Jason Baird, Author Highlight

It’s been a few weeks; but I think this one is well worth the wait.  I hope you enjoy Jason’s thought-provoking interview as much as I did.

  1. What genres do you enjoy writing?

I write fantasy novels and short stories.  I haven’t attempted to branch out into other genres yet.  The thing I like most about fantasy is that there are very few limits on the writer’s creativity.  If I want to make a character out of a sentient blob of undead goo that understands English, I can do so.  (And I did!)

  1. Tell us about your latest book:

The Darkest Depths is the second novel in my ongoing Rufino Factor series.  My protagonist was betrayed and left for dead at the end of my first book, Leap of Faith, and now finds himself enslaved by the dark magic of an unstable necromancer.  At its core, this is a story of someone hitting rock bottom and then finding the courage to recover from it.

  1. What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration.”

The inspiration for this story came from when I hit rock bottom myself seven years ago.  I dramatized Rufino’s version somewhat, but what he feels is essentially what I felt.

  1. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Rufino Endicott is a vampire who stands three feet tall.  When I first dreamt him up almost fifteen years ago, the initial idea was that it would be fun to have a vampire who couldn’t reach anyone’s neck in order to bite it, but over time he’s become much more to me than simply a gag reel.  His vampirism symbolizes more than one thing in my mind, from the battle against depression to the importance of judging a person for who (s)he is instead of what (s)he is.  By putting a very moral person into the body of an undead monster, I hope to challenge the reader to think beyond stereotypes and prejudices.

  1. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

The title character, Rufino.  No offense to Kiralyn Frostwhisper, who is my other main character and who is virtually identical to me in terms of political alignment, but Rufino is just a ton of fun to write.  I go to sleep at night dreaming up new ways to get him into trouble.

  1. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

I can’t answer that question directly without giving away what’s going to happen later in the series, but I will say that I hate it when evil pretends to be good.  That is the kind of evil that scares me the most, which is why the arch-villain of this series fits that description.

  1. How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved?

Since catacombs are featured heavily in The Darkest Depths, I did a lot of research about the Parisian catacombs for ideas about size, layout, and proper terminology.  Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit them in person.

  1. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

As its title suggests, The Darkest Depths is a very dark tale, but it wouldn’t be a Rufino story if it didn’t have a few laughs and ridiculous moments.  Injecting humour without taking away from the seriousness of the story was a very fine line to walk.

  1. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That we’re capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.  When we hit rock-bottom, recovery feels impossible, but the only thing that can actually make it impossible is if we give up.

  1. Which writers inspire you?

E.B. White is the one author whose name always comes to mind first.  His stories were unconventional yet compelling, which is what I hope to achieve with my own.

John Grisham is another.  I enjoy books that explore the legal system and attempt to poke holes in it.  What is progress if not finding fault with the status quo?

  1. What does your writing process look like?

I typically write most of my new content in the afternoons and then edit in the evenings when I’m winding down for sleep.  At the end of each chapter, I’ll go through everything a few times in an effort to make some of the boring language more entertaining.

  1. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

I’m a distractible guy, so when I have access to my internet and my games, I won’t get much done.  When I want to get a lot of writing done, I’ll get into my car and drive to a nice, quiet spot where there’s absolutely nothing I can do except write.  It’s weird, but it works for me.

  1. What are you working on at the minute?

I’m working on the third novel of The Rufino Factor, tentatively entitled Into The Fire.  It is complete, but it needs to be updated with what I’ve learned about storytelling and sentence structure over these past two years, and I expect the update to take a few months.

  1. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

For my two main characters, I went out of my way to select names that I hadn’t seen before.  A few of my supporting characters bear the names of people I know in real life; the rest of my character’s names are just randomly chosen.

  1. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Though I haven’t attempted it yet, I expect that writing a story from the perspective of the opposite sex will be a challenge.  I’m considering writing a short story from Kiralyn’s perspective just so I won’t be a total fish out of water when it comes time to write her novel.

  1. When did you decide to become a writer?

I was sitting in a homeless shelter in 2010 with nothing else to do but to express myself in the only way I knew how.  The snowball’s been rolling downhill ever since.

  1. Why do you write?

I write because it’s the only form of self-expression with which I’m completely comfortable and confident.  Friends and family sometimes tell me that when they read my stories, it’s like they’re meeting me for the first time.

  1. Where do your ideas come from?

Some are just highly dramatized versions of my own experiences.  Some are real-world issues that I want to address in my own way.  Others are simply whatever makes me laugh.

  1. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m very serious about outlines.  I’ve already done basic outlines for my next twelve novels, and I don’t expect them to change much as I reach them.

  1. What is the hardest thing about writing?

Editing.  Writing’s fun—even the narrative can be fun if you do it right.  Editing, however, is gonna make me blind by the time I’m fifty.  Is it a comma or a period with a bit of dirt on the screen?  Ugghh.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stay in school.  Yeesh.  I’m a courier with a 140 IQ.  Drop out and end up like me.

  1. Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Alex Zanardi, a race car driver who lost his legs in a crash yet continues to race and compete.  I admire his unwillingness to quit no matter what.

  1. If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

“A Time to Kill” by John Grisham.  I intend for my books to be thought-provoking, and that’s one of the most thought-provoking novels I can think of.

  1. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never make everyone happy.  Write for yourself.  Someone’s gonna like it.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

In that homeless shelter I mentioned earlier, I learned that everyone has a story and it’s not often what you think.  One was a former CEO who couldn’t handle the stress.  One was an ex-cop.  Several were ordinary guys who got laid off and couldn’t find a new job because they were too old.  Though I wouldn’t recommend the experience of living in a shelter, it did teach me not to be so judgmental of others. Most of the time, we don’t know half of what’s really going on.

  1. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

I’m active on Twitter @joshua_rem and I also have a sadly neglected website: www.joshuarem.com.  I really should update it with the new novel coming out.

  1. Tell the readers something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing.

I support a number of charities including the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.  For recreation, I go to the go-kart track or participate in online racing.  You’d never guess it from my black Prius, but I’ve always enjoyed speed.

  1. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Rejection letters don’t mean your work sucks, they just mean your work isn’t a good fit with the publisher in question.  I was rejected about twenty times before I hit my first “yes”, and such tales are common amongst authors.  Never give up.

Between Dreams by Cynthia Austin

I never thought I would say this:  I really enjoyed reading a romance novel Yes, it has a good boy and a bad boy and a girl who has to choose between the two.  The twist to that made it so enjoyable is the paranormal edge.

There’s more than just a dream gone bad, a bad dream, and a dream lost in this novel.

Author Highlight: K. A. Meng

Do you like romance?  Do you like paranormal?  How about both!

Hello, thank you for having me on your blog. I want to introduce you to my newest book in the world of Superior Species: Superior Species Book 2 Finding Karen. There is a surprise later.

Amazon link: http://getBook.at/SuperiorSpecies2

Superior Species Book 2 Finding Karen Blurb:

Ivory Ames has learned the truth about Los Roshano, New Mexico and the university she attends there, but it isn’t what she expected. Monsters exist. They’ve been running the town in secret to fill their ranks. She vows to keep her friends and herself safe from their evil clutches.

As soon as Ivory makes her pledge, her best friend is missing. The race to find Karen Bakke is on before she is killed or worse.


Book Trailer:


I made you a promise. As part of Superior Species Book 2 Finding Karen release, you can obtain a FREE ebook copy of Superior Species Book 1 on Friday, May 12, 2017: http://getBook.at/SuperiorSpecies

Superior Species:

Ivory Ames has caught the attention of four gorgeous guys. At Los Roshano University this isn’t normal, even when all the upperclassmen have perfect physiques, flawless complexions, and hypnotic looks. That’s not even the weirdest part. The town has a strict sunset curfew because of wild animals attacking.

To keep her friends and herself safe, Ivory must figure out the truth behind the town’s mysteries before it’s too late. 

Meet the Author:

K. A. Meng lives in North Dakota, in the same town she grew up. Her love for the paranormal started at a young age when she saw her first ghost.

Today, she spends her time writing paranormal romance, fantasy, and everything in-between. When life drags her away from it, she hangs out with her son and friends, goes to movies, watches TV, plays board games, walks her dogs, and reads books. She is actively involved in two writing groups and wishes to some day visit Disney World.

Find K.A. Meng:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012856366750&fref=ts

Facebook Like Page: https://www.facebook.com/KAMengAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KAMengAuthor

Blog: https://www.kamengauthor.com/blog

Website: https://www.kamengauthor.com/

My Adventures in Native Gardening

I bought two native plants and potted them both along with some other flowers.  Being on the third floor of a condo, I’m limited to what I can do.  What I really would love is to dig up the seldom- (very seldom) used tennis court and plant an organic vegetable garden.  Someday, the board will see the real benefits of having organic produce, native plants, and (yes, solar paneling).  So today I hope to attract one or two  butterflies to my little patch of the world.

Where There’s Hope, There’s Love

January 21, 2017

I witnessed, experienced, and enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime event:  The Women’s March on Chicago.


All people of everyone ability, socio-economic background, race, faith, and preferences were there.

We were respectful, peaceful, and loving. We were 250,000 strong!

We took over the City!  This is what love can do:

Where there’s love, there’s hope!

Author Spotlight

Debbie De Louise was so gracious as to spotlight me on your website.  Please see what else she’s up to



My First Live Podcast – Speculative Fiction Cantina

I finished my first live podcast with S. Evan Townsend of Speculative Fiction Cantina.   I really, really had a wonderful time.  The time went by so quickly.  So quickly, that I didn’t have time to be nervous.  In fact, I was very relaxed.  I hope you would give the interview a listen.


Or the short link: http://ow.ly/k5g3306NqxW


If you’re an author, perhaps you would like to be one of his guests.

S. Evan Townsend









I was always fascinated how the human mind works.  To that end, I combined cyber punk and my (extremely limited knowledge) of the human mind to create my short story, Synapse.  Please enjoy this teaser . . . .


     “Synapse: The point of junction between two neurons in a neural pathway. The impulse traveling in the first neuron initiates an impulse in the second neuron. They are susceptible to fatigue, offer a resistance to the passage of impulses, and are markedly susceptible to the effects of oxygen deficiency, anesthetics, and other agents, including therapeutic drugs, toxic chemicals, and Synaptic Reflex Control (SRC) under the Synaptic Reflex Test (SRT).”

* * *

     The newly hired technician looked through the window at the woman in the next room and all the leads attached to her arms, legs, chest and head. Once the medicine he gave her started to take hold, she wouldn’t mind the Test so much.

I’ll think about the leads instead of the woman or the Dream Machine. The Dream Machine. No, I won’t think about the Dream Machine in the center of the room and the Test. Damn.

His eyes followed the leads’ connections to Dream Machine’s monitors. Was the woman the perfect Candidate? He didn’t want to think about the woman

When was the doctor going to come in? The Test will start soon and everything will be over. Quickly. I hope.

He stared at the plain, white wall behind the machine. He looked at the two blank monitors: the one in front of him and the then other for the attending doctor. The technician and the doctor would see and hear everything the woman in the Dream Machine would experience in a voyeuristic moment later on the upper half of their monitors in viewing format and in program format on the lower half of their monitors.

Is what I’m doing right? Should I find another job somewhere else? I still have a lot of student loans to pay and, after all, this place is still a

The doctor entered the room, mumbled a quick “hello,” and sat down in front of the other monitor while still reading her tablet. “I’m ready.” and added while still not looking at the technician, “Please start.”

He began keying in the initial commands on his keyboard.

Click. Click-click-click. Clink, click. Click. Click.

The Candidate in the other room could hear someone typing on a keyboard. It must be the leads near her ears. Who cares? Maybe she did. But, why couldn’t she see anything? Her head jerked slightly from quick stinging electrical pulses to her temples then

Everything was black.

Click-click. Click. Click. Click, click-click.

The doctor saw black on the upper half of her monitor. She looked at the lower half of the screen to see what data the technician was inputting and the corresponding running program.

Click-click, click. Click-click. Click. Click, click-click.

The technician glanced at the upper half of his monitor and saw that it was still black. He looked back down at the lower half. Data input and the Test’s program were scrolling. Now the lower half of his monitor read


     The Candidate saw black. The doctor and technician still saw the upper half of their monitors glare black.

Click. Click.

Then the Candidate saw gray. The doctor and technician saw their monitors flick to a gray patch a moment later.

The technician continued to type as the program progressed.

The monitors flicked gray.

Then gray again.

Randa walked up to the doors of The Yellow Bird Night Club.



A Review by Marssie Mencotti of Windy City Reviews

Snowfall’s Secret. Natalie Silk. Solstice Press, August 23, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-book,
268 pages.
Reviewed by Marssie Mencotti.



Snowfall’s Secret by Natalie Silk is a young adult science fiction novel about a young girl from another planet who arrives on Earth with a past that she can’t remember. Snippets of memory rise to her consciousness every now and then, and readers will find themselves rooting for her to put the pieces together to find the sense of home and family that she craves. Natalie Silk dreamt of her protagonist Dahliea when she was just a young girl. Years passed, as did multiple story drafts, as she persisted with her quest. She had to get Dahliea into print.
Snowfall’s Secret is an introduction to a larger story that promises to unfold in subsequent books. This is Ms. Silk’s third book and the second book in the Dahliea series. It is a wonderful read.

The story begins in late summer at Mike and Jennifer’s summer rental, a few days before they are to return to the city for the start of school. We travel with Jamie through the school year until we arrive at the snowfall that begins the dramatic action of the story’s arc. This long introductory style of exposition seems appropriate as the reader is drawn into the heroine’s plight and is fully
vested in her success by the time the action heats up. The title, Snowfall’s Secret, only becomes meaningful later when a ski trip is announced. I found myself waiting for a snowfall on either planet to reveal the secret.

The reader bonds with Dahliea/Jamie right from the start because she is so eager to adapt. Her confusion over where and why she is in this alien place at this particular time are tempered by her innate kindness and trust. She instinctively knows that she must fit into the family that found her.  Her thoughtfulness towards their younger child is particularly endearing. This young heroine is
smart, naturally curious, and brave. Within those epic attributes, Ms. Silk keeps her as natural as possible.

The overall story in Snowfall’s Secret glows with honesty. There are few dramatic tropes to stop the forward progress of the story.  Instead, a refreshingly real child/princess who is an intelligent young woman cautiously assimilates with new friends and a new family. She is allowed to behave as wisely and foolishly as any young girl does. Her decisions about what to wear and who to befriend are so clearly portrayed that the reader is reminded of their own angst trying to pick the “right” outfit and crowd. Ms. Silk gives us all of the youthful fluctuations between excitement and boredom, absolute judgment and fairness, and cluelessness and instinctual savvy, leading us to believe that the planet from which Dahliea comes is not so different from Earth and that the story will be relatable on a social and scientific level.
The author’s skills are apparent as we find out about Dahliea in the gentlest of ways. Ms. Silk unfolds her story like a beautiful flower, petal by petal. We find that there are powerful forces protecting and nurturing Dahliea as she transitions to Earth girl. For her welfare she is renamed Jamie. Nearly every week during this “enforced witness protection program,” she is asked to
complete more difficult tasks, necessitating that she always balance her two realities. We learn about her status, language, and family in flashbacks and with the addition of supporting friends and enemies.

The author gives Dahliea advantages. She has skills that are far more advanced than those explored and understood on Earth. She has a strong mentor and guide in her tutor. Her half brother binds her to an Earthly heritage through their mother—an Earth-born woman. Through her new friends, diverse and unique, she is provided with examples of how to behave and misbehave. But Dahliea is no angel. At the first opportunity to let loose, she carelessly disregards the rules.

The reader sees the first stirrings of a young woman who can be headstrong and spoiled and realizes that he or she does not know all the complexities of Dahliea’s privileged life on the planet S’Renen or why she is being shielded from that past.
Jamie eventually comes to live with her older brother who is unprepared to be a parent. He adapts slowly and is kind and understanding, but he is slipshod in some ways. This arrangement gives her some freedom and enables her to avoid the problems that could arise from a stricter fostering situation.

I found this book extremely enjoyable. It is sure to engage a young adult audience. The plot moved swiftly and logically. Things that were not fully explained were well within the scope of imagination. Prior to the snowfall, the book was real and gently written. After the snow appears, it kicks into high gear and is thrilling. Snowfall’s Secret is endearing, exciting, and well worth reading. Readers will wish they had the next book waiting so that they can continue with Jamie as she uncovers her true destiny.

An Interview with Jack Strandburg, Author


Hi all,  Let me introduce you to Jack Strandburg.  If you need a break from the daily, pick up one of Jack’s books.

  1. What genres do you enjoy writing?

Although my first published novel was a Western Humor, I prefer mystery and suspense, with some paranormal.

  1. Tell us about your latest book:

My latest book is a novella titled The Monogram Killer, a mystery/ paranormal.

  1. What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration.”

The inspiration came while on the treadmill listening to “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seeger. The first two lines of the song are, “She stood there bright as the sun on that California coast

He was a Midwestern boy on his own.” My initial idea was for a man to travel to another place to meet a woman, and brainstorming led me on

various paths to write the story.

  1. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

The main character is the antagonist whose behavior is guided by one of his ancestors, a noted serial killer, who leads him through vivid dreams to follow in his footsteps.

  1. How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved?

I needed to research for the character’s ancestor, who was a real person, but I watched a documentary a few years ago, and was very interested in the history.

  1. What does your writing process look like?

I’m extremely detailed and use a combination of writing software with my own Word and Excel templates developed over a number of years. My background is in IT and I’m always “tinkering” to streamline my process.

Outlining for me is an absolute must, because I’ve experimented with free writing techniques and usually stall at some point. I need to have a blueprint to feel comfortable.

  1. What are you working on at the minute?

I recently signed a contract with Solstice Publishing for A Head in the Game, my first mystery novel, and am awaiting an editor. In the meantime, I also edit for Solstice, and am working on a short story titled A Matter of Honor.

  1. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

I spend time with naming my characters, and also keep track of first and last names to ensure I don’t have too many starting with “J” or “S,” for example. The more significant the character to the story, the more time I spend. I keep a spreadsheet with first and last names I use to name my characters.

  1. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Love scenes are the hardest to write, so I usually limit the word count. I

love writing actions scenes.

  1. When did you decide to become a writer?

I wanted to write since my teenage years, but only since 1990 did I decide I wanted to be published.

  1. Why do you write?

God created people with gifts, talents, and dreams to use those talents. Writing is mine.

  1. Where do your ideas come from?

Web sites, reading, writing, newspapers, TV shows, movies, driving, literally everywhere. For me, it’s simply a matter of looking at a character, setting, or situation and asking, “What if?”

  1. What is the hardest thing about writing?

There are two roadblocks. The first is, since I’m so focused on outlining and answering all the questions, issues, and brainstorming to have the story all laid out nice and neat, I tend to procrastinate before writing actual draft. The second is letting it to and submitting, although as time passes, I’m realizing I don’t have to be as perfect as I think.

  1. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Jack Strandburg

Jack Strandburg was born and raised in Cleveland Ohio.  He is a degreed professional with a background in Accounting and Information Technology and recently retired after more than 33 years working for a Fortune 500 company.  He has been writing since his teenage years.

He self-published an inspirational titled An Appointment With God: One Ordinary Man’s Journey to Faith Through Prayer, by Trafford Publishing.

His first published novel by Solstice Publishin

g is Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid, a parody of the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

His third work, a novella titled The Monogram Killer, published by Solstice Publishing, was released in May, 2016.

He is currently working on a short story titled A Matter of Honor, revising his first mystery novel, A Head in the Game, writing journals for an upcoming inspirational non-fiction book; and completed 70% of a first draft for a second mystery novel titled War Zone.

He is an editor and proofreader for Solstice Publishing.

Jack currently lives with his wife and two grown children, in Sugar Land, Texas. He has three grandchildren.


The best place is my website – https://jstrandburg.wordpress.com/.

  Social Media:

            https://jstrandburg.wordpress.com/ (Author website)

https://jackstr952.wordpress.com/ (Blog)

            https://www.facebook.com/jack.strandburg (Facebook)

            https://www.linkedin.com/in/jack-strandburg-0465a313 (LinkedIn)

            http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00CM9P9L2 (Amazon Author Page)

  Links to buy: Hustle Henry and the Cue-Ball Kid:



  Links to buy: The Monogram Killer: