Thursday, May 5, 2011

Frank Mundo's Brubury Tales

Remember The Canterbury Tales? Well, guest author Frank Mundo has created a modern-day version! I'd love to question him in Chaucerian rhyme, but I dare not! I'm reading the work now and loving it. Join me to learn more about this talented man.

Welcome, Frank. I'm super excited to have you here to tell us more about this endeavor. But before we get to the book, tell us what books came along at just the right time to influence your reading/writing. I'm guessing Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales was one of them.

There were two books that really influenced me and made me want to be a writer. The first was Ask the Dust by Los Angeles writer John Fante. And yes, Susan, the second was Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I was probably around 18 years old when I read Ask the Dust, and it was a complete shock to my system. I had never read anything so simple and so beautiful. So poetic. It felt like Fante was telling my stories and sharing my life. That was when I decided I wanted to be a writer, and his writing, for whatever reason, gave me the confidence to give it a try. Seven or eight years later, after writing and publishing many short stories of my own, I discovered Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and finally had the subject for my first book, The Brubury Tales.

I'm quite taken with your array of characters, Frank, but back to a question.

What are your writing goals?

I want to write something that affects people deeply, the way my favorite writers affected me. I don’t want success if success means writing the same old thing in the same old way. I want to challenge people’s beliefs, their morals and their politics with writing that forces them to think, not to escape, but to act, to change, to discover, to question and to challenge everything they think they know. I understand that this is a lofty goal and I may never reach it…but I’m definitely going to keep trying.

Trust me, your writing is not the same old thing in the same old way.
Tell us about your latest book.

My book, my only one so far, The Brubury Tales, is a modern version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Los Angeles. A group of security guards on the graveyard shift have an impromptu (and hopefully hilarious) storytelling competition in order to win the best vacation time, the week from Christmas to New Years Eve.

I love it!

Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

It’s available in print at Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Nobles and is also available in eBook format for Kindle, Nook, iPad, Droid and Blackberry products.

I'm reading it on my new Kindle:-))
How do you determine voice in your writing?

The only characteristic I really pay any attention to in determining the voice of a story is humor. The stories have to be funny, which is great for me because humor, I believe, is just on the other side of tragedy. And I always try to explore or exploit that odd relationship, that awkward feeling that sometimes makes us want to laugh at funerals or when joy suddenly and unexpectedly turns to embarrassment. I want readers to laugh, but then question whether or not they should be laughing.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

For the most part, I grew up in Los Angeles. And I can’t think of a better place to write about. Go five miles (sometimes just 5 blocks) in any direction and you’ll wind up in an entirely different Los Angeles with shockingly different characters, cultures and values. It’s dangerous and fascinating, phony yet so authentic. It’s a city you simultaneously love and hate where no one really knows anyone else and dreams and nightmares are exchanged like commodities. It’s truly a wealth of material just waiting to be unearthed.

What a fabulous description of LA!
Any current projects, Frank?

Currently I’m working on collecting a volume of some of my short stories that were published over the years. Since I use the same main character in all of my stories and in my book, I think these stories are a great introduction to the book. If readers are interested in receiving an email notification when this book becomes available, they can email me at

Where can folks learn more about your current and future books and events?

I write book reviews for the LA Books Examiner and the New York Journal of Books. Readers can keep in touch with me and what I’m doing on these sites or on Twitter @FrankEMundo or Facebook.
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of The Burbury Tales. Thanks for coming over, Frank, and I wish you great success with your tales.

Thanks for having me over, Susan.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Arleen Alleman's Currents

Good morning, folks. Have you been on a cruise or are you planning one soon? You may be interested in my conversation with Arleen Alleman, author of Currents Deep and Deadly.

Arleen, welcome and tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, Susan. I was born in England and raised in New Hampshire and Nevada, but I have lived in beautiful Colorado since 1975. I retired about nine years ago from a 20-year career as an analyst for the Government Accountability Office—the Congressional watchdog agency. My education is primarily in biology, but I am definitely a generalist. For example, I also worked as a fashion model and finishing school instructor, an insurance adjuster, and a jewelry designer. For the past six years, I have owned my own small home d├ęcor shop. At heart, I love everything to do with science and nature.

At the age of 14 I read the works of Edgar Allen Poe, while sitting in our backyard tree house. That is when my life-long secret dream of being a novelist was born. Over the years, I often thought how great it would be to write fiction, but never acted on it until about three years ago. Since “retiring”, my husband and I have traveled quite a bit, especially on cruise ships, and this inspired me to write my first novel. Not surprisingly, it takes place on a cruise ship sailing around Cape Horn. I have continued to pursue other interests, which include studying religious history and health and fitness. I have also started a blog about fitness, travel, and my writing experiences.

Tell us about your first novel.

Currents Deep and Deadly, is a unique general fiction story told by Darcy Farthing, a savvy, private, and pragmatic woman who has written the story as a sort of catharsis, in which she describes the horrific experiences she and others endured while on a four-week cruise.

Darcy somewhat reluctantly boards the enormous Sea Nymph with her current boy friend, but instead of a romantic get-away she experiences a huge personal crisis, horrific violence, and also great joy, as her life is forever changed by events that gradually unfold on and off the ship. Darcy tells her side of the story in the first person, but uses her imagination to fill gaps in her knowledge with respect to other characters’ perspectives and motivations. Throughout the book, Darcy weaves a travel log with tidbits of history and geography in Caribbean and South American seaports with her story of murder, mystery, and romance.

