6Ws, Author Series

6Ws with Author Kateri Stanley

Kateri Stanley is the next author featured in this 6Ws series. Her latest book, From the Deep, is a modern day, dark fantasy thriller. She says fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid might enjoy reading it. Now that makes me curious. Read on to learn more about Kateri Stanley — a pseudonym by the way — and her writing.

Who is the author Kateri Stanley?

I’m a British-based writer moonlighting under a pen name, I work a regular office job by day, and I live with my boyfriend and our cat. I love my music, movies, TV shows and a video game here and there. Big fan of comedy. I’m an introverted geek. 

What is your latest book? 

From the Deep is a modern day, dark fantasy thriller. Based in the fictional town of Drake Cove. It follows fisherman, widower and single dad, Julian Finch who finds out that two of his colleagues have been murdered. His hometown is struggling under a huge hot media spotlight as their controversial practice of The Culling hits headlines everywhere.

The suspects of the murders come in the form of radical animal rights group, Fighters Against Animal Cruelty – FAAC. They go wherever the politics is trending and detests the town because of the brutal killings of pilot whales which are eaten.

After a hate attack goes viral, Julian and his daughter, Emily stay with a family friend, Frank Blothio. He is an ex-fisherman turned writer and political activist who does not have the best history with the animal rights movement, or Drake Cove as a whole. As Julian integrates into the Blothio way of life, he discovers heinous secrets and disturbing truths lurking beneath the skin of his hometown that will change his life forever.

Fans of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid might enjoy it.  It was published by indie publisher, Burton Mayers Books on the 6th May. 

When did you begin writing? 

I’ve been writing since I was a kid whether it was jotting down a diary, ideas, short stories, bad poetry, fan fiction, lyrics. But I didn’t start writing with serious intention to be published till I was a teenager when I started working on my first original idea.

 How do you write? 

I normally have an idea in my head and I let it simmer for a while. If it doesn’t go away, it will naturally mature, spread legs and blossom. I jot them down, might do a bit of research. then I start writing, typing up the first draft. Sometimes the ideas change and I go with the flow of it.

 Where do you write? 

At the moment, I write in my office at home and when I have a breather, I’ll scribble something down or jot it on my phone during my lunch break at work. 

Why do you write? 

It’s linked to my mental health. I have a lot of characters and stories swimming in my head. I feel alive when I write. If I didn’t, I’d probably be in a mental hospital. 

Links to books and social media: 

Website: www.kateristanley.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sal_writes

Instagram: http://instagram.com/sal_writes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/salwrites2

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21272876.Kateri_Stanley

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kateri-stanley

From the Deep on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09WG2GVV5

Forgive Me on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08XQSQF1D 

All links: https://linktr.ee/sal_writes 

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The Sacred Dog

The Real Sacred Dog

Although those who know me might feel differently, nobody in my next novel, The Sacred Dog is based on a real person. The one exception is the dog, Louise, who belongs to Frank Hooker, a main character in the book. At some point Frank decided to rename his bar The Sacred Dog in honor of her. Louise also has a pivotal role later in the book. 

The real inspiration for Louise is a dog named Sheena. We didn’t call her that but she knew the name, so we were stuck. Hank and I were living with our parcel of six kids in a small town in the sticks of Western Massachusetts when she found us.

Her owners, who lived down the road, left her tied up when they moved to the other side of town until she broke loose and found our compost heap. Her owner said we would keep her after I called. When the man came to drop off her bowl and chain, the dog lay on the deck and didn’t even acknowledge his presence. Sheena knew better.

Sheena, who was a black Labrador retriever, came with habits. She liked to wander the neighborhood, which was heavily wooded, visiting every dog and home. She knew where there were handouts from the neighbors. She was the alpha dog and all the dogs bowed to her as if she was indeed a queen. She enjoyed rolling in cow manure at a farm up the road. She enjoyed manure, period. Sheena also was pregnant, we found out later, and after the litter was born, we had her spayed. 

Sheena took to our family and sat regally amidst the hubbub of six kids playing inside. That’s when I dubbed her “the sacred dog” since she would put up with any amount of noise and activity.

