Welcome aboard me hearties!
Avast ye and listen well! Today we are on course to shanghai Renowned author Darren Simon and capture him as our guest at the Captain’s table on The Whimsical Herald. He writes middle grade and YA novels about seafaring pirates, danger and adventure, combining both science fiction and fantasy for a tantalizing brew sure to delight our literary palates!
(Not to mention, Pirate tales are our favorites!)
DEADLY WATERS, A YA PIRATE ADVENTURE by Darren Simon,
A Pirate’s Calling Book 2
EVEN LOSING BOTH HIS HANDS IN A DANGEROUS CONFRONTATION WITH DASTARDLY MASTER OF THE DARK ARTS JEM SLAYER WON’T STOP 13 YEAR OLD SAM EVERLY FROM SEEKING REVENGE!
The ship’s quartermaster, dressed like a British naval officer in a long blue waistcoat with two flintlock pistols tucked into his belt, signaled commands like a third-base coach waving a runner to home plate. Ranger’s crew scurried over the deck, grasping lines—lowering some of the yards—anything to keep the ship from tearing apart against the violent tug of nature.
Gazing at them all, Sam cursed himself. He yearned to help. But without real hands what could he do? He glowered at his wooden appendages. Damn Slayer for taking my hands. He lifted his wooden hands, then slammed them against the gunwale. Damn me for losing the fight. For now, all he could do is maintain his mind link with the crew, the only way they could all see their way out of this magical realm.
The captain crossed the deck with confident steps despite the ship’s pitch. His massive hands wrapped around Sam’s noodle-like arms. “Why do you strike my ship, lad? Is that fear or rage I see in your eyes? Do not fear. I’ll get you to Slayer. We’ll be having our revenge. ” Sam tried to speak but his words were not much more than a whisper drowned out by crying wind. “Sucks…I can’t help…your crew.”
Hornigold raised a bushy eyebrow. “I not be knowing this word—sucks—unless you refer to a fine drink, a rumsuck, but I think not. Take heart lad. The only reason we be able to see our way back home be because of you. That makes you the most important man on this here boat. You should get below deck where it be safer”
Thirteen-year-old Sam Every has traveled back in time to the Golden Age of Piracy to face Captain Jem Slayer, master of the dark arts. Deceived into handing Slayer the ultimate weapon, the Sword of Zel-Kar, Sam has lost his hands, sliced off in his first clash with the evil pirate.
But all is not lost.
Sam’s friends have found their way back in time, and with the help of the pirate hunter, Benjamin Hornigold, have rescued him from the island where Slayer marooned him. Now, aided by a new band of rogues and a mystery friend, Sam must rise above his injuries and find the strength to again face Slayer before it is too late—before the future is forever shattered.
1.How did your background as a Journalist benefit you in writing middle grade and Young Adult novels?
My work as newspaper journalist had two major effects on me that helped me become a middle grade and young adult writer. First, it taught me the craft of writing. I firmly believe that everyone can write, but it is a skill that must be learned. Journalism fine-tuned my skills, forcing me to learn to use words in ways that could connect with readers. I especially liked writing human interest stories where part of the story involved using words to create word pictures for readers. That is what I try to do as an author—build a connection with readers and allow them to see in their minds what I have written on the page. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, journalism showed me how much I love writing, and that love expanded into writing novels. That I chose to write middle grade and young adult novels is simply a result of my love for the books I read as a youth—which ultimately led me to a career in writing.
2.Was there anything close to the Deadly Waters series available to read when you were a kid?
While Deadly Waters is a pirate novel, more than that it is an action-adventure story and a story of good versus evil. So there were certainly pirate books and books about the sea, like Treasure Island. But to be honest, I was inspired by the Lord of the Rings series and Choose Your own Adventure books. I loved high fantasy and science fiction novels.
3.Which of the many well drawn colorful characters in Book 2 did you have the most fun with?
Without giving too much away, there is a historical pirate in the novel whom I really enjoyed writing about—especially reimagining that pirate based on the fantasy elements in my novel. It actually took quite a bit of research to understand that pirate and to place that pirate into my book in a way that made sense and fit into the right timeframe of that rogue’s life. Again, I’m trying to hold back information because I don’t want to give away some of the mystery of the novel. But, in the first novel, The Dangerous Legacy, and in this one, Deadly Waters, I have incorporated real life pirates and pirate hunters. In every case, it has been fun to write about those pirates.
4.In your opinion is world building in a novel that blends both science fiction and fantasy trickier to pull off than writing in either genre individually?
Honestly, I’m not sure because every book I’ve written has combined both elements. However, I have written a short-story that is pure science fiction—not yet published—and it was pretty difficult to do. And I have another pure science fiction in mind, and I am looking forward to tackling that book and the challenges that will come in writing it.
5.What were you top 5 favorite reads as a youngster?
My love for reading started with comic books, both Marvel and DC. They led me into the Choose Your Own Adventure series, specifically the Dungeons & Dragons Choose Your Own Adventure stories. From there, I started reading Star Trek novels. Ultimately, I fell in love with JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series. I also loved Tolkien’s Silmarillion.
6.Do you love the ocean as much as your main character Sam Everly?
Yes! In fact, it was my love of the ocean that led me to write the first pirate novel. I now live in the desert Southwest of California, and one summer I just didn’t have much chance to get to the beach. Missing the ocean, I just started writing about an experience as a youth in my hometown of Torrance, Ca. at the Redondo Beach pier. I had no idea writing about a day at the pier would turn into a pirate novel, but it did. But, yes, the ocean is where I find the most peace.
7. What feedback from young readers do you get concerning Sam’s dismemberment? What prompted you to include it in the storyline?
