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The Open Book

Author interview — with myself!

Stephen H. Provost

I hit a milestone last month with the release of my 20th book, and on the occasion of my birthday, I decided to do interview myself about my journey as an author these past seven years.

What was your first book? The Phoenix Principle, which I later separated into two volumes as Forged in Ancient Fires and Messiah in the Making. There was so much material, I had to shrink the point size just to make it all fit in one book, so I decided to be kind to my readers’ eyes and republish it in two parts.

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How did it come about? The original idea was to create a life of Jesus that included the biblical story and as much early material as I could find outside the Bible. But there was so much information about the broader development of Western religion across a span of nearly 5,000 years, I decided to go a different route.

What happened to the life of Jesus project? I published that, too, as The Gospel of the Phoenix. It became my bestselling independently published work. I originally published it under the name Stifyn Emrys, but in 2018, I republished all seven works I had issued under that name, each with new a new cover I designed myself. Although I wrote The Phoenix Principle first, The Gospel of the Phoenix was the first book I published, in 2012.

Did you write any other similar works? The Gospel of the Phoenix corresponded (obviously) to the biblical gospels, so I decided to write a “wisdom” book paralleling the Book of Proverbs and Jesus’ parables, with a nod to Aesop’s fables. That book, The Way of the Phoenix, came out in 2013. A third book, paralleling the first five books of the Old Testament but including lore from Celtic, Egyptian, Sumerian, Norse and other traditions, was released in 2018: The Osiris Testament.  This trilogy is also available in a single volume with fewer illustrations titled The Phoenix Chronicles.

Which book took the most work? Definitely The Phoenix Principle. During my research, I acquired a substantial library of source material, including a wealth of apocryphal literature, medieval folktales and ancient historical accounts. The book runs the gamut from Sumerian to Norse mythology; from Robin Hood to King Arthur to Cinderella; from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

How long did it take you to write? I wasn’t keeping track, but more than five years, to be sure. No other book I’ve written has taken me more than eight months, with a couple of exceptions that were on-again, off-again projects. But I was working on this one consistently when I wasn’t at my day job as a journalist.

What’s the most surprising thing you found in researching that book? If I’m correct, Moses was actually an Egyptian pharaoh from the kingdom of Thebes who fought against the ancestors of the Hebrews. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Have you worked with any outside publishers? Yes. Linden Publishing of Fresno has published four of my books on two of its imprints, Craven Street Books and Pace Press, with at least two more in the pipeline.

How did that come about? I lived most of my life in Fresno, California, and the surrounding area, and I worked at the local newspaper there for 14 years. After my tenure there ended, I moved out of the area and found myself homesick for the city of my youth. I decided to write a book about the history of Fresno during the Baby Boom era, when I was growing up there. Hence the name: Fresno Growing Up. At that point, I’d published seven books as Stifyn Emrys, but I knew I couldn’t do this project justice by publishing it through Amazon. I wanted to include photos, the finest-quality paper and a first-class interior design. I did some research about publishers that might be interested in such a project, and Linden was the first one I contacted. Just a couple of weeks later, they responded with a letter of interest. I was floored. I’d been told that getting a publisher on the first try was almost unheard of, especially without an agent. But I managed to pull it off.

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Have you written any fiction? Yes. My first novel was Identity Break, a dystopian young adult novel with a twist. And no, I’m not telling you what it is. I wrote a companion prequel novella called Artifice, which I included with the main book when I republished them in 2018. My contemporary fantasy novel Memortality was the first book published on Linden’s Pace Press, which also released a sequel called Paralucidity. A third installment remains a possibility.

What’s your most original idea? Memortality. It revolves around a character, named Minerva, who has a psychic gift that enables her to bring the dead back to live through the power of her an eidetic (photographic) memory. A close second is probably The Only Dragon, my origin story of the dragon myth, which features a Merlin-like wizard, Chinese fireworks and a sarcastic cat.

Have you written any short stories or poetry? Nightmare’s Eve is a collection of short stories and dark poetry in the tradition of The Twilight Zone. It includes 16 short stories and 10 poems. A bit of trivia: My cat Allie is named after a character in the first story written for that collection, Turn Left on Dover.

What makes you unique as a writer? A couple of things. First, I love the language of fable and fairytale. I’ve used it, to varying degrees, in The Way of the Phoenix, The Only Dragon and Feathercap. It’s more poetic than standard narrative fiction, and it hearkens back to the days of storytellers regaling listeners with tales around the fire. It appeals to the wistful romantic in me. Second, I’ve written about a wider variety of subjects than most authors tackle. Philosophy, mythology, Americana, fantasy, spirituality., sports. I doubt many novelists who have also written about failed sports leagues, old highways, department stores and ancient history.

What’s the fastest you’ve written a book? Probably three weeks for The Way of the Phoenix and a similar amount of time for Undefeated. The latter is a series of 45 short pieces on famous and not-so-famous individuals, past and present, who overcame prejudice based on race, gender, religion, national origin and sexual orientation (among other things) to create lasting legacies. This particular title was my father’s favorite. George Takei, Jackie Robinson, Lady Gaga, Larry Doby and the woman who created Rice-a-Roni are among those featured.

Have you ever started a project and picked it up again years later? A couple. One of the stories in Nightmare’s Eve was half-finished when I rediscovered it a few years later. I have no idea where I was originally going with it, but I finished it off, and it turned out pretty well. I wrote my book about failed sports leagues, A Whole Different League, in three segments over the course of a couple of years.

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What made you decide to write about sports history? I was the sports editor at my college newspaper and a sports intern at the local paper (where I later worked full time). I wanted to do two things when I started writing: cover sports and write books. I ended up doing both. A Whole Different League brought them both together. The book is one of several for which I designed my own cover, and it’s probably the cover I’m most proud of, because I was able to incorporate historical black-and-white images with a color background in an appealing way. It was also my first independently published book in an 8-by-10 format, and the first one in which I designed the interior to include photos (previous books had included stock and public domain illustrations). The end result looked like something an established publishing house might produce, if I do say so myself. It turned out better than I could have hoped.

Speaking of publishing houses, you have your own, right? I publish my independent books on an imprint called Dragon Crown Books. I haven’t published any other authors’ works, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

Which of your covers did you design? All of them except for Nightmare’s Eve, The Only Dragon and the titles released by Linden Publishing. Other than A Whole Different League, my favorites are The Osiris Testament and The Legend of Molly Bolin.

Other than sequels, does one project ever inspire another? Often, yes. My book on Highway 99 was a spinoff, of sorts, of Fresno Growing Up. After I finished revisiting my hometown, I wanted to do the same with the road that traveled through it, which had carried me back and forth from Fresno to my grandparents’ homes in Southern California numerous times during my childhood. That book, in turn, led me to write a similar book on Highway 101. The concept of preserving history through memory sparked the idea for Memortality. And my research for A Whole Different League led me to contact Molly Bolin Kazmer, the first woman to sign a contract with a professional women’s basketball league back in the 1970s. Her story was so fascinating, I thought it would make a great biography, and she wound up working closely with me to create The Legend of Molly Bolin.

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Which project has involved the most work in the shortest span of time? The Legend of Molly Bolin was pretty much my full-time occupation for two months. It was a great change of pace working with someone directly on a project (the only time I’ve done that). It was also my first biography. It was a real privilege and a whole lot of fun telling the story of someone who had accomplished so much and had such a fascinating career. Since I started my journalism career as a sportswriter, it was more than fitting.

Did journalism have an impact on any of your other titles? After I got out of the business in early 2018, I became a media critic of sorts and published a book called Media Meltdown (in the Age of Trump), which examines how the internet age created a symbiotic relationship between the media and politicians, to the detriment of both. Please Stop Saying That! is a tongue-in-cheek look at buzzwords and cliches you’re sick of hearing newscasters, sports announcers, preachers, celebrities, corporations and others use simply because they’re too lazy to think outside the box. (Yes, that’s a cliche, too, and yes, that was intentional.)

What’s your latest project? Timeless Now, which is a change of pace for me. It’s a short book that incorporates elements of philosophy, science and spirituality into an approach to life that emphasizes awareness of self and others, and living in the moment.

What’s next for you? My Highway 101 book is set for release in March 2020, and I’ll have a book on the history of American department stores and shopping centers in the 20th century.

