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Friday, December 17, 2010

Beltaine’s Song, Book Two: Dark Goddess Trilogy by Kelley Heckart

Title: Beltaine’s Song, Book Two: Dark Goddess Trilogy
Release Date: 11/11/10
Author: Kelley Heckart
Publisher: Awe-Struck Publishing
Genre: Celtic historical romance/Paranormal fantasy

For each of them, spring's song has a different meaning.

Now king and queen of the powerful kingdom of Dal Riata, Aedan and Domelch have more than just Cailleach's wrath to contend with. Aedan struggles with being a king and being a husband. Domelch struggles with her beliefs, trying to be the Christian woman Aedan wed, but her heart still thrums with the voices of old gods. They must battle earthly foes—enemy kings and traitorous allies. For the first time, the arrival of spring heralds the sound of a harsh battle horn as their foes close in. Through all this turmoil, can their love survive?  

Gartnait, the first-born son of Aedan and Domelch, has lived in secrecy most of his young life to escape Cailleach's wrath. Fostered in Fortriu, he has earned his first mark of manhood and on his way to becoming a formidable warrior. He grapples with the awakening of his true destiny and the meaning of the appearance of a beautiful maiden in spring only he can see. Does she mean to harm him? For him, spring brings with it the promise of new love and the thrilling sound of the battle horn, putting those he cares about in danger.

Hi Kelley, I'm so thrilled to have you here! Your book, Beltaine's Song, came out November 11, 2010. Tell me a little about it.
Hi Rie, Thank you for having me as a guest at Author Offerings.
Beltaine’s Song is the second book in my Dark Goddess Trilogy. Beltaine is a Celtic celebration that occurs on May 1 and coincides with spring. In my trilogy, Beltaine is associated with the myth I used that revolves around the changing seasons of spring and winter (and two goddesses). I had a theme throughout this book that even though spring is a happy time, it also has a darker side—the ancient clans battled in the warmer months of spring and summer. This is a huge part of my main characters’ lives and their struggles against earthly and unearthly foes while trying to stay together.

I loved Cat's Curse, the first book in this series. How many more books can we expect?
Thank you. I really appreciate that. There is one more book titled Winter’s Requiem that will be out sometime in 2011 by Awe-Struck.

What inspired you to write a series, and did you in fact begin with a series in mind, or did it happen on its own?
No, I didn’t plan to write a series. While I was doing research on the Picts, I came across a sixth century Irish warlord named Aedan mac Gabrain with a shadowy past. This inspired me and I came up with an idea for a trilogy. But, I will confess that I didn’t have everything prepared when I started the first book and contracted it. Thankfully, the other two books came together, but not before some hair pulling on my part.

Who is your cover artist and how much input do you have in the design?
The cover artist is Skye Wolf. For print, the other books have similar designs so they look like a series.
I did fill out the information for the cover artist and said what I wanted and didn’t want on my cover.
If you could co-author a book with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’m not sure I could co-author a book with anyone. I like working by myself too much. If I had to pick someone, I would pick Ann Rice. She is really good at depicting historical time periods and she was the first to write the ‘erotic’ vampire. 
What books are in your TBR pile?
The Lance Thrower by Jack Whyte—the 8th book in his Camulod series.
The Golden Bough by James Frazer—I started it and want to get it finished.
I just finished your story—A Winter’s Night and enjoyed it very much—want to know what happens next in Volume II.
I’m re-reading Women in Celtic Myth by Moyra Caldecott
*Blushes* Thank you, Kelley, that's sweet of you to say. When you begin a new book, do you write it straight through, or do you work on more than one story at a time?
I like to work on one book at a time so I can get it finished. If I work on more than one book at a time, I feel like I’m not getting anything done.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on another historical paranormal romance with a Saxon princess and a Pict druid. Neither of them are what they appear to be. I want to do something a little different with the werewolf myth. I’m setting this story in the 5th century. I have a whole back story on the hero that may require another book so this may turn into a series even though I swore I would never do another series because it’s too hard to keep everything consistent. I’m just whining.
That's okay, I used to be a counselor, I can take it! Christmas is just around the corner. How do you celebrate?
I celebrate Christmas with my family and the pagan Yule privately. I love Christmas trees so I will be putting up my little tree. Unpacking my ornaments is fun—there are so many memories attached to them.
Favorite Christmas treat?
Anything with chocolate in it.
If Santa could bring you anything you want, what would it be?
I want the new Kindle e-reader.
Lights or candles?
Candles. I love the way candle light wavers and glows—it’s otherworldly.
Who is your favorite reindeer?
I’m trying to remember all of their names. I got it—Prancer. I love the Christmas movie called Prancer with Sam Elliot. He is so hot and seems to get hotter the older he gets. 
I have to agree with you on that one, I love Sam Elliott. Ever been to the North Pole?
I think so but I don’t remember how I got there. When I was a teenager, I think the elves abducted me because I was a bad girl. I was good after that.

