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Same Inside, Different Outside is a wonderful children’s book that teaches biology and promotes diversity. Why do you think this is an important message to teach children?
I’m a nursing professor and one of the courses I teach is on Culture and Cultural Concepts which has certainly changed my worldview. I thought I had a good understanding of the various cultures and their beliefs and practices, however, one of the big lessons I learned was that becoming culturally competent is a journey that can take a lifetime. This made me realize that we need to teach children at a very young age to celebrate their uniqueness yet understand how in many ways we are all very similar. As a nurse, I also believe that children need to learn about the inside and outside of their bodies and although some of the concepts may be difficult for a younger child it is never too early to start introducing concepts that can be built upon as they complete their educational journeys.
I loved the pictures in this book. What was the art direction like?
Thanks, I loved the pictures, too. I worked very closely with my illustrator. Initially, I placed notations throughout the manuscript detailing my ideas for the illustrations and where they should be placed. Xavier, of course, used his creative and artistic abilities to bring the illustrations to life. It was fun to collaborate with him on this project and we really worked well together. Final edits were completed based on the input of the Waldorf Publishing team which certainly strengthened the book.
What do you hope young readers take away from your story?
First, and foremost I hope the readers enjoy the story and want to read it over and over again. Secondly, I hope they begin to understand that although we are unique and look different on the outside we are also very similar, especially on the inside. Lastly, I hope they begin to understand how some of the major parts of their bodies work. And that skeletons are really not scary and are somewhat like superheroes because they protect all of our insides.
Will you be writing more kids books that tackle other social issues?
Yes, although I’m currently working on the second pug book I’m also in the early developmental stages of inviting the readers back to Emma’s kindergarten class where I will address other social issues that help children to understand that although in some ways we are very similar it’s okay to be different.
Today is a very exciting day for Emma’s kindergarten class. Emma, Robert, and the rest of the student’s don t understand how they can all look so different on the outside, but look very similar on the inside. So Dr. Shaw is coming to visit, and she’s bringing Mr. Bones, who is a real life-size skeleton. Mr. Bones is going to help Dr. Shaw teach her lesson about the human body. Dr. Shaw has also brought a cool body screening machine with her so the children can see what their insides look like.
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Capricorn follows Montague, a vigilante that delivers justice as he sees fit in a dystopian future where crime rules the city. What was your inspiration for this story and how did it develop as you were writing?
Capricorn was based on a poem I wrote in my late teens. The poem was basically Montague’s entire monologue in the first few pages of his introduction when he is describing the city as a cancer.
The character of Capricorn is purity, but with a childlike persona; which, when put into an adult woman, makes her appear to be crazy. Capricorn’s character is loosely based on Kai, who is kind of a strange, childlike girl in the PlayStation 3 game, Heavenly Sword.
I had much of the dialogue previously planned out before writing and I knew how it was going to end. The hard part was trying to make it feel justified. Montague had to find internal resolution and defeat his own demons. That’s why his 7 trials had to take place.
Montague is an intriguing character. I wasn’t able to pin down if he was an anti-hero or a good or bad guy, which was part of his appeal. What morals did you try to capture while developing his character?
Montague is someone who has given up on humanity. Everyone is a villain in his eyes. He abandons his own name in an attempt to forget his former self and become something similar to the angel of death. His job, he gave himself, is to bring some sort of balance back to the world and to do so means killing everyone who is unjust; which seems to be mostly everyone.
The only thing that makes him human is his compassion towards the innocents trapped in this city of violence. He saves a woman from being raped, but when a thief is murdered right in front of him he merely just walks over his dead body. He wants to protect good people, but at the same time believes there are no good people. This conflict puts him in a dark place.
I felt the backdrop of the crime ridden city was vividly developed. What themes did you want to use while creating your backdrop?
The main character of this story is the city itself. It’s tainted, dirty, rundown, and lying in ruins, but it remained this way because no one wanted to fix it. If you mixed the city in “The Book of Eli” and the city in “Judge Dredd” you would get the city in Capricorn. It’s a criminal’s paradise. It was never mentioned in the story, but you can almost imagine the sky being permanently overcast; it’s a type of hell and only Montague is fighting against it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it out?
