Thursday, January 31, 2019

A Chat with Dwaine Rieves, Author of 'Shirtless Men Drink Free'

Dwaine Rieves was born and raised in Monroe County, Mississippi.  During a career as a research pharmaceutical scientist and critical care physician, he began writing poetry and creative prose.  His poetry has won the Tupelo Press Prize for Poetry and the River Styx International Poetry Prize.  His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Georgia Review and other publications.  He can be reached at
Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about Shirtless Men Drink Free, and what compelled you to write it.
I began writing the novel about twelve years ago.  The story began as an exercise in writing a long narrative that had poetry as its backbone.   And, like most of my poetry, the impetus for the story came from images, a duo of real-life incidents.  That is, two images: one of a steam room where a man provocatively lifts a towel, and the other a star-speckled Alabama night when I’m driving home to help care for my dying mother.  In the first image, the man is (was) a prominent Southern politician; in the second image the sound is Talk Radio, irate callers from across the South attributing all the nation’s woes to the homosexual agenda.  The images demanded a voice, and that voice speaks in Shirtless Men Drink Free.  The title is, of course, a gay bar slogan.  But its metaphor runs far deeper than non-fiction in the words.
M.C.: What is your book about?
I tell people the book is about “souls and the bodies that won’t let them go,” a summary that reflects the lyrical bent of the novel.  More precisely, the novel explores how the death of our parents impact our seemingly fully-developed adult lives.
Had I know it would have taken twelve years, I’m not sure I would have taken up the novel’s challenge.  But the adventure is done, and I believe the novel accomplishes what the colorful, poetic folks in 2004 Atlanta would have wanted—a story of their lives and after-lives on the record. 
M.C.:  What themes do you explore in Shirtless Men Drink Free?
Themes of legacy and parental approval pervade the novel—much as these themes pervade so much of literature.  From the Bible (and from it the hymnal voices, for “This Is My Father’s World”), through the ghost-haunted Hamlet and the dedicated but jinxed Darl Bundren in As I Lay Dying. 
Everyone has a father and a mother—an unavoidable legacy.  I sometimes think the need to make something “good” of these legacies, of these parents, is innate to the human soul.  Are we all simply acting out this need?  Even for parents we never knew, for parents we misperceived?  Such are the questions posed in Shirtless Men Drink Free.
M.C.:  Why do you write?
All my writing is a product of what I call my poetry-process.  Up until I was nearly forty, I never read anything but medical journals and medical textbooks.  I was a studious and medically-obsessed critical care physician who, after some particularly challenging weeks in caring for the critically ill, discovered April Bernard’s book, Blackbird Bye-bye.  The cover first caught my eye—the sun arising over a small town profile—water tower, houses where my patients could have once lived, houses where I longed to live.  The book was a poetry collection, the last poem a long narrative that integrated the world of the late 1980’s into a tableau of incredibly real, beatifying pain.  April took that pain and made it into something majestic, a work of art with souls at its center.  April showed me the way.
M.C.:  When do you feel the most creative?
Silence and solitude make the difference.  Perhaps my enjoyment of this private writing laboratory world is a reaction to the all-too alarming (literally) world of Intensive Care Medicine.  Endless alarms, non-stop digital readouts, electrical plots of the heart in action and, on the bed, the quiet body.
M.C.:  How picky are you with language?
Language is probably the most important ingredient within a voice—the word choice, word-placement, mismatching and adornment or denuding—I can’t understate the importance of voice in a piece of writing.  Of course, a moving story helps also.  But, for me, the author’s voice must be engaging.
