Interview with Janet Morris, Author of "The Sacred Band"

I began interacting with you after posting a link to a negative review of my novel, “The Bone Sword.” Rejection slips and bad reviews are just a part of the game for writers. Can you share an anecdote about a rejection or a negative review?

Negative reviews and rejections happen: reading is a subjective pass-time; different people bring different abilities, different levels of literacy, and different emotional states with them when they read. I sold the first draft of the first novel I ever wrote through the first agent that we approached, Perry Knowlton, and stayed with him until he died. I knew no one in publishing; my first book, High Couch of Silistra, cover several controversial topics, including eroticism and the genetic basis of sexual behavior. It found no friends among conservatives or feminists; the characters were pansexual but adhered to no earthly "group identity" that would please anyone. High Couch sold very well; I had done two sequels; they sold very well. In general the sf/fantasy people didn't know what to make of this very intelligent sword-wielding courtesan. We got a pretty good New York Times Sunday Magazine review for High Couch, which meant that the sf/f people felt required to review it. A.J. Budrys reviewed it for F&SF and Omni within 30 days of one another: the Omni review was a qualified rave; the F&SF review said, "What a dirty book." I asked Budrys how in good conscience he could write two diametrically opposed reviews of the same novel, and he said, "For money." After that, I paid no attention to reviews for the next 20 years. Now, reviews are more important in that many are done by readers who are not getting paid and receive no instructions as to what to write. Nevertheless, all reviewers are not created equal. Write for yourself: soon enough, you'll be dead and the reviewers also, but your work will remain, as you wrote it.

I see that you did several Thieves' World novels. When I discovered that I consulted my library and discovered the first Thieves' World book by Robert Lynn Asprin & Lynn Abbey. Did you have much interaction with these writers?

Bob Asprin asked me at a covention to write for Thieves World (TW). The first volume had just been published. Lynn was not yet an editor. Bob asked for a gritty character suitable for a town that was the "armpit of fantasy." I had already written "An End to Dreaming," a short piece about two characters that later ended up in the TW series, but I wrote the first Tempus story, about an immortal warrior with a curse, for Bob: whomever Tempus loved was bound to spurn him, whoever loved him was fated to die. Bob loved the first story, "Vashanka's Minion." Writers were encouraged to use one another's characters, so I used the god "Vashanka," and several others, and thus interacted with Andy Offutt. Bob asked me to keep writing Tempus stories, and in close coordination with Bob and Andy, for TW #3 we did three connecting stories that included my "A Man and His God" (the life and death of the Slaughter Priest, Abarsis). Bob and I made a deal for that: I could kneecap his character if he could send mine to the vivisectionist (since Tempus always healed); Andy was drafted to get Tempus out of the vivisectionist's clutches. So we became "canonical" TW writers, and seven novel and many stories followed. Much later I did the first TW spin-off novel, Beyond Sanctuary, part of a three-book hardcover deal, and TW took off about that time. Subsequently I wrote a three-writer TW novel with Lynn Abbey and CJ Cherry, "Soul of the City," published as TW #8. We all had friends and enemies among the other writers; alliances shifted. Eventually I took Tempus and the Sacred Band Stepsons out of Sanctuary -- twice, because of writer politics, and wrote my own Sacred Band of Stepsons series of novels. Then with Lynn's permission my co-writer Chris Morris and I brought the Band back to Sanctuary, ten years after they left, in "The Sacred Band," (Morris & Morris, Kerlak, 2011). Tempus and the Sacred Band of Stepsons, who began in 1980 and are still going strong today, are my favorite fantasy characters. With the sole exception of "I, the Sun," a rigorous historical of the Hittite Empire, stories about Tempus and the Sacred Band are my favorite of my works alone and with Chris or with anyone. Lynn and CJ and I still keep in touch; Bob Asprin's loss is deeply felt by many.

You've been an established writer for a long time, in what ways have you seen the publishing industry change for the better and for the worse?

