Tag Archives: Reading

Interview with Author Darren C Gilbert

Interviews – A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “Serpents Underfoot”. After I published my review, I contacted the author, Darren C Gilbert, for an interview.

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Myself:  First, a little about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Gilbert: I think I probably always wanted to be a writer. I jokingly tell people I could read before I could walk. As young boys, our parents read to both my younger brother and me a great deal. We grew up with a love of books and reading.

Myself:  What is your academic and work background?

Gilbert: I think my background is probably part of what makes me a good writer. I grew up as a stutterer, so I was always trying to prove something … that I was as good as everyone else. This attitude led to my doing many different and exciting things in my life. I grew up camping and backpacking. I was an Eagle Scout. I studied martial arts. I served in the military successfully despite stuttering. While in the army I spent time in Germany, South Korea, and Panama, as well as Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. I have also worked a lot of adventurous jobs.  Transmission Lineman, Glass Truck Driver, ran a karate dojo and graduated from the top bodyguard school in the U.S. before settling down into a more normal career in IT.

Myself:  You have had an interesting career. What part of the world do you currently live in?

Gilbert: I currently live in Cary, NC. I was born in Ilion, New York in 1960 and grew up in North Adams, Massachusetts. We moved to Clinton, Tennessee the year after I graduated from High School where I enlisted in the Army. After leaving the Army in 1983, I stayed in the Clinton, Tennessee area until moving to Cary, North Carolina in early 2016.

Myself:  How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Gilbert: I enjoy martial arts, ballroom dancing, reading, and shooting. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to stay active in all of these activities, so I had to trim them back a bit. I needed to make time to write!

Myself:  What else would you like to share about yourself?

Gilbert: I would add that I am a quiet, easy-going guy who loves dogs. Currently, I have a 2-year-old German Shepherd named Sophie. She is a handful, but great company.

Myself:  You mention that you enjoy reading. What’s the first book you remember reading for yourself?

Gilbert: The first book I remember reading my self is  Frosty. It was about a Husky that was owned by a young family with a little girl. The dog is young and has a lot of energy, so he gets into a lot of trouble, and the family is thinking about getting rid of him. Then one day, their little girl gets lost. Frosty finds the little girl and gently taking her hand in his mouth, leads her home. The dog is now a hero, and of course, the family keeps him.

Myself:  It sounds like that book made quite an impression on you. Did you continue to read while growing up? 

Gilbert: I read all the time growing up. I have read thousands of books of all genres and topics.

Myself:  What have you read recently?

Gilbert: I just finished Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Currently, I am reading Luck Lady by Steve Jackson, a book about the heroic crew and light cruiser, the USS Santa Fe, in World War II.

Myself:  What is your favorite genre? book? character? author?

Gilbert: I have two favorite genres. I enjoy historical fiction. Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorites.  I also love spy/military action thrillers. I read a lot Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, Greg Isles, and WEB Griffin. I also enjoy military history, especially WWII and Vietnam.

Myself:  While I haven’t read much historical fiction, I too have been an avid reader of spy/military action thrillers. Where is your favorite place to read?

Gilbert: I read where and when I can. Lately, I find myself reading in bed at night a lot …  until I fall asleep. I guess my days are just too full.

Myself:  I try to read a little every night too. I find it convenient to use my iPad so I can read in the dark without disturbing my wife. Do you prefer paper or eBooks? Do you listen to audiobooks?

Gilbert: I prefer real books. If I like a book, I will get the hardcover for my library. I do listen to audiobooks while traveling.

Myself:  I have several hardbacks in my library too, though there is not near enough space. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Gilbert: I have a lot of stories to tell. While my stuttering has all but disappeared over the years, in my younger years, I could not often tell the stories I had bottled up inside. It was pretty frustrating.

Myself:  What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Gilbert: I would like to continue to write novels. I have ideas floating in my head for about four more after finishing the one I am currently working on. Two are essentially murder mysteries; one is a collection of short stories,  and the last is a World War II love story. Then, If I have time I might do a book about growing up as a stutterer. I feel that may be helpful to other young stutterers who are trying to deal with this problem.

Myself:  Why do you write? What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Gilbert: I have always enjoyed writing. When in school I enjoyed writing assignments and always did well on them. I love the art of wordsmithing!

Myself:  Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Gilbert: My writing is undoubtedly influenced by other writers, Tom Clancy, Louis L’amour, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, Bernard Cornwall among many. But, people I meet affect my writing more. People I meet and get to know. People like to talk, and I enjoy listening. They often have amazing stories to tell. It is true that truth is often stranger than fiction.

