God’s Body, by Jeff Bowles has one of the most masterfully crafted openings that I have read in a long time. By the beginning of the second paragraph, he had placed me in the setting, I knew this was like no other story I had ever read, and I was hooked, which is what a great opening should do. It impressed me so, that I asked the author’s permission to reprint it here.
“The toe was an ungodly mountain of flesh. As massive as it was inexplicable. It clung to the Earth like a bulbous pink tumor. Enormous, all-encompassing, the height of a skyscraper, the breadth of Niagara Falls. Rain water washed through its thick patchwork of crevasses and cracks. Long vertical rivers lapped at skin-cell canyon walls. There were flesh creeks and tidal waves. The toenail itself was the hanging shelf of the world.
Then Harold looked higher and saw the rest. Lord God Almighty…”
You just can’t read this and not want to know more. It’s obvious this isn’t going to be your average, everyday story, and you must read on in anticipation of what will come next. It’s clear this will be a story of epic proportions, and Bowels does not disappoint. God’s Body is an Armageddon story like no other; a post apocalyptic tale of good vs. evil in the best of pulp fantasy traditions, if such traditions existed. Bowles pulls out all the stops, using humor, irony and contemplation of the human condition to tell his tale with skill and craftsmanship. Everything about this story is of epic scale.
I’m not going to give you a rundown of this story line because the whole thing was such an entertaining read that I wouldn’t want to give out any spoilers, but what I will tell you is that in addition to the wonderful writing talent of Bowles, the artistic craftsmanship of Writer’s of the Future illustrator Pat R. Steiner accompanies this story with some truly awesome illustrations like the one seen here.
A truly original story that puts a new twist to an age-old theme. Written with skill and talent in a literary work of true craftsmanship, God’s Body is like nothing else you’ve ever read. I give it five epic quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I have the pleasure of conversing with a pleasant guest today, whose love of life shines in his eyes and his smile, author Quintin Peterson. A talented author, whose work keeps classic craft alive in modern times. He writes pulp and crime fiction in many variations, throwing new twists on the classic styles. I can’t wait for you to meet him. So, without further adeau, let’s find out what Quintin Peterson has to share.
Kaye: Tell me about your author’s journey. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you make that dream a reality?
Quintin: I began entertaining my friends and family by telling them amazing stories long before I started writing them. I obtained my first copyright when I was 13. While in high school, I was awarded a National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award, the University of Wisconsin’s Science Fiction Writing Award, and the Wisconsin Junior Academy’s Writing Achievement Award. When I was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, I wrote and performed in two stage plays and received a Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation grant for my play project, Change. I also received a National Endowment for the Arts creative writing fellowship, for playwriting.
Kaye: What is your favorite thing about writing crime fiction?
Quintin: I gave up creative writing and pursued a 30-year career in law enforcement. I rarely found justice during all the years I worked as a police officer for the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. I suppose it is the reason why writing crime fiction is my dominant obsession: I find justice in my stories.
Kaye: You’ve had both short fiction and novel length works published? Which do you prefer writing? Why?
Quintin: It’s a toss-up, really. I like writing short stories for magazines and anthologies because of the word count limits, but I also like not being constrained by a word count limit for longer fiction.
Kaye: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing short fiction?
Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing short fiction is doing more with less. Writing short fiction for magazines and anthologies also afford me opportunities to experiment with genre-blending. For example, I’ve sold a cop/ghost story, a horror/mystery/noir thriller, science fiction/noir mysteries, and an Arthurian police story.
Kaye: What is the most challenging thing about writing novel length works?
Quintin: The most challenging thing about writing novel length fiction is avoiding the pitfall of being too wordy and doing less with more.
Kaye: Pulp fiction, maybe even more than other genres, must have well developed, larger than life characters. How do your characters develop for you?
Quintin: I create backstories for my characters so that I know them in order to make them seem real, and then pit them against each other in what I endeavor to make compelling stories.
Kaye: Which of your main characters is your favorite? Why?
Quintin: I have two favorite characters: Norman Blalock and Luther Kane, who are cousins and appear in each other’s stories. I like Blalock because people underestimate him. I like Kane because he is a man of action.
Kaye: Your story “Broken Doll” just came out in Awesome Tales #10. That story is a part of your Private Eye Luther Kane Mystery Series. Would you tell me a little about who Luther Kane is and what makes him a great pulp hero?
Quintin: Luther Kane is a former DC police officer, as well as a former soldier and soldier of fortune who is maimed by a landmine. The loss of his legs does not prevent him from operating upon the same principles he adhered to when he was whole. He rises from his own ashes and walks again on state-of-the-art bionic legs, a miracle of modern science. At the suggestion of his physical therapist Claire Bradley, who taught him to walk again, he takes over his late father’s business, the Intrepid Detective Agency, located atop the other family business he inherited, the Last Stop Liquor Store.
Kaye: The Voynich Gambit is book two in your Norman Blalock Mystery Series and it won the Literary Titan Book Award. Tell me a little about that series. Who is Norman Blalock, and what makes him a great pulp hero?
Quintin: In these old-fashioned heist stories, Norman Blalock is a disgraced Howard University history professor who has been working as a special police officer for the Folger Shakespeare Library for decades. No one at the library knows his background and only see him as “an old black security guard.” The first Norman Blalock Mystery is Guarding Shakespeare, followed by The Voynich Gambit. The upcoming third installment is The Shakespeare Redemption. (By the way: I worked at the Folger Shakespeare Library for almost seven years, beginning the same year I retired from the police department, and penned the first two installments while I was employed there.)
Kaye: Who is your favorite villain? Why?
Quintin: Kavitha Netram, the femme fatale Norman Blalock matches wits with in both Guarding Shakespeare and The Voynich Gambit. She returns in The Shakespeare Redemption. She is smart, sexy, and ruthless.
Kaye: What are you working on now? What can readers expect in the future from Quintin Peterson?
Quintin: Right now, I am working on The Shakespeare Redemption. I will continue to write more installments of the Norman Blalock and the Private Eye Luther Kane mysteries, as well as other noir stories. I also plan to write more science fiction and horror thrillers.
Thanks for having me, Kaye. It’s been a pleasure.
I want to thank Quintin Peterson for sharing with me. It’s been enlightening for me and I hope it has for all of you readers, too. You can find out more about Quintin and his books at the links below. (Be sure to visit his Amazon page. You’ll find a large selection of books and short fiction in a wide range of variations upon the genre. Pulp and crime fiction fans may call it a gold mine. Those unfamiliar with the genre should check it out. It’s a fun genre. )
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Today I have the pleasure of interviewing an old hand in the writing and publishing business, author Tom Johnson. Tom has written stories from a young age. He has been publishing his writing for more than twenty-two years and has over eighty books in publication. He grew up reading comic books and pulp fiction, becoming a collector in adulthood and his stories reflect the fascination that those books held for him. He has also written numerous nonfiction books and is currently involved in writing children’s stories. Please help me welcome Tom Johnson.
Kaye: Hi Tom. Although in the past, you’ve written and published many different genres, you are currently writing only children’s stories. So, let’s talk about that. Tell me a little about your stories.
Tom: My children stories are about 1k and meant as bedtime tales, and to be read in classroom or library settings. They are short stories with little morals to teach children something about life.
Kaye: Are they a series or stand alone?
Tom: They are a series, and published in anthologies about once a year. There have been four anthologies so far. I was invited to participate beginning in volume #3. The anthology is called Wire Dog Storybook. Here is the background. True story. A young girl, Ellen Walters, asked her father, David Walters, if she could have a dog, and he said, “No.” So she found an old wire hanger and shaped it to resemble a dog, and called it wire dog. David Walters was fascinated by her ingenuity and created the Wire Dog Storybooks. So the stories usually feature Ellen and Wire Dog, but always Wire Dog. Five of my stories have been published so far, and I’ve written three more for the 2018 yearbook when it comes out at the end of the year.
Kaye: What age group are they aimed at?
Tom: I feel that we should begin reading to our children by age one. With that in mind, my stories are aimed at the age group of 1 to 5. However, older children will enjoy the stories, as do adults.
To get a better idea of what Tom’s children’s stories are like, you can get a free copy of one here. They are short and can be read in only a few minutes.: Wire Dog Has An Ugly Mood Day – Or The House of 1000 Mirrors https://wiredogstories.com/2016/01/19/story-40-wire-dog-has-an-ugly-mood-day/
Kaye: What differences do you see between writing for children and writing adult fiction?
Tom: Adult fiction usually means, “no holds barred”, while writing children stories you want to stay away from violence, horror, and adult themes. Keep in mind, young children absorb what they hear quickly, and some themes could have an adverse effect on young minds. When writing for children we must keep this in mind.
Kaye: What appeals to you about writing for children?
Tom: Do you remember the old radio show for kids, Let’s Pretend ? It produced shows for children that acted out fairy tales and light adventures – nothing as harsh as today’s cartoons that are aimed at our youth. Well, I have the chance to import my love for adventure in tales easily understood by young people; children who some day may also experience that same love to pass on to their children. Stories that give our children a moral to live by, not “It’s clobbering time!” Or Pow! Bang! Boom! It’s something my mother did for me when I was little, and now I have the same opportunity, and I’m not going to pass it up.
You can get the Wire Dog books here:
Kaye: You have wanted to write for children since you were little and your mother used to read to you.
Tom: Oh, yes. I hope that mothers are still reading to their children. They learn at such a young age, and we’re missing an opportunity if we fail them when they’re young. They will never forget what they learn as children, it’s when their minds are growing and grasping at everything. I think one of the first words they learn is, “Why?”
Kaye: What were your favorite children’s stories?
Tom: Really, I would have to look them up in the book of fairy tales on my shelf. There were so many she read to me. Knights saving young damsels come to mind. I remember one particular fairy tale where the princess was on a glass mountain, and the young knight had to save her. She watched each day as a knight riding brown horse attempts to scale the glass mountain, then a knight on a white horse, and so on, until the final day when a knight riding a great steed scales the mountain, and we find out that he was the knight on the brown horse, the white horse, etc. It wasn’t the color of the horse, but the persistence of the knight that finally achieved the goal.
Kaye: In what ways do the stories you write emulate those favorites from your childhood?
Tom: Like the fairy tale I mentioned above, my stories will also have a similar moral – it’s not the color of the horse, or the knight’s armor, but his persistence that wins the hand of the princess. Do the right thing, for the right reason. Persevere. If you don’t succeed today, try and try again.
Kaye: You have written since you were a young man, for fifty some years, and you had your own small press for many years. Always, your life seems to have writing at the center of it. Looking back on your life, what does writing mean to you?
Tom: I think writing was always an escape to other worlds, other realms, and other dimensions. We could be anyone we wanted, go anywhere we wished, and experience great adventures. We create those worlds and people we want in them, and our heroes and heroines are who we want to be, or the friends we want beside us. We choose those things that mean the most to us. Whether we’re a cowboy or cowgirl, Conan or Xena, we bring the characters to life. That’s what writing means to me, to give life to my characters.
Kaye: How do you see the rise of digital publishing affecting authors of today?
Tom: Publishing has never been easier. When we were publishing the small press magazines, it was hands on. We did every aspect of the business, from reading, approving or rejecting, editing, set up and printing, then mailing to subscribers and bookstores that carried our magazines. Today we have Lulu and Amazon for all that. We just write, they publish. Anyone can be a writer or publisher now.
Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?
Tom: I had a dream one night. A young boy was in the woods dying when a strange being found him and comforted him as he passed. The strange being was an alien and I saw the saucer-shaped craft behind him. When I woke the dream stayed with me. Did the alien kill the boy? Why was the alien there? What was the boy doing in the woods? It wouldn’t let go of me. I wrote What Goes There from that dream. The boy was dying from snakebite and the alien took his pain from him so he could pass more easily. Then I made a mystery with the plot. The story is part of my book, These Alien Skies.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
Tom: When I write, I don’t want to be disturbed. No music, no background noise at all. My work computer is in my bedroom. I close my door from all outside communication, telephone, wife, neighbors, etc. I have to be alone when I write.
Kaye: You’ve written over eighty books in many different genres over the course of your career. Which of your books would you say are your favorites? Why?
Tom: If we’re speaking of my fiction stories I would probably say my favorite is Guns of The Black Ghost, as it is my homage to Walter Gibson and his character The Shadow (remember him). The Shadow was one of my favorite radio dramas as a kid, and I met the creator of the character, Walter Gibson, in the mid-1970s and we were friends until his passing. I always wanted to write a Shadow novel, but copyright protection kept me from it, thus my own character, The Black Ghost came into being.
However, my non-fiction research books are probably my best sellers. I’ve written over half a dozen of them. A lot of work went into them. A lot of reading and studying, and I think it paid off, as fans have all bought the huge books for the data. These are books that don’t get thrown away, but have a special place on their bookshelves.
Kaye: So, tell us a little about your nofiction books. What is the subject matter and how did you come to write them?
Tom: As a pulp collector it was natural for me to become a historian. I had completed runs in many of the lead characters, thus had the opportunity to study the novels for research, identifying authors, plots, etc. At the time I was writing fiction and Introductions for ALTUS PRESS books, and the publisher wanted my research put into books. Some of those series were Secret Agent X Companion, Operator #5 Companion (History of The Purple Wars), The Phantom Detective Companion, The Black Bat Companion, Dan Fowler’s G-Men Companion, and Echoes 30. Several ran for twenty years, and 171 issues. Some not so long, but just as popular to the fan and collectors today. There may be others, my mind is slipping, but these were the big volumes. They covered the complete pulp series of each title. Echoes 30 covered conventions, pulp books, authors, artists, and publishers. All are in demand and have been good sellers.
Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
Tom: I’m a pantser. I never could understand why you needed to write a fifty-page plot outline, just write the darn book. Once the words start flowing you don’t want them to stop. And they will, if you’re outlining.
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a story?
Tom: Characterization. Make your characters come alive. You want readers to connect to them, feel for them, and be drawn to them. The plot will work itself out, but if your characters aren’t real I don’t care how much of a plot you have, it will bomb.
Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
Tom: I don’t know that I would want to be rich and famous. What would be next? I want to always be reaching, always trying to entertain. If I set my goal for rich and famous I might forget about the entertainment and pleasure we get from writing. If I entertain one person, then I am already rich. Besides, we already have money, and fame is fleeting at best.
Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Tom: Write what you know. I’ve read a lot of books where the author is writing about something s/he knows nothing about, and it shows. I know information is at the tip of one’s fingers today, but if you haven’t truly experienced something you will come off as unbelievable if you try to write about the subject.
I want to thank Tom for joining us today on Writing to be Read and offering up some really great answers to my questions. I have really enjoyed having him. If you’d like to learn more about Tom Johnson or his books you can check out his website or his Amazon Author Page.
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