Saturday, June 22, 2013

Skunk Ape Semester

Miss Havana: (flashing a “come hither” smile at Mike Robinson): Oh, my, do I have a treat for all my lovely visitors today—and for me as well—an outstanding writer, the author of Skunk Ape Semester. Now, let’s be real, with a title like that, the book must be outstanding, right? So, I want to delve right to the heart of things … you know, get to the most important questions first if Mr. Robinson doesn’t mind. (Miss Havana leans forward, rests her elbow on the table and places her chin on her closed fist) Tell me, Mike, are you married?

MR (blushes): Ah, no, I'm not married. How is that relevant to Skunk Apes?

MH (flexing her shoulders forward playfully): I’m not entirely certain what a Skunk Ape is, Mike. Please tell me … and then I might be able to answer your question.

MR (looking incredulous): Even blondes know what a Skunk Ape is. Are you pulling my leg?

MH (shrugging and with an even blanker look than normal): Well, maybe not everyone.

MR (sighs): A Skunk Ape is a sasquatch … a Bigfoot.

MH (eyes lighting up and grinning as she glances toward the ceiling): I dated a guy with big feet once. It’s true what they say.

MR (rolling his eyes; shaking his head): Any chance we could get back on topic? I’d like to tell you a little about my book. It’s about a paleontologist and three students who go on a quest to find a Skunk Ape. They travel from place to place meeting level-headed and eccentric characters and, in seeking Bigfoot, Chupacabras, UFOs, goblins and lake monsters, they discover truths about themselves and one another.

MH (clapping her hands together; grinning from ear-to-ear): I knew a paleontologist once. His name was Jeremy and he liked to jump my bones. As a kid, he claimed that meeting a ghost would be more exciting than meeting a girl. I never believed that because he hadn’t met me yet. Too bad he married that Sheri Belhem girl before he finished college. I would have been a lot more fun.

MR (Snorts. Clearly irritated): I heard about that, but you told him your name was Beth. Jeremy is my main character.

MH (eyes wide open): Oh, dear. I hope he isn’t one of those loose-lipped guys who kisses and tells all the sordid details. What did he say about me?

MR (places hand on forehead, grimaces): Nothing … nothing good at all. As I was saying, my book is about an experience with a Sasquatch Jeremy Fishleder had when he was ten, and his subsequent quest to re-capture that moment as an adult.

MH (dabbing on face powder): Interesting. So, how would you classify your book? What genre?

MR: I’d call it a Literary Paranormal Road Trip. I try to go where no others have gone before.

MH (looking puzzled): You mean, like Star Trek?

MR: No, no … that’s not what I mean. All I’m saying is that my genres are unique. My novel, The Green-Eyed Monster is a horror-mystery, and The Prince of Earth is literary horror. My forthcoming Negative Space is uniquely genre-less. Honestly. Read it and tell me what exactly it is … if you can. It has elements of "coming of age" and "thriller," but those descriptions just don’t encompass all of it. You can read … can’t you?

MH (snapping her purse closed; curls upper lip and casts an angry glare): Of course I can read … I’m a substitute teacher. But I’m not teaching now. I’m learning. Do you have children?

MR (raising his eyebrows): I told you … I’m not married.

MH: Well, duh. The two aren’t necessarily connected. Are you evading my question because of child support issues? I can assure you, the IRS rarely reads my blogs.

MR (gasping; places splayed fingers over sternum): You are one messed up character, Miss Havana, I’ll give you that. No, I don’t have children. Unless you count brainchildren. They can be just as messy as the real ones, in a more metaphysical sense.

MH (Huffs): Well, I did like Jeremy, so your brainchildren must be pretty good. (She sighs) For an average-looking zoology professor, he had his moments. Why don’t you give our visitors a look into your book, a little excerpt to whet their appetite?

Mike Robinson
MR: Sure. Picture this:

The night is a bristly alive thing in the Florida summer, and it spreads from the shadows and comes in close and suffocating while concealing secrets rarely glimpsed. I was a kid when I encountered one of these secrets, barely a decade removed from my physical birth, and it was then that the real Jeremy Fishleder was born.

As I sat alone the smell returned but it was faint and hollow, so much so I initially took it as an imaginative perversion of some other smell, if not downright fabricated by my heightened, caffeinated senses.

