Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club: Q&A with Historical Fiction Author Freddie Owens

A poet and fiction writer, my work has been published in Poet Lore, Crystal Clear and Cloudy, and Flying Colors Anthology. I am a past attendee of Pikes Peak Writer’s Conferences and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and a member of Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado. In addition, I am/was a licensed professional counselor and psychotherapist, who for many years counseled perpetrators of domestic violence and sex offenders, and provided psychotherapy for individuals, groups and families. I hold a master’s degree in contemplative psychotherapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I was born in Kentucky but soon after my parents moved to Detroit. Detroit was where I grew up. As a kid I visited relatives in Kentucky, once for a six-week period, which included a stay with my grandparents. In the novel’s acknowledgements I did assert the usual disclaimers having to do with the fact that Then Like The Blind Man was and is a work of fiction, i.e., a made up story whose characters and situations are fictional in nature (and used fictionally) no matter how reminiscent of characters and situations in real life. That’s a matter for legal departments, however, and has little to do with subterranean processes giving kaleidoscopic-like rise to hints and semblances from memory’s storehouse, some of which I selected and disguised for fiction. That is to say, yes, certain aspects of my history did manifest knowingly at times, at times spontaneously and distantly, as ghostly north-south structures, as composite personae, as moles and stains and tears and glistening rain and dark bottles of beer, rooms of cigarette smoke, hay lofts and pigs. Here’s a quote from the acknowledgements that may serve to illustrate this point.

“Two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became this novel. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a “city slicker” from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature’s neck. It ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set right again, recreated, if only that one thing was found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado’s approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.”
I read the usual assigned stuff growing up, short stories by Poe, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Scarlet Letter, The Cherry Orchard, Hedda Gabler, a little of Hemingway, etc. I also read a lot of Super Hero comic books (also Archie and Dennis the Menace) and Mad Magazine was a favorite too. I was also in love with my beautiful third grade teacher and to impress her pretended to read Gulliver’s Travels for which I received many delicious hugs.

It wasn’t until much later that I read Huckleberry Finn. I did read To Kill A Mockingbird too. I read Bastard Out of Carolina and The Secret Life of Bees. I saw the stage play of Hamlet and read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle too. However, thematic similarities to these works occurred to me only after I was already well into the writing of Then Like The Blind Man. Cormac McCarthy, Pete Dexter, Carson McCullers, Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Conner and Joyce Carol Oates, to name but a few, are among my literary heroes and heroines. Tone and style of these writers have influenced me in ways I’d be hard pressed to name, though I think the discerning reader might feel such influences as I make one word follow another and attempt to “stab the heart with…force” (a la Isaac Babel) by placing my periods (hopefully, sometimes desperately) ‘… just at the right place’.

Freddie Owens’ latest book is Then Like the Blind Man: Orbie’s Story.

Visit his website at

Thanks for coming to the book club, Freddie!  It's great to have you with us.  I love coming of age books especially the kind you have written.  Can we start out by having you tell us where you got the idea for Then Like the Blind Man?

Freddie: Well, two memories served as starting points for a short story I wrote that eventually became the novel, Then Like the Blind Man / Orbie's Story. One was of my Kentucky grandmother as she emerged from a shed with a white chicken held upside down in one of her strong bony hands. I, a boy of nine and a "city slicker" from Detroit, looked on in wonderment and horror as she summarily wrung the poor creature's neck. I watched as it ran about the yard frantically, yes incredibly, as if trying to locate something it had misplaced as if the known world could be set aright, recreated, if only that one thing could be found. And then of course it died. The second memory was of lantern light reflected off stones that lay on either side of a path to a storm cellar me and my grandparents were headed for one stormy night beneath a tornado's approaching din. There was wonderment there too, along with a vast and looming sense of impending doom.

I especially love Orbie.  Can you tell everyone a little about him?

Freddie Owens: A funny thing happened on the way to the completion of my first novel. On a daily basis I found myself entering or trying to enter the skin of a nine-year-old boy, trying to see the world of the novel entirely from his point of view. I suppose I should thank the 'Novel Muse' for giving me such an opportunity. I mean it was fascinating. And your question gets to the heart of this one thing I was trying to do, i.e., show how dependent the world is on one's point of view and how one's point of view in turn is dependent on the world. I mean Blind Man is told from Orbie's point of view, right? The reader sees Victor through Orbie's eyes. Victor therefore is a function of how Orbie sees him, and how Orbie sees Victor is in turn a function of Victor's influence. He deceives and threatens Orbie's point of view, challenges it, at times violently, but in the end Orbie's view prevails, though profoundly transformed - as does his world.

Now, Victor Denalsky is not your typical villain. He is extremely complex, confusedly so, yet he seems somewhat cardboard-like in the beginning, almost stereotypical (intentionally so). I think this is because Orbie's viewpoint is still rudimentary; he sees things in black and white nine-year-old terms, a parallel I suppose to the racist attitudes he displays early on. Victor is seen by Orbie to have some good qualities, he's a war hero, he's been in battles, he's very good looking and has what seems to be a very friendly relationship with Orbie's father, Jessie, and his mother, Ruby. An ominous quality enters all this however after Orbie's father is killed in an accident at the steel mill and Victor moves in on his family and vulnerable mother, bringing with him the smell of toilet shit and beer and dead cigars.

Victor becomes the bad guy; the hated stepfather in Orbie's eyes and everything enters hell from there on in until Orbie's sensibilities are awakened in Kentucky. He has certain experiences there with his maverick grandparents, with the black community of Pentecostal snake handlers and with the Choctaw shaman, Moses Mashbone. He finds he can’t maintain his prejudices in an environment of humor and vibrant fellow feeling. Even his tightly nursed hatred of Victor begins to unravel. As his world (in spite of everything) becomes sweeter, happier, it becomes also more and more perplexing, posing questions worthy perhaps only of the nine-year-old wunderkind, paradoxical questions like, "How can you save what you want to destroy?" As Victor becomes increasingly monstrous, increasingly alcoholic, increasingly violent, we see also that he becomes oddly repentant, has himself been spiritually wounded, becoming worthy of a deep though uninvited sympathy. This all takes place in Orbie's point of view, of course, which in turn is subject to the influence of the world of Kentucky and Harlan's Crossroads, which again is subject to Orbie's point of view. Like I said, fascinating.

Kentucky is one of my favorite states - love the back country.  Can you tell us if you had to go there for research, have you been there before and why did you choose Kentucky as your setting?

Freddie: Actually, I was born in Kentucky but grew up around Detroit. I would sometimes spend a week or two, once I spent six weeks, in Kentucky, staying with cousins or with my grandparents. And yes, it was an entirely different world for me, providing some of the best and worst times of my growing up years. I had a great time on a dairy farm with several of my cousins, milking cows, hoeing tobacco, running over the hills and up and down a creek that surrounded the big farm. I remember too, periods of abject boredom, sitting around my grandparent's place with nothing to do but wander about the red clay yard or kill flies on my grandmother's screened in back porch. Some of this did come out in the novel – in that character you love, Orbie.

What is the most favorable thing people have said about your book?

Freddie: Well, Kirkus Review gave the book their highest rating. They gave it a starred review, which is how they designate a book of exceptional merit. It got great reviews also from Publisher's Weekly, The San Francisco Book Review, Midwest Book Review, ForeWord First and several others.

The most favorable thing came not from any of these big reviewers however; but from a reader who wrote to say how she was so saddened when the book came to an end because she wouldn't get to hang out with the book's characters any longer. She said she hoped I'd be writing more about these characters in the future, that I'd find a way to continue the story. Which, of course, was very gratifying to hear.

How neat that this is your debut book.  Do you have more books on the horizon?