Great answer. I threw that one in there because here in Oklahoma we have a little town called The North Pole! What are your plans for New Year's Eve?
I will probably be sleeping by midnight. I’m not the party animal I used to be. At least now I remember New Year’s Eve.
Champagne at midnight?
No champagne. Maybe some warm milk. With a little chocolate.
Who will you kiss?
My dog. Or my husband if he is in bed with me.
Thank you for joining me, Kelley. If I twist your arm would you give us a little teaser to read? 
Sure. Here is an excerpt. Thanks for having me, Rie.

Excerpt from Beltaine’s Song:
King Galan and King Morcant, along with their advisors, listened intently as Aedan told them the news of King Conall's death. Domelch sat next to him, feeling relaxed.

“I need to know for certain that both of ye will support me in fighting for the kingship of Dal Riata.” Aedan's expression grew serious. He carefully watched each king, his gaze unyielding.

Galan met Aedan’s unwavering stare. “I am with you. I have waited for this moment to finally move against Bridei.”

Galan's warrior marks flickered in the lamplight, marking his many battles and kills, a reminder to Domelch of his great experience as a Priteni warrior.

“As am I. I see many advantages to aligning myself with the king of Dal Riata.” Morcant smiled, his fox-like face looking keen in the lamplight.

“I must request that your advisors leave the room before we continue,” Domelch said, looking at the two monks who appeared stunned by her request.

“This is most unreasonable,” sputtered Talgorm, Galan's advisor.

“I agree.” Morcant's advisor glowered at her.

Galan held up his hand, putting a halt to their protests.

Morcant looked bemused by it all. “I have to say I am quite curious as to what must be so secretive that our advisors have to leave.”

“Is it necessary that they leave?” Galan looked at her with a questioning expression, a reddish brow arched.


“If Galan has no protest to this, I will allow it.” Morcant turned his attention to Galan, folding his hands in front of him on the table.

“Talgorm, wait for me outside,” Galan requested.

The two monks left, grumbling and giving her dark looks.

“Well, please do not delay. I am most eager to hear this,” Morcant said, his face filled with curiosity.

“For this alliance to work, it will require an oath of fealty, a blood oath,” Domelch stated. “This is not Aedan's doing. I am the one who requires it.”

“An oath of fealty I can well understand, but a blood oath? You do not trust your own brother?” Galan's pale green eyes flashed with amusement.


Galan looked taken aback. “Dear sister, have I ever given you cause to distrust me?”

“Dear brother, I know of your impulsive nature. Besides, a blood oath will also ensure that Aedan keeps his word. We all have much to gain here. If we are to become an invincible power, we need to work together and have absolute trust. The ancient blood oath will ensure that trust on all sides.”

Morcant looked on with a mixture of amusement and admiration. “An ancient blood oath. Most clever indeed.” He looked at her with admiring eyes, glancing at the other two kings, pondering his answer. “I will take the blood oath.”

Galan groaned, giving his sister a wounded look. “As will I.”

Galan's wounded expression recalled memories within Domelch of when they were lovers back when she was Cardea and she rejected him for Aedan. Having those memories sometimes confused her as to who she was now. Only Galan could arouse the demon within her and now she would be seeing more of him.