The publishing industry, when I first started, had a strong mid-list, wherein a writer could incubate. While I was writing for a living, two things happened: the super book with huge advances destroyed publishers' interest in mid list (the 35K to 65K book); Star Wars made sf/fantasy more successfully, but imposed a hunger for formulaic "B-Movie" type restrictions that took much of the fun out of sf/f, which previously had been more intellectually interesting. Fantasy has rebounded a bit from this formulaic hunger, but still the chance to experiment in sf/f was shrinking until the e-book, Publication on Demand, self-publishing and the new crop of small publishers arising as the big publishers fade away are a good sign.

The novel in general has deconstructed about as much as it can: categories are marketing tools; a novel contains all elements, and should do. We like small publishing because the chance to experiment survives there. So we've started doing Heroes in Hell series and the Sacred Band series again, using small publishers so we can keep our e-book rights, and we like the freedom the small publishing world enjoys.

I've seen that more and more established writers such as yourself seem to be more inclined to publish their own work rather than work with a publisher. What are your inclinations regarding self-publishing?

Perhaps I covered this, but small publishers can and do provide better physical book production, better copy-editing, better covers, and more chances to experiment. Of course a small publisher can do a poor job, but really, is it a worse job than the big publishers do when they buy a book they don't push? This is why we brought back The Sacred Band of Stepsons series and the Heroes in Hell series. With a small publisher, an established writer such as myself can have more control about many facets of how their book is presented. Writing to establish a corpus of work demands this. Most great books from earlier centuries were "self" published: the author controlled the process, and found a publisher to provide the book to the pubic.  

At small publishers like Kerlak, Paradise, or Perseid, I can ask for an get archival paper and real linen-covered baoards; I can get high quality metallic stamping; sewn bindings; I can control the cover, the cover copy; I can approve all phases of the work, not simply have a clasue in my contract that says "approval, not to be unreasonably withheld" that, when I try to exercise it, means that the publisher threatens to pull the book from its schedule if you want to make changes late in the process. Kerlak, especially, is great about last minute changes. They offered to reprint my entire Hell backlist and Sacred Band backlist but I'm going through each, making changes long overdue, so that each new release is an "Author's Cut," significantly revised by Chris and me, and -- finally -- just the way I want them. Do I miss the "big" promotion? "Publicity tours?" reviews from the big reviewing entities? Not really. My books will find their way; they always have. The three-book Silistra series had 4 million in print when "Carnelian Throne" was released; according to Jim Baen, when he reissued the four they gave Baen Books its first million dollar month. But that's not why I write. I LOVE the e-book format, the big readable trade paperbacks, the quality hardcovers.

With these publishers no one asks me to dumb down what I'm doing. No compromise is required in story or quality. Can everyone enjoy reading what I'm writing? Maybe. I write for my ideal reader; that reader gets a great ride. And now, thanks to the new publishing, a beautiful, literate presentation.
Can you discuss “Adventurers in Hell” and “The Sacred Band”?

Adventurers in Hell (working title: may yet be changed to "Rogues") is the second of the resurrected "Heroes in Hell series we're doing. The shared universe of the damned as we did it in Heroes in Hell was very popular in the 20th century. Beginning with "Lawyers in Hell" (Perseid/Kerlak), edited by Janet Morris, we're sinning once again. We have a great time with the Hell books: they combine myth, religion, history, and fantasy in a unique way. These stories take no prisoners: they can sly, cryptic, cynical, disturbing, or horrific. We have a waiting list of authors hoping to get in, despite the story curve, which is very steep. And, finally, we are getting great covers, beautiful hard covers, infinitely long-lived PODs and e-books. What fun.