I’m a world builder. I put a lot of time into crafting the landscapes and populating them with life and a history. Even before I begin writing a story I come up with names of places and things or animals and peoples. That’s where I am now; writing pages and pages of notes which will eventually become appendices. They are developed mostly for me so I can keep track of everything; adding them into the book for the fans is just a byproduct of my writing process.
In the aftermath of a civil war the city is in ruins and without order. Montague administers his idea of justice with his black steel sword until he discovers Capricorn. He becomes drawn to her and vows to protect her, but this is challenged when a group of thugs kidnap her.
Montague is sent on a determined rescue mission, but in order to succeed he must battle the thugs of the city and their leader. Montague finds himself on a path of seven trials in order to gain entry into Mammon’s domain to save the one he loves.
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Captive Threat is a genre-crossing novel with elements of espionage, mystery, and crime as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I began the novel with the basic plot and ending in mind but the plot got more complex and took unanticipated turns as the issues and characters developed. As a writer my view is you have to know where you’re going but keep an open mind as your characters and plot take on a life of their own.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. What was your inspiration for Wade’s character?
The Wade Hanna character as with most of my characters was inspired by real people I have known or worked with over a 40 year career as a forensic expert and having grown up in New Orleans. Each character takes on traits of different people I have known in the past.
What I enjoyed most in this story was the portrayal of complicated human emotions. What themes did you try to capture while creating your characters?
Much of the emotion in my characters comes from their unique personalities and how they interact under different levels of threat. The two main characters throughout the series are Wade Hanna and his co-agent and lover, Megan Winslow. Their relationship as agents often tests their personal relationship as lovers. In each novel I try to bring out the best or worst of their professional relationship and how that affects their personal relationship. Always ups and downs but in the end they are there for each other although not in the ways obvious to the reader. In many instances, Megan, for example takes the lead and can be stronger than Wade. She brings to bare a unique, tough feminine prospective to a clever, instinctive approach under the devious watchful eye of, Leo, the Black Ops commander.
This is the fifth installment in the Wade Hannah series and it leaves me wondering, where will Wade end up now?
Wade and Megan continue as a team in the sixth novel. Currently, I have two more novels planned for the couple as they continue their heart throbbing assignments while maintaining their personal relationship. The novels will venture on different types of assignments in different countries as they engage political espionage and mystery as they face an uncertain enemy and each other. Each novel will test character flaws of team members. Novel 6 has the added burden of Megan’s physical recovery from wounds suffered of her near-death experience in Captive Threat. Beyond the next two novels is unplanned and anybody’s guess. It may be another episode with these characters or an entirely new set of characters and plot. Stay tuned.
As the Vietnam War concludes an MIT professor, contracted to the NSA, leaks U.S. military secrets to the world. He is now America’s #1 traitor. Abducted by Soviet agents, he and his family are traded to North Vietnam.
Wade Hanna’s partner and lover, Megan Winslow, is forced into a witness protection program run by Army Intelligence. Haunted by PTSD flashbacks of her last mission Megan discovers she is being used as “bait” for another covert operation.
Escaping the witness protection program Megan finds sanctuary with Wade in the deep swamps of Louisiana. Wade is selected to head the mission to capture or terminate the #1 American traitor. To avoid being left behind in the swamp Megan must convince Wade she is fit for the new mission.
Wade’s covert intelligence team infiltrates the guarded jungle monastery where the professor is being held only to find their team is vastly outnumbered and outgunned by the opposition. Planned extraction of the target becomes impossible as Wade’s team faces imminent termination of the entire squad.
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A wonderful prize winning inspirational story and now a prize winning screenplay – who will leap to produce into film for the world? But ah how can they without the funds? The world will surely help …
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When Angels Fly is a gripping retelling of one woman’s personal and painful experience with life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write down the experiences from your life?
I became sick and I felt the need to take my journals and digitize them. I knew I would write a book eventually back in 1990. That year was a rough one for me and my family personally and I’ve kept journals most of my life. I had many stories to tell but I wasn’t quite ready mentally or emotionally in going headlong into a 300 plus page book. When 2013 rolled around, I knew then that I was going to put words and stories from my journals into digital format.