The feeling unsettled her but she shook it off, producing a dagger and motioned for a servant to bring the cup of mead. One by one, the three kings held out their hands. Domelch sliced their palms with the whetted blade, dripping dark red droplets into the golden mead, swirling like a maelstrom of blood and fire. She spoke words in Latin, waving her hand over the cup. The scent of human blood, sweet and intoxicating, filled her senses. Like a haunting melody, it weaved its spell into her soul, filling her veins with a hunger. She stiffened, terrified by her dark thoughts, thinking that part of her long dead.

Solemn-faced, each king took a drink of the crimson-laced drink, saying, “I vow complete fealty to my blood brothers as long as I shall live.”

Quiet descended on the hall, the shadows retreating to the far corners. She thought she heard the ancients whispering, their presence filling the hall. A ripple of dark wings stirred the fire, sending a chill breeze against her cheek. Their cold talons stirred the fire, raising and lowering the flames as if in acknowledgement of the ancient blood oath. It was not an oath to be taken lightly. If broken, the penalty was death.

'Ms. Heckart draws the reader into the pages and enchants them with her words.'

Karen McGill, Coffee Time Romance

Kelley Heckart
'Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic'

Other books by Kelley Heckart:



Monday, December 13, 2010

Murder With All The Trimmings (The Killer Wore Cranberry anthology) by Lesley A. Diehl

Title: Murder with All the Trimmings (from The Killer Wore Cranberry, anthology)
Author: Lesley A. Diehl
Release Date: Nov. 2010
Publisher: Untreed Reads

Blurb: Murder with All the Trimmings--Hate eating turkey sandwiches, turkey croquettes, turkey fricassee, just plain hate Thanksgiving leftovers?  Try serving spam instead, with a side of murder, of course.

Welcome to Sizzling Releases, Lesley. I’m so pleased you could join me today. What is your Sizzling Release? 

Today I’d like to talk about my short story, Murder with All the Trimmings just released in time for the holidays by Untreedreads.

What is Murder With All The Trimmings all about? 

My short story is about Thanksgiving past. The story is set in 1963 and features my favorite aunt, that famous, yet unknown cook, Aunt Nozzie. Her husband was done in the Thanksgiving before and she is serving up a special feast to honor him. Little does she know she will be feeding her husband’s murderer.

That sounds um, disturbing...but I like that in a book! How did you come up with the idea?

I remember holiday dinners at my aunt’s house where everyone drank cocktails before she served some unusual meal.  She was a part-time bartender and made the best Scarlet O’Haras.  She had a real mouth on her.  She was outspoken, irreverent, and funny.  I loved her and always had fun at her dinners.  That’s something many people can’t say about family holiday gatherings.  Of course, I’m sure the drinks helped the laughter along.

As a published author what advice do you have for those just beginning a career as a writer? 

There are so many ways to go into publishing your work  nowadays.  Recently The New York Times announced they would publish each week a list of ebook bestsellers.  That’s revolutionary and a sign that epublishing is here to stay, and it will grow as it has over the past few years.  Until I saw an ad for the Thanksgiving anthology from Untreedreads, I considered, then dismissed doing ework, but now that I see how well the anthology has been received (we made the bestsellers list on Amazon recently), I’m considering submitting a book length manuscript to them.  Jay Hartman at Untreed Reads does a fabulous job of getting the word out on their stories and books.

My other publishers are small presses and a joy to work with because I get a lot of individual attention from my editors.  I’m not about to give away my retirement and live on my book earnings, but I don’t have to share any of my royalties with an agent.  Anyway, the agent would starve to death!

Since the advent of ebooks and the growth of small presses, I would guess there are a lot of agents out there hungry for clients, so that’s always an option for those who are patient . . . and young.  The important thing for all writers is to write well and they will find an outlet for their work.  It took me some time to learn the craft because I am a former academic and I had to learn to write all over again for a fiction market.

 What was it like for you to write your first book and get published?

My first book was A Deadly Draught from Mainly Murder Press, a small New England press.  The editor, Judith Ivie, is very professional, very savvy, and great work with.  Also important is the contract offered by the press is quite author friendly and one cannot say that about all publishers.  I’ve seen and rejected some awful contracts.  It is hard to say no and send a contract back, but sometimes a better way to go.

My first book came out nine months ago and I’m still pinching myself.  Once the book is in your hands, then the real work begins.  I’ve become a small business owner for sure.  Writing is the fun part.  Selling is hard work, so be prepared for it.

What are you working on now? 

I’m always working on several manuscripts at a time.  If an idea strikes me for a short story as it did for the Thanksgiving story, I’ll put other writing to the side and write the story.  I have a number of manuscripts which are complete and need a publisher.  One, featuring guardian angels, is a good fit for Untreedreads and I plan to send it off soon.

Dumpster Dying  was set in rural Florida and is a humorous murder mystery.  I have another Florida manuscript about a New England gal who opens a consignment shop in rural Florida.  The shop caters to the newly poor (read Bernie Madoff folks) who wish to maintain the image of wealth.  And of course one of these matrons gets murdered in the shop.

I also am working on the second book in the microbrewery series.

Do you have an evil day job, if so, how do you find time to write?

I am retired and lucky to write whenever the muse visits which happens to be often.

What is your creative process?   

Ideas come to me from everywhere. The one for A Deadly Draught happened when I was touring a microbrewery and asked the tour guide if it was possible to kill someone in the fermentation room. I guess I just think murder a lot. The ideas I cook in my brain just long enough to get a rough outline on paper. I’m a loose plotter. I usually don’t know who the killer is until halfway through the manuscript. Sometimes I’ll change the murderer at the end.

What does your family and friends think about you being a published author? 

They are speechless, supportive, think I’m crazy, admiring, ignore me.  It depends on who they are.

It’s December again! I can’t believe Christmas is upon us all ready. What are your holiday plans? 

Dinner with my cowboy overlooking the canal in our back yard in rural Florida.  Lovely!

Do you go all out with decorating?

I did that for so many years when I spent Christmas up north that I don’t do as much now.  I still feel a little odd with no snow on the ground and holiday lights on palm trees.

Real tree or fake?

Both. Real Palm tree and fake evergreen.

Lots of lights on the house or subdued lighting?

Very subdued. We have cactus lights on our carport.

Store bought ornaments or do you make your own?

I made decorations one year and practically went blind. I gave them away as presents and haven’t looked back. Some of our decorations have been made by friends and relatives, but not by us!

Eggnog? With or without rum? 

Lots of rum, not much eggnog. I wish my Aunt Nozzie was still here to make drinks.

What would be the perfect Christmas gift for you?

A Kindle. I hope the cowboy reads this.

Thank you so much for being here. Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?

I like funny, so I try to write humorous because it’s such fun!

And before we go here's a juicy excerpt from Murder with All the Trimmings in the Thanksgiving anthology, The Killer Wore Cranberry?   

She found the turkey with its head cut off and Harold lying beside the bird with his noggin also partly detached. I guess it was like seeing identical twins.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Outhouse Gang by Neil Plakcy

Title: The Outhouse Gang
Release Date: November 8, 2010
Author: Neil Plakcy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Mainstream fiction

Welcome to Sizzling Releases, Neil. I’m so pleased you could join me today. What is your Sizzling Release?
It’s a novel about the relationships between fathers and sons, called The Outhouse Gang. It’s hot off the digital press!

What is The Outhouse Gang all about?
After a suburban meeting one night in 1963, a group of seven men hatch a plot that will keep them together, and involve their sons, for the next twenty years. The caper? Steal an outhouse and leave it in the middle of their small town.

Chuck longs to escape the rigidity of his life and working in his father's store. Charley fears for the loss of the family farm. Sandy is the one who got out of the small town, then chose to come back. Paul is losing his connection with his son. Harry worries that his son will change in the Army. Nick seeks to keep his relationship with his son stable while his marriage falls apart. Tom is faced with the possibility of illness taking his child.

Through the years, they stand by each other, use the Outhouse Gang as a safety valve for the pressures of marriage and fatherhood, and bond with their own sons.

That sounds so sweet and heart-touching. How did you come up with the idea?

After my father passed away, I began thinking about what his life must have been like during the years when I was a kid, in southeastern Pennsylvania, in the 1960s and 1970s.

