by Javier A. Robayo

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tribe of the Teddy Bear by J.J. Wright

As my girls began to discover the joy of reading, I felt the little books they read, you know, the ones with big pictures and one sentence (if that) per page, presented little or no challenge. Yes, I push hard for the reading, but truly, are there bigger portals to the imagination than novels? 
I started looking for books for younger minds, and ended up being taken on a terrific ride when I read Tribe of the Teddy Bear. 
My youngest is a Teddy Bear hoarder, and although at the time, she was just beginning to recognize letters, she loved to hear me or Mommy read to her.
And so, I treated them to J.J. Wright's epic. They laughed, they hid under the covers, they listened to the inflections of my voice with wide eyes, and learned to love long stories. 

Tribe is full of compelling characters, but perhaps because my girls were the primary audience during our reading, Amelia struck a chord with all of us. Is there a real Amelia?

J.J.W: Amelia. What can I say about Amelia? She’s the girl I was in love with from afar in kindergarten. The girl I saw in the halls of my grade school, and sat across from in Junior High, but never got the chance to really meet, to really talk to. She’s a mystery, a fantasy, a long lost love and a girl next door. She’s a combination of many girls I’ve known, actually, and possesses small qualities from each. A lot of my beautiful, thoughtful wife is in her, of course, along with many other females who’ve influenced me in a positive way throughout my life. Amelia represents goodness and beauty, and, of course, unusual intelligence. Obviously, she is a central character, and as such she’s one of my favorites. I’m pleased you asked me about her, thank you.

The concept of the Tanakee is one of the most original plots I've come across. They are a microcosm of the human race, and emphasize the strength of friendship and cooperation for the greater good. Where did that concept come from?

J.J.W: Your question is quite astute, and shows you really did read and allow yourself to escape into the world of Tribe of the Teddy Bear. The story is in fact a sort of microcosm of the human race—how united we stand and divided we fall. To be quite honest, when I first started dreaming up this idea, it didn’t have the same grand scope it does now. In fact, it was just a simple little story about these creatures that lived in a supermarket, posing as lifeless teddy bears during the day and then coming alive and ransacking the store at night. It was when I added Jack James, the boy who befriends Takota, that the story took on a life of its own. For the character of Jack, I borrowed from a short story I had written long ago about a boy inventor and a revolutionary machine that gives its user super powers. At that point everything just clicked. Jack is a superhero, but he’s just a boy, and boys need protection. And who better to protect Jack than his teddy bear? But Takota, as you know, is no normal teddy bear. Add the other Tanakee and a host of human characters, and you have an epic, really, which is what Tribe of the Teddy Bear is.

I remember reading late into the night even after the girls had fallen asleep, only to look up at the dozens of teddy bears around me. I expected one of them to come to life. The story is that compelling, but apart from the emotional elements, we are introduced to the sci-fi aspect of Tribe. What inspired the gravitomiton, the "machine" at the center of the novel?

J.J.W: The gravitomiton is the power source for the O/A. It’s a little confusing, I know, but think of it this way: as the Flux Capacitor is to the Delorean, so is the gravitomiton to the O/A. So, to that end, I’ll make my remarks regarding the O/A, which stands for Omega Alpha. It was named the Omega Alpha because Ben (Jack’s Dad and the creator of the O/A) thinks of it as the last invention of the old age, and the first invention of the new. It’s a truly transformative machine, with interdimensional technology so advanced, even the inventor doesn’t understand it fully. But, intuitively, Jack understands it, and, with his limitless imagination, he uses the machine to save their hometown of Willow from a devastating tidal wave. You have to read Tribe to capture the nuances of how the O/A works, and, when you do, you find both magic and high technology are behind its functions. As far as what inspired it, all I can say is I am much like Jack in that I have this imagination with seemingly no boundaries, as there really is nothing, in fiction or in reality, quite like the O/A.

What's behind the pages of Tribe of the Teddy Bear?

J.J.W: What's behind the pages of The Tribe of the Teddy Bear? The book is on the longer side, and it’s got quite a lot going on in those four hundred plus pages, so let me distill it down by using some word association. Friendship. Laughter. Cooperation. Mystery. Fear. Doubt. Good and Evil. Struggle. Discovery. Confidence. Bravery. Victory. But, most of all, what I feel when I think about the story is an overwhelming sense of love. That’s what Tribe of the Teddy Bear is all about, and I know it’s corny, but it’s true. The power of love.

Oregon's woodlands seem to come alive in the novel. Was it easy to choose the setting for the story?

J.J.W: As far as the setting, I can safely say this was the easiest part of the story for me to write. Having been born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and living in a forest all my life, it was only natural to place the setting in the rainforests of Oregon. I’m a nature lover, and try to get outside every day, whether to hike, work, or just enjoy the fresh air and scenery. No matter how many times I go into the woods, I never get bored, and find beauty and wonder in even the smallest of things. I also see the forest as a magical place, which is where the idea behind Wind Whisper Woods came from. WWW is a secret place, a mystical place where only the Tanakee and similar creatures can enter. Of course, children can go there, too, and that’s because children are magical thinkers.

J.J. The page is yours to add anything else you'd like to share with us about your unique novel.

J.J.W: I don’t really have much to add, except, to Javier, I just want to say thank you once again for considering Tribe of the Teddy Bear as one of your favorite indie books. It’s such an honor to be recognized by a fellow author. I also want to express how much I love your blog, and the good work you are doing to help promote other indies like ourselves. Great work, and keep it up.