You do a wonderful job of capturing your emotions in every retelling. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
The hardest and most difficult part initially was actually going into and reading my journals from 1989 – 1990 as my first book is a memoir. I knew my book had to be written and I knew the many messages in my book needed to be published, so that hopefully I could help others through difficult times in their lives or the lives of others they knew. The timing was right as I had left nursing in December 2012. My first book was extremely difficult since the stories were real. Some days I could write one sentence and then I was done for the day. Other days I could write more.
On really tough days I wanted to just stop and sometimes I did for a week or so. Yet I knew in my mind that I needed to finish my book and get it out to the public. I knew all along what the beginning, middle and end would be and I wondered about publishing my book as well. Now that my book is published, I feel a deep sense of peace within myself.
You touch on topics like abuse, suicide and domestic violence. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
My book reaches a wide group from teenage on up to geriatrics and many facets of humanity itself. I know that my book will help others in dealing with such a wide variety of life’s issues, and that no one needs to feel alone in their own situation. My aim isn’t to convey only sadness and family dysfunction but to convey to others who have been in my situation (or similar) that strength and courage can be attained, and that there are options available. Women and men, too, can get out of abusive situations and the cycle of violence can stop. Losing two boys to Heaven changed my life forever. I want to encourage others who have suffered the King of Loss that anger at God is normal, and that faith in God will come back to them. I want those parents to know they are not alone. If a parent loses a child to a horrid illness, I want those parents not to feel misguided gilt. I want to encourage parents on how to be an advocate for their child and how to reach out for help when the pain overcomes them.
This book is a carefully crafted retelling of some of the most private moments of your past. But what about your future? What do you look forward to and how has your outlook on life changed?
I have made peace with the wrongs in my past. This doesn’t mean that those things never happened, the hurt is still there, but one must forgive others in order to move on in their life on this beautiful blue sphere called Earth. With my health so poor, I just take things day by day, and I try to spend as much quality time with immediate family as I can.
We often find ourselves daydreaming about what our futures will be like. This may be especially true if one lives in an environment most would consider less than desirable. Some are lucky to find their futures much like their childhood dreams. Others find the paths to their dreams strewn with hurdles.
Growing up, Sarah dodged her mother’s blows. She often hid in her room crying about her life. Still, she believes in her future and the happiness it can bring. In their book When Angels Fly, authors S. Stevens and A. Raymond tell Sarah’s story–their stories. The authors use their journals to describe Sarah’s experiences of family dysfunction, strength, courage, faith, abuse, grief, and so much more. You’ll read how, like many, she attempts to escape from her mother’s abuse through marriage. And like many, she learns it is not a viable alternative. Then Sarah experiences a parent’s ultimate tragedy twice, the deaths of her sons, Joshua and Eli.
When Angels Fly is about much more than the telling of a family’s tragedy. It is also the story of finding faith after it has wavered. Most of all, it’s a story of love lost and found.
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Day Moon is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a history, science fiction, and peeks at the future as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I would say it was a little of both. When I was first inspired to write the story I knew it would be set in the future and because of the nature of the premise it would start to pull in threads of science fiction. I also knew I wanted to include the quotes from Shakespeare to help reinforce the importance of the book Elliott’s grandfather gave him and to fill the novel with a contrast in sound and nature to highlight a key theme of the book. That is the conflict between the old world and the new emerging one. Elliott lives in an area caught in that struggle, which is fortunate because it lets him realize that there are aspects of this new world that are not just dangerous but incredibly sinister. I think for any theme to work well in a book, the author can take steps to draw out the theme, but ultimately there has to be that kind of organic innate vibe to a story and the prose in order to make it resonate the way it needs to. Since I’m by nature someone who thoroughly enjoys history and science fiction, and am a dreamer as well, I think those aspects of me got carried through strongly enough to Day Moon to accentuate those elements and hopefully imbue that old world meets new feeling.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
First of all I’m glad you found them to be so. I had a lot of fun with just about all of the characters and how they interacted, particularly Lara and Elliott as they sorted out their feelings for each other. It was kind of an unexpected pleasure to write Director Ohlmstadt’s character. He’s only physically in the novel briefly, but his presence and philosophy kind of ripple out and touch so many other characters. Whether they realize it or not, both of Elliott’s co-workers Kendra and Terrance have bought into his “whatever it takes to meet an end” ideals. Though Agent Amar also has that conviction, he wouldn’t attribute it to Ohlmstadt.
