DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thriller Author Daniel Palmer

Daniel Palmer is a musician and e-commerce pioneer who established a commanding presence during the dot.com boom. Still, above all, he is a storyteller, and storytellers have to tell their stories. Daniel’s initial forays included romantic comedies, which didn’t catch the notice of publishers. Then he decided to write what he prefers to read – thrillers. Combining his techno-savvy with his love of edge-of-your-seat tales, his novel “Delirious” quickly found a home and has received accolades from readers and fellow authors around the world.

“Delirious” takes the reader not just into the vulnerability of technology, but the mind as well. The story is smart, fast-paced, and introduces us to a character unlike the typical hero found in thriller novels. Charlie Giles is a man plagued by mental illness, surrounded by murder, and not sure if he committed them or not. To learn the truth, Charlie has to unravel himself.

Keeping true to Daniel’s love and admiration for our changing times, he has now released “Helpless,” a thriller revolving around sexting, and the damage and horror embroiling a father and daughter caught up in murder, suspicion, and a tangle of lies that could destroy them both. What is most chilling in “Helpless” is the awareness of how vulnerable we all truly are when technology is used as a weapon against us.

Daniel’s prose is superb and designed to pull the reader into his stories and keep them there until the final sentence. And he does that with great skill. Daniel isn’t a writer to watch, he is an author to read.
http://www.danielpalmerbooks.com/

Q) You have taken technology’s perceived innocence and unveiled some horrific possibilities. Was it your intent to raise a caution flag of how technology can be used against ordinary people?

A) The short answer is—absolutely. When I started writing thrillers I saw an opportunity to combine my knowledge of how the technology works with suspense stories of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary situations. My goal with HELPLESS was to incorporate the dangers of commonly used technologies into an enthralling plot so that readers will hardly realize that they’re being educated while they’re being entertained.

Q) In both songwriting and storytelling, you have a wonderful sense of humor, which obviously isn’t allowed to shine in your thriller novels. Can we look forward to a book or two in which you turn your tongue-in-cheek style loose?

A) I sure hope so! My mom keeps encouraging me to get my romantic comedies out there. She thinks some of the passages are laugh out loud funny. Then again, she’s my mom, so she’s supposed to think I’m great. The novel I’m writing now, titled STOLEN, is a first person narrative. I thought that would give me a lot more wiggle room to be tongue-in-cheek with my prose, however, the plot has proved to be so utterly terrifying that it’s hard for the characters to do anything but stay alive and be scared! I’ve been tinkering with an idea for a series character and I would hope to be able to bring more of my brand of humor that character’s voice.

Q) You help raise money for the Red Sox Home Base program which aids veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). How did you become active in this cause?

A) I was helping my father, best selling medical suspense novelist Michael Palmer, promote his book, THE LAST SURGEON, which featured a former army trauma surgeon who suffered from debilitating PTSD. We came up with the idea to coincide his book launch with a fundraiser to support the Home Base Program since his novel dealt with themes specific to the organization’s mission. The event was a tremendous success and helped to raise thousands of dollars and increase public awareness about the Home Base Program. We continue to support Home Base and hope to do another big fundraising event at some future date.

Q) As a person very adept at technology such as social and web sites, did you consider publishing your books as e-books? In other words, why did you choose to follow the traditional publishing route?

A) I’ve seen firsthand how my father’s publishing team has greatly benefited his work and I wanted to emulate that success. I’m a big believer in the power of a team and I think the product I’m producing is of a higher quality because of the people working hard behind the scenes on my behalf. I’ve also spent a great deal of time trying to market my music as an independent artist, and while I’ve achieved some notoriety and success in that endeavor, I prefer having distribution and a network of supporters over going at it alone.

Q) You are married and have two children, so I have to ask. What steps have or will you take with your children to safeguard them from the internet dangers you write about?