Like many of us, behind J.J. Wright and his work is his talented wife Krystle, who is a joy to talk to, and a terrific artist. She's the woman behind the art work on the covers of J.J.'s novels. This husband and wife team are sure to enjoy some much deserved success in their work. 
Tribe of the Teddy Bear transcended genres and struck a chord with the kid within my brain, the one who built Lego empires and arranged armies to fight the old battle of good versus evil, employing magic, super technology, and that timeless and most significant trait of all heros: friendship.

to learn more about J.J. Wright visit:

to learn more about Krystle and her art, visit:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Knockout! by Emma Calin

   I've a soft spot for novels that take me out of my normal surroundings and put me somewhere I've never been. (Heck, I even gave in to a compulsion to set my novels in London just to know what it would feel like to take a reader to a new destination). 
   Emma Calin's Knockout! took me to France and for the first time in my life, I finally got to understand what the big deal is with Paris and romance. 
   Sandra Brown, one of the most recognized names in Romance once agreed with a critic that romantic novels are predictable; they almost always have a happy ending. And what's wrong with that?
   Like most men, I often passed on romance novels. Men are not exactly programmed to delve into the intricacies of love so profoundly after all. However, when Romance is an aspect of a story, enriched by other elements of fiction, the result is akin to an artist employing different pallets to bring their vision to light.
   An Interpol heroine, the promise of a hopeless vortex of sexual and emotional passion, and a boxer as the good guy? It was easy to make the decision to read it.

From having written a novel set in a place I'm fascinated by, I can tell Paris has a special place in your heart. What did you hope to convey about Paris to your readers?

EC: Paris is definitely my favourite city, although there are many cities that I have not yet visited! France is a relatively short distance from the UK so Paris is quickly accessible. 
It's by no means accidental that Paris is the city of lovers and I think the reason for this is rooted far more profoundly in the human spirit than we realise. It is a northern city, often under grey skies and yet many restaurants have outside terraces. There are many outdoor street markets, stalls etc selling art and of course the famous 'Bouquinistes' with their second hand books along the left bank of the  Seine. This incongruence doubly serves as a metaphor for the experience of love which exists as a bloom or a splash of red on the monochrome background of life. I do not think that this is always realised about Paris.  
Another feature of  Paris is of course its atmospheric connection to passion and romance through the generations  – from the bohemian ideals of truth, beauty, freedom and love to the culture of  Edith Piaf and her Love-or-Nothing songs,  the ambience is still there.  
Its river, historical buildings and its Haussmann boulevards are all beautiful in themselves.  Then there are the gourmet aspects of Paris with its world famous cuisine. 
I wanted to convey this excess of passion and love in Knockout! So Paris was the perfect backdrop for the most romantic of Anna and Freddie's encounters. 
Recently I picked out a selection of romantic phrases from Knockout! I linked them together as a prose poem from Anna to Freddie and read and recorded it for a 'videoetry' production on Youtube 'Our Love in Paris'. It is set to a backdrop of photos from my own trips to Paris.

Un beau lieu de mémoire... Easy to understand this eternal love affair with Paris, such an ideal backdrop for some major fireworks. I've come across reads where the IT couple had little or no chemistry, especially in the dialogue, but that was never a problem between Anna and Freddie. Was it difficult to steer their emotions for one another as their relationship progressed?

EC: Anna's character was built around a type of emotion that I think is more typically female. Within her was a vacuum that had developed over a long period and was always ready to implode uncontrollably. In the case of Freddie he had no such pre-existing need and in fact had set out to pick up a pretty girl in pursuit of his own ends. However, he had never met a woman with whom he found such a genuine rapport and was unprepared for his emotional response to her.  What happened then was that both of them lost control but for entirely different reasons. She because of her need which she had always handled so well, and he because of his inexperience in controlling such profound emotion.

And yet, as an author, you controlled the uncontrollable so well. Romance fiction inevitably calls for steamy scenes, which are some of the most difficult elements to write in a novel. There's such a fine line between sexy and vulgar or erotic and pornographic, and it's a feat to balance the physical and emotional aspect of every sensation. What inspired the love scenes in Knockout? 

EC: I think that all of us, women in particular, seek that factor in physical love which the French call 'la tendresse'. I like to create eroticism in the way that you see dolphins or killer whales in smooth water – everything is calm and then you see the water rise, a smooth edge and then a sharp fin come up momentarily and disappear again.  When I am writing a love scene this is how I like it to be – 3 elements – the smooth water, the graceful rise of the body and then a jagged aspect of the beast – before it disappears again below the surface, so that you get a feeling for the real thing without actually ever seeing the whole animal.

I will not lie. It took a long time to get past that last answer. I had to accept defeat, for I had nothing to write about it, but know my reaction was a whispered Wow... What's behind the pages of Knockout?

EC:  I wanted to write a suspenseful romance with an exciting plot as well as a compelling love story.  There had been a lot of attention paid to match fixing in many sports around the time I was thinking about starting the book - particularly in boxing.  My good friend Oscar Sparrow is an ex-cop and was able to give me a lot of inside information about how Interpol works and politics within the police service.  I was able to draw on my own insights into boxing as well as my personal feelings for a romantic heroine and blend this with my insider police information.  I wanted to leave the reader an idea and hope that uncontrolled love does exist and can end well.  I wanted to reveal the melody and beauty of love expressed physically.  I also wanted to dig out that aspect of a Piaf song – that Love-or Nothing as an ambition is better than caution and half a thing.

The gambling over the outcome of sports was an interesting twist. For my male brain, these aspects enriched the story more than I expected. It was more than a romance.
For those of you who've read these blog posts, one question is reserved for characters, and it's usually not about the main character that one normally expects, but there are exceptions. Especially when the character is as fascinating as the main man in Knockout.  Emma, is there a real Freddie LaSalle? 

Emma: There is unfortunately, no real Freddie in my life but I have known some very sexy cultured men and my South London roots exposed me to the life around boxing and many of these men  were physically compelling! Freddie is a wish list composite.  Of the two, the man with the best words is always more attractive to me.