The Sacred Band is the ultimate (so far) tale of the Sacred Band of Stepsons, who began in Thieves World (R) and Sanctuary (R), a "shared universe" created by Bob Asprin, and return there in this epic novel. Tempus, Abarsis, Niko, and the rest are my greatest delight. The Sacred Band (Morris & Morris, Kerlak, 2011) novel is best accompanied by the recently reissued Author's Cut" of the anthology "Tempus." If you read those two, in any order, then you'll enjoy each one more. We're working now on reissuing the six additional Sacred Band novels and a second anthology with new stories and the remaining TW stores.

But The Sacred Band novel is my favorite: Forty-six of the doomed Sacred Band of Thebes is rescued from the battlefield at Chaeronea in 338 BCE, by Tempus and his Stepsons. The gods and fates take umbrage or support, and a war (actually a theomachy) begins that follows Tempus and his fighters to Sanctuary. Do you need to be a history or mythology of fantasy buff to enjoy this? No, but knowledge deepens experience, always. All our favorite characters from the earlier series take a hand, and eventually the Unified Sacred Band fights the battle of their dreams. Since there really are forty-six skeletons missing from the mass grave at Chaeronea where the slaughtered Sacred Band of Thebes are buried, this story was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to blend history, fantasy, and mythology. We loved doing it. It's been widely quoted on sites such as Ranker and has a big presence on Freebase and even a Wikipedia page. And I think, having had the ride of my life with TSB, we'll do another Sacred Band novel soon....  

I see that you're a horse person. I grew up with Morgans as well, they're beautiful animals with a good temperament. Most people probably don't realize how much of a personality horses have. What do you see as the greatest benefit to caring for horses?

The Sacred Band is an ancient cavalry force. No surprise, since we raise war horses -- the descendants of the US cavalry horse -- horse and have been riding our whole lives. Horses bring you nose to nose with nature. You can't lie to a horse. Crying does no good. And the gods look out at you through the eyes of a horse. No more transcendental experience can be had than what you experience with a horse. We've won a few races, a few Morgan World Championships. We had some reining horses of renown, some in-hand horses. But you don't do horses for prizes, or for anything but your soul's sake. Do horses inform my writing? Absolutely. Do they ennoble my life? Always. We breed to sell, and that's hard: letting the baby you've foaled out go into someone else's hands. But even an old gelding rescued and living in a back yard paddock is precious. Without horses, all the frailties of humankind at times seem overwhelming -- until you find a horse. If the horse loves us, wants to be with us, companion in all weather, fair and foul, then how bad can we be, as a species? We're deeply involved in the campaign to end horse slaughter, and we hope the day will come when horses, who helped us build civilization, are honored and respected for all they've done for us.  

Thanks for the time Janet, awesome thoughts!

Renowned Fantasy Author Janet Morris (of Thieves' World) Praises "The Bone Sword"

I recently had a post on my Facebook group "Heroic Fantasy" about a negative review I recently received.  This post led to a discussion with Janet Morris, author of many of the Thieves' World Titles, as well as The Sacred Band and Angels in Hell.  She ended up doing me the honor of picking up "The Bone Sword" (which is currently available on kindle for only 99 cents!) and writing this excellent review!  Thanks Janet:

"A new Hero for a Legendary Tradition: The Bone Sword knows its readers and gives us a strong new hero for a beloved tradition badly in need of one. The novel starts hard and fast and stays that way, yet you can feel, smell, and taste every moment of the action. Its hero, Malik, is ill at the start, cold and miserable: a young swordsman in hostile territory, facing unknowable dangers. Written to catch you by the throat and hold on tight, the prose never lets up. What more do you need: a rousing adventure, a new hero destined for greatness, and a writer who can take you where you want to go?"

Icarus Twitterview Underway, Talk with Author J.S. Chancellor

For all of you who are fans of Rhemalda's J.S. Chancellor, today is a great day!  Not only is it the release of her new novel Icarus: The Kindred, but she's also manning the twitterboard and will be available to answer questions.  All you have to do is use the hashtag #Icarus.  Be sure to follow @Rhemalda and @Jschancellor on twitter.

