South Bay Writers

Save the date—signed books and a meet and greet!

sbw-showcase-event-flyerI’ll be signing books at the Eastridge Barnes & Noble from 2-3:30pm on Dec. 10. This partnership between Barnes & Noble and South Bay Writers (SBW) will showcase young adult and children’s books written by SBW members. Come visit your local authors, and get a head start on your holiday shopping.

If you can’t make it but want to support SBW, please visit and use Bookfair ID 12045738 at checkout when you shop online between Dec. 10 and Dec. 15.




What are people saying about Betty Auchard’s Dancing in My Nightgown?

“Auchard simplifies and normalizes the process of a new life transition.” ~ Jewel Sample, award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses

 “The quality is excellent; her (audio) delivery is soothing. The story of transformation is exciting and compelling.” ~ David LaRoche, former South Bay Writers President

This April, both TalkBooks and Betty had a lot more to say about her book, Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, and writing in general. Read on to learn how this author’s “talking on paper” became awarding-winning reading material.

IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) Finalist!

Married when she was barely 19, Betty Auchard went straight from her parent’s home to her husband’s bed. She raised four children, returned to college, taught art in public school, and became a grandmother, published artist, a retiree and then a widow.

When she loses her husband of 49 years, widowhood forces Betty to find out what she can do on her own. She has a lot to learn. Facing her new responsibilities she makes all kinds of mistakes. These short, upbeat, inspiring stories tell how this spunky woman got through widowhood—she decides to dance instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Betty laughs and cries her way through grief and, ultimately, comes to see her situation as normal. Through it all, Betty lands on her feet ready for whatever comes next. The last page doesn’t feel like and ending, because really, it’s just the beginning.


How did you choose which tales to include in the memoir?

I started writing short notes to myself on scraps of paper the day after Denny died. Nothing seemed real and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. The notes became paragraphs and then turned into stories about my new life as a widow. I was so addicted to writing about every experience that I had to create an ongoing list for new stories that would one day be a reminder of how far I had come. Not until I joined a grief support group sponsored by Hospice did I find out that writing had become my tool for healing. I used to be afraid of widows—I didn’t know what to say to them. Now I know they need someone to listen as they repeat everything that happened over and over again. Only then does it feel real. I’ve learned a lot about grief recovery, and my heart aches for others who have lost a partner. (more…)


A warm welcome to SBW TalkBooks’ author of the month for March 2016, David F. Snider. The group read and interviewed him about his sci-fi novel, Stars in the Deep: Destiny, at its live author event. Continue reading to learn more about David and his writing, as well as what he thinks makes for a good story.

David Snider Stars in the Deep DestinyBook Description

When the NAVCOM Computer takes the ECS Destiny irretrievably off course, the crew and colonists on board must find an alternative world to colonize. In order to save the one way mission from catastrophic failure they must overcome various obstacles from within and without. Woven into the story are themes of love, hope, forgiveness and restoration, human spirituality and its potential parallels.

What inspired you to write a story about colonizing humans in space?

As a kid I was a crazy sci-fi nut. I remember taking a road trip in Christmas of 2009 and thinking about all different kinds of ideas. This one caught me. I’d tried several times to write and couldn’t get it off the ground; this one I couldn’t put down.

Space colonization has always been an area of interest for me. It is something we, as a race, must accomplish, if for no other reason than to ‘see what’s out there.’ I have another possible story arc which I may revive that explores colonization from different angles.

The beginnings of the idea for Stars in the Deep: Destiny started with the question: what if we had a society that developed under the ocean—a colonization of a water city? But the story took on a life of its own, with a ship the size of a cruise liner with 2,500 on board, including the crew.

Who are your favorite sci-fi authors and influences?

To name a few: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Andre (Alice) Norton, Piers Anthony, and Frank Herbert. I like books that are very much about world-building. Personally, I like to write larger works rather than shorts.

How did you go about producing and publishing Stars in the Deep? Was the MS submitted to agents?

The production process was long and arduous. I started writing the book in 2009. I finished the long process of writing and rewriting in 2012, but I never thought I’d have so much trouble getting it looked at. After a year of trite replies of “sorry, we aren’t looking for this kind of thing right now…” from countless agents (claiming to do science fiction), I decided to try self-publishing.

