Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Me and My Heart

So the doctor told me I have a mild heart condition that should cause me no concern whatsoever: ‘mitral valve prolapse.’ There are some symptoms associated with it, and often none whatsoever. Many people have it and are never diagnosed. It’s usually not dangerous. Stress can make the symptoms worse.

There is occasional chest pain and a scary heart-thumping involved in it from time to time for me. I never knew the name or that there was a name—I thought everyone had that sort of thing—but it used to be much worse when I was younger. (Occasional dizziness when I stood up, and fairly common scary heart thumping moments.) That was back before I gave up caffeine, and stopped eating sugar and chocolate most of the time. From what I’m reading on the subject, stopping those items definitely helped lessen my symptoms.

Anyway I’ve been thinking about this MVP, because my chest has been hurting and pounding recently. I think it’s been the emotional stress, plus possibly the heat. (It got hot here very quickly, early in the year, and the heat is not easy for me.)

I sort of feel dumb for thinking about it, because my sister DOES have a serious heart condition, and here I am thinking and feeling concerned about this mild thing that I have.

But I can’t feel how she feels. I can only feel how I feel. And when my chest starts to hurt or pound a lot now, instead of just dismissing it and feeling annoyed, complaining a little and taking some aspirin if it hurts badly enough, I think about what it means—a heart condition—and I feel... vulnerable. Frightened.

Yesterday my chest hurt for most of the day. Just last week, my heart was pounding rapidly because of the stressful time I was having. I could barely seem to calm it down all day.

It just...makes me think, you know? To think about how emotional pain triggers physical pain for me, so often. I’ve never really thought about it in those terms, but it’s true. When my chest starts to ache a lot, there’s usually an emotional reason mixed in with whatever is physically going on. In the same way, crying both emotionally and physically hurts me. It doesn’t seem to affect everyone that way, but it does me. Both are reasons that I avoid watching disturbing news stories or emotionally intense movies whenever possible. For me, both hurt. Both take a physical toll.

I want to do what the doctor said and not worry about this mild heart condition. I also want to be even more careful about chocolate, because the last time I had some, just recently, my chest ached for days afterwards, and now that I’ve put it together that that’s the reason why, I don’t think it’ll be worth it to me anymore to eat chocolate, even once in awhile.

I even see a few repercussions in my writing. People who’ve critiqued my work sometimes tell me that I use descriptions of hearts pounding in distress too often. And I know that in my reading and writing, things to do with the heart, a feeling of vulnerability in the heart, always resonate with me for some reason. I guess maybe now I know why. My body knew something I didn’t know; that vulnerability was something I identified with.

And I wrote about hearts pounding scarily in distress because I experienced it.

I wrote...from my heart.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview of L. S. King, author of Deuces Wild: Beginners' Luck

Please join me today for an interview of L. S. King, author of Deuces Wild: Beginners' Luck.

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

Deuces Wild has often been described as a western in space. It has action, adventure, some campiness, and a few very serious, even uncomfortable, moments. Mostly, it's lots of fun.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

The interaction between the two main characters. They're so opposite, which was part of the story premise. And, personally, I enjoy watching Slap trying to find ways to irritate Tristan. Despite the tragedies in his life, he's still got some zest left.

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

The book was written as a proof-of-concept, published month-by-month as a serial novel, so I had a monthly deadline for each chapter to write and edit. The entire story was published in over a year-and-a-half's time.

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I love all sorts of books, but my favorites are SF and westerns, which is one reason I wanted to merge the two genres in this story. Trying to list my favorite authors would make this a very long list, so I'll go with my most-read (in alphabetical order): Lois McMaster-Bujold, Agatha Christie, Zane Grey, R. A. Heinlein, and Anne McCaffrey.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)

Rodeo? No. But I did do clown ministry for a time. I was a mute, auguste clown. I've also taught karate, driven a school bus, and worked at a radio station.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

That varies on mood. At this exact moment, it's a toss-up between Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog and Pride and Prejudice (1995 TV mini-series). Oh, and GalaxyQuest.

Can readers contact you?

If you were alive in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., did you have any hairstyles that now make you cringe?

Hm, not personally. My hair in general makes me cringe. I don't have some bad hair days; every day is a bad hair day!

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.

All Slap ever wanted was his ranch and family. The gangster Lyssel destroyed all that, leaving only charred remains. Tristan wanted nothing; he had no expectations from life and trusted no one.