At the time I worked as a reporter at home for a local newspaper. When I wrote at my desk, Sheena slept beneath my legs. As soon as I turned off the computer, she got up and found something else to do. Her job was done.

When Sheena died, I grieved longer for her than I did relatives I loved. And then she became a character in the book I began before the turn of the new century. (More on that another time.) Now, I am glad the book is being published thanks to darkstroke books. 

By the way, The Sacred Dog is a tale about a feud between two men — Frank Hooker and Al Kitchen. And I can honestly say nothing good is going to come from this feud.

Here’s a scene from The Sacred Dog involving Louise. Frank is at a river with Crystal, his 9-year-old daughter who has just returned to town with her mother, and his dog.

“Is it true your bar used to be named for Mommy, but you began calling it after your pet dog because you were mad we moved to Florida?” She looked directly at him. “Am I right, Daddy?”

Frank sat upright. “Well, honey, that isn’t the real story. I’d never do somethin’ like that,” he lied. “The new name just seemed like a fine idea at the time. The Sacred Dog. It has a certain ring to it. Don’t you think?”

His daughter’s head shook energetically. “Oh, yeah,” she said.

“Besides, Louise is an awfully good dog.”

Crystal knew Louise’s story. Frank wrote her after he found the dog hanging around his trashcans one afternoon when he took a break from writing up the monthly liquor order. He called Monk Stevens, in his capacity as Holden’s dog officer, and he told Frank she was probably dumped there because she was bone-skinny and had no collar. “She’s yours if you want her,” he told Frank. “You know what’ll happen if you don’t.”

Frank decided on the spot to save her. It’d been a while since he had a dog, and he took to calling the dog Louise after a girl he once knew who bore the same mournful expression. He fed her as much food as she wanted and within a few weeks, she became eternally grateful. One slow night, when Frank and Early played cribbage, Louise nudged the topside of her head beneath Frank’s hand. After a while, he told her to “git,” and though the dog was clearly disappointed, she left him alone while he played and talked with Early.

“You know Early. That dog is a saint, a pure saint. She never complains, even when those kids come in Sunday night to bother her. Look at ’er. The way she sets there, you’d think she was somethin’ sacred.” He paused while he studied the fan of cards in his hand. “Yeah, that’s what she is. Louise is the sacred dog.”

“Oh shit, Frank. You’ve gone off your rocker. Dogs aren’t sacred. They shit where you go. They eat shit and roll in shit.”

“Louise is different, I tell you.”

“Why don’t you shut the heck up and get me another beer?”

What had been a pet owner’s moment of tenderness now became an inspiration for Frank. A few weeks later, he decided to officially change the name of his bar, which was still Ronnie’s, to The Sacred Dog. Truthfully, he was thinking about getting a new name after it dawned on him it was rather foolish to have a bar named for his ex-wife. He discounted using his own or anything with the word Holden in it. The town had enough buildings named after John Holden, the town’s founder. Early suggested the Bowtie, but Frank said no one ever wore one in his bar and he expected no one ever would.

“A John Deere cap or torn T-shirt would be more like it,” Frank said, and Early laughed as if he had a tickle in his throat.

The Sacred Dog suited Frank fine, so he asked a lawyer in town to draw up the papers to make it legal. Then he asked Early to make the sign. The regulars thought Frank was joking, but when he told them the story, they agreed it was a good name for a bar. Some stiffs in the back room of the general store did grumble to Frank about it. The pastor of the Holden Congregational Church called to complain, but Frank, who had only been to church as an adult for funerals and his own wedding, told the men he didn’t see the connection.

LINK: The Sacred Dog is available for Kindle readers to pre-order. I am grateful if you do as it helps with ratings. The official release is Dec. 27 and paperback will follow. Here’s the link: https://mybook.to/thesacreddog

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s Sheena and me, when I had dark hair.

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6Ws, Author Series

6Ws with Author Michelle Cook

Michelle Cook is the next darkstroke books author to feature in the 6Ws series. (With a nod to my former life as a journalist, I opted for the 6Ws of the business: who, what, when, where, why and how, which counts as it ends in W.) Michelle’s most recent release is Counterpoint, which is a sequel to Tipping Point, her debut novel. Both stand on their own, however. These eco-thriller adventures follow the story of a young woman called Essie. But I will let Michelle tell you about her writing and her books herself.