Where can readers find your books? All my titles are available on Amazon, and the works published by Linden are available through bookstores, as well. Some of my books are also in libraries.



C.W Tickner, author of "Humanarium"

Stephen H. Provost

C.W Tickner is a UK author and Terry Pratchett fan who's here to talk about his Humanarium trilogy., which is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

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Where and with whom do you live? Cambridge, UK. Fiance and the spirits of past pets. 

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Terry Pratchett. The things he could inject into my story would have me in stitches.

Why do you write? Because no one had written the book I wanted to read. (I did look.)

Where do you write? Sitting on a bed. Comfy, and with the ability to switch positions as aches dictate.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? Any form of interplanetary vessel. Endless possibilities on where to go, where to eat and who or what to meet and discover. Space gypsy.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? A pocket-sized dragon, preferably orange in colour. But i’m not fussy.

Your superhero alter-ego: T-Man: Able to produce excellent cups of tea that wow strangers and colleagues but burn the skin of any who oppose me.

Historical period you’d like to visit: Feudal Japan.

Favorite board, card or video game: Dungeons & Dragons, in any form.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. I highly recommend this to any Sci-fi fans! The characters are believable and the story is well written. The world is unique and amazing!
— Zarabeth Langer, Amazon review


Title, genre and length? The Humanarium, science fiction, 177,000 words.

When and where does it take place? In the future and on another planet, inhabited by giant aliens.

How did you come up with the title? It’s a play on words; Humans and Terrarium. A place to keep humans.

What inspired you to write it? I was cleaning out my fish tank one day and the thought occurred to me that I was in some way a god to the fish inside. (no god complex, honest). I realised that if I did not feed them or provide them with a landscape and companions, they would suffer as a consequence. I wondered how it would be if the roles were reversed and humans were on the inside. I figured I could swap “Fish” for “Aliens” and hey presto, a bizarre world was born in which humanity lives inside a fish tank.

Is there a sequel in the works? The trilogy is out already and a fourth on its way.         

Where, how can you get it? Amazon store and in Kindle Unlimited.

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Fantastical. 

Who would want to ban it? Anyone with a phobia of giants or the premise that the “god” one might worship is in fact another creature with a greater intellect.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? To my editor. He puts up with a lot.

I very much enjoyed this book!! I’ve been reading Science Fiction since I was about 10 yrs old (56 now), have read all the Masters and hundreds of other authors. I have to say this book is completely different than anything I have ever read before. It was so nice to be able to read a story that makes you think on it for quite a while afterward.
— Tracy B. Smith, Amazon review
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Name, age and occupation: Harl Eriksson, early twenties, blacksmith.

Where and with whom does he live? Alone, on the outskirts of town, beside the “Wall” at the edge of the world.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Adam Driver (Kylo Ren).

What’s his celebrity crush? Anyone with blonde or red hair. He has never seen such a thing, having grown up in a tank with black-haired people only.

What’s his biggest fear/phobia? Fear of being “Lifted” by the titanic hand that enters the tank and steals people from the world.

Weapon of choice: The people around him.

At the beginning of the book ... our hero is a simple blacksmith, by the end he must free humanity and fight for “Human Rights”  

Worst habit? Demanding instant vengeance.

Best feature? A quick learner and being able to accept the world for more than what it “appears.”

Tickner’s ‘The Huminarium’ is a gripping tale. It not only makes us question what it would be like to be stuck in a Terrarium style world but whether we already are in such a place. The themes of disobedience, curiosity and escape from the gods’ wrath make for a compelling read from start to finish. ... For fans of Sci-fi, ‘The Huminarium’ is thought-provoking, exciting and a damn good read. I loved it!
— Aaron Leyshon, Amazon review
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Cindy Rankin, author of "Under the Ashes"

Stephen H. Provost

Cindy Rankin sat down to answer questions about her historical novel "Under the Ashes," which focuses on an 11-year-old girl caught in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. "Under the Ashes," released in November 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company, has received overwhelmingly positive reviews, both from review publications and on Amazon, where it has received a 95 percent 5-star rating as of this writing.

The Author

Name, age and occupation:  Cindy Rankin, 67 years old, author. Formerly worked as a freelance newspaper/magazine writer and a substitute teacher.

Where and with whom do you live?  Paso Robles, California (for the past 30 years) with my husband of 43 years, Curt Rankin.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose?  Ernest Hemingway and Harper Lee leap to mind because their work had a profound impact on me, but co-writing with either of them would be daunting, so I choose Dodie Smith. She became famous for The Hundred and One Dalmatians, but it was her first novel, I Capture the Castle, that continues to fascinate and delight me. I’ve reread it each decade since I was a teen. Working with a multi-talented, entertaining author would be enlightening and fun.

Why do you write? Because I’m curious and have a big imagination. Mostly I can’t stop wondering about things I’m interested in, and asking why and what if questions. I began writing stories in fourth grade. And I was a middle school newspaper reporter who loved to interview people. I worked as a freelance journalist for many years, but fiction has my heart now. I like to begin a story with a character facing a dilemma, then I can’t wait to write and figure out what happens next.

Where do you write? I used to hide in the spare bedroom/office when our children were young. Now they’re grown and I use a laptop so I can write anywhere I want. That’s empowering.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? The Hobbit’s Shire in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien created a beautiful, happy, fruitful place. Who wouldn’t want to live there? The neat thing, is we fortunate residents of the Central Coast live in a beautiful, fruitful place. I’m grateful every day to live here.

What do you collect? Postcards. I have a large tin full of postcards from faraway places sent by family and friends. Sometimes I even send them to myself to record a memory of a special place.

Your superhero alter-ego: Wonder Woman.

Historical period you’d like to visit: 1938 to 1948, USA, because I’d like to experience the decade my parents came of age.

Favorite board, card or video game: Clue.

Littlebeth’s resilience and strong, memorable voice make this a vivid account of grace under fire.
— Publishers Weekly, October 3, 2016

The Book

Title, genre and length? Under the Ashes is historical fiction, 232 pages. It’s classified as a middle-grade novel for ages nine to twelve. Yet, I’ve heard from adults as well as children  how this story of a youngster overcoming adversity connects with them so now I say it’s for readers from 9 to 90.

When and where does it take place? The book begins April 8, 1906, in Paso Robles. The feisty eleven-year-old-narrator is being punished for cowgirl antics and derring-do. Eight days later, her family puts her on a train to San Francisco to be refined into a "proper young lady" by her maiden aunt just two days before the Great Quake strikes the city.

How did you come up with the title? After San Francisco’s massive 1906 earthquake, fires immediately sparked and raged for three days. The elite and poor alike were covered with ashes from the inferno. Everyone, regardless of wealth, religion, or nationality, struggled to survive the catastrophe. The young heroine realizes societal differences aren’t important. It’s what’s inside people’s hearts that matter most. She also discovers even under the ashes hope exits for a new beginning.

What inspired you to write it? This book began as a short story over twenty years ago for an anthology from this area. My spirited young heroine, rooted in local history, struck a chord with writer-friends who encouraged me to expand the story into a novel. The narrator and her family remained the same, however the story changed completely. It evolved over years of research and revision. Our own tragic earthquake in Paso Robles on December 22, 2003, when lives were lost and property damaged, gave me a visceral understanding of the fearful impact San Francisco’s 1906 temblor must have had on people there. That deadliest earthquake in U.S. history left more than half the city’s population homeless. I couldn’t help but wonder what if a bold girl from my small hometown found herself in the middle of that calamity.

Is there a sequel in the works? No, because I’m currently working on a contemporary middle-grade novel about the unusual way a boy copes with his father’s deployment to war. Yet, I’m thinking there may be more to explore in the life of my heroine in Under the Ashes. A sequel isn’t out of the question.          

Where, how can you get it? Under the Ashes is available at bookstores, and online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes and

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Boldacious. (Merriam-Webster definition: dialectal, British: brazen, impudent.)

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated Under the Ashes to my daughter Kate because her self-confidence, intelligence, and strong will as a child amazed me. She definitely inspired the creation of my protagonist. Kate taught me it’s okay to be proud of yourself, a lesson I needed to learn.

An intriguing cast of secondary characters ― including her Presbyterian aunt’s Jewish beau, the opera star Enrico Caruso, and a newly immigrated young Chinese girl ― add diversity to the cast.
— Kirkus Reviews

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: Elizabeth “Littlebeth” Morgan, eleven-years-old, adventurous spirit.