Freddie: Well, I'm currently thinking of doing a screenplay for Then Like The Blind Man. I've actually started the work, which is a challenge since I know nothing about screenplay writing – but I'm learning. I'm reading and I'm learning. I also have begun jotting a few ideas down for a sequel and hope someday to be able to say to the lady saddened by my book's having come to an end, Hey gal, look here! There's more!

Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers and fans?

Freddie: Writing – especially great writing – is the mind's gift to itself.  Reading is the mind's way of opening the gift. If in it one finds emptiness filled to the brim, then I say, so much the better, dear reader. Read on.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Interview with Kevin Bohacz, author of techno-thriller 'Immortality'

I am Kevin Bohacz the bestselling novelist of Immortality and a lucid dreamer… Welcome to my dreams. I am also a writer for national computer magazines, founder and president of two high technology corporations, a scientist and engineer for over 35 years, and the inventor of an advanced electric car system – the ESE Engine System (circa 1978). I was also a short order cook for I-Hop, flipped burgers at McDonalds, and delivered Chicken Delight. All of those careers and more are behind me now that I am a full time storyteller, a catcher of dreams. Thank you for reading my stories and making this all possible.

His latest books are Immortality and Ghost of the Gods.

Visit Kevin’s website at

Thanks for coming to the book club, Kevin! I absolutely love thrillers. Why did you decide to write that genre?

Kevin: I love hard science fiction and I love thrillers but more than anything I love the type of hard science fiction that is theoretically possible and set in

present day, which is pretty close to the definition of one kind of techno-thriller. This is the brand of techno-thriller that I write. I often get compared to Michael Crichton since he is arguably the inventor of this type of techno-thriller. I actually bend the techno-thriller genre a bit to my own liking. Thrillers typically are supposed to be action and suspense first and foremost but I take the time to do enough character development to create fully realized three dimensional people. My characters are not perfect. They are flawed like all real people. For me the stories are all about the characters. If the characters are not 100% real and true to whomever they may be then the story stumbles. If a reader has strong emotions for the characters whether it is hate or love then the story soars.

The other thing I enjoy about my slightly bent genre is that I make everything scientifically possible. Making everything possible leads to greater levels of suspension of disbelief in the reader. I feel this makes the stories more compelling. When I am reading a story nothing can cause me to stumble quicker then reading something portrayed as fact that I know is not possible. Whether it’s something simple like a real street described incorrectly or a technical device that is highly unlikely, it all equals the collapse of my suspension of disbelief. The same is true for the characters. I stumble reading a story if a smart character does something slightly foolish just to move the plot along or vice versa. So the bottom line is that I write the kinds of stories than I love to read and my slightly bent techno-thriller genre allows me to do this.

I love it that your theme in your first book, Immortality, revolves around evolution. Can you tell us more about this?

Kevin: Well actually Immortality is not my first published novel, Dream Dancers got that award back in 1993…

The epic tale of my bestseller Immortality and the sequel Ghost of the Gods has five different interwoven themes and is about many different things: physical immortality, love, the end of the world, and revenge… but as you’ve pointed out what is arguably the biggest underlying theme is the idea of self-directed human evolution and the notion that through this mechanism at some point in our history we will vanquish death from natural causes. This concept has been given many names but transhumanism is probably the most widely known.

Here is what one of the critics had to say about evolution in the two-part tale of Immortality: Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review: “Bohacz’s vision of a humanity that faces the need to evolve profoundly or face certain destruction is as timely as today’s news and as chilling a doomsday scenario as any ecological catastrophe can suggest...”

So how do we extend our lifespan to the point where death becomes the exception instead of the rule and save ourselves from destruction? I think we have been doing just that for our entire history as a species. It is what all self-aware life forms do. Once you know you are going to die, once you have taken that bite of the apple, there is no alternative other than to wage war on death. Survival is hardwired into our psyche.

