Meet RJ Mirabal, Rio Grande’s Author, Retired Teacher, Rider, Musician.



RJ Mirabal, Southwest Contemporary Fantasy author of The Tower of Il Serrohe, a retired award-winning teacher of  Los Lunas High School in New Mexico, is with us today. Former president and rally chairman of the Land of Enchantment BMW Riders, RJ remains active in the club. RJ is a board member of the New Mexico Dulcimer Association which puts on a yearly dulcimer music festival.


RJ Mirabal, Southwest Author of The Tower of Il Serrohe

“People tend to put themselves in little groups and the groups come into conflict with each other… I think people from different cultures are a bit suspicious of each other. The clans in the book have some elements of New Mexico, but they are also universal; they could be from any part of the world.”

Hello RJ, thank you so much for visiting. First, congratulations for the accolades from your readers so far. They’re all fascinated by your home the Middle Rio Grande Valley, where you have lived most of your life. Please share this this place with us.

The Middle Rio Grande Valley is located in New Mexico midway on its journey from the Rockies of Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. The river itself is small in terms of volume, but rather exotic as it works its way through mountains, across deserts, and deep canyons all while nurturing its bosque: a narrow band of mostly cottonwood trees, willow bushes, and countless species of plant and animal life. I grew up along the Rio Grande in the small towns of Peralta and Los Lunas and couldn’t think of any better setting for my writing.

You are a retired teacher of the award-winning Los Lunas High School. Come tell us about this school and your time there.

My life’s work was teaching high school students English, Speech, and Drama in Los Lunas, New Mexico. I enjoyed the challenge of helping students communicate more effectively and explore their world. The difficulty was getting students to appreciate their role in their own education. I was able to succeed some of the time, but I occasionally wonder about those I couldn’t reach. I was active in the National Education Association (NEA) at the local level because teachers have to have an equal voice in the direction of education in America. I was humbled when I earned the NEA-New Mexico Excellence in Education award in 2006 two years before I retired.

That’s wonderful! Congratulations!

And past president and rally chairman of the Land of Enchantment BMW Riders, you’ve remains active in the club. How nice! Share with us your adventures with the club.

Being able to ride throughout this beautiful state, country, and world on a motorcycle is an experience for which I’ll always be grateful. And the people I’ve worked and ridden with are among the best!

After retiting, you have pursued writing and music. Playing the hammered dulcimer is a big interest for you and you’re a board member of the New Mexico Dulcimer Association which puts on a yearly dulcimer music festival. Tell us about playing hammered dulcimer, and the music festival.

Hammer DulcimerThe hammered dulcimer is a rather unique and little known instrument of ancient origins. It has a very charming and exciting sound because, coupled with the singing strings, there’s a strong percussive element that makes playing and listening great fun. Our New Mexico Dulcimer Festival is a wonderful opportunity for many people to learn more and appreciate the beauty of these unique instruments including the mountain dulcimer which is actually a different instrument.

You enjoy exploring New Mexico’s wilderness areas on his four-wheeler and travelling with your wife, Cheryl. When you’re not writing or promoting your book, you explore back roads and wilderness trails throughout the state on your Polaris RZR four-wheeler. Tell us more about the wilderness trails and the four-wheeler. Which one interest you the most? The wilderness or having fun with the car?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the 4wheeler (which is something like a micro-Jeep with a motorcycle engine) and the wilderness are equally attractive. It’s great to get away from civilization and humanity to simply enjoy nature. It’s also fun to go fast, climb hills, and cross difficult terrain. It’s a wonderful blend of the man-made and God-made. Of course, I also believe in preserving the environment and sticking to official trails so wildlife can go about its business without some crazy guy on a Polaris RZR (the brand of 4wheeler I ride) disrupting their day!

What a way to enjoy life! Now tell us about your novel The Tower of Il Serrohe. What compelled you to write this book?

The Tower of Il Serrohe is the result of a lifelong interest in fantasy and fiction stories that have unexpected plot twists. I also wanted to place the story in the landscape of the Southwest where I grew up and now live. It’s fun to find mystery and wonder in the “ordinary” places of our everyday lives. Thus I call it a Southwest contemporary fantasy.

Fantastic! Would you be so kind to tell us about The Tower of Il Serrohe?

Wrenched from a deteriorating lifestyle when his promiscuous wife kicked him out, anti-hero Don Vargas rents a dilapidated casita which – unknown to him, of course – is actually a portal to another world. Vargas takes readers through a dusty portal on a Southwest contemporary fantasy quest into a larger-than-life alternate Rio Grande Valley, where local clanspeople expect him to save them from the wily Soreyes’ mysterious Tower.

Will Don find purpose to his pointless life? Will he find love and friendship in a place he wouldn’t have believed possible? Where will his next beer come from?

The Tower of Il Serrohe front cover final

The Tower of Il Serrohe follows the misadventures of Don Vegas—who reluctantly passes through a portal—on a quest to help the clans of the Valle Abajo, a valley in another dimension that resembles the Rio Grande Valley of present-day New Mexico.


Please share your favourite paragraph in this book.

This paragraph ends chapter “fifty two” summing up the nature of Don’s personality and still to be revealed abilities to take on the quest to save the clans of the Valle Abajo. It also makes me laugh visualizing it:

“His (Don’s) departure seemed to create an enormous vacuum in the room. The two clanspeople (Raquela and Nersite) felt this was the closing of a big circle. Don had to be the one to save the Valle. Just look at his heritage and his abilities. That is, in spite of the fact—though they had no word for it—he seemed to be a bit of a prick.”

How long did it take you to write this first volume, RJ?

In total from initial idea and a couple of short stories that gave birth to the much more complex novel it took 30 years to complete this story. Of course, I wasn’t working on it that whole time. I actually spent the last three years writing, editing, and then getting it published by 2012. But the story ideas and my writing style improved over those years. I, of course, read continually taking inspiration and tips from every author I read.

 “The places and the people are fully realized and totally involving, and become friends you want to continue to know.”

How real are your characters?

Some of my characters are obviously fantasy, but based on interesting human peculiarities of most every person I’ve ever met. Even Don, though a regular human, is not based on any one person, but a collection of individuals I’ve known and other characters I’ve encountered in literature. I’ve tried hard to “test” my characters—even the fantasy ones—against reality so that I hope readers will find them believable given the setting and plot I’ve created.

RJ, you have said,  “People tend to put themselves in little groups and the groups come into conflict with each other… I think people from different cultures are a bit suspicious of each other. The clans in the book have some elements of New Mexico, but they are also universal; they could be from any part of the world.” What message would you tell the world? Does this book have an agenda?

The message is: “All of what we perceive to be reality is a function of our perception which is informed by our normal senses and our emotional and philosophical states of being.” And, as always: evil is bad, kindness is good, and love is essential to life.

No big agenda other than entertaining my readers who will share in my imagination as they read the book.

On the sequel, do you accommodate fans’ requests on your sequel?

I’m trying, but I’m taking some risks, too. I can’t be specific because I like readers to be surprised when they read my work. The main thing is that the story continues. I had originally intended this to be a self-contained story, but I’m enjoying the challenge of developing the story and characters further.

Why is this sequel a must-read?

I want readers to learn more about the clanspeople and the evil Soreyes. Plus, I love sharing more about the landscape.

What is the proposed title, RJ? And how did you come up with this title?

The title is: “Extreme Dust Storms May Exist”. This title is a slight variation of a very strange sign near the setting of the novel along the highway past the real Los Lunas (Rio Luna in the book). Dust and dust storms are a constant reality in New Mexico plus the implications of dust and wind play a part in the story. Also there is a key event at the beginning of the story that involves a dust storm.

Right. In Australia it will be a sign of extreme fire danger 🙂 

When is the proposed release date of this sequel? Tell us your latest news.

No idea on a release date. I’m still working on the first draft and haven’t sent it to my publisher to gauge his interest in publishing it. I’m continuing to market and publicize The Tower of Il Serrohe by attending book fairs, signings, presentations to the Southwest Writers (my professional writing association) and doing media interviews like this!

Good luck with your marketing efforts! About writing. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good fantasy?

A good fantasy has to take the reader away from the “real world” into a place and events that fascinate, hence the term: fantasy. Yet at the same time, the world and characters of the fantasy story has to be believable and follow its own internal rules and the normal rules of what it means to be a human being. If a character is totally out of the realm of humanity, then we can’t relate and the story loses relevance.

When did you first know you just had to write?

When I was a kid, I used to entertain my friends making up stories as we rode the bus to school and back home. I didn’t know that meant I was to be an author, but that’s where the impulse started. Plus, I’m an only child, so I had to create stories when I played since I didn’t have siblings.

