Elisabeth, it’s lovely to finally meet you. I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since the revelations that came out during Russell Montgomery’s trial. I thought we could tackle it by starting at the beginning and working our way from there.
Elisabeth: Sounds good to me.
What prompted you to move from Sydney to Canberra?
Elisabeth: I love Sydney but not to put too fine a point on it I felt I had to leave. Work and life there were no longer tenable.
You were with Legal Aid and you moved to the Canberra Legal Aid office. So it wasn’t Legal Aid as such that you wanted to move away from?
Elisabeth: No. It was more that I kept running into someone I wanted nothing to do with.
Would that be Thierry Richards QC?
Elisabeth: Look … regardless of how I feel about that person I don’t want to … would you mind if we moved on.
Okay, let’s talk about when you arrived in Canberra. You jumped in at the deep end with the Russell Montgomery case.
Elisabeth: I’m really sorry… but do you mind if we don’t talk about that either. It’s still very raw.
Not a problem. I understand. Let’s take a step back. Describe yourself to me. How do you see yourself?
Elisabeth: Okay. Let me attempt a bit of objectivity. Short spiky red hair. I used to be able to sit on it but had it cut before coming to Canberra. Typical redhead’s colouring … white, no freckles because I’ve never been a sunlover, size 10, 5’7” in bare feet, and I’m 34. How’s that? Oh, and shall I tell you what Robert said about my eyes? Green as deep ocean on a sunbright day. I was speechless when he said it. No-one’s ever described them quite like that before. So now you’d know me in a crowd, yes?
Yes, I believe I would. Next question: What do you hope to achieve in life?
Elisabeth: That a big question. Many things I suppose, but happiness has to be at the top. Nothing’s worth it if you’re not happy.
And are you? Happy, that is.
Elisabeth: I’m working on it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Elisabeth: I’m a walker. For the exercise but also because I love it. Getting out and exploring and letting my mind wander. Never fails to refresh and re-invigorate.
Your friend Honey Milton was often a walking companion I believe. What is she to you?
Elisabeth: My best friend. Always will be. She’s gorgeous. I adore her. I miss her like crazy now that I’m in Canberra. We used to see each other all the time because her man travels a lot. He’s an actor and tours with his company. And as you say, we both liked walking. Not so often together nowadays, given we now live in different cities.
What about Robert Murphy?
Elisabeth: Robert? I liked him the moment I met him. He’s straightforward, sincere, good at his job. What’s not to like? The fact that he’s very attractive is a plus … . He stuck with me from the start despite the fact I couldn’t have been very likeable. I had my reasons, but he didn’t know that. But I count him among my good friends now. I hope he feels the same way about me.
As much as I’d like to explore that further I know you don’t want to, so let’s turn to the trial. What was it about the Stavros family that irked you so much?
Elisabeth: Every single one of them was lying and I knew it. But proving it was almost impossible because of Russell’s amnesia. Thank God for Robert and Joe Gaudry. In spite of me being no help they kept pushing. It was entirely because of them we got to the truth.
Let’s finish with what’s made you the woman you are today?
Elisabeth: Mmm. That may be a question better put to others. But I’ll have a go at it. On a personal level I was very young when I made the decision that altered my life. At the time I felt it was the only choice I could make, I believed I was too young to do anything else. I still believe that. But I feel the weight of condemnation from some people. I try not to let it bother me. On a professional level, law was something that always interested me. When I started university I began a Bachelor of Arts, but the law components really gripped me so I changed and ended up doing a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Economics. I still like law. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t be happy doing something else … if something else came along.
Elisabeth, thanks, I know you weren’t looking forward to this and what I might have been planning to ask you. How about we go for a drink. My shout.
Elisabeth: It’s Friday night so why not. Great idea. Just so you know though. Anything I say under the influence is not for public consumption.
Fair enough. Grab your bag then. There’s a new bar opened up in Garema Place. I thought we could see if it’s any good.
You can find Elisabeth and get to know her story in AUTOMATON
Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In GATEWAY TO FOREVER Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.
The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never learned the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.
The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.
You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.
A thought-provoking, confronting read.
A point worth mentioning is that the cover art is one of Nougat’s own works. If you click on the link below to my interview with the author you will see more of her paintings.
John L Work’s novels are both a product of his experience as a career policeman and his opinions about what’s going wrong in American society. He’s not afraid to use either to get a message across and his books are the more hard-hitting because of it. John is my guest author this week.