M.C.:  When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
When I write best, I most definitely feel as if the flow of words is coming from somewhere beyond myself.  Perhaps those words are coming from my soul, perhaps giving the soul a voice is why writing can bring us so much pleasure.  Perhaps I’m wrong—the source is nervous energy, perhaps my father! There are so many sources, and so many avenues for self-expression.  All in all, I have to think one of the goals of every life is expression.  Presence in the expression process matters.
M.C.:  What is your worst time as a writer?
I treasure drafting a work and also revising work.  I detest trying to market a work.  So much of contemporary “writing” seems anything but artful writing to me—it’s marketing, hyperbole, branding, icky-stuff.  Still, when the author is pleased with the work, I suspect she is proud to show it off.  I am.  My baby—I love her, see.
M.C.:  Your best?
My best time writing is when I’m totally open to whatever words need to appear, whatever voice that simply arrives.  This often happens best in the morning, when I’m fresh.  Sometimes a key image or phrase will appear in the evening, sometimes in the middle of the night.  I often awaken to write down the thought, to capture it for the morning.  Typically, that midnight “gift” is a bummer.  But hey, my brain feels better because, even in the middle of the night, it is alive and feeling.
M.C.:  Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Yes, I believe a number of things could stop me from writing.  Profound depression can do it—I tend to have depressive episodes every decade or so—my mother’s illness, a friend’s suicide.  As Marvell said, “How should I greet thee after all these years, but with silence and tears.”   Some pains demand silence.  Giving them a voice—forcing it out of them—differs little from torture.  The voice in recovery is always the strongest.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Ah, the joy in birthing a poem when—after letting it sit for a time—you come back and find it still very much alive.  This birthing, for me, is not particularly common.  More often, I’m labouring over the words, especially for prose.  Balancing sensibility with music is not an easy task.  I find it all too easy to overlook my baby’s illogical but musical flaws.
M.C.:  Is writing an obsession to you?
Writing is a blessing to me.  It would be a great loss if I couldn’t express myself in some way, which now seems to be the written word.  Who can say where our needs will take us?  Perhaps artfully changing a tire or digging a workable hole will some day prove a fine mode of expression for me.  Perhaps solely constructing a thought.  We all need the ability to take pride in something, don’t we?
M.C.:  Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
My stories—told in poems and prose—are deeply rooted in my personal experience of having grown up in Smithville, Mississippi.  I travel back often and I continue to be amazed at the great sense of shame many Southerners (myself included) shoulder, a sense of inferiority, a deep need for redemption.  And because the need is so deep, the people and culture are rich in character and potential.  No easy stories here!
M.C.:  Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
I have a hunch Mister Bradbury was alluding to the sense of freedom in allowing your voice to appear on a page, devoid of censure or editing.  This is clearly a therapeutic aspect of writing, the balm that the poet Anne Sexton vividly credited with keeping her alive for years after her first suicide attempt.  In thinking about our current epidemic of suicide, I can’t help but think the act of suicide itself is largely another form of self-expression, perhaps the most desperate form.  Recognizing the soul within us, providing it a voice—if only we could all express ourselves in a way that will keep us living.
M.C.:  Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Yes, indeed.  Poems and musings are collected at:  I sure value folks checking out the voices there.  Even more so, I appreciate hearing the voice you can share (ah, the magic in “contact me”).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Feature: Helping Hands by Ken Saik

