Interview with author Pat Bertram

I did an interview with author Pat Bertram on her blog, where I talk about my new book, The Gnostic Keepers. Below is the full interview. Please check out Pat’s amazing books on Amazon.

https://amzn.to/2xERXQa

Interview with Marietta Rodgers, Author of THE GNOSTIC KEEPERS

Welcome, Marietta. What is your new novel about?

The Gnostic Keepers is about the preservation of the Gnostic Gospels. These are gospels that do not appear in the Christian bible and are also called the Apocrypha, which means of dubious or doubtful origin. All of the books in the current Christian bible, were officially canonized in the Third Council of Carthage, in 397 A.D. and are regarded as divinely inspired. In this council, a list was read, as to what works were inspired by Christ and all other books were to be gathered and burned. Anyone caught reading these forbidden books, were deemed heretics subject to persecution. The task of preserving the gospels is given to seven monks, by the Archangels Uriel, Michael and Gabriel. The monks face many challenges taking on this holy quest, with the church and its quest to burn all the books and the demon Azazel, who also wants all the books destroyed. The book begins in the 4th century and spans across a time period of 500 years.

Who is your most likable character?

My favorite character is Virgil the poet, author of The Aeneid. In The Gnostic Keepers, he plays a similar role, which he had in Dante’s Inferno. The difference is, that in addition to being allowed in Purgatory and Hell, he is also allowed to travel in Heaven. He is the official liaison between the three places. Virgil is a shrewd character, whose power comes from his knowledge of politics and having people owe him favors.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Since the span of the book is over 500 years, there are many fascinating periods of history included, such as the Huns, Vikings, and there is even the very bizarre corpse trial of a former Pope.

Is there a message in your writing that you want readers to grasp?

The importance of knowing your religions history and how it came into being. To look beyond dogma and strict literal interpretations, to what you think the real message is or ought to be.

What challenges did you face writing the book?

As a person without any religious affiliation, I didn’t want to approach the novel in a way, that seemed as if I was negating, dismissing or satirizing spiritual beliefs, because that automatically puts people off and they are reluctant to read what you have to say. Instead, I took an approach using nuanced and light-hearted humor, to separate the inconsequential from the more salient points.

What do you like to read? What is your favorite genre?

I like reading satire and absurdism and the idea that we search for meaning in absurd conditions and random occurrences. My favorite absurdist writers are Albert Camus, George Orwell, Joseph Heller, Samuel Beckett, John Kennedy Toole, Tom Stoppard, Ralph Ellison, and most especially Kurt Vonnegut. I also like post-apocalyptic novels like, On the Road, by Cormac McCarthy and I thought In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan, was phenomenal.

How have you marketed and promoted your work?

I promote my work through Twitter, Goodreads and my blog, The Mordant Scribe.

Have you written any other books?

Yes, The Bill, a political satire and Looney Bin Incorporated a social satire.

Describe your writing in three words.

Non compos mentis.

If you could have lunch with one person, real or fictitious, who would it be?

I would love to have lunch with Jack Kerouac and ask him all about his road-trip adventures and train hopping across the United States.

Who designed your cover?

The cover concept and design was done by Aaron A. Alvarez, a very talented artist, who draws for the online comic theobscuregentlemen.com and he’s also content creator for thedad.com.

Where can people learn more about your books?

You can learn more about my books as well as purchase them on Indigo Sea Press https://bit.ly/1V762fl and Amazon https://amzn.to/2d2oY06

Thank you, Marietta. Best of luck with your new book!

See also: Interview with Marietta Rodgers, Author of “Looney Bin Incorporated” And Interview With Marietta Rodgers, Author of “The Bill”

Interview with Voice Over Artist Anne Hatfield

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Today I’m speaking with au fait Voice Over artist, Anne Hattfield, who has used her rich, vibrant voice to create an eclectic body of work.

M: How did you become interested in being a voice over artist?

A: I’ve read aloud to anyone who would listen since I was a kid (my overwrought recitations of a visit from St. Nicholas are the stuff of family lore), but I didn’t realize it was a real career option, until I was already in another career working as a communications director. Fortunately, I handled all the advertising for the company and was able to start working in VO, by casting myself as the voice talent. It was a budget saver initially, since I didn’t have to pay myself to do the work, but the studio people were pleased with what I could do and encouraged me to pursue it.

M: You lend your voice to all kinds of projects, from narration to commercials, what has been your favorite project to work on so far?

A: I enjoy every new project. Each presents the particular challenge of unpacking the message to the satisfaction of the client. Who’s the audience for this script? What’s the message? What reaction should the script prompt? I have to get into the head of both the client and the audience, to figure out who I need to become, so that I can achieve these goals. Do I need to be a mom concerned about her children’s nutritional needs? Am I am a business owner recommending a particular financial strategy? Am I your best friend confiding beauty secrets? And how would that person communicate with the intended audience in a relatable way? Once I know this, then the detail work begins. It’s always an exciting process.

One of the best compliments I ever received, was from someone not in the industry, who had listened to my commercial demo for the first time. He asked me, “But which one is you?” My voice, my tone and my pacing were tailored specifically for each project and I didn’t sound the same in any of them. That’s what I aim to do every time.

M: When listening to one of my own voice messages, I often hate the sound of my own voice. I realize that I have either spoken too rapidly, or I’m not loud enough. Have you had any voice coaching or training, to overcome difficulties, such as getting rid of a regional accent?

A: I have and continue to have voice coaching. You can never practice enough and you can always get better. I’m very fortunate that my natural speech betrays no regional accent, so that was one hurdle I avoided. My diction can sometimes be too precise, though, and my voice coach will work with me to soften my edges. We laugh about this now, but it’s a true story that one of my very first words (after, I suppose, the usual “mama” and “dada”) was “enunciate.” I was being prepped for this work from the cradle.