Alana: John, welcome. Am I right in thinking you’re a Colorado boy born and bred and that you’ve not strayed too far during your career and personal life?
John: Hi, Alana. Thank you for the invitation today. Actually, I was transplanted to Colorado from Pennsylvania via Southern California. I’ve lived in Colorado pretty much since 1978.
Alana: I’ve read several of your books now, the last two being my featured book reviews this week: The right angle murders and A dark obsession times 2. Both continue the career of Detective JD Welch, the character who stars in four of your books, the other two being A summons to perdition and Murder for comfort. They focus on different periods in Welch’s career and I’d like to ask several questions related to this. First, why not a time consecutive following of his career? Second, did you have a series in mind when you wrote the first Welch novel? And last, will there be any more of his exploits in books to come?
John: A dark obsession times 2, Murder for comfort, and A summons to perdition, are time-consecutive. At the beginning I didn’t intend to write a series. The idea sort of materialised after I published A dark obsession. As it turned out the first two books became the groundwork for A summons to perdition, which is the grand finale. Altogether the original trilogy was a two-year project. I thought I was pretty much finished with Welch as a retired old man by then.
Alana: But you realised you weren’t?
John: I received enough requests from readers for more JD Welch adventures that I wrote The right angle murders, putting Welch at the very beginning of his career as a rookie police detective. Hence the out-of-sequence stories.
Alana: How closely does Welch’s career parallel yours?
John: A dark obsession times 2 is based on a true case from my professional life and anecdotal events from my police career. Nearly all of it is true, although names and places are changed. (I did take some liberty with the very end of the story.)
Alana: I won’t give it away, but I’m glad to hear that. It made me very sad.
John: If I told you about the real-life ending here, I’d spoil it for your readers. In the sequel, Murder for comfort, Welch sets off to some places and encounters situations that are his own—yet there are elements of the story that are also from my career. By the time we get to A summons to perdition, Welch is doing things I never did. He’s become his own man.
Alana: Let’s look at your other works now. The canal, a futuristic police investigative novella, is one that brings to the fore your interest—if that’s the right word—in military injustice. What was the impetus for writing it?
John: Actually, I wrote The canal with two real-life situations in mind—the imprisonment of 10 American soldiers who killed terrorists in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and came home to find themselves wrongfully prosecuted for murder; and the ongoing incremental Islamisation of the United States. The plot flips back and forth between now and the future. As one of my reviewers put it, it’s a story of life, love, war and survival in today’s world—and in an Islamised America, forty years from now.
Alana: And then there’s The barter and A well regulated vengeance, (a futuristic look at firearms’ legislation which I think I’m going to have to read) a novella that also looks at crime from a victim’s perspective. Both with subject matter close to your heart, I suspect, yes?
John: Near and dear to my heart, yes. Both of these books also have threads of real-life events running through them. A well-regulated vengeance puts an aggrieved father named Kirkbaugh, living five years or so in the future, in the position of planning to avenge his daughter’s brutal murder, because the cops botched the investigation. The killer is walking about free. At the same time Kirkbaugh himself becomes a fugitive from justice because he has a handgun which Congress has decided to outlaw. So, he’s the hunter and the hunted, the righteous avenger and a criminal on the run. I wrote The barter on a suggestion from my best-seller author friend Diana West. It’s set a few years in the future (I do seem to go there rather frequently) wherein the very sovereignty of parts of the United States is up for sale—to relieve our crippling national debt. There are two main characters, a retired army sergeant and his wife, whose lives are terribly, horrifyingly, nightmarishly turned upside down as the result of the land-exchanged-for-debt barter.
Alana: It sounds very dark.
John: Well, it’s not at all like Mary Poppins, Alana. But, then again, these are not particularly happy times in which we live right now. Oh, to be sure, there are some laughs in The barter along the way. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s a very intense thriller. So, yes, I do try to capture our present time in my books and, in the microcosm of fictional characters’ sturm und drang, present a believable prognostication of what’s ahead for all of us.
(Readers, I had to look that one up. Here’s the merriam-webster.com definition: a late 18th century German literary movement characterized by works containing rousing action and high emotionalism that often deal with the individual’s revolt against society.)
Alana: I notice a theme flowing through all of them, John—crime. I know you were a policeman and that you’re obviously very familiar with the subject, but has it been a conscious decision to focus on the crime genre in your writing?
John: It’s true there is a lot about crime in my works. I began this writing business with the sole intention of spinning a true-to-life yarn or two. But, as things progressed, a few political threads also began to elbow their way into some of my books. You can’t separate police work from politics, since the police are part of the executive branch of any Constitutional or Parliamentary government. A summons to perdition is really a hair-raising crime/political thriller, as are The barter, A well regulated vengeance and The canal. The right angle murders and Murder for comfort are purely crime fiction with an authentic feel.
Alana: Until very recently you had a blog—Here’s The Right Side Of It—which was an eclectic collection of posts about books—yours and other authors—news and opinion pieces. You hold very strong opinions about what affects and influences American society such as military injustice and Islam. I mention those two in particular because, as we’ve discussed, they’ve found their way into some of your books. Would you tell us a little bit about why these are matters dear to your heart?
John: I come from a family with a deep history of military and police service. Not everyone who served made a career of it, but each of them answered the call. I believe I owe them a debt for their sacrifices. What’s happened to some of our returning soldiers and Marines coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan is nothing less than criminal. That’s a major thread in The canal. Since you’ve asked me about the Islamic jihad theme in my books, I hope you can hang with me here for a rather protracted explanation …
Alana: Oh, I’m sure I can.
John: There is a distinct parallel between the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s’ absence of news reporting regarding the Soviet infiltration of the American government pre and post WWII—and the current infiltration of our culture, institutions and government by the forces of Islam. Just as there were scores of communist agents in the White House, Treasury Department, and State Department during WWII (and they exercised strong influence on Roosevelt’s prosecution of the war), today there are Muslims in the Pentagon, the armed forces, the CIA, the White House and State Department. And they also exert a tremendous influence on what is amounting to our evolving shariah-compliant public policy. The similarities between the two eras are astonishing. Islamic doctrine is one very hot potato that few in political life or media outlets want to handle—in any straight-forward way. Ergo, nearly 13 years after the 9/11/01 attacks in New York and Washington, DC, very few Americans, including those in positions to shape public policy, have any clue as to what’s really Islam’s end game.
Alana: What is the end game?
John: Great question. Firstly, most Americans don’t even know about the beginning of the game (the war against the Infidels of the world actually began in 622 AD). Political leaders abjectly refuse to actually read the doctrines or to pay attention when Islam’s mainstream leaders throughout history tell us where they intend to take us. So, the WWII Big Lie was that Soviet Russia was our ally, a wonderful bastion of individual freedom, and that Josef Stalin was really a decent guy (even though he’d already murdered four million of his own people by the time WWII got under way). My friend Diana West wrote about that in her latest book, American betrayal. Today’s corresponding Big Lie is that Islam is a religion of peace and intends to peacefully co-exist with Western Civilisation. We’ve been spoon-fed that lie since 2001, beginning with George W Bush, a few days after the 9/11 attacks here in America. That’s a mind bender, huh?
Alana: John, you’re going to have to spell it out for me. What do you believe the end game is?
John: It’s not what I believe is the end game. It’s been clearly spelled out for us in writing by mainstream Muslim authorities throughout history. The end game is complete subjugation of all the world’s people and nations under Muslim Law. Convert to Islam or become a dhimmi—one who lives under the protection of his Muslim masters as a second class citizen with few rights. That’s the choice Islam gives us. Refusing to convert or to submit to dhimmi status is grounds for us to be killed in violent jihad. It certainly wasn’t my idea. It was written down in the Quran and in the shariah (Muslim law) centuries ago. Mainstream Muslim authorities today speak about that goal—often and in public. The problem is that our leaders and news outlets aren’t paying attention to them. Our elected officials and the majority of the press corps have their blinders on when it comes to violent jihad’s roots in the doctrines of Islam. Let’s put a sharp point on it here. Ignoring readily available books and public discourse, especially when the writers and speakers clearly state their intentions for us, can have sinister consequences. Mein Kampf comes to mind.
Alana: And that’s why you’ve pursued that issue in some of your books?
John: Absolutely. If no one writes or speaks about the jihad movement, our ongoing step-by-step surrender will go on. Not too many authors are writing fiction about jihad with authenticity. It’s just not polite. And it’s dangerous. Any criticism of Islam, in writing or spoken, is a capital crime—punishable by death. It’s called blasphemy. Nonetheless, I decided to spin a few detective suspense thrillers, especially A summons to perdition, around that end-game theme—grounded in fact, doctrine and in Muslim history. It’s a great detective story. I’ve had many readers, especially women, tell me they had difficulty sleeping for few nights after reading ASTP.
