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Christmas Letters

MICHAEL SHAWN MCCALLEY
Michael Shawn McCalley Author Interview

30 Chicago Christmases is a collection of personal letters you’ve sent during the holidays over the last 30 years. Why was this an important book for you to publish?

I have asked myself what I would grab from my house in a hurry were it burning to the ground. The obvious answer was my collection of end-of-year Christmas letters that I have been keeping in a 3-ring binder. I did not want to reach the end of my life without leaving behind any indication of having been here. I did not want to reach the end of my life without sharing what I have learned or observed. In publishing this book filled with holiday-themed correspondence, my hope was that others might benefit from the insights that have come from my experiences.

Your 30th year-in-review letter will be in 2020. This is a difficult year for everyone, but was there anything specifically personal to this year for you?

During the earliest and most restrictive phases of the pandemic lock-down, I never identified with the oft-spoken adage that “we’re all in this together.” Despite technology which has allowed for telework and electronic forms of communication, I have felt greatly distanced from a sense of normal and from other people. Christmas 2020 looks to take place under a lock-down. My hope when writing this book is that it would be a way to connect with people, with activities, and with traditions at a time when get-togethers and travel might be inopportune.

Was there anything that surprised you when you went back to look at these letters for this book?

No, I cannot say that I was surprised by anything. What I had written was consistent with my memories of what I had described. My letters did include some details that I might have forgotten had they not been put to paper. What I did feel was a sense of affirmation with respect to the choices I have made and that my life feels like it is headed in the right direction going forward.

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

I want readers to appreciate how beneficial and significant writing can be to a sense of well-being. I do not wonder where the years have gone because I have got a record of what I have done with them. Others who write can experience that same sense of satisfaction in being able to account for how they have spent their time on planet earth or at least avoid that sense of loss felt by non-writers who wonder how time got away from them.

Author Links: Facebook | Amazon

My name is Michael McCalley, and 30 Chicago Christmases is the first book I have authored. Before now, my writing outside of work had been limited to personal correspondence and accounts of travels when I have taken a vacation. Many people have told me how much they enjoy my letters which I consider my favorite compliment. What I write also tends to be short, generally no more than a few thousand words. Never would I have considered myself an author or a writer of an entire book. But then the pandemic hit. I coped with lockdowns and restrictions by writing more than usual. During this time, I successfully recovered the most aged of some lost “year-in-review” Christmas letters which I had stored on some old floppy disks. They go back continuously to Christmas 1991. Beginning with the 2009 Advent season, additional mailings detailing the build-up toward Christmas in the Windy City supplemented the annual letters sent to my parents. The year-in-review letter sent for 2020 is my 30th. My pandemic project has been the compilation of all my holiday correspondence into what has become 30 Chicago Christmases. At times, it may read as a reflective memoir intended for those interested in personal growth and development. The book is also an account of how Christmas is observed in Chicago, which is part current history and part travelogue. I chronicle the happenings downtown, in my neighborhood, at work, and at home. Vivid descriptions of activities and events which make the Yuletide special in the Windy City put the reader at the center of the festivities. This book will delight readers who want the experience of a Chicago Christmas for themselves and to share with others.

Science and Speculative Fiction

Clayton Graham Author Interview
Clayton Graham Author Interview

Looking for Life is a collection of thought-provoking and fun science fiction stories. What was the inspiration behind this collection of stories?

Imagining universal situations and populating them with fascinating characters, usually with a dilemma to solve—now that’s an infinite depository of inspiration. After all, the stories may all be true, or become true in the future [or is it the past?

The size of this universe, the possibility of other universes and dimensions; they are all a source of wonder to me. They are also a cradle of countless possible happenings—just by the act of being there. It’s a challenge, yes, but it’s also a load of fun. And if you can make ends meet, so to speak, there’s a wonderful sense of satisfaction in completing a short story; any story really.

My favorite story from the collection is ‘Looking for Life’. Do you have a favorite or stand out story from the collection?