M: There are certain words in the English language that are very hard to say clearly and succinctly, such as anemone, ignominious, defibrillator, brewery… have you ever advised a client to change their wording, or are you able to write your own script?

A: I never change the client’s script. It’s my job to navigate those words as written. I may not get it the first time, but I will get it the second. If clients are present during a recording session, they may suggest changes on the spot if they don’t like what they hear. That can happen, but they’ve paid experienced advertising creative teams to manage their message, so there’s a reason a given script is written a certain way. I’ve written many, many commercials in my previous career and I wouldn’t want anyone changing them either. Grammatical errors, however, are tough to ignore, and I would gently mention any of those I see. I don’t want the client to be embarrassed later on.

M: Is there any type of project you haven’t worked on, that you would really like to tackle?

A: I like everything I do, but what I’d especially enjoy is working more with smaller clients, who don’t think they can afford quality voice work. They can afford it and will get much better results from it. A skilled voice artist immediately gives your message, a legitimacy and weight and professionalism, it doesn’t have otherwise. All of us are sophisticated listeners. If you hear a hesitant, awkward voice, you won’t associate confidence with the product, service, etc.

M: How many attempts does it usually take you, before you are satisfied with the results and are there any set guidelines you should always follow?

A: You might do a read in one take or in thirty takes. On my own, I usually get what I want in three or so takes. My opinion is not the one that matters though. In VO, as in all things, the customer is always right. We take direction and make changes, until they are happy with the results.

As far as guidelines go, the rule is to leave your ego at the door. One of my voice coaches told me once, that my job is to be a smart puppet. My voice has to reflect the intent of the puppeteer who is the client. I have to keep trying out new things, new variations, until I hit on the right voice and delivery. If I’m doing my job properly, it should be a smooth, comfortable process.

M: For someone who is interested in doing voice over work, where is the best place to start? Should they get an agent?

A: I can only comment on my path and I don’t have an agent, but many people do. There are scores of good internet resources out there for the beginner voice over artist, but my best advice, is to simply start by listening. Voice work is everywhere…radio, television, internet. It’s constant and not always glamorous. When you take an e-learning course at your office, for example, someone like me is presenting the material and that requires just as much diligence and artistry, as more high profile voice overs. So you listen and if you find yourself repeating the words you hear and reshaping them in your own voice in several different ways, that’s a good test for the kind of work we do.

Oddly enough, having what family and friends tell you is a, “good voice” is only a part of the equation. Are you also able to communicate sophisticated concepts with appropriate mood and intelligence? That’s the key.

M: Would you ever consider giving your voice and personality to doing an animated character?

A: Certainly, and that would be great fun. Every voice artist, has their voice niche, what they do best. For example, mine tends to skew more toward narration and commercial work. Our mutual friend, Jeff Newton (@yonewt on Twitter), however, is a terrific actor, who does fantastic accents and characters, that are among the best I’ve ever heard. This would definitely be his niche.

M: What do you like most about doing voice over work?

A: It’s a creative act; I get to make something that didn’t exist before. We’re at our best when challenged, no matter what the medium or endeavor. Voice work requires skill and targeted inspiration, or the result is inauthentic. It’s a wonderful privilege to collaborate with a client to create genuine, impactful communication. Really, it’s just plain fun.

M: How does a person or business solicit your services?

A: Through my website is best at annehatfieldvo.com. There are several voice samples there to give clients an idea of what I do. There’s also a contact form to submit scripts.

The following is an important public service announcement.

 

Interview with Author Nathan Lund Eastman

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Today I’m speaking with the very sophic, Nathan Lund Eastman, author of Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund. PHMF is a compelling book about redefined beliefs and the metamorphosis of friendship.

M: How did you come up with the title, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund? In the book, it’s just a bookcase with empty beer and wine bottles. Is that the case, or is there more of a backstory to it?

N: First off, I just want to say thanks for taking the time to do this. You’re the first person who has ever interviewed me, and I appreciate your interest in my work. As to the title, well, that’s actually a novel in itself. The title I had for ages was, The Whole Sad Monstrous Scheme, which I like as a title, but it didn’t fit the book. So, I scrapped that and started calling it, The Romantics, because the two main characters are very romantic in their ideas about life, which get crushed in a hurry.  There were two problems with the title. One, was that it was a 2010 film starring Katie Holmes and John Duhamel, which was a hard pill to swallow. The other problem, was that I started playing up the ‘romantic’ sections of the novel, with loaded language meant to point the reader to the overall ‘meaning,’ which reeks of contrivance. So, I looked back through the book for a phrase and found, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund. There is more to it than just a bookcase full of bottles, because it comes up again at the end, when the contexts of the characters’ lives have been radically altered. So, the title has a double meaning, a lighthearted meaning, and a more tired meaning.

M: How long did it take for you to write the novel? Were you on a schedule with certain writing goals, or was it more random?

N: Writing has never been a back burner activity for me. I’ve done it daily in some capacity for years, and more so in recent years, as time has begun to creep up on me. I write seven days a week, two to five hours a day. This book took… eight years, maybe nine, which is obscene. I thought it would be easy to write, because it’s based in large part on actual life experiences of myself and a very good friend, but I’d read way too much David Foster Wallace and Jon Franzen and tried to emulate that maximalist style. It blew up in my face like pinata full of C-4. If memory serves, there were at least ten different beginnings and five distinct drafts, and they were drastically different from the first. I had friends, who helped me along the way, most notably a poet named, Courtney Queeney, who told me it read like therapy in too many places. She was right, so I cut all that. That was probably the fourth revision. The the last revision, was just me being absolutely ruthless and cutting everything that didn’t serve the story, and as a result, much of the dialogue went out the window. This scared me, because it’s a story about two friends, and that friendship in real life is based in large part on a dialogue, that’s been running for almost two decades now. So, I found ways to suggest that the characters were talking all the time, and then wove those tidbits into the narrative in such a way, that the story felt like an extension of that ongoing conversation. That was the hope, anyway.

