NY Times Best Selling Author Sylvain Reynard on Poetry.


NY Times Best Selling Author and my favorite enigma Sylvain Reynard was gracious enough to write a guest blog on poetry. If you aren’t familiar with Reynard’s books,you are missing out on riveting tales full of suffering, sex, love, faith, and redemption. You can find out more about SR and his work by going to http://sylvainreynard.com/ You can also find him in all his tweeting glory @sylvainreynard

This poet is a huge fan. You will be too.

Now I give you SR in his own words


Many people avoid poetry.

Poetry usually brings to mind limericks, or schoolyard sing-songs, or angst-driven blank verse. But The Iliad and The Odyssey are poems. Dante’s The Divine Comedy is a poem.

Poetry is extremely flexible as a genre and like other arts it contributes something important to the human experience. Poetry can be a thing of beauty and a medium for reflecting on profound and sometimes unsettling truths.

When I wrote The Gabriel Series, I was inspired by the poetry of Dante, hoping to introduce the beauty of his art to a wider audience. Dante is not very well known anymore and few people read him outside of school or university.

In my new Florentine Series, I was inspired by the poet Apuleius’s account of the love affair between Cupid and Psyche. Again, this is a poem that is not very well known and infrequently read.

You can read the tale by starting here: http://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/TheGoldenAssIV.htm#anchor_Toc347999726

Psyche was the youngest of three sisters and very beautiful. Her beauty was so great, it intimidated prospective suitors. Her older sisters quickly found husbands, while Psyche remained alone.

Her father feared that Psyche had been cursed by the gods and so he sought out an Oracle, who instructed him to deliver his daughter up to marry a great winged evil. In sorrow and despair, the father obeyed. Psyche went along with the Oracle’s instructions, proclaiming that her condemnation was the result of unbridled envy.

And then something surprising happened…

“…prompted by the sight of the evening star, Psyche retired to bed. Now, when night was well advanced, gentle whispers sounded in her ears, and all alone she feared for her virgin self, trembling and quivering, frightened most of what she knew nothing of. Her unknown husband had arrived and mounted the bed, and made Psyche his wife, departing swiftly before light fell. The servant-voices waiting in her chamber cared for the new bride no longer virgin. Things transpired thus for many a night, and through constant habit, as nature dictates, her new state accustomed her to its pleasures, and that sound of mysterious whispering consoled her solitude.”

Psyche was delivered up to someone, but far from treating her evilly, he treats her well. He gives her pleasure. He loves her body. But he only comes to her at night, so she has no idea who he is.

The oracle prophesied of a great winged evil, but her husband reveals himself as a tender, attentive lover, who truly cares for her. One evening, he speaks to her,

“Sweetest Psyche,” he said, “my dear wife, cruel Fortune threatens you with deadly danger, which I want you to guard against with utmost care. Your sisters think you dead and, troubled by this, they’ll soon come to the cliff-top. When they do, if you should chance to hear their lament, don’t answer or even look in their direction, or you’ll cause me the bitterest pain and bring utter ruin on yourself.”

Psyche subsequently is faced with a dilemma – should she trust her husband’s actions and how he treats her, or should she trust the judgments of her family and the Oracle.

Psyche knows what it is like to be judged on appearance alone, without regard to her character. Suitors shunned her, because she was thought to be too beautiful and too perfect – like a statue. In the poem, it looks as if she places all her trust in appearances as she strives to discover her husband’s identity, not trusting that his actions have revealed his true character.

But what would looking on his face reveal? Would it make his actions a lie? Psyche doesn’t stop to reflect on her husband’s nature. If he were truly monstrous, he’d treat her badly and not kindly. He loves her and brings her pleasure and she seems to enjoy his company, although she is plagued with doubt. Her doubt, however, reveals a fatal flaw in her character – she cannot trust her judgment of her husband based on his actions; she must judge him based on his appearances. This fatal flaw will be her undoing …

You can read the rest of the story through the link I posted above.

I deal with similar themes in “The Prince” and “The Raven,” and also the next book in the series “The Shadow.” The male and female leads find themselves in a situation where they end up having to trust one another’s characters rather than outward appearances. Indeed, the importance of having a good character is one of the themes of the novels, along with love, sex, hope, and redemption.