Soon after boarding the ship, Darcy overhears conversations that sound like a murder for hire plot, and before she knows it, circumstances spiral into a sequence of unbelievable coincidences somehow related to her past in ways she cannot fathom. Her atheistic belief system gets shaken when she begins to wonder how these impossibly related events could happen without some sort of supernatural intervention.

As members of the crew begin to die under suspicious circumstances on this floating village, questions swirl about the involvement of the stalwart captain of the ship and his mysterious wife, other members of the crew, and a ruthless Las Vegas hotel owner and his terrorized wife.

Early in the adventure, Darcy meets Mick Clayton, a man who might be her soul mate until she realizes that he seems to have knowledge about the murder plot, as well as secrets from her past. She literally runs headlong into this hidden past in an exotic South American city, where she encounters the one person in the world who can destroy her fragile psyche. Even as she obtains dramatic closure to one aspect of her life, she and her shipboard friends must battle a psychotic killer with devastating results. In the end the various plots come together with some surprising twists.

This sounds intriguing.
Is it available in print, ebook, and Kindle formats?

Currents Deep and Deadly is available through many online booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Xlibris, the publisher, also sells the book online and I sell personalized signed copies from the book’s website. It is available in hard and soft cover, ebook, and Kindle download. Five independent bookstores in Colorado also have copies for sale, including the Tattered Cover. My local public library has some copies as well. I have had a few book signings in my area, and very successful signings on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship sailing around Cape Horn, the setting of the book.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

Darcy Farthing is a 40-year-old woman who has not always made the best choices in her life. She has harbored a dark secret from her past that literally catches up with her in my first novel. She has built a mental prison of denial in which she keeps unbearable memories, but they inevitably escape, throwing her into a tailspin. A bad childhood and the emotional toll of her early mistakes have so far prevented her from forming any lasting romantic relationships.

However, Darcy is also extremely smart, with a masters degree in biochemistry and a career with a pharmaceutical company. She is tall and very attractive with long blond hair and striking blue eyes. She is also extremely pragmatic and considers herself an atheist. She has strong opinions about many things, including the origin and purpose of religion in human cultures. At the same time, she is philosophical and is a very moral and ethical individual with a strong sense of the necessity for the rules guiding human behavior.

What is your most rewarding experience?

Any positive feedback is very rewarding, since I have come late in life to fiction writing. When the book first came out, most of the people who purchased it knew me personally, and I was anxious to hear their delayed reactions. I have come to realize that many people are not avid readers, and it took months before some of these first buyers read the book and gave it to others to read. Once people began to tell me how much they loved the book and asked when the sequel would be published, it is difficult for me to express the feeling of relief and joy that I experienced.

I’m sure every author understands that no book is going to be liked by everyone, so given my limited sales to date, I am very gratified with the positive feedback I have received from people I know and total strangers alike. We had book signings on a cruise ship sailing around Cape Horn in January, and the positive feedback from onboard readers has been the single biggest encouragement for me to continue Darcy’s story with the writing of the sequel.

Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?

I am about halfway finished with the sequel to my first book, and I have mentioned to several people that I see a big difference in my writing just between the two efforts. I believe one of the reasons is that Xlibris performed an excellent professional copy edit of my manuscript, including written notes regarding rules, preferences, and formatting. These have been very helpful, and combined with my previous extensive non-fiction writing for GAO, I believe I am preparing a much more professional manuscript on my own.

With respect to the writing itself, I have not been able to answer the often asked question, “where do these ideas and the voice come from?” Maybe they come from an amalgamation of the hundreds of novels I have read and from my own diverse background. I see flaws in the first book and I think the second will have fewer of these. I also feel I am editing less this time and the ideas and words seem to flow better. Perhaps this is in part because I know the characters and their personalities better now. Only time will tell whether I am able to improve on or even match my first effort.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I use a big white board to flow chart the plot and sub-plots, show how they relate to one another, and describe each main character’s role and purpose. These can look very complicated with lines and notes all over the place, and my husband looks at it and shakes his head. I am sure this technique is related to my GAO work, where I wrote reports for the Congress on diverse subjects ranging from satellite systems to endangered species, in which every word had to be accurate and defensible. I guess it is difficult for me to abandon the structure that helps me ensure that the relationships among the plots and characters will be consistent and make sense to the reader in the end.

For the first book, I enlisted six lovers of fiction to read the manuscript and give me comments on plot and character development. I chose individuals whom I knew would give me honest feedback. Their input was invaluable and I made a number of major changes as a result. I plan to do this again with the sequel.

Describe your ideal reader.

This is an interesting challenge. I would like to think that my ideal reader likes general fiction and mysteries; is curious and open-minded; and loves a quick, fun read. From feedback I have received from readers, I am finding that Currents Deep and Deadly is perceived as being more complex than I had realized. Several different things are going on at the same time and the chapters switch between the travel log and individual characters’ roles in the murder, mystery, and romantic aspects of the story. One reviewer suggested that the complexity and number of characters was detrimental, but many readers have said that this is what they liked most about it. One woman who has owned bookstores all her life gave me a wonderful compliment when she said that the book pleasantly surprised her as a first novel, and that she really enjoyed it because it was not only a fun read, but also very “intelligent.” I guess that is because Darcy, in her own words, is “a pretty smart cookie.”

Where can folks learn more about your books and events, Arleen?

Googling the title or my name is probably the best way to access all the places where the book is discussed. People can go directly to the book’s website,, or online booksellers, like amazon and barnesandnoble. Twitter, facebook, or my blog: are the best to learn the status of my writing and any planned events.    

Thanks for the interview, Arleen. We wish you much success!