Powerball Story

Palm Island

Treasure comes at great cost: hard work, mental exhaustion, love, vision, and never giving up. Such was the life of John Caldwell, author of the sailing classic Desperate Voyage, about his sailing alone from Panama after WW2 into bad weather to get to his bride in Australia. He then had given up the normal, quiet life in LA, and set off on sailing advertures, his heart with the ocean tides. It was never an easy life, but he was never mesmerized by other dreams: money, cars, or a gold watch after a long stint at the factory or in a cubical. His dream was travel on the open ocean, in small boats, his hand on the wheel. No flash in the pan, his life was about force of will, fitness of spirit—a life spent fighting storms, invaders, his dogs at his side, his sons and wife Mary sharing his vision. Digging for treasure? No. Planting palm trees. On his island, a mosquito infested place which he bought for a song and transformed into a paradise. Over decades. Still at it, he died at 80, walking his “Highway 90,” which he told me meant “I hope for 90 years, and the devil take the rest.” The island is now an upscale resort, one of the best in the Caribbean. They say every paradise has a backstory, whoever “they” are. And not just in the Grenadines. Now imagine a Powerball winner who disappears, then discovers he has a son, and hires the tabloid writer who finds him, to fight off pirates just as John did. To buy an island. Palm Island. The Powerball winner in the shadows, out of danger, paying others to risk everything, so he can emerge rich and famous, not JUST for 15 minutes. Fame Island. Based on John’s true story. Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean was partly filmed nearby. Both books DESPERATE VOYAGE and LOTTERY  ISLAND links HERE. Audible HERE.

Islands

Terry Brooks on Writing

writing

In Sometimes the Magic Works, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks shares his secrets for creating unusual, memorable fiction. Spanning topics from the importance of daydreaming to the necessity of writing an outline, from the fine art of showing instead of merely telling to creating believable characters who make readers care what happens to them, Brooks draws upon his own experiences, hard lessons learned, and delightful discoveries made in creating the beloved Shannara and Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Word and The Void trilogy, and the bestselling Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace.

In addition to being a writing guide, Sometimes the Magic Works is Terry Brooks’s self-portrait of the artist. “If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical,” says Brooks. This book offers a rare opportunity to peer into the mind of (and learn a trick or two from) one of fantasy fiction’s preeminent magicians.

 

Science Fiction

Can You Guess this Actor and Narrator?

Anthony Heald

Anthony Heald acted in plays throughout high school and college, and spent 15 years working in regional theater before settling in New York. He quickly established himself there by playing Tom in a 1980 Off-Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie, and two years later made his Broadway debut alongside Holly Hunter in Beth Henley’s The Wake of Jamey Foster. His performances in Anything Goes and Love! Valour! Compassion! earned him Tony Award nominations, and he was recognized with an Obie Award for his work in the productions of The Foreigner, Digby, Henry V and Quartemaine’s Terms. In film, he has appeared in Silkwood, Outrageous Fortune, and in Silence of the Lambs, with minor roles in The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, Kiss of Death, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Postcards from the Edge, 8MM, Proof of Life, Red Dragon, and Accepted. His over sixty audiobooks to date include Where the Red Fern Grows, The Pelican Brief, Jurassic Park, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, (which was a Clint Eastwood movie and is now a Metabook at iTunes), The Great Gatsby, and many others. He currently resides in Ashland, Oregon with his family, where he is a member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival acting company. 

JONATHAN LOWE: Has acting always come naturally to you, and if so, to what do you attribute that–a sensitive nature, curiosity, imagination. . ?

ANTHONY HEALD: I’ve always loved to act, and I guess it’s come instinctively to me. I attribute that to a number of factors: I have a vivid imagination, I’m insatiably curious, I’m an empathetic person. But mostly, I think, the support and encouragement I always got from my family was a major factor in my attraction to the theater and acting, and the decision to try to make a living as an actor.

Q: You’ve done a wide range of acting in your career. What’s most and least gratifying, artistically speaking?