M: Your novel centers around two friends, Paul Strickland and Chris King. I love reading about friendships, whether real, like Thomas Becket and King Henry II, or fictitious like, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, because friendship is a different kind of bond between two people. Have you had/have the type of friendship that Chris and Paul have in your life?

N: Yes, totally. Real friendship. Let me clarify something, I’m very much a loner. I went through much of my life socially alone, except for girlfriends, but there came a time, where I needed someone to help me navigate a very difficult passage of life. I couldn’t trust my instincts anymore, because my instincts are what got me into that mess. My friend helped guide me through. The decisions I made as result of his counsel, turned out to be good ones, and I am forever indebted to him. If I hadn’t had that support, my troubles would likely have been multiplied exponentially. That’s part of what the book is about. The other part, is a wide angle look at two characters confronting adulthood (parenthood and divorce for Paul, cancer and addiction for King).

M: Chris King is an interesting character and reminds me very much of Dean Moriarty from, On the Road, and the first part of the novel is very Kerouacian, with all the traveling and discovery. Was, On the Road and influence at all for you when writing this story?

N: Strangely, I didn’t realize it was an influence, until I happened to reread, The Great Gatsby and thought about books that had a first-person narrator embedded in the narrative (which Poet’s does). On The Road is the same, although the narrator, Sal Paradise, has a much more significant role than Nick Carraway does in Gatsby. Now, the funny part about both those books, is they’re about relatively young people in flux, who have yet to commit their lives to anything substantial. (Sal Paradise is divorced, but feels young.) That’s what we want so often as an audience, the sexy years. Sexy times. I also think that because that’s what we want, not enough has been written about the unsexy years, the years when you run out of road and you’re changing diapers and the woman you love gets cancer. A lot of stuff that is written in that vein, tends to be on the comedic-side, in the sense that things come together in the end, Hollywood-style. I wanted to be more true to life’s inescapable tragedies, and the fact that, so often stuff just falls apart. I wanted to write something that maps that transition, from the wanderlust phase to the embattled phase, without dwelling so much on the latter, that it becomes unpalatable. Because it does become unpalatable. As much as the purists will tell you entertainment doesn’t matter, it does. One final note on this thread: I also balance the narrator/ subject dynamic to where it’s almost exactly 50/50. You get the narrator’s life, and the subject’s, and can compare for yourself, look for commonalities and divergences, etc. That’s the part that makes me the most proud. True to American adulthood, the friends live on different coasts and the friendship not only survives that geographic chasm, but matures into a lifelong bond and that, as they say, is the shit.

M: Your novel has some wonderful visual imagery, such as, “the dance floor swayed like a Hydra.”  When you’re writing, do you feel like you’re telling a story in terms of the images or vignettes that you imagine for these characters’ lives, or is it more dialogue driven?

N: I kind of addressed this above, with what I said about dialogue. I love dialogue, but I think it’s dangerous. I think it used to be less so, when the culture was less image driven, but now we are driven by images to such an extent, that if writing doesn’t show the ways in which it can add a significant dimension to the visual world, it risks becoming esoteric in the way philosophy and theological writing were esoteric to previous generations. (Looking back over this sentence, it reads as mildly ridiculous, but it’s actually something I think about a lot and believe there is some truth to, however much it sounds like horse puckey.) In short: yes, visual writing matters. The compressed, succinct image has never been more relevant. I feel the central conversation should be between the writer and the reader, not the characters. That’s my personal rule of thumb, and if I break it, it’s intentional. That’s not to say dialogue should only be minimal, but it has to be artfully integrated into the narrative stream. Which, incidentally, was my guiding mental image for this final edit: a clear stream running over rocks. Transparent, fluid.

M: Both the characters as young men, are anti-institutional and have a very definitive way at looking at life. As the characters get older, they are faced with marriage, children, illness and careers they would have previously had contempt for doing. Does that in anyway mirror your own life; have you had to take a job, you would have never thought of doing when you were younger?

N: Yes to all that. I’ve been at the same job for 13 years and prior to that, I’d never stayed 13 years anywhere, my entire life. I’m a restless man, and  I’m like 78% hermit. My job is okay, it pays the bills and allows me to care for my daughter. That’s all I can say about it really, though; I’m indifferent. I don’t have a career; I make books and music. That’s what I set out to do in my early twenties, and it has simply become my life, and will remain my life, regardless of whether I am able to cobble together some sort of artistic existence that allows me to work less for someone else and more for myself.

M: The characters do not come from very supportive families and they are determined to not make the same choices as their parents did. Do you feel like they had more empathy and understanding of their parents’ flaws, when faced with similar experiences?

N: Yes, that is certainly a storyline that develops in the book. It goes back to the idea of being a romantic. I’ve observed that people with a romantic temperament tend to come from unstable/unsupportive homes, and this causes them to embark on a somewhat desperate search for instant warmth, or perhaps a better word is electricity, a sense of positive connection with life, which many people get from family. If you don’t get that connection, it can result in a bit of mad quest for the basics. I think that’s in the book, on many levels, as is the way these emotional progressions, which are perceived to be completely individual and idiosyncratic by the romantic mind, are actually echoes within a larger family system. That’s a far less romantic way of seeing it, because autonomy is called into question, and autonomy–the ability the dream and create your life–is at the core of the romantic mind. More succinctly: it’s profoundly unsexy to repeat your parents’ mistakes.

M: Which books have you read, that really had a profound effect on you? Who are some of your favorite authors?

