An Interview with WEbook's December, Christmas Challenge Winner - NJ_Wade

In December, we asked the community to submit entries to our WEbook Christmas ChallengeYour task was to write, 'an alternative Christmas story', and wow, did we have some seriously out-there alternatives to contend with! 

With interpretations ranging far and wide, playing on both historical and modern tales - our WEbook judging elves had a serious challenge on their hands! But, no matter how many fabulously interesting, original and completely enthralling entries we had, a winner had to be crowned. 

Our winner - Nyree!

After much deliberation, NJ_Wade's, Professor Moore, was picked by the WEbook elves as our Christmas Challenge winner - and we're sure you'll all join us in congratulating Nyree on her fantastic entry. It really captured the Christmas, fireside spirit and played on a timeless classic. 

Recently we had a chat with Nyree about her piece, Professor Moore, and how she devises the imagery which whisked us away to the warm, December fireside.... 

WEbook: Hi Nyree, congratulations on winning the Christmas challenge with your brilliant entry, Professor Moore

One of the things that struck us most about your piece was the beautiful imagery in use throughout. The line, 'It's like dreaming, but with your eyes open', was a particularly stunning visual metaphor - how do you plan and develop the use of descriptive imagery within your writing?

Nyree Wade: Hello and thank you! To be honest, I’m still quite shocked, but incredibly happy to have produced a story readers have connected with. 
As for the line, “It’s like dreaming, but with your eyes open,” that line is actually a variation of one of my favorite quotes by Anissa Trisdianty. The quote resonated with me, because as a child whenever I read a story, my mind would drift into a fictional world, and it was like dreaming. Even as an adult, when I read a book or come up with a story idea, I still picture the characters and events in a way that is much similar to using my childhood imagination. 

With regard to the use of descriptive imagery, I really wanted to use light and shadow to create a magical atmosphere. You know the feeling you get when you’re sitting close to a fire and everyone gets really quiet? 

The only sounds are those of the occasional pop and crack of the fire. It almost sets the mood for someone to tell a good story.  I really enjoy the mystery and intrigue that surround all myths, and sometimes wonder if there’s a kernel of truth hidden beneath every story.

WB: The challenge brief asked for 'an alternative Christmas story', you really kept the reader guessing as to what your inspiration was - we were geared up for Marlowe's ghost to jump out at any moment! Do you enjoy leading the reader in a false direction and then creating a surprise for them at the end, or was this unintentional?

NW: It was unintentional, although it would have been clever to have planned it that way! Sometimes when you write, the story creates itself, and you’re just as surprised by how things end, too. I write with a general idea—and then let the story unfold from there. My intention was to retell the story, ‘The night before Christmas’, and bring the author Clement Clarke Moore, to life as well.  I knew at some point I’d have to reveal his identity, the end just seemed the best time for it. 

WB: Are the characters that you have used in your story in use elsewhere in your writing, or were these original creations for the Challenge?

NW: Besides the use of non-fictional character Clement Clarke Moore, all others were created by me, and haven’t been used in any other work I’ve written. Professor Moore is the first historical fiction piece I’ve written, and once the scene was set, the characters took on a life of their own.

WB: Professor Moore has a nice old-worldly, almost whimsical charm to it, which is mixed with the timeless pressures of family life. What were you trying to convey to the reader through this duality?

NW: That sometimes the best stories are the ones that we create around us. Finding that delicate balance can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible. I really wanted to create a character that people could relate to, and sympathize with (especially writers). For me, I know that if I’m not careful I’ll find myself locked in my cave that is my ‘office’, pouring myself into whatever project I’m working on. It helps that my family keeps me in check, when the scale tips a little off balance.  

WB: What is your favourite genre to read in, and what type of influence do you take from theses authors when writing yourself?