As far back as we can trace our ancestry we've extended our lifespan by enhancing our bodies so that we could better protect ourselves from the environment and predators of both the two and four legged varieties. Unlike non-self-aware creatures that function heavily on instinct, we have been very busy using our analytical brains to alter our bodies. In the hundred generations of recorded history and millions of years before, we have been self-evolving by augmenting our bodies with technology. We started with stone tools then worked our way up to fire, then wheels, then suits of armor, then gunpowder, then the atom.

This self-directed evolution radically changed in the last century. Today life extension is coming through sweeping scientific breakthroughs. We are embedding electronics into our bodies, networking our thoughts, and engineering our genes. We have moved from physical prostheses to mental prostheses in the form of computers. Our self-evolution is accelerating at a breathtaking rate in lockstep with the geometric advancements in technology. It seems inevitable that we'll continue to enhance ourselves with machines, chemicals, and genetic manipulations. What will healthcare be like a hundred years from now? The environment? Love? Wars? No one knows if we're careening toward paradise or a nightmare, but I think nothing short of a global catastrophe will keep us from opening this particular Pandora's Box.

Can you give us a description of your characters in Immortality?

Kevin: Since the tale is epic there are a lot of pivotal characters so I will limit the descriptions to the very most important characters.

Mark Freedman: Professor Mark Freedman is in his late 40’s. He is a Nobel Prize winning research microbiologist and bioengineer. He is a full tenured professor at UCLA where he conducts advanced research into genetic engineering of bacteria. The university gives their Nobel Laureate everything he wants. A seemingly endless supply of federal and private grants provides even more. He has achieved his dreams, but paid a price. He is divorced from a wife that still loves him. He is an absentee father from a daughter he adores. He is nearing fifty and counting all the mistakes he has made. A diabetic from childhood, he has started drinking and knows the damage it is causing. He lives in a million dollar condo in Venice Beach, California with one of his graduate students who is half his age. It was affairs with young women like this one that cost him his marriage.  A decade ago he was a pioneer in the field of micropaleontology. It was his discovery a bacterium named COBIC-3.7 that won him his Nobel Prize. COBOC is 3.7 billion years old and oldest known form of motile life on Earth. This bacterium is the first cousin to protoanimals and the very nexus of the great kingdoms of plant and animal. It is literally the origin of an evolutionary branch that would eventually lead to all animals, including humans and it is still swimming and living among us. With this glory ten years behind him, he is now hunting a new theory to win a second Nobel Prize. He is seeking to prove a connection between this ancient bacterium and the great extinction events from hundreds of millions of years ago. He believes COBIC is the canary in the coal mine that predicted those great extinctions.

Kathy Morrison: Doctor Kathy Morrison is in her late 30’s. She is a hugely respected doctor at the CDC in Atlanta. She has worked for the CDC since graduation from Harvard Medical. She began as an EIS field agent and for many years took some of the most dangerous assignments. She has seen firsthand the suffering and death wrought by the most terrible diseases on the planet. She is a workaholic who is only in her element when she is trying to solve medical mysteries. She is attractive but thinks she is not. During her college years, she dated a long procession of would be doctors and then married a surgeon. She is unlucky in love and still getting over a hurtful divorce. She has a bad knee from a skiing accident and sometimes needs a cane. She lives in a very desirable condo in the trendiest neighborhood of Atlanta, which she can barely afford on her government paycheck.

Sarah Mayfair: Sarah Mayfair is in her early 20’s. She is a newly minted Morristown, New Jersey police officer. She is going to college part-time working her way to a psych degree with a good though not perfect grade point average. She wants to get into federal law enforcement. A bit of a tomboy, she likes sports, camping, and even hunting.  She is an expert on the pistol range. She shoots all-pro at the situation contests and took third place last year in the state finals. She has emerald green eyes, dark blonde hair, and is extremely attractive. She is part Middle-Eastern, part English, part Indian, part Moroccan, part Italian and the list goes on. Her mixed-ethnicity is often mistaken by the eyes of the beholder: Italians think she is Italian, Middle-Easterners think she is Middle-Eastern, Indians think she is Indian, and Brits think she is British. In this way she is almost a chameleon. She had an emotional breakdown not long ago but has recovered for now. She lives with her boyfriend Kenny and a huge Rottweiler named Ralph who she adores.