RJ, you said, “When you have a story, once you’ve developed it into a manuscript, get an editor.  No matter how good you think you are, you’re not. Somebody else should look at it who knows what they are doing. You need to have people read what you’ve written, especially people who will be honest.” Now, how did being an English teacher prepare you for criticism?

Being a teacher prepares one  for all kinds of criticism from students, parents, administrators, politicians, media pundits, etc. Since I graded writing for a living, it’s not hard putting myself at the receiving end of criticism. I actually welcome it as long as it’s honest and constructive.

How much do you have in common with your protag?

Few of Don’s major characteristics are shared with me such as alcoholism, constant cynicism, being so out-spoken, etc. It was a great challenge to create and maintain a persona very different from me. However, some of the small ways and things that annoy him annoy me, too. Nersite is most like me in my opinion.

Tell us a bit about who and what matters to you.

My wife, my late parents, and the great family of friends I have are most important. Also, enjoying life and spending most of my time doing what is fulfilling to me. I enjoy some attention, but not a lot. I would like more attention paid to my writing which is what I’m working on now.

Yes, I can see you are a very people person with real interest in those around you. Thank you so much for the wonderful chat, RJ. Best wishes on writing Extreme Dust Storms May Exist!

And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting RJ Mirabal. He can be found on  or his current main site Check out the latest news from RJ on Facebook,  Google Plus, and  Goodreads. RJ’s book The Tower of Il Serrohe is available from and  Barnes and Noble . I will let you know when the sequel will be available.

What readers say on The Tower of Il Serrohe:

  • Mirabal does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the Rio Grande Valley and transporting you to a new dimension with likable characters… What a fresh style for fantasy.

  • Man, Mirabal sure has some imagination! … I was able to picture so much of it in my mind, even the house north of Rio Luna. The map was a great idea and helped me with my vision as I read.

  • A fascinating journey to the desserts of New Mexico and the alternate world that parallels it. The whimsical characters remind me of the Hobbit, only with a New Mexico twist. Mirabal’s descriptions of New Mexico sunrises and sunsets are beautiful…The mystery of the other world is carried through to the surprise end, and a satisfying conclusion that stays long after you put the book down.

  • This book creates a solid new world with the feel of the Southwest, and yet with a difference: The alternate world is strange but haunting—and mysterious. Like the protagonist, you sometimes wonder whether it is real or just hallucinatory. But then, when you get to an explanation of sorts—WOW. Totally unexpected and made me rethink—and want to reread it all.


sydney's song s logo

Meet Matt Posner, Author of the Shocking “THE PARING KNIFE”


Read & Tell


My guest today is Matt Posner, another author of the fabulous Carnival of Cryptids. Author of sevral books, Matt is a writer and an English teacher from New York City, where he is also a performing poet and percussionist with The Exploration Project, New York’s premier avant-garde multimedia club band.


matt posner headshot

Matt Posner, author of “The Paring Knife”:
I want my writing to change lives for the better. I want to be entertaining, but I also want the reader to feel more at ease with the universe.

Thanks for having me, Ia. I’m here today to promote Kindle All-Stars 2:  Carnival of Cryptids. It’s an anthology featuring short stories by seven up-and-coming independent authors, selected and introduced by our leader, kick-ass author and kick-ass cop Bernard Schaffer. Cryptids are mysterious creatures suspected but never proven to exist, like Bigfoot or Loch Ness monster, or your homeland’s equivalents, Yowie and Bunyip. Buyers of this anthology get a dual benefit. They get the stories, which are all suspenseful narratives by publishing professionals, and they get their full purchase price donated to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a magnificent charity here in the United States.

Carnival of CryptidsCOMING SOON

Carnival of Cryptids. Proceeds from this book will go to
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


Hello Matt, what a noble endeavor! And what a fantastic collection; I am deeply impressed by the high quality of every story in Carnival of Cryptids. Could you please let our readers know about your contribution to this anthology?

I wrote a story called “The Paring Knife,” and I am helming the publicity campaign for the book.

Would you be so kind to give them a one-sentence synopsis of “The Paring Knife”?

It’s a dark underground cooking TV show in which some of the ingredients are cryptids and the losers get attacked by children with knives.

How real are your characters?

They are modeled on the people I see on Food Network and The Cooking Channel. Not on specific people, just on the various types who are there. If you watch competitive cooking, you will find a lot you recognize.

Yes, your characters marvelously represent those in real TV shows. Great observation!

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

Since I was in Kindle All-Stars: Resistance Front, I’ve made it my ambition to be a part of the regular roster for the series. I was happy Bernard Schaffer picked cryptids as a theme, since I have been studying them since childhood.

How long did it take you to write The Paring Knife?

I started it in July and submitted it at the end of October. I was stuck at the end of the second round of competition for a while, not sure who would be eliminated or why.

But you ended up with such a shocking, delightful story. Man… I’ll never eat pakoras again! But you must be a wicked cook. How did you come up with the title?

I wanted something that featured both the idea of elimination of contestants (paring away) and contained the menace inherent in the situation (losers are attacked with knives).

Brilliant! And what is your favorite part in the story?

I mock one of 2011’s bestselling novels at a certain spot. I like that part.

I noted that! Perhaps you mocked more than its title, I wouldn’t know though.

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I read voraciously growing up, so there are really far too many to name or even recall. Every time I think I have that nailed down, I remember another one I should have mentioned. So for variety’s sake, I’ll say which authors I really DON’T like:  Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, William Golding, and Virginia Woolf (barf!)

Hahahaha… In my country of birth I chose science, and am I glad we were never forced to read books we didn’t want to read 🙂 How about writing? What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

Writing—I think I have that figured out. It’s marketing myself that is the challenge now. I wish I had a marketing degree.

Looks like effective marketing is either costly or time-consuming; a real challenge for me too as I must focus on my family first. I wish you success in your effort. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

My beloved wife Julie makes me a functional human being. Having read Sydney’s Song, I know you know what it’s like to feel someone completes you that way.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

I’m working on School of the Ages:  Simon Myth. It’s the fourth book in my series. It’s damn hard to finish because my plotline has turned out to be unreasonably ambitious. I hope I can finish it before the summer.

Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?

I’m a professional teacher. I have a union job. I wouldn’t give that up unless I had just ridiculous amounts of money rolling in. Is writing a distraction? No, it isn’t that either. I think about writing all the time and I am constantly getting ideas with no time to execute them. Even when I went on European vacation last time, I wrote as much fiction and nonfiction as I could.

Yes, it was in your third School of the Ages: The War Against Love. I will include my review on that one at the end of this interview so our readers can learn more about the series.
How much do you have in common with your protag?  

As far as “The Paring Knife” is concerned, it’s the script of a TV cooking show, so it doesn’t precisely have a protagonist. Instead, I used the story as a chance to be much more vicious and wicked to my characters than I would ever be to real people—and to be funny doing it.

As far as the protagonist of the School of the Ages series, Simon, I have a lot in common with him.  I was a dark-minded brooder when I was his age. The difference is that he’s heroic and bold, and I never was those things.

That’s the joy of writing, isn’t it? One of my best friends was always a shooting champ in her writings, because in real life she never won the first place. What are your hobbies?

Book promotion has mostly replaced my old hobbies. I still like to go to art museums. Julie and I travel, especially overseas, when we can afford it. We are also movie and TV aficionados, seeking out not only the standard Hollywood fare, but also great foreign, independent, and older movies.

Book promo! My family is allergic to that, so I’m done with methods that don’t work to be with them. Good luck with your effort though. And give us a shout whenever you’ll visit Aussieland. Foreign movie? Check out Intouchables if you haven’t seen it.

Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

I wish I could do something to get the generation of students I am teaching to value and enjoy reading. What’s most frustrating is their almost instantaneous rejection of things that are not in their immediate world-view, and their experience of reading as a difficult, burdensome task to which most anything else is preferable. I wish I could change all that.

That is sad. My daughter’s friend wrote recently that a boy’s best friend is no longer a dog. It’s now a computer, where he mostly play games such that kids in non English-speaking countries don’t know how to write in their native alphabets anymore. But I noted you always make sure your writing is something that kids will find entertaining. What is important for your readers to know about you? Why?

I am friendly to readers and happy to hear from them about my work. Don’t be shy about writing to me. You’ll make me smile like a proud papa.

I want my writing to change lives for the better. I want to be entertaining, but I also want the reader to feel more at ease with the universe.

Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

Do both as often as you can. Writing:  try to be interesting. If you aren’t feeling it, your readers won’t. There are things that work and things that don’t work, but the words you don’t like writing, no one will like reading.