That’s a bit like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. ‘Looking for Life’ covers many facets of science and speculative fiction, but if you twisted my arm it would be a battle between ‘Desperate Times’ and ‘Looking for Life’ and ‘Mother’. And it would be a prolonged battle with no outright winner.

Did you write these stories for this collection or did you write them separately over time?

I certainly didn’t compile the stories one after the other with a view to hurriedly compiling a collection. I write a short story when an idea surfaces, and it may lie fallow for a quite a while before it clamours to join the nest of possible publications. I would say the majority of these stories were written over the past two or three years. But they are well-loved creations and never leave my mind.

Do you have plans to publish more works of short stories? Or possibly expand on a short story?

‘Looking for Life’ follows on from my first collection of short tales ‘Silently in the Night’, which was published in 2018. I guess that means I enjoy writing them. In between, I have also written three novels, so they are a love also. Currently my prime focus is writing the third book in the ‘Milijun’ series.

I often get reviewers or team members asking about expanding a short story into a novel, one particularly in ‘Looking for Life’ was ‘Mother’, which may very well suit that scenario. I think that ‘Worthy of Consideration’ would also fall into the basket.

However, I have never done it yet, but I guess it would be a new challenge. It’s nice to know something is there that readers appreciate and could serve as an inspiration for future tales.

Author Links: GoodReads Facebook Website

Strap in, turn down the lights, and enter worlds that will stretch your imagination to the full…

From a stranded alien comedian to the darkest depths of the human psyche; from a mind-blowing galactic adventure to clandestine extraterrestrial behaviour on Earth. They’re all here in this spell-binding collection of short stories to keep you guessing at every turn.

With tales of alien invasion, deep space mystery, time travel, and dystopian future Earths, this is a collection which takes inspiration from the much respected ‘old masters’ of Science Fiction. Here be new realms to explore—can you cross the void and challenge your dreams?

Explore Looking for Life and escape to strange and wonderful new worlds. From the author of Milijun, Amidst Alien Stars, Saving Paludis, and Silently in the Night.

Thankfully In Love

Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology by [Anna J. Stewart, Kayla Perrin, Melinda Curtis, Cari Lynn Webb]

Parker is running again. She thought she was done, but her past has found her once again. It only took one short note in an envelope to bring the life she had worked so hard to establish to a screeching halt. Miranda has been ghosted. She can’t imagine what she’s done to deserve it, yet here she is right before the holidays with no one to bring home. When her friends suggest someone from her past, Miranda is less than enthusiastic. Claire’s close-call wedding is a year behind her, and she is struggling to balance her four-year-old, her job, and her emotions. When she meets up with Drew, she begins to connect the dots she thought were long behind her. Kelsey, dealing with the prospect of impending blindness, is beginning to give up on happiness in all respects.

Thankfully in Love, a holiday anthology compiled and edited by Lezli Robyn, follows the plights of four young women all carrying emotional weights almost too heavy to bear. All four of these main characters offer readers relatable story lines and hope for happy endings. Robyn has managed to pull together four fantastic examples of short stories centered around family dynamics, the hectic hubbub of the holiday season, and of course, the chance to find true love.

I especially enjoyed “No Place Like Home,” by Anna J. Stewart. While somewhat more of a thriller than the other three stories, it offers readers who enjoy mysteries and an element of drama a little something to sink their teeth into from the first chapter. A close second is “Dog-Gone Holiday,” by Melinda Curtis. Curtis’s main character, Claire, is fighting to get over a marriage she never achieved. Her son is her world, and she isn’t sure what her future holds romantically. Claire is a highly relatable character with whom readers will sympathize.

“Second Chances,” by Kayla Perrin features Miranda, a young woman who rediscovers a love she never knew she felt after being ghosted by her current love interest. Miranda’s story is intriguing in that she is quite reluctant to rekindle a friendship she thought she lost after high school. Her story will make readers feel nostalgic for their own former friendships and almost-relationships. “Love Guides the Way,” by Cari Lynn Webb, is perhaps the most specific of the four stories. Kelsey, facing blindness, is dealing with finding love and the prospect of how her future partner may feel about her disability.