Title: Helping Hands
Author: Ken Saik
Publisher: iUniverse
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Format: Ebook

Jill Kreshky is recently divorced. She is doing her best to reclaim her life. After an accident causes her to spend six weeks alone in a hospital, she is haunted by the awareness that she must find a way to once again become part of her children’s lives. Unfortunately, Jill doesn’t have a car, her job is temporarily on hold, her bank account is empty. There is no question that Jill needs encouragement from someone she can trust. After she learns that a church friend, Bill Wynchuk, has been more loyal to her than she ever realized, Jill decides to invite him for supper. As he relies on his faith and skills as a psychologist to lovingly lead Jill to appreciate her inner strength and need for the Lord, she gains insights that propel her down a path of reconciliation that helps her mend relations with her son and return to Ontario to face her greatest fears about her family and unveil a deeply buried secret. In this inspirational story, a woman attempting to reclaim her life is led on an emotional journey, with help from a devoted friend, that ultimately reveals the truth and prompts her to seek forgiveness.


Ken Saik is a committed Christian who retired after thirty-one years of teaching social studies to pursue writing fiction and poetry. To date, he has published three novellas and a novel, Baggage Burdens. Saik currently resides in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

Ken Saik is a committed Christian who retired after thirty-one years of teaching social studies to pursue writing fiction and poetry. To date, he has published three novellas and a novel, Baggage Burdens. Saik currently resides in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Meet the Author: Mark H. Jackson, Author of 'The Atlantis Deception'

Mark is a qualified solicitor who splits his time between protecting the rights of academics, writing thriller fiction and raising five mostly lovely children. He studied Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Birmingham with a nod towards alternative theory, focusing on the relationship of the Giza complex to the stars; portolan maps; and the origins of civilisation and religion. It was within this flame the plots for his future novels were born.

Mark’s writing career extends back over a decade and his diverse portfolio includes three novels, a number of short stories and even a six-part sitcom. Long listed for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, he is currently a featured author on the popular writing website, Wattpad, with over 6,000 followers from all around the world and well over one million reads of his first novel. Aside from Wattpad, Mark is an active member on a number of other writing websites, spending his spare time offering editorial and structural advice to fellow authors. Up to now Mark has considered writing as a creative outlet for the myriad of characters and ideas roaming about his head. The time has come to tease them out of hiding and breathe a little life into their lungs.

His latest book is the adventure/thriller The Atlantis Deception.

What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?
I suppose my mother is possibly to blame for fueling my interest in reading and writing, but I always wanted to read. I was that child under the sheets late at night with a torch and my latest book. I loved reading and writing just seemed a natural bedfellow. I remember attempting to write an Enid Blyton style mystery at primary school, so I guess it was in me from an early age. I was quite a solitary child and just enjoyed the escapism it offered.
In what feels like a different lifetime, I studied Archaeology and Ancient History at university with a nod towards alternative theory, focusing on topics such as the relationship of the Giza complex to the stars; portolan maps; and the origins of civilization and religion. It was within this flame the plot for The Atlantis Deception was born.
Can you name three writing tips to pass on to aspiring authors?
I can’t pretend adventure books of the type I write are easy to construct. First and foremost, one must know one’s subject inside out, be it theories, artifacts, myths, legends – the research phase is all important. Poor research will result in a poor book and I have certainly seen even established names fall into this trap (particularly once they have a number of books behind them and the ideas are running thin). Planning the plot, at least at a basic level is also a must. Some novels can meander, dictated only by the tip of your pen and the whimsy of the particular day one chooses to write. Adventure novels cannot be created in this manner. They must be gripping from the start and sustain that level or risk losing the reader. I’m not sure anything I say can make the journey easier for any budding Dan Brown. There are no real short cuts, but if you are dedicated and put in the hours, the rewards are certainly there.   
How often do you write?
I write whenever I can sneak it in. I’ve got a one-year-old, four older children and a full time job at the local University. It can be hard fitting everything in, but I believe if it’s worth doing and the will is there, once can find the time. At the moment I tend to write late at night or early in the morning. Any other time and I’ll have a tiny person on my lap wanting to tap the keyboard like his daddy!
Are you an avid reader?
I think you have to be a reader first and a writer second. I believe Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” I tend to read in the same genre that I write, both for pleasure and research. My favorite authors at the moment include Steve Berry, Andy McDermott, Clive Cussler, Scott Mariani, David Gibbins, Michael Crichton, and Robert Harris. They are all masters of their craft.
What are you reading now?
Having cited all the above, at the moment I’m reading “the President is Missing,” a collaboration between James Patterson and Bill Clinton. It’s building to be one of the best political thrillers I’ve ever read!
What are you currently working on?
I am working on two novels at present in the same series as, The Atlantis Deception. The first, Roswell, The First Shot Fired, is complete and awaiting the editing phase. As the title suggests, the book offers an alternative to the Roswell narrative and throws my protagonist, Dr John Hunter, into the deep end of a world he doesn’t understand. It is a fast paced action adventure and takes in locations ranging from the Soviet era Russia, the Americas and Europe. The truth is out there! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Meet the Author: Duffy Brown, Author of Tandem Demise

Duffy Brown loves anything with a mystery. While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, Duffy longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. She is a National Bestselling author and now conjures up who-done-it stories of her very own. She has two series the Consignment Shop Mysteries set in Savannah along with rescue pup Bruce Willis and the Cycle Path Mysteries set on Mackinac Island with judgmental cats Cleveland and Bambino.