At the time, I was reading Iron John by Robert Bly and other books about the men’s movement, and I was searching for my own understanding of what it meant to be a man. I was also reading How to Make an American Quilt by Whitney Otto, and I liked the way she constructed interconnected stories-- like pieces of a patchwork quilt-- that added up to something larger.

I didn’t really understand the stories I wanted to tell until I read about an event in Hallandale, Florida, the town next door to where I lived. Every year at Halloween a group of local men, all anonymous, decorated an outhouse with political slogans and delivered it to City Hall. A festival had grown up around the event.

I transported that event to a little town called Stewart’s Crossing, in Bucks County, PA. It’s very much like Yardley, the town where I grew up. And the men in the story are a lot like the men I saw around me-- working guys with a commitment to family and community.

As a multi-published author, what advice do you have for those just beginning a career as a writer?
Write what you like to read. I have always loved mysteries and romance novels, and now I write both. Read and analyze what’s being published today. Who are the publishers? What formats are they publishing? What can you figure out from what you read about structure, character, pacing and the right amount of sex to put in?

Tell the readers about your backlist.

I jumped into publishing with a mystery series, about an openly gay homicide detective in Honolulu. The Mahu series is still going strong-- the sixth book, Mahu Blood, is due out in March from MLR Press. I also love writing my South Beach romances-- (MLR), The Guardian Angel of South Beach, and Mi Amor, which is due out in early 2011 from Loose Id. And of course I really enjoy writing my Have Body, Will Guard series -- Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, Dancing with the Tide and Teach Me Tonight (2011) -- about a pair of partners in love and business who are professional bodyguards in Tunisia. That’s the sexiest series, and it’s a lot of fun. I’m thrilled that Loose Id -- and my fans-- like the series as much as I do.

What are you working on now?
Earlier this year, I published a golden retriever mystery, In Dog We Trust, for the Kindle & other e-readers. Fans have liked it so much I’m working on another Steve and Rochester mystery right now.

Do you have an evil day job, if so, how do you find time to write?
I have one of the best day jobs for a writer-- I’m a college English professor. I work with words and writing all day, and that keeps me energized and excited about my own work. I stop at Starbucks every morning on my way to school and write for at least an hour-- more on weekends, when my partner & dog don’t keep me too busy.

What is your creative process?
It’s a lot like automatic writing. I’ve gotten my brain trained so that as soon as my butt hits that wooden chair at Starbucks, it’s time to write. My subconscious is always thinking about my stories, so when I sit down there’s usually something there waiting to come out. I don’t outline or plot too much in advance; I feel like I’m telling myself the story as I write and I don’t want to spoil the ending! Once I know what happens I’m less motivated to do the work of putting the story down on paper.

It’s December again! I can’t believe Christmas is upon us all ready. What are your holiday plans?
Writing! One of the best things about teaching is the long vacations. I’ll have nearly four weeks off to write, write, write!

Eggnog? With or without rum?
Eggnog has to have rum!

What would be the perfect Christmas gift for you?
My partner gives me terrific gifts. One of my favorites is the Kindle 2 he gave me a couple of years ago. I have become a real convert to e-readers, both reading on them and publishing for them. Maybe this year I’ll get a Starbucks card to support both my habits-- writing and caffeine!

If you get that, will you share with me? lol Thank you so much for being here. Before we go, can we get a juicy excerpt from The Outhouse Gang?
Here you go. This is the very beginning of the book.

Excerpt from The Outhouse Gang:
Chuck Ritter finished his cereal and pushed the bowl away as the cuckoo clock in the living room chirped seven times. Shards of June sunshine pushed through the Venetian blinds and slatted the linoleum floor. His wife Susanna put two pieces of toast on a plate and carried it over to the table, where she sat down across from him. “You’re going to think about the Stock Club today, aren’t you?” she asked.

He shrugged. “If I get a chance.” He managed his father’s hardware store on Main Street near the traffic light in the center of Stewart’s Crossing, Pennsylvania. He was short and stocky and during the day he wore a canvas apron over his plaid shirt and jeans. Stray nails, twist-ties, plastic bags, washers and odd pieces of paper always ended up in the pockets of his apron. He’d take it off at the end of the day, puzzled by how much he had accumulated.

