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Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Small Town Problems


Interview and Review


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Chris RitcheyChris Ritchey has written the book, Small Town Problems.   


You can find his unpublished writings and other musings on his author website, www.jesterslibrary.com. You can find him on Twitter @AuthorCRitchey, and Facebook and Instragrma at @AuthorChrisRitchey. And you can find his book, Small Town Problems, via Amazon and retailers at https://books2read.com/SmallTownProblems.


Chris, I think like me, you were inspired to write from your experience in the classroom as a kid. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing? 


I distinctly remember two creative writing assignments in elementary school that I had a blast writing and I got a lot of praise for. Those stuck with me, but I didn't really do much beyond them for a long time. The next time I delved into it was 11th grade when a buddy of mine asked me to join him on this Star Wars fan site to help fight off a troll. We successfully got rid of him and I met some great people there. In the course of having fun we accidentally started a fan-fic that was a crossover from Star Wars and Sailor Moon. 


Over the course of the next two years, about six of us co-wrote this fan-fic that was about the length of two novels. The first part was pulled and edited into a proper book by one of the authors and the second half was lost to time as the site went away. During this time I engaged in other projects and even took a creative writing class my senior year. I also began my own attempt at a novel, which I kept planning out for many many years. 

So how did that progress once you graduated?


Fast forward to 2019 and I'm encouraged enough by my wife to get to it. I start out with some short stories for some writing contests, to get something actually completed and get my feet wet. Once those came back to me, since they didn't place, I decided to make a website and share my writing that way. From there, one of the short stories turned into a novella and here we are.


And I have read your work, Small Town Problems. Compliments to a well told tale. Where do you draw from for ideas and inspiration?


I'm not picky about where I get inspiration or information from. One example is Merphy Napier's YouTube channel and her Dear Author series. I highly encourage any author to watch it. Just experiencing life and thinking about the what ifs of any given situation can provide enough material for a scene or whole story.


I always struggle with answering where I get ideas from. Some stories start with me thinking about some common trope and thinking about what spin I could put on it. Other times I practice free writing and just see what happens. 


Tropes can be a great place to start for a writer. After that, it takes time, effort, and doing it.


Writing is like anything else, if you want to get better at it, you need to practice. But you also need to get feedback from others and learn to grow from constructive criticism.



Feedback is key. For so many writers they never put pen to paper. Many of those who do, never let the work find a reader. To do both sets you in the elite few - or at least that's what I am told when I attend conferences and such. One issue I have is finding time to write. How do you schedule your time to write.


I write around another job and a family. I use Google Docs, so I try to write a few words when I have any spare time. I try to set aside time in the evening after the kids have gone to bed for that much needed uninterrupted longer span of time.


Are you able to get in a lot of writing this way? How many hours per day?

Normally, I've been lucky to get in one to one and a half. If it's not busy at work, I get more in during my lunch break.


What is your favorite part about writing? 


I love the feeling when an idea pops into my head and I've got that excitable urge to get it written down as quickly as possible. And before I know it I've been writing for 30 minutes non-stop. It's exhilarating.


What does literary success look like to you? 


I think having a complete stranger discover your work and give you a compliment on it is euphoric. How did this random person on the other side of the world come across this and why do they like it? They have no reason to even let you know that they came across it. It's still mind blowing to me.


Let's hopefully help that happen! Please tell us about your current release. 


Small Town Problems started off as a short story, but I really felt something more was there. I posted it in sections on my website as I wrote it and was able to get beta readers and critique partners as it developed. I went off of the trope of aliens seeming to always visit small rural towns. While I just played out a discovery scene for the short story (which later turned into chapter 1), for the book I liked the idea of an alien coming to a small farm town and being well received as well as representing a small town in a more realistic way than I feel is often portrayed


Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 


“Well, maybe it’s time we pay a visit to Ms. Wilton? She’s the science teacher at the high school. I’m sure you could run everything by her and see what she suggests for stable metals.”

“Wobewt, don’t you think she’d be a bit suspicious?” He gestured to his general appearance.

“I don’t think your face is too off from human and as for the fur… we’re going to have to shave it off?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, it’s not too much of a fuss. We haven’t had sheep here in about ten years, but I still have my shearing equipment.”

“I don’t like the sound of this.”