Her latest book is the cozy mystery, Tandem Demise.

Website Address:
Facebook Address:

Smugglers on the hunt, a police chief on the run, lost loot and a dead wedding planner have the Mackinac Island regulars riding in circles

After solving two murders, bike shop owner Evie Bloomfield thought life on Mackinac Island would settle into boredom until she finds out Nate Sutter, island police chief and once-upon-a-time under cover cop is on the run. Some badass guys from Nate’s Detroit days think he stole money from them in a champagne smuggling operation and now they’re headed to the island to get their loot. Evie is determined to help Nate because he’s a good cop. Nate is determined to keep interfering Evie and island locals out of harms way, and the crooks are determined to get their money.



What first inspired you to write or who inspired you?

Nancy Drew!! I bet almost all women authors over 40 mention Nancy as those who have  inspired them to write mystery stores with women as the hero. Back in the day women were pretty much second-class citizens. Mad Men is for real and not just a TV show. LOL. Nancy Drew was smart, did things her way and outsmarted the guys. I loved it! I wanted to be Nancy. We all wanted to be Nancy. 

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

Probably around 35. I was a late-bloomer. I always made up stores in my head and after reading some really bad books I decided what the heck, I can do that and do it better. I just love telling stories that make people laugh. Taking life with a smile helps us all get through.

Do you take notes when reading or watching a movie?

No, I just soak it all in like a big sponge. I take in the atmosphere, the characters, the setting and how it works all together to make the story. Besides, that story I’m watching has already been done, now it’s my turn to tell my story my way.

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

Later. I had 4 kids and that took up my life for years. When I finally got a few moments to put two thoughts together I started writing.

Do you have a day job? What do you do?

I taught, had kids then taught again and started to write. With four kids and four grandkids that is pretty much my day job. LOL

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

Never give up. Write what you love. Do not do critique groups as that gives you books by committee. Write every day.

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

Life is important but you need to make time in your day to write. The best is to get up early and write before the day intervenes and you find yourself behind before the day’s even started. The early hours of the day are the golden hours…use them wisely.

What hours do you write best?

Morning when I’m fresh and the day hasn’t intruded on my brain and eaten away all my creativity.

How often do you write?

Every day but I do take breaks between books. You need to get into the groove of writing the story you’re working on so you don’t lose the momentum of the book.

Are you an avid reader?

Not as much as I’d like to be. Writing eats my life along with promo for books. I spend as much time promoting my books as writing them.

What are you reading now?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It’s what life is all about. You can pick it up and put it down not read it all at once. This keeps me focused on what is important in life.

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

I’ve always loved a good story! Do you remember the first time you read The Christmas Carol or Murder on the Orient Express. What a total blast. Reading great stories like that made me what to be a writer and tell stories too.

What are you currently working on?

Book seven in my Consignment Shop series set in Savannah. Wedding Day and Foul Play. I love this title. The two main characters are finally getting married. No wedding day has ever been like this one. LOL

Thanks tons for the interview. I truly enjoyed chatting.

Meet Judge Debra H. Goldstein, author of 'One Taste Too Many'

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Find out more about Debra at .