   I did not expect Emma's captivating writing voice to flow through her responses the way it did. I found myself reading and rereading just to soak up every sentence.
   Knockout! is Emma's baby, but I'm looking forward to getting that textual embrace from her words in Escape to Love, as well as Sub-Prime and The Chosen

   I promised myself I would not employ certain cliches even though a title like Knockout! just begs for it but... you will find a swift right hook to the heart behind the pages of Knockout! 
  I know I did, and I enjoyed the fall to the mat.

   Javier A. Robayo

to learn more about Emma, visit:

Emma Calin Website:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Each Novel

I began this blog as a way to bring the work of several Indie Authors to more hands, more eyes, more hearts.
Behind the pages of each novel is an ocean of tears, a maddening frustrating longing for more hours in the day, and a rigid commitment to finishing a novel.
The hours of writing, revising, editing, and regretting are long. The rewards are few, but special. You'd be surprised to learn how far every single kind word of praise goes to keep our dreams alive.
Every soul has got one or more stories to tell, but few have the courage to take the plunge and relentlessly hammer at those keys while friends, family, and naysayers shake their heads, wondering why. Why would anyone put themselves through the emotional turmoil writing a novel really is. Why would anyone forgo entire nights just to sit at the keyboard with imaginary friends.
We have no choice. We have a dreamer's brain with the power to put words together, creating entire universes, societies, romances, horrors, villains, heroes, and scenes meant to hold a reader's emotions hostage for as long as those pages are turned.
We live to write.
And if you live to read, we'll do the best we can to make your time worth it, and all we ask is that you let us know what you thought. Should you decide to review our stories and tell the world your opinion then we're forever grateful.
One or few stars will tell us we need to improve. More than a few will validate our efforts, and to a pure writer, that sense of accomplishment is everything.
I'd appreciate it, on behalf of every brave soul who has ever sat down to compose a story, if you would pass this post around to anyone who loves to read. 
The best way to feed our determination to write a novel is knowing what you may find behind its pages.

   Javier A. Robayo

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cassidy Jones Adventures by Elise Stokes

Every so often a novel or in this case, a series comes around that you just know it's a hit. Elise Stokes creates a world that has something for everyone, regardless of age. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment as an author, but there is more than an appealing superhero story at play here. 
The success behind Cassidy Jones is in its characters. Yes, they're special, out of the ordinary, and yet, they deal with situations and relationships any reader can identify with. Elise's novels will pull you in and make you forget the real world while Seattle comes alive around you. 
It's been some time since I've been eager for the next volume in a series. Taking advantage of knowing Elise as a friend in the ever growing world of Indie Writing, I've been one of the many who is constantly asking for the next novel. If The Secret Formula left me grinning for ear to ear, Vulcan's Gift literally blew me away. These two novels actually inspired this blog. Why? Because I've had these questions in my head when I couldn't stop thinking of the story way after I read them.

When I was considering what type of novel to write, I was almost pulled into the wave of paranormal romances, and horror stories, along with Templars and history. How did you come up with a story about a superhero?

ES: My husband and I were brainstorming cool story ideas. He mentioned a superhero whose senses, strength, and speed are enhanced ten times the average capacity. I said, “Love it, if the superhero is a teenage girl.” From there, a storyline quickly unfolded. I call Serena Phillips’ gene therapy Formula 10x in honor of my husband, who tossed the lit match into the cauldron of my imagination (LOL. I have never used that phrase before, and may never again. ;) 

I can tell you're in writing mode, which is great for anyone reading this post. I'm glad for the resulting explosion of great writing that came from that cauldron. The idea of a teenage girl as the central figure is genius, where did Cassidy Jones come from, someone you know?

ES: If you asked me this question before Book One was published, I would have said I had no clue where Cassidy came from. But since then, family members and friends have pointed out on numerous occasions how much Cassidy and I are alike, so apparently I project on her. :) Cassidy values what I value, sees humor in the things I do, and reacts to situations in a similar way as I would if in her shoes.

My favorite author's perk, to live within the pages in our own vision of ourselves. Cassidy is the concept of the American Teen at its best. What's behind the pages of Cassidy Jones Adventures?

ES: Complete and utter chaos. What can I say? I have four kids. I adore them, but they treat my writing similarly to when I’m talking on the phone: like I’m staring at a blank wall, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for someone to rescue me from boredom. I can’t even tell you how many great “writing rolls” have been brought to a screeching halt by one of my kids yelling “Mom,” and by “writing roll” I mean two or three paragraphs. Writing for me is like being in stop and go traffic. I’m always amazed the story makes sense when it’s all said and done.

If the stop and go style of writing results in the stories you write, I'll find the patience I'm not known for while waiting for the next volume of Cassidy Jones Adventures. A writing roll for me entails an entire night, but much like you, I'm just as amazed if the writing makes a lick of sense, so you might be much better off, especially when it comes to edits. I've wanted to ask this question since I first met one of the most unforgettable characters ever written. What inspired Emery Phillips?

ES: Thank you so much, Javier. That is a tremendous compliment. I first began writing Emery as the stereotypical genius nerd, and then thought what’s the fun in that? What I decided would be fun is a teenage boy who appears to be the stereotypical genius nerd, but is actually like a young James Bond. Emery is definitely my character who lives in the gray, “the end justifies the means” sort. In other words, he isn’t above breaking rules, or the law, if doing so paves the way to the greater good. I also use him to demonstrate the qualities I hope my daughters will look for in a man: commitment, loyalty, respect, tenderness, putting other’s needs above your own, a killer sense of humor. 

I push Kendra, my eight year girl old into reading Cassidy Jones Adventures not just because it's one of the most fun reads she'll ever experience, but because in an age lacking solid role models, Cassidy and Emery, superhero and genius mind aside, are two kids with an array of values and attitudes that make them the young people we wish we'd been, and the teenagers a lot of us hope to raise.