Who is Michelle Cook?

That’s a tricky question to start with!

I’m an author who lives in the UK with my husband and two children aged nine and six. By day, I work for the National Health Service, but I disappear into fiction whenever I’m left to my own devices. 

I write all sorts of tales, but they mostly turn out dark, sometimes despite my best efforts. They are usually “what if?” stories – taking something from life around me and moving it on a step or two to see what happens. I’m also interested in resilience, and how people deal with extreme situations with a wider context. I naturally lean towards thrillers and dystopia.

What is your latest book?

My recent release is called Counterpoint. It’s a follow up to my debut novel Tipping Point, but it’s a standalone story if you haven’t read the first. The books are eco-thriller adventures that follow the story of a young woman called Essie. She lost all her family in a terrorist bombing some years before the story opens and lives a meagre existence in the 2040s amongst climate breakdown and social unrest. An authoritarian government controls the population with draconian laws and propaganda and the corrupt Prime Minister, Alex Langford, lines his own pockets while society collapses around him.

Essie discovers an elite conspiracy to suppress technology that could reverse climate change and provide limitless free energy. This puts her in the middle of a dangerous power play and in mortal danger. She must decide if she’s willing to risk everything to expose the plot. 

When did you begin writing?

I loved reading and writing stories as a kid. My first real memory of creative writing success was at the age of ten, when the teacher read out my short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. But something in me must have remembered the buzz of others hearing my words.

Over the years, I got distracted by life and jobs, and stopped writing though I never stopped loving stories and was an avid reader.

A few years ago I took it up again, thinking it would be an excellent release from everyday life. Stress-free it was not but having two books published now is one of the things I feel most proud of and I can’t imagine stopping now. I’m a little while from retirement but I have a vivid plan of how I will spend my days when I get there!

How do you write?

Sporadically! I have one day set aside a week where I’m not working, and the kids are at school. That’s my writing day, though when I’m in the swing I will also write at night when everyone else has gone to bed. I often plot and think about the story while driving or listening to music—I love to build a playlist for each book.  But when I get down to writing it, I need silence so I can forget the real world around me.

When it comes to novels, I’m a plotter. I always work to an outline which lays out chapter by chapter how the story will unfold. It helps me see the bigger picture and get though the inevitable ups and downs of writing a book. Any author will know it’s a marathon effort and I need the scaffolding of a plan to keep me motivated. When I was drafting Tipping Point and got blocked, I jumped ahead to write scenes I could picture clearly and that sparked my enthusiasm again. I couldn’t have done that without an outline.

Where do you write?

At home, usually on my floppy sofa. Terrible for the posture, I’m afraid. I’ve tried to do the writer thing and set up in café, but I’m too nosy and distractable. I end up people watching instead of working. I have to be quite strict with myself to get anything done.

 Why do you write?

It depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes I’m trying to pour out my brain because I would drive my family crazy if I didn’t write it down. I get passionate when I see unfairness and injustice, to a point where I can’t understand why the world keeps turning while this stuff is going on. Writing helps get it off my chest without getting a divorce. Tipping Point was born of this obsession, during the era of Trump and Brexit, because I was so frustrated at the world’s blindness and I wanted to make it listen. Whether it does or not, the story is out there now.

On the lighter side, I suppose it goes back to the kudos of being the one who amused the class with my kangaroo story. I’m not the person who’ll regale you at parties, though. I don’t like the spotlight like that. Things always come out better for me in writing than talking. I love the idea that I can sit in my little corner and make stuff up, and you could sit in your corner and read it and think, “That was a great story, I enjoyed that.” I’m shy, though, so it’s best if I’m in the next room with a glass of wine when you read it!

The best times are when I’m writing to entertain myself. Someone once said write the book you want to read, and that’s always the aim. If I’m enjoying it, I can dare to hope my readers will too.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Joan. I had tons of fun responding to your journalistic probing!

