Monday, November 12, 2018

Meet the Author: John Paul Tucker, Author of Shelter Island

John Paul Tucker holds degrees in Theatre and Theology and has many years experience as an Ontario Certified English Language Teacher, in addition to teaching mime, puppetry and Drama to teens and children. His unique journey has furnished him with an eclectic head of ideas.
He is currently celebrating his 50th article on, an educational website he created for writers, featuring writing tips and techniques harvested from the books we love to read. He has published poems in the Toronto Sun, Little Trinity Print Magazine and Imago Arts e-magazine. His poem City Sidewalks won first prize in a Toronto wide poetry contest. Two of his short stories, The Crooked Tree and The Debt Collector have each won a prize awarded by The Word Guild and The Prescott Journal respectively. You will find one of his fantasy stories recently published in the popular Hot Apple Cider anthology Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. JP has been busy polishing up The Rooster and the Raven King & The Rise of the Crimson King, Books II & III of The Song of Fridorfold trilogy, pursuing Cary, Clarisse and Gregory on their fantastic adventures.

John Paul is excited to be putting the final touches to his fourth novel, a YA fantasy inspired by the remarkable storyteller, George MacDonald. Gather the latest news about JP’s upcoming novels, enjoy a book trailer, dive into some free stories and poems, contribute some art work, take a peek at some photos, or for no other reason drop by to say hello at his official author website

John’s latest book is the middle grade fantasy adventure, Shelter Island.

Thirteen-year-old Cary and his sister Clarisse must return home every day after school to mind their eight year old brother, Gregory. “It’s a non-negotiable,” insist their work-obsessed parents. There is another problem. Clarisse and Gregory don’t like Cary much, and Cary doesn’t much like anything, especially being tagged with his gummy-fingered little brother. But their troubles are about to grow

While bickering over the contents of a small, intricately embroidered pouch, the siblings unintentionally summon three mail-clad birds, who hasten their three young conscripts to Shelter Island, refuge to a long divided realm hidden from the children’s homeland for hundreds of years. Spotted above enemy territory, the small company is attacked. Clarisse and Gregory escape to the caves of Husgard. Cary’s captors dispatch him to Vangorfold, a centuries old stronghold sworn to Husgard’s destruction. Entangled in a centuries old conflict, the children’s own blur of problems comes into sharp focus, hastening the fortunes, for good or ill, not only of a forgotten civilization of birds, but of the children’s homeland.



At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?

According to my mother, my kindergarten teacher declared her son would someday be an author. Where the teacher got that from, I haven’t a clue, and that ‘someday’ ended up a long way down a winding road. But I’ve always enjoyed stories, particularly fantasy or fairy tales. The natural world has always struck me as a magical place, infiltrated by presences we cannot see. Perhaps, my kindergarten teacher saw how much I loved to listen to or launch into a story. Keep in mind she also reported that I liked to take long naps, which all means, of course, that I can write in my sleep! Getting back the question in earnest, I started off in a professional career in theatre and was writing on the side. After many years, writing stories eventually got promoted from a side dish to the main course.

What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

I have always found stories compelling. Books opened up new worlds, introduced peculiar characters I would have liked to have as friends. Stories taught me profound truths which I could not grasp any other way. But it was Ernest Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea and Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a novella by Richard Bach that had the greatest impact on my young and impressionable imagination. I wept for Hemmingway’s old fisherman. Then, I got angry. I refused to believe that the old fisherman’s experience, which read like a sad parable, was all life had to offer. Jonathan Seagull, on the other hand, swept alongside a young artist and promised much, much more than meets the eye. I was astounded that stories could wield so much power. Perhaps, those novels were the turning point, a prompting a subconscious choice perhaps, that there would be no other path than that of the storyteller.

Do you have any writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?

Write. Read a lot. Pray regularly. Submit. Cry sometimes. Celebrate. Resist cryptic messages from your insecure brain, such as, “No one is going to give your stuff a second look.” Know writing is also a business — Repeat. I should add that my coaches have always been other author’s books, which is the primary reason I created, a free educational website providing fiction writers tips and techniques harvested from the books we love to read.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?

Other than making another coffee (I’m a procaffeinator! I can’t do much until I’ve savored one — or two.), walking the dog, checking on my websites, visiting FB, looking into the abyss a la the Grinch, holding my head in my hands, sifting through the cat litter, answering emails, collecting my mail (with the dog!), watching the leaves turn color out my window and reading weird stories. Other than the above mentioned, I am a writing machine! Kidding aside, I pretty much get obsessed with what I happen to be working on and those things above can be welcome distractions.   

What hours do you write best?

