Writer Wednesday – Michael Essington

1. Who are you?  Michael Essington

2. What type of stuff do you write?
My two, published, books are autobiographical. Last One To Die and Life Won’t Wait are stories of growing up in Los Angeles. Going from being a young punk rock kid and later becoming a father. My third book, Under A Broken Street Lamp, is a collection of short fiction stories that I did with an author from the East Coast named David Gurz.

I also write an occasional music review for Deep Red Magazine and Strange Reaction dot com.

3. What do you want to pimp right now?
I am writing the third and final book in the Last One To Die series, called Born Frustrated. Again, the stories are autobiographical.

4. What is your favorite book?
I like authors more than I like a specific piece of work. So, here it goes:
James Frey
Eddie Little
Edward Bunker
And of course, no list would be complete without a Bukowski mention

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I have always been an artist and a bit of a writer. It wasn’t until I hit my forties that I actually made an effort to publish stuff.

6. What link can we find you at?
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/michaelessington1 and my Amazon page: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

The best advice 

In 1994 or 1995, I went through a break-up which lead to a search for new employment and new housing. In other words, things went bad quick.

I slept on a friend’s floor for a couple of days, and then I took the couch at my brother’s place. Slowly, as I got my bearings and confidence, I put the feelers out to everybody and anybody that knew of housing and/or employment.

Finally, one day a girl I worked with in the 1980’s at a record shop called and said that her boyfriend was managing a Kinko’s and they needed somebody to run the computer department during the midnight shift. Perfect! As it was, I couldn’t sleep anyway. Break-up, money, one-year-old daughter, on and on, the brain never turned off.

One morning I’m sitting behind the counter at the computer department working on a press release for Michael Jackson’s parents Katherine and Joe Jackson, when a very dignified African-American man walks up. He asks if he could have a cord to plug his laptop in directly to the printer. I give it to him. He shoots off a couple of pages. Comes back, pays for the prints and hands me the cord.

This went on for a few months, cord, prints, pays and leaves. One day, curiosity gets the best of me, I walk over and ask what he’s working on. He tells me he’s a poet and he’s putting together some pieces about his time in Vietnam.

I told him that I had been writing poetry since the early 1980’s, then asked if he could look it over sometime. He agreed.

My new poet friend came in a week later. He walked up to me and handed me a book he made of 5 or 6 of his poems. Each very different styles, modern, traditional and a sonnet.

I went over and took out a notebook I had of my writings, similar to what I write now, but a bit too heavy on the metaphors. He looked everything over and made comments, like, “This one reads like a song,” and “This is good, but take out the “I,” tell the story without it being first person.” Really cool perspectives. Then he said to go to the local bookshop, find the poetry section and buy the first author I recognized. The point was to find my own voice. Don’t write poetry like I think it should be, don’t imitate Shakespeare.

I wandered over to Barnes & Noble. I looked and looked; finally I see a book by Jim Morrison called The Lords and The New Creatures: Poems. I bought it, read it and moments later declared it as the worst piece of shit I ever read.

I rewrote most of my poetry based on my friend’s suggestions. When he popped up a day or so later, I showed him my updated work and told him that Jim Morrison’s poetry was horrendous.

He read through my latest poetry, offered a few more pointers, and then he asked, “Have you read much Bukowski?” I said, “Not really. I saw Barfly in 1987.”

He nodded, and said, “OK, there’s a book you have to buy. I’d give you my copy, but I probably gave it away already. When you get off work, go to the store and buy Bukowski’s Love Is A Dog From Hell. That should point you in the right direction.”

That man was author Clyde A. Wray; he has always been an inspiration and a friend.

Writer Wednesday – Tammy-Jo Eckhart

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
TammyJo Eckhart

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Science fiction, fantasy, horror, contemporary, and historical fiction, often classified as erotica since I don’t “pull my punches” and believe that sexuality is a natural part of life.

What do you want to pimp right now?
Book 3 of the “Beyond the Softness of His Fur Trilogy” has just been released by my publisher, Circlet Press.
Also my non-fiction and award nominated book, “At Her Feet” has continues to be widely read and apparently empowering as we hoped it would be.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I always go back to “The Silver Metal Lover” by Tanith Lee because it really touched what was happening in my own life when I was finishing high school and starting college.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I’m a wife, a partner, I storyteller/game master for RPGs, I’m an educator and arts community volunteer, but most of all I’m a survivor of several things.