“I promise it won’t take long. I still hold the state record from my 4H days, well Katie Horning does but I know she cheated somehow… but I digress.” At the rate he was shedding all over the house, I was planning to do it anyway, but it was nice to have an excuse. “I’ll ring her up and then we’ll head out to the barn.”

Har’elday stared into the mirror for an age before he turned and went up to his room.


What exciting story are you working on next? 


I am working on Book 2 of what I hope is a Small Town Problems novella trilogy. I've had the plora in mind for a while now and I just need to get to writing.


I'm a big believer in the fact that the best authors are readers.

Honestly, buying and reading other books and studying them has been of great help. I didn't read a whole lot every year before I started on this recent venture, but I've got 21 under my belt this past year.


Who are your favorite authors?  

Currently, my favorite is Brandon Sanderson. It's not just his books, but his general attitude and eagerness to share his knowledge with other hopeful writers. 


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel? 


The Timeline Wars by John Barnes is a book I came across many years ago and enjoyed thoroughly. My alien's tool in this book is actually inspired by the weapon the main character used in that book. It's a well done time travel story.


Our readers will be reading this in February based on my blog schedule, but for you and me, it is CHristmas. Any plans for the holiday?


We normally stay close to home for Christmas. We go to my parents on Christmas eve, do our family thing Christmas morning, and then go to her parents for lunch on Christmas day. Next year is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary and since it's on December 15th, they want a destination party in Florida for it.


Major accomplishment to them! Family is very important and it sounds like your wife is supportive of your endeavor. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? Even with that support, do you ever find something to be hard about writing?


Not setting goals for myself. If I don't make commitments to myself, then it's too easy to make excuses.


During the writing process, finding a good pace and maintaining my self imposed word count range for each chapter. During publishing, the marketing aspect is the hardest.


Marketing can be very difficult. I know my writing group and I talk about it all the time. Are you involved in any writer groups? 

I am in a few, but I don't find them very helpful. O may just be in the wrong ones. Most of the helpful people I found were from Twitter.


Anything additional you want to share with the readers?  


 Just that I'm grateful for all of the people willing to explore the works of new authors. I know there are so many out there due to the ease of self publishing and it can be a gamble.



One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book? 


Add your links here again 



Small Town Problems is reminiscent of my memories of E.T., The Searchers (a fun goofy comedy), and a little bit of X Files. On the book side it reminded me a book I read as a teen: Quozl by Allen Dean Foster. In Foster’s novel a whole colony of alien bugs bunny type rabbits arrive whereas here it is a smaller invasion and ultimately a very small circle of characters. In both there was a fun worldbuild where country folk deal with the extraordinary… the same way they deal with everything. Ingenuity, placing friends and family first, and with a bit of humor.  From the opening (“I hope the chickens aren’t too spooked to lay”) we are introduced to everyday people encountering an advanced alien species. As someone who grew up “country” I enjoyed the bear traps, Christian burials, Randy Travis songs, moonshine stills, unsettling animal heads mounted on home walls, and a general fear of federal agents. The story is well paced. I’ve seen some reviews regarding the simplicity of the plotline, but I feel this is applying expectations of a 500 page book to a 150 page book. I’ve said in other reviews I wish more authors wrote in this length: longer than a short story but not the deep commitment of a long novel.

Yes, there are aliens. One In particular, Har'elday, who Robert befriends. The result is an excellent first book by the author, whose short stories are worth checking out also. I was given a copy for review. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Arch Emulator and the Seven Keys


Read the Full Blog

Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Michael StewartStew has written the book, The Arch Emulator and the Seven Keys.  First, let me thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.







That is great. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

When my wife started working overnight shifts at the hospital, I would get scared being home alone at night with the kids. I’m a wimp. I tried to bottle my fear into a scary story. The simple act of sitting down and writing a scene was incredible the first time I tried it. I was hooked and I have loved writing ever since. It’s an amazing experience to sit down and find out what your characters are going to do by watching the words appear on the screen. I never knew writing could be like that. I always assumed writers think of a story then write it down, but no, for me I’m finding out what happens after my fingers punch out the words. So much fun.

"Writing is a craft, not simply a natural talent. The more you write and the more you read then the better your writing becomes."

