Monday, December 19, 2022

Seasons Greetings!


I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who has helped make this year so special at Tweetables. 

First there are the authors who have given me such wonderful interviews, and then there's you, the wonderful readers who have supported these authors (and also to everyone who voted for me in the awards - still reeling from that one!). 

So thank you and please buy a book (or two) for Christmas and support our wonderful authors! Here are links to everyone whose taken part this year, and I'm looking forward to more of the same in 2023! Have a great one 🥳🎉🍾

(Please press on the author's name to go to their interview.)













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Thursday, December 15, 2022

Author interview with Joe Clark


This month we’re meeting writer Joe Clark and as a self-identifying septuagenarian who only published his work after retiring, I was fascinated to learn more about him. Joe gave me a tweetable to introduce himself to you (tweet here): 

'There once was a boy who loved to write. He grew to be a man who travelled the world and made a name for himself. When he retired he discovered he still loved to write. So that’s what he does.'
Aww, how lovely! He then expands to tell me more about his fascinating life: 
'I spent some time training for the priesthood before starting my college career which was interrupted by military service including 18 months in Viet Nam. 

After college, I had a 40 year career in engineering. Much of that time I worked on satellite communications systems. 

Along the way I studied karate and kung fu for a decade. I commuted to work on a bicycle for a while. Anita and I married shortly after my first wife died. We have been together for over 35 years.

A couple of years into retirement, I started writing novels. The three I have published are getting good reviews and selling well. My fourth, MacGregor’s Final Battle, will be published at the beginning of 2023'

Wow, 35 years of marriage? And such a diverse career! I suspected this might bring a wealth of experience into his writing, does he agree?
'The early experiences helped in many ways - most unexpected. I wrote a lot as a Jesuit novice. I also spent a lot of time meditating (very useful for bringing scenes to life). 
I spent a year on the prison mission - we visited with inmates at the Berks County Prison and I wrote and produced a Christmas play for them starring my Brothers in Christ. This experience was part of the background for Demented.'
Gosh, I wasn't expecting that, but there's more!
'The army took me out of the orthodox Catholic scholastic world and toughened me up. I took a correspondence course in newspaper writing which established my approach to storytelling. The 18 months I spent in Vietnam provided some fodder for MacGregor's Final Battle.
But I think the most important influences on my writing were marriage and my career in engineering. I had occasion to resurrect the play I wrote in '62 and a story I tried publish in '84 (about a year before Judy, my first wife, died). I'm not impressed with either one.'

Oh dear! So what made him try again?
'When I retired in August 2011, I was exhausted and my hips were so bad I could barely walk. I wanted to learn to play a keyboard (I have an anti-talent for music but I love trying) and take Tai Chi lessons. 
After our last dog (an 11 year old Sheltie) was euthanized because of her dementia, we decided on a trip to Ireland and Scotland to look into my great-grandparents' early lives. 
My right hip was replaced before the trip, the left hip a couple of months after the trip. 
We adopted Max and Jez (Lab-Border mix, from the same litter) because we missed having dogs in our lives, but I had no social interactions. 
I followed up on a suggestion to try 'Meetup' and joined three writer's groups. One was a social gathering that met once a month. 
The second was a group of writers actively working on diverse projects and the woman in charge of the group said I could come to the meeting but I had to bring a couple of chapters of my work. I sat down and pumped out 20,000 words of crap. 
We talked about what I wanted to do at the meeting. They nixed my ideas but encouraged me to keep trying. I went home and wrote better crap. Eventually, I came up with Survive - my first novel. 
The third group was "Write to Publish" run by the estimable Robin Sullivan, Fantasy Author, Michael Sullivan's wife and business manager. She knows how to explain publishing.
When I had Survive completed (I doubt it'll ever be finished - as in
polished), I decided to try my hand at self-publishing. Survive wasn't very good but I had no idea how to make it better and I had plenty of authors telling me that your first novel isn't likely to be good. I published it as a learning experience.'
Now that he's published three books, does he still attend these groups?
'The writers' groups I have participated in have mostly disintegrated. I have seen signs of life from "Write to Publish" and "Writers Eating DC" may have started up again as COVID dining restrictions abated.'