A: For me, the most gratifying kind of work I can do as an actor is in live theater. I love to rehearse – to explore, over a period of weeks, the imaginative life of a character; to find organic behavior for that character that helps to illustrate who he is and what he wants. I love to connect with my scene partners, and to have the opportunity to go through a project over and over again from beginning to end.

Q: If you could have any role to perform, and any book to narrate, what would they be, and why?

A: At this stage in my life Lear is beginning to look more realistic! And I’d love a chance to do Falstaff. As far as audio recording goes, I’ve recorded about half of Chekhov’s short stories – I’d love to finish that.

Q: You have SF and particularly Star Wars productions in common with narrator Jon Davis, although I’ve only heard you in SF titles like Eifelheim by Michael Flynn and Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Were yours full cast and sound, or solo narration, and how did they come about?

A: The Star Wars audiobooks I did (about 35 or 40 of them) were all solo narration, with music and sound effects added later on. Alas, I’m not a big science fiction fan.

Q: We love Black Mask Audio Magazine. Have you done any other full cast productions or radio dramas, and was it particularly fun for you, working with Blackstone Audio?

A: Black Mask was the only full cast radio drama I’ve done. We’ve recorded full cast audio recordings of the Shakespeare productions done at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in October. Our first was “King Henry VIII”, since no one can predict how many decades will go by before we do that play again!

Q: Ashland, Oregon has turned into like this mecca, or Los Angeles North, for audiobook narrators, now that Grover is head of production at Blackstone there. Are you and Tom Weiner and the gang still doing productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, too? And does the place merit a tourist visit?

A: I’m in my 6th season at OSF, and will be returning next season as Shylock. Ashland and the Festival are definitely worth a week-long visit!

Q: What’s next up for you? More classics too, I hope. You did a wonderful job with The Great Gatsby, Moby Dick, and Crime and Punishment.

A: I hope I get to do more classics – “Crime and Punishment” was great fun to do!

Blair Howard: Harry Starke Author

Blair HowardA tactical nuclear weapon has gone missing somewhere in the Middle East and is thought to have been smuggled into the United States by a small group of Iranian terrorists intent on chaos and destruction. The target? Unknown, but the FBI’s local director is convinced that it’s the Sequoya nuclear plant and that the clock is ticking. Convinced that the threat is real and that his only link to the terrorists is Harry Starke’s nemesis, Shady Tree, he turns to Harry for help. But Harry has demons of his own to deal with, and the hunt for Tree quickly turns into a race against time. Apocalypse is the 13th standalone novel in a series of hard-boiled thrillers. If you like tough-as-nails heroes and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Blair Howard’s latest gritty, edge-of-your-seat thriller. Blair Howard is author of more than 40 books and more than 4,500 magazine, newspaper, and web articles. For seven long and dreadful years, he ran the Golf Travel channel for the New York Times company, and I continued to do so, even after the NYT sold the company in 2013, for 3 more years – 10 in all. His work has appeared in many national and international publications, including Delta’s Sky Magazine, PHOTOgraphic magazine, The Mail on Sunday, The Walking Magazine, Petersen’s Hunting Magazine, The Boston Herald, The Detroit Free-Press, The Anchorage Times and many more.

Jonathan Lowe) How did you began writing? 

Blair Howard) I was a journalist for a great many years, eight of them for the new York Times company, but I’ve always wanted to write fiction but never could find enough time. I made several starts – short stories, one of which became my sixth Harry Starke Novel, Family Matters – but it wasn’t until 2015 that I began writing fiction in earnest. Harry Starke Book 1 was completed in September that year.

JL) What is the takeaway to Apocalypse, and the inspiration for it? 

BH) Apocalypse is a thriller rather than a crime/mystery novel, and it’s the latest book in the Harry Starke series having been published only six weeks six weeks ago. It’s the result of a half dozen or so comments in reviews that stated that, “Harry Starke is no Jack Reacher.” Of course he’s not; he never was meant to be. He’s a detective, and a damn good one, or so his fans tell me across more than 6,000 four and five-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I never take negative reviews personally – you either like the stories or you don’t – but those comments started my juices flowing. “If you want Jack Reacher,” I thought, “I can do that,” and I did, and quite successfully too judging by the reviews: 115 so far at 4.8-star average on Amazon alone; even more on Goodreads.