The cowboy and space pirate discover they are hunted by a common enemy: Lyssel. Able only to trust each other against this gangster and his mob, the two are forced to work together. But how can two such total opposites ever make their alliance work?


Raucous laughter, human and alien body odors combining in the heat, and the smell of stale liquor assaulted Slap's senses as he walked through the open door of the Rocket Wash Bar. Paint flaked from the adobe walls. Off-world aliens aside, it wasn't that different from home.

Pack over his shoulder, he picked his way through the crowd, looking for a table. The few empty chairs didn't seem good choices considering the glares from those seated nearby.

Slap muscled through to the bar and after calling twice to get the barkeep's attention, he banged a hand on the counter. Two eyestalks swiveled to stare at him. Slap gaped for a second before saying, "Something to eat. And a drink. Anything."

The bartender turned around, his mouth twisting as he spoke. "Ten quel. Cash. No credchits."

Cash! Slap gulped and fumbled in his vest. If a meal and drink cost that much, what would a room cost? He put the money on the bar and glanced around as the bartender turned to the wall tap. A motion on his right caught his attention but something told him not to move his head or look down. Cutting his eyes, he saw a hand sliding a thin stim-blade out of a sheath sewn cleverly into a black vest.

Brago's Bands, what was this guy up to? A glass thunked the counter in front of Slap, and he wrapped his hand around the handle, while keeping attuned to the man next to him. He felt a slight tug at the pack on his left shoulder—a thief trying to steal? Without thinking, Slap swung around, and his glass impacted with a face. The 'thief' hit the floor, a needlegun clattering out of his hand. What the—?He stared at the unconscious man for a split second, but the sounds of a fight behind him made him turn. The man in the black vest thrust his stim-blade into a man's gut. The attacker screamed in agony. Black Vest then kicked a second—right into Slap's chest.

Slap threw an arm around the man's throat and tightened. As he waited for the struggling man to pass out, he watched in awe as Black Vest continued to fight two more men. He looked like a dancer—leaping, spinning, kicking. Before long his opponents all lay on the floor.

Slap realized the man in his arms had gone limp and dropped him. Black Vest turned, regarded the two men at Slap's feet, and gazed up with coal black eyes. "Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

People crowded closer, gawking at the bodies and muttering. Black Vest's gaze darted about as he sheathed the deadly knife. "I think we'd better leave."

Slap agreed and followed him outside. The night air felt fresh and cool. "Why were they all fighting you?"

"Quiet. We have to get away from here. Come on."

Slap shrugged his pack higher on his shoulder as he rolled his eyes, then followed Black Vest through the narrow streets. As hot as the days could get, the nights got cold, and Slap found himself shivering in his sleeveless vest as he peered ahead at the dark shape of his companion. Once he stumbled over a body in an alley and got a mumbled snarl as the person woke.

Finally they entered the gate of an inn. Slap blinked at the faux torches glowing at each side of the arch. Wouldn't real fire be cheaper? But then most of the lighting he'd seen hadn't been natural. He shrugged. City ways.

They took a flight of curved stairs to the left of the courtyard, barely illuminated by sconces dimly flickering with—yep, artificial light. Slap's hand ran along the rough-plastered wall to keep his bearings as they ascended. Once inside a small room, the man closed the door and turned the light on low. He faced Slap. "Now we can talk."

"Why were those men trying to kill you?"

"They were assassins." He ran a hand through his hair. "I think."

"Assassins? Who in the world are you that assassins would want to kill you?"

"Never mind." He walked to the bed and grabbed a small satchel from the foot of it. "By jumping in to help me you might have made yourself a target." He straightened and stared at Slap. "I'd advise you to get as far away from here as possible. Jump planet if you can."

"Jump planet? Brago's Bands, I don't even have money for a place to sleep, or food"—he thought with regret of the liquor lost when his glass hit the one assassin's face—"much less enough money to get a ticket off this rock."

The man eyed him for a few moments. "I can help with that. But right now, let's see if we can get something to eat." He rummaged in the bag and pulled out a small item. He pocketed it in his vest, but Slap didn't see what it was. The man headed for the door. "There's a boarding house not far away that has a decent cook."

"What's wrong with this one?"

"It's known I took a room here. Too dangerous. Let's go."

Slap wasn't going to argue at the mention of food.


Here's my website:
and a link to buy the e-book:

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your book! :)

Thank you!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview of Kerry Nietz, author of the DarkTrench Saga

Please join me today for an interview of Kerry Nietz, author of the DarkTrench Saga.

Who do you think would like your book? (Or alternately: Please tell prospective readers why they’d like your book.)

"Cool" should be the subtitle of these books. They have robots, spaceships, bald implanted debuggers, future societies, the struggle for freedom, high-tech mysteries, and a bit of cyber romance. In addition they explore contemporary issues in an interesting and unique way.

Really there is something for everyone. A Star Curiously Singing has over forty positive reviews on Amazon, and every one of them has a distinct reason for why they liked it.

What is your favorite thing about your story?

The thing I like to hear most about my stories is that they’re unique. It is my favorite compliment. Sure they have elements that have been used in other stories, but I try real hard to use them in new and unexpected ways. To keep the reader guessing.

Plus my books are written in first person present tense. That in and of itself is unique. I’ve had people tell me their brain had to adjust a bit before they “got it” and then they were hooked. I think that’s appropriate for a story about a future man with an implant in his head, don’t you? :)

Do you remember how long it took you to write? How about to edit and find a publisher?

The first book in the series, A Star Curiously Singing, took me five months to write initially, but almost another year to get it to publishable form. During that time it grew 30,000 words and had a new beginning and ending added. There were also a number of months-long pauses in there while I waited for input from my always swamped editor and publisher.

During one of those pauses I started work on the second book, The Superlative Stream. I got about four months into it before I had to put it down to finish the first book. Then I picked it up again (in October of 2009) and finished the first draft three months later. It was published in April of 2010, so the first four months of that year was spent revising and editing.

With the third book I worked essentially nonstop for eleven months. I just (at the end of February 2011) sent what I think is a solid first draft to my publisher. It’ll probably be a month or so before he gets to it. Then, who knows? I’m hoping to have it ready for release next fall, though.

What is your favorite type of book to read? Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I'm pretty flexible, really. I read anything from science fiction to thriller to mystery to biography to you-name-it. In fact there have been periods of my life when I've forced myself to sample different authors and genres...specifically those that are considered classics. I like to study books and figure out what makes them work.

Science fiction is a heavy favorite, though. I was an early C.S. Lewis fan. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury became friends in high school. Tolkien came later—in college—as did Isaac Asimov and others. I have a really long list of favorite authors. Some of them show up in my current trilogy. As swear words.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)

I consider myself a refugee of the software industry. I spent more than a decade of my life flipping bits—first as one of the principal developers of a database product called FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates's minions at Microsoft.

I’m a husband, a father of three, a technophile, and a movie buff. I have three published books: a memoir entitled FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software and then the two novels from the DarkTrench Saga: A Star Curiously Singing and The Superlative Stream.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?

I have many favorite movies. My top three are probably the original Star Wars, the original Alien and the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. All epic films.

Current “must watch” TV shows are Smallville and Clone Wars, though I was a regular watcher of both Lost and the Sci-fi channel’s Battlestar Galactica when those were on. Fringe is fun too.

Can readers contact you?

Absolutely. There’s a contact form on my website,

If you were alive in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, etc., did you have any hairstyles that now make you cringe?

Yeah, my hair prior to college was always just combed straight. I guess I kept all my imagination on the inside back then. Or I was lazy.

Please share a synopsis or blurb, and a brief excerpt from your book.

A Star Curiously Singing is a speculative Christian novel with a decidedly cyberpunk feel. It takes place in a future hundreds of years from now, where much of the world is living under sharia (meaning Islamic) law. It is dualistic society, where average people live on the streets in near-squalor and the powerful ride above them in cable-car-like conveyances. This latter group is shrouded in high tech, to the point of needing specialized debuggers to handle their machines. That's where my protagonist comes in. Sandfly is a debugger who's summoned to solve the mystery of why a bot malfunctioned. The unusual circumstance? The bot has been to space. Deep space. Something about the trip made it malfunction.

The Superlative Stream is the second book in the DarkTrench Saga series. At the end of A Star Curiously Singing, a couple of the characters were headed off into deep space, so this book follows their story. There was evidence to suggest that some supernatural force other than what the characters have known is out there . . . waiting. So, ultimately the quest of The Superlative Stream is to find the True God of the heavens. I think it is a very unique and enjoyable story, with a lot of unexpected twists. I hope it surprises people.