Morning, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, sometimes well into the afternoon, every day hands down, in my barber’s chair or standing in front of my desk, which elevates or descends at the press of a button. Fun! As late afternoon turns to evening, my brain transforms into something between porridge and a stump, good for stirring in a pot or sitting on, but not much good for writing.
Do you work from notes when you write?
I primarily work with index cards (the virtual sort), writing short summaries of the chapters ahead, but most of the time I allow the unfolding sweep of the story and its character’s to take the driver’s seat. Which means, however, that I have to check the map a lot and do back adjustment edits. By the way, if you want to write, learn to love editing! Writing is much more than pouring out a first draft. Think of a sculptor, or a painter, who chisels or sketches out the first impression of her vision. After that it’s shaping, revising, smoothing, sharpening and detailing. Writing is editing.
What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult thing I found about writing Shelter Island, or the books which followed, was the business aspect: submitting manuscripts, building and maintaining a ‘platform’ and selling books. The whole business of writing tends to dishearten rather than spur on a writer. Agents and publishers are often deluged with submissions. Publisher’s websites frequently include a note warning your submission is one of a multitude, from which a select few will clinch a second peek, that you will have to wait threescore years and ten before someone rescues it from the slough, and if that weren’t enough, the to-be-pitied author will only be contacted if his manuscript has managed to set said agent’s or editor’s heart ablaze. Lately, many publishers and agents will not do the author the courtesy of a form rejection letter. Kate Di Camillo once said persistence is the key; Keep writing, keep reading, and keep submitting. I say, write. Read a lot. Pray regularly. Submit. Cry sometimes. Celebrate. Resist cryptic messages from your insecure brain, such as, “No one cares.” Know writing is also a business — Repeat.

What are you currently working on?

Inspired by George MacDonald’s classic fairytales for adults, Lilith and Phantastes, I am putting the finishing touches to a Heroic Fantasy for ages 12 and up. Will Flint’s longing for his missing father ignites a dramatic and fateful quest into a mythical country (secret Book Title) in which the unseen things of the world have transformed into creatures of elemental power, a land in which an impulsive request transforms one realm and shatters another. It’s a little darker than my first books, but who doesn’t like to feel their heart thumping once in a while? You can watch the book trailer and find out more at my author website:

Meet the Author: Richard Robbins, Author of Love, Loss and Lagniappe #blogtour @rrobbinsbooks

Richard Robbins has always liked telling good stories, but it was not until his youngest child left for college that he was able to find the time to put them into print.  His first novel, Love, Loss, and Lagniappe was inspired by actual events in his life, and utilizes Richard’s Medical and Business School background to explore the journey of self-discovery after heartbreaking loss, while revealing the scientific basis for the meaning of life (You’ll have to read it to find out!).

Richard is currently working on his second novel, Panicles, a multi-generational story of the intersecting fate of two families and the price of fame versus the simpler pleasures of a grounded life.

Richard lives in New York City with his love and inspiration, Lisa, his wife of thirty years (and counting), near their beloved grown children.



Life is good for Dr. Drew Coleman, a successful young eye surgeon living in Uptown New Orleans, and he knows it. Having met and married his beautiful medical school classmate, Kate, the two settle
happily into the routine of raising their two young daughters.

Drew’s charmed life is soon shattered by devastating news, causing him to go on a ten-year transcontinental journey of self-discovery, during which he explores the nature of God and Man, the divine inspiration for many of New York’s landmarks and artistic treasures, and the relationship between the found and the lost souls passing on the street. He meets a number of memorable characters, including the young blue-haired runaway, Blue, who renounced her given name when forced to leave her Minnesota home with her girlfriend, Anna.

In time, he discovers and explains the scientific basis for the meaning of life, and is finally found, or finds himself, setting the stage for a bittersweet and memorable ending.


Amazon | Barnes & Noble

At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to write creatively since childhood, but could not find the time until my youngest son left for college.  Since I’ve begun writing full time, I’ve found the process to be even more enjoyable than I had expected.  It feels like I’ve suppressed my creativity for such a long time that it is now a joy to allow it to blossom.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?

No, not physical ones, but mental ones for sure.  I find myself looking for how they handle plot issues and character development.  I do keep a notebook, and write down (analog style – old school!) interesting thoughts or enjoyable anecdotes which I think might have a place in a future book.

Has writing always been a passion for you or did you discover it years later?

I had written some technical articles, but not creatively since childhood.  My creative outlets had been limited to birthday cards and occasional public speaking opportunities.  I was surprised at how passionately I’ve embraced the writing process now that I am writing full time.

Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?

Write what pleases you before listening to other’s opinions.

Write how people speak, not how you want them to.

It’s hard to be a grown up.  There are lots of problems and sources of stress to confront on a regular basis.  If your writing brings a moment of joy and relief to one single person, then you’ve made the world a better place.  Rejoice in that fact.

Do you let unimportant things get in the way of your writing?

The hard part is deciding what is unimportant, and having an understanding with your spouse and family about what that is.  