What link can we find you at?
My main website (find it here!) is the best since it links to my books and gives some other information about me.


The Danger of Fans and Lack of Privacy for Writers

We often think of writers as being little celebrities but I’ve learned over the two decades I’ve been published that this comes and goes in cycles and that all attention is not good or desirable attention. Let me explain a bit more.

After my first book, “Punishment for the Crime,” a collection of short stories, came out with Rhinoceros, an imprint from Masquerade Books, back in 1996 I started to get emails and letters from readers, even the occasional flowers when they ran into me at events. This wasn’t an everyday experience but living in NYC at the time where I was doing readings to crowds or meeting folks through my publisher who was right in the same city it happened far more frequently than after I moved back toward the Midwest. It always felt good to be recognized but sometimes it also felt a bit creepy.

Most readers were sweet. They’d want to shake my hand or simply tell me that they liked my book. If I were selling books or at a bookstore for a reading they’d want an autograph. Meeting people face-to-face at scheduled events was expected and cool. Not all encounters with my readers were at these sorts of events.

This was still in the early days of the Internet and it took work for someone to find me or find out about me. Yet within a year of the first book with Masquerade coming out I started to get emails from strangers. I didn’t broadcast myself around at that time — the concept of networking on social media wasn’t a thing writers were supposed to do. And yet because I happened to various community bulletin boards or email lists, my email was out there. Once my email was found by one person, it was found by several and for the second and third year my first and second books were out, I got an email a week.

I’d like to say that most of the emails were cool and sweet like most of the face-to-face meetings but I can’t say that and be honest. Honesty is a big deal to me. No, instead the majority of the emails I got were a bit creepy. They hoped I was as mean as a character in the title story or that I was as hot and sexy as another one. They wanted me to crush them with my boots or they’d ask about my sex life. I just deleted the creepy ones. Problem solved right?

For the most part, yes.

My third book came out with a different publisher as Masquerade struggled with some internal issues and I moved back toward the Midwest. Every now and again I’d get another email and a few times some gift might arrive in the mail… a bit creepy how they found out where I lived but most often it was through this new Amazon.com thing which wasn’t supposed to tell anyone I didn’t allow what my address was.

Then the creepiest fan contact happened. Someone called me. It sounded like either a very butch woman or a transguy by voice but I frankly didn’t ask because I didn’t care. What started off as “I really liked X” story turned quickly into questions about kink looking for advice which deteriorated into sex talk and attempts to ask me about my sex life. I told the caller time and again to stop calling and finally had to threaten to call the police. These calls lasted over three years.

Now I’m sure that more popular authors out there have even creepier experiences but I’ve never forgotten my own experiences. This hasn’t stopped me from joining social media, my agent and all of my author friends claim it is a must, but I had to learn that even just being published puts you out there, it takes away some of your privacy. You have to learn how to deal with it or decide to never publish at all. After all you can’t control who is reading you any more than you can control how many people are reading you.

My lesson learned then is that if you want to be read you must give up some of your privacy. Not all of it but once that book is out there in public view you’ll have to fight to protect yourself and your family because you can never tell who is reading and how they might react. Never be afraid to put out your work but be realistic about what you are also risking.

Book Review – Proud Too Be Weirrd

Title: Proud Too Be Weirrd
Author/Illustrator: Ralph STEADman
Format: coffeetable    Hardback
Published: 2013

Okay, so when I was doing my read through of Roald Dahl just a few days ago, I ended up with a book illustrated by Ralph Steadman, and as I raved, I loved his artwork. So when Mom and I were walking through the library and I saw this book on the bottom of the new books shelf, I immediately swooped down for it.

Mom immediately made several jokes about proper lifting techniques of heavy objects, and once we got to the car, several about how the car would tip over by the weight of it.

Because this thing is big enough that it could *BE* a coffee table if you stuck a couple legs on it.

But onto the book itself.  Ralph Steadman went through his art and arranged it in a book. There’s all kinds of stuff in here – paintings, sketches, whatever.  And lots and lots of commentary.