Thank you so much Matt, that’s a precious advice.  Thanks for visiting and sharing with us. And oh, as regard The Parting Knife, tell your Belinda to use fresh lime leaves to eliminate any meat smell before or during processing 🙂  No other citrus will do—I even grow a lime tree for its leaves.


Schoof of the Ages

Matt’s books are available for Kindle from all Amazon bookstores and also for Nook. In India, the School of the Ages series is sold exclusively by Times Group Books in their online venues or in bookstores.


My mini review of The Paring Knifeimages (1)

Three very experienced chefs are invited to show off their culinary skills in the Underground Food Challenge at the Underground Food Network. As in your usual real-TV cooking show, these contestants are given unexpected surprise ingredients to work with; but unlike your usual show, Matt Posner has invented creatures man wasn’t supposed to know, and you’d never guess what’s going to happen.

Whipped up with clever details by a teacher who obviously enjoys cooking, THE PARING KNIFE is gross and shocking. You will laugh, but first you will cringe. Bon appétit!


 And here’s what I reviewed a few months ago: 

School of the Ages: The War Against Love

A grim YA Urban Fantasy, this entertaining read is the 3rd in The School of the Ages series.

Brilliant young wizard student Simon and his friend Goldberry must face dangerous, vicious foe after vicious foe right from the start to the end, starting from the attack by Nazi magicians in New York and on to new villains in Europe as they travel with their mentor Dr. Solomon Archer. Along the way, love happens too, in the form of a tempestuous beauty who is the daughter of the all-powerful Arch-Mage of Prague, which brings further threats of life-threatening dangers and devastating loss. In the end the student wizards, along with their friends and teachers, must face their most formidable enemy.

In this meticulously plotted book Posner has deftly developed memorable main and supporting characters from diverse cultural backgrounds. In this book we learn about Simon’s family, his grandmother, and his intriguing new friends and his remorseless enemies.

THE WAR AGAINST LOVE is a well-written action-packed majestic epic of romance and feud with a message of tolerance, written by an author who has worked closely with his audience and understands them well.


Check out Matt’s website Follow him on Facebook,  Twitter @schooloftheages and Pinterest. Matt is also a goodreads author. 



Meet Her Awesomeness Susan Smith-Josephy, Author of “The Ogopogo Club”


Read & Tell





My guest this week is Susan Smith-Josephy, author of  “The Ogopogo Club”, the only short story  written by a female author that was selected to be part of the Kindle All Stars “Carnival of Cryptids.”



Susan Smith-Josephy, author or LILLIAN ALLING and THE OGOPOGO CLUB: “I’ve always been fascinated by the bizarre, the awful, and the unexplainable.”


Hahahahahahaha! OMG… Carmen, oops, Susan, please tell our readers here a one-sentence synopsis of “The Ogopogo Club”!  (*in tears, laughing*)

A woman, married to a jerk, learns just how real The Ogopogo Club is.

How real are your characters?

Um, for legal reasons, I must say “they’re not real at all!” However, in reality, they’re based on composites of people that I know very well.

You are so mischievous! I knew I was going to be entertained even before I read it! And I wasn’t disappointed at all 🙂

So what inspired you to write this story?

I’ve always been fascinated by the bizarre, the awful, and the unexplainable. So when an opportunity came up to contribute to the Kindle All Stars 2 “Carnival of Cryptids” I knew I had to do it.

You’re the only female author of Carnival of Cryptids, so I knew from the beginning there must be something very special about you and your writing. When did you first know you just had to write?

I’ve written for a number of years but I’ve become a lot more prolific now that I’m doing it full time.

How long did it take you to write this piece?

The writing didn’t take long, maybe a few days. But the editing took a lot longer.

How did you come up with the title?

I wanted a local cryptid. The Ogopogo is a watery, bumpy-backed water creature that lives in Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. I love B.C., but its wilderness can be scary. Especially when you’re out on a remote lake, alone with two drunk men.

What is your favorite line in the book? (or paragraph)

“She imagined how it would be if they really existed.  They could come up under a small boat like ours and lift us up, and over we’d go.  No one would know, and no one would find our bodies.  Rumor had it that each time the Ogopogo ate a man, the creature grew a new hump.”

And little did she know… 🙂  Really brilliant, Susan 🙂

So who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Patricia Highsmith comes to mind. Her stories are a mixture of mystery, the bizarre, and shocking characters. She had a talent for writing a likeable villain which is not an easy thing to do.

Not easy, but you did it very well! Susan, share with us your story about the joy and the hardship of writing.

I enjoy writing because I can do it by myself. No matter how much someone would like to help you, you simply have to do it yourself.

The joy comes from finding the first kernel of an idea. The challenge and hardship then is turning that idea into something worth reading.

And finding more joy in the end, I’m sure. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

I have a friend from university that lives half a country away, yet we e-mail each other regularly and talk about our writing projects and encourage each other.  I value this feedback very much.

I get a ton of support from my husband and my mother, too. My husband’s driven me thousands of kilometers to help me solve a problem with geography in my research. My mom is an avid reader of everything, and has an instinct on what’s right in a story.

Aren’t you lucky! And they must love the process too, seeing how talented you are. Are you working on another story right now? Tell us your latest news.

Right now I’m working on another non-fiction book. It’s a biography of a local old timer. He came to British Columbia for the gold rush in the 1850s, and soon turned to mule train packing to make a living. He was a character, well-loved, and continued with his career well into his 80s. I love to research and write about every day people who do extraordinary things. He probably didn’t think he was doing anything special, but he worked for more than 50 years in a physically grueling profession, during some of the most fascinating times in our province’s history.

I also have an ebook of fiction anthology coming out later this year. In keeping with my love of the macabre and weird, it’s a collection of stories I’ve written over the years with a general theme of the dark side of human nature.

It seems that my non-fiction focuses on the good in people, and my fiction spotlights the bad. I need to figure out why that is.

Methinks you’re a well-balanced all-rounder, Susan. I’m so going to check out your other books!

Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?

It’s neither, really, and also both. It’s a career because I do it all the time, every day. But it’s also a distraction because every time I try and do something else, I feel like I should be writing.

How much do you have in common with your protag? 

Not much in that she keeps her mouth shut, and I am loud and opinionated. But some, in that I hate being around groups of drunk people.

I see, so you sort of vent your dislikes both aloud and in writing—and why not? Isn’t that one of the joys of being a writer? I too sometimes take my vendetta against obnoxious people in my writing 🙂 

What are your hobbies, Susan?

Reading, papercrafting, gardening, photography, travel. Can I count “cleaning my closets” as a hobby? I like to do that.

You must be very organized. What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

I’m a retired journalist, so I’m at home. But I also do social media for a local company, and do other stuff as well, so I usually write in the middle of the night.

How nice. I can’t wait to be a wise, retired lady of 70, and writing full time.

Who and what matters to you, Susan?

My family and a few good friends mean everything to me. I need not to be around dysfunctional people, and I’ll do a lot to avoid them. Physical health is vital. I’ve had some friends with serious health problems, and it changes absolutely everything.

How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

It means a lot to me when someone takes the time to buy and read my book. And if I get an email or a letter from them, I just love that. And when a reader reaches out to me on Twitter and reviews my book, I am just thrilled that they wanted to take the time to do that.

And why not? You’re awesome!

Anything important for your readers to know about you, Susan?

I love it when readers write to me and give me updates on my research subjects. After the Lillian Alling book came out in print, I received some wonderful letters from descendants of the people in the book. It was very moving.

And Lillian Alling was such an inspiring personality; what a woman! I’ll have to read that book.



Susan’s first book, “Lillian Alling: the journey home” is a true account about a woman who, in the 1920s, walked from New York to Siberia via Canada and Alaska.


Any tips for us on reading and writing?

I’m a fan of both print and ebooks. I have about ten print books that I’m reading now, and an equal amount of ebooks just waiting for me on my Kindle. Reading is reading! I believe you cannot be a writer if you’re not a reader.

Thank you so much for stopping here Susan. Best wishes for your work!


Susan Smith-Josephy is a writer, researcher and editor based in Quesnel, British Columbia. Susan has a degree in History from Simon Fraser University, and also studied journalism at Langara College. She has worked at various community newspapers throughout British Columbia as both a reporter and an editor. She is also researching some particularly gruesome British Columbian historical crimes.

Watch out for Susan’s next non-fiction book is about Jean Caux, the famed packer, who is known in British Columbia as Cataline.

Find Susan on her website, her blogs and, Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, and follow her where  most action happens: on Twitter @susmithjoseph

Her book Lillian Alling: the journey home is available from the following outlets Caitlin,  Amazon Canada and every other Amazon.