I’ve found that when I do write, it’s important for me to have an extended, uninterrupted period of at least 3 or more hours.  It takes a few minutes (and at least half a cup of coffee) for me to get into the creative zone, and it’s difficult to stay there if there are interruptions. 

My years in New Orleans got me used to working in coffee shops.  I like the ambient noise and activity.  I’ve found that it’s better to have less time in the proper environment and mindset, than more time in less a less ideal environment.

What hours do you write best?

I try to do two writing sessions a day, one from 9-12 AM.  Then break for lunch, then 1-5PM.  But life often gets in the way, so during the week, I will need to miss a few sessions for life’s activities.

Are you an avid reader?

I am, and have always been.  I read the New York Times every day, and am generally reading a novel much of the year. 

What are you reading now?

I just finished Nillu Nasser’s All The Tomorrows.  She’s an exciting new author, and her first novel has a number of similarities with mine.  It was interesting for me to see how she handled some of the same questions that I dealt with in my first novel, Love, Loss, and Lagniappe.

What are you currently working on?

My next novel is called Panicles.  A Panicle is a form of branching flower in which all branches come off one main stem, which feels like a metaphor for family lineage to me.  It’s a story of two families, one wealthy and powerful, one of more modest means, and their relationships to themselves and each other.  The story involves friendship, love, war, natural disaster, political intrigue, and a sacrifice which may change the course of history.

The fundamental question addressed is the price of fame versus the simpler pleasures of living a private, more grounded life.  This story will be longer and more ambitious, and there will be more humor, plenty of tears, and an ending you’ll never forget.  I’m looking forward to its release in Spring 2019.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Meet John Ford Clayton, Author of 'Manipulated'

John Ford Clayton lives in Harriman, Tennessee with his wife Kara, and canine companions Lucy, Ginger and Clyde. He has two grown sons, Ben and Eli, and a daughter-in-law, Christina. He earned a BS in Finance from Murray State University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He is active in his East Tennessee community having served on the local boards of the Boys and Girls Club and a federal credit union, on church leadership and creative teams, and on a parks and recreation advisory committee. When he’s not writing he works as a project management consultant supporting Federal project teams. John is a huge fan of Disney parks and University of Kentucky basketball. Visit his website at

Find out more about Manipulated 

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Manipulated, and what compelled you to write it.
Author:  Manipulated is a political thriller set during the 2016 presidential election season from January 2015 through January 2017. During these two years, a fictional account of the election is chronicled with a reimagining of this eventful episode in U. S. politics.
For close to 20 years I worked on creative teams in churches helping to write full-length dramas as well as 3-5 minute sketches. That process led to a nagging question that just wouldn’t go away; “I wonder if I could write a novel?” After doubts and procrastination, I finally decided to give it a go.
That led to the next important question, what would be the subject matter of this novel? For me, that question had to be aligned with something about which I felt great passion. That something is our country, the United States of America. Unfortunately, I see our country in difficult times as our political culture has become so toxic that it is tearing us apart. A major source of that toxicity is degree of manipulation we all face daily, regardless of our political leanings. To highlight the phenomenon, I decided to write this work of fiction, Manipulated. 