I righted at the sound of disturbed foliage and snapping branches. Something big lurked on the fringe our backyard, just beyond the light of the back porch. Fortunately for the adult into whom I would later develop, my young fears weren’t big enough to drive me into the house, screaming and disrupting Mom’s phone call and who knows what else. At this point – God knows why, given the last month – curiosity trumped fear.

I waited and tried to peer past the foliage, then got up and went down the porch steps to the grass when something truly did make me halt in fright: the smell, oh God the smell, that sulfurous stench that was like a harsh olfactory whip, bladed and terrible, worse than anything I’d smelled of it prior.

There was something there. Two eyes glinted back at me from the brush, elevated in the darkness. I assumed it a deer, especially in the way the animal froze.

But the smell grew. Deep and musky. Wild.

Then the lighted eyes rose -- it was definitely taller than a deer. Maybe six feet. I stepped back. We stared at one another across a gulf not only of species but of spirit, two entities from two different dimensions suddenly intersected.

The eyes rose a final time as it stood its full height, and for a long second all of civilization drained from me. It was gargantuan.

And cautiously, it came forward and the light drew it further and further into form.

The thing emerged from the fringe of the backyard and I stepped back. Our eyes remained dead-locked and I could see them better, see them deeper and they were orange-tinted, small citrus gleams alien but identifiably terrestrial, even twistedly empathetic. The animal was bipedal, more erect than most people I see, and so goddamn massive – to my child brain, a Rose Parade float. All functions in my young body came to a standstill. It was like a childhood fantasy thrust upon me, a trespassing dream lost in reality, and I had no reaction other than a strange sensation that straddled the line between awe and terror.

The creature stood and looked towards the house, then back into the warm syrupy wilderness from which it had come stomping. The odor held firm and strong, a noxious force field. It opened its mouth as if to yawn and I could see long wet canines. Then the mouth closed sharply and the head – which was fastened directly to the shoulders with no discernible neck – slanted back and from the depths of its throat issued a burst of whooping noises that ranged from fleeting to full, long and slow. Its body responded to each whoop with a tremble that ruffled the lengthy silver-blue hairs hanging like coarse tinsel from its skin.

Then it turned, moved, and was gone.

Hurrying back inside, I went for the first visible person which was my father. Though I stammered and was probably somewhat incoherent, he was patient enough to bring it out of me.

“What’s wrong, Jeremy?” he asked.

MR: Does that pique your interest, Miss Havana?

MH: Sounds wonderful, Mike. You’ve got my attention, and apparently the attention of others as well. I loved the reviews below.

"One of the best books I've read this past decade." 
------ Leslie Ann Moore, award-winning author of Griffin's Daughter

"I loved this book! Are you interested in the weird and unexplained? SKUNK APE SEMESTER by Mike Robinson’s a page-turning road trip--a journey of the mind, heart, and spirit. I was captivated from the first page, and I learned a lot. Most of the stories in this novel (other than Bigfoot) I'd never heard of before. You'll like the characters and feel like you took this fascinating journey with them."
------ Syrie James, international bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Dracula, My Love

“‘On the Road’ meets ‘The X-Files’!”
------ Marla Miller, author and columnist

"A love song to Fortean Americana....a truly unique book."
 ----- Richard Freeman, author / researcher

MH: I’ll read Skunk Ape Semester, and then review it here on my blog in the near future. I look forward to it. How would our visitors find you?

MR: That’s an easy one: Readers can find the book at But here’s a question that’s not easy. This blog is part of a scavenger hunt. Your readers need to answer the following question at to be eligible to win: What phony name did Miss Havana give Jeremy when she toyed with him in college?

MH: Hey … I don’t tell anyone my real name until I get to know them better … and the phone number I gave him was for the IRS.

Thanks for reading!

James L. Hatch 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Secrets of the Subplot

James Hatch, I thank you for hosting me on the website with my favorite name in cyberspace. I’ve got a few literary thoughts to offer as well as info on my new novel, The Maxwell Vendetta, and I hope your readers will enjoy the thoughts and, of course, buy the books. Yes, books, plural. The Second Vendetta is the sequel to The Maxwell Vendetta and they’ll make a great pair for your library. Anyhow, here we go:

Secrets of the Subplot

There’s lots of ink devoted to plot technique, but relatively little to the subplot. It also seems to me that contemporary writers pay scant attention to this opportunity not only to spice up the action, but to add dimension and depth to their work.