I welcome your comments on the myth of Cupid and Psyche and I hope that you will take time for beauty and poetry in your daily life. – SR


Twenty Random Questions with Peter Hammarberg (Author of Antillia)


I’ve known my guest today since the days of MySpace. Back when the site was cool and Tom had perfected the selfie game. A time when John Mayer was waiting on the world to change, and Donald Trump was just a blowhard with a TV show. Times have changed, but the man of the blog hour has stayed the same. He’s still the same affable, charming guy of yesteryear. I’m thrilled to introduce you to him.

Peter Hammarberg is a man’s man. He reminds me a bit of Hemingway with his rugged good looks and aptitude for the English language- Peter is a word herder dwelling in the northern wilds of New England. He’s been called a “Magnificent Bastard” and “The Patron Saint of Bourbon and Hearty Laughter” by genuine Cony Island sideshow performers. In addition, he has a tache that even Tom” Selleck would envy.

You can find his debut novel Antillia. at Amazon. A must read for Sci-Fi enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys well written fiction.


You can keep up with Peter and his shenanigans at:

Twitter @p_hammarberg
IInstagram: @h_mt

You can also follow him on WordPresss at hammermountainarts.com (Do it!)

My thanks to Peter for taking the time to engage in some tomfoolery,

Twenty Random Questions

1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?

Wonderland is a terrifying place. If I wasn’t killed by some whimsical psychopath and managed to make it home, I doubt I’d share the story– That’s a sure-fire recipe for padded rooms and colorful pills in wee paper cups.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Who Moved My Bourbon?”

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

I already have a drink named after me: The Hammer’dberg. It’s real simple to make. Take a pint glass, pour two-to-three fingers of bourbon (depending on your day) into it, then a dark beer. Best paired with either a cigar, bon fire, or a couch.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

When I was a pup, I was afraid of ghosts. It took me a while to realize that they’d follow me wherever I was. I was the one haunted., not necessarily the places. I’ve come to terms with that. I don’t fear it anymore. I never poop alone, thanks to them.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

I’d like humans to get over themselves. We take ourselves too seriously.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

“Dinosauria We,” by Charles Bukowski. It’s the closest thing he’s written to a prophecy poem, and it’s chilling. He talks about the things to come, and you think, ‘Yep…’ To me, it’s the written equivalent to Grieg’s In The Hall of the Mountain King. The tone has a building, subtle frenzy until it explodes.

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

Give me darkness, and put a sock in it. I’m trying to sleep. My brain is like a stone-struck hornets nest when there’s light.

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Dom Kreep from the band Kreeps. He’d make the song fun and spooky, which I’m sure is what living in my country would be like.
I’d say Wesley Willis, if he wasn’t dead, but… he’s dead.

9. What makes you nostalgic?

Songs. Scents. Comic books I haven’t read in a while. They bring me back instantly for better or worse. I think, ‘Cripes, that was another life. I’ve gotten fat,’ Then I partake in question 3 and forget where I put my pants.

10. Clowns. Creepy or cool?

I don’t have a fear of clowns, but I respect their creep factor. Unless you’re talking about a sad clown flipping pancakes in a foreign flick, I’d say creepy. Pogo, Pennywise, and Ronald are a few of the scariest.

11. Do you remember your dreams?

All the time. I’m sure psychiatrists would have a field day with me.

12. What’s your favorite song?

To me there is no such thing as a favorite song. There are far too many amazing tunes out there to pick one. It also depends on the mood.
Fight song? Twilight of the Thunder God, by Amon Amarth.
Romance someone’s face song? Love you to Death, by Type O Negative.
Life is a strange place song? Saltair by Kreeps.
Inspirational song? Do It, by Wesley Willis.
The list goes on…

13. What’s your favorite season?

Autumn. Crisp air. Trees aflame. Halloween. The world feels more vibrant during that time. Pour yourself a Hammer’dberg and sit outside for a spell.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

Pressure can suck it. I’m constantly under it. Even when there isn’t any external nonsense happening, my favorite pastime is tormenting myself with incessant “what if?s”.
It’s a real problem. I need Vanilla Ice to solve it.

15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?

This is a tricky one. I’m not a fan of “there’s a plan,” because then free will is an illusion. But I do like the theory of shaping the universe to your will. Put the thought out there and allow it to move you. Then again, they say ‘You can’t win the lotto without buying a ticket,’ so I have no idea. I guess whatever works for you is the answer.
And that’s what they call a “cop-out answer,” kids.