N: There are so many, that I’ll neglect to mention some of them. The first writer to really grab me and hit me over the head was Vonnegut, with Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. Carson McCullers’, The Heart is A Lonely Hunter was massive for me, as were Samuel Beckett’s, Molloy and Bukowski’s, Women. Richard Brautigan was also a revelation. Watermelon Sugar and The Abortion are some favorites. A love of these books, eventually led me to other great books from that period, most importantly Gravity’s Rainbow and One Hundred Years of Solitude, which for me is one of the most complete novels ever written. There have been others with its scope, obviously, but few are as accessible or imaginative, or as playful and fun, while still tackling life’s seriousness.

M: Your next book is a thriller. What is the title and can you give a synopsis of the book?

N: It’s called, The Promethean Fallacy. It’s about this young guy, who discovers he has a twin. They were separated at birth and have been studied their entire lives, and the people behind it are bad news, corporate monsters basically. The main character finds out other children like him have been killed, and goes on a revenge mission to take out the head honcho. Along the way, he falls in love, which complicates things, and makes him reconsider, but by then of course it’s too late. His crimes catch up to him, and he has to pay the price. After doing Poet’s Memorial, which is more character driven, I needed to do something plot-driven, and I’m pleased with the results.

M: Tell everyone where they can find your amazing novel, Poet’s Memorial Hospital Fund.

You can find it on Amazon, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XFGG584. The thriller is in the final editing stages and should be done by mid-July, so if anyone’s interested in that they can just DM me on Twitter (@distracted_monk) and I’ll send out a reminder when it hits the proverbial stands. Again, thanks so much.

 

Interview with Author Lance Burson

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Today I’m speaking with the ebullient Lance Burson, writer, comedian and author of The Ballad of Helene Troy.

M:  The Ballad of Helene Troy really captures the fast-paced lifestyle and the gritty and non-glamorous side of the music scene. It feels authentic; right down to the rock and roll jargon that’s used throughout the book. How do you know so much about it, were you a musician yourself?

L:  I’m a really bad guitar player and have been for 25 years. I was a DJ and managed a couple of early 1990’s alternative rock bands. I spent most of my 20’s around music scenes. And I’m a total music junkie and fanboi.

M:  You have a really striking cover and the girl in it is actually a picture of your eldest daughter. Where was the photograph taken?

L:  In the downtown of the local area where we live. It has this section that sort of looks like old school Brooklyn, pre hipsters. And yes, that’s my 20-year-old daughter who is in her junior year of college. She was in high school when we shot it.

M: One of the core themes is the clashing of the art form and the business aspects of music. What has been your experience with this and how do you reconcile the two?

L:  There is no reconciliation. Business always wins. I’ve known more incredible artists who are now soccer moms and dads than people who made it. Art is so subjective and only the weakest among us allow it to be bought and sold. Go to any local bar or music venue in your town and you’ll find people doing it for the love of it and nothing else who are more artistic than the people you hear on the radio or see on TV.

M:  The main character, Helene, is on the cusp of becoming a really great musician, but she’s struggling with loyalty to her band mates and her own career. What are some of the inner band relationships you’ve experienced and what are the typical troubles in a band?

L:  Helene is an amalgam of female and male musicians I’ve known in my life. Some succumbed to drugs, others became studio players, others got married and had babies, and others are still sweating it out in their 40’s in small clubs all over the place. Every band I was ever around, and I was around dozens, had one member that was just little better than everyone else. Their talent was more obvious. I was close friends with a female musician in college, she provided a lot of inspiration for Helene, and she was ten times better than her bandmates and she was ‘just’ the rhythm guitarist in the band. She later became a studio player and A&R rep for major labels.  Point is, talent doesn’t always make it or even matter as it should. In that way, Helene is a fairy tale (lol).

M:  Have you written any other novels?

L:  I’ve written four, but published two – The Ballad Of Helene Troy and Soul To Body – also about a musician, a dude one, who is struggling to raise his teen daughter after the death of his wife.

M:  What books or authors have most influenced you and do you have a favorite genre?

L:  Oh wow, what a question. I’m all over the place. I love the classic and get a lot of inspiration from the Lost Generation of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Miller, etc. I just reread Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein and Alex Haley’s, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, those two books influenced me so much. I’m a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk even though he’s not the feminist I am. Fight Club changed my life.

M: Fight Club changed my life too. I feel like Bob gave us permission to cry and he died for all our sins. I shout, ‘his name is Robert Paulson’ every time I’m in the grocery store as tribute.

M:  You have a blog called, My Blog Can Beat up Your Blog and it’s true, your blog has beaten up my blog numerous times and stolen its lunch money. Is there any central theme, or do you just like to talk about things that interest you?

L:  It used to be a writer-centric space where I wrote a lot of episodic fiction. Helene and Soul To Body were both serialized there. These days, it’s all deep, well-meaning, empathetic personal essays about my life now as a stand up comedian and father of 3 girls, aged 12, 13 and 20. Once the election is over and I can type without hitting the keyboard with my fists, I’ll get back to just writing fiction and non-fiction essays.

M: You also do stand up comedy. When did you start and how did you ever work up the nerve to go on stage?

L:  I did for a little under 3 years in the 1990’s, 93-96. I wasn’t very good because I didn’t have a lot of life experience to draw from. In early 2015, I went back to it on a lark, just to see if I could do it. I’m coming up in two years and I’m getting paid every once in a while, getting out of the house 3-5 times a week and even getting my name is lights. I’ve never been nervous to do it. Writing books is lot more nerve wracking.

M:  Do you have any favorite sets that stand out as being really great? Did you ever completely bomb?

L:  I bomb a lot. But I also do well sometimes. I recently headlined a club and did a feature spot in a theatre. My best experience has come from a large venue that holds a couple of hundred people and I had great sets both times there. I’ve participated in comedy contests as well and have done pretty good. I’m still learning and honing the craft.

M:  Do you have certain things you focus on in your material like politics, romance, etc, or you do you have a more versatile style?

L:  I try to be versatile but my ‘best stuff’ is about my family – living with a wife and three daughters. I mix in a little politics and pop culture. I’m writing new stuff now.