Where and with whom does he/she live? Paso Robles, California, circa 1906, with her Papa, Mama, and little brother Joey. Grandma, a tough old bird, lives around the corner.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? I envision a combination of a young Jodie Foster and Drew Barrymore.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Martha Jane Canary (Calamity Jane).

What’s his or her celebrity crush? President Teddy Roosevelt .

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Losing the people she cares about.

What’s his/her favorite quote or motto? “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” —Theodore Roosevelt.

Weapon of choice: intellect.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is …  frustrated that saving her little brother from a rattlesnake did not restore her to the good graces of her family.

Worst habit? Braggadocios.

Best feature? Ingenious.

Incorporates historical cultural references and vivid accounts of the devastating quake and its aftermath…fans of historical fiction will find plenty to like.
— Booklist, November 15, 2016

Andy Peloquin, author of "The Last Bucelarii: Gateway to the Past"

Stephen H. Provost

Andy Peloquin is the author of Gateway to the Past, the third installment of The Last Bucelarii series, which he describes as "dark fantasy with a look at the underside of human nature." Peloquin's latest novel, it was published March 31 and focuses on The Hunter, legendary assassin of Voramis, whose mission is to protect a boy he rescued from a demon. The author sat down and answered a series of questions via email for this installment of The Open Book.

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Andy Peloquin, 29, author/freelance writer.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico (south of the U.S. border) with my wife and four kids.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Brandon Sanderson or Scott Lynch. Being able to work with those authors (even just be in the same room with them and talking with them) would be a dream come true!

Why do you write? Because I MUST. I come from an artistic family, but have no artistic skills of my own. When I discovered writing, it was like finding a part of myself I was missing. Writing gives me a way to communicate, an outlet for my innate creativity, and a way to connect with people.

Where do you write? I love the safe, comfortable environment of my office desk, where I do most of my writing. However, some of my best chapters have been hammered out at the airport, on a bus, at a coffee shop, or sitting by the beach.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? There's something wonderful about Narnia that makes it a wonderful place to be. It's that "home away from home" I discovered as a child, and even now live to read.

Your superhero alter-ego: I wish I could be one of the more bad-ass superheroes (the Punisher, Captain America, etc.), but I think I'd be like Hawkeye — just a normal guy with a skill that makes him exceptional. The fact that he can go toe to toe with gods and super-beings is something I highly respect.

Historical period you’d like to visit: I think I would have made an AMAZING Viking (6' 6" is a pretty good height for a Norse raider).

Favorite board, card or video game: I've recently discovered Settlers of Catan and have fallen in love with it. Of course, what's life without a bit of tabletop role-playing a la D&D/Pathfinders?

Creative, gritty, and beautifully dark...fantasy addicts will love it!
— Peter Story, author of Things Grak Hates -

The Book

Title, genre and length? The Last Bucelarii (Book 3): Gateway to the Past — the latest in the dark fantasy series. Length: 120,000 words.

When and where does it take place? The setting is medieval-era in an alternate world known as Einan. It starts off in a French/German-style village, but transitions to a Saharan Africa-esque setting. The Hunter ends up in a Marrakech/Cairo-style city with hints of Saudi Arabian/Turkish/Moroccan architecture and culture.

How did you come up with the title? The idea behind the title is that "memories are the gateway to the past". Especially for this character, who has had his memories erased (for reasons explained in this book) up to 40-50 years before. So by accessing his memories, he literally sees into the life/lives he once lived.

What inspired you to write it? The first book introduced the character and his drive to kill, as well as showing him at the peak of his powers (inhuman strength/speed/stamina, healing ability). The second book showed what happened when he tried to fight the urge to kill, as well as lost his powers. In this book, he has recovered his powers and come to terms with the fact that he needs to kill to remain sane. He's no longer trying to fight it. However, at the end of Book 2, he saves the life of a child, who happens to have abilities to hunt down demons. When he's near the Hunter, the voices in his head fall silent. The Hunter brings him along — out of guilt for his actions, and out of a necessity to remain sane. But the life of an assassin is a dangerous one, and no place for an innocent child. A great contrast — cynical, violent assassin meets extremely naïve (the result of Williams Syndrome) child. 

Is there a sequel in the works?  This is Book 3 of 6. Book 4 is already written, and it introduces the "big bad" of the series. Books 5 and 6 are on their way as soon as I can sit down and write them.

Where, how can you get it? All the books are available on Amazon, as well as Barnes & Noble.

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Deep. On the face of it, it's an action/adventure story with a bad-ass assassin as the protagonist, but once you look a bit deeper, you realize it's the story of a lonely person trying to find a sense of belonging in a world where he doesn't belong. That's something we can all relate to. And it takes a look at emotional/mental/neurological/psychological disorders — sociopathy, psychopathy, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoid disorders, schizoaffective disorder, Williams' Syndrome, and many more.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? The perfect song to describe this book is one by Five Finger Death Punch. The song says, "I'm on the wrong side of Heaven, and the righteous side of Hell." As a half-demon assassin who hunts demons, that's the perfect way to describe the character.

The fantasy world has a compelling new antihero…the Hunter will terrify and captivate you.
— Eve A Floriste, author of Fresh Cut

The hero

Name, age and occupation: The Hunter of Voramis. Age unknown. Occupation: assassin.

Where and with whom does he/she live? When first we meet him in Blade of the Destroyer, he lives in fancy apartments concealed in the heart of a run-down warehouse. He has brought beggars, lepers, and outcasts into the building to live with him. Initially, they were meant only a camouflage. But eventually they've become the closest thing he has to family — his only link to the world. He is an outcast like them.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? I'd love to see Thomas Jane or Jason Momoa play this role. Both are bad-ass in their own right, and would make one heck of a half-demon assassin!

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? The Hunter is a bit of a loner, so he wouldn't have a mentor, role model, or hero. He's far too cynical and sees the worst in everyone.

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Though he isn't self-aware or emotionally mature enough to realize it, it's the fear of being alone. He has lived a long life and been on his own for most of it. Being alone makes him depressed and allows his mind to wander toward dark thoughts.

What’s his/her favorite quote or motto? "May the Long Keeper take your body; your soul is forfeit." This is the ritual he was taught to remind him of his humanity.

Weapon of choice: Soul-stealing dagger named Soulhunger that feeds him power and is an incessant voice in his head that drives him to kill

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … A ruthless killer with a very limited sense of morality. He has only one thing he holds true: the innocent should be protected.

Worst habit? Killing people who could identify him. If they see his true face, they must die.

Best feature? His desire to protect those that matter to him, and his unyielding stubbornness. He won't quit, no matter how bad things are going for him.

From the first words on the page this fantasy holds the reader spellbound even after the book is finished … his character is very well-defined even if his past is a mystery. Root for an assassin? Oh, yes, one must!
— Carol Conley, for InDTale Magazine

Janet Racciato, author of "Jade"

Stephen H. Provost

Janet Racciato is the author of Jade and Time of the Assassin, the second installment of the Jade series, which focuses on Julie, who has the power to teleport to anywhere or anyone in the world. She sat down for an e-interview with The Open Book to discuss the series.

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Janet Racciato, 44, I am currently a stay-at-home mom, but I was the director of Together We Grow, a facility for children with special medical needs.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Escondido, with my husband, two daughters, dogs and horses.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? If I could co-write a book with any author it would be Jim Butcher. I think his stories are amazing.

Why do you write? I write because I have stories running around in my head that I think other people would enjoy too.

Where do you write? I write anywhere that I can find. I've done some of my best scenes while waiting in my car to pick up my kids from school.

What imaginary land would you like to visit? If I could live in any imaginary land I would choose to live on Pern, by Anne McCaffrey. It has vast unexplored areas and dragons and firelizards to impress.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? I would choose Mouse, the temple dog from the Harry Dresden Files, as my constant companion.

Historical period you'd like to visit: I would love to visit Ancient Egypt.

Favorite board, card or video game: My favorite video game is a toss up between Diablo and Minecraft.

I loved this book! Well written and compelling. You won’t want to put it down.
— Lynda D. O'Byrne, Amazon review of "Jade"

The Book

Genre and length: Jade, urban sci-fi, 368 pages.

When and where does it take place? It takes place in the present, and the main character lives in Oceanside, California, but she teleports all over the world.