NW: My favourite genre is YA contemporary fiction. It’s hard to pick just one genre, as I like so many. Anywhere from Science fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, they’re all great! As for the story Professor Moore, I really drew inspiration from Luisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’, when recreating that old-world feel. At the moment I’m really inspired by the work of YA novelists Sarah Dessen, Jenny Han and Tammara Webber. Other favorites are historical fiction authors, Steven Saylor, Diana Gabaldon, and Jane Austen.

WB: You're a relatively new member on WEbook, having joined just last year, could you tell us a bit about how you found the site and what your first impressions were?

NW: Back in 2012 a friend of mine, Bu Domingez, had introduced me to WEbook. We both submitted stories for the Valentine’s Day challenge and had a blast. But, it really wasn’t until last year that I’d become an active member of the website. The people here are amazing, and are really what keeps me coming back. They’re hilarious, yet honest and make an effort to help each other out, which is something I really like. They genuinely care and want to see everyone succeed!

WB: What is your writing background? What inspired you to start?

NW: I’ve been writing since I was about eight years old. I remember my first story was titled, Dr. Friend, and my mom still has it in a box somewhere, with a bunch of terrible kid art.  I think my mom really nurtured my imagination as a child. We’d read a lot of stories together, and it inspired me to write my own. I’d make book jackets out of construction paper, and weave yarn through the spine to hold the pages together. When I started getting into British literature I remembered sitting in my bedroom paraphrasing Shakespearian sonnets for fun, and my brother peeking in on me, wondering when I’d get a life! But, that was my life. Literature and writing will always be a big part of who I am.  

WB: Thanks so much for letting us in to some of your writing secrets, Nyree. And again, congratulations on being crowned our December Challenge winner! We're sure that we'll be seeing some more brilliant entries from you in upcoming challenges...

If you have any questions that you'd like to ask Nyree about her piece, then go ahead and submit them in the comments section below!

January's Challenge is all about new beginnings, and you've only got a few more days left to submit before entries close for the month! So get writing WEbookers! Who knows, you could be crowned our next winner and become the proud owner of a brand new iPad Mini.... 

The WEbook Team

Last November we set our WEbook community a NaNoWriMo Monthly Challenge, in which we asked you to write the best opening or closing chapter of a novel. 

Not only was the prize an iPad Mini, but the winner of this challenge would also be considered for publication by WEbook. This elicited such a phenomenal response from our community of authors, that our judges had a mammoth challenge when it came to picking a winner. Despite this they did, eventually, come to an agreement, and our winner, SigmundSquirrel, won with his brilliant entry, The Nothing Blonde

Recently, we had a chat with SigmundSquirrel to discuss his submission The Nothing Blonde, and what types of literature inspired him to write such a brilliant submission:

WEbook: So, Frank, your submission to the November Challenge, The Nothing Blonde, was a wonderfully crafted piece of writing that had the reader hooked from the first sentence - could you tell us a bit about what inspired you to write it?

Frank Ladd: I have always been interested in writing a 1940s-style noir detective novel. I collect old mystery paperbacks from the 1930s-50s. Dell, Popular Library, Gold Medal. I studied film at art school and watched all the great and lesser noirs. I love reading the classic detectives.
So it was a natural. But very hard to do without sounding like a satire or a homage. Your contest provided yet another chance to take a whack at it. I combined ideas and themes kicking around in my notes and my head. I had already tried to write a detective novel set in Boston at that time period, so I’ve done research. What I love most about the noir genre is the strong presence of fate. It’s almost like classic Greek tragedy. The whims of the gods gave the Greeks a way to understand irrationality and bad luck. We don’t have that now, so the
world can seem more bitter to us. Noir captures that.

WB: The Nothing Blonde has a strong Hard Boiled crime and detective fiction feel to it. In fact, it reminds us of a number of great titles from that era - it hints at the sordid underbelly of post war society, like in The Black Dahlia, while retaining the characteristically detached and factual aloofness to the narrative found in Cain and Chandler's work. Did you actively take inspiration from authors of this genre when writing The Nothing Blonde, or is this a style that you've developed yourself?