The four very different short stories within Thankfully in Love give readers quick but substantial stories, relatable main characters, and a sense of satisfaction. A great read for the holidays. I highly recommend Robyn’s anthology to anyone looking for a sampling of fantastic love stories.

Pages: 300 | ASIN: B08D3TBSTJ

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A Blessing and a Curse

Eli Gilic
Eli Gilic Author Interview

Slaves to Desire is a collection of short stories that tells provocative stories about the world’s great writers, literary characters and artists. What was your inspiration for the stories in this collection?

I have translated erotica bestsellers, wasn’t particularly thrilled with them and wondered why nobody writes erotica that I would like to read: stories that would move me or make me think twice about something, stories that have something to say instead of only offering a romance with steamy bedroom scenes. And then I concluded that there must be more people like me and decided to write that kind of book so we can enjoy it.

These stories explore complex issues that are inherent to the human condition. What were some ideas that were important for you to explore?

Does unconditional love exist or is it only a myth ‒ I tried to explore that in the story of George Sand and Frederic Chopin. Does easy access really kill romance and inspire deviations, as Rasputin muses during his existential crisis during an orgy. Is free will an illusion and everything that we think and feel is actually ancestral heritage, as Hamlet and Ophelia try to find out when they escape Shakespeare’s scroll? Can loneliness be a blessing and a curse at the same time, as Van Gogh struggles to find out? Can a relationship between two headstrong partners who don’t want to make compromises, like Dostoevsky and Polina Suslova, work? What would a man facing death think about, as Lorca does in his final moments?

How did you decide what historical and literary figures to include in your collection?

That one was easy, I included my favorite figures, Charles Baudelaire, Antonin Artaud, Salvador Dali, Van Gogh… They are fascinating and their lives were equally fascinating. I really enjoyed researching their lives since I tried to portray the background of all historical figures as accurately as possible. As for the literary figures, Anna Karenina and Romeo and Juliet made me think the most in high school so I wished to honour them in my first book.

Do you have plans to publish future works of short stories?

I am writing my second collection of short stories, equally dark and thought-provoking. Harry Houdini and Antoine de Saint-Exupery are among my new characters.

Author Links: GoodReads | Instagram | Facebook | Website

Charles Baudelaire, Rasputin, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Ophelia, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Sand, Frederic Chopin, Vincent Van Gogh, Antonin Artaud, Maria Izquierdo, James Joyce, Federico Garcia Lorca, Salvador Dali.

Can Rasputin find redemption through the sins of others? What awaits Anna Karenina on the other side? Does passion still flow through the veins of the lovers from Verona? Can Hamlet and Ophelia escape their fate? Is Van Gogh’s loneliness a blessing or a curse? And can Dali dispel Lorca’s fear.

Eli Gilić deftly weaves fact and fiction to bring some of the world’s great writers, literary characters, artists and composers to life as they reach the heights of passion and the depths of despair in this mesmerising erotic short story collection.

My Personal Escapist Vessel

Dorian Keys
Dorian Keys Author Interview

Morning Star is a collection of short science fiction stories that are connected through a central theme. What was the inspiration behind this collection of stories?

Inception for Morning Star began sometime late 2019. I was waiting for the first round of the sequel to Imprint Legacy to finish while engaging fellow authors on social media. Very often, Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images were posted there, and I soon found out that I had a story for most of them. Initially, all of them were short, about fifty words or so, and I decided to post a few stories on my website.

After the eighth or ninth story came about, I decided to line them up and put them in a collection.

The stories are not connected, therefore I had to get creative and come up with a narration device to glue them together. I loosely drew inspiration from some books I read when I was a child, mainly One Thousand and One Nights.

Were these stories written separately over time or were they written for this book?

There are a couple of stories there that were not written for this book but I felt they would fit nicely there. ‘The Missing 32’ is a side story for the Imprint Legacy book and sequel, for example. Pretty much all the other stories were written, edited and inserted in the book during the global pandemic of 2020.

You could say that Morning Star is my personal escapist vessel. And all readers are welcome to jump in. I have many more stories to tell.