How did you come up with the title? The title is based on the main character's alternate identity, her superhero name.

What inspired you to write it? About nine years ago I had two friends die. One was a Marine who died in the Middle East and I watched his family deal with their loss. The other was a very close friend, an uncle figure to my daughters, who died under mysterious circumstances. The Jade story was one that I told myself to help me fall asleep at night instead of thinking about the friends I had lost. I was feeling helpless, especially with the chaos in the Middle East at the time. I came up with a superhero who could help. The story evolved over the years, and after about seven years I decided to try to write it down. 

Is there a sequel in the works? It is a trilogy, with the second in the series, Time of the Assassin, just recently published. The final book, Mercy's Battle, is due out this year.

Where, how can you get it? Jade and its sequels are available on Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Who would want to ban it? If anyone would want to ban my book it would be China or North Korea.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated Jade to my two daughters. They were always my biggest fans. Their love of my writing, even when I was just starting and was terrible, encouraged me to keep trying.

Awesome book! Truly enjoyed the first and this sequel is no let down!
— Amazon review of "Time of the Assassin"

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: Julie, 19, nursing student.

Where and with whom does she live? She lives with her parents in Oceanside with a dog that she rescued using her powers.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? I'm not sure who I'd want to play my protagonist. Maybe Dakota Fanning.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? My protagonist's mentor would be the same person who was her role model in the story. Her Uncle Mark is based on a real person, our family's close friend who died. 

Who's her celebrity crush? Her celebrity crush is Brendan Fraser from The Mummy.

What's her biggest fear/phobia? Her biggest fear is being alone, of losing another friend.

What's her favorite quote or motto? Her favorite motto is Keep Calm, Zap On.

Weapon of choice: Her weapon of choice is a shotgun. 

Anne R. Allen, author of "So Much for Buckingham"

Stephen H. Provost

Anne R. Allen is a prolific writer, so identifying her as the author of So Much for Buckingham by no means encompasses her identity as an author. That just happens to be the work she's discussing here. In all, she's written or is writing a dozen books, produces one of the most helpful blogs on writing you'll find, writes short fiction and conducts writing workshops. She's also been an actress, bookseller and playhouse artistic director. 

So Much for Buckingham, published in January 2016, is Volume 5 in the Camilla Randall Mysteries series. As described on Amazon, it's a "comic novel ... (that) explores how easy it is to perpetrate a character assassination whether by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls."

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Anne R. Allen. I'm the author of 10 books (Two more coming up in 2017) and I'm an award-winning blogger. I'm old. As in Boomer. I remember the Edsel, the Kennedy assassination, and Woodstock.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in a little cottage by the sea in Los Osos (California) with a whole lot of people who are almost entirely fictional.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? I would choose to write with Cambria's brilliant superstar author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of the book that made Pay it Forward a household phrase (as well as over 30+ other bestselling books.) And guess what? I actually got to do it. Catherine and I co-wrote a guidebook for authors, How to Be a Writer in the E-Age: A Self Help Guide.

Why do you write? Because the stories are there and they have to come out. They always have been. I've written fiction since I could hold a crayon.

Where do you write? I have the perfect writer's study, in the back of a little house at the end of a dead-end street, in a quiet room with lots of light and a view of trees and sky where I can hear waves on a windy day. The perfect writer's retreat.

What imaginary land would you like to visit? Narnia. Definitely Narnia. Animals that talk would be great to hang out with. 

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? I have a fictional cat, which I have given to my heroine, Camilla. I always used to have cats, but I developed COPD and allergies, and after my last cat, Chuck, died, my docs nixed a new one. So now I have Buckingham, who looks like Chuck, but isn't real, so he's cheaper to feed.

What do you collect? Mistakes. I always say that on the blog. I'm old enough to have collected a pretty full set of mistakes. So I figure other writers can learn from them.

Historical period you'd like to visit: The 1920s. I love to read anything set in the 1920s. The Australian TV series The Miss Fisher Mysteries is one of my favorite escapes.

Serious comedy ... written without a trace of sentimentality and an underlying tough realism that belies the wonderfully over-the-top nature of some of the characters — the humour in this is necessarily dark — but there’s any number of laugh out loudlines in it.”
— Lucinda Elliot at Sophie De Courcy

The Book

Genre and length: My novels are dark satiric mysteries. My publisher calls them "chick lit noir." They run about 75,000 words, standard mystery length. So Much for Buckingham is No. 5 in the Camilla Randall Mysteries series.

When and where does it take place? The setting of So Much for Buckingham alternates between the Central Coast of California and the fictional town of Swynsby-on-Trent in the English Midlands. Swynsby is the home of my heroine's publisher, Sherwood, Ltd. as well as a famous medieval manor house that Richard III often visited. Swynsby is the fictional name I've given to Gainsborough, a lovely market town in Lincolnshire, home of my first publisher, Babash-Ryan, who published my first two mysteries, Food of Love and The Best Revenge.

How did you come up with the title? "Off with his head! So much for Buckingham" is a famous line from Richard III that Shakespeare didn't actually write. It was added by a 19th century actor named Colley Sibber. The novel is about how repeated lies can often become more acceptable than truth, whether perpetrated by a great playwright or a gang of online trolls.

What inspired you to write it? As a well-known blogger and small-press author, I have had to deal with Amazon review vigilantes and social media trolls. I've had rape and death threats and went through nearly a year of harassment. So I decided to explore the problem from both sides — both from the POV of an author who is punished by vigilantes for breaking rules she didn't know existed and from the POV of her boyfriend, a music reviewer whose career is destroyed after he gives a bad review to a vindictive band.

Is there a sequel in the works? The next book in the series, The Queen of Staves, The Camilla Randall Mysteries #6, is due in July.  

Where, how can you get it? So Much for Buckingham is available locally at Coalesce in Morro Bay and Volumes of Pleasure in Los Osos. Online it's available in ebook at Amazon, Kobo , Nook, iTunes, Google Play and Scribd. In paper, it's available at Amazon and B&N and Walmart.

What would you select as your book's theme song? I'd love to have something played on a zither. Like the theme from the film, The Third Man. When I lived in Gainsborough, an ice cream truck came around on Saturdays that played the theme from The Third Man instead of ringing a bell. The tune was tinkle-y and bouncy … but the undertones were dark and ominous because of the film. Perfect for "chick lit noir."

What's your most interesting chapter title? Maybe "The Kingdom of Perpetual Night." (All the chapter titles come from Shakespeare's Richard III.)

Who would want to ban it? The pro-Tudor people who believe Richard III really did kill the princes in the tower.

Delicious wit, wonderful eccentric characters, and a beguiling plot. Camilla Randall is a delight!
— Melodie Campbell, "Canada's Queen of Comedy."

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: My sleuth, Camilla Randall, is "pushing forty so hard it screams." She's a formerly wealthy socialite and etiquette columnist — now the impoverished owner of a permanently failing Morro Bay bookstore.

Where and with whom does she live? She lives in a biodegrading former motel cottage in Morro Bay with a tuxedo cat named Buckingham who doesn't like her very much. Her best friend, gay screenwriter Plantagenet Smith, doesn't live with her, but he's the only constant in her life, since she's a magnet for "Mr. Wrong." Plant has recently married wealthy businessman Silas Ryder, but his marriage may be on the rocks.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow. I originally envisioned her as Bess Armstrong, the actress best known as the mom in My So-Called Life, who happens to be my cousin. 

Who's her celebrity crush? Maybe Jon Bon Jovi. She has a thing for working class guys from New Jersey.

What's her biggest fear/phobia? Of being impolite.

On what TV show would she appear as a special guest? When she was a young debutante, in the prequel to the series The Best Revenge she appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I can't say why, though. Spoilers.

What's her favorite quote or motto? "Most people have an inner child. I have an inner great aunt."

Weapon of choice: A well-placed stiletto heel, either thrown, brought down on the back of the head or aimed at the villain's eyeball. A spritz of hairspray to the face works, too.

Worst habit: She accepts everybody as they present themselves and is easily misguided in her eagerness to be fair.

Best feature: Camilla treats everybody with equal kindness and good manners.