FL: I began reading Raymond Chandler when I was 12. My father had all the Philip Marlowe novels in his den library. The humor and world-weary sarcasm, and the cartoonish hyperbolism, were perfect for my youth. He has been a big influence. But Chandler is a trap. He has become the most influential writer of detective fiction, and his style is imitated endlessly into caricature. Hemingway suffers the same fate. People focus on the style and forget the content. When I began trying to write a noir detective novel, I tinkered at the edges of Chandler, writing in a way that he didn’t but still recalled his tropes. People would say, stop writing like Chandler. Any 1940s detective voice is going to make people say that. So I’ve spent the past few years moving farther away from his voice.
James M. Cain is interesting, and also one of my big influences. Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are both brilliant. Camus’ The Stranger, another influence for me, is also based around Cain’s style. Cain is the anti-Chandler. Chandler’s characters have made adjustments to live in their world. They know who and where they are; they are playing the game. Cain’s characters are almost always lost. They think they have a scam going, but are really two or three steps behind the game. Cain writes about people who make mistakes and lose their way. It’s funny that Chandler wrote the script for the film version of Double Indemnity, turning Cain’s main character into more of a wise-cracker than in the book. Chandler also wrote the screenplay for The Black Dahlia that you mentioned, so you can see how big a presence he has.

Here’s an ironic anecdote. My father had many of Ross Macdonald’s books in his den as well. Macdonald’s detective was Lew Archer, written mostly in the 1950s-1960s. I picked a few off the shelf when I was 14 or so, but they didn’t interest me. Too serious. None of the wisecracking weariness. No colorful metaphors. Even the covers were dull. I turned instead to the Travis McGee novels with their blondes-in-bikinis covers. The Lavender this and the Lemon-Yellow that. But today Ross Macdonald is probably my favorite detective
All of this is to say that I’m very aware of the noir tradition, and of how it is caricatured by most modern attempts to write in that style. I’m trying to move away from flourish and sarcasm, to write that book that wouldn’t have interested me as a 14-year old.

WB: The November Challenge was all about writing the first or the last chapter of a novel, could you give us a bit of a hint as to what we can expect to happen in The Nothing Blonde, in Chapter 2?

FL: When I wrote chapter one, I had no thought of what would happen in chapter two. Honestly, that’s how extemporaneous it was. But I have two ideas. One is a brief interstitial episode, like the anonymous vignettes between stories in Hemingway’s In Our Time. WWII hangs heavily over The Nothing Blonde, and I’m thinking short flash-like scenes from the war. The hidden character, the man with the truck, was a sniper in Italy. He’s also very young; he lied about his age to get into the action. He has what was then known as shell shock. I might periodically drop into his inner voice for these episodes.Then there will have to be a scene with Sam Brill in the morgue at Mass General Hospital identifying the body of the blonde, and a scene at the Precinct 3 station between him and Lieutenant Detective Leslie about his involvement in the case. I may return to the woman in the hotel room, who is probably trying to kill herself. Apparently hotels were popular for high windows to jump from.
Don’t ask me about chapter 3.

WB: Is this story something that you've been working on for a while, or did you write it especially for the Challenge?

FL: I’m actually working on a totally different novel (different time period and different genre). But I’m keeping that one under wraps for now. So I didn’t want to enter its first chapter in this contest. I wanted to enter something, though, so I looked through old notes on my desktop and found a file called The Nothing Blonde. Hey! I didn’t even remember writing that down. I loved the title and thought I could work it into a passable first chapter in time for the contest.
Some people find first chapters difficult because you are starting from scratch, trying to get a reader’s attention before they know anything about the characters or the story. I’ve always found first chapters the easiest, once you solve the opening line. You are introducing things: the setting, the characters, the tone, the story problems. If each of them are important, then how could discovering them not be exciting?

WB: Could you tell us a bit about your writing background? How did you get into writing fiction, and have you had any of your writing published as a book or in magazines etc, before?