 That may be one of the best answers I've ever heard. We write for so many reasons. Everyone thinks it is to be a bestseller millionaire. Maybe, but often that is not our primary motivation.

I remember watching Lee Childs in an interview. He said his editor came to him and asked him, “Wouldn’t it be more interesting if this character did this instead of that?”. Childs replied, “Yes it would be more interesting but that’s not how it happened”. That’s how it feels when I write, it’s like watching a movie or reading a book, the story just happens.

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

My book ideas always start out as some single but profound idea that I build a whole story around. I once heard that there are reportedly seven people in the world at a given time that have the mysterious stigmata (spontaneous wounds of Jesus). At the time I had thought, why seven? Maybe those people will have some future importance, there could be an ancient prophecy that says that each of the seven will be on each of the continents during the apocalypse to shepherd the people through the end of the world. That was it, that was the simple idea that turned into The Arch Emulator and the Seven Keys.

 "I remember watching Lee Childs in an interview. He said his editor came to him and asked him, “Wouldn’t it be more interesting if this character did this instead of that?”. Childs replied, “Yes it would be more interesting but that’s not how it happened”. That’s how it feels when I write, it’s like watching a movie or reading a book, the story just happens."

What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

I’ve been active in Toastmasters. I enjoy public speaking, particularly telling funny stories. I once took 3rd place in a multi-state humorous speech contest. 

That sounds like a cool achievement. What other public speaking opportunities have you done?

I also had the opportunity to speak at the first annual TEDx-Topeka. What I’ve learned from writing speeches, that I’ve tried bringing over to my novels is that I’m not very funny when I try to be. Instead of finding the comedy, I need to let the comedy find me. I found the best way to write, is to write straight, then boom, somewhere along the lines I get smacked upside the head with something funny. Usually way funnier than something I could have consciously thought of. That works for me. It probably doesn’t work for everybody but give it a try.

That's good self-discovery. What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

Writing is a craft, not simply a natural talent. The more you write and the more you read then the better your writing becomes. If you want to become a good or great writer, keep at it. I hope to be a good or great writer someday.

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I like to write in spurts. Once I start building momentum with a story, I don’t ever want to stop writing. The story races in brain as my typing fingers try to keep up. I have a fulltime job and six kids. I bring my laptop with me everywhere. If I’m picking up my sons from football practice and I’m waiting on them for five minutes, then that’s five minutes I can be typing in the laptop. If I’m waiting in the lobby of the car mechanic for 30 minutes while my tires are being rotated, then that’s 30 minutes I can be typing. The perfect time and place to write will never come if you wait for it. I need to squeeze it in where I can. But regardless of your situation, bring the laptop everywhere. Bonus tip: don’t wait for inspiration. There is no such thing as writer’s block. Just start writing, regardless of how you feel at that moment, it’s only after you begin, when the inspiration sneaks into the room.

What is your favorite part about writing?

I like to write because I like to see how the story unfolds. I might start out with the broad strokes in my mind, but the act of writing is like watching a movie for me. Very rewarding, but more than that, what I love is creating a story that ultimately brings enjoyments to another person. It is the greatest reward in the world.

Please tell us about your current release.

It’s a Goonies/Indian Jones style adventure like what I grew up watching. A murderous cult hunts down innocent people known as emulators while they’re in search of a powerful artifact, the seventh key. It plays out from the point of view of four different characters with intertwining journeys: McCoy, a quipster locked in a cell with a journal; Kim, a teenage genius with a secret; Cana, daughter of a murdered archeologist; and Belle, a thick-skinned driller that falls in love in Antarctica.

It’s available on amazon.



Can you read / provide us with a small exert?


Later that night was when I found it in the sky. A speck of light no brighter than a star, but I could tell it was moving differently than the other dots in the night sky. This was much closer. I took some initial measurements and did some rough preliminary calculations. As I told you, I know planetary physics, and when I say “I know” something, trust me I KNOW it. Planetary physics or Kepler Mechanics as we call it, was one of my passions.

After two simple measurements of the object’s position, spaced ten minutes apart, along with referencing NASA’s website to find earth’s current position in the solar system at the time of the measurements, I was able to get a rough trajectory plotted. At the time I couldn’t be sure what I had found. I would need to follow up the measurements with days’ worth of data to fine tune the trajectory and plot a more accurate course.