Myself:  How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Gilbert: There is an old saying, “write you know.” That may, in fact, be kind of limiting.  I say, “write what you enjoy.” If you are not interested and enjoying what you write, how can you be good at it? I think I tell the story and then see what genre it fits in.

Myself:  I think that is very good advice for the prospective author. Where do your story ideas come from?

Gilbert: I start with a character or an idea. Then I let the story unfold on its own.

Myself:  I know that you say you prefer just to see where an idea takes you, but do you work to an outline at all?

Gilbert: I do use a loose outline. That functionality (essentially drag and drop chapter and scenes) is built right into the tool I use for my first drafts.  I think working from a plot is too confining or limiting.

Myself:  What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Gilbert: I use Scrivener for my first drafts and then do the editing polishing in Word. I have a couple of other tools I use. The Hemmingway Editor, Writer’s Diet, and of course, Grammarly.

Myself:  I have heard many good things about Scrivener, though I have not tried it myself yet. I do use Grammarly and find it very useful. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Gilbert: It’s funny. The hardest thing about writing for me is getting started. The easiest thing for me is, once I get started, continuing.  I have found I have to lock myself away for a couple of hours every day. No TV or other distractions so I can get started. But once I do, the two hours fly.

Myself:  What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Gilbert: To aspiring authors, I would say … read all you can whenever you. The second thing is to write all you can whenever you can. Writing is a craft. You can learn. However, you do have to practice and see what other writers have done.

Myself:  Good advice. What novels/works have you published?

Gilbert: I have published one novel, Serpents Underfoot, which is doing very well and getting great reviews. It is out in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle. I will be releasing an Audiobook version soon.

Myself:  What are you currently working on?

Gilbert: I am currently working on the sequel to Serpents Underfoot. The title of it is Montagnard.  It will continue the adventures of JD Cordell with some exciting twists.

Myself:  I will be looking forward to reading that. What else would you like to share?

Gilbert: One thing I will mention. I got a lot of confidence from doing gigs on Fiverr.com. I wrote book descriptions, bios, fight scenes, and did some editing for other authors. It is a great confidence builder for a new writer. While you don’t get any credit for your work, you can get paid for polishing your skills, and the positive reviews are a pretty good motivator. And, as a bonus, I get to see my prose on the covers of other author’s books. That is kind of exciting.

Myself:  That sounds like another good recommendation. How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Gilbert: I have a website/blog at https://patriotwarrior.org and it has a newsletter if anyone is interested. I also have a Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/darrencgilbert. I am on Twitter @patriotwarrior5 and Instagram as darrencgilbert. I am always interested in hearing from fans and friends and meeting new people.

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How to Read More Books

Reading – I thought that this was a great article that any reader could learn from. After all, who can say that reading more isn’t a good thing.

K.L. Kranes, Writing Reading Life

In 2017, over a period of 12 months, I read approximately 20 books. This represents a standard average for me for most of my adult life of about two books per month. In the first four months of 2018, I read 57 books, which is more than twice as many as last year in a third of the time. (Take that, people who say I suck at math!)

So what changed?

Did I quit my day job?

NO. I still pound away on my keyboard all day writing and editing medical material while talking into my Madonna concert circa 1995 headset.

Did my kid go off to college?

NO. She may be 12 going on 30, but at least I have 5ish more years until I have to deal with dorms and hot plates.

Did I cut back on my writing?

NO. In the last few months I’ve finished/polished 3…

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Japan, Tokyo – Jimbocho, the Used-Bookstore District

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I wasn’t aware that the “Kanda Second-hand Books Area” existed until I happened across it on a “What to see in Tokyo” map. The formal name for the area is Kanda-Jimbocho. Jimbocho is named after the 17th-century samurai Jimbo Nagaharu who lived in the area.

After a fire destroyed much of the area in 1913, Shigeo Iwanami opened up a bookstore in the area. It later became a publishing house which is still located in the district. After that has followed many other bookstores. Somewhere between 150 and 180 bookstores can now be found in the area.

Most of the bookstores sell used books, but there are quite a few with new publications on sale.

While some English language books can be found, most as you would expect, are in Japanese.

I took photos of just a few of the places that we walked by.

As you can see there is a wide variety of shops.

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You walk by some of these shops that lean towards older works being resold and you can smell the old paper and ink. That is not something you find in modern bookstores. It is more likely what you would find in the stacks in older libraries.

If you like books you may want to visit this area of Tokyo, even if you can’t read Japanese.