I hope you have enjoyed meeting her. This is my third interview with the authors of Carnival of Cryptids, a new-released anthology for charity purpose, specifically the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Come back next week and meet the next brilliant author of Carnival of Cryptids.


My mini review on “The Ogopogo Club”:

The OGOPOGO CLUB is the story of Carmen, a very obedient wife, and the abuse she receives from her despicable husband.  One stormy afternoon, they go out fishing with his drunken friend to the scary Lake Okanagan in British Columbia, where Ogopogo, a watery, bumpy-backed water creature is rumored to have lived. 

A short story with a huge twist. Susan Smith-Josephy knows well how to give her readers a good time. Thoroughly entertaining.


Carnival of CryptidsCOMING SOON

CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS is an anthology
about creatures man was never supposed to know.

Sadie Duarte: Her Moving Fight To Survival in The Dance Of Silence.

Read & Tell


Today, we are honoured by a visit from an angel, my very special friend Sadie Duarte, who, I originally stumbled upon on Twitter. When my son accused me of having thousands of fake friends, he was sorely mistaken. Like in real life, cyber friends are humans too, and they come in all kinds of quality. Sadie Duarte, is among the most precious. When I shouted out an invitation to review my book, Sadie Duarte took it up. She happened to like it, especially, as I found out later, she herself has been living with disabilities for quite a time. When I asked her, Sadie promptly went on to translate my work to her native language, Castilian Spanish, which, to my astonishment, she completed amazingly fast. This brilliant author and poetess is very thorough, and works very efficiently.

Born in Zaragoza (Spain), Sadie Duarte is a writer/scriptwriter who holds a B.A. in English Studies at UNED and an M.A. in Textual and Cultural Studies in English Language (British & Hollywood Cinema) at the University of Zaragoza. She has received eleven literary & academic awards and also works as a teacher of English & a translator.



Sadie Duarte, Spanish author and poetess: “When I read a book, I also want to ‘feel’ something. That’s what matters to me the most.”


Hello Sadie. Thanks for visiting. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of Alas para Soñar (Wings to Dream)?

“Silence can dance too”

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was a child, my dream was to be a dancer. Not that I dreamt of being famous, but I needed to escape from the world I was living in, my daily life, the everyday problems… I wanted to be free. Nobody taught me how to dance, but I had some kind of talent which I used to participate in the school festivals and with my friends, just for fun. I was hoping to take up dancing classes, but then, I had an accident which led to a major operation when I was only 18. All my dreams shattered. There was very little chance for me to walk again, but the worst thing to me was when I was told that I’d never dance again.

It was so difficult for me to face up reality and start living a life where the word “disability” was in front of me, just like a label attached to the strings of my heart. Since that day, I devoted myself to trying to get my life back. I thought there had to be a way to bring back the same person I used to be. It was incredibly hard, but fortunately, I recovered from everything.

I’ve always said that no matter how difficult life can be, you just need to have will power to fight and get what you want. Nobody can silence you for even silence has so much to say… even dance to the dance of life.

I thought that I could tell my own story in a fictionalized way so other people, especially teenagers with similar problems and their own families, would know there’s always an open door waiting for you. In this way, Alas para Soñar should be considered not as an elaborated short novel, but more like a teenager’s diary where feelings are much more important than the story.

That is very touching, Sadie. I congratulate you on being a survivor and on your contribution in motivating others. How real are your characters?

They’re all true to life. My friends inspired me as well as other people who I found along the way, though I changed their names and jobs. The two sisters in the story, Marcy and Eileen are both myself. Eileen is the voice of the conscience, the one that tells you where you should go, which road to take and what’s best for you. She’s supposed to be sensible, though sometimes she’s wrong. Marcy is the voice that comes from the heart, the rebel, the one who needs to shout out to the world that she has something to say.

Brilliant! You and your alternate ego. Don’t we all need one? I wish you success in helping people with that one. Now please tell us about your upcoming book, Almas de Fuego (Souls of Fire). What is it about? How did you come up with the title Almas de Fuego?

This is an illustrated fantasy novel for young adults and is part of a trilogy. I wanted to write a story involving mythology, alchemy, magic, reincarnation, love and passion, without forgetting to give readers the chance to unveil a message between the lines.

The story is set in mysterious places like Shamballa, Hades and the African desert. It has exotic protagonists like a water-diviner, a thief of souls and the legendary alchemist Fulcanelli. The storyline conveys some kind of a dreamland atmosphere where everything is possible.

The book brings to the fore the old-time confrontation between good and evil and also makes readers wonder to what extent people’s destinies can be influenced or changed. One way or the other, most people are looking for something: happiness, love, a comfortable life… I guess we are all ‘souls of fire’, just trying to make our dreams come true.

How much do you have in common with your characters? 

Well, there’s always something about me in all the stories I write, though not in every character. Those characters that stumble, fall, learn from their mistakes and keep trying are very much like me.

What’s your latest news?

Almas de Fuego (Souls of Fire) will be published in English and Spanish versions in March 2013. The book will be available worldwide in paperback, PDF and Kindle. I intend to have an illustrated tale for children published later on this year and also have an ambitious project to shoot a short movie in Spain.

You translation of Sydney’s Song has received glowing praise. Readers have come to me to say they like your work. Why did you agree to translate it? How long did it take you to translate this book?

It was the first time I was offered to translate a book into Spanish, so I really liked the idea. At the same time, I knew it would give me the chance to let other people know about the kind of work I can do, so I agreed. I really enjoyed the experience as Sydney’s Song is such a compelling story, so touching and full of life. I’ll always be grateful to Ia Uaro for thinking of me as a translator.


La CANCIÓN de SYDNEY, Spanish edition of Sydney's Song by Ia Uaro, fabulously translated into Spanish by Sadie Duarte

La CANCIÓN de SYDNEY, the Spanish edition of Sydney’s Song by Ia Uaro, fabulously translated into Spanish by Sadie Duarte


The translation took me about one month and a half. I spent about 15 hours per week each time and once it was finished, I also revised, re-read and corrected the manuscript a couple of times too. I’ve always been a perfectionist, so if I ever feel that something should be improved, then I go for it!

Thank you! My deepest gratitude for a job very well done!

What is your favorite line in Sydney’s Song, Sadie?

I’d choose the line where Nina tells Sydney, “No one will think badly of you, except the low people. Nobody will honour you, except the honourable.”

Would you visit or live in Australia, Sadie?

Sure! I love travelling and as I’ve never been to Australia, it’d be great to make a trip there in the near future.

Looking forward to your visit then, I really hope we can meet for real.

Now, wo would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I believe the Spanish author Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870) has been the most influential to me. His rhymes and legends are so romantic and inspiring. The same goes for Antonio Gala and Alberto Vázquez Figueroa, who are not only good writers, but brilliant poets. I love good literature in general, Ovid, Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jerome K. Jerome, Jane Austen, E. M. Forster, Nicholas Sparks and… even Hugh Laurie! When I read a book, I also want to ‘feel’ something. That’s what matters to me the most.

I hope one day you can introduce the great Spanish authors to us by translating their work into English; perhaps someday when you aren’t busy.

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

I’ve been writing since I was 7-seven-year old. I still keep several folders full of short stories, tales, poems and two novels. They may not be very good and I have no idea if I’ll ever have them published, but they’re part of my life. No matter what happens, they’ll always be there, in writing, waiting for someone to read them, hoping to inspire. So many times people have told me to stop writing ‘cause ‘it’s a waste of time’. I disagree.  I believe if you have a talent, you should not put it aside. My piece of advice is that everybody should be free to try and make their dreams come true.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

Other artists, not only the famous ones, but also normal people who are good at something and yet don’t know what to do to be noticed. That’s why I opened my Twitter and Facebook accounts. I want to give artists from all over the world the chance to be heard.

You have a caring soul, Sadie.

You are also a perfectionist with attention to details. Any tips for us in writing or translating?

Just listen to your heart. We all have something to say, so take a look deep inside your soul and try to put it in writing. If it’s hard to do it, if it’s painful and takes you some time, then you bet it’s something good.

What courage! Very inspiring when plenty of people simply give up when faced with difficulties.

Would you take translating a career besides writing?

Yes, I would. Actually, I’d be very pleased to translate into Spanish other author’s books. I enjoy doing many things and being busy, so I’m looking forward to that.

I can attest to how fabulous your work is!

What are your hobbies? When do you find the time to write?

I enjoy listening to all kinds of music, going to the cinema, theatre… anything that has to do with the performing arts. I absolutely love musicals!

I only write if I have something to say. When I have a good story in my head, I try to write it in a couple of months. It’s compulsory. I sit in front of the computer every single day and write until the story is finished, even if I don’t feel like it.

Excellent discipline. What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?