My favorite story from the collection was The Experiment. Do you have a favorite story from the book?

I wrote all those stories, I love all of them equally, however two of them evolved quite a lot. One of them is ‘I.R.I.S.’ the other is ‘Hansel.’

My goal was to try and write a story for everyone. It is quite interesting to hear favorite reader stories. So far, every reader has a different story they enjoy.

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

Having finally released Morning Star, I can now resume with round two of the sequel of Imprint Legacy.

The sequel is now at almost 70 thousand word mark. However more refining is needed. I would like to release it sometime before April 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Let me tell you a story that will tell you twelve.

Upon arrival at its designated planet, Helsey 8K, Seedship Morning Star suffers a catastrophic accident. An asteroid rips through its cockpit’s bridge connector, killing 2 and stranding Captain Irene Deris within.

Irene’s best way to remain calm and collected throughout the ordeal of her rescue and beyond: a book, written by ship’s first pilot, Adam.

She is eventually recovered by her crew, but even though that part of her journey is over, she finds herself compelled to keep reading.

Her intrigue is piqued by stories about mechas starting a new universe, in a new dimension. Artificial intelligence will deceive alien invaders to save her human love. A teddy bear will save a child’s life and a demon will roam the Earth.

Stunningly questionable decisions will turn experiments into nightmares, authorities will be duped by mysterious abductors and broken hearts will get their revenge.

Read together with Irene as she saves the Morning Star and prepares to begin a whole new life.

The Candid Nature of Humanity

Eliot Parker
Eliot Parker Author Interview

Snapshots is a collection of short stories that explores who we are in moments in time and how that can change. What was the inspiration behind this collection of stories?

I have been working on the story collection, periodically, since 2011. I primarily write thriller novels. However, I often found that working on short stories was a great way to keep my creativity for writing high and also provided a good break from writing the thriller genre. I wanted to write a collection of stories that takes readers on an exploration of the human psyche and the candid nature of humanity. These stories display a blend of emotions, and it unveils many of the demons of real-life.

‘Hands’ was my favorite story from the collection. Do you have a favorite, or stand out, story from the collection?

I love all of the stories in the collection for various reasons. One of my favorite stories is Old Lady, which features a woman named Rachel who is struggling to move on from the death of her beloved husband, Peter. She is in a relationship with a wonderful and handsome man named Mason, but there is a tangible, physical item that Rachel will not get rid of that bothers Mason and the item keeps Rachel from committing completely (both emotionally and physically) to Mason. Later in the story, Rachel encounters a plucky little girl who teaches here the importance of love and moving on from emotional pain. I loved Rachel as a character. There is an emotional rawness to her character, and she is hurting so badly, but trying to move on with her life. I enjoyed spending time with her in the story. I should also mention that I get more comments from readers about Old Lady than any other story in the collection.

What were some ideas you wanted to explore in your stories?

Each of the eleven unrelated stories is character-driven with distinctive settings and twisted, unanticipated happenings.  Some of the plots involve the paranormal, with strange, eerie happenings. Other plots resonate today’s contemporary life. All the stories climax or culminate with strong, unexpected endings. 

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

I have just finished a new thriller novel titled A Final Call, which is a sequel to my other thriller titled Code for Murder, featuring Cleveland Homicide Detective Stacy Tavitt. It will be out in late 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter | Website

Each story within Snapshots places the characters in situations where their past behaviors will be changed in a moment that is like a snapshot picture: freezing in time who they are in a moment but facing new challenges that will alter that snapshot and create a new reality.

Eudora Welty’s quote “A good snapshot keeps a moment from going away” is a theme that permeates all of the stories in Eliot Parker’s collection of short stories, Snapshots. These stories are set in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky. In the plots of the stories, the makeup of the characters is more interesting and important than the circumstances that the characters find themselves trying to manage. Each protagonist finds themselves in a complicated set of personal and professional relationships. By their nature, relationships are complicated. The protagonists in these stories are shaped by their backgrounds, life experiences, and expectations of other people. Conflicts arise for these protagonists when decisions and choices made by others alter the expectations and circumstances expected by the protagonists.