FL: I am completely unpublished. I have also never submitted. I’m a bit single-minded about a novel, so I won’t submit until it is finished and up to my expectations. I’m also a bit slow (perhaps in many senses of the word). I’ve written some very short stories that I don’t see as more than exercises, and a longer story would take too much time, so I’m riding the novel horse pretty hard. I hope the poor animal doesn’t collapse.
I’ve always intended to be a writer since high school. I was trying to write a literary novel about ten years ago, then became absorbed with my design career and paying rent. Three years ago, during one of my long commutes, I decided to get back into writing and focus on genre to provide a framework for my thoughts.

WB: You've been a member on WEbook since 2010 - what first inspired you to join WEbook, and how do you think that your interaction here on the site with other members has been beneficial to you?

FL: When I started writing again, I googled “online writers groups” and WEbook was one of the search results. Most of the sites seemed excruciatingly juvenile or amateurish. I’m a designer, so the user experience of a site makes an impression on me. WEbook looked like a place where the creators took care to provide a friendly, usable, useful community. It was the only site I joined from that search.At first I loved the Page-To-Fame idea. But ultimately there was too little feedback and uneven reasoning behind the results. How can a story get a 5 and a 1? I find the most benefit from the writing challenges. For me, that is the core of your site. Because it is timely, people check in frequently, if not daily, and you can see (and learn from) the spectrum of responses to the same prompt. Plus, it is the most social area of your site, with lively feedback and response to each entry. I made several tweaks to The Nothing Blonde based on comments it received. And I’ve got several novel ideas sitting around in files that were spurred from some of my writing challenge efforts. (If I can ever get to them. I’m trying to follow the one-at-a-time

WB: What one piece of advice would you give to a new member on WEbook?

FL: Participate in the writing challenges. Comment on writing you think is good and make friends with those writers. Also, have writing you show to others (because it is good to get feedback on style and general writing issues, depth of character, etc.) but also think about keeping your serious writing to yourself. I started posting chapters as I finished them in a project group here, and it started to freeze me up and slow me down knowing that each chapter had an instant audience. Sometimes I think it is better to make early progress on your own, and show it to trusted readers after it is too late to mess up your momentum. Let your ideas come out before your critical minds steps in.

WB: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us Frank - and again, congratulations on being our November Challenge winner!


We'll be working closely with Frank as he develops, The Nothing Blonde, into a full length novel… so watch this space!

WEbook's January Challenge is all about new beginnings… have you submitted your entry yet? 


Interview With a WEbook Author - Robert Lance, Author of 'The Shadow Spy'

Back before the holiday period, we sat down with one of our WEbook authors, Robert Lance to have a chat with him about his new release The Shadow Spy - a break-away espionage novel, set in post-Soviet Russia. We were all absolutely hooked on this fast-paced title at WEbook HQ, and we're sure you'll love it too! 

So, without further ado, here's our interview with the brilliant Robert Lance...

WB: Hi Bob, thanks for sitting down with us today. You’ve been around on the site for some time now, since 2010 in fact. Could you tell us what brought you here initially, and what made you stay?

BL: Actually I misspelled the site I was looking for and WEbook popped up. It didn’t take me long to make a few friends and join in with the bitching sessions about mainstream agents and publishing houses. When I got that out of my system, I discovered that my writing never got picked up because I was too undisciplined, too na├»ve, and I was too full of myself. If I was going to get anywhere, I needed a complete makeover from top to bottom. I found the grooming I received on WEbook worked really well for me, and all I had to do was to apply what I’d learned to my writing habits.

WB: Previously you self-published a book entitled, Caesar’s Cat. How did the publication of that title compare to your WEbook experience?

