to the absurd, the poetic and the tragic in life. The book is scheduled for release in Winter 2024.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website | Instagram

Off-beat, provocative, philosophical, Music from a Strange Planet traces the fault lines of identity and emotional attachment. Grief, tenderness, and longing soak the pages, admitting the reader into the intimate places of the heart: An awkward child envisions herself as a darkling beetle; an unemployed business analyst prefers water-walking over “rebranding” himself; after being kidnapped, a psychologist rejects the idea of marrying herself; and in the squatters’ district, a biogenetically-altered couple visits an attic to observe a large cocoon. From the ruins of a dystopian city to the inner self-created landscapes of a coma victim, this unique story collection places characters at the core of their vulnerabilities. With a masterfully crafted tone and a register that ranges from contemplative to comic, the subversive, immersive stories in this collection brim with humanity. Expect your planet to tilt a little to the strange after reading this engaging, vivid and incisive collection of stories.


Author Interview
Melissa Owens Author Interview

Regrets, Love, Sex and Life Lessons is a provocative collection of short stories that shows all the good and bad things that come with being an adult. Was there anything from your own life that you put into this collection?

My first story, ” 2 Imperfect people” came from my own personal experience. I am a Case Manager and a Mental Health Advocate, plus, When I was diagnosed with a mental health disorder, I was in a locked facility and I met a few good people there. 

I really enjoyed the story, ‘Love, Headache, and bad Timing’. Do you have a story that stands out to you from this collection?

My second story, “Country Carlton has taught me a true lesson in this thing called “Life”.  This story stands out because as women, sometimes we see what we want to see instead of seeing things for what they really are. We see the “RED FLAGS” and still continue to believe something different. I personally have a habit of turning my head to things that is so obvious, just so I don’t have to deal with it. It has “BACKFIRED” on me everytime.

What were some emotions that were important for you to portray in this collection?

As women, we naturally think with our heart and that is ok, but unfortunately severe heartache comes with it. Instead of being so quick to jump into a relationship, we should get to know the person and see if the situation is right for us and them. 

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?

Its ok to make mistakes in any relationship. Never feel ashamed for loving the wrong person. Never give up on love but just remember to love yourself first and everything will fall in place.

Author Links: Amazon | GoodReads

Regrets, Love, Sex and Life Lessons describes all the pros and cons of being an adult. As an adult, we make just as many mistakes as we did as a child or teenager, the only difference is now, we learn from it and take it as a “Lesson or Blessing”. You’re blessed to have experience passion, good sex and maybe “Love”. Or, you have learned a hard lesson on the difference between “Love and Lust “and “Need and Want”.
It seems as we get older, we always end up thinking with the “Wrong Head” and it always causes severe heart break or severe consequences.
One thing I can honestly say is, you’re not living your best life if you’re not making mistakes and you’re not truly an adult, if you’re not learning from them.
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