The still-reigning subplot king is the bard of Avon. From the Toby Belch-Maria-Aguecheek-Malvolio action in Twelfth Night to the Laertes-Ophelia-Polonius family dynamics in Hamlet, Shakespeare knows how to keep us so involved in the secondary action that we sometimes forget what’s happening with the main characters. But never for long. In the end, he always brings the two streams of action together in a way that not only complements but enlarges and influences primary plot and character. In Twelfth Night, the humiliation of the Puritan Malvolio serves as a warning to those who would overreach and pervert the course of true romance such as that of Duke Orsino-Viola and Sebastian-Olivia. In Hamlet, of course, Laertes becomes the instrument by which Hamlet not only accomplishes his goal of avenging his father’s death, but fashions his own demise as well.

A more modern example is F. Scoot Fitzgerald’s use of Nick Carraway as the narrator of the title character’s rise and fall in The Great Gatsby. So skillful is Nick’s storytelling that it’s easy to forget that he’s romanticizing the image of a narcissistic gangster with a perverted idea of love. In that sense, the book is as much about Nick as about Gatsby. However, Gatsby carries the story, and important as he is, Nick’s part in the action is a subplot, an essential element without which the story would not have happened as it did, but is nevertheless background. Gatsby & Daisy are the characters we remember. Nick brings them together, and Nick helps Gatsby cover his and Daisy’s hit and run. But Fitzgerald is not satisfied with only one subplot. It’s a character from a second—George, the husband of the hit-run victim—from killing Gatsby and bringing the whole edifice tumbling down. We, the readers, view Gatsby’s death, then, not so much as martyrdom, as Nick does, but as rough justice. The point here being that 1) Without the subplot(s) the main plot could not survive; 2) without the subplots the view of Gatsby as a victim of his romantic yearnings would remain untarnished.

Different though they are, the common thread running through all these works is that the subplot operates parallel to the main action, but merges with and becomes vital to the finish. Furthermore, the subplots add color and dimension to the ideas and themes which would be impossible without them.

I offer here an illustration from my own work, not because I count myself in the ethereal realms of these masters, but because I believe it’s important to study and learn from them. Plus, of course, I want to plug my book.

In my recently released historical thriller, The Maxwell Vendetta, Andy Maxwell sets out to quash a vendetta that threatens to wipe out his prominent family and destroy their Sierra Nevada Ranch. The inciting incident is the murder of his younger brother on a San Francisco sidewalk in the summer of 1908. Along the way, Andy runs into a Chinese underworld lord named Charley Hung, to whom said brother owed a considerable sum, which Hung wants to collect from Andy. Andy goes through some harrowing adventures to escape Charley and his henchmen early in the book, then proceeds to his main mission of defeating the main agent of the vendetta, one Michael Yellow Squirrel. Near the end of the book, just when it appears Andy is about to accomplish his goal, Charley’s minions show up again at a most unexpected time and place and put his entire scheme in jeopardy.

True to the principles I’ve outlined above, these subplot characters become essential to the book’s finale, and (I hope) help add some texture to this novel that is more than an action-adventure-romance tale, but one with some telling insights into such matters as racism and political corruption as they manifest not only at the turn of the last century, but even today.

Give it a go at, & don’t pass up its sequel, The Second Vendetta at

Biography—Carl R. Brush

Carl Brush has been writing since he could write, which is quite a long time now. He grew up and lives in Northern California, close to the roots of the people and action of his historical thrillers, the recently-released The Maxwell Vendetta, and its sequel, The Second Vendetta. A third volume of the trilogy, set in pre-gold-rush San Francisco is nearing completion. Its working title: Bonita.

You can find Carl living with his wife in Oakland, California, where he enjoys the blessings of nearby children and grandchildren.

Journals in which his work has appeared include The Summerset Review, Right Hand Pointing, Blazevox, Storyglossia, Feathertale, and The Kiss Machine.  He has participated in the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It’s the Cover Reveal for ‘Volume Seven of Memoirs of a Gigolo’ by Livia Ellis!

Welcome to the official cover reveal of Volume Seven of Memoirs of a Gigolo! The story continues as Oliver enters into a world parallel to his own.