Elise was still working on the third volume of the series when I asked her to be a part of my blog. Often, I draw conclusions and opinions about the featured novels completely on my own, but this time was different. At home, my father is a huge fan of Cassidy, Kendra's become quite curious and wants to know more. I have no doubt she'll love it. Amber, my five year old, already wants to be a superhero. My wife Sheri enjoyed every page, and I've loved the series enough to start a blog just to know what's behind the pages of Cassidy Jones Adventures. 

   Javier A. Robayo

to learn more about Elise's work, visit:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fourth and Forever by Bert Carson

On Christmas of 2003, I gave my dad a leather bound copy of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I inscribed a promise to one day give him a book with our name on the cover on the inset, and nine years later, I was able to make good on my word when I put The Gaze in his hands. I've wanted to write about him, and the special friendship we share that goes beyond the blood bonds of father and son.
We both have read all our lives, but we've seldom come across a novel that hit us both right through the heart like Fourth and Forever. 
The experience went beyond the football theme that might lead anyone to assume it's a boys' book. I can assure you, it's a novel for the soul.
Bert Carson's blogs are infused with genuine emotion and it's easy to become a fan. I wanted much more of his voice, and so I began reading his novels. Since moving back to Connecticut, patiently working towards having a house again, I've had this shelf of honor in the studio I share with my dad. Fourth and Forever stands on that top shelf along with the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Dean Koontz, John W. Huffman, Alexander Dumas, and Charles Dickens among others. Why? Because no one writes from the heart like Bert Carson. 

Fourth and Forever is a novel that should be read by everyone. What inspired the beauty in the friendships and relationships in the novel? 

BC: Javier, for the answer to this question and a couple of others, you need to know a bit of the history of the novel.  I married the first time, on 11/22/63 (which is the day Kennedy was assassinated).  We moved up our planned wedding date in June because it appeared I was about to be drafted.  That worked for a couple of years, and then the draft rules changed and married men with no children were eligible.  I was one of the first to be drafted under the revised rules.  I would have spent my entire tour at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, had I not been promoted and given the job of in-processing guys returning from Vietnam.  After a week of that, I determined I would go to Vietnam just to see what was going on there that could do what I saw in the eyes of returning vets.
I volunteered, extended my term of enlistment, since I didn’t have enough time left for a full tour, pulled some strings (which I’ll probably write about in a blog in the next few days), and got assigned to a helicopter unit.  I was gone in less than a month after my promotion.
One of a number of common denominators among Vietnam Vets is divorce.  I stayed in my first marriage, after Vietnam, longer than most, but finally it crashed.  My ex-wife got custody of the kids; I moved to another state, and became a seriously absent father.
Ten years later, my son called and asked if he could come and live with me.  Of course I said yes, after explaining that I was traveling every week in my new career as a professional speaker.  He said he could handle that.  In making the relocation arrangements with my ex, I discovered he’d dropped out of school a few weeks into the tenth grade.  I told him he had to go to school as part of the living-with-me-deal, and he agreed.
For the next three years, we developed a relationship that I’d always dreamed we would have.  A “Daddy and Bobby,” relationship, and that inspired that portion of the book.

It's difficult to explain all the emotions I felt as I got to know their relationship. I couldn't help drawing parallels between my dad and I. The love, the mutual respect, the trust, it all comes through so vividly on every page. 
You mentioned Vietnam. You and I are big supporters of our boys in uniform regardless of era, but you've taken it a step further by using the story of Josh "Daddy" Edwards to create awareness to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and giving your readers a clear understanding. Was this a goal of yours when you wrote the novel?

BC: The Vietnam portions of the book did not exist in the original draft.  Then Desert Shield became Desert Storm and all my Vietnam issues came up.  My solution ultimately became Vietnam Veterans Southern Command – here’s a link to that story 
When I finally admitted the magnitude of the Vietnam issue in my life, and saw it in thousands of others that I’d met, I knew it had to be a bigger part of Fourth and Forever.  So, the simple answer to your question is, yes, I intended to address the issue, but more than that, I wanted to speak directly to vets and the families of vets in a voice they could hear.

I've gotten one explanation, back when I was working on a paper for my US History class in college on Vietnam. I went to the local VFW and talked to one good man. He didn't want to say much at first, but his demeanor and the look in his eyes spoke volumes. But seeing it on the page, in your words, I can't tell you the enlightenment it brought to my mind. 
Another strong aspect of the novel is that special friendship "Daddy" Edwards offered to the people around him. When There's a certain passage, "You don't have to know the takeoff speed to fly the plane...when it's ready to fly, it will fly. Don't rush it and don't force it..." That entire scene is one I remember the most, and I often think about it when impatience eats at me. Fourth and Forever has many of these lines and lessons conveyed through flying, football, and even a special mutt. Where do they come from?

BC: For as long as I can remember, and that is back to the age of two or three, and I’m now 70, I’ve had one objective, and that was to know and live the highest truth I could find and incorporate in my life.  I’ve never wavered from that objective and along the way, when I heard or saw a lesson in truth that spoke to my heart, I noted it.  The particular passage that you quoted happened in my life just the way I wrote it in Fourth and Forever.  When I heard it, I knew it could be applied to all of life, not just flying Cessna 150’s, so I noted it, and now it’s part of your life. 

I'm always looking to write that one line that can be a part of someone's life. I have to say, I love the way you wrote that moment, as well as the characters. I have to know, perhaps because I love dogs so much. Is there a real Flexible? 

Flexible is primarily a combination of two dogs that shared my life.  My first dog, Peck, and Christina’s great dog, Tigger, a 100 pound Bouvier who was so special words fail me when I think of him.  I’m more pleased that Christina threw in with me than I am about anything that has ever happened in my life.  That Tigger was part of the deal just made an amazing deal even better.

Bert writes stories about men and women who speak the truth and do the right thing. He'll treat you to a few life lessons along the way, and you'll feel a better person for it. This time, I didn't ask what's behind the pages of Fourth and Forever, only because the answer consists of one word: Heart.


Writing in a soulful voice is not easy to do. You're at the mercy of your own emotions and memories. To write from the heart in a way that touches someone else is a feat. Bert Carson's writing voice is a reading experience you won't forget. His words will touch you regardless of who you are or what you've lived, that's the true mark of an author, and you will find those qualities behind the pages of Fourth and Forever.

   Javier A. Robayo

to learn more about Bert, visit:


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Gaze by Javier A. Robayo

   My best friend of 25 years and counting, Kristen, has the credentials to diagnose me with DID. (what we used to call multi-personality disorder)  I've argued that most authors have to have a degree of dissociative identity disorder, so she shouldn't worry about me. We are fine, thank you very much.
   Even my sister grows a bit concerned when I publish another character interview on my blog. She says it's almost creepy how fictional characters come alive, but that's exactly what an author tries to accomplish, to create people who become alive in the mind of a reader.  
   I started out this blog by using John & Ezekiel as a pilot. I wasn't keen on the self-promotion, but I was surprised at the feedback I received. I was asked about doing a post on my other novels, but I told them this is a blog dedicated to other Indie Authors and their magnificent work. The reply I got was "Duh?"
   How do you interview yourself? You don't. Even a state of semi-DID has its limits. In order to put together a good post, I reached out to some of my author friends for what questions they would ask. I'm still so flattered that I got so many terrific questions and it was a feat to narrow the list down to a few but after much deliberating, this is the result of that difficult selection. 

Let's clear the mystery once and for all. You've told the world your wife, Sheri, is the face of The Gaze, but really, who is she supposed to be, Samantha or Gwen?

JR: I will always leave that particular answer up to the reader.
Mystery... Okay, let's get past the cover. The Gaze is a novel set in different continents. What kind of research went into it? 

JR: I've always marveled at authors who take you to far off places, giving you a glimpse of other cultures. My dad knows a little about every part of the world and each time I asked how he knew, he'd tell me that he read it in a book. I always wanted to accomplish that: to place the reader in a foreign setting they could experience through the page. I was never in London. But I've been fascinated with England since the first time I heard Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. In a female voice, British English is alluring. As Gaze developed and my main character, Samantha, took me to London, I wanted accurate portrayals of her city. I spent countless hours virtually "walking" the streets of London with the help of Google Maps. To depict its atmosphere, I read several vacation blogs where I found impressions or curious tidbits from people who were actually there. It was daunting at first, but three quarters of the way into it, I had a pretty good handle on London, and I fell in love with the timeless city.

Was it easy to write the dialogue in a British tongue?

JR: Not at all. I had quite a bit of help from a British friend of mine, and I researched modern British expressions. Slang was the most problematic. I wanted to use it to make the characters' voices more realistic. I did raise a few eyebrows in the Queen's Land when I misused the word "fanny". Another very good British friend of mine brought this misuse to my attention, turning me fifty shades of red when she explained how she read it. I expect she'll reveal herself in a comment.

And that was...?

JR: The American fanny is another word for butt. We sit on our fanny, but the British fanny is the most private area in a woman's body. In the story, Lewis, Sam's best friend, slaps her "fanny". Knowing what you know now, imagine that visual. 

Oh, that gives us an idea of the magnitude of the risk of getting out of the comfort zone. As if setting the novel in a foreign land wasn't enough, you went a step further with the point of view. What were the challenges of writing in a woman's voice?

JR: Absolutely daunting, but Gaze wouldn't have worked out any other way. I had to draw from everything I've ever known about women, until the emotional landscape of Samantha's mind became an amazing labyrinth. Women have a much more complex intellect and emotional makeup. It's no accident that us men (simpler creatures that we normally are), fail to properly understand them. A woman is stronger in ways that no man could ever hope to be, even if that strength is a veneer protecting their vulnerability. In the novel, Lewis refers to women as bundles of contradictions and estrogen imbalances. I almost omitted the line, thinking it may come across as sexist, however, it seemed apt for a girl like Samantha. It was a huge challenge to convey powerful weakness, sad joy, selfish sacrifice, every mental struggle from the gray areas between love and hate, the battles with insecurities real and imagined, the type of stubbornness only women are capable of, and the unbridled passion of a woman in love.  Balance was elusive if not unattainable when it came to Samantha's tone,but getting inside her mind, taught me nothing is easy about being a woman, even one as well off, beautiful, and intelligent. I tried to think like a woman and let's just say that after that whole ride... I truly admire them even more.

The majority of the ladies reading that answer may be nodding right now. Readers may want an insight into Lewis or the enigmatic Jason Stephen or even the outrageous Audrey, but let's talk villains. Samantha's nemesis is one seductive snake of a man. Is there a real Brooks Waldenberg?

JR: If there is, I hope none of us ever cross paths with him. The story needed a certain agitator, someone to attribute much of Samantha's downward spiral of self-destruction; an anti-thesis to Lewis and Jason Stephen. Brooks embodies a different kind of evil. He fleshed out so well, fans can't wish him a crueler end for everything he does in the novel. When I finally got the chance to read Gaze for fun, I liked the way he slowly transformed from a dream man to a demon. It's disturbing to consider there might be someone like Brooks in reality.

Samantha makes some similar transformations for many people. It's been said one minute you want to slap her and the next you want to hug her. Either way, she's memorable, but she does have a way of filling the page with the contents of her intricate mind.

JR: It was the first time I wrote without word limits. I didn't have an audience or genre in mind, and when it came to Samantha, I took my professor's words to heart:  "Pull out all the stops and take risks if you want to produce a memorable read; challenge your skill and think outside the norm, and don't play it safe." Believe it or not, I removed five chapters from the first draft, but by the time I worked out all the wrinkles, twelve new chapters appeared in order to justify new uncovered layers in her mind. I fretted over the length of this novel, but like any work of writing, it will be appealing to the readers who develop a connection. Some readers told me they wished the story went on because they wanted more. A reader from Florida sent me a message that threw me. She wrote, "Mister, you held my emotions hostage. I wanted to skip sections just to know what would happen to Sam, but each time I tried, I missed something. Honestly, I was upset to have only a few pages left."
I realize the length of The Gaze challenges the reader's patience, but I followed my instincts and didn't forsake its depth.  

A long novel that generates long reviews, a terrific compliment on all that work. What's behind the pages of The Gaze?

JR: A flawed and wounded woman's journey through a gamut of emotions and past torments in her quest for redemption.  She's armed with nothing more than the distinct brand of love found only in the truest of friendships. The Gaze was born out of a challenge to impress a friend. Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee writing as intricately as I did. The novel is character driven and Samantha took the reins and struggled to find a solid path out of her maelstrom while Lewis and Jason Stephen fought to protect her, and Tony and Gwen became her motivations.

* * *

For those of you who have made my dream a reality by reading my novel, thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
I'm open to any questions as all authors are. The Gaze changed me in ways I didn't anticipate.  A good part of it parallels my own life, particularly around Tony's dreams of becoming a writer. 
Despite the relatively small size of its following, the demand for more was big enough to produce its sequel, The Next Chapter. At the end of that second novel, I wrote an author's note in an attempt to bring an end to the series that began as a challenge... but did I?

   Javier A. Robayo

for links to The Gaze and its sequel, visit:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Some Like It In Handcuffs by Christine Warner

Some characters stay in your mind because they've touched you in a special way; some, you want to slap, and some you fall in love with.  I've read deeply philosophical stories, as well as completely far fetched plots, all in the quest of a special character.  A feisty, pain in the butt, gorgeous blonde?  Yup, done for there.  Sunny Kennedy is not a damsel in distress, but I couldn't help wanting to be her hero, and save her from herself.  Her vulnerability, veiled under a thin veneer of courage and determination, born of a chip on her shoulder, drew me in.  To this day, I can't speak her name without sighing.
Christine Warner's novel restored my faith in romances because of its originality.  No cookie cutter conflicts here, just a man and a woman in a collision course, heart to heart.   

The title is very suggestive.  What made you decide on it?

CW: Actually, I came up with the title first and created my story around it. I know that sounds odd, but for some reason that’s how this story works for me. Those five words SOME LIKE IT IN HANDCUFFS popped into my head and I knew instantly I wanted the story to feature a spunky, determined heroine named Sunny who was the only sister in a family of all male lawmen, and just happened to get paired up with a hotalicious detective named Judson.

Hotalicious... I'm sure that'll grab the ladies' attention, but since this is my blog, and I'm male, I'm going to steer the conversation to Sunny Kennedy.  She takes the sobriquet "Tough Cookie" to a whole new level.  Is there a real Sunny?

CW: If there is I’d love to meet her, lol. I chose personality traits from several people I know and by throwing a little bit of myself into Sunny. I always try and put myself into my characters' heads and use reactions I might have to certain situations. I also find that listening to others has helped me learn feelings or reactions from things I’ve never experienced. Hopefully those make my stories stronger and more interesting and make my characters more three dimensional. 
Writing is a continuous circle of learning and improving. I feel like each story I write is stronger and my characterization is more pronounced.

You're right.  Writing improves the more you do it, but you did a great job with your debut novel.  Where does the realism in the scenes involving Sunny's brothers come from?

CW: I have a brother—just one, not four like Sunny…lol—and we have a wonderfully playful relationship. We like to tease each other and joke around but our sense of family and love is very strong. He, my sister, and I are all very close and protective of one another so I drew from those experiences.
Now, Sunny does have a more tug-of-war relationship with her brother Derek, and I basically had him treat her like he’d treat a daughter, which of course she resented. She wanted all of her brothers to see her as an adult instead of the little girl they remembered. Their relationship was just something that came into my head and I used my imagination to fuel their fired words. I do believe that their closeness does show even through their tense words.  

The tension between Sunny and Judson produces one of the steamiest love scenes I've read in a long, long time.  What's the secret to creating that kind of heat? 

CW: Thanks Javier, I'm glad you thought their love scene was steamy. I don't think I have a secret, I just write from my heart and try and stay true to my characters in what I'd think they'd do or say. I like humor and I tried to incorporate a little playfulness into the bedroom scene without getting too carried away. I wanted to leave something to the imagination of the reader as well. 

Love scenes in any genre walk a fine line between allure and repulsion, and it's good to leave some things to the readers' imagination.  I'd tell you what I imagined, but that would be an entirely different blog.  What's behind the pages of Some Like It in Handcuffs?

I love romance, so I’d go with my tagline as what’s behind the pages of Some Like it in Handcuffs: 

"One strong man.  One willful heroine.  One powerful love."

My hope is that readers can identify parts of themselves in the characters and that they not only walk away from this story with a smile on their face, but with a feeling like they’ve just met a group of friends.

* * *

Some Like it in Handcuffs was a joy to read, a terrific ride through the emotional spectrum with a satisfying conclusion that will leave readers with a smile and a sigh for either Judson, or my favorite feisty blonde, Sunny.

to learn more about Christine, visit:

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Treeman by Kaye Vincent

   Growing up, I watched two or three soaps operas a year.  Not by choice. Mom called the shots and we only had a small black and white set, so I watched these dramas, secretly enjoying some of the story lines.  I became fascinated by my Mom's reactions to the story.  She cursed the villain, hurt over the heroes' conflict, and became breathless during intense moments.  Ever since I learned that soaps are based on novels, I've always wondered what went into writing these emotional epics.  
  The Treeman is one of those novels, whose pages transform into scenes on the screen of your mind.  You are thrown in the middle of strangers with the advantage of having an open a window into their lives.  As the story progresses, you are subjected to the emotional whims of each character and in the process, you end up truly caring about them.  
   You may notice a few words misspelled by our American standards, but today's author is a terrific British lady, and since the Queen's Land owned the tongue first, we will be treated to not only a slightly different expression than what we're used to, but also to what's behind the pages of Kaye Vincent's The Treeman.  
How were you able to keep track of all the subplots?
KV: Part of the excitement for me is the puzzle and it doesn’t get better than trying to knit together a community of people.  I love large cast novels – George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones takes my breath away.  I’m primarily a theatre writer, so The Treeman was originally a musical script with TV in mind. Scenes were already mapped when I began work on the novel. To test for gaps, I listed chapter events and narrative sequences for each separate character. Repetitive re-reading is essential if you want to keep it tight, so I figure you should write what you enjoy reading. Putting it down for a couple of weeks always helped – I came back to it fresher and could be more objective.
It's amazing what getting away from the manuscript does for that author's perspective.  Kaye, what's behind the pages of The Treeman?
KV: I was working with my theatre collaborator, a talented composer called Kaye Tompkins. Stumped by a difficult lyric, I suddenly whispered “I’ve just had an amazing idea.” KT went pale. She didn’t need any more of my ideas at that point, she just desperately wanted to finish the one we were on. My vision was of a reclusive tramp living in a tree outside the window of a converted barn, into which an uptight middle-class girl has just moved, seeking solitude. Cue for conflict. Gradually she would mellow and festoon his tree with all the mod-cons of contemporary living. Where the plot would eventually go, I didn’t know. Where exactly this vision came from, I don’t even remember (although I did once help to ‘build’ a tree from fallen tree parts for a stage production – I was ridiculously proud of that set!). But the vision wouldn’t leave me alone. Or rather they wouldn’t …Izzy and the Treeman. I had to get to know their story and I’m still living part of my life inside their world.
Which makes the novel character driven.  I really think the characters are the real authors of any drama.  It happened to me once or twice.  How did you decide on adding the element of the magic and Gypsy lore?
KV: My reclusive tramp needed to be culturally open to a hardy outdoor life and a past Romany heritage seemed a natural fit. His harmony with the forces of nature and Izzy’s brittleness with the entire world were catalysts for conflict. Once gypsy lore entered his existence, the Treeman’s ability to ‘influence’ others was a simple step forward. From there, huge flashes of the story arc and the preternatural location of Hanningdon just fell into place – a portal opened into another world where people and places whirled in a kaleidoscope of events. A wonderful time. I don’t think I actually invented anything - they all came to me and wouldn’t stop talking. That was the real magic.
An author's dream, when the story virtually writes itself.  I had a difficult time picking a character for this next question.  Although Jodie is my girl, and although I identified with some of Fergus' conflicts, I have to know...  Is there a real Izzy?
KV: Lord, I hope not…poor girl!  Actually, that’s not entirely honest. I have to admit to drawing on the traits of several people I know (shhh…) and I would include a few of my own worst inhibitions in that list. But there is no particular individual. Izzy interests me. She is not a typical heroine. She’s uptight and easily fractured. She’s the girl with everything who can’t quite grasp hold of life, representing how we can all hold back sometimes through self-doubt . Maybe that’s why she’s irksome, because she makes us itch a little. But she’s warm and kind at heart, and I hope by the end the reader is cheering her on. She comes a long way in The Treeman and finds some release from her wariness, but it’s not the end of her story. There’s more to come in the sequel and a fuller explanation of why Izzy ‘is’.  And why she has been fighting herself for so long.
I've the feeling that if she could, Izzy would box your ears for everything you put her through.  I ended up cheering for everyone.  I love stories where it's difficult to pinpoint a villain, and although some of the characters we meet initially fall in that category, they evolved and evoked different emotions. Was that your plan all along?
KV: No-one is all good or all bad – unless deranged. Human beings are just not that chemically accurate. And everyone has a slightly different moral boundary in life – it’s the flexing of those boundaries that enables people to interact (sometimes well, sometimes badly) and allows a fictional character to develop. The greatest joy a writer can have is to make a reader feel an emotion about a character, then change the reader’s reaction through revelation or unanticipated behaviours. If I managed that at any point, I’m delighted.
I'm happy to say, I can entirely relate to that.  It's fun to create a hot mess of a character, but you did something special with the men.  Are these men entirely fictional?
KV: Yes and no. All characters need to be informed by life, but I suppose some are more romanticised than others. Bottom line, this is a romantic tale and therefore aspirational. However, something my husband said when we first met really stuck…that when men shut down emotionally, it’s often mistaken for indifference. He felt that the male tendency to internalise only made the hurt worse and could be very isolating. Others would assume all was okay, because the male habit of keeping pain hidden meant their wounds rarely had a chance to heal openly. I wanted to explore this within a romantic narrative, to see cause and effect – to rip the plaster off the wounds and allow the men in my story to be vulnerable. Rather than having the all too familiar invincible male lead, I wanted to allow all the men of Hanningdon to falter, to hurt, to show weaknesses and have hidden layers. How much more impressive would their moments of strength and power be, when reflected against a more natural instability? This is certainly true of Jay, the title character of The Treeman, but I hope all the male characters are revealed as human.

* * *

It wasn't a stretch to play out the scenes and allow the characters full control of my emotions.  Sometimes, they'll frustrate you and you're screaming at the page to just stop thinking and do it!  And when that kiss finally takes place... 

   Javier A. Robayo
   The characters of The Treeman truly own the story, and your trip to Hanningdon will be memorable indeed.
For more of Kaye and her work, visit: 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Priest by Monica La Porta

   I wrote a blog about page count some time ago.  I emphasized that if you're willing to write a long novel, it'd better be a worthy read.  Given our ever decreasing attention span, the challenge is to keep blog posts somewhat short and sweet.  However, this post will not be long enough.
   In an age where commercial fiction produces the writing of crowd pleasing, predictable stories, few authors ink novels that defy the norm, and touch their readers in unimaginable ways.  Many of these courageous authors may dwell in relative obscurity, but I have no doubt their stories go on to be discussed in English classes, and inspire a new generation of authors.  
   The Priest is one of those novels.  It's beautifully dark, incredibly thought-provoking, memorable, and truly original.  It gave me a whole new appreciation for the freedom I enjoy as a person, as a human being, and as a man.
   I have no words to describe Monica as a person simply because English, Spanish, and Italian combined do not have enough superlatives.  I dare you to disagree with me as she takes us behind the pages of The Priest.

Where did "Ginecea" come from?

MLP: I love playing with words and their meanings.  Ginecea is a word I adopted from the Greek language.  It's a noun that can be used an adjective encompassing all things women-related.  Like Pangea was this super continent comprising the entire world, Ginecea is the social equivalent where women have the supremacy over men.  Imagine that Rome never fell and was governed by women.  Unstoppable.  But absolute power has a way to corrupt even the best among us...

And history is full of evidence to prove that.  How did you decide for The Priest to be the first novel in The Ginecean Chronicles?

MLP: In reality, Pax in The Land of Women is the first novel I wrote in the Genicean series.  While I was in the middle of Pax, two characters, Mauricio and Rosie, came alive.  The intensity of Mauricio's love for Rosie was such that it deserved to be narrated.  The first three books in the series were born almost at the same time.  Although between The Priest and Pax in the Land of Women there is a fifty years gap in the narration, their stories are intimately connected to Prince of War, which chronologically starts where Pax ends.  In a way, they were all written together in the span of two years.  I went back and forth multiple times between manuscripts to fix incongruences in the story lines.  So, what started as a subplot in Pax, became the core of The Ginecean Chronicles.  Affection as pure as Mauricio's and Rosie's is the ultimate example that love conquers all.  Amor Vincit Omnia.

Speaking of Mauricio, one of the most memorable characters ever.  I tend to throw this term a lot, but that's the whole goal of creating a character.  We want the reader to care about them, to love them, to hate them, to remember them.  Characters come from people we know and touched our lives, or they can be a conglomeration of traits we deem heroic.  Where does Mauricio fit that scale?

MLP: Mauricio is the sum of several men in my life whom I respect and love.  He is a human being who is forced to accept an unfair destiny.  It takes courage to live a life devoid of hope and still make it worthwhile.  He is a silent hero whose strength is revealed in the small acts of defiance he allows himself.

I remember one in particular that left me shaking with emotion.  I'd love to give away that one line, but I won't deprive a reader of feeling what I felt when I read it.  The concept of a society where men are slaves is quite a unique setting for a story.  What was the first thought or event that inspired Ginecea?

MLP: A few years ago, during a flight back home, I was listening to a podcast about the possibility of creating life without the male's contribution.  The idea of a Roman Empire a la Amazon immediately formed in my mind.  I've always enjoyed what-if tales and my favorite classes back in college were Sociology and Anthropology.  I started wondering what would happen from an evolutionary point of view to a society that mirrors ours; similar bur reversed.  An alternate Earth where women have absolute power and love between opposite genders is considered the most heinous sin.  I remember that while thinking about the plot and the possible characters, my laptop's battery ran out; I jotted down a few notes on a piece of paper, hoping to be home already so I could start typing.  I still have that piece of paper somewhere.

I keep old notebooks full of notes, so I have an idea what that piece of paper means to you.  One of the central ideas, the one truth that could destroy Ginecean society... is it a commentary on an aspect of our actual society?

MLP: Yes, it is.  It appalls me that humanity has progressed so much in technology, but it is less tolerant now than it was two thousand years ago.  We reached the stars and uncovered the wonders of the microcosm, but prejudice still dictates our behavior. It's hard to believe that in 2013 people are judged because of religious affiliation, political view, skin color, and sexual orientation.  Yet, you can take a look at the heartbreaking videos on the It Gets Better website, a place where bullied kids can talk freely about their stories, and discover the ugly truth of our society.  We are all the same, but separated by ephemeral social rules.

I've had my own experiences with the uglier side of society, and I can only hope our children overcome the flaws earlier generations, including our own, created.  
Monica, What's behind the pages of The Priest?

MLP: There is a desire to tell the same old story of oppression and prejudice, but from the other side of the mirror.
The Priest isn't the first novel I wrote.  It's the first novel I felt confident enough to publish.  An event that happened in my recent past convinced me life must be lived at its fullest.  No one should look back and have regrets.  I had been writing for some time, and although I liked the finished products, I wasn't sure they were the mark I wanted to leave in case I only had one shot at publishing.  Then I started working on the Ginecean series and I knew those stories could be my legacy.


Jack Canfield once wrote "Everything you want is on the other side of fear."  In my opinion, Monica La Porta navigated across those black waters, taking risks few authors ever would, to make us part of her what-if world, and prompting us, not only to contemplate how far we've really gotten as a race, but also how powerful love really is.
I always find a way of immersing myself into what I read.  There were a few times The Priest sent me running outside just to feel the sun's warmth, and to take a deep breath to embrace my freedom.  Few novels have hit me that way.

   Javier A. Robayo

   To learn more about Monica La Porta, visit her Amazon author page