But all that extra measurement did only one thing. It confirmed my initial fear on that night was correct.

In 46 days, the object, an asteroid, would come from the direction of the constellation Aries and impact earth.

Thanks. Who are your favorite authors? Any you draw from as you write?

Michael Crichton, Blake Crouch, and Andy Weir to name a few. I’m an engineer, so I really like the sciencey stuff and cutting edge technology. I also love a good old-fashioned adventure, and these authors never disappoint. Which is also why I like to write fun adventures.

 I've read your book and before we even met I thought about Andy Weir. I see the balance between somewhat supernatural mystery and hard science melded together in a mystery. Those are fun reads.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Sphere by Michael Crichton is one of my favorite books. I never really hear anyone talking about it, even when they are listing off Crichton favorites. Perhaps because the movie was not very good. The book has it all: suspense, action, intrigue, mystery, and best of all, the claustrophobic feel of being trapped in a tight underwater habitat. Not unlike the movie The Abyss which happens to be my favorite underrated movie. Way to go, James Cameron.

What is your writer’s kryptonite?

World building. My novels take place in real places with real people. I sometimes will add some light magical elements, but I’ve never created a whole alien world, or a future with self-lacing shoes. It’s all very intimidating to me. I think I want to try it someday because it sounds like a hoot.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

I hold the world record high score in Back to the Future on the Nintendo. “Two Dudes and a NES”, a Nintendo podcast had me on the show earlier this year to talk about the game. It was a great time because it is my favorite game. A few years ago, when I told my wife I had earned the world record in Back to the Future, she said “That’s awesome”. If only there was a world record for most amount of sarcasm in a single sentence, then the Stewart family would have two world record holders.

 That's funny. Reminds me of the documentary "King of Kong" a bit. One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book? 



This book takes some of my favorite parts of classics.

The Stand – I loved how the Stand began with all sorts of individual stories. As the main story progressed, most of the individual stories joined the main plotline. The same was true here. We meet a man coming home from Seder, Harrison and Felipe in Western Iraq, a girl jealous Jerk (I mean Jack) Dexter who ousted her first prize at a science fair.

The Golden Compass – Everyone seems to be moving (intentional or unintentional) to the same locations. As they do, the world’s magic system is unveiled. Stewart does a good job both creating the world and drawing us into it. There are emulators and a hunt for the keys.

Angels and Demons (or most Dan Brown novels) – The intrigue takes the characters all over the globe from Antartica to Hawaii to a trip inside Air Force One. The seven keys gives plenty of action and chase scenes to move the plot.

Hail Mary – The science in the book is well researched or well known by the author. The spectacular elements are great, but never fully cancel out the known world to a reader. I like those kinds of stories. Just enough new to engage without having to suspend my disbelief of the world I live in.

Stewart’s work is unique, but anyone who enjoyed one of the above works should enjoy this one. A good read.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Using the MBTI as an author


Unfamiliar with the MBTI? Take a free online version here:


or https://practicalpie.com/myers-briggs-type-indicator/


What is the MBTI?

·         Great 2 minute video!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoQi9Mvqip0

·         It is based on the work of Carl Jung (Yep… The dude who brought you the Hero’s Journey!!)

·         The MBTI does NOT tell you which dichotomy you have. It tells you which you prefer. Think right handed / left handedness.

·         Harry Potter: https://screenrant.com/harry-potter-characters-mbti/

·         Avenger Clips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzCov8YyaXA


I or E: The Battery: How do you “recharge?”

            Introvert (charged by alone time or time with people who are an “extension” of self)

            Extrovert (charged by community. Lots of friendships, though perhaps not as deep)

S or N: Data Intake: How do you take in the world around you?

            Sensing (prefer to see the specific, tangible (5 senses) world. The small parts build the whole)

            iNtuition (see the big picture, the whole is seen first and then the parts)

T or F: Decision Making: How do you come to a decision?

            Thinking (Make decisions primarily based on rational thought and best practices)

            Feeling (Make decisions primarily on emotion and relationships)

P or J: Work First, Play Later OR Play First, Work Later?

            Percieving (Tend to want to collect all the data possible and delay making decisions)

            Judging (maybe a better term today is “closure”) (Move to decision quicker and seek to get closure)


Taken from: https://medium.com/@AddsTake/understanding-myself-part-ii-mbti-491129c4db42

These four areas make up 16 types. If you already knew how that math worked you probably know you prefer S and T!