A) My kids are too young to have cell phones or laptops in their bedroom. I’m not sure what safeguards will be available to me when they’re old enough to really bring technology into their lives. I think it’s critical for every parent to talk with their kids about the dangers of cyberspace. There are some great resources available online that offer best practices for safeguarding yourself and your kids against a variety of cyber dangers. I’ve listed many of these resources in the back of HELPLESS, but Safeteens.com is a good place to start the information gathering. There are also several software tools available to parents that help monitor their kid’s online behavior, including the highly regarded Net Nanny and McAfee’s Safe Eyes applications.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) I love to hear from my readers and I’m active on several social networking web sites. You can find me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/danielpalmerbooks, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/danielpalmer, or on my web site. I hope folks will give a HELPLESS and read and, if applicable, that the story opens up a dialogue between parents and their children.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Genealogy Detective Megan Smolenyak

Megan Smolenyak is THE leading genealogy investigator in this country, and possibly the world. Many folks may recognize Megan from her numerous TV appearances on shows and networks such as Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Early Show, CNN, NPR and BBC. She has also consulted for and appeared on BBC Breakfast, Finding Your Roots, Faces of America, African American Lives, Ancestors, Timewatch, and They Came to America. This former international marketing consultant’s awards include National Genealogical Society's Award of Merit, a gold Folio Eddie, five writing awards from the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors, and four Tellys for video production.

If that doesn’t jog your memory, try these nostalgic news clips: President Obama and Sarah Palin are related. President Obama has Irish ancestry. Strom Thurmond and Al Sharpton’s families have a common past. The person who established these relationships that made the headlines? Megan Smolenyak. While such genealogical confirmations may elicit a public chuckle, or raise an eyebrow, they don’t begin to scratch the surface of the truly remarkable work this lady performs.

Our nation’s military serves, protects, and sometimes dies for us. In fact, currently there are 75,000 Americans still unaccounted for from WWII, 8,000 from Korea, and 1700 from Vietnam. Yes, there are more from WWI, the Cold War, and other combat arenas. These men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice deserve to go home.

As one of the first to utilize DNA as a means to explore heritage, Megan’s work was quickly recognized by the Unites States military, and for the past decade Megan has worked furiously and relentlessly to reunite previously unknown heroes with their families. This work has become so much a part of her that she even stood alone at the burial of the remains of a soldier she identified when no living family members had yet been located. Such is the heart of Megan Smolenyak.

Previously, Megan co-authored “Trace Your Roots with DNA,” the best-selling, how-to book on genetic genealogy. Her other books include “Honoring Our Ancestors,” “In Search of Our Ancestors,” and “They Came to America.” Now she has written “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing.” This book affords the reader a ringside seat as Megan recalls a number of career highlights including tracking First Lady Michelle Obama’s heritage, the Obama-Palin link, and locating the families of our fallen soldiers as far back as the Civil War. There are a few how-to tips for those who would like to perform their own family investigations. But most importantly, this book more than any other allows us to travel Megan’s journey with her and learn just how devoted she is to her work and how extremely consuming, heart wrenching, and joyous genealogy investigation can be.
http://megansmolenyak.com/index.html

Q) From international marketing to genealogy detective. What brought about that unique shift in careers?

A) I started genealogy in the 6th grade and it’s always been my first love, but back when I finished school, it seemed a fantasy to make a living as a genealogist, so I became a consultant. I enjoyed it and had the opportunity to see the world, but I reached a point where I was averaging nine months a year overseas and living the rest of life in little gasps in between suitcases. That’s when I decided to make a change and give genealogy a go as a profession – and I’ve been beyond fortunate. It still amazes me how many wonderful opportunities have come my way.

Q) As a veteran, I’m humbled and grateful for your work. As a former police detective, I understand how difficult your job can be. How did you feel the first time you actually reunited a fallen soldier with his family? I would suspect there was as much relief as joy.

A) First, please allow me to thank you for your service in both capacities. I happen to be an Army “brat,” so this work is incredibly meaningful to me. I’m just a small part of the process, but am fortunate enough to be the family’s first point of contact, a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Having located thousands of family members over the years, I’ve done it many times now, but it’s still a fresh experience each time. And I suppose the “first” that stands out the most for me is the first funeral I attended at Arlington National Cemetery. To see the actual outcome of the efforts of the Army and JPAC was unforgettable. I love that our country stands by its “no man left behind” commitment.

Q) Obviously, your work requires long hours and a lot of travel. How do you and your husband stay connected?

A) My husband is perhaps the most patient and flexible man on the planet. When possible, he tries to travel with me, but otherwise, we keep in touch by phone. And now with FaceTime on our iPads, we can see each other!

Q) Not every case is solvable, and there is always one that stays with us, the one we can’t forget or let go of. Which unsolved case is your constant companion?

A) Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to be very specific, but there was a case involving a soldier who lost his life in Vietnam that tormented me for quite a while. He was born overseas to foreign parents, and his mother brought him to America, where she cycled through a number of locations and marriages. After he died, she returned to her home country. In the course of my research, I also discovered a previously unknown child of the soldier’s. I came up short the first time, but for whatever reasons, the case was given back to me, and I was able to resolve it. Perhaps because my father served in Vietnam, that one really had a hold of me until I got that second chance.

Q) What was it about tracking genealogy that first captivated you?

A) Back when I was in a youngster in school, we were instructed to go home one day and ask our parents where our surnames were from. When we went back the next day, we had to put our names on slips of paper in our countries of origin, and I – slightly misinformed, as I would later learn – had the whole of the then-Soviet Union to myself. Having grown up in a military family and in several countries, I had spent my life in a multi-cultural environment and didn’t realize until that moment what I strange name I had. That’s what sparked my curiosity and once I took my first steps, it became my own personal history mystery, so I quickly became addicted to the thrill of the hunt!

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) Talk to your elders – and I mean soon. I’ve written whole books on how to research your roots, so could bombard you with tactics, websites and resources, but the one regret I hear over and over again is some version of, “I wish I had asked him when he was still alive.” Older relatives are living libraries and have so much to share. The databases and records will be there waiting for you. Talk to Grandma first! You’ll be glad you did.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net

Friday, February 10, 2012

Romance Author BL Bonita

BL Bonita turns up the heat while the reader turns on the air conditioner with tales of erotic romance. BL is absolutely devoted to family (her fiancé’s a retired Marine Captain) and a love of the grandeur of mountains and pristine lakes. BL was raised in a remote region of Northern Ontario where airplanes were as necessary as firewood, black bears lived a few forests down and occasionally dropped by uninvited, and where travel to a grocery store was determined by seasons, not convenience.

When BL writes about the crispness of mountain air on a nose, the crackle of glazed snow underfoot, and blazing sunsets that go on forever, such as in “Beautiful Criminal,” she pens these scenes from firsthand experience. “Beautiful Criminal’s” Gabriel Miller is a pilot, inspired by the men who flew in and out of the resort BL was raised on. The hum of the Cessna’s engine in an unblemished sky is a memory BL shares. The plane crash and Miller’s awakening to a beautiful woman in a wilderness cabin? All part of the fun, imagination, and romantic mind of BL Bonita.

BL has seen several of her stories published. One of the earliest, “Pathway to Paradise” established the setting and intensity readers have come to know and enjoy -- “From the concrete jungle to the wilds of Northern Ontario, Sianna Williams accepts a management job at a wilderness resort. Coerced to travel by boat with a man who is both unbearable and arousing, her fate is sealed when the boat takes on water. They are forced ashore to spend a night under the stars, where nothing but the wind and the wildlife can hear her passionate cries.”

If you enjoy realism infused by one who has lived it, and romantic liaisons sure to singe your cheeks, be sure to check out BL Bonita.
http://www.bl-bonita.com/

Q) How did you meet your fiancé?

A) My honey was on assignment in Congo. During his evening break he happened by a site online where I was promoting my work. He sent me a message asking if I was interested in writing his life story, that he wasn’t sure how to go about it, and after some lengthy conversations about his past I was very intrigued. We talked for several months and I began a rough draft based on our emails. We became fast friends and decided to meet. Now, this sounds corny and clichéd, but truth be told when we finally met face-to-face almost three years ago that was it. Our fate was sealed when we broke the hotel bed (hehe). He retired after twenty years in the service and now he devotes his time to airbrush art and reading my steamy books.

Q) In your mind, what’s the single most important component you place in your stories?

A) Real people. I like heroes who are not destined to be the hero, and leading women who know how to survive. For example, Gabe in “Beautiful Criminal” is a bad-boy to put it mildly and Mima wields an ax better than most men. I grew up around these character types and I believe they are interesting, often mysterious and misunderstood, which is definitely worth writing about.

Q) Curiosity: Having been raised in the remote regions, where do you and your family vacation for a change of pace?

A) In all honesty, I have yet to take a real vacation. I've lived in basically every corner of Canada, done many a road trip in my life, so I guess that's a bit like a vacation. Although I tell you, there were times I had to siphon gas to get home. LOL But soon (shaking fist) I’ll be spending my days frolicking somewhere on a hot beach where snow is just a distant memory.

Q) When not writing, how do you spend your time?

A) I love to walk, not only for the exercise but to clear my mind. Although let’s face it, a writer’s mind is never really clear. Other than that I lead a very normal life shopping for groceries in nothing but a trench coat and washing dishes in my spandex cat suit. Oh, and chasing my man down to erase the candid photos he likes to take of me on the toilet. I’ll let you decide which of those three is the truth.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) Keep an open mind when considering purchasing a book. I know many readers like to stick with authors they know. I’m a huge reader myself, and for me, the blurb and cover sells me—not the author’s name. You never know what you might find if you take a chance on a new-to-you author, and besides, some of the unknowns could be the next Nora Roberts. Even she had to start somewhere.

Thank you for interviewing me, David. I had a blast!
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/

Monday, February 6, 2012

When Is Romance Not Romantic?

As readers, each of us chooses to enjoy the type of story that appeals to us as individuals. Whether it’s tales of aliens, dashing masked men wielding swords on a dirt highway, or an autobiography, we hold our choice of stories dear to us, as well we should. What we don’t think about are the people who would still the voices writing those stories. After all, this is the United States. We have freedom of the press where no voice can be silenced. Don’t we?

Apparently, yes and no.

In recent weeks a battle occurred. It didn’t make much noise in the press. No lawyers or courts were involved. This fight didn’t even take place between authors and readers, but between the authors themselves. An annual contest was to be held, one that had been around for several years.

A group of writers called Romance Writers Ink (RWI), a chapter of the national organization Romance Writers of America (RWA), announced its annual competition of romance stories. But this year the RWI membership opted to change the rules. The members weren’t comfortable with a specific style of story and no longer wanted those stories eligible for consideration.

RWA member Courtney Milan pointedly stated that the rule change didn’t prohibit stories about “aliens from another planet who have tentacles, or barbed sexual organs,” or “degrading rapes.” Nope. Those stories were still welcome by RWI. What RWI decided was beyond their ability to judge, to accept… what made them more “uncomfortable” than alien foreplay or back alley rapes and deprivation… were romantic tales of same sex partners. A man in love with a man, a woman in love with a woman, was suddenly beyond the membership’s comfort zone. So, RWI excluded same sex love stories from their contest – for the first time in RWI’s history.

Yes, in the past, same sex stories had not only been welcome in RWI’s competition, but actually won twice. Yet, this year, for whatever reason, the members had become “uncomfortable” with allowing those stories into their contest.

The fecal matter hit the oscillating blades. RWI and RWA were bombarded with emails, letters, and phone calls. The end result? The contest was cancelled. RWA will discuss the topic in an upcoming meeting.

Some authors are claiming a victory was won in the contest’s closure. RWI remains unapologetic. RWA will look into the matter.

The bottom line is… the contest won’t be held. No stories will be considered. I don’t see a victory in this. What I see is a gaping wound in literature. For the first time in a contest’s history, the rules were changed to exclude a specific genre. Instead of repairing the problem, acknowledging a mistake had been made, all authors suffered. A door that had been open to all forms of romance was slammed closed. Another door opened - one to segregation and discrimination, and it remains open regardless of whether this contest is ever again held.

No one won this battle. Because it had to be waged, we all lost.
DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net

Friday, February 3, 2012

UK Author Ash Penn

The United Kingdom’s Ash Penn views her life with conservative discernment and few words. An extremely quiet and reserved woman, Ash continues to pursue a degree at the university while living a tranquil life in a Victorian cottage replete with garden she hopes to one day learn how to tend beyond her seasonal trial and error methodology. She is quick to say there is nothing extraordinary or exciting about her life, nothing beyond the norm the majority of us live within.

This is where I disagree.

Ash is a woman with an uncanny ability to identify people’s strife, our need for acceptance, and transfer the emotions she absorbs into the stories more and more readers are discovering every day. Ash has a heart as large and gentle as any, and uses her skillful prose to provide the lost, the lonely, with love and hope.