To be or not to be a best-selling author is not important to me. I only want to make people ‘feel’ when they read my stories. I want them to close their eyes and think of the message between the lines. That’s the meaning of success. You’re successful if you manage to touch people’s hearts. And that’s not easy. So many times we read stories that are easily forgotten. If they remember mine, then I’ll be grateful.

Looking forward to read your work, Sadie. Tell us about your Spain.

In my opinion, Spain is a fine place to go on your summer holidays, but not a very good country to live in because of the economic crisis. More and more people are going to live overseas now as there are no working opportunities here. I truly hope that things change in the near future, though many of us are already sad and disappointed.


Sadie’s first fiction novel for young adults, Alas para Soñar (Libros Certeza)—a story about a ballerina who has to deal with disability—was published for charity purposes in November 2000.


Readers, watch out for Sadie’s upcoming book. Authors, contact Sadie for a translation that you will be extremely pleased with. Find her on:

Twitter: @sadieduarte
Book Purchase Links:







Meet Simon John Cox, Author of “The Cage”

Read & Tell


This is my second Read & Tell on CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS, a new-released anthology for charity purpose, specifically the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


Carnival of CryptidsCOMING SOON

Carnival of Cryptids, a fantasy anthology for the purpose of charity,
especially the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


My guest this week is British author Simon John Cox, author of The Cage, one of the fantastic short stories in this anthology. As Jeff Provine has told us last week, Carnival of Cryptids is a collections of stories about creatures man was never meant to know, and Simon’s chosen creature is Yeti.


New Picture

Simon John Cox: “Honesty and integrity matter most to me.”


OMG Simon, what a story! The Cage simply left me speechless! Congratulations on this short story. Would you be so kind to give readers its one-sentence synopsis?

Yeti! Circus! Ringmaster! Money! Moral dilemma!

It felt so much more than that! How real are your characters?

They’re all based on bits of real people. As such the Yeti is either the most or the least real…

Who or what inspired you to write this story?

I had such a positive experience with the first Kindle All-Stars project that when I heard there was going to be a second I decided that I had to write something. I think I picked the Yeti because I like the idea that it’s potentially so similar to Man—that gives a lot of scope. That’s what prompted the story—at its heart it’s an exploration of the moral questions behind the objectification of a living, sentient, intelligent creature.

How long did it take you to write The Cage?

I think I worked on it on and off for a couple of months, but I was sweating right up to the deadline as writing the story changed the direction of the story such that I couldn’t resolve the ending. I wrote a blog post about how I did so, in case anyone’s interested:

Yes, I could see so much thought and reflection had been poured into this one. The result is brilliant! How did you come up with the title?

I usually find it difficult to come up with titles for my stories, because I write with a story in mind rather than a title. It’ll often take me as much thought to come up with a title as it does to come up with a plot. It was only after I’d finished writing this one that I realised that the thing that was causing all of the conflict in the piece was the cage.

What is your favorite line or paragraph in the book?

Modesty forbids me from picking one, I’m afraid.

You are so humble! I would say it’s extremely hard to pick one, because all of the paragraphs have been so deftly crafted.
Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I’d say probably Thomas Pynchon for his imagery and turbulent imagination, Gabriel García Márquezfor his imagination and poetry of prose, and Cormac McCarthy for his precision of writing. They’re the ones that I aspire to (and fall far short of).

Not far at all, Simon. The Cage showcases your superb imagination and precision, besides being soulful and thought provoking.

When did you first know you just had to write?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something or other…

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

The real joy of it is when a stranger contacts you out of the blue to let you know how much they liked something that you’ve written.

Definitely count me as one!

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

Apart from my partner, other writers. I’m a member of the Tunbridge Wells Writers Group, and I know various writers from the internet (many of them from the KAS1 project). They’re always very supportive in terms of encouragement, constructive criticism, advice and designing book covers (that last one’s mostly Keri Knutson and Tony Healey).

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

I’m trying to finish a second novel. It’s about one man whose records are erased and as a result gradually ceases to exist, and another man who is brought into existence by a series of clerical errors. It’s better than it sounds, honest.

Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?

It’s not a career, because I don’t make any money from it, but I wouldn’t call it a distraction either, as that sounds as though it’s something that I shouldn’t be doing…I’d say it’s an escape. It’s a great way of exploring the various ideas that are always rattling around in my skull.

How much do you have in common with your protag George Penny?

We’re both English. Beyond that…not much, I think. Although I expect there’s more of me in him than I realise…

Dumb question; I could see so much of you in this fine piece.

What are your hobbies?

Aside from writing I do a lot of running, and I also do Taekwon-Do.
I always think you need those to stay sane. What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

I’m a marketer, and I generally write during my lunch hour at work. Otherwise I’ll sit down at the blank page if I find myself home alone in the evenings or at weekends.

Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Apart from my partner Saveria, I think honesty and integrity matter most to me. It sounds corny, I know, but it’s true.

Wonderful qualities—I wouldn’t worry about how it sounds. I’m sure they make you a blessing to those around you.  How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you, by the way?

The one thing that people say to me regularly when they hear that I’ve written and published fiction is that they’re impressed. I suppose anyone can say they’re writing a book, whereas not nearly as many can say that they’ve written one…

I will look for your other work. What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?

That I am genuinely overjoyed if they like anything that I’ve written.

And they will want more from you. Any tips for us on writing?

I need to know the beginning and the end before I can write anything. I need to know the two points that I’m connecting.

Thank you for stopping here, Simon. Best wishes for your work!



Simon has been busy. Click here to find out more about his fabulous work.


My mini review of The Cage:

THE CAGE deceptively opens with a group of happy sailors seeking entertainment in town, singing and drinking without a care in the world. However before you know it Simon Cox rips your heart apart with a relationship so moving,  truths so deep.

The Cage follows the beautiful interaction between an ambitious ringmaster and his captive, and asks thought-provoking questions about our very existence and what matters to us humans. Superbly told in a fast pace, carefully thought-out presentation, by a writer who makes us care.


Visit Simon’s home and follow him on Twitter @simonjohncox. His book links are   AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwords.

Carnival of Cryptids’ is now available from  Amazon USA and Amazon UKCome back next week and meet more of its fantastic authors.



Meet Jeff Provine, Author of “Where is Captain Rook?”

Read & Tell


Carnival of Cryptids, an exciting fantasy anthology, is about to hit the market, and I have been honoured to read its preview. In the coming weeks, every Aussie Saturday, I will post an interview with each of the book’s seven awesome contributing authors along with my mini review. However, due to the recent Australia Day, this first entry only is out on an Australian Monday.

Carnival of CryptidsCOMING SOON

Carnival of Cryptids


My first guest is Jeff Provine from Norman, Oklahoma, author of “Where is Captain Rook?”



Jeff Provine, author of DAWN ON THE INFINITY and WHERE IS CAPTAIN ROOK -"I find meaning in accomplishing things, which keeps me busy trying to start, work on, and complete projects.

Jeff Provine —
“I find meaning in accomplishing things, which keeps me busy trying to start, work on, and complete projects.”


Hello Jeff, thank you for visiting with us. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of “Carnival of Cryptids”?

Carnival of Cryptids gives seven stories about creatures man was never meant to know.


How real are your characters?

My characters are larger than life, but show their human weakness.  I started from the genre of pulp with an adventurer, and the sense of awesomeness definitely carries through with the crafty native and the dashing hero.
What inspired you to write this short story? When did you know you just had to write about Mapinguari?

I’ve always been fascinated by the cryptid I chose, the mylodon or giant ground sloth.  I remember seeing a picture of it in an ancient mammals children’s book I had as a kid, and I’ve never lost my fascination with this enormous yet seemingly gentle creature.  Whenever I heard more stories about it, such as conquistadors supposedly fighting one, my interest grew.  When the cryptid theme was given, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about.


How long did it take you to “Where’s Captain Rook?”

I worked on prewriting for about two weeks from initial idea to a mental draft.  The first story I had in mind was nothing like the result: the protagonist changed, the theme deepened, and the twist appeared.  When I had it all mapped out, I sat down and hammered out the story in a long afternoon.  It was such a wonderful feeling to end the day having created something.

And having created something worth reading at that!

How did you come up with the title?

The story needed something memorable and pulpy but not as garish as “The Adventure of the so-and-so.”  Using the first line of “Where is Captain Rook?” proved excellent as the now-first line became a haunting, “He’s dead.”

Hey, we have something in common in that!  I picked most of my chapter titles the same way.

Tell me your favorite line in this story. 

I love the conclusion hinting that the magic of the Amazon had something to do with causing World War II.  “Wars need rubber.”

Thank you Jeff. 