It was like that with his marriage, too. He looked at Susanna in her cloth housecoat that was just like the one her mother wore. She hadn’t combed her hair yet that morning, and the static electricity in it kept the thin hairs stuck together. He wondered how they had come this far, eleven years into a marriage, two kids and two cars between them.

“When we were sixteen years old and I kissed you for the first time,” he asked, “did you ever think we’d end up this way?”

“We were fifteen when you kissed me for the first time,” Susanna said. She bit into a slice of toast.

“No. We were sixteen. It was at Louise Walsh’s party.”

“Her sweet sixteen party,” Susanna said, wiping her mouth with a paper napkin.

“It was July.”

Chuck had a sudden longing for those days, when he was young and free and the world was full of possibility. Susanna had been his high-school sweetheart, the only girl he had loved or made love to, the reason why he had stayed in Stewart’s Crossing. Most of the guys he had grown up with left town for college, and stayed in those college towns, or moved to the big city with their degrees. Or else they’d just wandered off, to other cities, other states, or other suburbs newer and fresher than their home town.

As he put his bowl in the sink and ran water in it, he heard the high-pitched groan of the school bus slowing to a stop at the end of the block. “Kids! The bus!” he called.

Ten-year-old Bruce skidded around the corner into the kitchen first, barely stopping to pick up his lunch bag and run for the door. Lisa, six, was right behind him, stopping to kiss her mother good-bye and grab her own lunch. “Bruce! Wait up!” she cried, darting through the door and letting the screen bang behind her.

Chuck stood up and watched his children fly down the driveway and jump in through the open door of the school bus. Then he turned back to where his brown-bagged lunch was the only one left on the counter. “I’m going.”

“Promise to think about the Stock Club,” Susanna said.

“Promise.” He kissed Susanna good-bye and walked out to the garage, carrying his lunch.

At heart he was still the same kid who’d dished out nails and measured lumber since he was fourteen. Back then he’d never thought he’d spend his whole life in the same small town. He had his sights set on the larger world. He was sure some train would pass through town and drag him along behind it, watching the tracks fade behind him and Stewart’s Crossing disappear in a haze of summer heat and engine fumes.

But he’d ached for Susanna. That passionate churning in his groin and the pit of his stomach had won out over any desire to leave. He’d gone to work for his father and married Susanna one Sunday at St. Jude’s, the Methodist church on Station Avenue. The railroad lines ran just behind the chapel; during the service the train whistle had blown, loud and strong, just before he took his vows.

He got into his pickup and drove the few minutes down into the center of town, puzzling over the way he felt. On the seat next to him was a Reading Railroad schedule to Philadelphia, and he stared at it for a minute, wondering where it had come from. Then he remembered. A few days before he’d left the shop on a break and walked down to the station at the north end of town. He’d stood there for a while, watching the tracks, not knowing just what he was waiting for, before he’d picked up the schedule and walked back to the store. He wondered now, as he drove down into town, if he had settled for life, rather than going out and grabbing it. Was he getting old, sinking into the sludge of life without ever making a stab at getting out?

He admired men like his friend Sandy Lord, who was an attorney. He’d gone to college, and law school, too, and gone out into the world to find his life. He had chosen to come to Stewart’s Crossing, rather than inheriting it as a birthright. Somehow Chuck thought that was a better way to find your place in life, but he wasn’t sure why.

It was a slow morning at the hardware store. Kids were still in school, crops were already planted; the town was in a holding pattern, waiting for the slow inexorable change of the seasons. Every day got longer, lazier. A fine haze of dust rose and then hung in the air when a customer dropped a half-dozen copper elbows on the counter. Throughout the morning, Chuck mused about Sandy’s life and his own, wondering how things might be different if he left Susanna, gave up the store, moved someplace else.