M:  Who are some of your favorite comedians?

L:  Oh wow, another doozy of a question. George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Richard Lewis, Marc Maron, Patton Oswalt, Janeane Garafalo, Sarah Silverman, Louis CK, Maria Bamford (genius) and many others.

M:  Oh wow, although Bill Hicks and George Carlin were not atheists per se, they both are the first comedians I remember to criticize organized religion.

M:  I like to know where people stand on the important issues. What is your opinion of people who don’t use fabric softener?

L:  Lazy degenerates and I am one.

M:  Tell the kleptomaniacs and the mildly bloated where they can find you and your books on the internet.

L:  I am available on amazon for kindle https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lance+burson and Lulu.com in paperback https://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?keyWords=lance+burson&type

They make lovely holiday gifts.

Interview with Tony @bornmiserable

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Today I’m speaking with Tony, who is known as the very funny @bornmiserable on Twitter. Tony is a musician, artist, Sylvia Plath enthusiast, member of the band Stryper, foot model, cheese connoisseur and a bad ass defender of social justice.

M: Everyone I talk to loves you. What’s it like being adored by the world?

T:  Ha! I don’t know – you’d have to ask Boo the dog about that.

M: I did ask Boo and he said to stop making eye contact with him.

M: Where are you located on the planet?

T:  I’m scattered around Los Angeles.

M: By day, you’re a mild-mannered artist, but by night, you’re a superhero known as @bornmiserable on the Twitter. Were you really miserable from day 1?

T:  Likely, although photographic evidence that I dug up from my backyard seems to prove otherwise here and there. I do feel like I was meant to be miserable…so I suppose I’ve been sorted out.

M:  I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who keeps their photo albums in the back yard.

M: You are a wonderful musician and you have a YouTube page called The Blackout Choir, in which you cover a variety of different artists on your acoustic guitar. What is your musical background and what musicians had the most influence on you?

T:  After I received my first electric guitar, I took guitar lessons briefly in middle school, which barely resulted in me knowing one scale and a few chords. Aside from one other beginner class I took later in college, I taught myself everything else. My influences are too many to mention – musicians from Sam Cooke, the Supremes, and the Left Banke to James, Morrissey, and the Durutti Column influenced me the most. I align with music that means something lyrically or strikes an emotional response instrumentally.

M: Have you ever had the chance to meet or even work with an artist you’ve admired?

T:  I have had the opportunity to meet one of my most favorite artists – Andy Prieboy, who was in Wall of Voodoo and also wrote Tomorrow Wendy, which Concrete Blonde covered and whose version is more familiar to people. He was gracious enough to listen to some covers I did of his songs and has a caricature drawing I did of him propped up in his studio. I’ve also supplied backup vocals to a song of his as well.

M: Do you play with any bands, or are you strictly a solo artist?

T:  For the majority of what I do, I tend to work alone – I’ve done collaborations in the past with my friends, where I sing on something or have them sing backup vocals and/or play an instrument for me. For example, I recorded vocals for my best friend Dawn’s cover of Radiohead’s Street Spirit (Fade Out):

She’s also done some amazing piano work for me and recently put out a song on SoundCloud called Insomnia, which I invite everyone to listen to and follow her:

M: I listened to your Smith/Morrissey cover songs. They filled me full of teenage angst and I had to go brood in my room. I imagine if he heard them he would say, “That sounds nothing like me, not even Morrissey sounds like Morrisey,” and then he’d go do some yoga. Do you ever have any outbursts like Morrissey?

T:  I think I do – I wake up in the morning and I’m immediately annoyed that I woke up! I do find myself exorcising my outbursts in my writing, whether it’s tweets or perhaps lyrics.

M: I love your cover of American Music by the Violent Femmes; it’s my favorite. Have you ever covered any Depeche Mode or Talking Heads songs?

T:  No Talking Heads yet, but I have covered Depeche Mode’s Judas, which seems to be relatively up my alley both musically and thematically.

M: Do you strictly play acoustic guitar? Have you ever been tempted to pick up an electric guitar, put on a bandana and play Sweet Child of Mine?

T:  Hahaha, no bandanas for me. I’m a simple man – I play acoustic guitar, electric guitar, six string bass and regular bass guitar. I’ve dabbled in some keyboards, but mostly to complement my guitars in my instrumental work and original songs.

M: In addition to being a musician, you are also a very fine artist. Do you sell any of your work, or is it just something you like to do in your spare time?

T:  I don’t sell any of my work, except for the random design that goes up on RedBubble. I just draw at random, whenever I feel like I’d rather not sing or play music or cause my next door neighbors to wish death upon me. Drawing tweets has been a good way of inspiring me in a different way, by hopefully taking someone’s funny tweet and taking it a step further visually.

M: I’m a big fan of your tweets and I know you hate to get political, but what do you think of our current state of politics and do you think Donald Trump will really make extinction level event great again?

T:  I never thought I would ever write political tweets but I’m afraid it was inevitable, much like the downfall of MC Hammer pants. I think the current state of politics is simply what happens when you let everyone into MENSA – the idiots believe they’re just as smart as the people who are actually qualified to be there. As far as Donald Trump is concerned, his campaign is entirely based on what I like to call the John Edward of politics – he doesn’t have a gift for anything but grasping at straws of fear that his supporters already brought to their Cracker barrel potluck. We don’t’ need ISIS to destroy us – we already have the help of Donald Trump’s supporters to accomplish that.

M: [Takes off MC Hammer pants] Would you be willing to draw me as a unicorn impaling Donald Trump with my horn?

T:  That would be fantastic, although I feel that’s too noble of a death for someone like him.

https://twitter.com/bornmiserable/status/752553138662486016

M: Tell the juvenile delinquents and the morbidly obese where they can find you on the interwebs.