I haven’t really gotten any feedback from young readers as most of my school and library visits are a way of introducing the books, so at that point they don’t know what happens to Sam. I chose the dismemberment of his hands because I felt every true hero must face not only hardship, but face loss and overcome it. Since so much of Sam’s powers have to do with his hands (which control his ability to wield his fire blade), I felt losing that power would be a true test of his ability to become a real hero. Plus, it was a fun scene to write, which goes back to trying to create a great visual for the reader. I wanted them to experience that loss not only with Sam, but as if they were Sam. What would they feel? How would they react? Hopefully, it drew them closer to the storyline.
8.Do your own kids read your novels? What advice would you give youngsters who want to follow in your footsteps?
No, my sons do not read my writing. The thing is they already know so much about the stories because I consult with them, but also, I guess it would be a little weird to read Dad’s book. As far as becoming a writer, there is so much to say, but for now I’ll just simply say if you have any desire at all to write, start by actually writing—whether it be a journal or diary, short fiction, poetry… anything. The more you write, the more you learn about yourself as a writer and discovering that you do, in fact, love writing opens the door to so many different career paths that allow you to be a writer. I would also say—and every writer says this—don’t be your own worst critic. Go easy on yourself. You certainly do have to learn the craft of writing, and that takes time and practice, but try to enjoy the journey of just creating something. If you are too hard on yourself, it becomes way too difficult to move forward. In the end, writing should be fun.
9. What in your opinion are protagonist Sam Every’s greatest strengths and weaknesses?
His greatest strength is his determination to do what is right—to stand up against impossible odds, and rise above his own pain, to protect those he cares about and those he loves. For such a young man, he also shows great courage in that he is constantly in danger. He is less concerned about losing his own life and more focused on stopping the evil Jem Slayer to protect the future. His greatest weakness also revolves around his age. Though he is brave for a young teen, he also has no real idea what he is doing and must depend on the knowledge of others to survive and even have a chance to defeat Slayer.
10. Do you include places you have visited or lived in your novels?
I wish I could say yes, but the truth is—no. I would love to visit the Caribbean and see the places I am writing about, and in this new book, a part of it—an important part—takes place in the London of the early 1700s. I would love to someday visit England, which is clearly a very beautiful place. However, the London I am describing is something very different—dark, foreboding… a cesspool of violence and struggle while still a center for wealth, shipping and commerce. Having never been to England, it took a great deal of research from studying historical books to contacting London historical societies to gather as much information as I could. I really enjoy doing that kind of research, and I think it helps add some authenticity to my descriptions.
11.What can readers look forward to in the future? Can you share a teaser from a work in progress?
Well, I have a new manuscript I’ve written that again mixes fantasy and science fiction, but it is more of an urban fantasy. I can’t say too much more about that right now, but I hope to see the manuscript become a book that young adult readers will enjoy. Beyond that, I am working on a follow-up to Deadly Waters and developing a science fiction story about pen pals across the universe.
Alas, the sun is sinking into the sea, and it is time to bid farewell to our intriguing Author guest. We look forward to many other exciting and magical tales of bravery, torture and perseverance on the high seas from Author Darren Simon.
Until then, fortune be with you and yours as we heave ahead over the mysterious and beckoning literary seas in search of fair breezes and the finest in entertaining reads.
All my duty to you,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, The Whimsical Herald
OH HOW THE WINDS DOTH BLOW!
Hale and well met me hearties! The seasons are changing as THE WHIMSICAL HERALD sets a course into the uncharted waters of paranormal YA and Voodoo magic-the infamous city of New Orleans is our destination! We will be seated at the captain’s table with our guest of honor the original and inspiring Author Janet Post to discuss her latest release from Tell-Tale Publishing, ”VOODOO CHILD’, written with her award-winning author son, Gabe Thompson. ’Voodoo Child’ is a coming of age novel that tells the tale of three misfit friends, Jean, Oscar aka “Walmart”, and Bella, that band together and discover that they have more in common than they would have ever believed!
SECRETS NEVER KEEP, AND MAGIC CAN GET YOU KILLED!
Jean felt the possibility of things going wrong was huge. He had no idea what he was doing and from recent experiences, magic was a crap shoot. “Ha-ha,” he said with no humor. “You’re just a bundle of laughs.” He stiffened his spine, grabbed everything he needed, marched into the bathroom, ripped off his clothes and left the amulet dangling around his neck. He stared at the water. Misgivings circled through his gut giving him a stomach ache. He finally sighed and gingerly stepped in.
After a little hopping around, he sank into the water. The heat felt nourishing. As he poured all the ingredients into the tub, the scent of the herbs swirled around him. He inhaled deeply as they infused him with inner happiness.
With the smell of the herbs surrounding him in clouds of steam, Jean proceeded to the next step. He lit the white candle, held it in his right hand and chanted the incantation. “Hold me, shield me and defend me, so mote it be.”
He repeated the chant in his head. Hold me, shield me, and defend me. Then Jean dunked the candle into the tub and a blue flame spread across the top of the water. The fire was frightening, but it didn’t burn. The stone in the amulet glowed bright blue and warmed his skin. When he dunked his head through the flames and under the water, the fire went out. “Wow that was scary.” After drying off, he squeezed back into the borrowed clothes and left the bathroom running his fingers through his wiry hair. The water made the curls tighten so he worked at loosening them.
Bella looked like she’d been waiting impatiently for him to get done. “Well, did it work?”
“I’m not too sure. The bathwater caught on fire like the diary said it would, so I think I should be safe from being attacked by animals. But, it was just some herbs and a spell. How could that work?”
Bella looked relieved. “It sounds like it worked.” She pointed to his amulet. “Look, the stone is blue. Wasn’t it like gray a few minutes ago?”
Explore the mysteries of New Orleans’ French Quarter during Mardi Gras, through the eyes of three seventh graders as they search to reconnect with their parents and avoid a nasty set of bad guys. Left alone and homeless in Haiti, Jean Benoit is sent state-side by an orphanage to live with foster parents and attend Catholic school as a social outcast.