Just after noon, Sandy walked into the back office where Chuck was sitting, eating his lunch. Sandy’s wife Helene was the bookkeeper at the lumber yard on Mill Street, near the river, where Susanna was the boss’s secretary, and the men had originally met through their wives. With a deep sigh, Sandy settled into an old wooden chair and put his feet up on Chuck’s desk. The Lords lived in the middle of a tract of suburban homes, in a big Revolutionary War farmhouse that was falling apart. Sandy was a regular customer at the hardware store, asking Chuck for advice about blocked downspouts, chipped bricks, and buckling floors.

They talked for a few minutes about the onrush of summer, and about Pope John XXIII, who had just died the day before.

“Did Helene tell you about this idea she and Susanna cooked up?” Chuck asked finally, in between bites of the chicken salad sandwich Susanna had made for him on white toast.

“You mean this Stock Club thing?”

Chuck nodded. “Sounds like a bunch of crap.”

“I don’t know,” Sandy said. He wore a pair of round glasses framed by thin gold wire, and he had a habit of pulling them down on his nose when he was serious. “I know Helene and I could use a little extra money.”

“Hell, who couldn’t?” Chuck said. He was already wondering where the money was going to come from for new sneakers for Bruce, who seemed to grow an inch every time his father’s back was turned, for clothes and toys and maybe a color TV to replace the old black-and-white in the living room. He had a momentary flash of life in an apartment in some strange city, every dollar in his pocket his own to spend as he pleased.

“It might be worth it to look into the stock market.”

Chuck shook his head. “I was never much good with numbers.”

Sandy put his feet down and sat up straight. “And yet I’ve seen you rattle off ten different sizes of adjustable wrenches and the kinds of bolts that match each one. You remember that because you want to.” Chuck finished his sandwich, crumpled the wrapper, and tossed it into the trash can across the room.

“Two points,” Sandy said.

“So you think we ought to do it?” Chuck asked. He was wary of the club; it might be just another rope tying him down to Stewart’s Crossing, to his wife and family, to a life that didn’t seem to suit him any more. It might also cost him what little he’d saved. But it was change, too, and change was good, or at least seemed like it might be.

“Give it a try,” Sandy said. “What can it hurt?”

Other books from Neil Plakcy:


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pumpkin by Benson Phillip Lott

Title: Pumpkin
Author: Benson Phillip Lott
Release Date: 10/29/10
Publisher: Untreed Reads

Blurb: In order to save its own skin, a devious pumpkin plays an evil mind game with the person who bought it. 

Welcome to Author Offerings, Benson. I’m so pleased you could join me today. What is your book title?

Well, first of all thank you for inviting me. I’m really excited. This is my first interview. To answer your question, my release is a horror short called Pumpkin.

What is Pumpkin all about?

Self deception. I mean, that’s the core of the story. The plot is simply about a demonic pumpkin that tricks the man who purchased it into murdering his own family, basically to save itself from being carved into a Jack-o-latern the night before Halloween.

That sounds kinda creepy. How did you come up with the idea?

I always start with the title. In this case, I was sitting at my computer at three in the morning, wanting to write, but not wanting to work on anything heavy. I also had an urge to submit something that day. So I decided to challenge myself. I would write a story in 2000 words or less and send it out before the day was over. For whatever reason (maybe it had to do with being in early October, Halloween nearing) the word “pumpkin” flashed in my mind. I wrote it out on the screen: Pumpkin by Benson Phillip Lott. The story was finished forty-five minutes later. I submitted it before breakfast to Untreed Reads and here we are.

What's it been like for you since you are just beginning a career as a writer?

I write and read every single day. Even if it’s just a page or two. And, for me, starting with short story submissions, building up a sizeable list of publications has so far been the most logical route. However, there’s nothing wrong with big goals. If you’re an unpublished writer with a full length manuscript that you feel is ready for mass publishing start sending out queries. You never know. That’s the most exciting thing about the whole submitting process: anything can happen!

Have you written any else?

My short story The Road of Things to Come is included in JournalStone’s First Annual Anthology (now available in print) Warped Words for Twisted Minds a great collection of off-the-wall horror stories that I am extremely grateful to be a part of.

What are you working on now?

I have a full length manuscript being reviewed by several literary agencies and I am adding the finishing touches to my own collection of short stories, including not one, but two sequels to Pumpkin.

