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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Launch blog tour stop -The Chinese Spymaster by Hock G. Tjoa

I'm doing something a bit different and have decided to be a part of a blog tour for a very cool author. His name is Hock G. Tjoa and his novel is The Chinese Spymaster.  Below you will find my gripping interview with the author.


Chinese Intelligence uncovers a North Korean trying to sell a nuclear device. Then they find five other dealers trying to do the same. The buyer is the same in every case--the Pashtuns. Is this a "Pashtun Spring"? A realignment of geopolitical power in Central Asia? A resurgence of Islamist terrorism? In order to anticipate and confront these threats, Spymaster Wang must negotiate through bureaucratic rivalries, as well as personal ambitions, at home and abroad. He reaches for ancient insight into strategies and unorthodox alliances. But the struggle he must undertake cannot cease, and the outcome always remains in doubt. The Spymaster must also confront a vendetta within the Party as well as the determination of his Old Friends and their wives to make him a "match." 

Short bio 

Hock G. Tjoa was born to Chinese parents and studied history at Brandeis and Harvard. He taught European history and Asian political thought at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and has published George Henry Lewes, a Victorian Mind, "The social and political ideas of Tan Cheng Lock" and various articles in the Newsletter of the China History Forum. He is married and lives with his family in the Sierra Nevada foothills of California. He published in 2010 "The Battle of Chibi (Selections from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms)" that he had translated, and in 2011, "Heaven is High and the Emperor Far Away, A Play" that he translated and adapted from Lao She's Teahouse. Both are part of his project to make more widely known traditional Chinese values.


The Interview:

When did you first start writing? Do you recall your first writing project? 

    ​I wrote a couple of very bad plays for our high school clubs and did not start writing "stories" again until six years ago. But I have been writing for school and job projects all my life.

 When did you finish your first book?

    My first book, George Henry Lewes, A Victorian Mind, was a research project for college that was published.​

Do you work with an outline, or just write? 

    I have working lists of chapters and characters which are revised or discarded as the characters or situations take over.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

    ​I was a science fiction fan in high school and college and read as much of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke as I had time for--they were pretty prolific writers.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
​I write out of what I imagine but what I imagine is often inspired by memories of my life and of friends.​

What was your favorite chapter in The Chinese Spymaster to write and why?
    ​Some chapters were more fun to write and others more satisfying because of the challenges, fight scenes (first time), bureaucratic arguments (how to make this interesting), interrogation of an arms dealer (how to avoid all the cliches). Perhaps most enjoyable was how to find a match for the Spymaster and get them on a date! ​

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

    ​I enjoyed writing about the gatherings​ of family and friends even though these were difficult to weave into the plot of the novel; sometimes I think about making gatherings like them the centerpiece of another novel

Tell me about your writing environment. Do they use a pen and paper, laptop? Quiet room, music or what? Dog at their feet? Cat on the desk? Just whatever makes it comfortable to be productive. 

    ​In the old days when one could get someone else to type something hand-written, I remember that I really liked to write by hand on paper. But now that I have to type into a computer​ ​it just doubles the work. I have an old laptop in a small room and two cats that come in and take their naps on an old bed.

Star Wars or Star Trek?
    ​Star Wars was so much more fun, but I liked the ingenuity of the Star Trek series. I've watched them all many times.
Are you working on any other creative projects at the moment?
    ​I dabble in community theater and am stuck a third of the way through a new novel..​
What do you think of what's happening with the publishing industry right now?  Any speculation as to where it is heading?

    ​I don't think about this at all even though I belong to a writers' group and we discuss it all the time; it's going where it's headed.​

Do you have any funny stories involving a creative project you've worked on?

Sometimes I get a laugh out of reviews that say in effect that I should have written a different book.​​

 Best show on TV?
    ​I like watching both NCIS and White Collar simultaneously and hope their commercial breaks never coincide.
If you could have dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be?
    ​Harry Potter, the dining room in Hogwarts sounds really awesome.
 What makes you laugh?

    ​Movies like Get Shorty and A Fish Named Wanda.

Have you ever cast a spell, drank blood or ate raw meat due to a subconscious predatory urge you weren't aware of? (or maybe you were)


Who's the best character on The Walking Dead?
    ​No clue.​

If you could have one preternatural power, what would it be?

    Getting to an appointment instantaneously--flying, "apparating" or whatever.​

Have you ever been paintballing? 

    ​Just once; it got too messy.

Have you managed to make peace with all the social media marketing required to get your name out there as an author or do you feel overwhelmed by it? How do you find a balance between 'working' that market and being creative (writing). I find it easy to get sucked into everything and completely distracted from writing.  How do you cope?

Just do what I can and stop when it's time to write (easier said than done).​​

Why do you write?  What’s in it for you?