16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?

None. The way I see it, if I wrote the books I loved, they probably wouldn’t be that lovable. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do a good job, but there are reasons certain books are amazeballs.

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?

Paranoid. I don’t think the toaster is a government spy, mind you, but I definitely have moments where I’m too high strung for my own good.

18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?

Walking through Portsmouth New Hampshire with my wife, as we drink coffee and scheme diabolically.

19. Are you more like fire or the earth?

I’m too lazy to be fire. I’d say I’m more like an old, haunted forest.

20. Do you hear voices?

All the time. Especially when I’m trying to sleep, I hear all the worries and doubts. It’s sad, really. When I tell them to shut up, it’ll change to theme songs of shows I can’t stand.
I’m really my own worst enemy.

Bonus question:
What are you currently working on?

I’m putting the finishing touches on a bizarro/horror novella called Gravenfrost. I’ve gone the path of Lovecraft, and created my own New England town to fill with creeps and spooky shenanigans. The story is focused on an FBI agent named Doyle and his investigation into a ghost hunting tv show host losing his mind and murdering his cast and crew during a “hunt” in a place nicknamed The Devil’s Domicile.

I’ve had a few beta testers read it, and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. One even told me she was doing laundry in the basement when the book popped into her mind. She was so creeped out, she hurried like mad in order to get back upstairs. That makes me smile. If all goes according to plan, it should be available this October from Hammer Mountain Arts.

Love, Romance, Snarky Pants, Doughnuts, and Sylvain Reynard – NY Times Best-Selling Author

download (7)

My thanks to S.R. for his evasive but funny answers; I’m already plotting my next twenty questions. I’m coming for you, Foxy One.

1. Was Erich Fromm right…is love an art?

Hello Tosha. I agree with CS Lewis that there are different kinds of love. But yes, I think love is an art rather than a science.

2. First thought that comes to mind when I mention Le Baiser (The Kiss)


3. Favorite love song?

Besame mucho.

4. What would constitute a perfect Valentine’s Day for you?

Perfection is to be found in the person of the beloved and in time spent together…

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

In the shower this morning.

6. Have you ever used a cheesy pick up line? If so, what was it?

I plead the Fifth.

7. Backpacking or a luxury hotel?

It would depend on the location.

8. Is it easier to love or be loved?

I think the correct answer to these questions is “it depends.”

9. True romance is…….

I think a lot of ingredients go into this – the right person, time, attention, creativity, devotion, etc. Did I mention playfulness?

10. Favorite love poem?

i like my body by ee cummings.

11. What the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done to impress a girl?

These questions are designed to embarrass me, aren’t they?

Tosha interjects: Yes! I need to work on my baiting skills.

12. What’s the Snarky Narrator up to this Valentine’s Day?

I try to remain ignorant of his romantic activities, but I think it’s safe to say he’s up to no good …

13. If you were a candy heart…..what message would be printed on you?

Tosha so much for what the fox says. 😉

14. What do you get when you cross the soul with love and desire?

The culmination of what love is supposed to be.

15. What color patterns on argyle socks are best for seducing women?

Truthfully, Argyle is sufficient in itself, no matter the colour. Argyle is, as someone intelligent expressed, the very fabric of seduction.

16. Do you think Lipton Tea workers get coffee breaks? (random, I know)

I don’t, actually.

17. If you could be a woman for a day, how would you spend your time?

There’s no way to answer this question without sounding creepy.
Even that answer sounds creepy.

18 Tell us about your latest work The Raven.

Thank you.
“The Raven” is a paranormal romance set in Florence, Italy, which begins two years after the end of “The Prince.” It follows the character of Raven Wood, who is working as an art restorer at the Uffizi Gallery.
She is attacked one evening on her way home and wakes up days later with no memory of the incident. When she returns to work, she is stunned to discover that the Gallery has been robbed of a priceless set of illustrations by Botticelli, and the police want to question her …
Raven’s attempt to solve the mystery of the robbery and clear her name leads her to the underworld of Florence – a place that is inhabited by powerful and mysterious creatures, ruled by the dark and ruthless Prince…

20. Who would win in a doughnut eating contest, Gabriel or The Prince?

I think the correct answer is me.