From the library’s website:

STANDARD EDITION: Iconoclastic British artist Ralph Steadman has been creating editorial and political illustrations for more than five decades. Steadman is revered for his ink-splattered, anarchic, and often shocking drawings. His well-known illustrations alongside the work of literary legend Hunter S. Thompson have long been celebrated and have achieved a cult-like following. Together, Steadman and Thompson’s iconic work has come to be known as Gonzo journalism. Ralph and Hunter first met in 1970 on an assignment from Scanlan’s Monthly magazine to cover the Kentucky Derby. Their 40-year friendship included collaborations on seminal books such as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Curse of Lono , as well as numerous articles for Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone , including the George Foreman vs. Muhammad Ali fight and coverage of the Watergate scandal. PROUD TOO BE WEIRRD is the ultimate monograph of this creative genius. Steadman’s first-person narrative takes us on a literary and visual journey of his well-known, provocative work and is accompanied by his acerbic wit, heartfelt political views, and unique sense of humor. This must-have book comes in two collectible editions.


Before I even had the book home, I had already mentally added it to my Amazon wish list.  And then when I actually looked it up on Amazon, I about had a heart attack at the price tag ($200?! Holy Cow!).

But the art is amazing, the comments are great, and I highly recommend this book.  I’m not even done with it and I’ve already given it a 5/5.  I know it’s a little out of most of our price ranges, so check the library and see if they’ve got it.

Writer Wednesday – Valerie Douglas

Let’s start with the basics.  Who are you?
My name is Valerie Douglas

 Tell us (briefly) about you…
*grins* Well, my husband says I’m schizophrenic, depending on which character I’m writing – which is like having a different wife every few weeks. He also says I’m one cat short of being a cat lady (we have four – one with one eye, one whose jaw was broken, and another who sucks her tail) but we also have two dogs.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I have sixteen books out now, mostly fantasy, but there’s a four book romance series, a mystery/romantic suspense, and a contemporary fiction novel I just released

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m dueling projects right now, I have a horror novel I’m polishing for release shortly, and an erotica…..

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Books were always my refuge….

What are your three favorite books?
Just three?!!! To Kill a Mockingbird, anything by Shakespeare, anything by Tolkien

 How many books to do you read at any given time?  What are you reading now?
I don’t read much when I’m working – but I have an anthology from my group downloaded, The Black Count, Gamble by Dick Francis’s son Felix, and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, A Team of Rivals, and I just finished Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
Some books I know I’ll reread, they’re comforting – like Nora Robert’s Chesapeake Bay series, or anything by Anne McCaffrey, and all of Dick Francis’s books.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you? I’d only read a book that was recommended by a friend who knows my eclectic tastes well.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Unless I know the other person’s tastes well, I don’t.

What do you look for in a good book?
Good involving characters in a well-reasoned plot. I like something new and different – a friend has a book she has yet to release about a cop in a reality show set sometime in the immediate future.

Why do you write?
Because it’s the only way I stay sane? Because the voices won’t stop talking to me and the stories demand to be told?

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
An artist of some kind – I’ve done community theater, and I was a portrait artist.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Sometimes even I can’t answer that question. Where in the world does anyone get the idea of writing about an Egyptian Priestess who gets mummified alive? (Servant of the Gods) My old job and the spate of Ponzi schemes gave me the idea for Lucky Charm. The most recent release was courtesy of a picture a friend sent me.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
I’ve had a few revelations. It definitely opened me up emotionally… sometimes a little too much.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
My husband, bless his heart, is incredibly supportive.  *grins* Most of my family seem to treat it like it’s a dirty habit like smoking, and just try to ignore it.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
*laughing*  No, most of the stereotypes are true. We’re an introverted, mostly insecure lot, observers. You have to be to write characters with any depth.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Learning that there isn’t a magic formula. That one book will not make you famous.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
The biggest one is that traditional publishing is a business – while there are a lot of great editors out there, their primary responsibility is to the company. And be careful who you trust.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
No, I’m not a collaborator. I’m a loner in that respect. There’s a few projects of my own in the future.

How do you deal with your fan base?
With immense gratitude!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I can be pretty goofy in real life.

Anything else we should know?
Not that I can think of, but that can change….



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