In her debut novel “Stray,” she introduced three characters on the edge of nowhere, trying to find their way in a world unaccepting of their homosexuality, and at times, of each other. While a promise of hope exists, the story revolves and evolves around the men’s conflicts with society, their families, and themselves. “Stray” is an emotional rollercoaster complete with unexpected twists and turns.

Likewise, her next novel “Passing Time” centers on a man who has lost his way. His life partner has died, and his mother, a conflict in life, is dying. Their relationship is broken, maybe beyond repair, but his devotion to her remains intact while his grip on reality slips. Then a man our protagonist does not want in his life arrives with containers of Indian takeout and a mustard seed of hope.

Ash says little in conversation. She speaks volumes in her stories of how she views the world, love, life, and her belief that everyone deserves happiness.
Ash's Web Site

Q) Given your proclivity for privacy, what made you decide to become a published author?

A) I have always written stories and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be published. For a lot of years I didn’t imagine that anyone would want to read about the kind of stories and characters I write about. Back then, no market existed for m/m fiction in my little piece of the world. As far as I knew, I was the only woman in the world writing about gay men. That was never the reality, of course, but just the way I felt at the time.

Now I know there is a huge market and has been for quite some time, and I’m pleased to be a part of that. I just value my privacy and prefer to write and talk about my stories than about myself. Simple as that : )

Q) To what or whom do you credit your innate ability to connect with people’s emotions?

A) I have no idea. I’m a fairly quiet and reserve sort so I do find myself listening in on other people’s conversations and generally observing which may in some way help out when it comes to my fiction writing. I like to think I have a vivid imagination so I also put myself in my characters’ psyches and imagine how they would react to any given situation. I think the official term for this ability is guesswork.

Q) How’s the degree coming along?

A) I’m in my final year of an English degree, which is just as well because our government (I’m not a political person so I shall keep my thoughts of the British government to myself) has seen fit to raise the tuition fees a considerable (around 500%) amount per year. Overall I have enjoyed the learning process, although I’m almost ashamed to say I dropped out of the Shakespeare course, mostly because I had to analyse the plays in such close details I was beginning to loathe the plays I thought I loved. And that would never do.

Q) You graciously allowed me to read “Angell in Chains” which contains some very unique and original characters. Thank you by the way. What are your current plans for this story?

A) That story went on the back-burner when I realised that although I like the beginning and the end, I could do so much more with the middle. Since I adore the protagonists, Steve and Beau, I know that they, and any potential readers, deserve the best story I can possibly give. So, I AIM to get back to work on the story within the next month or so, just as soon I’m done with the edits to my current WiP. I have a huge backlog of unfinished manuscripts going right back to 2007, and 2012 is the year I get cracking on those.

Q) Where would you like to see your writing take you?

A) I’d like to earn enough to write full-time. I’d like to produce four books a year. I’d like more motivation. Motivation for me comes along with a book contract. The problem is I have to work for that contract and by nature I’m a very lazy writer. And I’d like to be less of a perfectionist, because I’m never 100% satisfied with any work I produce. The more I fiddle with it the more I lose touch with what I’m writing. That’s got to stop. I need to spend less time on rewrites and more time on that next yet-to-be-written chapter.

Q) Any parting thoughts for readers who have yet to discover your work?

A) I’ve learned to recognise that my stories tend to focus on what’s wrong with a relationship rather than what’s right with it. No relationship is perfect, but my characters find a way to work around the bad parts to find the good. Because of this I know my books aren’t to everyone’s taste. I often write characters some readers have difficulty connecting with. This was the case with ‘Stray’, where the narrator is a love or hate character. I chose not to compromise his personality in order to make him more amenable because he is what he is. Characters come to me fully-formed with their personality traits. I might not know what they look like but I always know what they’d do in a certain situation. If I started to mess around with those traits in order to mould them with more ‘marketable’ personalities, they rail against me and often stall the story completely. And I hate it when that happens. I’m a slow enough writer as it is without more complications. So, I may change a story’s ending half a dozen times before I’m satisfied but I’ve learned not to try and force a character to go where they don’t want to. They always make me suffer for that in the end.

DA Kentner is an author and journalist. http://www.kevad.net/