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Interview with Author Dan Jayson

A few weeks ago I read and then wrote a review of the thriller “The Last Squadron“. As a result of my review, I was contacted by the author, Dan Jayson, and have been able to interview him.

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Myself: I want to express my thanks to you for doing this interview. First, a little bit about your background. When did you first realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Jayson: I guess since I was old enough to read and write. Then one day I thought okay – I am going to start, so I sat down and wrote the first line. Why that day? I do not know, maybe I was just looking for a new challenge.

Myself: What is your academic and work background?

Jayson: I am a chartered professional engineer and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineers and served for a while in the British Territorial Army. I have been lucky enough to have lived and worked all over the world and spent many months offshore on underwater construction vessels in some remote places.

Myself: What part of the world do you live in now?

Jayson: My family and I currently live in south-west London.

Myself: How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Jayson: I love being with family and friends, and enjoy military history, diving, walking, and skiing.

Myself: What else would you like to share about yourself?

Jayson: I am married with four children, and am a little worried that we are trashing the planet!

Myself: Do you see Fiction, and more specifically Science Fiction, as a way to educate and persuade people from that path?

Jayson: Yes – I think science fiction / fiction books, plays, and films can influence people to effect change. If you can draw someone into a story and make it memorable then perhaps some scenes and themes will become “decision triggers” in real life. Maybe the events portrayed in The Last Squadron might persuade a few people to take more interest in some of the conflicts that have been bubbling away for decades now and pressure our governments to work together in a common framework to stop the misery.

Myself: I wanted to ask about you as a reader. What is the first book you remember reading by yourself?

Jayson: One of the ‘Hornblower’ novels.

Myself: Did you read much growing up?

Jayson: Yes continuously although – I remember I stopped for little after reading the Exorcist which terrified me!

Myself: What have you read recently?

Jayson: Winston Churchill’s Second World War – Volume 1.

Myself: That’s quite a change from “The Exorcist”. Do you have a favorite genre? book? character? author?

Jayson: I do not think I have one, how much you enjoy any book I think can depend on your mood and environment. Every book has something to offer – as a reader you get to devour in a few days what an author has sometimes spent years writing – that is special.

Myself: Where is your favorite place to read?

Jayson: Just about anywhere! At this very moment, I think it would have to be on a sun lounger outside on a hot day.

Myself: Do you prefer paper or eBooks?

Jayson: I like paperbacks – there is something personal about them – I don’t know why – maybe its because they are tactile? You can scrunch them up and even tear out pages as you go if you need to share the book with a friend.

Myself: Now a little about you as an author. What makes you sit down and want to share your stories?

Jayson: I wanted to write an adventure story that was realistic, entertaining, captured some of the great traits of humanity and shone a light on some of our worst aspects.

Myself: What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Jayson: I would like to write a second novel, I just need to get the time!

Myself: Is there anyone who has influenced your writing?

Jayson: Both my time offshore and in the Army influenced my writing – when you are part of a small team in a harsh environment and trying to accomplish a specific task, the resulting comradery and humor are quite special. In addition, the film directors James Cameron and Ridley Scott were an influence, I loved Alien, Aliens, and Black Hawk Down – their attention to technical detail, often-portraying equipment as “scuffed and used” is something I tried to replicate.

Myself: How did you pick the genres for your stories?

Jayson: I wanted to write something I would enjoy – something that was plausible, gritty, realistic, and panoramic. This was the best I could come up with!

Myself: Where do your story ideas come from?

Jayson: The ideas came from disparate and often unconnected sources. So as an example, I saw a documentary about the Black Plague and the residents of the English village called Eyam, and this, coupled with an article I had read a few years before about gene fabrication gave me the idea to create a fairly nasty man-made virus. As another example, whilst we were living in Paris we visited the Palace of Versailles several times. It was on one of these trips that I thought wow … what would a firefight look like in here?

Myself: Do you work from an outline of your plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Jayson: I do not think I had any preconceived approach, I started with a couple of rather disparate scenes as pegs in the ground and then let the characters and events just lead me.

Myself: What tools (software?) do you use in your writing?

Jayson: Just a laptop and a printer – I basically just bulldoze words onto the laptop then print out what I’ve written, read it, cross out huge tracts, add notes then redo it. I am sure there are better ways but …

Myself: Well, I think that with ‘productivity’ tools and processes, the best one is the one that works for you. What are the hardest and easiest things about writing?

Jayson: The hardest thing is starting the first line, after that, it is easy to write but a pain to edit.