Anne Allen had me laughing unexpectedly and sometimes out loud with her wonderful crafting of her words into sentences that became alive and three dimensional throughout these stories.
— JohnWilliamson at Goodreads

Timothy Savage, author of "Davey's Savior"

Stephen H. Provost

Timothy Savage has a couple of things in common with yours truly: He lives in Fresno, where I spent about 40 years of my own life, and his novel is set on the Central Coast, where I currently live. He sat down to answer some questions for The Open Book about his 2016 novel, Davey's Savior, which is available in paperback or Kindle form on Amazon. It's a work of literary fiction with a title that's really a question: "Who will be Davey's Savior?" You'll have to read the book to find out.

The Author

Name, age and occupation:  My name is Timothy Savage. I’m a just-past-50 curmudgeon, a full-time father, a freelance writer of business and marketing communications, and a nerd who’s graying badly. I’m the author of the novel Davey’s Savior.

Where do you live? I live in the Tower District of Fresno, California, where most of my energy goes to my 12-year-old son and our two cats. 

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? That’s a tough choice. Thanks to their mastery of satire, I’d love to have co-written a book with either Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams, because it would be great fun to laugh at the world with those two. And while satirical science fiction is not my genre, I’ve learned a lot from reading both authors' works.

Timothy Savage

Why do you write? As a freelancer, I write to pay the bills, mostly dealing in marketing communications and journalistic storytelling. Because of that I’m always looking for the next project or opportunity. But my novel was borne of pure passion and deeply held convictions, as well as a bucket-list desire to add “author” behind my name.

Where do you write? Mostly at my desk in the very early morning, before family and household responsibilities devour the day. Write in morning, edit at night, mainline coffee in between.

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? The 24th Century Federation. No money, no wants, no accumulation of material goods, virtually limitless exploration. Sounds good to me.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? I’m a cat person. Which is good, considering that my two are already fulfilling the role of “constant companion” whether I like it or not. (What’s this cat hair doing on my laptop screen, anyway?)

Historical period you’d like to visit: I’d love to visit 50 years from now, just to see how we get out of the political and environmental mess we’re in. (And of course, I’d love to return to the present day with the answers…)

Timothy Savage beautifully balances dramatic tension, mood-setting description, and creating very real characters in his suspenseful, poignant first novel.
— Denise Dilworth, Amazon review

The Book

Genre and length? My novel Davey’s Savior is 340 pages long, and falls into the category of literary fiction.

When and where does it take place? Most of Davey’s Savior takes place over a four-day period, Easter weekend of 2010, next to the pier in the secluded Central Coast hamlet of Avila Beach, California. The final chapter resolves two decades in the lives of the main characters.

How did you come up with the title? The title Davey’s Savior could refer to the roles of any of the main characters in the story as they interact with Davey, a precocious four-year-old boy who lives in hiding with his fugitive father near the beach. As the story progresses, readers will learn what Davey is being saved from, and wonder which of the characters will in the end be Davey’s savior, and how it will be accomplished. Davey’s Savior explores what it means in the modern world to be “saved,” all while heading toward an unavoidable and moving conclusion.

What inspired you to write it? Most of Davey’s Savior was inspired by my experiences as a full-time father, as well the various prejudices I’ve encountered along the way. A lot of what’s in the book reflects my own closely held philosophy that actions matter more than beliefs, and that the heroes of any story are the people who “do.”

Is there a sequel in the works? Despite one reader’s insistence that Chapter 24 would make an excellent prequel, no sequels are planned. I have plenty of other stories to tell.             

Where, how can you get it? Davey’s Savior is available in print and for Kindle through, at It’s also available through Createspace, and with a little luck I’ll soon have a few copies available in bookstores throughout Central California. (Stay tuned... distribution for indie authors is never easy!)

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? Theme song? A track called “Here For You,” by indie singer-songwriter Ben Justus, who I met a few years ago when he was spending time around Avila Beach and San Luis Obispo. It’d make a perfect song for the end-credits roll. Musical score? I’ll leave that to the filmmakers … with the recommendation that they hire K.T. Tunstall or Bruce Cockburn to record a few tracks.

Who would want to ban it? Well, so far no one has reacted that badly to Davey’s Savior. I’ve been getting great reviews, and in fact, people from all over the political and religious spectrum have come away with wildly differing interpretations, wildly varying meanings behind the events depicted. But I’d imagine that vocal defenders of prosperity gospel or those (ahem) “against equality” or with prejudicial tendencies might find something within to spur a “ban” argument.

Davey’s Savior is a thought-provoking story, challenging ideas about family, belief and religion. It’s about trust, devotion, sacrifice and a promise. It’s about what happens when belief becomes so profound it destroys rather than inspires and it’s about connections to and within modern society.
— Annelisa Christensen, Amazon review

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: The main protagonist of Davey’s Savior is Sketch, a 40-something fugitive and single father, who’s taken his son Davey from another city and gone into hiding. He spends some days as a sketch artist for his surroundings (hence his sobriquet), but the reality is he’s a full-time fugitive father under constant threat of discovery.

Where and with whom does he live? Sketch lives with his four-year-old son Davey, “hiding in plain sight” in the secluded hamlet of Avila Beach, California.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Sketch would be a great lead role for a character actor. The role calls for someone unassuming, but vaguely threatening and clearly under siege, who wants safety for his son despite his mistakes, and who won’t compromise his beliefs. If he were 10 years younger, I’d suggest Paul Giamatti.

What’s his biggest fear/phobia? Losing his son, in any number of ways.

On what TV show would he/she appear as a special guest? “America’s Most Wanted.” Maybe.

Weapon of choice: His own fortitude.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … driving north on the 101 toward Avila Beach, at night in a rainstorm, heading for a painful moment on the Avila Beach pier.

Worst habit? He isolates himself and his son, and refuses to accept the help of others out of fear of discovery.

Best feature? He’s an amazing father, and will stop at nothing to keep his promises to his son.

I loved the character development, adding layers of complexity to each of the characters from the beginning of the book to its end. The story is compelling. I couldn’t put the book down even when my eyes got tired! Descriptions of people and places are rich and vivid. And the book contains a number of surprises for the reader. You’re going to laugh a little and cry a little.
— Thomas W., Amazon review

Gwen Clayton, author of "Fermata Cellars"

Stephen H. Provost

Gwen Clayton released her debut novel, Fermata Cellars, in the fall. The first installment in her Riverine trilogy, it tells the story of a young marketing director and a haunted winery. The Amazon synopsis declares that the story will "challenge your religious and political beliefs as it dives into the concepts of spirituality, justice and free will. It is best read while drinking a bold, spicy California red wine." Gwen answered a series of questions about the book, the story behind it and her approach to writing.

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Gwen Clayton, age 47, freelance writer and publicist

Where and with whom do you live? Recently moved to Golden, Colorado with my husband, Eddie. Previously lived in Pine Grove, California. Born and raised in Reno, Nevada.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Mark Twain, of course. The man knew his whiskey.

Why do you write? I’m a slave to the muse.

Where do you write? Mostly in my head, but occasionally words fly off my fingers and onto my computer. Best time is when I’m alone, and in my room, which is small and cluttered. My muse has claustrophilia; she has to be a small, closed-in room. I would never be able to write in a large room like in The Shining, although I can relate to the typewriter tantrum Jack Nicholson had when his wife interrupted him to see if he wanted a sandwich. I have to remind my husband and daughter that when they hear me going clackity clack on the keyboard, that means “Do not disturb.”

What imaginary land would you choose as your home, and why? My old home in Pine Grove. God, I loved that house. Had my own den with wall-to-wall bookshelves. Quiet, dark street and a great view of the big-ass oak tree in the front yard. I named it Charles.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? A penGwen [sic]

What do you collect? Stories, mostly in my head. Did you ever see that episode of House of Cards where Jack criticized Remy for choosing money over power? Well, I wouldn’t choose either. My goal is to die with as many memories and legends about me as possible.

What fairy tale describes your life, and why? When I was little, I made a wish on every dandelion seed and penny thrown into a wishing well that I would grow up to be Cinderella. Not that I was a poor orphan. Neither did I have an evil stepmother or stepsisters. But I was never pretty, rich or athletic, so I hoped some fairy godmother would magically transform me into Jaclyn Smith from Charlie’s Angels. I must not have properly pronounced “bippity boppity boo,” because I ended up becoming a writer instead. I fall asleep by midnight, though, so I guess I got that part of the spell right.

Your superhero alter-ego: Kelly Garrett from Charlie’s Angels. She was beautiful, brunette and bad ass.