ICARUS is available in paperback from all your favorite online retailers or local bookstores. In addition, the ebook is available online through B&Nfor the Nook (and other e-readers) and Amazon for the Kindle. For the lowest price on the paperback it can be purchased through RhemaldaPublishing’s bookstore.

ICARUS is a paranormal romance: a love triangle between vampires who need a substance called Icarus to process light. In this richly drawn world, Jessica Slate is kidnapped by vampires who claim that Trinity, her “bad boy” lover, is the Anti-Christ and they take away her source of Icarus. With the clock ticking, can she escape her kidnappers—or will she discover that she belongs with them and that they’re right about Trinity after all?

J.S. Chancellor is the popular author of the Guardians of Legend trilogy (SON OF EREUBUS, BLOOD OF ADORIA, and ETERNAL REQUIEM). ICARUS is the first book in The Kindred series. Matthew Robert Best called ICARUS, “… a refreshing take on an otherwise exhausted genre, leaving me more than a little pleasantly surprised …. Such a fun read, with much more substance than I’m accustomed to in paranormal fiction.”

ISBN: 978-1-936850-37-2

Walter Rhein Articles and Short Stories

These are some of the articles I've done recently for various publications.  Silent Sports pays pretty well, and I was getting decent money from Yahoo Contributors for a while but that dried up (the statistics on my profile page aren't accurate since they lost a Super Bowl reaction article that I had over ten thousand hits on...they never explained what happened to it either).  I'll keep adding to this list as I get more things published.  In the meantime, check out my blogs at Streets of Lima and CyclovaXC for daily articles/rants.

Living in Peru

Birch Scroll

Silent Sports

Yahoo Contributors Articles:

Walter Rhein Article on Yahoo

I've just had the following article published on Yahoo Contributors:

For those of you who are writers, I think the Yahoo Contributors Network is a pretty solid deal.  They have an assignment desk which allows you to pick up stories or articles for a set fee (usually $5 to $10) plus you get paid by performance.  They always pay you promptly and directly into your Paypal account.  I'd do more with Yahoo Contributors, but I'm generally busy with my other blogs.  Still, every now and then I get inspired to write something about the Green Bay Packers, and Yahoo is the best place for that.

If you're so inclined, leave a comment or sign up to be one of my Yahoo Fans.  You can do so by hitting subscribe on this page. If you do so, send me an email at and I'll subscribe to your Yahoo contributor page as well.


Shells chats with author Daniel Shields

How did the idea of Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey come about?

Hi Shells, thank you for granting me this interview. The idea for Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey started back in 2006 when I co-founded a billiards company called LiquidWick Pool Cues. My two favorite animals have always been sharks and wolves. I came up with the idea to bring the billiards term “Pool Shark” to life and since every good action / adventure story needs the main character to have a buddy, it was easy for me to add in Wolf. The book started slow but then the writing took on a life of its own. It took about two years to complete between edits and rewrites.

Each character that is an animal in the book takes on such extreme human personalities. Were any of those characters based on real life people?

As writers, I believe we consciously and unconsciously absorb the world around us. The animal characters in Shark and The Wolf: Predators and Prey are not based on any one particular person but rather a collection of the types of people the characters needed to be. When I started the book I had some rough ideas about the main characters such as a hero (Shark) villains (Shaw and Old Jack) buddy (Dog Z Boy) side kick (Wolf) and love interest (Vixen) but the really cool thing was that as the story developed the characters took on personalities of their own. I remember having some trouble during rewrites with some of the graphic violence that takes place and especially the end of the prologue and the fate of the baby elephant. I thought about having a different outcome for the small little guy but as I thought about it from the perspective of the character Shaw, who happens to be a cold hearted psychopath, he would not have done anything different. I decided that I had to stay true to the story and characters even if personally, like I hope the reader will experience, I had hoped things could have turned out a little different. In stories as in life, sometimes things just don’t turn out as we plan.