Alana: Me included, I confess!
John: Mission accomplished! You’re very kind. Thank you for saying it. Islamic law is repressive and brutal in its treatment of females. Everything that unfolds in the plot of ASTP has its foundation in the shariah. What happens to the victims in ASTP could happen to any of us—including you wonderful Aussies there, down under. It’s a disturbing, terrifying novel. If you want thrills and chills, read on!
Alana: Before we finish I’d like to ask if you have another book or project in the pipeline and, if so, would you tell us about it?
John: I’ve taken a little break from writing books, at least for the time being. I just published The barter in August of 2013. Nonetheless, I have to confess that there are already a few pestering thoughts which have begun to circulate through my head about beginning another novel. But they’ve not taken sufficient shape for me to decide what the story will be about.
Alana: Another Welch novel?
John: Oh, sure, JD Welch is a remote possibility for another encore. But a real-life cop is limited in what he can do by the constraints of the law and by his department policies. I try to keep my stories authentic and believable. So, I don’t know how viable good old JD the cop really is for a reprise. We’ll see soon enough. It’ll come to me.
Alana: John, thank you so much. It’s been both thought-provoking and a pleasure.
John: And I thank you, Alana, for your kind invitation.
My guest this week needs no introduction, to the indie author community at least. He’s considered close to being a superstar by the many he has helped towards publishing with his self-help books. But he’s also a novelist with two huge-in-scope works of fiction to his credit.
Alana: Jason Matthews, welcome, it’s a real pleasure to have you here today. Before we talk about your many activities and books could we find out a little about you. You live in California; have you always lived there?
Jason: Thank you, Alana, for the very kind reception. I was born in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Unfortunately my parents divorced when I was a baby, and my mother, sister and I moved around quite a bit. We also lived in Massachusetts and Ohio while spending summers with Dad in Colorado and Oregon. I returned to North Carolina for college and then moved permanently to California in 1991. I love this state.
Jason formerly lived in Truckee, California. Here he is enjoying some ‘big snow’
He now lives in Pismo Beach, California
Alana: You are also one of that rare breed, a full-time author who actually makes your living by writing—when did you reach that point?
Jason: I used to be a house painting contractor and just didn’t have the time or energy to follow through on a dream of writing my first novel. It took several years and probably never would have been written without taking substantial time off from painting. When I started selling my third book I broke free from painting and focused entirely on writing and marketing. The money wasn’t consistent and I used up all of my savings, but eventually things got better.
As you know it’s very difficult to earn a living on one or two books. I now have five titles selling as ebooks and paperbacks, but I also sell a video course, work as an author consultant and even do speaking engagements. It takes those other sources of income to pay the bills, and still there are times when it feels like just scraping by.
Alana: Well, let’s first talk about the publishing self-help books because they’re how many hundreds, if not thousands, of authors have first discovered you. There are three, I believe. What subjects do they address?
Jason: The titles are indicators of what they’re about.
HOW TO MAKE, MARKET AND SELL EBOOKS—ALL FOR FREE is an overview and training program for authors wanting to self-publish, and it specialises in using free methods when possible or recommending inexpensive alternatives, like with cover design for example.
Two important chapters within that book were about making blogs and websites, but there wasn’t enough time to go into thorough detail so I wrote HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN FREE WEBSITE: AND YOUR FREE BLOG TOO where those subjects could be properly covered, and also the book would appeal to people who were not authors.
Alana: And the third?
Jason: A very important chapter in that book was about SEO (search engine optimisation), but again the subject was so large it really needed its own book, so I also wrote GET ON GOOGLE FRONT PAGE.
Alana: You’re active on so many fronts. I know you have a Facebook group because that’s how I first found you over a year ago, and you also host a weekly Google+ hangout about publishing that you post to YouTube—would you tell us about those, but also all the other ways you’re active publishing-wise.
Jason: The Facebook group came about as an example from the self-publishing book. I give examples of doing things I recommend, so for Facebook I created a group page and a fan page. Three and a half years later the fan page is a total dud but the group page has over 1800 members.
Google Plus is super because it has such a dynamic platform with features like hangouts. What’s really nice is that I only use it for writing associates and not for friends or family. I do an Indie Authors show on Google Plus that becomes YouTube videos, and I’ve even had the pleasure of interviewing Alana Woods for an episode on essential writing tips, which was a great show that is still helping others.
Alana: A plug! Thank you.
Jason: My pleasure.
Alana: What you’re describing here is building a platform, isn’t it.
Jason: Yes. I work to build an author platform consistently over time. My blogs are very important, and I post regularly. Also YouTube is fantastic. If I can think of something that will make a good video, I always try it. Forums for writers and readers are good too, but there’s only so much time so it’s primarily Goodreads. Lately I’ve been doing more speaking events, and it’s really exciting to work with a live audience.
Alana: What are the types of groups you speak to? Are they primarily writing based?
Jason: Primarily, yes. I’ve spoken and made presentations about the self-publishing experience at a few paid writing conferences, so hopefully that will continue to grow. The focus is usually an outline of what it takes to sell books and the things writers often do to become successful. I’ve also presented to smaller, less formal gatherings like book signings or release events. I’ve talked to classrooms at schools and presented at libraries, where an interesting mix of people show up. I’ve done many radio interviews and also consult individual authors who want help with projects.
Alana: Let’s talk about your novels now. I’m familiar with two, JIM’S LIFE and THE LITTLE UNIVERSE—I’ve read and reviewed both. They deal with such big issues I’m going to wimp out and ask you to tell us what they are.
Jason: THE LITTLE UNIVERSE began as a way to think about our place in the universe, other planets, other intelligent life and how we might all be evolving together. Obviously these are big subjects with profound, even unanswerable, questions. The book is really about creating a project that displays those things in a way we might be able to learn from it, and of course I’ve taken some liberties with what I believe we might find if we had a universe and all its mysteries at our fingertips.
Alana: It kept me interested! And JIM’S LIFE, which, I didn’t realise when I read it, is the sequel to THE LITTLE UNIVERSE—not that I think it’s necessary to read them in order. But I think JIM’S LIFE is my favourite of the two.
Jason: That’s great to hear, Alana, because many readers have told me the opposite, and I like them both for different reasons. JIM’S LIFE is about a teenage boy who suffers a life-changing accident. The trauma affects his brain function and vision in a way that gives him the ability to see the light fields with living things, like the auras and chakras of people. In time he learns to work with the light fields and becomes a healer, even considered a miracle healer. What complicates things is the accident he endured was a result of running from a crime. So he is on trial for a crime as the world realises his unique healing abilities, which brings the philosophical and spiritual nature of the story to the forefront.
Alana: You present such a conundrum for the reader to come to grips with! It’s terrific.
Jason: Thank you.
Alana: You also have other works to your credit. I’m unfamiliar with them so could you give us a rundown?
Jason: Presently I just have some short stories on Amazon, and I’ve written a screenplay called Minor Extremes that is collecting dust on my shelf. It’s about a young man’s effort to bring the sport of extreme skiing from obscurity to the limelight and the lengths he’ll go to make his dream a reality.
Alana: I hesitate to ask the next question because you sound as though it might be difficult to fit anything else in to your schedule, but I’m going to anyway. Are you working on another book or project? If you are can you tell us about it, or is it too early to be revealing ideas, themes and plot points?
Jason: Yes, it’s important to create new content, and I’ve made the mistake of only marketing existing titles for far too long. I’m working on the third novel of the series …
Alana: Sorry to interrupt but, GREAT. I can’t wait to see where you take things.
Jason: That’s perfectly okay … and I have a nice critique group reading along the way. That is so helpful for edits and suggestions, wish I did more with critique groups before! This story is about two girls, sisters with different mothers, who are born with a cellular mutation that enables them to have special abilities and powers. They are viewed by the world as the next stage for humankind. How they use their powers is up to them, and the conflicts arise from the public pressures, their own internal struggles and with each other.
Alana: These are all subjects you’re obviously intensely interested in. Would you tell us how that interest arose and how you continue to pursue them.
Jason: As a kid I was always fascinated by the universe and our own human evolution. How did we get to where we are and where might society be heading in the future? When one spends time contemplating these things, subjects like science, religion, spirituality, environment, relationships and more come into the picture. I think my novels touch on all of those subjects, hopefully in a fun way leaving room for interpretation and without coming across as one way of thinking or as preachy.
Alana: Definitely not preachy, but I have to say they opened up my mind to so much more than I’ve previously thought about. Jason, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure to find out more about the man as well as the author.
Jason: Thank you so much. What a pleasure it is getting to know and working with authors all over the world, like you, Alana