Samples of both are available at my publisher’s website.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck with your series! :)

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview of Ann Margaret Lewis, author of "Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes"

Please join me today for an interview of Ann Margaret Lewis, author of Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. Thank you for being on my blog, and agreeing to answer some questions. :)

Thank you for having me!

Please tell prospective readers briefly what your story is about.

Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of three stories (novellas) that tell “untold tales” from the Sherlock Holmes canon. “Untold tales” are stories that Dr. Watson mentions, but never details for us. With this book, Watson alluded to three Church-related cases, two of which deal directly with the Pope of his time, Pope Leo XIII. I thought I’d tie them all together in one neat little package. =)

What’s your favorite thing about your book?

I loved writing the pope. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love writing Holmes no matter what. But I discovered what a terrific character Pope Leo was, and he was a joy to put on paper. His voice was just so noble, sweet and gentle I fell in love with him….in a platonic, fatherly sense, of course.

Do you consider this a religious book? Or a book with some religious elements? Do readers have to be Catholic to enjoy it?

This is a book with religious settings and characters, and you definitely do not have to be Catholic to enjoy it. I’ve had many friends read it who are not religious at all, and they liked it. One such friend gave me the honor of reading it twice—and he doesn’t even like pastiches! So that was a good sign.

Did you find it hard writing Sherlock Holmes as a character? Did you have to do a lot of research?

I did a good deal of research, and I liked using primary sources if possible. Especially when it comes to writing Pope Leo. The difficulty in writing Holmes is imitating the voice of Watson telling the story. If I don’t have that right, I can convince no one that it is really Watson and really a Holmes story. So that had to be done correctly otherwise the book would fail. That and avoiding anachronism were my two biggest concerns.

How long did it take to write your book? How about to edit the story and find your publisher?

It took me a year writing on and off to finish this book. That process was extended by the fact that I had another book idea in the middle of writing this one – so I took off and wrote that. Then I came back to this one and finished it. After that, it took me two more years to find someone to publish it. Books sometimes do take a while to be born, I’m afraid.

Do you have any advice to writers of Sherlockiana? (I ask this question from personal interest!) :)

If you’re doing a pastiche, read and re-read the canon। Scrutinize your words, and how you form your sentences. Spend a lot of time getting the language right, or you will convince no one that this is a Holmes story. I did pretty exhaustive work and I still have things that don’t work. Don’t rush through that part of the writing. Also, study Doyle’s story structure. If you change the formula, at least know why you are changing it or your audience will not accept it.

How did you discover Sherlock Holmes?

When I was in high school I read through all of my mother’s Agatha Christie’s and I really wanted to read more mysteries. They seemed to involve me more than any other reading I’d done. My mom suggested picking up Hound of the Baskervilles and I was hooked. Thanks, Mom!

What did you think of the recent adaptations (the movie, and the BBC TV show “Sherlock”)? If you didn’t like them, are there any adaptations you do like?

I was pleasantly surprised by the BBC Sherlock. I was ready to not like it—but wanted to like it—and I did. I think Mr. Cumberhatch is a perfect Sherlock, and I do adore his Dr. Watson (but I’m a softie for Watson). It makes me crazy that they only made three episodes. The cliffhanger about sent me…well…over the edge! I also loved Jeremy Brett, Holmes, too, and my (other) favorite Dr. Watson was David Burke. In fact, when I write Watson that’s whose voice I hear and whose face I see in my head.

Anything interesting in your past you’d care to share? Like have you ever worked as a rodeo clown, for instance? :)

I am a classical singer (soprano), and I’m singing with the chorus of the Indianapolis Opera in La Traviata this Spring. On top of that I’m teaching high school composition, directing a school play, writing another novel and raising a 7-year-old boy. Thank goodness I have my husband’s help or I’d be locked away in a looney bin.

Can readers contact you? Absolutely! They can contact me through my website:

Is there anything else you’d like your prospective readers to know about you or the book?

That I hope they have a blast reading it. That’s why I wrote it.

Please share a brief excerpt from your book. You bet. You can read an excerpt from the first story on my web site:

Links: To buy the book:

(Amazon is having problems for some reason…)

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