If you would like to keep up with the not so nefarious goings on of the always delightful S.R….
find him here:

He’s also on Twitter working his magic

Hia latest works:

THE PRINCE – Novella



Amazon UK:

Amazon Canada:


​The Raven – Book One of The Florentine Series



Amazon Canada


Twenty Random Questions with Morgan and Jenn Locklear.

!. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?
Jenn- I love to travel and I rarely deal with homesickness when I do, so I know there would be a huge temptation to remain in Wonderland. However, there is something to be said for re-connecting with family and friends in order to share such fantastic adventures.
Morgan- I have a feeling that I will be too wasted to find my way back.
2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?
Jenn-You Should Really Sit Down Before You Read This…
Morgan- Cockeyed Optimist shares unique vision
3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?
Jenn-I’m probably well on my way into transforming into a Sailor Jerry Rum & Coke as it is. Why mess with all the hard work I’ve put in over the years?
Morgan- I would be one of those gaudy big airport drinks; something colorful and even a little girly but with enough of a kick to get plenty of guys to order one. It would be called: The Loudmouth.
4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?
Jenn-I developed a fear of heights as a child. I try not to let it rule my actions, but there are definitely hard limits to what I can handle at a higher elevation. It’s probably why I’ve chosen to live at sea level.
Morgan- Roving murders.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?
Jenn-Life is so miserable when people harm one another. I just wish we could all find a way to happily share the planet.
Morgan- Tyranny.
6. What’s your favorite poem?
Jenn–When Morgan and I were on our third date, he surprised me by reciting a poem he had written. This was the first time he shared his creative side with me and I was absolutely amazed by his talent. Immediately afterwards, he asked me to be his girlfriend and I said yes. That poem is my favorite.
Morgan-“The Ballad of the Guy Who Came In From the Cold” by Garrison
7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?
Jenn-There was a time when I would have said that the darkness frightened me, but now that I’m older I realize it isn’t darkness itself I find unsettling. It’s the silence that accompanies darkness that unnerves me.
(So answers the shy girl.)
Morgan- It neither sooths or frightens me, I’m fine in the dark but mostly because I see quite well in low light.
8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?
Jenn-I would like to see what Morgan could do with a National Anthem. People might expect it would come out light or humorous, but knowing Morgan like I do I know he would take the responsibility quite seriously. He would put his all into the effort.
Morgan- Either Sam Beam (Iron and Wine), or Jeff Lynn (ELO),

9. What makes you nostalgic?
Jenn-Music probably does that more immediately than anything else. A song can instantly help me recall a moment or a feeling of some kind.
Morgan-80’s music.
10. Clowns., creepy or cool?
Jenn-I have no fear of clowns and I do enjoy a good laugh so I guess they lean more toward cool with me.
Morgan- I love clowns, especially magician clowns.
11. Do you remember your dreams?
Jenn-As far as I know I do. I don’t think I dream as much as I used to but I’ve had some doozies over the years.
Morgan- Fortunately, I do and it’s a good thing because I come up with a lot of crazy shit when I’m asleep.
12. What’s your favorite song?
Jenn-My favorite band is a-ha. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager and my favorite song of theirs is “The Swing of Things” from their second album “Scoundrel Days”. Simple brilliance.
Morgan-“Owner of a Lonely Heart”
13. What’s your favorite season?
Jenn-Summer. I love the long days and the warmth. It’s also when I celebrate my birthday.
Morgan- Fall, especially late October.
14. Does pressure motivate you?
Jenn-I don’t enjoy the stress that comes along with pressure, but I do find I can work well under tight deadlines. Pressure doesn’t distract me from the things that need to be accomplished.

Morgan- Yes, it does, I work well under pressure and often set deadlines for myself because I know I will work harder to meet them.
15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?
Jenn-I do believe in fate, but I also know I have to put in the hard work to achieve my biggest goals in life. And I try to remember than when things don’t appear to be going the way I want them to, it’s usually because something better is going to come my way as a result.
Morgan- Fate plays a hand in how we come into this world, but its’ influence loses ground to free will with every passing year after that.
16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?
Jenn-Last year, when I was reading Outlander for the first time I remember thinking this very thing about that story. I don’t know that my writing can ever reach that level of perfection, but wow would I love to write a story like that one.
Morgan- Swan Song by Robert McCammon.
17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?
Jenn-I’m an internal worrier in calm times; however I don’t tend to express my worries to others. When an emergency situations pops up, I’m typically cool and collected during a crisis. Once an urgent situation has resolved itself, I tend to fall apart for a day or two after my guard has come down. Then I go back to my usual pattern of quiet worrying.
Morgan- I’m pretty easy going for a guy who’s not allowed to drink coffee
18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?
Jenn-Right now? An afternoon spent in Europe would be fabulous.
Morgan- Disneyland! Disneyland! Disneyland!
19. Are you more like fire or the earth?
Jenn-I think those around me would say the earth, but I’m definitely fascinated with volcanoes.
Morgan- I am an Earth power
20. Do you hear voices?
Jenn-My characters speak to me all the time. But I’m quite aware of their fictional status, so it’s all good.
Morgan- Yes, but they are always singing.
Bonus question:
What are you currently working on?
Jenn-I’m writing a story I’ve entitled Constellation. It’s a May to December contemporary romance set in Central Oregon. The story begins with the two main characters, Jack and Kathleen, having just given in to the temptation of mutual attraction. The rest of the novel explores how this one spontaneous event will alter how Kathleen perceives her universe. When I initially began the story I thought Jack would be a man of mystery, but the deeper I get into the story the more I realize that Kathleen is the one with all the secrets. I’m halfway done writing the book and realizing I actually have a series in the making. I can easily envision two more books and that has me very excited right now. I’m hoping to publish the first book later this year.
Morgan- My short game. (Golf joke).

My thanks to Morgan and Jenn.They are always a delight. Check out their debut novel EXPOSURE on amazon.com Note the five star reviews.

You can also keep up with them at:

Follow them on Twitter at: @MJLocklear

Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, and Who????

Tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:00EST, I’ll be a guest on my own podcast. That’s not weird at all, right? My co-host and friend Niles, aka James, has decided to interview me about my new little book of poetry, Confessions of a Reformed Southern Belle: A Poet’s Collection of Love, Loss and Renewal. I’m honored.  If you don’t have anything more pressing to do (like cleaning your dryer filer or rearranging your pantry), we’d be happy if you tuned in. I have it on good authority Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon will be calling in. That’s if you consider my cat “good authority.”

You can click the link below to listen.


Twenty Random Questions with Children of the Canyon’s Author-David Kukoff

  1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to tell your story?


  1. Do you sing in the shower?


  1. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?


  1. An author with whom you would like to have lunch?


  1. Do you wake up at night to read or write?


  1. Do you feel anxious or excited when you start to write?


  1. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?


  1. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?


  1. What makes you nostalgic?


  1. Does love dry up your creative juices or make them flow faster?


  1. Do you remember your dreams?


  1. What’s your favorite color?


  1. What’s your favorite season?


  1. Does pressure motivate you?


  1. Would you rather live to write or write to live?


  1. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?


  1. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?


  1. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?


  1. Are you more like the sun or the moon?


  1. Do you hear voices?



I’d like to thank David for taking time out of his busy life to participate in this blog post. I do have to wonder why he felt the need to yell at us. (Kidding) Here’s a little more about David and his poignant coming age novel Children of The Canyon.


About David:
“I put every syllable of a novel through the wringer hundreds of times to measure everything from connotation to rhythm.”

“A native Angeleno and graduate of Columbia University and UCLA Film School, David Kukoff has eleven produced film and television credits to his name (including the hit Disney movies “Model Behavior” with Justin Timberlake and Kathie Lee Gifford and “Switching Goals” with the Olsen Twins). Following a spec screenplay sale that made the front page of Variety, he went on to write for every studio and network in Hollywood, publish two books on film and television writing, and be the subject of numerous features in Variety, Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and KCET’s award-winning “Life And Times Tonight.”

Mr. Kukoff has also taught writing at Northwestern (where he was elected to the university’s Faculty Honor Roll in his first year), UCLA, and NYU, served as a guest editor for UK academic publisher Palgrave MacMillan, and been featured as a guest lecturer at UCLA’s Faculty Lecture Series at Lake Arrowhead.”

Children Of The Canyon

Children of the Canyon tells the story of David, a boy growing up in LA’s fabled Laurel Canyon neighborhood as the 1960s counterculture is coming to an end.

David’s record producer father works with the reclusive former leader of a surf music band on an album that promises to elevate the legacies of both men to immortal status. His distant, peripatetic mother rides the waves of activism and feminism in and out of David’s life. The elusive Topanga, named for the city’s last remaining Eden, whom David meets on the beach the night of his parents’ separation continues to elude his futile attempts to reconnect with her throughout the decade.

Through David’s eyes, we bear witness to the fallout from the California Dream’s malfunction: the ruined families, failed revolutionaries, curdled musical idealism, and, ultimately, the rise of the conservatism that put the country on its present path.


Twenty Random Questions with Philosopher Extraordinaire Mark Kingwell.

Mark Kingwell was kind enough to agree to answer twenty random questions, posed by yours truly. If you aren’t familiar with the Professor, please check out his bio at the end of this post. I have an innocent and platonic fascination with his mind. He’s my Glenn Gould. Mark will get that, and so will those of you familiar with his books. If you haven’t read Kingwell’s work, I promise once you do you’ll be just as intrigued. As an aside, Mark will on my podcast La Literati on Jan. 12th. You can find the details at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum We’re excited to speak with him. In the meantime, check out his insightful and humorous answers to total randomness.

1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?

Well, it’s a psychedelic trip, isn’t it? So I would come back, but I wouldn’t tell anybody about it. And I’d figure out a way to get back there at some point.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Everyone hates a sad professor.” (Yes, I stole that.)

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

That’s easy, because I once published a book about cocktails and I like to mix them for friends. So I’d say I am a dry gin martini, served straight up, with one of those big olives stuffed with a piece of blue cheese. Cold and clear, then some salt and pungency waiting for the right moment to show itself.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

Failure. And since you ask, I’m still not too crazy about wasps. Also frozen hockey pucks to the face.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

No religious zealotry, thank you.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

John Donne, “The Ecstasy.”

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

Very soothing stuff, darkness. Except when it isn’t. You know, that noise that doesn’t immediately make sense…

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Cole Porter. Or maybe Hal David.

9. What makes you nostalgic?

This will sound weird if you aren’t, like me, an air force brat: seeing any military airplane. They make me think of the bases where I grew up, the funny houses with the same floorplan no matter where you were in the country, the kids you knew for a few months before their fathers got posted somewhere else. Games of Post Office in somebody’s garage. Sandlot baseball. Soundtrack by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, and Alice Cooper.

10. Clowns., creepy or cool?

You’re not seriously asking that, are you? Creepy of course. Creepy creepy creepy. Also, see Question 7. Bart Simpson had it right: “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.”

11. Do you remember your dreams?

About once a week. They are usually extremely violent, David Cronenberg or Quentin Tarantino violent. I have no idea why.

12. What’s your favorite song?

That’s easy: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” any version, but maybe especially the Platters (1958) and Keith Jarrett (2009). I’m going to cheat and add that my favourite album of all time is Glenn Gould’s “A Consort of Musick Bye William Byrde And Orlando Gibbons” (1984); this just edges out Keith Jarrett’s sublime “Köln Concert” (1975) and “Armed Forces” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979).

13. What’s your favorite season?

Autumn. Especially here in Ontario, where everything looks better when the leaves begin to change colour. Also: playoff baseball.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

Absolutely. The self-applied kind is the best, though.

15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?

I will quote Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise: “There is no fate but what we make.”

16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Also, The Republic.

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?

I’m not paranoid, but I usually disguise my intense misanthropy under a facade of easygoing amiability. Does that answer the question? Maybe not… Might make sense of Question 11, though.

18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?

Well, there has to be sex with my sweetie in there somewhere, plus music, and art, and then cocktails at some point before dinner. Also a baseball game or a walk in the woods or some fly fishing. Hmm – I guess it matters whether I’m alone or not. Am I alone? Oh no…

19. Are you more like fire or the earth?

Can’t I be both? And also wind? I always wanted to play in the horn section on “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

20. Do you hear voices?

Just my own, incessant and various, about deadlines and ideas, quotations and turns of phrase, things to say and things I wish I’d said. Wouldn’t want it otherwise.

Bonus question:
What are you currently working on?

A new collection of essays about democracy and culture, to be published next year

About Mark kingwell:

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author or co-author of seventeen books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009). His articles on politics, architecture and art have appeared in many academic journals, including the Journal of Philosophy and the Harvard Design Magazine, and in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Utne Reader, BookForum, the Toronto Star, and Queen’s Quarterly; he is also a former columnist for Adbusters, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Kingwell has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia on philosophical subjects and had held visiting posts at Cambridge University, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the City University of New York, where he was the Weissman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities in 2002. Mr. Kingwell is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, the Outstanding Teaching Award and President’s Teaching Award at the University of Toronto, a research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism. His most recent book is a collection of political essays, Unruly Voices (2012); he has also recently published two illustrated pamphlets, Frank’s Motel (2013) and Democracy’s Gift (2014).