JL) Why Indie and not a major publisher? Creative control?

BH) Over a period of twenty years, I had three different traditional publishers for 24 of my books. After each initial book launch, they promptly forgot about them and they ceased to sell. Now, as an Indie, I sell more books in month than I did in two years with a traditional publisher. I write the books, employ a professional editor, book cover designer, audio narrator (Tom Lennon) and I do my own marketing. Since I went Indie, I’ve sold almost 200,000 copies of my books (ebooks and paperbacks), including more than 6,500 audio books. I think I’m doing fine on my own.

JL) Any thoughts on the writing and marketing process?

BH) I do all of my own marketing and promoting. In fact, I spend almost as much time marketing as I do writing. I’m like the “My Pillow Guy” for my books.

JL) Anecdotes about fans of Harry?

BH) Anecdotes? I don’t know. What amazes me most is that so many of Harry’s fans think he’s a real person. Now that’s a complement any writer would be proud to receive. I know I am.

JL) What’s next for you?

BH) I’ll continue to write Harry Starke novels, and of course I’ll continue to add to the spinoff series, The Lt. Kate Gazzara Novels. One day, I may even try my hand at SciFi, or even a spy thriller. Who knows? I do know that I’ll continue to write until I am no longer physically able, and I hope Tom Lennon will continue to narrate the Harry Starke audio books. He is the audio Harry Starke; he does a great job.

JL) Agreed. Thanks.

Apocalypse book

Our Towns by James Fallows

Our Towns
James Fallows is a writer and journalist for The Atlantic. He was Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter, and won the National Book Award in 1983 for National Defense. He has since written about China, business, technology, and the military in both books and articles. A Rhodes scholar at Oxford in economics, he also went to Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Crimson. He later worked as an editor at The Washington Monthly, Texas Monthly, and U.S. News & World Report. In addition to holding a number of honorary degrees, he is also a licensed pilot, and once, long ago, worked as a mail carrier for the USPS. Given this experience, it is perhaps befitting that his latest book is written with his wife Deborah, who narrates, and is titled OUR TOWNS: A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America. 

Jonathan Lowe) Describe your book tour. Whom did you meet?

James Fallows) Over the past four months, my wife, Deb, and I have spent most of our time on the road across the United States, talking with readers — and a wide range of other citizens. We’ve met business people, teachers and librarians, mayors and other political leaders, immigrants and refugees, artists, nurses and doctors, police officers and judges, architects and construction staffers, farmers and shop owners, reporters and local news staffers, entrepreneurs, brewers and distillers, truckers and delivery drivers, and the others who make up a modern community. 

JL) Impressions of America between the coasts?

JF) The more we’ve continued to travel, the more humbled and impressed we’ve become by the breadth and intensity of the renewal efforts already underway in communities large and small. Every American is aware of the problems and failures of the current United States, from bitter division at the level of national politics to economic dislocation and stagnation, and drug-addiction scourges. But not enough people are vividly enough aware of how much innovative energy is being applied toward solutions. 

JL) How do you think this will all turn out?

JF) We can’t be sure — no one can — of how the balance between national-level bitterness and local-level practicality will turn out. But the more we’ve seen, the more convinced Deb and I have become about the importance of sharing these stories and letting today’s Americans know about the solutions their fellow citizens are discovering.  

JL) You and your wife recorded the audio version of this book, reading the alternating passages each of you wrote. What did you learn from the experience? 

JF) We benefitted from the guidance of a skillful producer / director of the recording, Gordon Rachman. Deb says about the experience, “Gordon was a great coach. He turned a famously arduous process —(think of going to the dentist!) — into one that was as pleasant and rewarding as could be. Think of the happy gas!” I agree with Deb, and found the recording process both more demanding than I expected and also more satisfying…in contrast to the tolerance for half-slurred words we get in normal life. Deb and I were trying to tell the story of what we had seen city-by-city as we went across the country. Telling those stories aloud, finally, seemed like the right and natural way to deliver the message. Although I couldn’t help copy-editing myself as we went along, or thinking, “Gee, there could have been a clearer way to make that point!” I am a huge fan and customer of audiobooks, and so I was all the more gratified to be able to participate in this part of the writing and publishing process. 