Oliver Adair. Beautiful on the outside. Damaged on the inside. One bad decision followed by the next leaves him broke and out of options. When propositioned to sell his body he enters into a parallel world of sex for hire. Oliver embarks on a journey that will force him to confront his demons, answer for the sins of the past, and become a man.

Connect with Livia:

•           Blog –
•           Facebook -
•           Twitter -

Buy it now:
•           Amazon US -
•           Amazon UK -
•           Riverdale Ave Books -

•           Smashwords -

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Miss Havana Strikes Again

Interviewer: Today we welcome Miss Havana, the lead character in The Substitute; Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana!, The Training Bra and The Trophy Wife. It’s good to have you here Miss Havana.

MH: I’m sure it is. By the way, who dyes your roots? They look great. I can hardly see any grey at all.

Interviewer: Ah … this interview is about you, Miss Havana, not me. Tell me, do you get killed in your new novel like you do in all the others?

MH: You know, that’s a hard question to answer. I mean, my daughter, Lilith, did overdose me on chloroform … that came pretty close … except the Most High weighed in and saved me. I’m not sure if I’ll be killed off permanently during the edit cycle or not. Those editors can be brutal.

Interviewer: I see you have dyed your hair too. Aren’t you normally blonde?

MH: That’s a viscous rumor. I’m only blonde when my host is blonde. That’s the thing about spirits—it’s hard to wrap your hands around something that isn’t really there. As The Trophy Wife, my host is Cuban. She’s a knockout with beautiful ebony hair. I try to do her justice … you know, by not acting too blonde.

Interviewer: So you are The Trophy Wife. Based on your other books, I’m a little surprised by that. Whose trophy are you, anyway?

MH: Well, what a lame question. God’s of course. We have a child together too, but that wasn’t very satisfying, considering the whole Immaculate Conception thing and all. It’s not just me. He said Mary wasn’t all that satisfied either.

Interviewer: You had a child with God? How is that possible? Wasn’t your last mate Lucifer? Isn’t Lilith your daughter with him?

MH: I see … you are not a believer. Anything is possible with God.

Interviewer: No, no … that’s not what I meant. I mean … how could … He … consider you … a trophy?

MH: Now see here, a lesser person might take that line of questioning personally, but the answer to your question is simple. He likes me. I’m pretty.

Interviewer: You’re pretty. That’s it? That seems a little shallow.

MH: Well, there are those other things. I did stop the rise of the Antichrist in The Substitute … and I became the Angel of Death in Oh, Heavens, Miss Havana! … and I prevented the apocalypse in The Training Bra when I broke up the horsemen. Those guys and girl don’t like each other anyway. They don’t like Lucifer either. Come to think of it, they didn’t like me much, if you can believe it. Although interfering with those events really got under Lucifer’s skin, God apparently appreciated my effort, even if most everything was an accident.

Interviewer: So God … does He love you?

MH (batting her hand across her face like chasing away a gnat): Oh, you are primitive, aren’t you? Of course He loves me—He loves everyone. The problem really wasn’t God’s love, but the issues associated with showing up pregnant. My sterile husband became suspicious right away.

Interviewer (flipping pages of notes): Oh, that had to be bad. It says here you are married to Samuel Jackson. The actor?

MH (looking disgusted): That Samuel Jackson is a liberal; my husband is a conservative. No one gets them confused … except possibly you. Yes, I would say the experience of showing up pregnant could have gone better. I suspect Joseph had the same issues, but hey, that was a long time ago.

Interviewer: Can you tell us a little about your new baby?

MH: You mean, Angel. Oh, she was a very sweet girl … while she lived. I have to talk to the author about that. He keeps killing off people I get close to. That just doesn’t seem right.

Interviewer: He killed your child? What kind of rat would do such a thing?

MH (nodding agreement): You’re right. Nailing her to the side of a barn seemed a little extreme, even to me. On the up side, he did replace her with two little girls Jackson and I adopted, fraternal twins we named Lily and Angel. They are the stars of the next novel, Sisters.

Interviewer: Will your children continue the battle between good and evil like you have … since the beginning of time?

MH: You must mean my brief stint as Eve. Yes, those were good times, but that’s the topic of another novel still being formulated. I think it might be called, In the Beginning.

Interviewer: We’re just about out of time, Miss Havana. Thank you for stopping by today.