Interview with Author Ellen Totten

 Ellen Totten in addition to being a lovely human being is also an amazing writer. I just finished her latest work A Scent of Gardenias in one sitting (no less). I was entranced by the story of Sarah Ann Baker, a young woman who’s early beginnings were rooted in happiness and love only to be tainted by tragedy and lost.  As an adult Sarah is faced with even more adversity and heartbreak, but her optimism, force of will, and her never wavering belief in hope serves as a guiding light on the road to happiness, reconciliation and survival. A Scent of Gardenias is not only a love story, but also a mystery with the mystic woven throughout. You see, Sarah has the gift of a sixth sense-  a sense of foreboding and knowledge of bad things to come.There’s enough suspense in A Scent of Gardenias to keep you guessing up until the end. Overall a stellar read. Ellen was gracious enough to consent to an interview. We discuss her life and work.

Hi Ellen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

First, I want to thank you, Tosha, for the invitation to be interviewed about my new book, “A Scent of Gardenias.” It’s a pleasure to be here.

 I’m a native of Boston. In 1967, I was transferred to Washington, D. C. because of my job, and based at National Airport with Delta Air Lines. It was there I met and married my husband, Jerry, who was with Naval Sea Systems Command. Because of our work, we were able to travel the world and meet some wonderful people who became lifelong friends.

Has writing always been a passion of yours?

1.     After my career of thirty years, we retired to Florida in 1992 where we both took up the game of golf, and I found I had a love for writing. When we moved to The Villages in 2006, I took classes in creative writing at our Life-Long Learning College and joined a writing group. During these sessions with the group, we read chapters and receive feedback from the members, some of whom have backgrounds in journalism and editing.

Describe your writing process?

I do most of my writing in the morning; however there have been times I’ve written late at night because of poor sleeping habits and my mind won’t shut off. I love listening to soft classical music without lyrics when I write.

Your latest work titled “A Scent of Gardenias” is paranormal romance, which you wrote under the pen name Elena M. Tell us a bit about the novel and why you opted for a pen name?

 I wanted to write a ghost story, however my story evolved into something more along the way. There is always a story in the news, unfortunately, about one child bullying another. And how bullying can be instrumental resulting in a tragedy like Columbine or even suicide.

 I wanted to explore how, with the support of a loving family and, perhaps a friend or two, a child could overcome these threatening roadblocks in life. It’s a story about a woman who finds the power within herself to rise above a lifetime filled with ridicule, loss, abuse, and courage to love again.

I chose to use my real name this time, Elena M (M stand for Marie), because I felt this was the best book I have written so far and wanted to separate it from the others. Although, I was pleased with my second novel, “Lake Charm.” I wrote it under the name of Ellen M. Totten.

In the book the main character, Sarah, endures some horrific abuse at the hands of her husband. What prompted you to focus on the theme of domestic violence?

 Domestic violence is a cancer in our society that continues through generations. The only way it can be broken is if women can find the courage to leave and seek help. Often times, children are born into this despicable environment and later become abusers themselves. A man who truly loves a woman would never subject her to such violence. I wanted my story to be dedicated to these women and inspire them to find their way out and seek help.

On a lighter note, what authors inspire you?

 The author that inspires me like no other is Sylvain Reynard. I have never been addicted to an author’s writing as I am to his. He touches my heart and soul with his brilliant prose and compassionate heart. His characters actually become part of your life, and you never want the stories to end. He not only entertains you with an amazing love story (I refuse to call them erotic because they aren’t), but he educates you in the process. He inspires me to be a better writer.

Is there any book you have read and thought “Darn, I wish I had written this?”

 No. Being a novice writer, I can’t say that I have. I only aspire to improve what I write in the future.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 I would say to them never be afraid to start. Write for yourself and what is in your heart. If you have a favorite author or genre, read as much as possible to find your style.

Please tell our readers where they can buy your wonderful books.

 My books can be found on Kindle, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Books-A-Million in paperback for those who prefer to hold a book.