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have always been great influences to me.  I love Verne’s attention to detail, explaining how an 1860s submarine worked, down to the chemistry of its electrical system.  His adventure stories really showed me how to plot.  Wells’ variety of topics and exploration of reasonable outcomes from fanciful “what ifs” are great.  Establish the rules of the world, and the reader will trust you no matter how weird the bug-aliens of the Moon are.

And you sure have the vivid imagination to support that!

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

Writing always struck me as the same as the old actor’s adage, “If you don’t have to do it, don’t.”  It’s not easy.  Sitting at a screen typing for hours or writing by hand until you get cramps is tough, but there is no deeper sense of completion I’ve ever felt than finishing a story.  It’s the good kind of tired where, at the end of the day, you look back over your handiwork and smile.

Congratulations on completing this short story!

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

My friends have always been great encouragement simply by listening to my “crazy ideas” whenever I have them.  They’re a great set of sounding boards and make me question it from every direction to understand fully my own seedling of an idea.  My best friend Chad, an engineer, and my wife, Courtney, a writing major, are two of the best for coming up with new angles.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

Whenever possible, I’m continually at work on my Alternate History blog and my  web comic.  I’m hoping to complete both by this summer, editing and compiling This Day in Alternate History into a single collection and relaunching The Academy with “director’s commentary” on the process of web comic creation.

How do you see writing, Jeff?

If anything, I see it most as a way of life.  It doesn’t pay the bills, but I’ve always hoped it would.  Someday my life dream is to just sit and make stuff up all day, every day.

With your imagination and talent, I’d say keep going! A lot of people are sure to find your work entertaining.
Now, how much do you have in common with your protagonist Paulo?

We’re both meek, but we plan for the long game in a tricksterly fashion.

That cunning twist at the end! Never saw that coming 🙂

What are your hobbies?

Writing, definitely.  On top of that, I like building things, remodeling, and watching tons and tons of movies.

Movies? With your imagination, I guess it’s worth taking up screenwriting to entertain more fans. Check out “The Screenwriter’s Roadmap”, highly recommended. What is your other profession, by the way? When do you find the time to write?

I teach college Composition courses as well as other classes I have developed, such as the History of Comics and Comic Books and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.  I write before class, after class, on days off, evening, and pretty much any time I don’t have something else scheduled.


Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

I got married a month ago, and Courtney’s definitely a major part of my life.  Things are just better when she’s around.  I think spirituality and morality are two of the most important things in anyone’s life.  Personally, I find meaning in accomplishing things, which keeps me busy trying to start, work on, and complete projects.

What a lovely news! May the best of things happen to you. I’m sending you both a wedding gift to your address—and I’m sure Matt will attest this is the perfect gift for this happy occasion.


How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

I think it inspires hope.  I’m just an average guy, and if I can sit down and do something I want to do, why can’t they live out their dreams, too?

I agree. We all need a purpose; it’s a great feeling to be looking forward to our tasks.

What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?

Ideas come to me like a little seed popping inside my brain.  “What if this?”  Then, it grows and stretches and consumes until I have to write it out, tell someone, share the seed so it grows beyond me.


Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

Patience, infinite patience.  Sometimes you’re working so hard you can’t stand it; other times you’re waiting for emails to be returned or rejection slips in the mailbox.  Either way, be patient and keep plugging along.

You’re a saint!

Thank you so much for your time, Jeff. And best wishes in all the things that you do.


I teach college Composition courses as well as other classes I have developed, such as the History of Comics and Comic Books and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.

I teach college Composition courses as well as other classes I have developed, such as the History of Comics and Comic Books and a biography of Charlie Chaplin.


Jeff Provine was raised on a Land Run farm in northwest Oklahoma. He lives with his wife of one month and two kitties in a home he remodeled. Come check out Jeff’s website his ebook  ‘Dawn on the Infinity”his steampunk adventure series of Celestial Voyages.


Celestial Voyages: The Moon. Book one by Jeff Provine in his steampunk celestial-adventure series.

Celestial Voyages: The Moon. Book one by Jeff Provine in his steampunk celestial-adventure series.


Following is my mini review on “Where is Captain Rook?”

The year is 1938 and jungle guide extraordinaire Paulo Nativo prepares his boat for Captain Rook at the border of the Venezuelan jungle and the wide Amazon River. Upon his arrival, the brash explorer from Chicago announces his destination and the purpose of their expedition, commanding Paulo to take him up the river regardless of the guide’s strong reservations. What dangers await them deep in the jungle?

WHERE IS CAPTAIN ROOK is one fine short story. Provine’s vivid details of the exotic setting and his ability to develop rich characters within the short span as the plot unfolds are engaging.


Watch out for the anthology’s release later this week. It’s all for charity, specifically the American’s National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


Donald Calvanese: Creator of Magical People in a Magical Land


Read & Tell


Donald Calvanese is the author of “Carcium: The Conflict Begins”, a fascinating fantasy novel I recently reviewed. A restaurateur and a song-writer, Donald talks about his book and his authorly life.


Carcium: The Conflict Begins

Carcium: The Conflict Begins.
Calvanese cleverly creates chilling characters that even your worst nightmares wouldn’t conjure–malicious malevolent monsters so evil that you sympathize with Troy and his newfound friends, such that you even forgive the very frequent but necessary use of violence in their quest to save the innocent people


Ia: Hello Donald, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of CARCIUM: The Conflict Begins?

Donald: An exciting, enjoyable story for the entire family.


You have such an amazing story and vivid descriptions of the settings and characters. How real are your characters?

Donald:  When I write, the characters are real people to me. They have personality, depth, and heart. When I see them in my mind’s eye they are living.  On my website  I have created digital paintings of the characters. This I believe makes my characters more life-like. I spent many hours working with the artist to make them just how I envision them.

Wow, Duras Carcer sure looks spooky in that painting!

Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write?
The thought of creating an entire world from my mind inspired me to create Carcium.

When I was 12 I saw my first guitar in a music store window, from there I learned of lyrics. I thought it was amazing you could write your feelings down and turn them into songs. I remember watching a movie and thinking how wonderful it would be to create a world of my very own. From that moment I never looked back and now I write every day.


I hope to hear your own song/s in your book trailer one day. And you must have written a lot of stories!  How long did it take you to write The Conflict Begins?

It took about a year.

How did you come up with the title CARCIUM?

I wanted a word that did not exist. So I just started jumbling words and letters around ‘til I found one I felt sounded like a kingdom.


Brilliant! What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

I spend as much time as I can in schools with my program, Writing and Reading Across the Universe. One day before I started the program a young boy ran up to me, hardly able to speak because he was so excited to meet me. He told me how much he just loved Troy and Brutus and could not wait for the second book in the trilogy.  I was very humbled by this experience.

Another time, at work a man came up to the Bar. He told me he purchased the book for his mother who was struggling with cancer. He said that she was determined to live because she just had to finish the book. He said my book help to keep his mother going. I gave him my personal email and told him to have his mother email me and I would send her the second book before it went to print.

Words cannot express how this made me feel. I am blessed to have this gift of writing. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that my story connects to so many different people.


Donald Calvanese, Author of the Carcium trilogy.

Donald Calvanese, Author of the Carcium trilogy: “What matters most is making sure I give my girl whatever she needs to be the best person she can be. This is one of the messages I try to express to young readers through my character’s challenges in Carcium.”


You sure bring joy to many people. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

My wife, my daughter, and my late mother give, or have given me the most encouragement. I believe when you have the help and encouragement of the people closest to you in your life, you can accomplish anything. With the support of those people I have refused to quit. I have been writing for many years and no matter how many doors get closed I turn and knock on another.

I try to convey this message in my writing to help children understand the power they all have inside.

Tell us your next installment of Carcium. What’s your latest news?

The second book is called “Carcium—Darkness Falls”.  This book is going to give the reader even more excitement. I introduce more characters. I take the reader on a crazy non-stop thrill ride in their mind. I will move their heart as well as their soul. I do not let go of them until the very end of the book. I can promise the reader they will be begging for the third book when they are finished.
Looking forward to read that. And how do you  view your writing? Is it a career or distraction? Why?
I see writing as a career.  When you love something you will wait a lifetime to be with it.

I sure relate to that!
Now, how much do you have in common with Troy?

I think the one thing I have in common with Troy is the understanding and willingness to step outside and look at myself. Also to be able to support a friend even when it will not help my cause in any way.  My wife and daughter think he looks a bit like me.


Prince Troy of Carcium is lazy, haughty, and mean. Formerly secreted for safety reasons, he is brought to live in the palace after the demise of his father, the wise king. Troy lives in opulence and doesn't feel the slightest twinge of guilt over the sufferings his poor subjects must endure due to his extravagant lifestyle. He takes away their harvests for endless sumptuous state dinners on his honor, and he deprives his people of water by channeling the streams to his own royal gardens.