From the Publisher: “For the last five years, James and Deborah Fallows have been traveling across America in a single-engine prop airplane. Visiting dozens of towns, they have met hundreds of civic leaders, workers, immigrants, educators, environmentalists, artists, public servants, librarians, business people, city planners, students, and entrepreneurs to take the pulse and understand the prospects of places that usually draw notice only after a disaster or during a political campaign.  The America they saw is acutely conscious of its problems—from economic dislocation to the opioid scourge—but it is also crafting solutions, with a practical-minded determination at dramatic odds with the bitter paralysis of national politics. At times of dysfunction on a national level, reform possibilities have often arisen from the local level. They describe America in the middle of one of these creative waves. Their view of the country is as complex and contradictory as America itself, but it also reflects the energy, the generosity and compassion, the dreams, and the determination of many who are in the midst of making things better. Our Towns is the story of their journey—and an account of a country busy remaking itself.”

FallowsLinks:  Ebook.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.

Commentary.

Occupational Hazards

Occupational HazardsGeoff Sturtevant has been driving a truck and voraciously consuming audiobooks for 16 years. He won the 2018 ABR LISTENERS CHOICE AWARD for best humor entry for his audiobook production of Occupational Hazards: The Blue-Collar Omnibus. He writes about the absurd, the macabre, and the general strangeness of the human experience. The book is quite amusing, and different. There’s something for everyone: mystery, suspense, satire, scifi, you name it. He’s the James Patterson of humor: inventive, offbeat, and able to dole out even gallows humor effects in ever rising insight. The opening story is sheer redneck fun, told with a believable accent on audio. He also narrates some of the stories. A brief interview below. 

Geoff Sturtevant

Q) How did you start writing?

A) I started writing mostly to make my mom laugh. I’d spend two or three weeks writing a novelette just to invite her over, hand her a manuscript, and just sit in the other room listening to her laugh. There’s something about making a 70 year-old lady laugh at what she’s probably not supposed to laugh at that’s very gratifying. Craft is more important to me than being funny, but I love getting laughs most of all. 

Q) Why this book, and why multiple narrators on the audio version?

A) I put together Occupational Hazards with the audiobook specifically in mind. I’m a huge audiobook fan, and I reached out to a bunch of my personal favorite narrators to help me produce it. The response has been positive, and the narrators had a lot to do with that.

Q) Views on morality, which arise in your writing. God given or human choice?

A) I think morality is both God-given and based on choices. New cultural values are embraced, and God-given morals are ignored. People are complicated creatures, and no one reason is responsible for anyone’s particular values. Both of my daughters, for example, decided as soon as they understood meat came from animals, that they didn’t want to eat meat. It still surprises me that this seemed to be their default moral choice. Maybe they’ll un-learn this one, maybe not. I do hope to teach them other ones I consider valuable, but society is steadily forgetting. 

Q) Funny you should mention meat. I’ve interviewed authors on both sides of that issue, too. Meatonomics versus The Big Fat Surprise. Been trying to reach Dr. Preston Estep at Harvard, who takes another view in The Mindspan Diet, showing that iron in meat and supplemental iron added to flours in America cause Alzheimers in over age 50 adults. I forget who the other one I interviewed…oh, right! Kelly Preston. Tell us about your story The Relativist. 

A) In that story, which on the surface is a really ridiculous, the underlying moral message/question is: if you’ve committed to ethical relativism, is it possible to hold anything sacred? The story is totally surreal, but it constantly puts cultural values at odds with each other; from quirky culinary differences to all-out good vs. evil. Moral values is a tough subject itself, but it’s good for writing fiction. You don’t necessarily need the answers, only the conflict.