BL: Apples and hand-grenades! Firstly, I paid for the publication of Ceasar’s Cat. But, I bought the Cadillac with a Volkswagen engine. Although I can’t say that I didn’t get what I paid for - I had a book – but a book without a platform to launch it from. I had zero guidance when it came to the creation of the book. And, other than distribution channels I had no marketing in front of me to move it off the shelf. As a self-publisher you can’t even get a book signing. I would have been better off wearing a sandwich board and selling them on street corners! 

The great thing about WEbook is you’ll get a real quick idea if your book has commercial traction. There are two vehicles to help you shape that novel you’re unsure about. PageToFame identifies the flaws you never even thought about - everything from grammar, structure, content, technical research, and on and on. Whereas the Projects are a good place to put your creation back in the hangar and give it wings to fly. Then of course, there is the community itself. I’m still astounded by the amount of time my WEbook friends invest into others.

WB: Could you expound on the publishing process at WEbook?

BL: Sure. The decision to pick a manuscript pretty much comes from the community itself, but that’s just for starters. I won’t reiterate what others have said, but everything gets spit polished. If you look at the monthly challenges you begin to get an idea. The staff don’t dictate the content or mess with your style, but they do ensure their name is going on a well crafted novel. What I also like is the marketing afterwards - now I can put my sandwich boards back in the garage! They SELL your books and that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

WB: Your novel, The Shadow Spy, doesn’t fall into the typical espionage genre. What inspired you to go off the rails?

BL: Actually, I’m trying to put it back on the rails. The intelligence business is still personally risky for those with their feet on the ground. The field of operations doesn’t have Delta Force backups, situation rooms, com centers, or hyper toys to play with. People in the business are just as normal as any other American… almost. My MC reflects that point of view in a humorous way.

WB: You picked Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. What is particularly significant about that era to you?

BL: The melt down of the Russian economy wasn’t an accident and before the Soviet Union fell, the blueprint used was designed in Washington DC. Was it designed to fail? It was the biggest fire sale since the fall of the Roman Empire and the Russian people were swindled. There’s a big hole in that window of history and I decided I’d make something up to explain it.
I’m also a sucker for conspiracies, so I’ll throw this out: - You can’t have a global economy without socialization and governance. Who’s running the show? And how does it evolve without global prophets pulling the strings? The Shadow Spy series tips the lid off that conspiracy as it might have applied to Russia, and it should scare the hell out of my audience, because you never know who is next.

WB: We’re very excited to be publishing, The Shadow Spy. What else do you have in store for us?

BL: The sequel of course. I’m not a genre specific writer and, Lottery Rage, - which is a book about the upside down consequences of winning the lottery - is next in line for release. There are two common threads in just about everything I write. Firstly, there’s always a romance to spark the passion, and secondly you have to add humor to the conflict or theme. My object is to have my audience smile and laugh for weeks after they’ve read one of my books.

WB: We just have to ask this question - what was your reaction when you found out that WEbook wanted to publish, The Shadow Spy.

BL: I sorta went freakin’ primal and my monkey butt went airborne. My wife and neighbors had to call the fire department to bring me out of trees in my backyard. I wore the letters off my keyboard trying to get it ready. When it goes in the bookstore, I’m spray painting the water tower in the city I live in. Not real sure what I’ll write. Any ideas?    

WB: Perhaps a super-sized version of your cover? That'd get people talking! 
Thanks so much for chatting with us Bob!

Bob’s debut WEbook title, The Shadow Spy, is available to buy now in the WEbook store.

Read on below for an exclusive extract from, The Shadow Spy:

Blumel was an offensively arrogant buffoon who prided himself as ladies’ man. His dashing passes at the ladies in the steno pool earned him a few trips to sexual-awareness clinics which hardly registered with him. He had shed his leisure suits, but the disco swaggering gait was a permanent affliction which earned him the nickname Disco Bob.
I heard Disco Bob’s booming voice from his outer office. “Findley, get in here.”
I looked up and saw him posing in the doorframe. He looked like a cast member of Planet of the Apes II. His hair was slicked back with axle grease from a hairline too close to his bushy one-brow eyebrow. Even by East Coast Mafia standards, his hairdo was annoyingly exaggerated. The picture was completed with long arms and legs, and fat fingers that he proffered to me.
He said, “Come in, come in. You’re just the guy I need to talk to.”
He loped off to take his throne behind a custom desk of fine mahogany. He waved me to a seat and started talking before I had a chance to sit down. “How do you feel about the promotion I got for you? It’s a cushy job. Did you know I personally, by-name, requested you for the assignment?”
The flattering bullshit was a roll-my-eyes moment, and I concentrated hard not to do it.
He asked, “You know what’s going on in Russia, right?”
I ran the Soviet desk, and of course I knew what was happening. They were preparing for war as per usual. My posting to Leningrad was not a coincidence, not by a long shot.
Leningrad in particular was a gold-rush town fired with promises of vast opportunities to mine the decayed hulk that Russians called an economy. Every hustler with a dime in his pocket was going to Russia to cash in on the fire sale. Americans were late to join the bandwagon, but they were lined up waiting for State Department travel and business restrictions to loosen up.
One of my jobs at the EEB was to advise and oversee joint ventures and investments in Russia to insure they were transparent, aboveboard, and fair. The Russians artificially inflated the value of the ruble and erected trade barriers around their import policies. On the export side, more Russian tractors were plowing fields in Kansas than inside Russia. The trade policy was a giant ski jump, and all I could do was issue warnings. It took all of five minutes of my day to issue citations of caution to eager speculators looking for a quick buck.
Bob cleared his throat and croaked softly, “The World Bank is sending a delegation to Russia. They’re doing an exploration on some kind of assistance program for the Reds. It runs against the grain here, but you know that. We can’t prevent them because we can’t be seen as issuing directives to an international private bank.”
The World Bank, an international community chest that seeds goodwill across the globe by throwing huge amounts of cash at third- world underdeveloped countries, is anything but the charity it purports to be. It’s a private bank that sharks loans to countries that have no credit rating and are upside-down broke. The cheap loans have strings attached to bring these rogue barbarian states into the greater circle of global humanitarian behavior. For practical purposes, the World Bank is Uncle Vito making payday loans to homeless people from a back-alley dime-store sharking front while pretending to be the Salvation Army.
I hadn’t heard of any rumors that the World Bank was embarking on a rescue mission to prop up the Soviet regime. I knew they played a huge hand in Poland and were dabbling in other Soviet-bloc nations. Bob had a sly grin that I wondered about.
He said, “By chance, the World Bank has asked us for expertise in Soviet affairs. It’s a temporary assignment until the Bank comes up to speed. I immediately thought of you. How would you feel about moving uptown where you’ll power-lunch, get some sunlight, and check out the tellers?”
Bullshit. He had immediately thought of himself. Now I knew why he’d been dodging me. He wanted the job and spent a week trying to pry his way in. Notwithstanding the political and social clout I’d married into, the World Bank had a dress code and grooming standards.
“What about my assignment?” I asked.
“Still stands. This is a side project to earn brownie points. Just observe and advise. The Bank likes to splash money around, and you’ll be walking in high cotton. Consider it a working vacation.”
Blumel wasn’t fooling me. I saw Oscar all over the arrangement. The CIA was not about to allow a private bank to make deals with their arch rival without having someone in the bleachers. I was to be that guy.
I was originally scheduled to leave on my State Department assignment just in time for Halloween. Somewhere above my pay grade, a decision had been made to loan my services out to the World Bank. That idea caused some constipation, and my departure date was slipped to coincide with the World Bank expedition to Moscow.
I was being sent over to the Bank as a technical observer and adviser, with the understanding that I was not to spy on World Bank activities in Russia. I understood completely. I’d just observe and pass my observations to my bosses at the State Department.
My CIA handler had no illusions about the arrangement. The CIA was getting a box seat handed to them. Oscar’s shop was preparing its own plan that I wasn’t privy to... 

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