Artie Hartman: Artie is in his late 20’s. He is an assistant D.A. for New York City. He is half Japanese and half English. Artie grew up in a very bad NYC neighborhood and joined a gang, the Dragons, the same year his parents were killed. He got into trouble and was sent to juvenile detention for possession of a firearm. He accidently killed a boy in a gang fight but was never arrested or under suspicion for the crime. When he was released from detention his record was expunged and he was later taken in by his uncle who became a second father to him. Guilt over all he did while he was running with his gang is something that plagues him in his adult life especially now that he is prosecuting teenagers and young men who were just like him.

General McKafferty: McKafferty is in his 50’s. He is a true patriot who believes in God, Honor, and Country. McKafferty is career Army, West Point, and commander of BARDCOM, which stands for Biological Armaments Research and Development Command. BARDCOM is a top secret command and in some ways the military’s analog to the CDC. Biological weapons are illegal by international treaty and BARDCOM only develops weapons in order to devise and test ways to counter them. McKafferty is a bull of a man and truly ugly in appearance. He knows he is menacing in appearance and uses the power it gives him. He likes the sideways glances and fear. His face is large and quarter moon shaped on profile. A pair of jug ears stick out rudely from below a peach fuzz of gray hair. His skin has a ruddy leather complexion from too much booze and fistfights in his younger years. He is a soldier who clawed his way up the commissioned ranks and earned every bit of success the hard way. He is greatly respected by his peers. He loves his wife and family. He is an idealist in that he sees his role as a warrior who has sworn an oath to protect and there is nothing he will not do to protect his country including breaking the law or disregarding orders.

Every book has that on the edge of your seat drama. What part of your book will have us glued to the pages?

Kevin: The short answer to your question is the drama builds from the first page and keeps on building to the very last word of the sequel. I think the point at which I consider the action becomes intense is around the 25% point into the first book Immortality. You do not have to take my word that Immortality and Ghost of the Gods will keep you glued to the pages and reading until the sun comes up. The critics agree about the drama or adrenaline rush. Here is just one example: Publisher’s Weekly STARRED review: “Bohacz provides mind-bending portrayals of factions vying for power and reflections on the essence and fragility of humanity. But philosophical concerns never obtrude on the fast-paced plot. The question of who can be trusted impels the reader to keep turning the pages of this highly satisfying and dynamic techno-thriller.”

Is there anything you’d like to tell your readers and fans?

Kevin: To all my readers, thank you for making my dream come true and to everyone else please take Immortality and Ghost of the Gods for a test drive! I promise it will be a wild and winding road that will keep you guessing until you reach the very last word on the very last page.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

PUYB Virtual Book Club: Q&A with Gulten Dye, author of 'Semi-Coma'

Gulten Dye was born and raised in a small town in Turkey and moved with her family to Istanbul as a small child.  It was there that she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and worked as a nurse at a local hospital before moving to the Philippines with her boyfriend.

After being there a little over a year, they got married and a short while after that moved to Shreveport, Louisiana where she immediately began her studies to be able to work as a Registered Nurse. While studying for her boards, she was allowed to work as a scrub technician in an operating room at a nearby surgery center. She passed her boards and worked in an operating room for many years before moving to Las Vegas, Nevada there she worked at a busy University Medical Trauma Center as a staff nurse for several years until she earned the position of Charge Nurse.

By 2001, she was divorced and living with her two young sons.  Her desire to make more money became her impetus to start her own business, which soon became her sole source of income as her success grew.  She has never looked back.