Mayra Calvani: Please tell us about One Taste Too Many and what compelled you to write it.
M.C.: What is your book about?
Author: For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty‑eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in the tired town she never left. With nothing much to show for the last decade but her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!
M.C.: What themes do you explore in One Taste Too Many?
Author: In One Taste Too Many, I explore family relationships – the loyalty and defense of humans and with animals, economic development, and cooking conveniently.
M.C.: Why do you write?
Author: Although it may sound trite, I write because writing is a passion. When I graduated college, I gave myself eight months to accomplish two goals: find a job in publishing and become a Jeopardy contestant. In case things didn’t work out, I job hunted during the day and submitted law school applications at night. I accomplished my goals during the eight months and decided to go to law school. Using my law degree, I became a litigator and then a judge, but, except for party skits, my writing was limited to boring briefs, motions, and opinions. I kept talking about writing and after my family and friends challenge me to do it, I began writing in my spare time. The result was 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s. When my second book, Should Have Played Poker sold, an incident in my courtroom made it clear to me that I couldn’t keep my two careers separate. I opted to give up my lifetime appointment and follow my passion – and I haven’t looked back.
M.C.: When do you feel the most creative?
Author: My body clock is such that I’m the most creative between midnight and four a.m.
M.C.: How picky are you with language?
Author: Language is a funny thing to discuss. Unlike a few friends whose works are always literary masterpieces, my goal is to make word choices that allow readers to read quickly while understanding and enjoying my books and stories. I use language to express plot and voice because that is what is going to engage my readers.
M.C.: When you write, do you sometimes feel as though you were being manipulated from afar?
Author: When a story or a passage I’m writing works, I’m in another zone. I lose track of time, meals, and am so focused that nothing distracts me. It isn’t manipulation so much as the voices of the characters taking over and guiding me in the right direction.
M.C.: What is your worst time as a writer?
Author: From a literal standpoint, the worst time for me as a writer is in the morning. Even when I was a lawyer, staff members knew that my out-box and sent e-mails would be heavy when they arrived, but these things would be steady or slow until lunchtime. After lunch, my outbox and out put needed to be addressed on an hourly basis. My worst experience as a writer is whenever the words I consider to be my darlings are rejected.
M.C.: Your best?
Author: Overall, the best time for me is when the words flow or when a piece is accepted, but this year I had an ongoing best time. I wrote a short story, The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place, which was published in the May/June 2017 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Having my first submission to AHMM accepted would have been enough for me to happy dance for weeks, but then I received word the story had been named as one of the five finalists for the Agatha Award. I was so excited! Although it didn’t win the Agatha, I was just coming down from being on a special Malice Domestic Agatha panel and being asked to read the story for a podcast when I was notified it was an Anthony finalist and I would be on a designated Bouchercon panel. The story was short, but the memories of the associated “best time” will be forever.
M.C.: Is there anything that would stop you from writing?
Author: I’m a sporadic writer, so I am easily distracted by family events, lunch with friends, or my weekly Mah Jongg game, but I always feel drawn to open my laptop and start writing again. The only time there was a long delay was when I was about halfway through One Taste Too Many and my mother died. It took about six months before I felt the urge to write again.
M.C.: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?
Author: The happiest moment was putting my first book in my mother’s hands to prove that I’d accomplished what I’d long talked about. She was as excited as I was, especially when she looked at the picture on the back cover. It was the best picture that has ever been taken of me. In fact, I had a copy of it in my suitcase to give her later during my visit. My mother stared at the picture and asked “Could you get me a copy of this for my fire place. If not, I’ll just put your book up there backwards.”
M.C.: Is writing an obsession to you?
Author: Writing is not an obsession for me. It is a passion.
M.C.: Are the stories you create connected with you in some way?
Author: Although a phrase I heard or a personal occurrence or experience may find its way into one of my stories or books, I don’t write anything verbatim from life. In many instances, I write the opposite of what I know. For example, the truth is my mother loved me and very much wanted to have me. I grew up in a two-parent home where they worked together to encourage me to try new things and become whatever I wanted. Not very interesting for fiction. Consequently, when I wrote Should Have Played Poker, I reversed my boring life story and wrote what I didn’t know.
M.C.: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing, so reality cannot destroy you.” Thoughts?
Author: Ray Bradbury’s drunk on writing quote can be interpreted in many ways. I choose to avoid the abundance of liquor related state of mind interpretation in favor of creating a world that the naysayers and downers can’t take away. Continuing to write and living and breathing it as a passion preclude reality destroying the confidence of an individual.
M.C.: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?
Twitter: @DebraHGoldstein
Find out more about One Taste Too Many: