Friday, December 26, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Caldric Blackwell, Author

Caldric Blackwell, Author
Author Caldric Blackwell conceived his latest children’s book, THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF, as part of a project to help children gain self-confidence, but he’s OK with children just enjoying a story about a six-year old werewolf who can’t howl.  Reviewers say it’s a  “A short story beautifully written for children and teaching them how not to worry.”

Blackwell wrote an earlier story titled The Enchanted River Race, and is currently working on a middle grade series called the Young Alchemist series. The first book in this series, The Missing Alchemist, releases on January 20, 2015 and is available now for pre-orders. 

Blackwell lives in central California and in addition to writing and reading, enjoys hiking, gardening and playing a variety of string instruments.

Q: Why did you write THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF? How did you envision the story? Why did you write a story for children? Are there children in your life who inspired you to write it?

Caldric Blackwell: The idea for THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF came to me a few years ago. At the time, I was doing autism research as an undergraduate student. I was part of a project that sought to improve communication skills in children who have autism. During the project, I saw firsthand how important self-confidence is for children, and I came up with the idea of writing about a six-year-old werewolf who lacks self-confidence.

Q: Reviewers say the main character in THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF actually “speaks” to their four-year-old. How were you able to create a character that 3-6 year olds could relate to?

Caldric Blackwell: I was spending a lot of time with toddlers during the writing process, so I think I had a good understanding of the age group. I also shared the story with young readers while finalizing the manuscript, which really gave me insight as to what does and does not work for that age group.

Q: How relevant is believability to create credibility for this age group? Does it even matter?

Caldric Blackwell: I think the necessity of believability really depends on the specific story, rather than the target audience. Readers respond to both outrageous and realistic stories, if they are done well.

Q: For this age group, how important are the illustrations? Did you conceive the story first followed by the illustrations?

Caldric Blackwell: Because a lot of children in this age group can’t read or are just learning to read, illustrations can help them visualize what the text is saying. For THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF, the story came before the illustrations, but as I was writing each page, I was imagining the illustration that would accompany it.

Q: Did you intend to entertain your young readers and/or deliver a message? Reviewers say there is a “positive underlying message about worry.” Did you want to teach children something about themselves?

Caldric Blackwell: I wrote THE BOY WHO COULDN’T CRY WOLF so that young readers would have the opportunity to learn something as well as be entertained. As I mentioned earlier, I created a character who benefits from believing in himself. If the young reader wants to view that as the take-home message, then great. That said, I’m equally happy if the young reader just wants to enjoy a fun story about a young werewolf and not go any deeper than that.

Q: What do you believe are the most important elements of a children’s story?

Caldric Blackwell: I don’t think there is a set of elements needed to make a good children's story. For instance, kids love B. J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures even though it lacks illustrations. On the flipside, you have Aaron Becker’s Journey, an exceptional children’s book even though it lacks text. At the end of the day, the most important thing is do a good job at whatever approach you decide to take.

Q: Have you written other fiction or non-fiction stories for children and/or adults? What kinds of stories do you like to write?

Caldric Blackwell: I wrote an early chapter book titled The Enchanted River Race, which was published in December 2012. It follows the story of a group of children who race down a magical river on a ship. I like to write stories that stimulate the imagination.

Q: I notice that you’re a musician. Do you believe music can help children to learn, face problems, and/or embrace positive experiences?

Caldric Blackwell: I believe that both listening to music and playing an instrument have many benefits for children. Children’s television shows, such as Sesame Street, certainly recognize this, making songs about everything from saying hello to counting.

Q: What’s next? Will you write more children’s books? Other stories?

Caldric Blackwell: I’m currently working on a middle grade series called the Young Alchemist series. The first book in the series, The Missing Alchemist, comes out January 20, 2015. It’s available for pre-ordering now. I’m excited to share this book with readers because it’s so different from the other books I’ve written.

Q: Tell us about Caldric Blackwell. What do you like to do when you’re not reading or writing?

Caldric Blackwell: As you mentioned earlier, I am a musician. I spend a lot of time learning to play new songs and experimenting with new instruments. I recently got a traditional Chinese instrument called an erhu, and I’ve been working on learning how to play it. I also like to spend time outdoors. I particularly like hiking and rock climbing.

About Caldric Blackwell

Caldric Blackwell realized he loved reading when he read about a bunch of people (with single-syllable names) and their pets (also with single-syllable names) in kindergarten.

Exposure to a host of great authors while studying at the University of California, Santa Barbara inspired him to begin writing fiction. Although he began writing short stories for adults, he eventually migrated to writing children's books. His debut work is an early chapter book titled The Enchanted River Race. His next release is a picture book, The Boy Who Couldn't Cry Wolf.

Outside of writing, Caldric enjoys hiking, gardening, and playing a variety of string instruments. Caldric currently resides in California.

Six-year-old Byron Woodward is a werewolf who can’t howl. Determined not to embarrass himself after being chosen to lead a full-moon ceremony, he embarks on a mission to learn how to howl. He learns a lot about howling during his journey, but more importantly, he learns a valuable lesson about believing in himself.



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Thursday, December 18, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: S. M. Freedman, Author

S.M. Freedman, Author
Reviewers praise THE FAITHFUL from S. M. Freedman as anengrossing and original bit of fiction” and a “very unordinary book. Good unordinary.” It involves an agent and his search for missing children with psychic abilities. An Amazon best-seller in the U.S. and U.K., it was also a quarter finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

A former private investigator and business owner, S. M. Freedman now lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children, and a large yellow cat. (I have one of those, too!) She also studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, but she says writing is her true love. She is currently working on the sequel to THE FAITHFUL and plans to release it in the first half of 2015.

Q: Reviewers of THE FAITHFUL tout the vastness of your imagination and even wonder “How far was she going to push the limits of her imagination?” How did you envision your “supernatural/suspense/thriller/mystery,” which has been described as “something for everyone… mystery… SciFi…romance… heartbreak… thrills?” What inspired your story?

S. M. Freedman: The initial inspiration for THE FAITHFUL came from the meteorite that exploded above Russia in February 2013. I started to research NASA’s Spaceguard program, which is charged with finding Near Earth Objects (or NEO’s) before they impact the earth. My main character became a meteorite hunter, working for Spaceguard at their facility on the White Sands Missile Range. From there it grew to encompass an FBI agent obsessed with the kidnapping of hundreds of psychic children, and a twisted organization bent on Armageddon. How it actually ended up there is strange magic I just can’t explain.

Q: Reviewers also appreciated your characters as “vivid” and “real people with deep emotions, foibles, and unexpected humor.” What makes a “real” character?

S. M. Freedman: Flaws, and lots of them. Each of my characters began as an extension of me, whether it was my sass and love of junk food (Ryanne), my determination and ethics (Josh), or my totally inappropriate sense of humor (Sumner). But at some point, each of them took on a life of their own, much to my horror and delight. I think that’s when they became real.

Q: How helpful is humor to engaging readers and telling your story?

S. M. Freedman: If characters are the meat of your word stew, action and pacing the vegetables, and vivid imagery the broth that melds it all together, you’re still missing something without humor. Humor is the salt that enhances all the other flavors. Without it, the story is pretty bland.  

Q: How relevant is the concept of villains-versus-heroes to telling your story? What are the characteristics of an effective villain? Do you need a villain to produce a hero?

S. M. Freedman: Without a doubt, THE FAITHFUL is a classic good versus evil tale. But the truth is so much muddier than that. The best villains have redeeming qualities; the best heroes have major flaws. In any given circumstance, a hero can become a villain, and the worst villain can become a hero. It’s what makes them human, and relatable.

Q: Several reviewers were impressed with your technical knowledge claiming it “makes it look very realistic and believable.” How relevant is back-story to creating credibility? Is credibility important to engaging readers? How else did you deliver believability?

S. M. Freedman: I’m an obsessive researcher. The settings in THE FAITHFUL are real, right down to the gas stations, hotels and restaurants. For me, it helped to ground the fantastical parts of the story in that kind of reality. Even the locals don’t seem to know that the Spaceguard facility actually exists on the White Sands Missile Range (although I took some creative license and put it closer to Las Cruces, it’s actually near Socorro). To be fair, it is hard to find, and men with big guns will try to stop you if you try. Trust me on this one.  

Q: Why did you choose to write the story from various points-of-view? How helpful was this approach to telling the story?

S. M. Freedman: I honestly couldn’t tell this big a story if I’d stayed in one person’s head. And it’s fun to let readers in on secrets that other characters don’t know.

Q: Reviewers say THE FAITHFUL is “thought-provoking.” Did you write it to tell an entertaining story? To deliver a message? To educate? To make readers think?

S. M. Freedman: I wish I could pretend I was intellectual enough to have a message, but honestly, I just wanted to write a good story.

Q:  What’s next?

S. M. Freedman: I’m working on the sequel to THE FAITHFUL. If all goes well it should be available sometime in the first half of 2015.

Q: Tell us about S.M. Freedman. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

S. M. Freedman: I’m a former private investigator turned author. Mom of two, wife of one, and ruled by one giant orange cat. Seriously, don’t anger the cat.

When I’m not writing, I’m cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, helping with homework, chauffeuring, and appeasing the cat.

About S. M. Freedman

S.M. Freedman is a top-ranked Amazon author in the Mystery, Thriller and Suspense
categories, and a member of the WorldWiseWriters group. She lives in Vancouver with her husband, two children and a giant orange cat.

She studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, and spent years as a private investigator and business owner.

Inspired by authors of many different genres (favorites include Sue Grafton, Diana
Gabaldon, Jodi Picoult, Stephen King, Justin Cronin, Suzanne Collins and Lawrence Hill, to name a few) she eventually turned back to her first love: writing.

THE FAITHFUL, a paperback and kindle Amazon Bestseller in both the US and the UK, and a Quarter Finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, is her debut novel. She's currently working on the sequel.

For Agent Josh Metcalf, memories are ghosts. They are blood-soaked backpacks and the smell of strawberry Chap Stick. Josh is haunted by a little girl who went missing his first summer on the force. Decades later his search has become an obsession, and he's pinned the photos of hundreds of missing children to his wall of tears. All the children had psychic abilities. All the cases went cold -- with no witnesses, no useful tips, and no children ever recovered. Until a woman gets injured trying to stop an abduction, and Josh comes face to face with his personal ghost.

For Rowan Wilson, a meteorite hunter for NASA's Spaceguard program, memories are lies. The childhood she thought she knew has been erased, leaving a black hole in its place. New recollections are flaring to life: men dressed like priests, a ranch in the mountains, mind control, and rape. Each new memory draws her closer to one of the other missing children, Sumner Macey; and to I Fidele, the underground organization for whom kidnapping is just the beginning.

For Sumner, memories have become weapons. He's sharpened each of his with surgical precision: the ranch, the doctrine, the mind-wash, and the murders. He's eager to slice at the black sludge pumping through I Fidele's heart, desperate to cripple those who stole his childhood.

To I Fidele, non-psychics are cockroaches in need of extermination, an inferior species destroying the earth. They're ready to enforce eugenics on a global scale. If they succeed, only those faithful to their doctrine will survive. Crossing several genres, THE FAITHFUL will appeal to anyone who enjoys supernatural mysteries; high-tech, edge-of-your-seat suspense flavored with paranormal elements; thrillers involving psychics, occult and high stakes action/adventure; tied up with a depth and humor usually reserved for works of literary fiction.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Darryl Olsen, SciFi Author

“Filled with page after page of adventure, chaos and profound action.” That’s how reviewers describe Darryl Olsen’s science fiction novel PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS. In the following interview, Olsen explains why his story is “not a predictable story line,” why it’s full of action, and why he chose Egyptian archaeological digs and Wyoming mountains as settings.

Olsen currently lives in Sydney, Australia where he loves to drive his jeep out to the State Forrest or race his race horses all over Australia. Olsen has also written PURGATORY SOLDIERS OF MISFORTUNE and CHILDREN OF THE GODS. He is currently working on a novella to follow CHILDREN OF THE GODS to be released early in 2015; and will then complete the Purgatory Series with “Purgatory Origins, Men in Black.”

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity following his interview.

Q: Reviewers applaud the originality of your plot for PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS and claim it’s “not a predictable story line” and integrates history with science fiction. How did you conceive or envision this unique plot?

Darryl Olsen: You’re right about PURGATORY ORIGINS having a “not predictable story line”, I wanted to devise an ending that the reader could finish, but still make them think about for days after the read. About 18 months ago I started devising a time travelling science fiction piece with a basic storyline which flows from the first book titled Purgatory, Soldiers of Misfortune. But with only a few months left I ended up changing Purgatory Origins to a prequel rather than a sequel. This process enables me to create a stand alone piece which subsequently introduced new characters and scenes to the Purgatory Series.

Q: Reviewer after reviewer talks about the “nonstop action” of PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS with its “relentless passion for adventure” and a “story [that] jumps and dives and turns over but never falls to the ground.” How do you create this pace? And how do you give your readers a chance to breathe? Or, do you?

Darryl Olsen: You can breathe after you stop reading. haha. Yeah I admit the book has a lot of action, but it’s done in such away that it still holds up as a good read. My passion in reading and writing has always been action. That’s probably the reason I joined the military when I left school.

Q: You integrate history into your story. Did this require research? How relevant is historical accuracy to your story?

Darryl Olsen: To give myself a basic understanding of WW2 bombers and refuelling trucks I did find myself researching mainly through the internet and Google, but I did visit the War Memorial in Canberra ACT for some pictures. This knowledge gave me a basic understanding of the times, but the story itself doesn’t dive into the world of specifications of those machines.

Q: How significant is credibility to engaging your readers? If it’s important, how do you achieve believability? Or is it not a key issue for a “time-traveling sci-fi saga?”

Darryl Olsen: Your main role as an author is to engage the reader. The best way to engage the reader is to grab their attention in the first few chapters. The best way to grab their attention is to give them characters they believe and follow. Once you give the storyline good strong characters, you can put those same characters in situations like time travel and horror. This process makes the characters believable. But your base is always the welfare of those characters, make them believable but bend the world around them. 
Q: Why do readers care about your “well-formed” characters? How do you create characters in your world? Do you base them on people in the real world?

Darryl Olsen: The main characters are a mix of people I know and have read about, but they are not specific to any one person. I like mixing my characters up for each story, I’ll create characters I love and follow, then I’ll throw in those which make you dislike and cringe. Its like working for large companies, you are all there for the same result, but you don’t necessarily get along with everyone.  

Q: How helpful is setting (in Egyptian archaeological digs and Wyoming mountains) to telling your story?

Darryl Olsen: Those locations I picked suit those scenarios in the story the best. I looked at so many rural suburbs when researching my book and finally settled on Wyoming as my rural retreat. It offered that unique laidback lifestyle with a dense forest nearby. I also couldn’t pass on the opportunity to mention the archaeological dig sites around Egypt, it was an area that everyone would recognise and affiliate with ancient history.  
Q: Whenever Nazis occur in a book, I ponder why and how they existed to do the inhuman things they did. Did you intend to deliver a message or did you write the story strictly to entertain?

Darryl Olsen: The reason I chose the Nazis was for the fact I needed a group desperate enough and willing to sell their soul in a last minute effort to win a losing war. This is the reason I send the Nazis to Purgatory as they plan on bringing back secrets, which they can later transform into deadly weapons.

Q: You tend to appreciate and enjoy horror or exploring the “what if” of horrific characters and events. Do you see “life” this way? Or do you – like Stephen King – just appreciate a good horror story? What else do you like to read besides science fiction and horror?

Darryl Olsen: I do love a good horror story, but I also wanted the reader to think about the scenario where they themselves are one of the main characters. I love everything action, so if it’s a good read, coupled with heaps of action chances are I have probably read it. My favourite read is a story about the British SAS titled Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNAB.

Q: What’s next?

Darryl Olsen: I’m in the process of writing a short novella, which will follow from CHILDREN OF THE GODS. This should be released early next year. I will then complete the Purgatory Series with the next instalment titled Purgatory Origins, Men in Black.

Q: Tell us about Darryl Olsen. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Darryl Olsen: I live in Sydney Australia. I love taking my Jeep out in the State Forest. I also love football and motor sport. I own a number of racehorses that race all around Australia but that’s another story in itself. I’m a massive film junkie and read at least one book every fortnight.

About Darryl Olsen

Darryl Olsen is a Sydney based author of titles including PURGATORY SOLDIERS OFMISFORTUNE, CHILDREN OF THE GODS, and PURGATORY ORIGINS: POWERS OF DARKNESS. Darryl was first introduced to the world of fiction whilst schooling on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. After a short period of school Darryl Olsen found his true calling in life as he enlisted in the Australian Army.

For more information about Darryl and his upcoming books please go to or you can contact him on


Australian sci-fi author Olsen continues his Purgatory series, knitting together a disparate menagerie of time-travelling Nazis, escaped serial killers, dog-headed monsters and Corsican gangsters in a far-out tale that reads like a mash up of Raiders of the Lost Ark and 24. 

When Professor Harrison Standish, a bookish young archaeologist inadvertently stumbles upon an ancient burial chamber in Egypt, he is baffled to find symbolism inside that would appear to date from two different historical periods, thousands of years apart. Suspecting the tomb had been tampered with at some point in the distant past, Professor Standish soon discovers the skeletons of ten half-human/half-canine creatures lying in a far corner of the chamber and his initial bafflement now turns to shock. What kind of ancient madman would be conducting such a horrific experiment?

As Dr. Standish endeavors to explain this mystery over the ensuing days, he happens upon a news report, suggesting that these same grotesque, half-human/half-canine creatures have come to life in the remote mountains of Wyoming and he is immediately on the next flight. By the time he arrives in Wyoming, a World War II Nazi bomber has materialized out of the sky and crashed off the coast of France and a Nazi general named Schmitz has stumbled into the 21st century, leaving behind evidence of his presence in Professor Standish's ancient burial chamber back in Egypt, all of which sets the stage for a rollicking, nonstop, modern day fantasy/sci-fi adventure.

The cast of characters in Purgatory: Origins includes Rachael, a pesky, auburn haired New York magazine correspondent, who is known equally for her ability to sink her teeth into a story and her unwillingness to let it go, Jason Kendall, an escaped rapist and killer who falls hard for Rachael when they cross paths and turns out to have a past with our half human creatures, and Harper, the ex-special forces FBI agent, whose primary goal is finding Jason Kendall, getting him back behind bars and keeping him there for the rest of his life but soon finds himself sucked into this mystery woven of ancient symbolism, old Nazi war criminals and otherworldly creatures.

As with Soldiers of Misfortune, the first installment of the Purgatory series, Purgatory: Origins, The Prequel, presents an alternative universe that is as real as your Sunday morning paper, yet one that quickly leads to swashbuckling adventures. Purgatory: Origins. An alternative universe you enter with no hope of escaping, a book you pick up with little hope of putting it back down.


“Sir, you’d best get up here. They’ve found something and according to the captain of the search boat, it’s very strange.”

Jacques got to his feet wearily.

“Please wait here,” he said to the father and son. “I will return soon.”

Back up on the Préfet Maritime vessel, the inspector grabbed the radio receiver.

“Yes, this is Inspector Mitterand. What it is you’ve found?”

“Sir, we have located a plane on the sea bed that fits the general description and dimensions that your two witnesses described. It’s in about 50 meters of water.”

“Very well, send your divers down and get back to me once they’ve had a closer look.”

Jacques had started to hang up but heard a voice coming through the receiver.

“Yes, what it is?”

“Sir, there is more.”

“There is more what?”

“The plane appears to be balancing on a deep ocean trench.”

“And your point is?”

“Sir, there is no deep ocean trench in this area. At least there should not be. I have worked the waters off this coast for many years and have never heard of such a thing. I can assure you it doesn’t exist on any of the ocean charts we have.”