    ​When I write, it feels like there is nothing else I would rather do.​
If you weren’t writing, you would be...
       ...​getting a massage.​

The world would be a better place if...

    ​...Nobody thinks that violence/war is a solution for anything.​

The Chinese Spymaster, at first glance, seems to be James Clavell’s Shōgun/Tai-Pan (Asian Saga series) mixed with Tom Clancy’s The Bear and the Dragon.  The excitement of Clancy and the depth of culture, character and plot of Clavell.  Is this an accurate comparison?

    ​I like the movies made from Clancy's books but find reading them difficult; his view of the world strikes me as old fashioned--there are cowboys and there are Indians, and the future is going to be decided in a single battle.

What do you think lies ahead for China as a country?  From my ignorant perspective it seems as though they are at a crossroads when it comes to economic development.  They could rise to the opportunity and become the financial superpower in the world or they could flounder and slowly crawl toward getting their financial house in order.  Will their traditionalist beliefs inhibit their growth as a nation?  (I realize this isn’t relevant to your novel but I’ve always been fascinated with Chinese economics.)

    ​I think that it is a disgrace to have such bad air and water quality in a country that has made so much economic progress. It is also a disgrace that healthcare for the poor and rural people is almost non-existent. One episode in The Chinese Spymaster describes how traditional/herbal medicine is brought back to a small village.​

 I see your on your bio you taught European history and Asian political thought at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.  I’ve always been fascinated by Kaula Lumpur and Malaysia but have never had the opportunity to visit.  Is K.L. the growing, diverse metropolis surrounded by the beauty of the jungle and turquoise waters that I’ve heard? It looks as if you could be in downtown K.L. and within an hour, be lost in the jungle or sitting on an empty beach.  True?

    ​On my last visit to Kuala Lumpur, I discovered that most drivers have GPS and they really need them. If you could get to the edge of the city, it would take about an hour or two to those jungles and beaches. But getting across the city could take much longer.​

The Chinese Spymaster is available now.  Find it online at...

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Ring Lord of the Rings contest -win THE 'One Ring'!

Yes, this is it!  

You can win THE One Ring!

I purchased this ring from WBShop.com, realized it was the wrong size too late and can't return it so...I want to give it to you, my readers.

It is size 10 solid sterling silver.  More details can be found HERE. I chose silver over gold because I just don't like gold jewelry...I realize in the movie/book it is a gold ring, I'm just picky that way.

How to win:

Go to my Pinterest page, follow my Pinterest page then search through the pictures until you find one with a hidden book cover design in the photo.  The cover will be either Exiled or Tristis Manor (below).  Remember, it will be HIDDEN. It isn't one of the covers in plain sight.

Once you've found it, come back to my blog, follow my blog if you aren't already, and paste the link in the comment section of this post. Then go to my Facebook page, like my Facebook page and write a comment saying you've posted the answer here.  The first person with the correct link who posts on my page will win...simple.


US residents only (sorry, need to keep shipping costs low).

That's it.  

Good luck!


Two things: 1. I'm opening the contest to all North American residents. 2. I am giving out hints to get this thing moving along.

Hint #1 The photo was taken inside although it looks as if it could be outside.

~In the book world, word of mouth is king~

Coming fall 2014....

young adult, fantasy, fiction, the never chronicles, j.r. wagner, fantasy novel, book, bestseller

the second book from The Never Chronicles

Available now from J.R. Wagner...

The Never Chronicles, YA, Young Adult, social issues, novel, book, abuse

A tale of perseverance, strength and redemption.

In bookstores

the never chronicles, j.r. wagner, ya fantasy novel, fiction, exiled

Monday, January 6, 2014

Scare me, I dare you! writing contest second honorable mention submission

Congratulations to our second honorable mention submission author Nicole Cushman

her story begins now...