MH: My pleasure. And, for those who wish to stay just a bit longer, I’ve provided an excerpt below from The Trophy Wife. The scene takes place when my daughter, Lilith, who inhabits the body of Lily, and her rotten boyfriend, Fred, Jr., who is haunted by Lucifer’s right-hand shadow creature, Waldo, attack me with caramel sauce and feathers. Of course, I strike back later, and the cycle of attacks just get worse and worse until someone dies. Isn’t that how it always works?
They laid in wait for almost forty-five minutes before they saw Miss Havana walking toward the garbage bin with her evening trash. They had pre-positioned their supplies, and the moment Miss Havana stepped into the dumpster enclosure with her trash, Fred Jr. sprinted to the gate and locked it from the outside with the chain and padlock. Miss Havana heard the chain rattle and turned to look. “Hello. Is someone there?”
Snickering came from outside the fence, and then the deluge began. Two focused beams of caramel sauce rained down on her from out of nowhere. She screeched and tried to cover her hair with her hands, but to no avail. The sauce kept coming … and coming … and coming. And when the downpour stopped, it rained feathers.
She could hear receding laughter, a man and a woman, before she heard screeching tires … and then nothing but silence. She spit feathers from her mouth and grumbled low, “It had to be Lily. That bitch!”
When she tried to leave she realized she was locked in. She had left her cell phone in the apartment, and began to shake from both anger and cold. The stench of rotting garbage made her want to gag. She slipped to a sitting position in one corner and looked into the dark celestial dome toward the stars. “Oh, God, please help me. This girl is driving me crazy. Remember the angel I asked for? I could sure use that now. Are you out there?”
She bowed her head as tears slipped down her cheeks. At first her sobs came softly, and then they grew louder. She cried like she had never cried in her entire life. Her tears flowed like an open hydrant. She felt alone, despondent and helpless, and began thinking of Sister Elizabeth’s words, “You can always work at Saint Mark’s.”
She took a deep breath. Yes, she did have options. Maybe she should consider them.
Just then she heard Jackson’s voice. “Miss Havana? Are you in there? Hello?”
“Jackson? It’s me,” she yelled. “I’m locked inside this damn fence. You don’t have any bolt cutters with you, do you?”
She heard a loud thump followed by some scraping sounds, and then Jackson’s smiling face appeared at the top of the fence. “Evening, Ma’am. Can I be of assistance?”
She looked up without standing. “That’s a fool question, Jackson. Get me out of here.”
“Okay, give me a minute.”
She heard the chain rattle again, followed by, “Hum, it’s chained up pretty tight. I’ve got to go to my car.” She heard him snicker before saying, “Stay where you are. Don’t leave.”
She put her head in her hands. “Oh, my God. I need rescuing, not a comedian.”
In a few minutes Jackson returned. She heard the high-pitched whine of a battery-operated power tool, and could see sparks flying through a small slit in the fence. It looked like Jackson was playing with a Fourth of July sparkler out there. In another few moments the equipment went silent and Jackson popped open the gate. “Hello. I heard someone in here needed the fire department. Is that right?”
With her head held low, Miss Havana slinked out of the enclosure. Feathers covered her from head to foot. Jackson shook his head. “My goodness, Ma’am, looks like you plum been run outta town.”
“Very funny,” she said dryly. “I don’t know whether to hug you or slap you.”
Jackson took a step back. “You could use a shower … then I could use a hug.”
The hot shower never felt better. Miss Havana scrubbed the feathers and caramel sauce while Jackson kept reaching in to remove the feathers clogging the drain. It was a two-person operation he enjoyed, especially the view from where he sat. He thought it best to wait until she completely cleaned herself before questioning her. She didn’t seem too receptive at the moment.
About thirty minutes later she turned off the water and glanced down at Jackson. “Towel, please.”
He handed one in. “Ah, heck. Looks like the show is over.”
She asked the question foremost on her mind when she stepped out. “Why are you here, Jackson? I thought you were on duty tonight.”
He grinned. “Terry owed me a favor. I asked him to fill in for me so I could ask you out for dinner. Are you up for that … or do you just want to ‘stick’ with what you’re doing?”
He thought the comment was clever, but she just glared before her face softened. “More than anything, I want to be held. Are you up for that?”
“Sure, but I’ll owe Terry big time if I’m not back in two hours.”
“Terry’s a big boy,” she said as she let her towel drop and began dragging him toward her bedroom. “He can handle it.”

Thanks for reading!

James L. Hatch