T:  People who apparently have an interest in the exceptionally mundane can find me on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/bornmiserable or if they wish to punish their eyes and their ears, they can find me on YouTube at: www.youtube.com/TheBlackoutChoir

Interview with author G.M. Lupo

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Today, I’m speaking with the illustrious and accomplished author of Freedom & Consequence, The Cheese Toast Project, A Tale of Two Sisters, Crazy Like the Foxes and The Long-Timers.

M: Were the stories written for, Freedom & Consequence written all at once, with the idea of making a book, or were they written at various different times in your life?

G: These stories were written over the past 20-30 years, starting around the time I was in college. The oldest story in the collection, “Suzi Thunder,” was written while I was an undergrad at Georgia State University around 1985 and appeared in the GSU Review, Georgia State’s literary magazine that year. The more recent stories, set mostly in Atlanta were written over the past two or three years and published first on my blog. The versions here are edited and expanded from what was on my blog. “A Bad Day’s Work,” “Titania,” “Metempsychosis,” “Route 412 to Tulsa,” “Shocks to the System” and “Suzi Thunder” appeared in a limited edition Kindle version called Tales of the New Wave, which I created to learn how to format books for Kindle.

Some of the ideas I’ve carried around in my head for quite some time. I thought up the basic plot for “A Debt to Pay,” about a man who cripples a woman in a car crash and comes back to redeem himself after he’s released from jail, when I was in college as part of a series of stories I wanted to write about a fictitious town, but never put on paper.

M: The stories have a rhythm, much like Shirley Jackson’s stories, with a great sense of foreboding. Who are some of your favorite short story authors?

G: Two of my favorites are J. D. Salinger and Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor’s work also has a sense of foreboding to it, which I enjoy. I also enjoy Kurt Vonnegut’s short fiction and novels. Vonnegut is probably my favorite writer.

M:  Kurt is one of my favorites as well. I have a t-shirt with, Schlachthof fünf written on it. Do you prefer writing short stories over novels?

G: I like being able to churn out a story quickly, which is possible with a short story as opposed to a novel, but I also like the ability to explore characters and situations in more detail that’s afforded by a novel. I also write plays and that employs a totally different method of storytelling, since one is trying to convey an idea for someone else to translate, namely a director and actors. I don’t have a preference and have recently used a story, “Rachel,” which appears in the book, to convey information introduced in a play I wrote, but which didn’t fit in the play. I’m exploring that for other characters and stories in works I have in progress. I’ve recently been writing a lot of micro-fiction, in which I’ll think of a story, write it up and post it on my blog within a few days. Most of the stories on my blog are early drafts, and subject to change a lot before they’re formally published.

Much of my work has been set in a sort of fictional Atlanta and revolves around an ever expanding pool of characters. I created a fictional company, Bickering Plummet, where many of my characters work, and it’s the setting for “The Miracle of the Magic Dollar,” as well as an introductory story in the book.

M:  One of my favorite stories is, “Klan Candy.” As soon as you see the title, you have to read it, because you have to find out what that is. In essence, it’s a bag of candy handed out from the Klan to solicit membership. Where did you get the idea for, “Klan Candy?”

G:  Klan Candy was ‘ripped from the headlines’ so to speak. I saw a report on the Klan somewhere in the Carolinas, sending out candy to entice new members and thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. Growing up around Atlanta, I heard all sorts of stories about the Klan and how fearsome they were, so hearing that they were soliciting new members by sending out candy was pretty hilarious. The only thing I’ve read about them that was more absurd, was a story that a Klan leader somewhere up north joined the NAACP in some attempt to show solidarity or some such reason. Another story in the book, “The Miracle of the Magic Dollar” was also based on an actual experience that happened at work, though embellished for humorous effect.

M:  The first story in Freedom and Consequence is “A Bad Days Work.” The character is essentially an anti Bartleby from Bartleby, the Scrivener, because rather than refusing to leave the job; that’s all he thinks about. The story is about a young man who feels he’s in a boring, dead end job. Did you have a job or series of jobs like that?

G: Jason from, “A Bad Day’s Work,” is loosely based on me from around age nineteen or twenty, though I didn’t go away to school as an undergraduate and didn’t stop once I started. I did defer going to college right out of high school and I did work in an office similar to the one in the story, though not with that particular cast of characters. The office in, “A Bad Day’s Work” probably resembles the Savannah office of the company where I worked, since they did imports and exports, and my office dealt mostly with imports, but the circumstances of Jason’s employment there do mirror mine. The manager, Mr. Bugg, is taken from another manager I had at a job in college, though.

“A Bad Day’s Work” was one of the ones I wrote in college in the 80s and it’s been through several revisions. In an early draft, Jason beat up his manager and ran off, taking refuge on top of a building that’s about to be demolished. It took on its current form sometime in the 90s.

M:  You’ve lived in both the northeast as well as the southeast, as have I and some of your stories are set in the north and some are set in the south. Where do you prefer living and what do you like or dislike about either region.

G:  Atlanta’s my hometown, so I know it better than anyplace else. I liked living in New York in the late-80s to early-90s, but it’s a very unforgiving city and I got into a lot of debt. Also, at the time I was living there, just before Giuliani was elected mayor, the job market was horrible and I was hardly making enough to live on, given how expensive it is to live there.

I don’t like the pollen or the traffic in Atlanta, but I enjoy the theater and music scenes here, plus there’s a lot of activity with the film industry. What I enjoyed most about New York, is the fact that I didn’t own a car the entire time I lived there and didn’t miss it. Also, I got more exercise and didn’t have as much problem with my allergies. If I could find another place like that somewhere else, I’d consider moving there.

M:  I lived in New York as well for four years and I agree, it eats up your money. Which story was your favorite to write?

G: The one I most enjoyed writing was, “Dead Man’s Hat,” which was inspired by the spoken word piece, “Small Change” by Tom Waits, from the album of the same name. I liked capturing the tone of the original piece and creating something totally new from it. I doubt the original is set in Atlanta in the 60s, but that’s where I chose to set my story. I used it in a reading a year or so ago and people familiar with my work said it didn’t sound like my typical style.

M:  “Shocks to the System” is another great story that is reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe. The thought of killing an annoying roommate or coworker has probably flickered in everyone’s mind, but your character actually carries out the deed. You mentioned to me in conversation you had a very annoying roommate. What creative ways did you come up with in your fantasy to dispatch him?

G: I wrote Shocks to the System after we had stopped being roommates, sort of as revenge after the fact. At around the same time, I was on an Internet news group called, alt.flame.roommate, where I also complained about him as my “idiot ex-roommate” and that may have influenced me to write the story more than the actual experience, since my solution to every bad roommate situation on that group, was to kill the roommate. I never really entertained actual thoughts of homicide while we were residing together, though he was very annoying and anal retentive about how things around the apartment needed to be done. It’s another that’s partially based on actual events from my life, though in real life, I just moved out, rather than doing him any harm. My rash decision to move out and into a more expensive apartment was the main cause of my later financial difficulties while in NYC.

M: What writers/books have most influenced you?

G: A recent work I found very intriguing was, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which is about teen suicide. It features a character trying to piece together the story of why a fellow student killed herself using only clues she left behind. I’m very much interested in the masks people put on to deal with others, and how one person can assume many characters in public without ever revealing his or her true self. It’s the main reason I like seeing actors in different roles on stage.

My favorite author is Kurt Vonnegut and I’ve probably read everything he’s written, novels, essays, short stories and his one play. I like how he uses the conventions of science fiction to tell his stories. Other writers who’ve influenced me are Hemingway and Salinger. I also like Joseph Heller, and most of Thomas Pynchon’s work.

The first book I remember really loving was, Mystery of the Haunted Pool by Phyllis Whitney and I read it at least once a year when I was in elementary school. I have a copy of it now that I found at a used book store, but haven’t read it lately.

Early in my writing career, I was heavily influenced by the poet Rod McKuen, and I’ve written an essay that’s on my blog an in my compilation of essays called, The Cheese Toast Project, about the impact of reading his work, “Listen to the Warm” when I was in high school. He taught me that writing doesn’t have to follow a specified format and can be whatever the author wants it to be.

I’m also inspired by art and music. On my birthday this year, I went to the High Museum in Atlanta, to see the Basquiat exhibit and came away with an idea for a character. I like to go to the High when there’s no one there, so I can take my time to peruse the works. When there aren’t a lot of people there, it’s very quiet and one can hear what’s going on in other parts of the building. For instance, when I was there in April, there was an exhibit that featured a performance by Nina Simone looped over and over, which I could hear everywhere I went on the floor and provided an eerie backdrop to the experience. Also, there was a choir downstairs, which I heard when I went across the bridge to another wing, so I ended up going down and watching them perform.

I’m also inspired being out in nature. I find when I go for long walks at Stone Mountain I often come up with lots of ideas. I once invented an entire backstory for a character during one morning walk on the trails at the mountain.

My brain is sort of like a pinball machine and when an idea gets up there and makes a connection, it’s like all sort of bells and lights are going off at once. Sometimes, it’s hard to write it all down quickly enough. Having my phone with me is a huge help, since it affords me the opportunity to write things down when they come to me in some remote location or while I’m at work.

M: Tell everyone where they can find you online and where to get your books.

G: The one-stop shop for all my online endeavors is lupo.com. It’s been my presence on the web since 1995 and has links to my accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, WordPress, YouTube and my author page at Amazon.

Interview with author Gary Duffey

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Today, I’m talking with the perspicacious Gary Duffey, author of the thriller, Territory.

M:  When reading, Territory, My Antonia by Willa Cather came to mind, which also depicts the frontier of Nebraska during the 1800’s. Is there anything you read in particular that sparked the idea for writing Territory?

G:  I’ll have to read, My Antonia…. It better not be mushy!

M:  I seem to recall a part, where a guy is driving a wedding party on a sledge. In order to speed up to get away, he throws both the bride and the groom off and they get eaten by wolves. So yes, it is a love story.

G:  Territory, or more so, the boy, came about from my time as a security guard at an abandon hospital. I was 18 years old at that time, so it was actually 18 years ago. I’m not going to say ghosts are real and I am not saying the boy is a ghost, but what I will say is, many an odd thing would happen at this hospital. No one but me was on the hospital grounds and in the building. It’s very unique to spend 8 hours a day in a full size hospital, with no one but yourself about.  This particular hospital known as, Memorial South, in Ceres California, was vacant for a long time before I arrived there.  A new hospital was built where I live in the connecting city of Modesto and Memorial South was left to decay. It was guarded, when a group of investors bought, Memorial South to use it as storage for medical paper work. Every hospital room that was rented (and there weren’t many), had pad locks on them and some rooms had pad locks on them for different reasons, such as blood spatter on carpets and walls, from what I could only assume was from a murder as the building sat vacant. The hospital was 3 stories, if you included the basement; the hospital in its entirety was or is in the shape of a cross. In this cross, only one of the 4 cross pieces had power and that was only on the lower level, this is where our guard office was, but really was the old gift shop. Now, as to the weirdness, no matter the time of day or night, I as a guard was to walk the perimeter of the hospital to look for illegal entry.  I never found that, but what I did find, were curtains closed that were open, or open when earlier they were closed. There was an elevator that shouldn’t have been functioning, that would come up from the basement, opening with a ding at my floor. I remember walking to it and looking at the service sticker, to see it being last serviced in 1973 and at the time it was 1999. Anyway, as I was looking at it, the emergency phone started ringing, so I reached in after what seemed a long time, picked it up and asked “Hello?” It sounded like hundreds of voices talking over one another. I couldn’t make anything out of what they were saying. I put the phone back on the receiver and as soon as I did, the elevator went, ding and the door closed, but as it did, the interior lights shut off. The elevator went back down to the basement, only to rise again months later. I could go on and on about this place, but what gave me the idea for the boy, came one night, I was walking past the maternity ward (an additional smaller building also shaped as a cross); it was raining, I for whatever reason, looked at the front double doors as lightning flashed; it filled the rooms with light and what I saw looking back at me, was a man in a jean jacket. I acted like I did not see him. This event, along with all the other weirdness, melded together a story in my mind, of a group of misfit army cadets, being unknowingly experimented upon, as they refit an abandon hospital into a barracks for military use. This story never made it to print, but elements from it did make it into Territory. I will not say what, as it might be boring for readers. The bad guy in that story was a man who was an escaped mental patient and he set up a place to live in the hospital long before our army cadets got there. This man known to those who knew him was called, “Manic Mason or to you and I, as the man I saw in the jean jacket in the maternity ward. Mason had unique superhuman gifts, and was as old as the world.  Territory is a collection of ideas that over time, amassed into what it is today. Why Nebraska? Why 1867? Well, in the second Manic Mason story (again never made it to print), we find Sarah on her front porch drinking from a dinted tin cup and a supernatural human by the name of Manic Mason has set up residence in her barn. He plans to kill her and her family. Why? Well, that is exactly why I wrote Territory; it was a cool concept, but didn’t make any damn sense! No spoilers were just given; the boy is not a supernatural human who has lived from the beginning of the world. He is something altogether different…. To explain why 1867, this is because many historical things were happening in Nebraska at this point in time, some of which are found in Territory and others found in Texas that spilled into the book.

M:  How terrifying it must have been to see some dude in a jean jacket. I mean, who wears those anymore.

M:  Your characters are all unique, some are acting out of desperation, revenge, atonement and just plain greed. Which character did you find most interesting to write about?

G:  I enjoyed writing about Jacob. My favorite part was when he was in the barn with Sara’s daughters. I think we see a master manipulator at work. The reader really sees his pure manic evil, after he sends the girls into the house, leaving him to work on a spike. I also enjoyed, Barbra.

M:  Centered in your fictional story is something nonfictional, and that is the scalping industry. Most people think it was the Native American warriors, who had a penchant for scalping settlers and soldiers, but in reality, it was Europeans who carried it out much more and then later Americans, so much so that scalping became an industry. Can you elaborate a little on that industry and why you chose to incorporate it into the story?

G:  I really didn’t, and still don’t know much about it. This being a fictional story, I found it to be an opportunity to use it to provide more depth to Barbra, and to provide a little foreshadowing for the next book. The blanket was an afterthought.

M: Okay, I’ll enlighten them. HaHa! In the 1800’s, Mexico and several other surrounding states, paid private armies and bounty hunters to scalp Native Americans. They saw it as a good way to protect their citizens. I believe it continued for many years before it was finally outlawed.

M:  You did an amazing job of blurring the lines of sanity, insanity, dream and lucidity. It felt like a dream sequence at times, especially when the Native American boy was at the river. Did you set out writing with that in mind, or is that just something that developed?

G:  I set out with that in mind and as the story progresses we will see why. *zips lips*

M:  Was the Native American boy a symbol of justice to address the wrongs of an entire culture?

G:  I could see how one might see this, in this first book; the boy is used as a weapon of revenge. What we will find in the next book, will twist this notion. We will also learn what the boy is and where he came from.

M:   How many more books do you plan to write in the Territory series?

G:  The upcoming one and possibly a prequel revolving around Jacob in his youth, following him until he finds, Mindy… maybe further. If there will be a third Territory book remains to be seen. I won’t leave out the possibility, but I’ll know more when I finish the second book.

M:  How much time each day do you set aside to write?

G:  Less than I would like to. When I set aside all other projects I’m working on, my goal becomes 2,000 words a day. On a day when I’m tired, I hit around 500-1,000. Sometimes I find it’s good to stop for a week and then out of nowhere, my mind fits a few plot pieces together, that I don’t feel I would have come up with if I just kept writing. For instance, in my new book, Home (working title), Sheriff Sean Laing, is at a grocery store during a small storm at night. That’s where I left off. I pick up after a week, with the power shutting off and leaving the store in darkness. This darkness brings us to the home of, Polly, the main character in the story. Here we find her discovering a boy with Down syndrome watching her and her daughter from an outside window. I would not have connected these story points, without time away and the boy (whom isn’t a new character to the book) will be much more potent to the plot.

M:  What books/authors have most influenced you in your life?

G:  Hugh Howey, this person is an independent writer who has made a large success in his, WOOL trilogy. If you haven’t read, WOOL, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes an apocalyptic world, mixed with a mystery and dialog that’s believable.  My second would be, Stephen King. Many nights at my job, I listen to audio books written by him. His writing flows very well; I only wish he would get his mind out of the gutter. My favorite book by him is, Misery. Not much swearing and zero perversion, it’s a very well-crafted thriller.

M:  What are you currently reading? What is your favorite genre?

G:  Currently I’m listening to, Fall of the Governor: Book two. It’s a story in the world of The Walking Dead, but it follows the Governor. He’s not the man we think he is at all. … Now, to be clear, I’m a fan of swearing when the moment calls for it, but unfortunately in The Walking Dead novels, the swear words are sprinkled about randomly like sprinkles on a cupcake.  My favorite genre would be, thrillers, something with a great plot and dialog.

M:  Tell everyone where they can go to learn more about you & your thrilling novel, Territory:

You can find, Territory on Amazon at the link below and on Kindle found by the same link in the “See all formats and editions” category.

AND coming soon around 5/20/2016, Territory will be on Audible.

http://www.amazon.com/Territory-Book-Gary-Duffey-Jr/dp/1523219602