There are plenty of references and quotes to Shakespeare in this book. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
I used an online tool that lets you dig down into each of Shakespeare’s manuscripts and search them line by line and by keywords and phrases. That helped ensure I go the quotations right and I tried to keep them contextually and thematically in line with the original text’s spirit. It helped that I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s plays just about all of my life. I knew including them would be a way to ground people in the familiar as well. Most people know at least a little bit of Shakespeare, whether they realize it or not. And though I think Day Moon’s world already looks much like ours, with a futuristic veneer, I wanted to make sure people had some elements woven through it that they could reach out and relate to along the way.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on Veiled Sun, the next book in the Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy and its about 75% of the way through its first draft. Originally I meant for Day Moon to be a standalone but realized towards the end of what is Day Moon that the story arc was too big to reasonably fit in one novel. Particularly for a new-to-publishing author. Making it a trilogy has broken it up enough that the chunks should be manageable for readers and make it more appealing to my publisher. I’m hoping my publisher likes it and it can be out by mid or late 2018. Veiled Sun has some competition with me though, because I’ve had another manuscript that kicks off an epic fantasy series rooting around in my mind for almost ten years now. It’s been through multiple drafts and rewrites and finally taking a shape that I think makes it ready for publishing. I call it Quest of Fire, and I’m hoping it will find its way to readers by late 2018 as well.
In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.
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Stygian is a collection of poems that are presented as a poetic autobiography. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Great question. As you know the biographical material in Stygian shows that I had a very disturbing childhood, and the things that happened to me then have weighed on my mind for many years. I had to write this book in order to get my feelings about this stuff off my chest before I could ever write about anything else. Since the release of Stygian, I have written poems about the gold rush, politics, war, the discovery of King’s tut’s tomb, and so much more. I’m really interested in historical stuff right now. Stygian opened up a doorway of creativity to me by releasing me from the past. In writing this book, I learned quite a bit about the craft as well as myself.
My personal favorites are “The Man in the Box” and the “Endless Tunnels of Darkness” which are beautifully descriptive. What was your favorite poem in this collection?
Wow, let’s see. I love to utilize nature and animals in my writing so a couple of my favorites are “A Forest Called Madness” and “The Elusive Bird,” as well as “Lies Kill,” which features a purple elephant.
What I like most about this book was that it was frank and dark and didn’t hold back. What do you hope readers take away from Stygian?
I think that there is a stereotype attached to poetry that it is always lovey-dovey, flowery hillsides, and blue skies, but that certainly was not the case with Sylvia Plath or Edgar Allan Poe, nor is it with me. I hope that readers will see how powerful poetry can be and range of emotions, thoughts, and ideas that can be expressed in verse. Furthermore, I hope to inform the uninformed, but most of all I hope to touch a wounded soul, so that they know they are not alone, that no matter how broken one’s life seems there’s always the choice to build something beautiful from the ugly pain.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Since the release of Stygian, I have finished a complete autobiography, and compiled another collection of poems. I am also working on a full-length novel called Broken Homes. I’m usually working on a few projects at a time. Most recently, I had a short story called “A Murder of Crows” published in the British horror magazine, Morpheus Tales. I’ve had several other short stories and poems appear in on-line publications. Two of my poems have been accepted for a poetry anthology to come out sometime this year. I’m hoping to get a release date soon. My dear grandmother maintains a blog for me, where I post about my current life and opinions, give updates about my work, and talk about writing techniques.
Poverty, drugs, child abuse… The streets’ incarceration… Questions of life and contemplations of death, Stygian is the darker side of poetry collected from teen years into young adulthood and composed in homeless camps, churches and a jail cell. The emotion is raw, the poetry is real.
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Days Gone By follows Caleb as he struggles with agoraphobia and the loss of his nephew in a car accident. What made you want to write a story about this topic? Anything pulled from your life experiences?
There are a few things that are taken from my past. At the time of my writing Days Gone By my nephew was five years old. He is now seven and a joy to be around. No tragic car accident; however, I wanted to write a heartfelt, emotional, character-driven story and if I had to go through what Caleb did, I don’t know how I would deal with it, but hiding seemed like a safe choice; and that’s exactly what Caleb is doing.