Myself: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Jayson: Just write the first line – you will be hooked and it will always call you back to write another!

Myself: Now a little bit about your works. What novels/works have you published?

Jayson: Just this one novel – I do not really count engineering technical papers as of interest!

Myself: I have to agree. From my experience, technical papers have been far easier to write than fiction. What are you currently working on?

Jayson: Am thinking about another novel – but am currently working on several projects relating to underwater salvage as well as trying to launch a small business.

Myself: I will certainly keep a lookout for your future works. What else would you like to share?

Jayson: I do hope anyone who reads The Last Squadron enjoys it!

Myself: How should your fans follow you or get in touch?

Jayson: Anyone is welcome to get in touch on twitter @danjayson. I would love to hear any feedback.

France, Paris – Taschen Bookstore

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Food & Locations – I stopped by the Taschen bookstore located at 2 rue de Buci
75006 when I was in Paris. This is a relatively small bookstore that carries mostly their own publications.

This was not one of my favorite bookstores as the selection was limited. Most of their book were on the subjects of photography, pop culture, style, travel, architecture, fashion, design, cinema, and music.


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How does Science Fiction Impact Innovation?

I came across the article “Does Science Fiction Really Drive Innovation?” this morning and found it very interesting. I would have said with more force that the answer was clearly “YES” before I read the article. Now, I am more likely to agree with the author – Science Fiction and Innovation really go hand in hand.

I still contend though that science fiction, in general, is likely to instill in kids and young adults reading or watching it an interest in science that ultimately contributes to innovation. It would be interesting to see how many students who pursue careers in science have read or watched science fiction as opposed to say those who pursued law or history. If that study doesn’t exist someone in academia should take it on.

France, Paris – Galignani Bookstore

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I visited the Galignani Bookstore (Librairie Galignani) last year and though it to be an interesting find in Paris – an English language bookstore. I had come across Shakespeare’s Books earlier, but finding a second English language book store surprised me.

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Galignani is located at 248 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France. Galignani is the oldest English language bookstore on the European continent. The first Galignani bookstore was opened in 1801 and there has been a store by that name in business run by the Galignani family ever since then. The extensive book inventory exceeds 50,000 titles. Among its many famous customers have been Ernest Hemingway, André Malraux, Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich.

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This is another bookstore that I would recommend a visit to if you are in Paris.


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France, Paris – WHSmith Bookstore

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I was able to visit the WHSmith Bookstore last year while on a visit to Paris. The bookstore is located at 248 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France. The store claims to be the largest English bookstore in Paris, and from what I saw that claim has merit. It is also one of the older English bookstores dating back to 1903.

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I found the shelves filled with a variety of English language books. The store claims more that 70,000 book references. The store had spacious aisles and invited you to spend some time searching through the shelves. It is certainly one of the places I would return to if in Paris again and looking for a title in English.


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France, Paris – Shakespeare and Company Books

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I had read about this establishment and was finally able to visit recently. Shakespeare and Company is an Independant and predominantly English language bookstore in Paris at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005. Shakespear and Company was founded in 1951 as Le Mistral. the name was changed in 1964 to the current Shakespeare and Company on the 100th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. The name change was also in honor of Sylvia Beach, who’d founded the original Shakespeare and Company in 1919 and which remained open until 1941.

This is a very eclectic book store that can be found just across the river from Notre-Dame in a 17th century building with room after room of books on two floors. They also have a cafe next door. Unfortunately the weather was cold, wet and windy during my visit, otherwise there would have been tables set outside the cafe.

If you enjoy a good bookstore and find yourself in Paris, Shakespeare and Company is place you need to visit.


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The World of Sci-fi during WWII – Intermission Story (29)

WWII – I thought that this was an interesting look at Science Fiction during the years of World War II.

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Alex Schomburg artwork

The goings-on at the home front!!

The first Golden Age of Science Fiction—often recognized in the United States as the period from 1938 to 1946—was an era during which the science fiction genre gained wide public attention and many classic science fiction stories were published. In the history of science fiction, the Golden Age follows the “pulp era” of the 1920s and 1930s, and precedes New Wave science fiction of the 1960s and 1970s. The 1950s are a transitional period in this scheme.

One leading influence on the creation of the Golden age was John W. Campbell, who became legendary in the genre as an editor and publisher of science fiction magazines, including Astounding Science Fiction, to the point where Isaac Asimov stated that “…in the 1940s, (Campbell) dominated the field to the point where to many seemed all of science fiction.” Under Campbell’s editorship, science fiction developed more realism and psychological depth to characterization. The focus…

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