In 2013, I released the first edition through CreateSpace under my own label, Starhome Books. It wasn’t a bad first try, but it lacked a good copy edit. Xlibris, a member of the Author Solutions organization, released the second edition. The book benefited from a reasonably decent copy edit, and the original cover art was tweaked a little. The new edition also includes a glossary, which I felt was quite necessary.

How did you invent a language based upon Sanskrit for your group of native inhabitants in your book?

Sanskrit is an ancient language that used to be a common, everyday language back in India, and which was used for early religious writings. I wanted to create something that seemed alien with an element of believability taken from history, which I believe gives a sense of familiarity. Sanskrit is mostly academic at this point. Online, I found a Sanskrit and Tamil to English dictionary, and I took the words I wanted for names that reflected the characters’ occupations, as well as ordinals and months.

Was it difficult for you to create a bad character?

It was hard putting myself in that role. I feel like I need to identify with the characters, and I feel sorry for my villains—like I’ve treated them badly. I even turned one of my villains around. The philosophical stuff that crept into the story wasn’t predetermined; but I found it sort of worked and figured out how it fit into the story.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I first started reading seriously in the fourth grade. Science fiction caught me, and I didn’t stop reading from then on. I’ve wanted to write since I was married. I’m a musician who plays piano and organ (anything with keyboard attached), and I went to school, graduating with a BA in music and a BA in ministry. My college professors suggested that I write, but I didn’t feel I had the time.

When do you write?

I’m a VTA driver, and back in the day I could type during breaks. But they’ve changed the rules since then. So, I find time when I’m not working. The writing’s been on pause for a few months.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Writing is kind of new for me. I also enjoy music and woodwork.

What does your family think of your writing?

I had a habit of reading to my five children, who got to hear the book in progress. My wife also heard the whole thing and thought it would make a good graphic novel.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I was surprised that sitting down and writing a story could absorb you so much. I created characters as I went along, and they grew on me.

This is the first book of a series. When will the next one come out?

I’m writing book 2 now, and there’s no anticipated release date. The characters decided the book should be different. I’m also looking for more beta readers. I hope to have Shining One out by year’s end.

What’s your writing process?

I have another story that I tried to write using the traditional outlining process. But I found that, for me it flows better and I have more fun freewriting to create all the characters.

What do you think makes a good story?

I need to like the characters; and I like a blend of action and thought provoking talk. I don’t like books where there’s action and nothing else. The story needs to feel like it could be real.

Author Bio

I am, after all, somewhat the normal average kind of person, though a few might beg to differ.  I was born and raised in San Jose, California, USA.  For those unfamiliar with California geography, San Jose is situated in Santa Clara County at the very bottom end of the San Francisco Bay. I attended Elementary, Middle and High school, all within moderately lengthy walking distance of each other. After High school, I moved to Santa Cruz, California for a couple of years to attend College.  There, I made a number of very good friends. One of those friendships became so close it became a strong union which has lasted 35 years and counting.  She and I are the proud parents of 5 children, all adults now.  We are also proud grandparents of one young lad of 2.

The greatest love in my life, next to my God and my Wife, ​​is Music.  I began piano at about 5 years old, switched to the accordion at the age of 6.  I mastered the accordion by late High School and studied music in college, where I earned a Bachelors for my troubles. So, I play, sing, read, write, arrange, and conduct music.  It has been the air I breathe for nearly my whole life.

Recently, I finally owned up to the fact that it is possible to be passionate about more than one gift.  I avoided the writing side of my skill set because of my full concentration on my music.  ​All the advice and urging of friends, family and professors I’ve had over the years went in one ear and ‘mostly’ out the other.  Then one day, with the echoes of all that urging rolling around in my head, I just decided.  Why not?  So, my computer and numerous spiral bound writing pads have become full of numerous story ideas in various stages of development.

Connect with David on:





SBW TalkBooks recently completed its first group read of 2016. This January, the book club read Embers of the Earth, a dystopian coming-of-age story written by the vibrant and personable Robert Balmanno. He’s contributed numerous works for publication, including nine novels, over the last 38 years. Read on to learn more about this author’s work and influences, as well as his person-to-person approach to sharing his books with others.