Every author I have talked to and being one myself, we always say a little of us goes into every piece of writing we do. In that case, which character out of Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey would you say is most like you and why?

I would like to say I would be Shark: The hero, the good guy, the man’s man, the ladies man, the man (or fish in this instance) that is willing to sacrifice his own life to save those of his friends, BUT – although I like to believe I possess some of these attributes not the least of which is a ladies man (only kidding) I would have to say I’m much more like the character of Wolf. When we first meet his character, he is standing in the shadows, observing the events, much like a writer might do. Wolf is a very cool mysterious loner who as the reader will learn, possesses the same strong convictions about protecting other animals as Shark. He makes a great side kick and also happens to have a hot panther girlfriend named Cahira. Yes, Wolf is part me and I would not mind being part Wolf.

I would like to share one of my favorite scenes with Wolf and Cahira. This takes place just before things go horribly wrong:

As Wolf walked on the sand, the sounds of reggae music filled the air. The music gave a little party bounce to his step. He felt thirsty, and it was happy hour. Those two factors added up to one thing in his mind—cold beer.

Wolf made his way up the two wooden steps and headed straight for the bar. Cahira was talking with Frenchie and stopped as she noticed him. On her way over to greet him, she grabbed a cold beer out of a cooler.

“It’s good to see the handsome wolf again,” she said as she opened the beer bottle and handed it to him.

“It’s good to see the beautiful panther Cahira again,” he said, smiling. He took a big, long sip of his beer. “You know this is my favorite time of the day. And you are my favorite part of the view.”

“You do know how to make a lady feel special,” Cahira said, blushing. “It’s just that I’ve heard almost every line in the book.”

“Who says it’s a line?” Wolf whispered.

Cahira laughed. “All right, I was wrong. Now I’ve heard almost every line in the book.”

Wolf continued playing with her. “So what you’re saying is that by me giving you a line and saying it was not a line, it is actually a line in itself.”

Cahira laughed and looked at him, a little confused. “Something like that I guess.” She leaned in close, almost touching him, and Wolf found the scent of her breath more intoxicating than the taste of the beer. She continued, “But you know, you don’t need to use any lines on me. Just the way you whisper my name in the darkness of the night is enough to send shivers through my body.”

Wolf grinned so wide it actually hurt his jaw. “Should I leave the door unlocked again tonight?” he asked with confidence.

“Only if you want trouble,” she said coyly, continuing to look at him as she moved across the back of the bar.

“I live for trouble,” Wolf said boisterously. “Trouble is my middle name.”

How challenging was it to write Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey?

The book took two years to complete through many edits and rewrites. I think the biggest challenge was having the patience to let the story develop on its own. There were points where I thought “Where is this thing headed?” and like a reader might do, wanted to fast forward to see the ending. After a while, the story took on a life of its own and started to guide me in the direction it needed to go. Did I know that it would wind up in Las Vegas inside the amphitheater of The Serengeti Resort and Casino? Yes. Did I know that there would be a big final battle Shark would be forced to endure? Yes. But – it’s the journey the characters take along the way that is the true soul of the story. Patience to let the story develop on its own was both a challenge and reward.

Your passion for the sport of Billiards is obvious in this book. How did you get started with that and how does it influence you in your everyday life and writing?

As I stated above, In 2006, I co-founded a billiards company called LiquidWick Pool Cues. My business partner and I actually invented a pool cue called “The LiquidWick True Stick 24oz Power Break Cue” that helps add power to the pool player’s break. We own the patent on its “phase shifting technology” and currently sell it online at Needless to say, I’m very close to the sport of billiards, I love the game and find the atmosphere of some pool halls to be dark and mysterious. Not bad settings for a novel. When I decided to bring the billiards term “Pool Shark” to life as the world’s only Great White pool playing shark, the character of Shark started to develop. He also happens to be the main attraction in the world’s most brutal show. It’s been a wild ride! Here is a short excerpt:

As he approached the entrance to the big tent, Shark was shocked when he looked up and noticed a twenty-foot-tall circus bill, a huge advertisement with a giant cartoon-like depiction of him. The caricature distorted the size of his head and showed him with a mean-looking smile. The colorful poster had a caption that read:

“Come One – Come All To See – The Only Great White Shark in Captivity.”