His new-found friend Oscar, known as Walmart, is mocked by fellow students as an overweight under-achiever whose mother abandoned him in Wal-Mart. The boys are befriended by Bella, an American Indian, who lives with her adoptive parents. Her birth parents are dead, but they left her a legacy she soon discovers as she begins to shape-shift. Jean receives a gift from his dead father, too. It’s a magic amulet pursued by a voodoo witch named Odette, her brother Bocor, and her son, Natas. Jean has no idea how to use it. He must learn on the fly, on a wild race around New Orleans, on a train to Little Haiti, Miami and back, to the cemetery in the swamp, as the three friends try to find his mother before the black magic users get to her, or them.Explore the mysteries of New Orleans’ French Quarter during Mardi Gras, through the eyes of three seventh graders as they search to reconnect with their parents and avoid a nasty set of bad guys. Left alone and homeless in Haiti, Jean Benoit is sent state-side by an orphanage to live with foster parents and attend Catholic school as a social outcast.
His new-found friend Oscar, known as Walmart, is mocked by fellow students as an overweight under-achiever whose mother abandoned him in Wal-Mart. The boys are befriended by Bella, an American Indian, who lives with her adoptive parents. Her birth parents are dead, but they left her a legacy she soon discovers as she begins to shape-shift. Jean receives a gift from his dead father, too. It’s a magic amulet pursued by a voodoo witch named Odette, her brother Bocor, and her son, Natas. Jean has no idea how to use it. He must learn on the fly, on a wild race around New Orleans, on a train to Little Haiti, Miami and back, to the cemetery in the swamp, as the three friends try to find his mother before the black magic users get to her, or them.
award-winning author interview!
1.This urban fantasy read is laced with lots of humor throughout-are you and your cowriter funny people?
My son and coauthor, Gabe, has a wicked sense of humor we share, but middle school kids are just naturally funny. They might not think so, but hormones, growth spurts, and the ups and downs of life provide endless possibilities for humor.
2.What is your target audience for this entertaining novel?
It’s a middle grade book, middle school age kids and up, because I think anyone could enjoy it.
3.New Orleans was a fascinating setting for this tale. Have you ever visited or lived there and how did you decide on it for ‘Voodoo Child’?
I love to visit New Orleans. My co-author and I took several trips there together to get background and to enjoy the Quarter.
4.Your main characters are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Was this intentional?
I think kids come in all shapes and colors and so should your characters. Ethnicity, cultures, and backgrounds make for an interesting blend and add flavor to your writing.
5. More than one main character has abandonment issues. How does this shared experience in your opinion shape their behavior and choices during the course of the story?
My chosen theme in Voodoo Child was abandonment, especially the loss of a mother. It’s amazing to see how different children deal with it, and also how kids survive and succeed no matter what.
6.How would you sum up the underlying theme of this novel?
Kids need their moms and their families. They know it and will search for a place to belong and a family.
7. In many ways this is a dark story with multiple villains. Which are your favorites?
I like the bumbling fool apprentice voodoo priest, Natas. He was goofy and fun to write.
8.Did you draw from any of your own childhood memories or experiences when creating these well drawn characters?
I had six kids. I worked with children when I was a reporter. I know them. It’s important to know kids if you’re going to write about them. I came from a military family. We weren’t close. Maybe I’ve always wanted a close family and maybe that’s why I made such a big one. You never know.
9.Tell us about cowriting with your children Gabe and Melanie, pros and cons.
I like writing with a partner whether Gabe or Mel. When you have a partner, you never get writer’s block. They always had ideas. Mel met interesting people working in big restaurants and as a bar tender. Gabe is just a very creative person and teaches school. He knows teenagers. But they both have careers and families so sometimes, they were busy when I needed help. I did most of the writing, but I have the time to do it. Both were great beta readers as well, so when editing, I always had their input.
10.Will there be a sequel to “Voodoo Child’?
We never thought about it so I don’t know.
11.What projects are you currently working on that fans can look forward to in the future?
I just finished a Young Adult Science Fiction called Starhaven. It contains a menagerie of animals, aliens, strange planets and a terrific heroine with a secret embedded in a tattoo on her neck. Tell-Tale Publishing also has the next two books in the series Vagrant Chronicles; Mutant and Descendent. I haven’t thought too much about the next one after that, but rest assured, there will be one.
We bid a fond farewell to our amazing author guest Janet Post and look forward to her next exciting novel!
THE WHISICAL HERALD is casting off! Be sure to come aboard again where the rum is top notch, the winds are fair and the journey into astounding and intriguing literary seas always brings new adventure!
I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of THE WHIMSICAL HERALD
Well blow me down, me hearties!
Aye and well met! It’s your Mistress of Madness on the Whimsical Herald! All hand hoy for our most intriguing and informative author interview to date. Our fascinating guest is sought after cyber security expert Emilio Iasiello, and he will be climbing Jacob’s ladder to join our company and regale us with his latest release, ’THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES’. This renowned guru of Cyberspace has been instrumental in protecting companies, institutions and individuals from Cyber Pirates for decades. He brings his insider knowledge to the younger set in his original, humorous, thought provoking and immensely entertaining new release!
“A STRANGE NICKNAME, A THIRST FOR TECHNOLOGY, AND A WILL TO PAY HER GIFTS FORWARD BY HELPING OTHERS WILL PROPEL THIS YOUNG WILLY INTO A LEARNING CURVE SHE COULD NEVER HAVE IMAGINED!”
WILHELMINA EVANGELINE BEATRIZ PAIGE, KNOWN AS ‘WEB’ has been fascinated with computers from an early age. Not only is she tech proficient, but she has become increasingly aware that there is danger lurking in the cyber universe, and that she and her friends are particularly vulnerable. This coming of age story is packed with valuable insights and information for readers in middle grade on up as Web helps them troubleshoot their problems.