Prince Troy of Carcium is lazy, haughty, and mean. Troy lives in opulence and doesn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt over the sufferings his poor subjects must endure due to his extravagant lifestyle. He takes away their harvests for endless sumptuous state dinners on his honor, and he deprives his people of water by channeling the streams to his own royal gardens.


Aren’t you tempted to write about food or being a restaurateur? Tell us a bit about the restaurant. When do you find the time to write?

I have to say, I do not think of writing a book about being a restaurateur, but the thousands of people I have met over the years give me many ideas for new and exciting characters in my writing.

The restaurant is an old tavern from 1779. It was moved by a woman in 1927 to a fair ground. During the holiday season walking in will bring you back years with a warm fireplace in the corner, carolers singing silent night, and the smell of a traditional New England meal of roast Turkey, mashed potatoes and butternut squash. You can admire the original woodwork while you sip a pint of ale. Sometimes late at night when I am all alone, I sit and wonder about the men and women sat here 200 years ago.

William Faulkner wrote while he was a night watchman. I do much of the same. I find time here and there during the day, and then when I am waiting for the dishwashers to finish at the end of the night.

A restaurant with histories! How intriguing. I think we have a lot in common, when in an old place I too often wonder about the people of the past. And I quoted Faulkner somewhere in my novel.

What are your hobbies?

I write music. Build legos. I enjoy playing sports with my daughter and making up stories to help put my little girl to sleep. She has me make up stories from a cookbook she received at the Build-a-Bear store.  A title of one the stories is “Best Friends Popcorn”, from the recipe of the same name.  It was about two little girls. One named Two Cups Brown Sugar and one named Two Sticks Margarine. Together they would make best friend popcorn. This popcorn they used to feed Santa’s reindeer because they need food to keep them going through the long journey. If you leave them food, the reindeer will leave you a special present.

Well on Christmas morning my daughter opened a gift she did not ask for. She turned to me and said, “Dad it worked. Look what the reindeer left me!”  That is just one of the joys of writing for a little child’s heart.

You sound like my mother! She used to tell brilliant made-to-order impromptu stories for my toddler. 

Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Who matters most to me in my life is my wife and little girl Alivia. I guess what matters most is making sure I give my girl whatever she needs to be the best person she can be. This is one of the messages I try to express to young readers through my character’s challenges in Carcium.


What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?

That I am human.

Why….because I want children to understand they are built the same way as the people they look up to or aspire to be like.


Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

Just enjoy whatever you read or write.  You only get one of each day, and if you do something you enjoy if for only a moment, that is a good day.

That’s inspiring. Thank you so much, Donald.

Dear readers, check out Donald’s website,  Facebook, and Video Trailer.  The first book in his Carcium trilogy is available from AmazonBarnes & NobleTate PublishingIndieBound, Books-A-Million. And here comes my review of the novel:




Splendid Imagination!


Carcium – Reviewed by Ia Uaro of


It has been a quite a while since I last felt this enthralled by a Fantasy read. What an imagination! Delightful and wholesome, Carcium: The Conflicts Begins is an original, superbly crafted action-packed fantasy for both young adults and adults where a spoiled and selfish prince must fight abominable evil in order to regain his kingdom and save his people, and along the way learns about the beauty of nature, the power of kindness and the value of friendships.

Prince Troy of Carcium is lazy, haughty, and mean. Formerly secreted for safety reasons, he is brought to live in the palace after the demise of his father, the wise king. Troy lives in opulence and doesn’t feel the slightest twinge of guilt over the sufferings his poor subjects must endure due to his extravagant lifestyle. He takes away their harvests for endless sumptuous state dinners on his honor, and he deprives his people of water by channeling the streams to his own royal gardens.

Unbeknownst to him, his every movement is being watched by the mystical elves who oversee the kingdoms, and Troy fails their leadership test miserably. This means, Carcium is put in limbo, and evil sorceror Duras Carcer–who draws his life force from fallen kingdoms–will have the opportunity to rule Carcium. Troy has one last chance to redeem himself and revive his kingdom, but first he must find the only weapon that can destroy Duras Carcer. And so, rudely thrown out his lavish castle, the unprepared pampered prince begins his perilous quest…

Calvanese’s storyline is carefully plotted. The action and sword fights–during treacherous encounters with dangerous snake vines, starving giant cats, slobbering gargoyles, despicable knights, revolting demons–are choreographed in suspenseful details, forcing readers to tighten their seatbelts as they are brilliantly taken on a magical journey through the richly drawn settings that aren’t just challenging and spooky, some actually move, and oh, add to that foul scents, vile substances, fires, lightning, deadly obstacles and the time constraints. And the hideous villains! Calvanese cleverly creates chilling characters that even your worst nightmares wouldn’t conjure–malicious malevolent monsters so evil that you sympathize with Troy and his newfound friends, such that you even forgive the very frequent but necessary use of violence in their quest to save the innocent people of Carcium.

Suffice to say, Donald Calvanese is a masterful storyteller with vivid imagination who knows his target audience well. He is at times wicked, often insightful, with powerful narration and the knack to heighten readers’ fear. The first book in the Carcium series, Carcium : The Conflicts Begins is a wonderful read that both young people and adults are sure to enjoy, particularly those who love watching the recent teen Merlin series, speaking of which, I’d absolutely love to see CARCIUM on the big screen, to appreciate its marvelous lands and beautiful creatures, even though I’d be gripping my seat in terror half of the time.

I give it 4 stars because the structure could be balanced slightly better by assigning more proportion to the “human” aspect. A few existing typos don’t bother me and an editor can easily clean them up.



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COOL KID CONNOR: Meet Connor Wilson – USA’s Youngest Traditionally Published Author!

Read & Tell







Recently I had the honour to review a fantastic book, A Giant Pencil, by young author Connor Wilson. By young I mean way younger than my 17 when a traditional publisher published my first fiction. Connor was just 8 years old when he sat down to write his first book, A Giant Pencil, and finished it at age 9. The book was released before his 12th birthday, making Connor the youngest, traditionally published fiction writer in America. Awesome, right? And Connor  has agreed to share this amazing chapter of his young life in my Guest Interview!Isn’t that  exciting?

Read on. Note: this interview has American spelling when Connor is speaking, and Australian spelling when I am.



Guest interview: CONNOR WILSON


Connor Wilson. USA’s Youngest Traditionally Published Author


Ia: Connor, would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of A Giant Pencil?

Connor: A GIANT PENCIL is a children’s book about a kid who finds a giant, magic pencil that allows him to erase his problems, but also teaches him about how important his friends and family are.

Sorry, that was kind of a long sentence!

Ia: It’s imaginative, and it has depth  🙂

Who or what inspired you to write this book, Connor? When did you first know you just had to write?

Connor: My Dad is a writer and he definitely inspired me to write a book. He also is the one who made me believe I could do it. There wasn’t a certain time that I decided to write, really. I have kind of always loved to make up stories, even when I was just a little kid. I used to write out pictures in notebook and tell stories about them to my dad. In school, whenever we have to write a story, the teacher would usually use mine as an example, which I really hate because it’s so embarrassing. It did kind of teach me that I am pretty good at writing, though.

Ia: You certainly are!

How long did it take you to write the book?

Connor: It took me about three months. I would write it in my notebook and work for maybe an hour a few days a week.

Ia: How did you come up with the title?

Connor: I don’t know. The story is sort of about this magic giant pencil so it kind of made since. I actually called it THE GIANT PENCIL but for some reason the publisher changed THE to A.

Ia: What is your favorite line in the book?

Connor: Wow, that’s kind of a hard question. Maybe my favorite was the last one I wrote because that was when I was, like, “Wow, I wrote a book!”

Ia: Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What strikes you about their work?

Connor: I really like all of Jeff Kinney’s DIARY OF A WIMPY KID books. He writes about being a kid. I figured, since I like to write, maybe I could write about being a kid really well—since I am a kid!

Ia: How has your published work affected teachers’ and friends’ attitude towards you? Are you fussed at more than other kids?

Connor: Well, there was a bunch of articles in the school newsletter. All my friends were really cool about it, but to me it was kind of embarrassing. There were a few kids early this year that treated me differently because I had been on TV and in the papers and everything, but it didn’t last long. My friends are still the same friends and nothing really is changed. We don’t talk about it. Mostly we just talk about sports and skateboarding and stuff. My teachers kept telling me how proud they were of me, but now it has pretty much died down. The school is really cool about when I have to miss school for a book signing or an interview or whatever. Most days, it’s no different than before I wrote a book.