The cover is very striking. Who came up with the idea for the cover art and who did the illustration?

Thank you for your compliment on the cover. I like it how came out but have to admit that I stressed about its design for sometime. When I first had the idea for Shark & The Wolf, it was just that, a character that was a pool shark that had a side kick that was a wolf. I went to a local T-shirt place in Albuquerque, described my idea to an artist and then paid to have the illustrations drawn up. They went through several revisions and then wound up with what you see on the cover today. I used Createspace to both format the book and do the cover. I provided Createspace with the illustration and then described that I wanted the characters placed against a sunset over water with palm tree leaves hanging in from the sides. I wanted it to appear to the book cover viewer that they were looking at the cover image from the edge of land, at the characters and then past the characters to the beautiful sunset over water in the distance. My hope is that the cover can pull the reader in enough to at least start the book. If they do and they can handle something a bit off the beaten path then I think they will be in for quite the exotic journey.

Can we expect more from the characters in Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey for future works?

I have a few ideas bouncing around and would like to think at some point Shark & The Wolf fans will meet these characters again. Vixen is always up to something and is bound to get herself into some trouble. As you know, Shark would never hesitate to run to her rescue.

If you had to say one thing you wanted readers to get from reading the adventures of Shark, Vixen, Dog Z, Old Jack, Gills and the others what would it be?

Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey is an allegorical novel about the exploitation of animals for the mere purpose of human sustenance and entertainment. The book actually brings the billiards term “Pool Shark” to life. Shark, the main character, also happens to have one hell of a killer smile. The story takes place in a world where certain species of animals have evolved both intellectually and physically side by side with humans. In its own small way I like to think it gives a voice to the other species we share this planet with.

The book brings the reader on a wild journey from Africa, to Key West, Fiji, South America and finally Las Vegas. I’ll be the first to admit that it does contain some graphic violence. And all I can say about that is, the world we live in is a violent place. The sub-title Predators and Prey says it all.

At the end of the day, my hope is that the reader can let themselves be swept up into the exotic world the story takes place in. If they do that, then I truly believe they will be taken for a ride on the Wild Side!

Where can people find out more about you?

Readers can always contact me direct at Shark & The Wolf: Predators and Prey has its own fan page on Facebook and is available on Amazon in both kindle and print editions. (It would make a GREAT holiday gift! – nothing wrong with a little self promotion) It’s also available online at Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. I have included links below.

Thank you so much for the interview Shells, these questions were a blast to answer.

Shells chats with author Todd Seaward

In some cases, people discover they want to be a writer at a later age. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I've never really thought of myself as a writer, I'm more of a story teller. I've always been expressive in various mediums but, at the tender age of 30, (sighs, over a decade ago...), I thought I might get semi-serious about my hobbies. Cartooning didn't pan out and I've frightened people with some of my writing so I been gradually becoming quite serious about my scribblings over the past few years.

What do you find is most challenging about writing a story?

Writing on demand and following guidelines as to how the story has to play out and end. I sit down with an idea thinking I know 'my' story and how it's going to end. Once I get to know my characters I find I'm just writing the story for them... They tell me what's going to happen and I have to tag along, recording, to their inevitable, sometimes unhappy ending. I'd have an editor tell me to remove entire scenes, cut two or three thousand words. I'd have to start a different story to meet expectations.. Wouldn't be fair to the characters of the first piece to remove that much of their lives after they trusted me to tell their tale!

What characters do you find most appealing in stories you have read and what character or characters are your favorite from stories you have wrote?