He first published in 2017 and says he writes in the genre of urban adventure. He says, 'It’s a mashup of action, adventure, crime, legal dilemmas and a good dose of romance. The setting usually involves the Washington, D.C. metro area where I live. In MacGregor’s Final Battle, Mac and Kate criss-cross the continent but their story is still set in 21st century America.'
What inspired him to become an indie writer? 
'I have always enjoyed writing and telling stories. No one thing stands out as an inspiration, it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. 
I was working on getting published back in the '80’s but had to put that aside when my wife’s death changed my priorities. 
After I retired I was fortunate enough to hook up with generous fellow writers who helped me and encouraged my efforts. That’s what inspired me to start writing novels. 
When The Walshes: The Coming of Eve got a warm reception, I was hooked.'
That has to be one of the best benefits of retirement! What does Joe's daily writing routine look like? 
'I start my day walking with Max and Jez,' (who are now 10 years old). 'After they’re taken care of, I spend some time on Social Media – Twitter mostly. In the afternoon, I focus on a writing project. I like to write a chapter a day – that may be producing something new or editing and rewriting or researching.'
Joe told me it takes him about two years to complete a novel, so what is it that he enjoys the most about the writing experience?
'Exploring. My second and third novels have been my most successful work in terms of public acceptance but essays make up the bulk of my writing. 
In The Walshes I was exploring marriage in the modern world. Eve (April) faces conflicting demands as a wife, mother and professional woman. Her husband, Joe finds himself challenged to support his wife even though he objects to some of her professional decisions.
In Demented I explored crime and punishment and the shortcomings of our current solutions. MacGregor explores the challenges of dealing with the elderly in our society. Mac wants to live until he drops dead. He’s not going to settle for sitting out his golden years in a retirement home. Writing is my way of avoiding that fate.

At the moment, I’m working on a Civil War saga and I think the research I’m doing deserves at least an MA in History.'

Research seems to be a love or hate for authors, so which camp does Joe fall into?
'The research I do is fun learning. Come up with a crazy idea and dig into it. Many writers wonder what people would think if their internet search histories came to light 😀 
I enjoy learning - I quit going to school because I hate taking exams. Besides, why pay somebody to teach me when I have to do most of the work?
The impetus for my Civil War Saga is the regimental history of an obscure volunteer infantry unit from the Philadelphia area. The regimental history makes it sound like the unit was key to the eventual union victory but you have to look real hard to verify any of it (and I have verified much of it). 
Following these men through 4 years of war from mid- 1861 to mid-1865, gives a very different perspective on our great war.
Another example, I was at FAA HQ for a multi-day conference on September 11, 2001. Around 10, the contractors (including me) were chased from the room so the FAA staff could have private discussions. 
We went to the cafeteria where monitors were showing what looked like a 1950's sci-fi movie (no sound). An airplane was circling a tall building in a big city then it crashed into the building. 
When we returned to the meeting we learned that terrorists were crashing planes into the World Trade Center. Fifteen minutes later someone rushed in and told us a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon. No believed that - at first. We were sent back to our hotel rooms to wait for further instructions.'
Gosh! I think everyone remembers where they were on that awful day, but Joe's experience is definitely different to mine! 
Having waited for so long to publish his work, what has Joe found the hardest part of writing/ getting published? 
'Getting it right. 
Catching all the stupid mistakes is an incredible challenge. Making sure I don’t contradict myself is a never ending battle. 
And queries. I haven’t had any success with queries and I hate rejection. Fortunately, Indie publishing isn’t that hard but putting together a team or a system has been a challenge. I needed a couple of tries to find an artist who does great book covers. Hiring an editor is hit or miss for Indie authors. I think I’ve found one I can work with. In the meantime, I use tools like Grammarly to help with nitty-gritty editing.'
Obviously some of his characters are very different from him personally, so what does he find challenging about writing these characters?
'Getting inside their head – what is that person thinking? How does that person see the situation? How do I sell my concept to the reader?
In MacGregor’s Final Battle, Mac and Kate happen on an Earth Lodge exhibit where a sign says the lodges were built and owned by the women. Kate is ecstatic “See what women can do when given a chance.”
Mac is objective. He’s an engineer who sees the lodge as an engineering marvel and he has to point out that men set up the basic structure before the women “built” the lodge.
In a matter of minutes they are locked in a kitchen sink battle that almost ends their relationship.
My job is to portray each character, not to sort out who is right and who is wrong.'