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator#/media/File:MyersBriggsTypes.png

Taken from: https://www.toolshero.com/psychology/myers-briggs-personality-test/


So…. Authors….

-1. Helps keep characters in character. ( https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/out-of-character/ )

-2. Keep characters different! ( https://www.kmweiland.com/myers-briggs-and-writing-my-characters-personalities/ )

-3. Builds Conflict! ( https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/4-places-find-storys-best-story-conflict/ )

                -a. Internal conflict of personality vs need in a situation

                -b. Differing personalities (or two who are identical but with different goals!)

                -c. Give your character their worst nightmare!! (i. e. Introvert speaking or an extrovert isolated)

-4. Allow your characters to surprise you!  ( https://writingcooperative.com/how-to-create-characters-for-your-novel-using-a-personality-test-19643ef4794b )--> Take the MBTI as your character to find out more about them!

From: https://www.well-storied.com/blog/character-personalities





Tuesday, February 15, 2022


Publishing? Self? Small Press / Indie Publisher?

From My ConNooga Panel


Image Original Location and a Blog About This Topic by Sonyo Zofia

Publishing: (according to Steve Laube Agency takes 2 - 3 years once agented)

-          Top 5 (Penguin/Random House; Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan) including their imprints (i.e. Harper Collins has Harlequin, harper, William Morrow) and other powerhouses (Scholastics, oxford Press, Disney Publishing Worldwide)

-          Necessity of an agent. Most do not take unagented submissions.

-          ACQUIRING AN AGENT: Develop Query Letter, Synopsis, First Pages, Comparables

o    Follow their instructions for submission. Send your best. Don’t make common mistakes ( https://authorspublish.com/the-ten-most-common-manuscript-submission-mistakes/ )


-          RESOURCES:

o   Writer’s Market 100th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published ($21.12)

o   Guide to Literary Agents 30th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting published ($25,49)

o   Locate conferences to be In front of agents / submit work to them such as https://atlantawritersconference.com/ (May 6-7, 2022). Expect to pay $800-1000.

o   Network!! Use your other credentials


Self Publishing:           (self-paced. Quality product achieved in under 8 months)

-          Learn ALL aspects of publishing OR al a carte services

o   Developmental Editing (content editing) – plot, structure, characters, pace, POV, etc

o   Line Editing (stylistic editing)

o   Copyediting – consistency issues, spacing, format issues, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

o   Proofreading – final quality control

-          Cover Development – free image, Amazon template, paid cover, wrap?

-          Format – epub, mobi, pdf    - ISBN # or ASIN         -- ARC copies? (like NetGallery)

-          Publishing Company: Amazon (KDP) digital and/or print, Draft2Digital, Ingram Sparks

-          Launch dates, promotions, marketing

-          RESOURCES:

o   https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/

o   https://www.ingramspark.com/

o   https://www.draft2digital.com/

o   https://www.upwork.com/

o   https://reedsy.com/

o   WRITER’S GROUP!! à Corner Scriblers, CWG, your market / genre / niche online (i.e. https://www.scbwi.org/ for kids lit), Beta Readers




Independent / Small Press:      (times vary from submission to publication)

-          Do not approach until have a good draft (recommend finish Developmental and line edit)

-          Consider seeking short story published works to build your resume (probably good for all 3)

-          Look for presses that do what you have written. Do your homework on what they have published, how those books fare in the market, and how your book fits.

-          AVOID VANITY PRESSES!!!! – scams. Never prepay / hybrid pay. Better to self publish

o   Always google press with key words like ”scam” or “vanity”

-          RESOURCES:

o   https://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/

o   https://threeravenspublishing.com/

o   https://www.jumpmasterpress.com/

o    https://nonconformist-mag.com/the-big-big-list-of-indie-publishers-and-small-presses/

o   Writer’s Market 100th Edition: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

o   Read Indie books. See who published them. Contact and open a dialogue.





-          Make sure you have the right product for your market (word length, cover design, content)

-          Set a budget

o   Publicist? (like https://www.creative-edge.services/creative-edge-clients.html )

o   Seek reviews (https://www.netgalley.com/) ( https://www.bookbub.com/welcome )

o   Travel, Cons, Where can your product find an audience?