Many of Caleb’s visitors are based on real people in my life. His grandfather, for one, is based on my Mother’s father who did live in The Azores, Portugal. His story he shared about a possible angel telling him to return home due to a dangerous road ahead was true. Since he also lived so far away I did not see him that much and do wish I had more memories with him.
Caleb’s Irish great, great, great grandmother is also mine from my father’s side who also emigrated to the U.S. from Cork, Ireland. Miss. Di Coco was my second grade teacher and Jessica was my real life childhood friend.
The writing in your story is very artful and creative. Was it a conscious effort to create a story in this fashion or is this style of writing reflective of your writing style in general?
To date all my books are adaptations from my screenplays. So they all share this style of writing. I also marketed it to a local theater to be a play, but my character list ended up being too long. The stories I’ve written before my scripts and now after will follow more traditional book layouts.
Caleb’s has physical and psychological difficulties, but the spiritual burden of guilt for being the cause of his nephew’s death is overwhelming. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
I knew Caleb’s journey was going to be a hard one. Feeling sadness because of a tragic event is one thing, but Caleb is terrified of it. He’s afraid to feel that deep sorrow and face that reality. This fear became an illness that spread to all aspects of his life. He put up a wall to protect himself and now everything outside of his home and daily routine is scary.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book will be written as a regular novel and takes place in 1885, but further advanced than in our own history. I think I’m on page five. 🙂
Three days after Christmas an auto accident left Caleb partially disabled and took the life of his five year old nephew. Now on the anniversary, four years later, Caleb is afraid to leave his house; even to attend his brother’s upcoming wedding.
Soon past friends and deceased relatives mysteriously begin showing up in his home to deliver their messages and help him through his phobia by showing him glimpses of his past, present and possible future.
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In Vengeance is Mine Sam is determined to become the man he believes he was meant to be and fights for a life that leaves death and violence behind. How did you identify those things that were core to Sam’s belief and how did you set him on a path to find them?
Sam was raised like many young men, believing if he worked hard, did the right thing and believed good things would happen to him. Through the course his life took into combat and the resulting blood shed all those things were lost to him. Sam is a mix of several men I was lucky enough to meet while working as an alcohol rehabilitation counselor in the military. Many of the problems the men faced could be traced back to the horrors of war, which they were not prepared to face.
I felt that this novel took a more personal look at Sam’s character? Did you always have Sam’s character mapped out? Was there any surprises in his character development in this third book?
Originally, there was too be only one book. It was not until I got into the first book that I began to know Sam and the other characters as well. What I started as a typical western, more or less, became the story of a man finding his way back to himself, then reestablishing contact with others, and lastly making peace with his creator. It felt, at times, that Sam was telling me the story and I was to record it for him. Some people will read the story and say, “Sam and Laura got married, I knew it all along. But the real story is Sam finds his way to be worthy of marriage.
What is your writing process like? How do you set about creating such in depth characters?
I write as if I was on a land navigation course. I have a starting point, a few way points that I have to find and the ending point. To help me I have a map in my head that helps keep me on track and a mental compass that keeps me in the right direction. I allow the characters to tell the story as best I can. My characters are the backbone of my story. When asked what genre I write, my answer is I write people stories. I write and rewrite until the character becomes as real to me as my neighbor.
Is this the last book in Sam and Laura’s story? Or will there be more?
Several of the Sam and Laura fans continue to ask me to continue the series. For the couple, the story is complete, but there are several stories yet to be told with other characters. Johanna, Sam’s sister is a story rich in history and character. Hack Baskins and the other Texas cowboys, as well as G.W. Lincoln. I have other projects but I would like to round out the Sam and Laura universe.
“The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. That means he must use violence every day of his life if he wants to eat and live another day. He can never wake up one morning and say to himself, “I no longer wish to eat mice and snakes; I want to eat seeds and nuts like the cardinal. No, he cannot do this and why? Because he was created in the image of a hawk.”
“I don’t see…”
“Sam, I know your father taught you this, but you have forgotten. The hawk was created in the image of a hawk. What image were you created in?”
Sam whispered, “God, I was created in the image of God.”
The Amish elder smiled, “Yes, you were created in the image of God and as such you were granted the ability to choose. You can choose to do right or wrong, good or bad, be peaceful or violent. You can even choose to eat mice and snakes if you like.”
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