Confused, Mr. Ransom looks at my father who smiles and laughs.
“Clients? Is that what I am?”
“Cyber Oracle. At your service,” I say, handing him a business card.
“Well how about that,” Mr. Ransom says.
“Crazy isn’t it? My daughter’s changing the world, one internet user at a time.”
PRAISE FOR THE WEB PAIGE CHRONICLES: "Web Paige Chronicles offers a refreshing and empowering role model for young adults. By eschewing this iGeneration’s stereotypical malaise in favor of positive curiosity with technology, Iasiello folds practical cybersecurity guidance into a relatable story." -Scott Schober, author of Hacked Again
Emilio Iasiello is a cyber-security expert who has written a modern and realistic coming-of-age book that either boys or girls will enjoy. It helps them learn to deal with such modern problems as cyber bullying, hacking, sexting, online predators and more. Though the main characters are junior high aged, older readers will enjoy this quick read, and learn a great deal about safely negotiating modern technology. Highly recommended for schools and parents to share with their tweens and teens--or their cyber-leery friends.
Wilhelmina Evangeline Beatriz Paige is better known as “Web” to her friends because of her seemingly endless knowledge of computers. Always eager to lend a hand, she takes pride in helping the “technically-challenged” in her neighborhood as part of her “pay-it-forward” philosophy. But when her closest friends become the targets of cyber bullying and online predators, Web realizes that safely navigating the Internet is more than just using strong passwords and antivirus protection. By helping those who can’t help themselves, Web embarks on a journey through which she learns things from not only her friends, but also strangers, adults, and most importantly, herself.
1. Why did you decide to target a Midgrade audience for this informative and entertaining read?
I’ve been wanting to write a kid’s book since my daughter was born (she was my first child). The challenge has always been to decide what I wanted to write about. By the time I figured that out, she was already three years old. So my goal was to get a book published in time for her to be able to read it.
For the last twenty years, my two passions have been writing and cyber security. Watching the news about online predators and cyber bullying and the challenges kids are faced with technology, I knew I had found the perfect fusion of my two passions. Kids, especially at the midgrade level, are becoming increasingly more capable with technology than some of their parents. Once that was decided, it was all about creating a main character who was accessible and familiar.
2. Your charming character Willy, or “Web” has many admirable character qualities-which ones are the most important in your opinion?
I find empathy to be an extremely important attribute and is something that I try to instill in my children. It’s a powerful connector because emotions are shared by everyone at all ages. I also find Web’s curiosity to be completely engaging. Following your intellectual curiosity develops creativity, exposes a person to new ideas, facilitates open discourse about topics, and improves self-awareness. Finally, the fact that she’s family-oriented and loyal to her friends are important traits to me.
3. Cyber bullying and online predators are a dark element in the Web universe. What can concerned parents and other adults do to keep kids protected?
A few years ago, a former colleague of mine showed me a site where middle school and high school kids in her school district congregated and used the online forum to spread rumor, gossip, and say unkind things to one another. I was appalled by this. Factor in the numerous “unknowns” of the Internet and the people that prowl there, and I knew that safety education had to start on the family level. The book details precautions that all kids and adults should follow based on incidents that actually happen in real life. Some of these precautions include choosing gender-neutral screen names, never revealing personal information to anyone online, don’t post photos whose locations can be easily identified, and never ever agree to meet someone you met online.
4. What did you teach your own children about surfing the Web?
I am now just starting that process. But first and foremost is communicating to my children about what the Internet is, how it works, highlighting its advantages and threats. It’s very important to help them develop a strong situational awareness and understanding of the online environment. Coupled with this is treating the technology with respect. Due to the complicated nature of the Internet, teaching children about acting responsibly online is about creating educational and security-related building blocks to enable them to be more confident when they surf the web.
5. You are a cyber security expert, inventor, and CEO of a top notch security firm. If you could sum up your personal mission in one sentence, what would it be?
Let me first say that I’m not the CEO but work for as a senior intelligence analyst for a private computer security company, although I have independently consulted on the side. I’m still working my way up the corporate ladder. My personal mission statement can best be summed up as: “To promote responsible online behavior with today’s youth through education, encouragement, and guidance.”
6. How does it feel to get hacked?
You feel violated and helpless. A complete stranger has just invaded your personal space and looked through and/or taken the most personal and sensitive information that you have. Worse, in most of these cases, as a victim, there is little you can do about it. And now you have to invest considerable time, effort, and money reaching out to credit bureaus, financial institutions, social media, friends, family, to let them know what happened and to begin remediation efforts. Every day in the news, there is a new story about an organization being breached exposing millions of users’ data to hostile actors. In these instances where the individual has no culpability in hack, free credit monitoring for a year is poor consolation for such a breach of trust.
7. Willy, aka ‘Web’ stresses precautions and personal awareness for her computer using friends. Why aren’t companies and sites taking more responsibility on themselves to protect users in your opinion?
It’s happening but not nearly at the level it needs to be and not from a standpoint of a formal and constant coordinated effort. Part of the reason is that breaches have become the norm that such crimes are almost becoming white noise to the public ear. Worse, since organizations are rarely held accountable for breaches providing one-year free credit monitoring service post-breach to affected individuals is hardly a fair trade-off. October is national cybersecurity month, but 31 days of security tips and reminders is not adequate to make a dent in improving user security education. This approach has to change, and while the government through agencies like DHS has improved outreach, the private sector needs to meet it half-way and do more. All organizations likely have some cyber security training in place, but this needs to be more than a once-a-year practice. Cyber security must be 24x7x365. The bad guys don’t take a break. What makes security awareness think that it can?
8. What future threats do you see for internet users?
The one major disadvantage facing Internet users is that the bad guys are always one step ahead of the good guys. They continually demonstrate ingenuity and innovation when it comes to taking advantage of software, hardware, applications, programs, and computer users’ writ large. That puts the public behind the eight-ball from the start. The more users adopt Internet of Things devices (this refers to any item that has an IP address and is Internet accessible like refrigerators, baby monitors, autonomous cars, home thermostats, etc.), the more susceptible they will be to online attacks. How organizations (such as Equifax or healthcare organizations) responsibly store and protect the personal and sensitive of data of people is something that users should be concerned about as well. Two others worthy of note are Cloud storage services and ransomware. As more people rely on cloud services to store data, these enclaves will be increasingly targeted. Although usually better secured, once breached, an attacker will have access to everything stored in that cloud. Ransomware doesn’t seem to be going away. Ransomware is malware that encrypts your files and demands a ransom to be paid to the attacker before its decrypted. This first started targeting organizations and sectors like healthcare and education but has shifted toward targeting individuals.
9. What would you want the ultimate takeaway to be for anyone reading, ’The Web Paige Chronicles’?
Computers and computer technology have given us enormous benefits. But like all things, there are drawbacks and dangers. Being aware of the dangers and acting responsibly on the Internet starts with the individual but must include the ongoing support and participation of friends, family, parents, and responsible adults.
10. Where do you see your character Wilhelmina ten years from now?
Excellent question! Web is very much influenced by her father’s work in law enforcement and her mother’s work in a hospital. In college, I see her computer science-focused but using that as a stepping stone toward a career where that enables her to help people. So, I don’t see her exclusively in a reverse engineering or computer programming role. The computer side will definitely be a complementary aspect to her future career. What exactly that will be remains to be seen. Like any person, these goals are subject to change. It’s hard to believe I started off with an English major and headed toward teaching and found myself in cyber security. They don’t call it a journey for nothing!
11. You touch on some sensitive issues in the novel. What prompted you to include cyber bullying and sexting?
I think it was important to approach the issues being confronted by this age group in the real world. Leaving out some of the more provocative incidents that are transpiring daily would have made the book incomplete, and risked it being accused of trying to avoid disturbing realities. More importantly, kids are smart. They know when things are sugar-coated. For this book to resonate with the readers, it needed to be honest about what this age group sees and talks about and struggles with. It needed to be on their level from perspectives that they could identify with, and in the end, show them how to manage through them in a positive and helpful manner.
13. What projects are you currently working on? Will there be a sequel to ‘The Web Paige Chronicles’? It seems like I have a million things going on, it’s difficult to get organized. I have completed my first fiction novel The Girl Behind the Glass that was accepted for publication by a Canadian press and should be out in 2019, and a full-length book of poetry entitled Smoke in the Afterlife that should be out late 2018/early 2019. As for Web, I have been jotting down notes for a sequel to The Web Paige Chronicles. She is a character that I love and want to see more of in the future. Hopefully readers will as well!
Well me hearties, it’s time to bid our esteemed guest, Emilio Iasiello a fond farewell! We look forward to hearing more from our Cyber Security expert in the future.
All my duty to you, fair winds and following seas for your journey, and may you have Good Fortune for your companion!
As always, I remain your humble servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness
Ahoy me hearties!
We’ve just sailed back from the doldrums to catch up with prolific and celebrated author Stone Wallace. Seems his newest crime noir novel just hit the marketplace and we are anxious to interview him about this exciting new crime noir release that is sure to shiver our collective timbers!
We’ll all be wettin’ our pipes with some tasty grog as he joins us at the Captain’s table to regale us of his exploits and tells us about his newest novel ,’REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’!
WHEN GOING STRAIGHT GOES SIDEWAYS, EX-CON JOHNNY DARROW FINDS HIMSELF IN A HIGH STAKES FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE!
Johnny Darrow is in a race against time as he finds himself at odds with a boyhood friend turned powerful enemy in a gambit in which his feckless gangster wannabe kid brother becomes a pawn.
“Four chances were all that he’d be given. He would have to make good on each one, and even so the odds were that he was a dead man. He snapped the clip back into the grip and hefted the gun, at the same time feeling a wave of sickness not attributable to the alcohol he’d consumed course through his body. He slid the automatic into his hip pocket, eager to be rid of its cold, unyielding feel – if only for a few minutes. He pulled his jacket right around himself but saw no need to button it. They knew he would be armed.”
Ex-con Johnny Darrow is released from prison intending to go straight. But when he returns to the mean streets of his old neighborhood he quickly discovers that circumstances are against him. Unable to find honest employment and saddled with a reckless younger brother determined to pursue a criminal career as a means to escape his environment, Johnny soon finds himself drawn into a scheme with his gangster pal, Frank Lisanti, which, if successful, will provide him with the cash to solve his problems. However, returning to crime proves a dangerous maneuver as Johnny quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of murder and treachery with his brother becoming the pawn in a deadly game between two boyhood friends turned adversaries. Now on the run, Johnny must somehow extricate his brother from the clutches of Lisanti and his murderous mob while keeping himself free from police capture.
1. What attracted you to the 1940s as the setting for ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Actually the 1940s was the prime era of noir. Most of the best films of the genre were produced during that decade and those were movies I fell in love with: Out of the Past, The Killers, Born to Kill, Criss Cross. The character of the movie gangster also underwent a sort of metamorphosis during that time. The 1930 sharp-suited criminal characters of Bogart, Raft and Cagney evolved into a new breed of tough guy, personified by Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. They were of raw material, replete with neuroses and psychoses, often possessed of a violence that was explicit and sadistic. Consider Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, Robert Ryan in Crossfire, Raymond Burr in Raw Deal and Neville Brand in D.O.A. Five nasty specimens. And we must not overlook the classic and often lethal femme fatale, best exemplified by Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, Yvonne DeCarlo in The Killers and Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears.
2. ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’ starts out atmospheric, nightmarish and engaging-was that intentional?
Absolutely. As with the best of noir, there seems to be a general feeling of desolation, often desperation, and even hopelessness – I think I make that clear in the opening chapter of the book with Johnny in that hotel room. A happy ending is not always in the cards for the hero of noir. The good guy doesn’t always win out, and if he does, at times it comes at a cost. Noir doesn’t just refer to the dark and shadow-laden cinematography so prevalent in these films but also to the theme of the story and overall mood. I hope I captured that in my novel.
3. Johnny Darrow is a complex protagonist. Which of his qualities make him relatable to readers in your view?
Thank you for saying that. I wanted to construct him in that fashion. Johnny is a guy who can best be defined as a victim of circumstances. His slum upbringing, an alcoholic and brutal father who deserted his family. He was possessed of a restless, resentful and rebellious spirit that led him down the wrong path. His time in prison for a relatively small offense was really the best thing that could have happened to him. He knew upon his release that he wouldn’t necessarily have an easy time on the outside, but he also realized that it was either “make or break” it; he could never do another prison stretch. Unfortunately, circumstances (or the “Fates” as he refers to them) lead him, reluctantly, into an unholy alliance with his old partner – who has become a hardcore criminal with no chance at redemption. Like the Henry Hill character in Goodfellas, his one ambition was to be a gangster.
4. You have written in many genres. How does writing a crime thriller differ from writing a western? Which is your favorite go to genre to read?
Only in terms of the setting and the era. When my Western Montana Dawn came out, a reviewer referred to the title character as a “kind of Western Bonnie Parker”, which she is. I could easily have modified several of my Westerns into modern times and they would have worked as well, I think. Ditto Requiem, which I could re-write into a Western just by adjusting the setting. Outlaws instead of gangsters; sheriffs instead of detectives. In fact, three fine film examples of this are Kiss of Death, remade as an oater as The Fiend Who Walked the West, High Sierra remade as a Joel McCrea Western called Colorado Territory and The Asphalt Jungle which was turned into an Alan Ladd picture called The Badlanders. Replace Winchester rifles and getaway horses with tommy guns and fast-moving automobiles, Stetsons with fedoras, and the story would still be there. As to my favorite genre to read, I enjoy a good Western (Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove is my absolute favorite), but my preference has always been for crime stories. My favorite authors are W.R. Burnett and Mario Puzo. The Godfather is a masterpiece and still my number one favorite read.
5. In your illustrious career you have been an author, interviewer, copywriter, broadcaster and even a boxer! What was your takeaway from your experience as a boxer?
Well, I never went into boxing as a sport per se. My dad passed away when I was 14 and I got into a difficult stage where I was unleashing a lot of aggression – and not in a good way. Certainly not proud of those days. Fortunately, my mom started dating a man – a great guy – who had been a boxer in the navy during World War 2. He noticed my behavioral problems and suggested that boxing might be a more constructive way of letting out my hostilities. Again, it wasn’t an outlet I was actively seeking. But I did get into a club at the YMCA where we trained every Saturday and I found that, yes, it was an effective way for me to release my negative energies. I kept at it in an amateur status for several years and later had the chance to go semi-pro. I didn’t, but some years later I coached boxing for inner-city youth and that proved very rewarding. As you know, I feature a boxing sequence in Requiem for a Gangster. Still love the sport though it’s not how it used to be, sadly. As for what I took away from boxing, as it pertains to writing, definitely discipline – which is very important for the writer. You have to condition yourself to write something each day, just as you would train daily in preparation for a match.
6. Do you feel the heroes and villains are clearly defined in ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Definitely. I believe readers will relate to Johnny Darrow in a sympathetic way since his problems, I hope, are identifiable. The antagonist, Frank Lisanti, I believe possesses all the right qualities to make him a very unlikable, even hateful character, a guy of twisted ambition who has an evil, treacherous soul, despite his attempts at an outward shallow charm. Needless to say, because he was so nasty he was fun to write. My main female character, Audrey Crawford, was an interesting character to fashion: Her somewhat unorthodox attraction to Johnny and how a jaded Johnny initially regards her interest with suspicion, and how the relationship develops from there. And Johnny’s kid brother Ray just has an angry and resentful attitude similar to what Johnny had, but the defining of his character is a bit more ambiguous, which is how I intended. I guess to summarize: The white (Johnny). The black (Frank Lisanti) - and the gray (Ray). And of course there’s the cop Lieutenant Tierney who also has a shading of gray to his character, and perhaps with good reason.
7. If this novel was optioned for film, who would you like to see cast in the various roles? In particular, what actor could you see playing Johnny Darrow?
Boy, the actors best suited for the principal roles are no longer with us. But . . . for fans of noir, see if you can recognize the in-jokes I have within the story, pertaining to the names of some of the characters, one of which I already revealed. That will give you an idea of my ideal casting had the book been written back in the day. I sorta figure that with a few years shaved off, Mark Wahlberg would make a good Johnny; Sean Penn as Frank Lisanti (he always has that underlying violence in his characters) . . . and maybe George Clooney as the detective, Tierney.
8. You have interviewed many other celebrities in your career. Tell us about a favorite.
I’ve been so fortunate in that regard. And really, everyone I interviewed was a real gem: kind, polite and accommodating. My first interview was with another tough guy actor, Lloyd Nolan. We began a correspondence that resulted in my visiting him at his home in Brentwood when I was on a trip traveling through California. Actually it never really was intended as an interview per se, but some years later I transcribed the tapes and submitted the print copy to Filmfax, who published it. I conducted Robert Stack’s final interview. He was one of my first heroes: the original Eliot Ness. And he really was a funny guy, which most people might not associate with him. Two noir actors became good friends of mine, both now sadly deceased: Mickey Knox and the lovely Coleen Gray. John Agar was another early movie hero who became a good friend, as did veteran movie heavy Marc Lawrence, with whom I was planning to write a book focusing on his long movie career that began in 1932. Again, not bad for a kid from Winnipeg, Canada.
9. Crime novels are an extremely popular genre. What do you think readers look for in a great crime novel?
I hope they are because I’d love to continue writing them. As for what makes a successful crime novel, one that appeals to readers, definitely you must have characters you can identify with, relate to, be he or she tough or vulnerable – or preferably both. A compelling story line is necessary. Keep the reader turning pages. In that regard I prefer a sparse narrative to a weighty, description-laden one. You know, more the Hemingway style than some other writers whom I won’t name. But again, that’s my personal preference. There are so many variations on the genre which have been mined by the greats like Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Burnett and Mickey Spillane. Robert Parker was another, and he’s a personal favorite since he successfully tackled both crime fiction and Westerns. And the late Elmore Leonard did, as well.
10. What is your best advice for aspiring authors based on your experiences?
Read. Learn. Research. Digest. Inevitably whenever I meet someone who knows I’m a published writer I’m told “I have a terrific story” (I hate it when they add: “For you.” I have enough of my own ideas, thank you). Well, maybe they do have an interesting tale to tell. But my reply is always: “So write it.” “But I don’t know how,” he or she responds. Neither did I in the beginning. I’ve been at this racket for over 30 years, published 20 books among a score of other stuff. But I knew that writing was what I wanted to do so I just began to research. Back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of the internet for quick results so I haunted libraries, reading works by my favorite authors, learning the mechanics of good writing, imitating styles I admired until I found my own voice, and discovering the pros and cons of publishing as a business: the submission process; what’s the best market for your specific story. And also, maybe most importantly, what I discovered early on: You must develop a tough skin and learn to accept rejection, which is always difficult. I had my share of “no’s” when I started out, but I was also lucky to receive some encouragement from publishers who did not merely respond with the dreaded form rejection letter but rather included a personal note telling me that they saw promise in my writing and to keep at it. Persistence is the key. If the talent is there, eventually you’ll find success. Originality is important, too. Look at contemporary Hollywood, so devoid of ideas that it keeps regurgitating the same stuff: remakes, sequels, stupid summer comedies, endless superhero movies. Just keep a realistic expectation. Lightning does strike but it can be a tough business at which to earn a living. If you do make a book sale, hold off on pricing that yacht. One more note: Don’t wait for the muse to provide you with inspiration. Create your own inspiration. My longest and one of my most successful novels came about by my writing just one opening sentence. Didn’t know where that sentence would take me, but gradually it expanded until I completed a nearly 400-page book which became a national bestseller. So again – Just write: something, anything. You never know where it might lead you.
11. What current projects are you working on? What can fans look forward to in 2018-2019?
I’ve completed another horror novel that I’m in the process of polishing. And I’m about three-quarters through another gangster book: The Chicago Boys, a fact/fictional story detailing the power struggle that existed within the Outfit after Capone was sent away to prison for income tax evasion and how the mob tried to muscle into early Hollywood in an attempt to expand its rackets following the repeal of Prohibition. I didn’t want to write a straight history but rather have some fun with it, re-introducing Eliot Ness into the narrative and creating some fictional characters based on real people. And there are the true-life mobsters in the story, such as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, “Greasy Thumb” Jake Guzik, and of course “Scarface” himself. From an early age I’ve always been fascinated by this time in history, and especially the workings of the Chicago underworld during the era. My interest remains so pronounced since boyhood that I sometimes think that I must have lived as a hood during that period.
We bid fair winds and following seas to our intrepid guest Stone Wallace as he parts our company. He certainly is a well-traveled fellow with many tales to tell! If you pick up a copy of his newest release, me hearties, you will get a taste of intrigue and high adventure without having to leave your armchair!
We wish fortune to you and yours as THE WHIMSICAL HERALD heaves ahead!
Until next time,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness on THE Whimsical Herald
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Avast ye maties and look sharp!
As we sail into port for another amazing author encounter, we call for all hands hoay as we enjoy the summer breezes on our faces and look forward to meeting our distinguished guest, author Amy Thornton. With humor, keen insight, and more than a little panache Amy has written a guide to help workers navigate the concrete jungles of the workplace with gusto and confidence, all while generating joy and good will to boot! Amy has an extensive professional background as a columnist and award-winning good will enthusiast, bringing with her over a decade of experience as a Human Relations Instructor for the Dale Carnegie Institute.
Sound impossible? No worries! Amy Thornton will be joysplaining how. Whatever your work situation, she’s got you covered.
WORK IS NEARLY HALF YOUR LIFE-MAKING IT JOYFUL IS WORTH THE CHALLENGE!
“No matter what your level is on the job, you can be a powerful force for change. Being a positive example at work is like the start of a ripple in a body of water-your bit of joy may be just a drop in the pond, but it can make circles to all of its edges and reach so many.”
Are you one of the 48% of employees worldwide who don’t like their jobs? Do you feel constantly stressed at the office? Or maybe you’re just feeling “blah” about your job and want to bring some life back into your workplace.
If you talk to anyone about their careers or jobs these days, most of the time you won't hear positive stories or excitement. You'll probably hear words like "busy,” “stressed,” “exhausting,” and “mind-numbing." And with the good old 40 hour workweek becoming a distant memory for many of us, this reality is just plain sad.
Joy to You and Me (At Work!) helps turn these situations around by giving the reader easy tips they can implement quickly to start making a positive difference in the workplace. Being joyful isn't just a “fluffy-cutesy-nice” thing to do each day - it actually increases productivity and is good for any company or organization. The book helps anyone learn how to:
This fun, easy-to-read guide shows people of all ages and personalities how to make a difference immediately to make not only themselves happier, but to spread that happiness throughout the workplace – and beyond!
By sharing stories from the author’s 25+ years of making a joyful difference in the workplace and examples from truly kick-ass companies, Joy to You and Me (At Work!) is a life changing, fun read for anyone who wants to improve their work life.
1. You have an extensive professional background that you bring to your writing, including instructing a Dale Carnegie Human Relations Course for over a decade. Which of your professional endeavors influenced your writing the most?
In addition to teaching the course, I also worked at a fantastic biotechnology company on the northwest side of Indianapolis in my early 20s that encouraged us to improve their work atmosphere through a program called "I Power." Individuals with the best I Power suggestions were awarded Employee of the Month at company-wide meetings. This motivated me to always look for ways to bring joy to my co-workers and their customers and set me on my path of bringing enthusiasm to the workplace.
2. In ‘JOY TO YOU AND ME (AT WORK!) you emphasize “showing’ appreciation rather than “telling”-can you recall a special moment in which a coworker or boss wowed you?
As I mention in my book, when I left the Town of Field's Corner, my co-workers hosted a goodbye breakfast for me. My jaw dropped when I saw numerous pictures posted on one wall of me at various events and programs throughout the years. It was so touching to see how everyone had worked together to create this collage of wonderful memories.
3. In an age when so many workers are on ‘remote’, so you feel the suggestions and principles in your book are just as applicable as they would be to those in more traditional work settings?
Absolutely. Even workplaces that seem to be doing well on the surface can always find ways to improve their level of joy!
4. What are some of the common questions you get from younger workers you have instructed? Have you noticed a change in the questions and attitudes of younger workforce members in your years of experience in the field of human relations?
The funniest question I’ve ever gotten from a younger worker is “Kathy asked me to Xerox this – what does that mean?” Haha! Seriously, one person did ask me “How are you always so positive?” I let her know that no one can be positive 100% of the time, but having enthusiasm can really make a difference in what you do.
Some of my younger co-workers have trouble letting go of work when they need to and I feel for them. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day and to put the phone aside on evenings and weekends. I admire their dedication, but having a balance is crucial.
5. How important is camaraderie in the work place?
Camaraderie makes a huge difference in the workplace! When you feel a connection to your co-workers, it makes each day much easier and helps you accomplish so much more.
My 17-year-old son is fairly new to the workforce and is approaching his one-year anniversary with his company. In his first few months, he wasn’t connecting with anyone and his work suffered. Now he’s made many friends and is being trained to advance into other tasks. I can tell he enjoys his work more now!
6. As an innately enthusiastic person by your own admission have you ever been accused of being a ‘Pollyanna’ ?
Yes, I get teased (affectionately!) by friends and family about this. But they’ve told me they wouldn’t want me any other way.
As readers will discover in my book, some people just don’t like a joyful personality. I don’t want ANYONE to squelch their enthusiasm when they encounter these individuals. The world desperately needs more joy and kindness. When I’m around these folks now, I just give them kindness and move on.
7. Is there a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace? Have you ever had to discipline someone or let them go?
I’m not sure there’s a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace, but there are gentle and kind ways to do so. So often I hear people at work say, “Well, it’s not personal.” People are breathing, feeling creatures of emotion. No matter what, bad news will affect them personally. Talking to someone face-to-face, in private, with compassion, is the best way to deliver bad news.
I’ve never had to let someone go in the workplace, but I have had to discipline people. My first step whenever I’ve had to do this is to put myself in their shoes. My second step is to always begin with some praise. Most people are doing the best they can. I’m kind, yet firm, in these situations.
8. What practices help to de-stress workers? How do you yourself unwind from a taxing work day?
Healthy ways to de-stress include deep-breathing, gentle neck rolls, a quick break to walk around the building, “safely” venting to someone outside the company, and treating ourselves to something soothing such as a cup of tea or soft music.
My favorite ways to unwind from a taxing workday include walking, hoop dancing (dancing with a hula hoop) and lying on some soft carpet putting my lower legs up onto a card table chair! That last one makes people laugh, but it’s a great tip I learned from a friend. By lying down and resting your legs on the seat, you relax your back.
9. Dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers is endemic in the work place and you devote a chapter to it. Can you share the takeaways from your experience working with the very difficult coworker you named ‘Vanessa’ in your book?
I’ve discovered that dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers in a calm, productive manner is the best way to go and something I’ve never regretted. I’m so grateful I handled things the way I did with her because I literally see Vanessa every month or so out in our community. Instead of awkwardness or avoidance, we share smiles, understanding, and brief conversation.
10. Are you working on your next book in the series yet? Can you share a snippet or teaser from it?
I’m actually more of a fiction writer! This was my first “real” non-fiction book. I’m not planning on making this a series, however, I have many fiction books ideas brewing. Nothing is written down as of yet.
11. What’s on your schedule for the rest of 2018? Where can fans of your work catch up with you?
I’m reaching out to start speaking to different Central Indiana professional organizations, businesses, and non-profits on how they can bring more joy to their workplaces. I will have book signings and sales at various libraries and bookstores in Central Indiana and beyond.
Virtually, I’d love to hear from people through my web site www.authoramythornton.wordpress.com; email email@example.com; or on Twitter or Facebook.
ttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CZRJ6CL Here's a one-minute preview of what you'll learn: Joy to You and Me (at Work!) Trailer
As we wave to our wonderful guest author Amy Thornton and prepare to shove off, we do so with a renewed sense of vigor and optimism! Amy Thornton’s enthusiasm is truly contagious! Even the grumpiest members of the crew seem to have more cheer, and we look forward to having her as our honored guest again soon!
Until then, I remain your faithful servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, The Whimsical Herald
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Mistress of Madness
Well, do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?
Lewis Carroll, in 1897, proposed this answer, "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is 'never' put with the wrong end in front!" (raven, spelled backward, is nevar aka never...or as we like to say here at TT...never more!)