-          Make it Pretty!! COVER DESIGN!!

-          Research what works and who (where) is your target audience

-          Social Media and/or face-to-face promotion, mailing, etc

-          Ads – FB, Amazon, book blogs, goodreads, etc…

-          Avoid scams


On the Fence? Answer this question for you - WHY DO YOU WRITE?

Look on this blog for other "Why We Write" posts!


Another good blog to look at about this topic.



Sunday, February 13, 2022

Interview with Peter Aronson


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Peter Aronson, who has written MANDALAY HAWK’S DILEMMA, THE UNITED STATES OF ANTHROPOCENE,  a novel for middle-grade readers.

First, let me thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.




Twitter: @paronsonNYC

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-aronson-7670411b/ 

To purchase Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma: Buy Mandalay Hawk's Dilemma  

That is great.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?

Actually, I have been writing for almost 40 years. Hate to date myself, but it’s true. After graduating from law school, I attended and graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, then embarked on a 20-plus year career as a newspaper reporter and editor, with time also spent as a TV reporter and producer. I mostly covered legal affairs stories because of my background as a lawyer.

That's great. One of my mentors in writing had a career in journalism.

However, I didn’t start writing outside of the journalism world in earnest until about 2015. My creative juices took over and I began writing short stories and then started the Mandalay Hawk novel, a full six years ago. I wanted to write a novel for middle-grade readers that covered an essential topic in today’s world. My daughters, 10 and 12 at the time, were mostly reading Dystopian-themed books. I wanted to write a more serious piece of fiction. Thus, I began researching and writing a book about young teens fighting global warming, which I came to realize was the most important story of our time. 

Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

I have a strong background in news, having worked, as I said above, as a journalist for more than 20 years. Thus, current events often grab me and motivate me. I had been reading about the devastating impact of global warming for years before I decided to write a children’s book about the subject. 

What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

Interesting question about hobbies. I have always been very athletic - having played basketball in high school and then taking up running in my 20s. I have run in a lot of races and three marathons and I think the motivation I have had as an athlete, to compete and to succeed, carries over to my writing, to push myself, to always succeed at a higher level. I am an extremely self-motivated person, and I think it is somehow tied to my love of sports, my love of sweating and pushing myself, and my love of watching great athletes perform at the highest level - ie, Steph Curry! As a writer, I am always competing with myself, to somehow take my research, my thought process, my thinking, to a higher level than it was before. I am 65 and I have warned my wife, Emily, that I am really just getting started … that thinking and writing, and writing and thinking, are my new-found passions in life and pushing me forward to do more and better work. And of course, reading is a major hobby of mine. Because without reading, there can really not be any writing. Because you learn when you read and you write what you learn. Right?    

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

Writers need to follow their passion. Write about what your most passionate about. If you love to knit and find yourself doing that most of your free time, than write about knitting. If you love watching football game after football game on a Sunday afternoon, then write about that, write about why you love to watch all those games. If you love watching your five-year-old son eat a hamburger and get ketchup all over his face, then write about that. I truly believe that every person in the world has interesting stories to tell. Notice I wrote stories, as in plural. Write about what interests you. Write about what moves you. But you gotta write, gotta sit down and write. In your own words.


What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer?

A writing instructor once said to my class: “You have to love the process to succeed.” By “process” she meant the writing, the re-writing …. and, then, more re-writing. I wrote more than 20 drafts of my Mandalay Hawk book, revising ad nauseam - shortening, condensing, deleting, exchanging one scene for another. I am not sure that I  “loved” every second of this “process,” but I certainly enjoyed major parts of it and loved the creative stimulation I felt as I improved the manuscript. 

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I write full-time now. In 2015 and for the following three years after that, I continued to practice law in New York City as I wrote my Mandalay Hawk book and also wrote a few short stories. I got up every morning at 5 am and wrote for a few hours before going to work. I closed my law practice at the end of 2018 and have been writing full-time since then. I have written six books during the past six years, Mandalay Hawk being the third one to get published. A trilogy of middle-grade soccer novels, written with soccer legend Shep Messing, will be published in 2022.

How many hours a day do you write?