Gulten found her talent and passion in creating one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces and sold them to well-known people, such as Celine Dion, Rachel Ray and Mary Higgins Clark.  She became an international success when her work showed on Entertainment Tonight and Insider and was for sale in the high-end casinos in Las Vegas and on high-end cruise liners. She then created a jewelry line called Metamorphosis, a line of interchangeable jewelry that brought her even greater success.

Gulten is also an author and self- published her first book Semi Coma – Evolution of my Intermittent Consciousness in 2011, currently selling on all digital media as well as in hard copy.  Her second book “The Missing Link” is awaiting publication in 2013.

In 2013, she opened her new concept store where she not only sells her own designs, but includes many local artists of different medium, including a local authors section.  In turn for being able to sell their artwork in her store, all artists have agreed to teach others their medium for the future generation free thinkers.

Gulten lives and creates in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Visit her website at
PUYB: Thanks for coming to the book club, Gulten.  What a pleasure it is to have you here.  What is the first step people should take to self-discover themselves?
Gulten: Self-discovery takes courage and total honesty on our part, and to be courageous takes self-acceptance.  Yet for one to truly accept who he or she is we have to know who we really are underneath of all those layers of what we thought to be true. Sadly for most of us, since we were never allowed to be our true self for the most part, we became this person we no longer recognize from when we first began our journey of self-discovery.  All we discover is layer after layer of our self that we have come to know.
To go back and undo all that training to become our true self can be a scary place and thats where the courage comes in because most of us since early childhood have created this unrealistic perfect picture of our self, and to be anything less makes us feel as though we have failed. Along the way to self-discovery, we come upon things like shame, anger, worthlessness and many more negative emotions that we don't want to deal with.  So instead of owning them, we turn away because true self-discovery can become very difficult and painful for the majority of us.  For me, I believe that the first step anyone should take is to be courageous.
PUYB: Why does it feel sometimes that the road isn't always easy?  How can we make it easier or can we?
Gulten: The road isn't always easy but its not impossible. I think at times because we cant see the end of the road we turn away thinking the task is impossible.  But if we learn to take one step at a time toward any of our goals, and keep going in the same direction and be willing and courageous to change direction when it becomes necessary, then everything not only becomes easy, but it also becomes possible. What we most struggle with is our perception of things, not the things themselves, and if our perception is negative so will be the outcome of any of our endeavors including self-discovery. So take one step at a time toward any goal, and soon you would find that the ending is nearer than you think.
PUYB: What will people take away from your book once they read it?
Gulten: Hopefully it would be that anyone of us are truly equipped to be ourselves and are entitled to feel safe, secure, loved and happy.
PUYB: Is there another book in you in the near future?
Gulten: There are two books I have completed and am about to self-publish.  The first one is called Let the Magic Unfold, about my business which I came to embrace after my nursing career. Although it’s about my jewelry-making and designing, and selling it through long-established businesses, like Costco, and the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, and high-end cruise liners like Crystal, and Reagent, and selling to celebrities like Celine Dion, and Rachael Ray, it’s also about overcoming many hurtles, such as bankruptcy, and self-doubt which made me stronger.  But, above all, it’s about my noticing how by living life from the point of finding the good in any situation and focusing on the positive side of everything, how it  helped me  become an establish business owner, more humble than ever before. It forcefully cracked open my heart to others and helped me discover that true triumph is never about the conventional success, but instead it is about the journey that it had me take.  I can easily say that through my jewelry creating, I found spirituality and my true connection to others.
The other one is a book of my poems which seem to flow out of me on an ongoing stream. I just wish I had more time to sit with myself to be able to write more of it. The poems are about life, love and light.
PUYB: Is there anything you'd like to tell your fans and readers?
Gulten: Yes, look out your window to this thing we call life and know that there are many wonders out there.  Go out and discover anything your heart desires and who knows? During your travels you may even come upon yourself, and if that happens, embrace your true self no matter what the first perception of yourself may be.