Interesting, so the big question must be whether his readers agree with him. Does he read his reviews and how does he deal with them? 
'I do read reviews. I smile at the positive reviews even when I think the reviewer missed the point.
I often want to strangle negative reviewers.
But I believe that every book has an ideal audience – readers who naturally relate to it. Not every reader is a member of that audience. So good reviews and bad reviews. If you want readers and reviews you have to expect both.'
We started discussing 'MacGregor’s Final Battle', a stand-alone novel and as I'm not reviewing it, I asked Joe to give us a synopsis:
'Donald (Mac) MacGregor is getting on in years (70 is the new 50). After his wife dies and he learns he has brain cancer, he drives across country to hook up with a distant cousin. 
At a stopover in St. Louis he meets Kate Graham, who needs to escape her dead-end life as a nurse in assisted living. They follow the Lewis and Clark Trail to the Oregon coast and then sail to Alaska to meet the cousin. 
Their relationship deepens as the trip progresses. In Alaska, Mac suffers a debilitating stroke and Kate agrees to drive him to his son’s home in Florida. Mac dies very soon after settling in with his son. Kate returns to St. Louis to build a new, more satisfying life.'
That sounds amazing! I asked Joe for a tweetable synopsis that you could share (tweet here):
'Everybody dies. What matters is how you live. MacGregor’s Final Battle: A Story of Death and Redemption.'
It sounds quite an inspiring but tough story to write. Which was the hardest scene and why? 
'Several scenes in the wake of Mac’s stroke at his cousin’s home in Alaska were very difficult. Hospital authorities refuse to let Kate see Mac. She reaches the end of her rope and is ready to walk away until she learns she’s pregnant. When she finally gets visitation worked out, she has to tell Mac that their adventure is over and he is going to have to live with his son.
Mac feels betrayed – he does not get along with his son. He vents his anger on Kate and chases her out of his room.'
That does sound challenging. How about a tweetable extract of one of his favourite parts of the novel (tweet here):
Kate said, “Mac, are you okay?” ...
Mac turned and nodded. “I’m fine.”
...“Mac! Pull over!” She unbuckled her seat belt.
He turned to her again. His hands slipped from the steering wheel. He slumped forward. Kate sprang from her seat.
We'd discussed research earlier - what did he need to complete for this book?
'I actually wrote the first chapter before I did any research – just to capture the gist of the story.
I’m not sure how long I spent on research – I read several accounts of people living with brain cancer. I spent hours researching the Lewis and Clark Trail, Alaska, and the geological history of North America. I read up on Jewish weddings for Kate and Mac’s wedding.'

My final question was to ask him what he'd considered was the best money he'd ever spent as a writer?
'I took a correspondence course from the Newspaper Institute of America while I was in Vietnam – that has been invaluable.
James Scott Bell’s “Conflict and Suspense” has been a tremendous help with storytelling while the NIA course helped me with basic writing skills.'

Oh, I do love how-to books - now there's another one for my bookshelf! So now you've met the fascinating Joe Clark. If you'd like to find out more, please visit Joe’s author links below:

Website: and (Clark’s Scribbles)

Twitter: @joeclark_343


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