Six, ten … sometimes more. It just depends. I also have to mix in research (reading) and marketing for the various projects I am working on. I usually work parts of seven days a week, because I love what I am doing.

What is your favorite part about writing?

I love creating a story - characters, dialogue, scenes, ideas, events.  When something I have written clicks, when I think it is a novel thought that’s worth telling, and I think people will enjoy reading it - I feel on top of the world. That’s one of the reasons I love writing short stories. You can really let your mind wander and go from start to finish in a reasonable period of time - days, weeks, or a month or two, as opposed to years. There are few if any things in life where you can do whatever you darn well please. Writing fiction is one of them. You can let your mind wander, like a balloon drifting through the air, going where the wind, or in a writer’s case, where your imagination, takes it.

If you want to write, write. There is no in between.

What does literary success look like to you?

I want to write a book or stories that reach a wide audience. I am not satisfied with where I am right now.

That's a great goal to get your works in more hands. In that spirit, please tell us about your current release.

Mandalay Hawk’s Dilemma is a middle-grade novel for our troubled and overheated times. Mandalay is a juvenile delinquent who knows all about the devastating impact of global warming, but she has to stay out of trouble. Because if she doesn’t, a judge will rip her from her father and send her to juvie jail for a good long time.

So what’s a 13-year-old to do when the Big Heat comes, it’s 2030, and this new, more intense global warming is suffocating and swamping earth, causing death, destruction and mayhem like never before.

Mandalay’s only choice is KRAAP - KIDS REVOLT AGAINST ADULT POWER. Adults screwed up, so Mandalay and her pals have to fix the problem.

There’s a march on Washington unlike any other. There’s cat and mouse with hundreds of armed soldiers. And then there’s rapping in the Oval Office to a captive president. With five billion people watching, these kids aren’t leaving until they get what they want. It’s a middle-grade novel for our difficult times, for kids who care about the future. 

I am proud to say that Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and called the book “A scathing work and an essential blueprint for youth battling climate change.” 

Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 

Late in the book, Mandalay and her friends, finally, make it to the White House, where they get to lecture a captured president. The lecture includes Mandalay standing on the president’s famous desk and rapping to him, as billions watch via live stream:

“Yo, yo, yo Mr. President, William “Bucky” Billingham, be a man with a plan ... 

Our Democracy made you electable, the people made you selectable.


Don’t let us become perishable, avoid being the Prez who’s a Fool,

Make sure we’re sustainable, so you’re remembered as the Prez who’s cool.


Sustainable, sustainable, what a beautiful thought, make sure  Mr. President, 

you can’t be bought.

Global warming, the scourge of our earth, renewable energy, the gem of our 


Swimming in the Hudson in winter, what a freaking blast, but the reality, this 

great warming stunner, is really a big fat bummer.

99 degrees in the shade, we no longer have it made.


Glaciers melt and fall, oceans warm and rise, coastal cities drown and 

crumble under, people tumble all asunder. 

Insects populate, diseases propagate.

Droughts desecrate, starvation escalates.

The masses migrate, epidemics depopulate. 

Civil unrest spreads and so does hate, then civil wars come and devastate.

And forests burn, destroy and kill, those knowledgeable yearn, but hesitate.

Eliminate carbon pollution, renewables are the solution.

Solar, wind and water, if we don't make that call and convert it all, we’ll find that we all fall ... fall ... fall ...

We face the probability, we really do, of having the grand distinction, of

dooming our human race to eventual extinction.

Do you want that Mr. President?

What exciting story are you working on next?

I am now in the final polishing stage of a trilogy of soccer novels written with my co-author Shep Messing, a legend in the soccer world as a former U.S. Olympian and now current broadcaster for the New York Red Bulls. These books will be published in 2022.

Also, I sometimes write non-fiction. My essay on race, called My Reckoning, was recently published by Evening Street Review. The essay can be read by clicking here and going to page 6 or 7:


Who are your favorite authors? 

Roberto Bolano opened my eyes to fiction that shows anything goes. 

What part of writing and publishing was most difficult for you?

Definitely the self-publishing part is the most difficult. I want to write, not market myself.   

I totally understand. I feel the same. Anything additional you want to share with the readers? 

If you want to write, write. There is no in between.

One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?

Amazon: Buy Mandalay Hawk's Dilemma

Or go to IngramSpark. 

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