M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: The first half of the book provides a back story illustrating an American political system soiled by political parties, a misguided media, and lots and lots of money, all orchestrated by a clandestine organization known as Mouse Trap.
The second half of the book provides a glimpse at what the 2016 election might have looked like had a different candidate been introduced into the campaign. A candidate not bound to either political party, deep-pocket investors, or Washington insiders. A candidate who had absolutely no interest in the job but is drafted by those that know him best to fix a broken system. A candidate who personifies integrity, character, and humility, guided by his faith.
M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Manipulated?
Author: The book cover features a set of hands, each holding a puppet stick. From each stick hangs a series of strings. The strings are attached to symbols representing Hollywood, sports, both major American political parties, the media, the U.S. Capitol building, the music industry, and higher education. In the fictional world where Manipulated takes place a clandestine organization named Mouse Trap, controls all the institutions represented on the cover. Those institutions in turn influence - even manipulate - everyday Americans who are unsuspectingly going about their everyday lives.
I want people to consider if the way they are receiving information may open them to the possibility of being manipulated. I try to do this creatively through a work of fiction. Mouse Trap isn’t a partisan organization, it simply has nefarious intent and uses a variety of outlets, especially political outlets, to deceive the public. This isn’t a left/right, democrat/republican book, it is intended to be a non-partisan effort to open the eyes of the reader to what may be happening to them beyond the pages of Manipulated.
Beyond this dark theme of manipulation, the second half of the book explores the theme of hope. Hope that our divided country could somehow pull itself out of its bitter division towards a time of unity.
M.C.:  Why do you write?
Author: Writing fiction is a way for me to create a world where the broken can become fixed. It is a way to put life into the question “what if?” I like to create storylines that look familiar to the reader while showing the possibility for a different ending. I listen to the news or read a story in the newspaper and become discouraged by what seems like a hopeless situation. As a catharsis I will create a similar storyline while providing a path to a potential resolution. One of my book reviews captures this sentiment well.
“Talk about a timely book, "Manipulated" is it! Mr. Clayton makes you reconsider how all of us are influenced by today's instant information (or misinformation!) social media environment. Although fiction, it captures the real frustration that many of us have with our current political stalemate, but also reminds us that there is a viable solution, and that solution is us.”
M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?
Author: I am most creative when I am able find a way to leave the cares of my real world behind and focus on mundane tasks. Although it is obviously not a time to write, I have some of my best story ideas when I’m mowing the yard. I’m focused on the time around the oak tree and a great idea will come. Recently I was really stuck on an important part of a story. I was loading rocks in the bed of my truck and had an epiphany that seemed to come from nowhere. Writing creatively is a more difficult condition to capture. I know if I’m tired or have a heavy load on my mind it is not going to be a good night to write. The most productive evenings seem to come during times of peace and tranquillity.
M.C.:  How picky are you with language?
Author: Language is not something over which I really obsess. I was born in Kentucky and spent the last 30 years in Tennessee and I know my Southern heritage wanders into my writing. I have a close friend who tells me he really likes the “folksy” way I write. I think he’s saying I’m a hick, but I’ll take it as a compliment. A great buffer to my language imperfections was my editor, Linda Blake Walsh, a writing specialist from the University of Tennessee. Beyond matters of grammar and spelling, Linda offered countless alternative word suggestions that truly made the manuscript a better product. I owe a great debt to Linda.
M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: Ha! Since my book is titled “Manipulated” that’s an intriguing question! Although my book explores a dangerous type of manipulation, I’m going to address a different type in addressing this question. The answer is, there are times I definitely feel manipulated when I write! There are nights – I have a day job, so my writing time is nights and weekends – when I hit the save button and get ready for bed and find that I’ve written 2,500 words in the span of a few hours. I scroll back through my manuscript and had no idea I’d written so much. Similarly, there are nights when I begin to write and read the last few pages from the night before that I don’t even remember writing. 
M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: Times when I’m tired or when I have a lot on my mind are my least productive. When I was approximately a third of the way into writing Manipulated I got some unexpected news. I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. The diagnosis led to major surgery and six months of chemo. When I was told about the chemo one of my first thoughts was that I’d have a lot of down time that I could apply to my writing and finish the book. I didn’t account for the fatigue that accompanies chemo. I sat at my keyboard a few times, but the words wouldn’t come. My manuscript took a 9-month break with surgery, chemo, and recovery.
M.C.:  Your best?
Author: I know I’m going to have a productive night writing when I’ve thought about my story during the day. At night I simply put on the screen the words I’d written in my head earlier that same day. I also am most productive when I have others interested in my story. One of the tricks I found helpful while writing Manipulated, was to recruit a few trusted friends who would read along as I wrote. After I’d gotten far enough into the story for them to become interested, I sent them the partial story for feedback. I then adopted a routine of sending that week’s work every Sunday evening. I found their interest in the book motivational for me to keep progressing the story. They also held me accountable as I would receive gentle – sometimes not-so-gentle – nudges when I had a less-than-productive week.
M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: I always write with the reader in mind. If I was told that I could continue to write but no one would ever read it, I would probably find it difficult to muster the energy and enthusiasm necessary to complete the story.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: I’m the happiest when I get feedback from readers that they have enjoyed the book. The feedback can be face-to-face, an Amazon review or an unexpected e-mail from someone I hadn’t seen in 20 years, who says they heard about my book from so-and-so, bought it and couldn’t put it down. I definitely enjoyed the moment when I completed the book as well as when I received my first paperback in the mail, but nothing compares to a satisfied reader.
M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Writing isn’t really an obsession with me. It is not unusual for me to go 2-3 weeks without writing if life is really busy. While I may be thinking about my evolving story, I’m not so compelled to write that I put aside family or professional priorities. It is also not unusual for me to go in 2-3 week bursts where I am really into the story and write every day. During those bursts it probably feels like an obsession to see where the story is going to evolve.
M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Manipulated was my inaugural novel, but it is the first in a three-book trilogy. Book 2, Rise of The Mustangs will be released in the Spring of 2019, book 3, Declaration of Independence will be released in 2020. After the trilogy is completely I sense I may move away from the political genre. If my sanity is still intact, I’ll probably try something humorous.
M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing, so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: This is an apropos quote for my inspiration for writing. Since I am tackling the difficult subject of politics, reality is very destructive. Writing is an outlet that allows me to envision a way to a better world where we figure out how find the civility to get along and solve our country’s great problems.
M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Author: My website www.johnfordclayton.conm provides information about me and my book. I am on social media at and