Historical period you’d like to visit: I’d like to be a reporting working for a newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada, in the Old West.

Favorite board, card or video game: My new favorite game is called, “Typing a response to a political rant on Facebook, then deleting it before hitting Post.”  

As a first portion to a series this is a brilliant introduction to the main characters and themes of the story. I look forward to the continuation of the tale.
— Clay, Amazon review

The Book

Genre and length? I call it political science fiction, although that isn’t a bona fide genre yet. It could also be labeled as religious science fiction because the main ghost is the reincarnation of the snake from the Garden of Eden. Her adversary is the reincarnation of Adam who comes back in this life as a corrupt evangelical minister. The good reverend buys one of the city council members and gets him to condemn the winery as being unsafe for human occupation. The winery owners are Pagan, but they make the communal wine for the local Catholic church. I take a lot of liberties with zoning codes and traditional religious texts.

The length is only 46,000 words (128 pages), so technically, it’s a novella, but the story behind it is long. I’m debating whether to rewrite it into a full novel, or just leave it as is. The problem is that it was originally too long, so I had to kill some darlings. But I think I killed too many, and now it’s too short.  The story is told in 128 pages, and I don’t want to add fluff, but if readers tell me they want more character development, background, or setting, I’ll revise it one of these days.

When and where does it take place? It takes place between January 2002 and June 2003 in a fictional California city called Rivervine.

How did you come up with the title? A fermata is the musical notation directing musicians to sustain a note or rest. The winery is called Fermata Cellars because the land had laid fallow for 121 years before the Divinorums (the winery owners) purchased it. Then the grapes suddenly started to grow. Scientists attribute it to “some kind of bizarre weather phenomenon that shocked the plants into a funky dormancy that coincidentally rejuvenated when the Divinorums took ownership of the land.” But the truth is, the place is haunted.

What inspired you to write it? It was originally going to be a cheap romance novel that I started in 2000 when I was laid off from my job and wanted to make some quick cash. The main characters were Lily the farm girl and Dalton Burnett, the entertainment director for the town saloon. But then in real life, I befriended some winemakers in the Sierra foothills, and the story changed direction. Of course, every place up there has its ghost stories, so Lily and Dalton were demoted to supporting characters, and the ghost took the lead.

Is there a sequel in the works? Yes. It’s actually a trilogy. They all have the same story line, but they’re told from three different points of view. Fermata Cellars is told from the marketing director’s POV. Grimoire will be from the ghost’s POV. I haven’t given the third novel a title yet, but it will be from the newspaper editor’s POV. I’m finishing up Grimoire this year and will release it this August.

Where, how can you get it? I sell them at book signings, and I have two bookstores so far that are carrying it: Hein & Company in Jackson, California; and Why Not Books in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It’s also available through Amazon.

Describe your book in one word that most people don’t normally use. Piquant, like a bold, spicy zinfandel.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? I’m torn between “Planet Hell” from Nightwish and Bruce Dickinson’s “The Tower” as a theme song, but if I had to choose a composer to write the musical score, I would have to go with Tuomas Holopainen.

What’s your most interesting chapter title? Lughnassadh.

Who would want to ban it? The Establishment - both political and religious.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated it to my husband, Eddie, because he actually served in Iraq in 2003. The war in the Middle East is a significant factor in the storyline.

I love the setting, the intrigue and, especilly, the ending. The ending caught me by surprise.
— SUMA, Amazon review

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: Manuel Chavez, age 26, marketing director for Fermata Cellars.

Where and with whom does he/she live? Lives alone in an apartment not far from the winery.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Diego Luna. Confession: I don’t actually know who that is. I had never thought about it before, so I had to Google “Mexican actors” and picked one.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Cesar Chavez

What’s his celebrity crush? Ferdinando Valencia. I don’t know who that is either, but he was in the same list for Mexican actors.

What’s his biggest fear/phobia? Confessing to Father Armando that he’s gay.

Weapon of choice: A good, solid, well rehearsed speech in front of the city council.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … Insecure


Sheri Humphreys, author of "A Hero to Hold"

Stephen H. Provost

Like me, Sheri Humphreys is based in Cambria, a seaside community nestled in a forest of Monterey pines along California's Central Coast. She's coming off an impressive achievement, with her novel A Hero to Hold having been named one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2016. She sat down recently to answer some questions about herself and her book, which Kirkus describes as "an enthralling, nontraditional romance accented with a little mystery."

The Author

Name and occupation: Sheri Humphreys. Retired emergency nurse.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Cambria, a small town on the Central California coast, with my Jack Russell-mix rescue, Lucy.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Great question, Stephen! A hard, hard decision, too. I’d love collaborating with one of my (living) favorite authors. But I guess I’d have to choose Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women.

My first books. Even then I was writing historical romance!)

My first books. Even then I was writing historical romance!)

Why do you write? Wanting to write grew out of a love of reading and story. I’ve written on and off since I was a child. My fifth-grade teacher told my mother: “I don’t know what I’m going to do with Sheri. She doesn’t pay attention in class because she’s writing a book!” Around 2006 I got somewhat serious, joining a critique group and Romance Writers of America®, but it wasn’t until I retired in 2010 that I really devoted significant time and effort to writing.

Where do you write? I have a gorgeous office, but I never write there. LOL. I sit in an easy chair, feet on ottoman, laptop on lap, dog curled next to my hip. My view is of an incredible 100-year-old oak. I call it my zen tree.

What fairy tale describes your life, and why? Hey, I’m still writing my fairy tale!

Historical period you’d like to visit: My books are set in the Victorian era, so how could I resist a chance to be there? When I got serious about writing, I decided to try writing historical romance. I loved reading historicals, and thought if I wrote about a historical nurse, I could still use my experience, without having the technical details of modern medicine to tangle with. So I started researching Florence Nightingale, famous as the founder of modern nursing.

The author, Sheri Humphreys

The author, Sheri Humphreys

Florence Nightingale captured my imagination. I expanded my research from Florence to the Crimean War, Victorian medicine and Victorian life. I spoke about Florence Nightingale at several nursing seminars. I began crafting a story about a Nightingale nurse who returns to England after the conclusion of the Crimean War. That story became The Unseducible Earl, scheduled for release this Spring by Boroughs Publishing Group.

I love writing about the Victorian era. It was a time of immense societal change, and anytime there is change, there is conflict. It was a time of invention, discovery, and improvement. I focus on a decade when people traveled by rail and steamship. The telegraph provided instant communication. The Crimean War was the first war in which newspapers had the ability to report current news from a battlefront. Yet even with these modern advances, life remained very different from life today. Travel by steam was common, but so was travel by horseback and sail. There was great effort toward progress, yet it was prior to the adoption of the germ theory of disease. I found a real love of history within myself, and a passion for making my novels historically accurate. I spend as many hours researching as I do writing—sometimes for one sentence!

So if you’ve got a time machine, Stephen, set it for 1857 and I’m aboard! 

Favorite board, card or video game: I love lots of board games, usually those that test memory or knowledge or strategy or just make me laugh. I love Scrabble and word games. Sometimes I get together with neighbors and play Rummikube.

A Hero to Hold sucked me in from the start and wouldn’t let me go. ... Overall, very complex characters and amazing love story I couldn’t put down. Would recommend to any historical romance friends!
— Shannon Youngblood, Amazon review

The Book

Title, genre and length? A Hero to Hold, historical romance, 326 pages.

When and where does it take place? 1857 England

How did you come up with the title? Ha ha ha. For me, finding the perfect title can be torturous, but this one came pretty easy. The hero of the novel is a military hero, and is awarded the Victoria Cross during the course of the story. And it’s a romance. <grin>

What inspired you to write it? Really, two things. The underlying theme of the novel is trust. I wrote it at a time in my life when my trust in people and the world was shattered. David and Charlotte, the hero and heroine in A Hero to Hold, experienced traumatic events that affected their ability to trust. They both go on, find each other and fall in love. The bigger question is: can they trust again?

Also, I worked for thirty-seven years as a nurse, twenty-five of those in the Emergency Department. And there’s always something of that part of me in every story.

In my upcoming series, The Nightingales (The Unseducible Earl releases later this spring), all the heroines are former Florence Nightingale nurses who worked in the British military hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War. There are numerous patient stories in each book.