The Year 519 A.G. After Gaia. Civilization needs a restart. The Gaia-Domes, technology-rich, oppressive, and fanatical are collapsing. Contending religions and sects roil the planet. Semilliterate primitives, decimated by environmental catastrophe, struggle to comprehend their obscure roots and uncertain prospects. A brilliant youth, groomed for the task from childhood, is sent by the New Rebels on a 12-year odyssey to uncover archives that will enable him to construct a new alphabet and write the Foundation Document for a postlapsarian world. But can he successfully complete the mission without losing his faith, his principles, or his life? Drawing on what Joseph Campbell called the monomyth narrative, Embers of the Earth chronicles a future where ecology is destiny, revolutionaries are venerated as goddesses, family secrets have global repercussions, and the reluctant hero is a teller of tales who sparks an underground cultural revival by refusing to tell lies about humankind’s past.

Live Interview Recap

Embers of the Earth reads as a stand-alone novel, but it’s also the third book of The Blessings of Gaia series. What led you to write these books?

The Blessings of Gaia is a quartet of books that includes September Snow, Runes of Iona, Embers of the Earth, and my current work in progress. While writing September Snow, I came to the realization that there would at least be a trilogy. A library patron inspired the name of the first book, after which I watched a show that commemorated Earth Day. That’s when the story idea clicked. There’s been more of an interest in climate change since then.

Some of us thought Embers of the Earth might fall within the science fiction or climate-change fiction genres. Who’s your intended audience?

I consider the Gaia books to be dystopian with a crossover into sci-fi, but I see them as closer to general fiction than sci-fi.

How did you come about meeting and working with your editor and publisher?

I met my editor, Adele, at the East of Eden Writers Conference. There, I had the opportunity to speak with literary agent, Elizabeth Pomada, who was also in attendance. After reviewing a favorable rejection letter about one of my books, Elizabeth pointed out that the letter said to cut 20% of the book, and then pointed across the table and introduced me to Adele. Intense rounds of editing went on for eight months, and my book published with a small publisher in Berkley in 2006.

Did your travels and studies influence your creation of Gaia?

Absolutely. I lived and studied in Scotland and moved back. I’m a semi-Luddite, and one of my themes for the books is the dangers of a non-critical, non-careful, overwrought embrace of technology. Oral transmission of knowledge and information is different from written transmission.

When I created this new world, I gave characters Greek and Roman names, as well as made-up names. Talia, for example, is a made-up name. I even named one of the characters after a reader (with permission) who was really excited about the book.

What writers made an impression on you?

A lot of writers influenced me. I’m a huge fan of George Orwell and his book, 1984. I also love works by Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner.

If you could talk to any of your favorites right now, who would it be?

This question reminds me of an idea I had, and still have, for a play about an event that happened in 1945. George Orwell waited at a café in Paris to meet Albert Camus, who didn’t show up. My idea would be to capture what would have happened had they both shown up.

What does being “independent for your writing” mean to you?

I believe in being autonomous when doing my work. In other words, I’m not connected to a certain organization.

How do you approach marketing your books?

I have my own marketing plan and have done more than 200 book signings. I participate in meet and greets and seek out local support. I develop relationships with booksellers and readers that way. I really love getting their feedback.

Author Bio

Robert E. Balmanno earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, receiving Highest Honors. He attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he did post-graduate work in Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy. Later he attended postgraduate studies at the University of London, King’s College, Department of War Studies.

Balmanno served in the Peace Corps in Dahomey in West Africa from 1973 to 1975. He worked training bulls to plow fields and pull carts in a region where no outsiders have ever been before—the place where the New World practices of voodoo originated among the Adja people of West Africa.

Between 1975 and 1978 Balmanno traveled through Europe and Asia. He’s dedicated his life to producing contemporary literary fiction, with a recent switch to the genre of science fiction.

Learn more about him and his books on Goodreads and Amazon.

Don’t miss the next TalkBooks group read. Connect with us on the SBW Goodreads page.