Ia: What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

Connor: Well, I think most people could write a book if they really want to. Especially kids, because I think we have lots more imagination than some adults. Or maybe we just use our imagination more or something. I guess the big thing is if you want to do it, just do it and don’t give up. Writing is great fun. It’s the editing that is hard.

Ia: I think most people could write, but it takes talent and determination to reach the finish line. Who gives you the most encouragement?


On a TV interview. Connor Wilson, author of A GIANT PENCIL, with Dad, Jeffrey Wilson, author of THE DONOR


Connor: My Dad probably gives me the most encouragement, but I think it’s because he is a writer and kind of gets what it’s all about. My whole family encourages me and tells me they are proud.

Ia: They must be.

And what are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

Connor: Right now I’m working on a new book about starting middle school. It’s about the funny things that happen, and getting used to not being in elementary school—things like that. There are a few friends who have these school adventures and things. I hope it will be the first book in a series of chapter books, for kids in middle school.

Ia: Do you see writing as a future career?

Connor: It’s kind of hard to say because I’m only 12. I don’t really know what other job I might have when I grow up, but I know I will always be a writer no matter what else I do.


Ia: About you. How much do you have in common with Billy?

Connor: I think most kids feel picked on when they are little, like in elementary school, like Billy is. Most people have days when they would like to just erase the things that make them feel bad, so I guess I’ve had days like that.
Ia: What are your hobbies?


Connor on skateboard, his favorite hobby.


Connor: I love to play basketball and I’m on the junior varsity basketball team for my school. I love video games and would play all day on weekends if my parents would let me (which they don’t—maybe I should erase them  🙂 ). My favorite thing in the world is skateboarding. I love to ride at home with friends or spend a few hours at the skate park shredding it up. It was really cool that one of my magazine articles put a picture of me skating. I spend a lot of time playing with my little brother and sister.

Ia: With the  worries about starting middle school, studying for tests, finishing your projects and trying not to kill yourself on your skateboard, when do you find the time to write?

Connor: It has been really hard to write this year, because middle school is way harder than elementary school. I have found time to outline my new book and stuff when I’m not studying for tests. I write some on the weekends. I’ll do a lot more over thanksgiving and Christmas break, but it is really harder this time around.

Ia: Good luck with that.

Now, tell us a bit about Jack and Emma, your little brother and sister.

Connor: Jack and Emma are total, crazy freaks! They are five (Jack) and four (Emma) and they NEVER stop wanting to play.

Ia: And you must have indulged them. You’re the world’s best brother, I hear. Good on you, Connor! Now tell us one important thing that you’d like readers to know about you.

Connor: I guess mostly that I’m just like every other twelve-year-old kid. I totally get what being a kid is like and I try to write about that, especially in the book I’m working on now.

Ia:  Brilliant. You also know your strength and you care about what others want.

Do you realize that you are a good role model for other kids? What advice do you have for them on reading and/or writing?

Connor: I guess so. I never really thought about it. I’m just doing something I really like to do. I guess my advice is if there is something you want to do, try your hardest and you can do it!

Ia: Thank you, Connor. You will inspire many young readers. When I was about your age, I read about a 15-year old who won a writing contest. His interview still inspires me.


Now fun questions to your fictional character,  Billy:

Ia: Hey Billy, does cereal shaped like teddy bears taste better?

Billy: No, not when your brothers and sisters tease you!

Ia: Wanna make these? Tell us if good-looking vegies taste better.

Ia: How real is Jimmy Barton? Do you think bullies like him should be sent to Connor’s next stories?

Connor: I know some real bullies. Maybe something funny will happen to them in my new book

Ia: Haha. Nobody will get injured, I hope 🙂


Now in middle school, Connor lives in Southwest Florida with his family. When not skateboarding, playing video games, playing with his little brother and sister, or doing homework, he is hard at work on his next book. And he reviews children books too! Connor is a book reviewer at his website and at BookPleasures. His are reviews from a kid for other kids—since he is a kid and knows what intrigues young minds.

Find out more about cool kid Connor from these links:







Book Title: A Giant Pencil

Author: Connor Wilson

Illustrator:  Alyssa Machette

ISBN: 978-1937148126

Publisher: Magic Dreams Publishing (August 11, 2012)

Shop: Amazon and Barnes and Noble

52 pages, $12.03

My review:  5.0 out of 5 stars There Is No True Joy, When There’s No-One To Share, October 22, 2012 By Ia Uaro (Sydney, NSW, Australia) This review is from: A Giant Pencil (Paperback)

“This remarkable story hits me right on the mark, and could have been written specifically for me. Alas, Connor Wilson wasn’t around to tell me when I was 13, embarking on a journey that would take me away forever, from my family and friends, from my home and all that I knew.

A GIANT PENCIL is Billy’s story. Young Billy is not happy. He gets picked on and fussed at by his family and friends all the time, every day. One afternoon, when he is in trouble at the Principal’s office, he sees an object falling from the sky into the woods. It turns out to be a giant pencil that is visible only to Billy.

Billy discovers that the pencil gives him the power to erase every annoying person around him–which means everybody. He has so much fun deleting his family and the whole school. He plays video games, eats junk food, and nobody fusses that he doesn’t do his duties.

But all too soon, he learns that family and friends matter a great deal to him.

Written for 7 to 12-year-old readers, A Giant Pencil is so much more than just an entertaining read because it reminds every one of the importance of family and friends. It will amaze you no end that this fascinating read—well written, deftly plotted, and well-structured—was produced by an 8-year-old author. Watch out for his future work!”




THE SCREENWRITER’S ROADMAP: The Straight Path for Future Screenwriters

Read & Tell







THE SCREENWRITER’S ROADMAP: 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story, 

Reviewed by Ia Uaro of

Author: Neil Landau

Publisher: Focal Press
ISBN: 978-0-240-82060-6 (pbk):  ISBN: 978-0-240-82063-7 (ebk)


The straight path for future screenwriters



THE SCREENWITER’S ROADMAP aims to minimize floundering, stumbling and flailing by new screenwriters. Each chapter systematically guides screenwriting students on a specific topic, and continues with a relevant interview of this topic’s expert to help readers envision the scope. An assignment is given to allow readers explore the viability of the suggested ideas.

An experienced professor in screenwriting with many successful screenplays to his name, Neil Landau states on the outset that there is no absolute formula when it comes to writing a successful screenplay. This is illustrated by the differing responses of the successful screenwriters he interviews. Landau’s questions are incisive and straightforward, yet at times he receives lengthy roundabout replies.

Simplistic readers may object to the full quotes in several interviews and wonder why they have not been simplified. The truth, I conclude, is that simplistic people have no business screenwriting. There are various aspects and layers you need to look into and must never neglect or belittle. Brilliance, I see, is a prerequisite. And brilliant students will have no problems discerning these experts’ answers, which, in the first place, are there not because Mr. Landau is not in a position to edit direct quotes, but because they are necessary. I found them not only helpful, but enjoyable, in fact. You get to look into various heads and learn how the fascinating minds work, while at the same time see these admirable individuals for the persons they are. For me, this is a delightful bonus. Here is one example,

“I gather and gather and gather and gather and just build all kinds of ridiculous piles of paper and speeches and extraneous things that will never make the movie. And, just build and build and build until it just gets to some blister point where it can’t go on any longer. All that indulgence. You have to hang on to some things as your career goes on. You have to hang on to indulgence and whatever passes for childlike wonder and innocence and confidence. But, the one thing you must get is that there has to be an extremely brutal part of yourself which is just unforgiving. So, at a certain point, you turn into the evil proctor of the story, and whatever doesn’t want to be there, just disappears. To me, the real mark of an amateur is when you give someone a note on something to have them say, “Do you know how long I worked on that?” And, you want to just go, “Really?” Because I’ve thrown away years of work. In fact, it should actually get to the point where it feels incredibly cleansing and uplifting to throw things away. I’m never happier than when I’m cutting stuff out when I find stuff I don’t need. Better than getting it, was throwing it away.”

The human aspects, intriguing insights, and tips from real-life experiences are parts that no reader will ever find when they google Screenwriting 101. THE SCREENWRITER’S ROADMAP is unique and is so much more than your usual lessons in writing techniques, which, here, are easy to follow and clearly outlined in details.

Will following the book’s 21 chapters jumpstart new screenwriters to the expert level? Not overnight because that requires practice. However, the mapped road is certain to take them there along the straight path.


Image of Neil Landau

Neil Landau is a successful screenwriter, producer, and professor of screenwriting. His works include The Graduate, American Beauty, Network, Paper Moon, Annie Hall, Rosemary’s Baby, The Apartment, Cabaret, Taxi Driver, and Tootsie.