Do you have an evil day job, if so, how do you find time to write?

I work part-time for a moving company, but for the most part, almost every waking hour of my day is spent writing or thinking about writing. I’m extremely blessed to be in that situation.

What is your creative process?

Music is my greatest influence. I go for long walks and visualize specific scenes as though I were watching them on screen in my head. The songs I listen to provide the footage with a soundtrack. I realize that sounds kind of “out there,” but hey, it works. At least for me.

What does your family and friends think about you being a published author?

I come from a family of writers. They love it. My friends are very supportive too. Especially those who I turn into characters. I have met some very interesting people in my life, the kind that whole books should be written about. And every time I tell someone I’m a writer, the inevitable questions surfaces: “Can I be in your story?” My answer is almost always: “Sure! Why not?” And it’s true. Why not put someone like Fred, the schizophrenic gas station clerk with no teeth, in a book? Works for me.

It’s December again! I can’t believe Christmas is upon us all ready. What are your holiday plans?
Write. Query. Submit. Try to avoid shopping malls. Write. Query. Submit. Try to remind myself it’s Christmas on the day that it is, in fact, Christmas. Write. Query. Submit. Avoid the temptation to write a nonfiction book titled “The Joy of Hunting Reindeer.” (I’m totally kidding. I love animals. Especially ones with horns and glowing red eyes-um, I mean noses.)

LOL Do you go all out with decorating?

Yes. In fact, at night, I cover my walls with Christmas wrapping  paper and glue pine needles all over my bathroom floor. Sometimes I hide presents under the kitchen sink.

Okay, that made me laugh! Real tree or fake?

My tree is alive. It talks to me J

I have no doubt about that one, Benson! Lots of lights on the house or subdued lighting?

Have you seen National Lampoons? I go full-on Chevy Chase, covering the whole house in X-mas bulbs and pissing off Julia Louise Dreyfuss (recently cast as the uptight neighbor).

Store bought ornaments or do you make your own?

Being serious. I made some when I was little and we use them. Or course, they were all made from some form of dough and there are tiny bite marks in the gingerbread people and little finger marks in Santa’s clay sleigh.

Eggnog? With or without rum?

I’m on Eggnog right now! They say the best writers were smashed on the stuff when constructing their most notable works. Twain was eggnogaholic, I think.

That would totally explain some of his quotes! What would be the perfect Christmas gift for you?

Aside from a four-book deal with Random House? Um, an iPhone 4 that actually works? Or maybe just a year’s supply of Eggnog. Yeah. That works for me.

Thank you so much for being here, Benson, where do you do your stand-up routine? Kidding, sort of. Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?

I’m kidding around a lot, but in all seriousness. I love being a writer. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. If you feel the same way, I suggest you indulge in the activity as often as possible. Like I said before, you never know where it can lead.

And before we go, can we get a juicy excerpt from Pumpkin?

Sure. Here ya go:
Raymond stands in the middle of the kitchen clutching the steel kitchen knife as he stares at the pumpkin on the carving board. Had it really just spoken to him? And how does it know his name?
“I know everything, Raymond,” the pumpkin assures him. “I know about the argument you had last night with Jeanette. I was listening when the two of you were upstairs, hollering at each other in the bedroom. She denied her relationship with the football coach…what is his name again?”
“Stephan,” Raymond whispers, his hands shaking (especially the one with the knife). “Stephan Hughes. He coaches our son….”
The pumpkin has yet to be carved a face and yet, somehow, Raymond can sense the damn thing is smiling. “Ah, yes…your son. Jesse, isn’t it? Such an interesting young man. Are you aware that he is a homosexual, Raymond?”
Raymond boldly steps forward, raising the blade. “That’s not true! You shut up! Who are you, anyway? Why are you speaking to me?”
The pumpkin makes a disapproving sound, something like: tsk-tsk-tsk.
“Raymond, Raymond, Raymond. I’m very disappointed. You should know me by now. We see each other almost every day. Every time you look in the mirror….”
Raymond lowers the knife, shifting his weight to one side. “What the hell are you talking about?”
The pumpkin is silent.