“It’s getting cold.” I heard Emily mutter as we walked through the crackling leaves beneath our feet. “Well maybe you should’ve brought a coat like mom told you to.” I said with a smart aleck tone. She looked up at me and rolled her eyes. With a smirk on my face I looked down at my feel noticing all of the different colored leaves on the cold ground. We slowly approached the front porch of a big dark green house. To the right of the front door there was a skeleton sitting on a bench with pumpkins at his feet. I looked up at the door and before I could even attempt to ring the doorbell the door knob turned and out pooped a zombie mask. “Hey James.” It was my best friend Beef. At least, that’s what we called him. I’ve known Beef from the first day of third grade. He was intimidating at first, but he’s really just a big, sweet teddy bear. “Trick or Treat!” yelled Emily. “You don’t really think that there is any candy left in my house do you?” laughed Beef. “C’mon dude! It’s already getting dark out! Let’s get going, Mumbling Cabin isn’t going to be around forever!”
            “Beef what are you talking about?” I asked extremely confused.
            “Well I just thought we would do something a bit more… interesting tonight.” Beef replied with a smile.
            It was dark, and surprisingly colder. “Come on Beef. Where are we going? I’m freezing.” I asked looking up into the tall, bare trees that surrounded us. “Well maybe you should’ve brought your coat like mom told you to.” Emily mocked as she giggled. “So what is this Mumbling Cabin anyways?” Beef looked down at Emily in her ridiculous fairy costume. “I researched haunted stories that happened in New Jersey. There is this story about a family who lived in a little cabin in the forest, a young couple with two daughters. They say one Halloween night, like the one tonight,” Beef mentioned as he stared down at Emily “The youngest daughter sat up in her bed and started rocking back and forth while she mumbled words that no one could quite make out. One night, the older sister snuck into her room to check on her because she was worried; and the next morning the older sister --- Gone. One by one, family members vanished. Legend has it that the little sister still roams the cabin just waiting…”
            “Waiting for what?” Emily asked with alarm.
            “WAITING TO POSSESS LITTLE GIRLS LIKE YOU!” Beef yelled as he threw his hands in the air. Emily punched him. “Stop it!” she said with a frown. I shook my head and laughed. I was impressed, but felt bad because Emily was horrified.
            The cabin was tiny. I tried to imagine living in it with a whole family, but was too creeped out from the dark, broken down cabin and the horrid smell of rotten meat to even imagine the thought. As we walked up to the cabin I looked down at Emily. I could tell she was scared. “I’m staying out here, James.” She demanded. “Baby” I heard Beef say under his breath. I followed him, looking at my sister until the door creaked closed behind me.
            I pinched my nose shut because of the stench as I looked around. “See there is nothing here. Can we go?” I said talking with my plugged nose. Beef ignored me and walked into the next small room. I followed behind him and ran into him because of a sudden stop. His jaw dropped. “Oh. My. Gosh.” I looked over his shoulder and saw a human figure in a rocking chair that creaked with every movement. It faced towards the corner so I couldn’t see it clearly. I noticed long grey hair. It was an old woman. Beef turned around and ran out the door before I could say a word. Forgetting my fears, I tried quieting my breath as I approached the woman. Opening my mouth I pushed out a sentence and placed my hand on her shoulder. “Are y...you okay…” she looked up at me with cold, black eyes and screeched. I stumbled to the ground and watched as the room went dark. Minutes, maybe hours later my eyes opened, but instead of the old woman I saw Emily rocking in the chair, mumbling.

view the contest parameters HERE

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Scare me, I dare you! writing contest first honorable mention submission

Congratulations to the writer of our first honorable mention submission, Anna McCall!

Her story begins now...

The Replacement
            Annabel reached up with lifeless, pale fingers as her glassy, once-beautiful eyes stared into mine. Struggling with all my might, my six-year-old strength wasn’t enough to lift my older sister, my Queen Bel, from her prison of water.
            I love you, Sir John, she mouthed. Her hand went limp and the sweet blue eyes drifted closed.
            I sat straight up in bed, sweating and choking, with tears streaming down my face. It had been nine years since Annabel’s death, but the nightmares were just as vivid as if it had happened yesterday.
            That was the darkest time of my life. Annabel had been my world. I called her Queen Bel, and she called me Sir John. After my queen was taken from me, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Every day I walked to the creek where she had drowned, sitting on the rock that had been her throne and wishing she was still with me.
            But, about one week after her passing, someone unexpected decided to join me.
            “Hello,” piped a sweet voice behind me.
            I turned, startled. “Oh, hello. I’m John.”
            The big brown eyes looked me over. “Wow, John, you’re little. Maybe I should call you Little John.” The eyes twinkled mischievously now. “And you may call me Maid Marian.” The fairylike effigy dipped into a princess curtsy.
            “Where are you from? I haven’t met you before.”
            “You needed me, Little John, and so I came.”
            From then on, I spent every day with Marian – until school started. I tried to get out to the woods by my home every afternoon to meet her, but my mother thought I spent too much time out there and kept me in. Still, I saw my Maid Marian from the window every day, watching and waiting from behind the trees until Saturday, when we could spend the day as we wished. She reminded me so much of Annabel, and I clung to her tightly to keep my head above the sea of darkness that threatened to swallow me after my sister’s death.
            Now I was fifteen, and Marian had somewhat faded into the background as high school became friends, sports, and homework. Though I never forgot her and what she meant to me, she had fallen to the wayside like so many other childhood things.
            Until she returned.
            It began to happen at a point when my nightmares grew more recurrent. I saw Marian more and more frequently, watching and waiting from her place in the trees. At first I thought I was sleep deprived; that my mind was reliving memories and connecting with my nightmares. Of course, Marian would also be fifteen by now, and it was silly to think this little delusion was really her. One evening at dinner, though, my mother brought up something that gave me chills:
            “I just learned that there was a little girl – oh, about six – who lived around here several years ago. She died in the same spot that we lost our Annabel. Isn’t that a strange coincidence?”
            Behind her, out the window, a mocking smile spread slowly over Marian’s pretty face.
            After that, she was everywhere: I brushed my teeth, and she was standing in the mirror; went to get a snack, and she was sitting daintily on the counter; went to get dressed, and she was hiding in the shirts. And every time, she would say the same thing: “I miss you, Little John. Don’t you want to play?”
            Every time I would leave as quickly as I could, saying, “No, Marian, I don’t want to play.” Eventually I lost my nerve and shouted at her.
            She paused for a moment, then smiled. “That’s fine, John.”
            I didn’t see her after that. Weeks passed without any unnatural occurrence, and I had stopped jumping at every flicker of a light switch. One day I came home from school and was looking for my mother. Thinking she was in her room, I climbed the stairs and pushed open the door.
            She wasn’t there. Sighing, I decided to check the backyard, where she might be doing yard work or reading on the porch. As I turned to leave, I glanced into the bathroom and uttered a strangled cry.
            There was the bloated body of my mother, floating lifelessly in the bathtub.
            Behind me rose a sickly sweet voice:
            “You need me, Little John. Won’t you come and play?”
view the contest parameters HERE 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Scare me, I dare you! third place entry

Congratulations to the author of our third place entry, Rebekah Laybourn!

her story begins now...

Everyone says it’s my fault the children died. But if they’d been there, they would know that I never had the chance to save those kids.

            I tightly folded my arms as I strolled down the street. The air lightly nibbled at my skin. It was October and the steel-gray Nebraska sky threatened a thunderstorm. I was in an old neighborhood near the University of Nebraska. The neighborhood was dreary but beautiful and full of Victorian mansions. I was babysitting for a fabulously wealthy young couple. They had two children: Max, who was three years old, and Lily, who was five. Their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Donahue, were attending a raunchy musical at the Lied, and they had offered to pay me 200 dollars to watch their kids. I had gladly accepted, even though I didn’t know the family well.

            I reached the house and I marveled at its beauty. It was freshly coated in creamy white paint, the porch swing slowly rocked back and forth, and the light from inside glowed through the dark storm windows. The lawn was slowly browning, dotted with cherubic garden gnomes, and full of violets and petunias which were beginning to die.

 I was warmly welcomed into their home with hugs that made me feel as if I had known the family forever. The parents gave me simple instructions for the care of the children: Make dinner, play a few games, and put the kids to bed at nine o’clock before retiring to library to labor over my school assignments. If I needed anything, I could reach the Mr. and Mrs. Donahue on their cell phone.

The children were sweet, adorable, respectful and easy to care for. Max and Lily were quiet and well behaved, providing a quiet, relaxing break from the rowdy children who lived across the street from me. When I asked what they wanted for dinner, they requested macaroni and cheese. I was relieved that they had asked for something so simple and easy. After dinner, I blew bubbles with them and played Candy Land. I helped the children brush their teeth before putting them to bed at nine o’clock. Then I went to the downstairs library.

First, I read the newspaper, hoping to find an interesting story that I could use for my Current Events presentation in American History. The front page told the story of a serial killer who invaded homes while dressed in costume.

It wasn’t until then that I noticed a life-size clown statue in the corner. It was the creepiest thing I had ever seen. His smile was so wide that it seemed as though his cheekbones could tear through his skin at any moment. His eyes were beady and seemed to peer into my soul. I wondered why Mr. and Mrs. Donahue would keep something so disturbing in their library. I shook my head and begun working on my Algebra 2 homework.

As I studied, I kept getting distracted by the creepy clown statue. I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was watching me. I thought that perhaps I should check on the kids, but I decided against it. In all of the horror movies I had watched during the previous weekend, the babysitter always died when she went to check on the kids. I knew that Mr. and Mrs. Donahue would be home in less than two hours. I had nothing to worry about.

I felt terrified all the same. What if he was the serial killer who I’d read about? I decided that I was being stupid. I had obviously watched too many horror movies. I was in one of the safest neighborhoods in the city of Lincoln, Nebraska. I had nothing to fear.

Still, I was incredibly distracted. I had a lot of work to do and I couldn’t focus with the clown in the corner. I finally decided to call Mr. Donahue.

“Do you mind if I study somewhere else? The clown statue is really bothering me.”

He said to wait just a minute, and he promised to call me back. I wondered what his problem was. Why did he need to discuss it with his wife?

He called me two minutes later. I could detect intense worry in his voice.

“Get out of the house now, and take the kids with you. We don’t own a clown statue.”

Horrified, I looked up to see the clown. He was standing over me, holding a knife that was covered in something scarlet.

view the contest parameters HERE