Generally I like a good guy that takes a shit-kicking through-out the story. I don't like 'Hollywood' type characters. I like a bad guy who isn't malicious but does what he/she does because he/she believes. I have to see the conviction written into a character, good or bad, to truly enjoy the story. As for my own... All my characters are my favorite, some I just don't like very much.

Genre stories are becoming more and more popular. How do you feel about Genre writing in general and if you had to pick, what would be your favorite Genre to write in?

Oh my... I can write horror and automotive articles. I've tried to write romance, childrens, suspense, erotica etc but when things are going well the story takes a hard left turn to Darksville where all the bad stuff lives. I find if you can do one genre then do it well, if you can do more then one then kudos to you! Won't stop me from trying though. I have a drawer full of tales that are supposed to have happy endings... Maybe one day!

What makes your stories different from other stories out there today?

Mine are better than some, worse than others.. Only real difference is they're mine.

You have had several short stories published, have you done any longer works?

10,000-15,000 words...and they're still pending. I do have a couple of novel ideas in mind. One is about...Hey! Wait a minute! Nevermind!

Where can readers find some of your short stories?

Mostly with Static Movement right now and a couple through Shade City. My very early stuff, which I care not to mention, I look back cringing and wondering if some of the editors were blind or just trying to fill up space... Not so much the story and the flow but the tech, the manuscript layout, etc. Horrific!! My favorite market back in those days was the now sadly defunct Thirteen Magazine out of the UK. Thirteen issues per year with thirteen stories in each. I tip my hat to Andrew Hannon and where ever he may be. I hope he found what he was looking for...

If there was one thing you could say to someone just starting out in writing, what would it be?

If you love to write, write. If you want money, get a job. Writing for me is telling a story for others to enjoy, or to be shocked, or disgusted. If I do make a buck or two, fine, but when someone says "Hey Todd, I read 'Story BlahBlahBlah' last month and it stuck with me!" For me that's what it's all about!!!

Shells chats with author Joanne Lécuyer

Along with being a writer you're a Personal Coach and a Reiki Master, how do you feel that has helped with your writing?

I’d have to say that coaching and reiki have helped me figure out what I want to be when I grow up! Actually, they have both helped me get to know myself better and realize that I like to create imaginative stories for kids. I’ve started to combine the coaching with reiki to help others find their passion and take that important first step forward.

What inspires you to write children stories?

I love animated kids movies. But, I sometimes feel there are a lot of scary or violent things in them. I believe that you can have a great story without limbs flying or guns going off. There is a lot of beauty and wonder in the world and I want to have kids tap into that. I want them to read something that is fun that will give them something good to dream about.

In your story, Kaptain Vamp, Allistaire makes a choice to become his own superhero. Where did the idea for the character of Allistaire come from and how important do you feel it is for children to have something they can believe in and try to achieve it?

Since vampires have been the rage for adults for the last few years, I thought it would be fun to write a story about them for kids. I liked the challenge of taking this theme and putting a positive spin on it. I didn’t want to give the kids nightmares. Also, I thought a vampire-human superhero would make a good story.

I think there’s an Allistaire hiding in all of us. We’d all love to have super powers and, as humans, we seem to have an innate need to help someone or save some creature. When you watch kids play, you see them using their imagination. They talk like anything is possible. As they grow up, they begin to doubt themselves and their ideas.

What I love about writing fiction for kids is that it’s brought back some of that wonder for me. It allows you to create the world you want – and why not. Isn’t there some saying that says that “what you can envision, you can create”! Since I started writing, I decided that my motto is “Dare to imagine and believe in the magic of possibilities!”

The illustrations are amazing. Who created the illustrations and how important do you feel they were to the story of Kaptain Vamp?

When I started writing children’s books, I decided that I wanted them to have lots of coloured images. So I was on the look out for the style of illustrations that would match the story I was trying to create. I met the illustrator for Kaptain Vamp, Amy Rottinger, through LinkedIn. I’d liked what I saw on her website ( I felt that the style would work with my story. Amy and I chatted on the phone. She was very enthusiastic, and we just hit it off. We worked through email. I gave her an electronic version of the book, told her how many images I wanted in each chapter, and asked her to submit her ideas. She was great to work with and the results are amazing. I love the book.

When I was younger, I thought I might be an illustrator. I realized later that I was more of a copy artist. I had trouble inventing characters or scenes. In the last two years, I realized that I’m a better storyteller. I think that I can appreciate the images all the more having done some illustrations myself. For kids stories, I think pictures help create some of the story magic and I don’t want to write a book without them.

Where can readers buy Kaptain Vamp?

The book is available in print and e-Book on my website, on and coming soon to Barnes and

Are there any future projects you wish to share with us?

I’m working on a few writing projects. I think the next book will be about a fairy. I’m going to work on that one with an artist I met on my bus commute to work. I’ve got outlines for the sequels to my first book, The Witch, the Cat and the Egg, and Kaptain Vamp for 2012, as well as French versions of the books. I’m also experimenting with other writing mediums like a comic strip (I’ve started one with Amy) and an adult short fiction.

Where can people find out more about you?

Readers can find out more about me and my books on my website, through Facebook under Topsy Books (!/pages/Topsy-Books/179610058715988), and on Twitter @JoTopsyBooks (!/JoTopsyBooks).

Thanks for the interview. I hope that readers will make Kaptain Vamp and Topsy Books part of their book collection. J:O)anne

Shells chats with author and artist Robert A. Hastings

The Blue Kangaroo: It's nice to be different, is a delightful children's book dealing with Little Joey, a blue kangaroo, who has to adjust to his surroundings. This book is also beautifully illustrated by Robert A. Hastings who is also the author of this book.

I enjoyed reading this as it was not only charming and had great illustrations, but it allows children to be able to understand a simple but very rewarding experience learning how even an animal will need to learn how to adjust to his surroundings and be happy.

I had the amazing opportunity to talk with Robert A. Hastings about his book and life as a writer and artist.

Where did the idea come from to write The Blue Kangaroo: It's nice to be different?

I wrote the original story over 12 years ago for my granddaughters for a Christmas present. I came across the original first draft about 12 months ago and decided to rewrite the story and I replaced my granddaughters with my grandsons. It seemed like a perfect fit. I changed some of the original story and added some new illustrations.

The illustrations are wonderful and very charming, were children in mind when you created them?

I wrote and did the illustration always using my grandsons as the guide. They had no problem telling me if the story worked. They saw the first proof and liked it.

You did both the illustrations and wrote the story for The Blue Kangaroo: It's nice to be different. When working with this book, did you find anything challenging in the process?

I'm not sure if I’m different from other writer/illustrators but I write at the computer and I can see the story and the illustrations in my mind’s eye. I know what the finished painting will look like before I draw the first line or paint the first stroke and where it belongs in the story. The most difficult thing for me is to know when to stop, being sure on an ending point that works.

Where can readers buy The Blue Kangaroo: It's nice to be different?

The Blue Kangaroo (It's Nice to be Different) is available through and also on amazon.

Are you planning to write any more books?

I have completed a second book that is available The Spirit Wolf (Life is a Never Ending Lesson) it is also available through createspace and amazon. The Spirit Wolf is a series, in fact I have finished the follow on book. I am being encouraged to write follow on stories to The Blue Kangaroo which I am currently beginning work on.

When did you want to become an artist?

I have always been an artist of some kind since I was a child, cartoon, then people and wildlife.

What is your favorite medium to work with?

My favorite medium is water colors and ink. I do all drawings in ink including the detailing and then I paint them.

Are there any future events you may be appearing at you can share with us?

Not as yet. I have been without a normal speaking voice for about 6 months but I think it is a point where I'm ready to do any promotion needed. I will be doing an on-air interview on Global Talk Radio and I will inform you of the date when I know.

Where can people know more about you or buy some of your art?

I have a webpage