In each of these stories, the lives, values, and beliefs held by the characters are deconstructed and each of them face a new reality brought on by an experience or situation that forces them to reexamine who they are and who they need to become. Each of these characters occupy a variety of professional spaces: cops, a rich, successful couple, convicted criminals, and others grieving the loss of a loved one and grieving the absence of love.

Looking for Life: A Collection of Science Fiction Short Stories

Looking for Life: A Collection of Science Fiction short stories by [Clayton Graham]

Looking for Life by Clayton Graham is an enthralling collection of science fiction short stories. They’re fast-paced adventurous intergalactic romps that are by turn, nail-biting and hilarious. Without giving too much away, my favorites definitely included the title tale and somewhat doom-filled (in the best way!) “Looking for Life” and the oddly philosophical “The Comedian” Nearly all of the seventeen stories have a twist at the end that was either thought-provoking or made me laugh.

Clayton Graham has a wonderful way of storytelling: he’s not a wax-lyrical author. He writes in a manner that is concise and gripping without giving too much away. And even though there is very little slow-burn element to the stories, he manages to structure the dialogue and action in such a way that it’s hard to put down any of the stories. The characters are limited by their own flaws and very realistic- making them oddly endearing. Surprisingly enough, even the plots are realistic- which is a commendable feat for any science fiction story. I suppose this is a combination of the author’s prowess and the way the stories depict alien life rooted in the same everyday realities as human life.

There’s definitely an element of dark humor throughout, lending to a somewhat philosophical theme to all the stories. I felt pleasantly detached and chin-scratchy after finishing the stories. There’s basically every conceivable sci-fi plot from deep space conspiracies to Artificial Intelligence to alien invasions- all of them unique and immersive.

It’s often the case with short stories that some of them are duds. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t find myself feeling like any of the seventeen didn’t belong or were disappointing. Some of them I definitely enjoyed more than others, but they’re all individual gems.

I’d recommend this to not only science-fiction fans, but also anyone who enjoys a solid action-adventure romp. It’s a fun ride that kept me entertained without asking too much of my time and keeping all of my attention.

Pages: 202 | ASIN: B08DLK6PMS

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Elegance of the Prose

Joe Giampaolo
Joe Giampaolo Author Interview

Hampshire Stories is a collection of dramatic short stories set in Victorian England. What draws you to the Regency/Victorian period of England?

I have always enjoyed the 1800s, its historical events, literature, and arts. Having been born in Rome, where the architecture and the art of that period are still very evident, I always felt a fascination and an attraction for the 19th-century. Also, I am an avid reader of 19th-century English literature. What draws me to the literature of the period is the elegance of the prose and the emphasis on courtship and romanticism in their novels.

What were some sources of inspiration that informed your writing?

As I said, I am an avid reader of 19th-century literature and my favourite authors of the period are George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Margareth Oliphant, Elizabeth Gaskell, Jane Austen, and Charlotte Bronte.

My favorite story from the collection is ‘A Forbidden Love’. Do you have a favorite story from the book?

I am partial to ‘Emma has a Lover’ and ‘Frederick.’ I really enjoy the dialogue in these two short stories which somewhat reminds me of the dialogue in some of my favorite Jane Austen novels.

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

My next book is a novella called ‘A Farmer’s Daughter.’ The heroine of the story is Charlotte, whom we have met briefly in ‘Hampshire Stories.’ I am planning to publish it in the summer of 2021.

Author Links: Facebook | Amazon

‘Hampshire Stories’ is a collection of short narratives set in nineteenth-century England. This collection was written with particular attention to historical accuracy and is recommended for teen and adult readers who enjoy witty, whimsical love stories or poignant, heartfelt dramas of the Regency and Victorian periods. While the collection was first published on Wattpad, in late 2019 and early 2020, it attracted the attention of thousands of readers from more than 30 countries. You will enjoy this voyage into the passions, intrigues, and lives of everyday people of nineteenth-century England.
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