This November, SBW TalkBooks read A Reaper of Stone, the first installment of a fantasy series of novellas by Mark Gelineau and Joe King. Intrigued by their characters and storyline, TalkBooks members wanted to know how they work together and what comes next. Read on to learn more about Gelineau and King’s team approach to publishing.


A Lady is dead. Her noble line ended. And the King’s Reaper has come to reclaim her land and her home. In the marches of Aedaron, only one thing is for certain. All keeps of the old world must fall.

Elinor struggles to find her place in the new world. She once dreamed of great things. Of becoming a hero in the ways of the old world. But now she is a Reaper. And her duty is clear. Destroy the old. Herald the new.




Interview Q&A Recap:

How long have you known each other? Have you been writing that long?

We’ve been friends for over twenty-five years. We have been writing and telling stories in one form or another for about that long, yes. Mark’s an English teacher and has been published for a few years. Joe’s held a similar passion for writing for a long time. This is the first series that we are publishing together on our own.

What have you written before the current series of novellas?

In terms of published works, Mark has a very cool series of pulp stories with Pro Se following the Hanged Man. We did one short novella together for them called “Southern Hospitality” in the collection Once upon a Sixgun. The Echoes of the Ascended is the first work we are publishing together, and on our own.

How are the stories within the Echoes of the Ascended series organized?

There are four different series, all in the same world. Each has its own protagonist with a different story, but they’re from the same group of orphans who grew up together. Each series also embraces a different genre. A Reaper of Stone is the first novella in Elinor’s series, which is epic fantasy. Rend the Dark is a horror story that features Ferran. Alys is the protagonist in Best Left in the Shadows, a noir tale. Roan and Kay’s storyline begins in Faith and Moonlight, the opening installment for our upcoming young adult series.

The way we’re piecing the world together has been very different and we’re enjoying it. We didn’t have time to draft a full novella at the beginning, but we had enough time to draw a flash part of the world, and we continue to build it as we go along. We’re both big film and TV guys, and we’re trying to give it that type of feel.

The resulting prose is smooth. How do you share writing tasks?

Thank you so much for the kind words! We share and swap a lot of tasks, so there’s a lot more nuts and bolts to our Frankenstein-style of writing that I can probably cover here.

Joe comes up with a grand scheme and refines it into story beats. Mark writes first draft and gives it to Joe to edit and revise. The process repeats. Edits, alpha pass, beta pass, etc. But generally, Mark is the writer, the wordsmith, and the artist. If you see a particular piece of prose that’s like “Wowza!”, that’s Mark. Joe’s the cold-hearted editor that cuts and cuts and cuts. Then Mark does more writing, and Joe more cutting. And we go back forth until we feel it’s done.

We never do the same job as each other. We each perform different functions at different levels to prevent the writing from feeling inconsistent. Instead, hopefully it feels more like a polished product as we add layers of more editing and more writing on top of the original drafts.

Does sharing the writing load let you turn out more books?

Yes and no. We think it helps with writer’s fatigue and writer’s block because if we do start feeling worn down we can always tag out. But there’s also a lot of thinking and decision-making that usually happens within our own heads that need to happen across emails or phone calls instead, which takes an awful lot of time.

I think our team-writing probably writes at, or a little slower, than your average solo writer, but we make up for it in consistency, which allows us to publish a new novella every month. I couldn’t imagine having to face that kind of deadline alone every month.

What’s it like to release a novella every month?!

It has been pretty insane. Since we are publishing these on our own, we manage one to two rounds of beta responses, one to two rounds with our developmental editor, one round with our copy editor, and then manage the cover design and formatting vendors, and create all marketing and promo materials every month. The book-a-month model helps gain exposure for previously published novellas. And we have loved every minute of it. Well, almost.

How do you approach social media?

We use social media platforms, such as Twitter, to engage with people, to reach out with others, and to also talk about their work. Other writers are great for support, but we also focus on reaching out to our target audience.

How do you get your book reviews?

We did a few things to help us out here, but mainly, we just asked people who bought our book, “Hey, love it or hate it, we’d really love a review.” In our experience, the hardest part is just asking people. The length probably helped too, as far as people’s investment in time. Here are a couple of things we did. Your mileage may vary.

1) We gave the book away for free at launch for a few days and let people know it was available (through websites, emails, going into local stores/groups).

2) We contacted the amazing web blogger community and asked if they’d be interested in doing objective reviews.

3) We also did Goodreads giveaways and other similar giveaways to reach more people.

Ultimately, I think people are wonderful about wanting to leave honest reviews if given the chance. We just tried to remove as many barriers as we could to giving people that chance. With that in mind, if anyone would like to do an objective review of our work, please contact us. We have ARCs available 🙂

Do you have plans for other publishers to pick up your books?

We like the freedom of self-publishing, but we’re very open to a publisher wanting to take over. Writing is just twenty percent of all the work that needs to get done. It requires lots of coordination to stay on schedule.

Author Bios:

Ever since the day he discovered his grandfather’s stacks of pulps, comics, and sci-fi and fantasy novels, Mark was fascinated. When he saw his first movie, Star Wars, he was hooked.

Stories of adventure and far off worlds thrilled him then and inspire him now. It was this passion for imaginative storytelling that led him to writing and education. In addition to his own writing work, Mark has taught middle school English for the last thirteen years, and is excited to share his stories with his young son, Bryce.

 gelineau and king

Joe King spent most of his childhood doing what he loved most—building things with his friends. He built friendships, stories, worlds, games, imagination, and everything in between.

Joe believes in the power of stories, dreams, family, friendship, and getting your ass kicked every once in a while.

More than anything, he wants to tell a good story, and, for him, Gelineau & King is the constant reminder that it’s never too late to start building the things you love.

SBW TalkBooks Interview of Liz Newman

SBW TalkBooks chose a mainstream romance novel, The New Orleans Way by Liz Newman, as its September group read. The club had a chance to grab copies of the book right before it went out of print. During a live Q&A, author and SBW member, Liz Newman, discussed her story, writing habits, and thoughts behind the book’s sudden disappearance. Read on for a recap of her interview.

Book Blurb

“Everything comes at a price. Love. Security. Even happiness.

Southern debutante, Rosemarie Kuhn, is captivated by the lowborn private detective, Michael Hennessy. In 1890s New Orleans, status and propriety can get in the way of true love. Betrothed by her mother to marry a general, she finds her new suitor has placed her and her family’s finances in a precarious position. Her love for Michael Hennessy and her alliance with a Mafia family offers a tantalizing solution to her woes, but as her ardor for Michael grows stronger, so do the forces determined to keep them apart.”

We thought this book might be categorized as romantic suspense or historical fiction. What’s your take on the genre?

I write what’s considered mainstream literary romance. It’s a side genre, but that’s what I enjoy. I love romance and the idea of two people falling in love. But I see so much more in a story, such as the richness of the historical period.

Your cover is gorgeous—who made the cover?

The cover artist was Don Dominque from Secret Cravings Publishing.

Was this book part of a series?

So far I’ve written three novels and four novellas. None of them are in a series except for Vampire Eden, a paranormal romance; but I haven’t written the second installment yet.

Why did Boas desert Rosemarie on their honeymoon—what was his motivation?

He was definitely a jerk. I’ve studied sociopaths, and it seems like they just use people. Half the fun for Boas is the fact that she was so vulnerable. He’s just mean.

Did you research David Hennessey?

Yes. I researched a lot of the history, and he seemed handsome for those times. There was a lot going on with crime families, including the Italian mafia in the late 1800s.

What’s the story behind the publication and sudden takedown of this book?

When I first signed with Sweet Cravings, a division of Secret Cravings, I’d heard good things about them from Romance Writers of America’s reports. Sweet Cravings had won their publisher of the year award and had a great marketing plan that sold books. The publisher recently went belly-up and didn’t give details. I just got a reversion of rights.

What would you like to do with the books that have been taken offline?

Ideally, I’d go to an agent with one of my current manuscripts that hasn’t been published, and then present my backlog of work. I also plan to attend the San Francisco Writing Conference.

What’s your writing style?

I’m an outliner and a plotter. During my post-editing rewrites, I think of ways to make the story better and learn more about the characters. It’s important to write to a reader even if you’re writing about someone who’s imaginary.

After you wrote your first book, what was your process toward publication?

I’d always wanted to be a writer; I wanted to create something. I have four children, so I wrote while the kids were taking naps and after bedtime. When my work was good enough to send out, I researched publishers and vetted them on the Preditors and Editors website. After submitting to two agents, I decided to go forward without one.

I went with midlist publisher, Gypsy Shadow, which had a wide variety of genres and good book covers. I felt more comfortable having a publisher give the book that extra look and knowing that it’s a book they think will sell.

Author Bio

Liz Newman holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and a BA in Mass Communications, with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism. Among other things, she’s worked as an intern at KTVU Broadcasting Station in Oakland, California.

Learn more about this author and her books at her website and Amazon author page.

TalkBooks Interview with Chess Desalls

SBW TalkBooks honored me by choosing Travel Glasses as it’s July group read. Last night, we had a live Q&A about the book and writing in general. It was a lot of fun! The following is a writeup of the event, which will be cross-posted on author Marjorie Bicknell Johnson’s blog.

TalkBooks Summary

Travel Glasses is a YA time travel fantasy filled with metafiction and other literary twistiness. This is the first novel in the series, The Call to Search Everywhen.

When Travel Glasses begins, Calla Winston’ mobile devices sit in a corner of her room, covered in dust. Weeks ago, she shared photos and laughs with her best online friend. Now, she equates technology with pain and prefers being hidden and friendless.

Then she meets Valcas, an otherworldly time traveler who traverses time and space with a pair of altered sunglasses. She travels with him to others’ pasts to escape an unknown attacker. The Travel Glasses take Calla’s mistrust of technology to new levels, but without them, she’ll never make it back home.

Questions for the Author

  1. How did you happen to start your series, The Call to Search Everywhen?

A friend and I had been brainstorming ideas for short stories. One morning an idea popped in my head about sunglasses that could be used for time travel. I thought of both the title of the story and Valcas’ character immediately; although, at the time I thought it would be a short story. I let the book flow, free wrote the first draft, rewrote the entire manuscript from a different point of view, and then worked on playing up the themes. Overall, development of the book spanned five years.

  1. The travel glasses remind me of Google glasses and virtual reality games, but taken one step further. Did you get any of your ideas for this book from Google glasses?

I’d already known about virtual reality and videogame visors, but at the time I envisioned the story, Google Glass hadn’t come out yet. I suspect that a couple telecommunications and privacy courses I took in 2012 and 2013 impacted later edits regarding some of the glasses’ special features.

  1. Calla seems to have trouble getting home again, to the place and time where she began. Is this a play upon the idea, you can never go home again?

I didn’t have that theme specifically in mind, although it pairs well with the book’s themes of trust, relationships and self-preservation. Calla’s journey is partly one of self-discovery; she’s not who she was before her travels.

  1. When the characters travel, their conveyance changes to something from the time and place that they visit. For example, their gondola in Venice morphs into a ship when they arrive in Folkestone Harbour. Do their clothing and hairstyles change as well?

In early drafts of the book, for some reason I had changed Calla’s clothing when she arrived in Venice, but nowhere else. It seemed odd to me, so I scrapped it. I did keep the vehicle changes, though, for when the destination was to a real place rather than a Nowhere.

  1. How did you create your characters? I could relate to Calla, even though I am well beyond the YA age, because she’s a smart tomboy like I used to be. I had more trouble with Valcas because I couldn’t figure out if he was a good guy or not.

Valcas is socially awkward. His character is ambiguous because a lot of Calla’s fears are in her head. He has a parallel story going on, but sometimes he’s more difficult to relate to because he’s more distant, which is part of the effect of the story being told from Calla’s point of view.

  1. How do you find time to work, write, blog, and use social media?

My schedule is flexible in that my work assignments have ebbs and flows, for which I’m very grateful. Sometimes I’m so buried that I can’t write fiction for months at a time. Regardless, there are times I get so wrapped up in a story that other things suffer like getting enough sleep, making it to the gym or reading for fun.

  1. How do you like to work?

I’m an extrovert and get energy from being around other people. I like to write in coffee shops, bowling alleys, and pool halls.

  1. How many books have you written in your series?

The first two books, Travel Glasses and Insight Kindling, are out now and available as paperbacks, ebooks and audiobooks. I’m still writing and editing the third book, Time for the Lost, which I hope to release in late 2015 or early 2016.

I have more story ideas in my head and tucked away in notes. I’m hoping to have additional books in the series, perhaps with a separate story arc.

Author Bio

Chess Desalls recently authored the first two installments of the YA time travel serial series, The Call to Search Everywhen. She’s a longtime reader of fantasy and sci-fi novels, particularly classics and young adult fiction. When she’s not writing she enjoys traveling, reading and trying to stay in tune on her flute.

Learn more about Chess and her books on her website and Amazon page. She loves connecting with readers through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads.

TalkBooks Interview with R. L. King

Today I’m excited to feature R. L. King, author of The Alastair Stone Chronicles. This June, SBW TalkBooks read the first book of the series, Stone and a Hard Place. Learn more about King and her writing below!

Book Description

It’s hard enough for Alastair Stone to keep his two lives—powerful mage and mundane Occult Studies professor—separate without an old friend asking him to take on a new apprentice. Especially after a university colleague wants him to investigate a massive old house for things that go bump in the night. Still, Stone figures it’s an easy job: just turn up, put on a little show, and announce that the house is clean.

Only it isn’t. A malevolent spirit is reawakening in the basement, imprisoned between dimensions and intent on escape. If it succeeds, countless people will die. Worse, a trio of dark mages want to help it break free so they can control it for their own sinister purposes. They’ll do whatever it takes—including seducing Stone’s young apprentice and using him against his master—to get what they’re after.

With time running out, Stone has to stay alive long enough to uncover the spirit’s secrets. But even if he does, he fears that his own power won’t be enough to send it back.

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

What is your elevator pitch?

An elevator pitch needs that catchy line. I’m good at back cover blurbs but not at pitches. That’s something I think I really need to work on.

How did you happen to write this book?

I’ve always liked magic, but I’m not a big fan of traditional medieval fantasy. I like the idea of magic in the modern world, but I didn’t want to use all of the same tropes that appear in so many urban fantasy books. For example, everybody and his dog does vampires and werewolves—I didn’t want to do that.

Stone, your Mage, practices magic on par with Harry Potter and the wizards at Hogwarts. How did you learn about the magic used in your book?

Harry Potter was not my inspiration. I made up the magic system used in the book while I built Alastair Stone’s paranormal world. People tell me that my books remind them a little of the Dresden Files, which is funny because I hadn’t read any of those books until after I wrote two in my own series. I’ve since read them and I love them.

How long did it take for you to write this book?

Two or three months. I try to write every day. During one month, I wrote 90,000 words, but I don’t keep up that pace all the time.

This book is part of a series. How many books (of the series) have you written?

I have written five of the books in the series. The second one came out this week, and the third just came back from the editor. I’ve got one more finished in first draft, another that I’ve started, and ideas for at least five more.

Do you think of the whole story at once, or do you do part of it and let the character suggest what happens next?

My books are character driven. If people don’t like the characters, they’re not going to read the book. I like to use the same characters. I know where the book starts, where I want it to end, and roughly what needs to happen to get there, but I let the characters do what they do in the middle when possible.

What are your thoughts on publishing?

The more I found out about traditional publishing, the more I knew I wanted to have final control. I am self-published but I use professionals’ services to help me make the best book I can: good editor, good cover design. I used CreateSpace for my paperbacks, and everything went way better than I expected. Most of my sales are in ebook format, though, through Amazon.

TalkBooks Interview with Doctor Jac

SBW TalkBooks read two books by South Bay Writers members in the month of June. Today’s feature is Rough Waters by Doctor Jac. Read more about the book and the group’s live Q&A below!

Book Description

Michael grew up in a small town but always had his eye on something big. He wasn’t sure what to do with his life until he joined the Navy and found his place in the world.

Professionally, he falls in with Navy intelligence. He infiltrates China for secret information and leads a successful mission to Vietnam. He uncovers fraud within the officer ranks and exposes black market thieving of government property.

Personally, Michael struggles for years before finding true love. He travels extensively through Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. He lives a life of passion and excitement but always remembers the small town boy he once was. Michael is a man with dreams and the passion to follow them, even into the path of danger.

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

The book seems to have three distinct parts: Michael grew up in a small town; Michael falls in with Navy intelligence; Michael struggles for years to find true love. What is the most important theme in your book?

I have rewritten the story regarding Navy intelligence as The Spy from Nowhere. The memoir will be treated differently.

How much of this book is true but disguised as a memoir?

Much of the book is true, but not all. In my new book, The Spy from Nowhere, I took out the memoir part, the first two chapters. The Spy is the first of a series; the second is Grace Under Fire.

What is your elevator speech? What do you tell someone who asks what your book is about?

The book is the story of a young man from a small town who escapes to the real world.

What is your background?

In 1959, I started in business: sales and marketing. My experiences in sales and marketing carry over to selling books. There are four kinds of people:

Innovators: 10%;
Early Adopters—they copy innovators: 20%;
Mainstream—the average Joe: 60%; and
Zombies—they have trouble, just getting up in the morning: 10%.

I market to the first 30%.

What’s your writing background?

I am an experienced nonfiction writer with 14 books published over the past 30 years. This is my first venture into fiction. I read everything I can about fiction writing and then pick up what makes sense for me. I’ve got a lot to learn.

TalkBooks Interview with Marjorie Bicknell Johnson

I’m super excited to feature South Bay Writers (SBW) member and author Marjorie Bicknell Johnson. SBW’s book club, TalkBooks, selected Jaguar Princess : The Last Maya Shaman as its first group read. The following interview is a summary of TalkBooks’ live Q&A with Marjorie about the book.

What inspired you to write Jaguar Princess?

I’ve been interested in Indian cultures in the Americas for a long time. The Mayans were good mathematicians and astronomers, with a writing system similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics. They had complete libraries with beautiful books. In 1562, the Spaniards burned more than a thousand books in one bonfire. Three books still exist.

In the PBS documentary, Breaking the Mayan Code, an eleven-year-old boy made major contributions to reading the inscriptions on Mayan stone monuments. I thought, “A girl could do that!” and then, “Who would want to read Mayan writing?” I decided that the girl would be born of a King, with the blood of a shaman and the ability to read.

Who was your intended audience?

I wrote partly for myself, but intended it as a young-adult book that could be enjoyed by adults.

If you had to choose one of your characters to have lunch with, who would it be?

I’d choose Pex (pronounced “Pesh”) because I admire her ability to study all the languages and how she learned to balance her abilities as a shaman with her career aspirations.

Do you and Pex have anything in common?

We both love to climb trees and draw.

Where did you get the idea for Kedar?

I wrote about him in my first book, Bird Watcher, which is the first book, chronologically. I’ve flown planes, including a floatplane like the one flown by Kedar.

Which parts of the book flowed, and which parts did you find more challenging to write?

The prologue flowed because I felt what happened to the Mayans was so unjust.

The part where Pex wandered in the desert with the codex was more difficult to get through. Pex’s character was also challenging because Mayans don’t exhibit emotion in public. They don’t cry or smile, or hug everyone like the people in our culture do.

How did you come up with the connection between reading the codex and Fibonacci numbers?

It’s fictitious, but connected in a way. There’s a relationship between that and the golden rectangle that Plato and Greeks were so fond of. Mayans have a construction for making the golden rectangle too. They have a book like the Bible that says the first thing the gods created was a square and then explains how to construct the square using rope. I tried to add a puzzle in my book.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I have to start with a pen in my hand for my brain to work. I write a part of a chapter in pen, then type it; add a little bit, print it and edit with a pen.

Marjorie Bicknell Johnson taught mathematics for twenty-five years before she became a pilot, and she published ninety mathematical papers before she wrote a novel. She is addicted to the Fibonacci sequence—she served on the editorial board of The Fibonacci Quarterly, an academic mathematics journal, for 40 years. She enjoys sharing her passion for writing, and is the author of two published novels, Bird Watcher and Jaguar Princess.

Learn more about Marjorie and her books on Goodreads and Amazon.