A Hero to Hold isn’t about a nurse, but the patient advocate part of me is alive and well in the story. Because the hero is disabled. I wanted to portray a disabled man as capable, sexy, attractive, wonderful. I wanted the reader to forget he was disabled and find him thoroughly desirable. To regard him exactly the same as they would any able-bodied man. The day I wrote, “David strode to the door,” I knew I’d succeeded. I’d forgotten David couldn’t walk! There’s also a medical crisis in the book—I just can’t keep them out!

Is there a sequel in the works? A Hero to Hold is a stand alone. The Horse Race, a short story featuring the hero and his best friend, is available on my website.

How can we get your books? Ebooks and print books are available from all major online book vendors. Print books can also be ordered from any brick-and-mortar book store.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? No idea on the theme song. Perhaps This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde? There’s no question what composer I’d hire: the incomparable John Williams.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? A Hero to Hold is dedicated to author and writing teacher Elnora King (retired). Once a week for eight years, I sat at her table learning the craft of writing. She’s an amazing woman whose teaching made a significant impact on the writing community of Fresno, California. I’m so fortunate to have been one of the many she mentored. I’ll always hear her voice saying, “Go deeper!”

A Hero to Hold is a fantastic book filled with amazing characters, wonderful descriptions and a compelling storyline. A wheelchair bound hero who is complex, sexy and good at heart combined with a scandalized but strong-willed heroine who goes after what she wants with her head held high, makes for a fantastic read. Don’t miss this one!
— AvidReaderGirl, Amazon review

The heroes

Name, age and occupation: Since the novel splits the point of view equally between the hero and heroine, I’ll share a bit about each. Hero: David Scott, 30. He manages a charity that benefits war widows and orphans. Heroine: Lady Charlotte Haliday, 27. She works for David.

Where and with whom does he/she live? London. They’re both single but have households, meaning servants who live in their residences.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? I cast all my characters. David would be played by Aaron Eckhart. Charlotte by a young Elizabeth Taylor (think Elephant Walk).

What’s his/her biggest fear/phobia? Due to his disability, David fears he won’t be able to support himself and be independent. Charlotte fears living a shallow, meaningless life. Her greatest fear is being vulnerable.

Weapon of choice: Well, there is a pistol in the story…

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … Resigned to being alone.

His worst habit? He tends to be aloof and stubborn.

His best feature? He’s kind.

My beautiful office, left, and where I really write, right. Note pajamas and dog-hair-protected furniture.

My beautiful office, left, and where I really write, right. Note pajamas and dog-hair-protected furniture.


David’s heart lurched as the viscountess collapsed. “Chetney!” he barked. His secretary jumped, dropped the envelope he held, caught Viscountess Haliday and laid her down on the small, upholstered divan. David watched, never more aware of his inability to stand and capture the lady himself. Even after nearly two years, he wasn’t fully accustomed to others acting in his stead.

“Get some water,” David instructed as he wheeled himself to the divan.

She seemed unnaturally pale. He removed her hatpin and hat and brushed wavy dark hair from her forehead. Her cold, clammy skin worried him. He’d seen bleeding men shiver, seen their teeth chatter, and associated such pale, cold skin with serious infirmity. He glanced at her narrow waist, wondered if he should loosen her corset. To do so would necessitate removing her bodice, and he certainly didn’t want to do that.

Her eyelids fluttered and relief eased his tenseness. They lifted, revealing her incredible violet eyes. In the days since the ball, he’d convinced himself he must have imagined their color, since he’d never seen anything like them. But they were just as beautiful as he recalled. They were also a bit hazy and unfocused.

He tugged off one of her gloves and found her skin dry, though it remained cool. He held her hand and rubbed his thumb across her palm. “Lady Haliday?”

As if following the sound of his voice, her head turned toward him.

“Ma’am? Are you all right?”

Her chest rose; her fingers wrapped around his thumb. “I feel so silly,” she murmured. “I didn’t eat today. My stomach was just too jumpy.” She blinked and gradually her expression sharpened. Her gaze rose to his face, fell to his wheelchair, and returned to his features.

She’s too shocked to hide her feelings, he thought, and clamped his teeth together. Her fingers grew lax and released his thumb. She sat up, swinging her feet down in the same motion. 

“You’ve been injured?” she asked.

He hadn’t been in his chair at the ball. Slowly, he shook his head. “It happened two years ago. I’m unable to stand or walk.”

He caught a glimpse of stark pain before her gaze dropped. Her fingers, trembling, pressed against her mouth. Silently, he swore. He’d yet to sicken a female with his useless legs, but Lady Haliday appeared to be the exception. He remembered the hunger of her mouth on his. This woman had populated more than one of his dreams since then.

“Chetney,” he yelled. Where in hell was the man?

Chetney hurried in, a glass in one hand and what looked to be brandy in the other. They exchanged looks.

“I don’t know where you got it, but it’s not a bad idea. See if you can locate a biscuit or two also, would you?” The brandy should get her blood flowing and warm her up. David took the glass from Chetney and offered it to the viscountess.

“Drink a little of this. It should make you feel a bit stronger.”

She took the glass and obligingly swallowed a sip. “I’m sorry to cause such bother.” Her eyes lifted and the compassion he saw in their purple depths almost knocked him over. She took another drink—a larger one this time—and coughed.

Anger gripped him and he rolled his chair back, putting a couple of feet between them. The first woman who’d breached his defenses, and she pitied him. How dare she—how dare she pity him? “What are you doing here?”

“If you’re Mr. Scott, then I’m to work for you.”

An insightful story of the insidious ways we can circumvent our happiness by allowing past hurts to destroy our ability to accept love.
— CoraR, Amazon review

Mandy Dawson, author of "Elemental Awakening"

Stephen H. Provost

Mandy Dawson is the author of Elemental Awakening, the first in her series, Elementals, just released in December. Its intriguing premise: An ancient being, imprisoned in statue form for thousands of years, is reawakened in the present. Mandy graciously agreed to sit down and answer some questions for The Open Book. 

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Mandy Dawson, 41, executive assistant/author

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Atascadero with my two children – Joseph and Elizabeth, their two hamsters, a survivalist fish, three chickens, and a stray cat who likes to be fed, but not pet.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? I’d want to write a book with Julia Quinn. While my list of favorite authors, both living and dead, is almost as long as my list of favorite books, co-writing would require someone with a sense of humor and a similar writing style. Our subgenres differ, but I think we’d both approach the project with tongues firmly in cheek and a healthy dose of fun.

Why do you write? I’m not quite certain I’d know what to do if I didn’t write. I’ve always told stories in an effort to give life to the people in my head.  Some of my earliest memories are of lying in the dark and whispering the tales of two foolish little girls and their accidental adventures to my sisters when my parents thought we were asleep. As I got older, I began to write them down and never stopped.            

Where do you write? Because I work full time, I try to fit in writing wherever and whenever I can. I write at my desk or kitchen table after I put the kids to bed. I take my laptop with me on my lunch break and lock myself into a conference room to tap away at my keyboard for an hour. I even take my laptop or notebook with me while camping and zip myself in my tent or plant myself at the picnic table for an hour or so. I’ve found getting away from the house prevents me from being distracted by the never-ending pile of laundry, so the bulk of my drafting is done at Bru (Coffeehouse) in Atascadero, sitting at a little table in front of the window with my headphones on and a pot of Earl Grey steaming nearby.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? If I were to have a constant animal companion, it would be a dog. One that knew how to use and flush a toilet, didn’t chew on the corner of the wooden coffee table, and was able to refill my glass of wine. A dog may seem like an ordinary animal when the options are as varied as reality and imagination allows, but while a dragon would be amazing, a nice, slightly overweight, midsized dog prone to napping between long rambling walks would be a kindred spirit.

What do you collect? I collect sea glass. My kids and I spend hours roaming the beaches looking for shards of trash turned to treasure. We have piles of it all over our house filling jars and bowls and frames. Sometimes we craft something from it, but we mostly enjoy studying it, looking for the bubbles and imperfections, the clues as to what it originally was, where it might have come from. We make up stories about the people who owned it before it was shattered and pounded against the surf to wash up at our feet.

Favorite board, card or video game: I’m a game fanatic with almost as many favorite board games as I have moods. Right now, I’m addicted to Settlers of Catan, though last year it was Sequence and before that I couldn’t get enough of Five Crowns. My sister just bought me Pandemic, and I have a feeling it might boot Catan from the top ranking.