More about Michelle Cook:

You can buy Tipping Point and Counterpoint here: http://mybook.to/counterpoint

Catch up with me on social media here: Linktree

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6Ws, Author Interview

6Ws with Gary Kruse

The next author in this 6Ws series is Gary Kruse from the UK. I so enjoy getting to know my fellow authors and what they are willing to share about their writing. How’s this? Gary wrote the majority of Badlands on his phone during his lengthy work commute. Up next? Bleak Waters, a supernatural mystery. But I will let Gary take over this post.

Who is author Gary Kruse?

I’m a writer of novels, short stories and flash fiction from Hornchurch in Essex. I’m married with two sons, and in my day job, I work in the educational/charity section as an Administration Manager. I like rock and alternative music and play guitar, enjoy football and tennis and love reading, cinema and theatre. 

What is your latest book?

My latest published book is my dark thriller Badlands, a story of deception, betrayal and conspiracy inspired by and set on the wild rugged coastline of North Cornwall. 

Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Jane Harper, James Herbert and Robert Goddard, it’s the story of Willow, a runaway who’s dragged back into the life she fled when she gets a call for help from her estranged sister. 

When she returns to the Cornish coastal village of St. Agnes where she grew up, Willow finds that her sister was involved in a local scandal, but has since gone missing. 

To dig into the secrets of her sister’s life, Willow must confront her own mistakes and with every revelation Willow finds herself dragged deeper and deeper into a murderous conspiracy who’s roots lie a lot closer to home than she realises. 

It’s a story of sisterhood, broken families, smuggling and hidden identities with a hint of social commentary and even a dash of the paranormal. 

My current WIP is called Bleak Waters. It’s a supernatural mystery set in Hickling on the Norfolk Broads. 

Twenty-five-years after a young woman went missing in broad daylight, a stranger turns up asking questions about the disappearance. 

Lost in her own grief, the stranger’s arrival is a welcome distraction for twenty-three-year old local girl, Lily West, but when she starts uncovering the web of secrets and lies surrounding the disappearance, Lily realises that she’ll have to choose between protecting the people she loves, and uncovering the truth.

When did you begin writing?

I began writing in 1996. I went to see the Craft in the cinema, and I’d recently seen the Lost Boys, and in the days that followed I started thinking what would happen if the girls from the Craft met the Lost Boys? From there, I began writing a series of short tales about the conflict between a gang of witches and a vampire crew, and this eventually became my first (and gratefully unpublished) novel, Blessed Be

How do you write?

These days it’s mainly on laptop, but I wrote the majority of Badlands on my phone on my commute to and from work. I used to commute from my home in Hornchurch, to my job in Hampstead, North London, which was an hour and forty minutes each way, which meant I had around 3 hours a day of solid writing time. 

Where do you write?

We did a loft conversion a couple of years back, and now I have a writing space in the corner of the loft. But at the minute most of my writing is done in the local library on my lunch break from the day job. Occasionally I’ll write in coffee shops too. 

Why do you write?

To tell the stories that I want to read about the places I love, but that I can’t find in bookshops. 

More about Gary Kruse: parting words; links to your books; social media

Thank you, Joan for hosting me! Readers can find links to all my social media, my mailing list, website and published works through this link: www.linktr.ee/garykruseauthor

Badlands is available from Amazon on kindle, kindle unlimited and in paperback: http://mybook.to/badlandsdarkstroke

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Following the Lead

And Now the Junkyard Dogs

No, they are not real dogs guarding a junkyard but the name of a band I made up for Following the Lead, the next in Isabel Long Mystery Series. As I write this series, I have a great deal of fun coming up with names for the local bands who play at the Rooster Bar and Grille. That happens on Fridays, the nights Isabel tends bar because as Jack, its owner and her love interest, knows a band tends to draw a big crowd of thirsty music lovers.

The musicians are all local guys who have no serious aspirations. And as the author, I have had a great deal of fun coming up with names for their bands. Here goes: Cowlicks, Lone Sums, Potholes, Slim Jims, Hunters and Gatherers, Back Door Men, Country Bumpkins, Plowboys, Truck Stoppers, and Wild Fire.