This is the first book in a series, and although it doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, it makes you want to find out what’s going to happen next. An overall win for Ms. Dawson’s debut novel.
— Jennie Goutet, Amazon review

The Book

Genre and length? Elemental Awakening is a romance novel with a strong thread of paranormal running through it. It’s a bit over 65,000 words long.

When and where does it take place? It’s a contemporary novel with locations moving from L.A. to the Central Coast to the Andes and the Bay Area.

How did you come up with the title? My editor wasn’t thrilled with my working title, Someday I’ll Figure Out a Witty Title for This Book, and I wasn’t thrilled with the only other option I’d come up with, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. She suggested Elemental Awakening after reviewing my three-story arc, and I loved the way it fit.

What inspired you to write it? Four years ago, I was part of an online writing group. One of the picture prompts was of a stone statue half buried in the ground. It sparked an idea of what would happen if that statue was a cursed man frozen for all time and then, what would happen if someone happened to wake him up. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Is there a sequel in the works? The sequel, Elemental Escape, is drafted, and I’m starting my first round of revisions.

Where, how can you get it? You can currently purchase Elemental Awakening in paperback or ebook versions on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Since I spent most of my writing time plugged into Ingrid Michaelson, I’d select her to write the musical score.

Who would want to ban it? People who don’t believe in magic. I’d forgive them, though, for wanting to ban it. Not believing in magic must make life rather sad.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated my book to my parents who taught me a love of reading. Family legend has it that my dad used to travel the rodeo circuit with two hard-backed suitcases. One was filled with clothes, the other with books. My mom was never without a book nearby. Even with four children, she still found time to read. Usually while standing up because she rarely had time to sit. I also dedicated it to my three younger sisters who have always listened to my stories. And finally, to my children, because without them I wouldn’t have dared to embark on this adventure. When my son told me that he knew he could do anything he set his mind to because I had taught him that by finishing my book, it made all the late nights and long hours of editing worth it.

Most novels tend to be plot based or character based, but I felt that this one was a seamless merger of the two. Immediately engaged by the first page, the story continues to delight. It was one of those books that caused me to let the kids make their own dinner so I could finish.
— K.A.Z. Kahler, Amazon review

The Heroes

Name, age and occupation: Helen Browning, early 30s, midwife and secret key to unleashing an elemental battle for power. Lukos, early 3000s, Light.

Where and with whom does he/she live? She lives alone in a small cottage in a place roughly based on Cambria. He lived in an area known today as the Andes until he was turned to stone, during which time he lived deep in a cave until discovery and then on display in museums around the world.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Jaimie Alexander for Helen and Chris Hemsworth for Luke.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Helen would be fascinated by the work of Jennifer Worth and the idea of caring for a population in the East End of London post WWII. I have no doubt, she’d devour her memoir and likely binge watch the show on PBS while eating Cherry Garcia ice cream. Luke has a lot of catching up to do. (Being a statue for thousands of years puts a dent in one’s knowledge of world events.) As someone who is facing a battle of epic size, bringing about a civil war, he’d study the great generals in history, especially those who brought peace to their people.

What’s his or her celebrity crush? Helen has a soft spot for hunky nerds. She probably has a huge crush on David Tennant. Luke isn’t certain what celebrities are and is slightly taken aback by Helen’s over-the-top swooning when David is on screen.

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Helen is afraid of losing the people she loves. Luke is afraid of becoming stone once again.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … At the beginning of the book, Helen has spent her life trying to rediscover the stability she lost. She’s strong and capable, confident in her skills as a midwife and secure in her life path, but she also knows something is missing. There’s been a hole in her life nothing has been able to fill. Luke was literally turned to stone, his fate sealed. When he first awakes, the emotions and sensations threaten to overwhelm him so he clings to the one thing he knows and is certain of: his love for the woman who woke him.

Worst habit? Helen is stubborn. When presented with a situation in which she feels horribly out of her depth, she clings to what she knows with a tenacity that becomes not just dangerous, but deadly. Luke is impatient. He’s spent thousands of years frozen in stillness with nothing but time to plot and plan his revenge, yet when he’s finally able to put some of those plans in action, he discovers the world has changed drastically and the answers he seeks are not easily found.

Best feature? Helen is a quiet warrior who has always championed the most innocent. Luke has somehow retained his sense of humor, no matter how dark his life became.

This imaginative romance takes the reader out of her own element into a completely different world that exists layered on top of our own.
— Kim Tracy Prince, Amazon review

Linda Lee Kane, author of "Chilled to the Bones"

Stephen H. Provost

Meet Linda Lee Kane, author of the horror novel Chilled to the Bones (Krullstone Publishing). Linda is the first participant in The Open Book, a new feature in which I interview authors about their latest works. I had the pleasure of doing a joint book signing with Linda at Petunia's Place in Fresno late in 2015, when I was promoting Fresno Growing Up and she had just written The Black Madonna. Here's what she had to say in our interview.

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Linda Lee Kane, 65, and a retired school psychologist.

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Fresno, California part of the year and in Pacific Grove, a few months out of the year with my husband of forty-five years.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? Easy, Truman Capote.

Why do you write? In part because I enjoy the process, the quiet, delving into my mind and others for possibilities.

Where do you write? In my office where I can look out onto a lake.

Chilled To The Bones is a great young adult murder mystery. ... The book is pieced together well with a perfect balance of fiction as well as historical material from the American Revolutionary War.
— Bryant C., Amazon review

Favorite board, card or video game: Checkers

The Book

Genre and length? YA Historical Mystery 180 pages.

When and where does it take place? 2017 in Setauket, New York

How did you come up with the title? It has ghost from the Culper Spy Ring, and an British Soldier from the American Revolutionary war

What inspired you to write it? There are so many women, girls who helped in the fight for freedom but have never been recognized in the history books kids grow up reading. 

Is there a sequel in the works? There is a sequel; this time we’ll be going through one of the portals to England.    

Where, how can you get it? The easiest way to get the book is through Amazon.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? Bear McCleary as the writer and the theme song from Black Sails.

Who would want to ban it? Some of the Christian Church because there are ghosts and vampires.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? My books are always dedicated to my family and friends who are there to support me.

This is a gripping novel. Linda Kane has also provided historical data at the end of the book, alerting readers to unsung heroes and heroines of the war.
— Jon Latham, Amazon review

The Hero

Name, age and occupation: Dealer, 15, and a high school student at Melville High.

Where and with whom does he/she live? Dealer lives with her dad in a farmhouse that has been in their family since the American Revolution.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? The girl who is the protagonist in Strange Things on Netflix. She is an incredible actress.

What’s his or her celebrity crush? Bruno Mars

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Vampires

Weapon of choice? Dealer uses her intellect to help solve the mystery of the missing treasure.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … living with her grandparents after the accidental death of her mother.

Best feature? The need to help others and to love regardless of their faults.

Linda Kane takes her readers on an adventurous and chilling ride through the small town of Setauket, New York where four high school friends find themselves embroiled in a historical mystery more than a century old. Secret codes, murder, and lurking evil lead them to the point of almost no return.
— Amazon synopsis

The Open Book: Author Interviews

Stephen H. Provost

We authors use our books to tell stories, but sometimes we want to tell the stories of our books. That's what The Open Book will do: Give authors a chance to answer questions about their latest or greatest works in a Q&A format. 

Authors can be reclusive and reluctant to get up on stage and talk about themselves. That's one reason they're, well, writers. I know that's how it works for me. A keyboard feels a lot less intimidating than a microphone to most of us, and if we're good at what we do, we really should be a lot more eloquent on paper than we are in front of a crowd. This feature on my website is an opportunity for other authors to let loose from the safety of their own personal sanctuaries.

I've tried to come up with some unusual questions, and I'm confident my interview subjects will have fun with the answers. 

I plan to do one or two of these a week, as time allows. I'll interview authors of fiction or nonfiction, traditionally or self-published, and I reserve the right to choose who participates. The questions aren't geared toward poetry, so that's probably out. But the only hard-and-fast rules are I won't do interviews about erotica, works that sanction abuse or promote bigotry. My site, my rules — but, I hope, your fun and enjoyment. 

If you have any questions you'd like to suggest for the mix, or if you're an author who'd like to be interviewed, use the contact form on this site to get in touch.