And now we have the Junkyard Dogs, but more about that band in a bit.

Some bands that Jack hires are regulars. A few are one and done if their playing doesn’t pan out. Other times a band dissolves, one time because one band member made off with another’s girlfriend and I believe there was a chainsaw accident for one player in another.

Because this is a bar stuck practically in the middle of nowhere in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, the playlist tends to be country, rock, maybe a little blues, but frankly, most country. And the emphasis is on danceable tunes. Covers are the rule.

So, count on hearing “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Rambling Man” and “Mustang Sally.” When a band plays “Brown-Eyed Girl” or something by Patsy Cline, Jack will shut down the bar and get Isabel onto the dance floor.

And now for the Junkyard Dogs. Well, the name make sense since it’s lead singer, Annette Waters owns a junkyard. Her son, on drums, works there, and the two guitarists have their own garage. The Junkyard Dogs make their debut at the Rooster. Here, I will let Isabel tell you about them. This is a scene from Following the Lead.

“Who’s playing tonight?”

“New band. Called the Junkyard Dogs,” he says with a chuckle. “You might recognize a couple of those dogs.”

But before I can quiz Jack further, he’s striding across the room and shouting at the guy with the keyboard. 

The Rooster has a band playing Friday nights, with the one exception being during the Titus Country Fair when Jack wisely figured nobody is going to pass that up to listen to music. The musicians are all local guys and gals with varying degrees of talent but an unbridled enthusiasm for playing that familiar mix of country, rock, and blues. I remember when the Plowboys attempted semi-successfully James Brown’s “Papa’s Gotta Brand New Bag.” It took a while for the dancers to catch on, but they finally did to my amusement. Anyway, Jack pays the bands what he can afford and throws in a couple of beers. One of my jobs is to keep tabs on how much more they drink, so he can deduct it from their pay. I believe one night a hard-drinking band barely got enough for gas money.

I’m on my toes and leaning forward to see what’s what or rather who’s who I will recognize coming inside. A couple of Rooster Regulars who just came through the front door are blocking my view. I raise my finger as I scoot around the bar’s corner.

“Be right back, fellas,” I say.

Jack leaves the building, and then a very recognizable person does come inside. A grinning Annette Waters carries a guitar case and gives me a wave with the hand that’s free. Now I get it. Annette owns a junkyard. Her son Abe is behind her with a drum. He’s got to be one of the Dogs, as are the two other guys who are hauling speakers. I wasn’t aware the Tough Cookie, my secret nickname for her, plays music although earlier this summer when my mother and I were at Rough Waters Garage and Junkyard to have my car serviced, we heard Annette belt out that Tammy Wynette number “Stand by Your Man” inside her garage. She had a great voice although Ma and I joked whether the Tough Cookie had a new guy or she would actually do what the song’s lyrics say. 

Annette, who has dressed for the occasion with a sequined halter top, tight jeans, and a black Stetson walks toward me.

“You one of the band’s groupies?” I joke.

Annette slaps my arm, a form of endearment from the Tough Cookie, and laughs.

“Nah, this is my band. I’m the lead singer.” She tips her head toward the other side of the room.

 “Abe plays the drums. Those other guys work at that garage in Rossville. Rick and Rob.

Brothers. Don’t think you know ’em.”

“No, I don’t. What kind of music do you play?”

She rolls her eyes as if I really need to ask, but she plays along.

“What kind do you think?”

“Jazz?”

She sticks out her tongue and makes a gagging noise.

“Try again.”

“The usual?”

She grins.

“You got that right.”

I glance back at the bar. A line of thirsty customers has formed. Duty calls.

“Hey, I gotta go.”

“Any requests?”

I smile.

“How about something from Patsy Cline.”

Annette winks.

“You got it. I know just the song.”

LINK: If you pre-ordered Following the Lead, you don’t have too long to wait for its release on Amazon. That’s Kindle. Paperback will follow. Here’s the link: https://mybook.to/followingthelead

PHOTO ABOVE: A few CDs from our collection. Yes, I’m a big country fan. These are left over from pre-Spotify days.

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