Featured Author: Simone Salmon

Camille and the Bears of Beisa—Drafnel is a sci-fi/fantasy/thriller tale that has been compared to Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, Dune in its sweeping worldbuilding.  In addition, it has several urban settings, a matriarchal society, and a female protagonist of African descent.

Cover for Camille and the Bears of Beisa.

Cover art for Camille and the Bears of Beisa–Drafnel.

Sliding seamlessly between modern day Brooklyn, 20th century Jamaica, and the fictional world of Narvina, Drafnel chronicles Camille’s fight for knowledge and self-preservation. When those worlds clash, secrets unravel and hidden agendas are exposed.

The book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of3lw5XxmKM

Camille and the Bears of Beisa is available today on Amazon and my review is forthcoming. But here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

Narvina, Nu-century 2055

Aknanka clamps down with all her might. Her teeth tear into Sephia’s wrinkled skin, digging for chunks of flesh. They only grind against bone. A fist smashes into her cheek, jerking her head sideways. Sephia yanks her hand away right before Aknanka chomps down again. Blood gushes everywhere.

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Aknanka’s scream rages through the interior, punching a small dent into the door. It slams shut.

Any experimenting she needs to conduct today will be done right here. And without blindfolds. The metal restraints chafe Aknanka’s wrists as she wriggles around for freedom.

“Stop fighting, Dreamer. You make this harder than it has to be.”

“Bet you’ll think before trying that again, oh Wise One!” Aknanka’s aim is accurate. Bloody sputum soils the middle of Sephia’s tunic.

A med-bot enters the room and stitches the bandages over Sephia’s wound. The pale Elder clenches her fists. Her eyes blaze to match the blood staining the floor. The med-bot’s front panel flashes, absorbing the charge from Sephia’s quelled anger. Sparks bounce across the overloaded circuits. The bot spins over to the sealed porthole and then powers down.

“These gene markers will soon confirm our suspicions, Dreamer.” Sephia’s shoulders stiffen, tugging at the hood to expose her protruding frontal lobe. Her white skull magnifies in the dimness. Her lips never move.

Na-mum Camille warned Aknanka that the Elders would spare no sympathy once they discover her true kinsatah. She followed every painstaking instruction: the implants are undetectable, even from their host.

Simone banner

Jamaica, 20th Century

The food on display and the brilliant dyes of the hand-loomed textiles hanging at the market made me homesick. The marketplace crowded with vendors selling varied crafts and wares. The frenzied pitch of the hagglers echoed under the tin roofs. Voluptuous women wearing multi-colored wraps balanced huge straw baskets on cornbraided heads, while children darted through stalls with jaws stuffed of toffee candy or juggled melting snow cones with syrup-stained hands. Fruits ripening in the heat sweetened the layer of jerk pork and chicken charring over coals inside huge metal drums.

At first Miss Mattie kept me close, but as the market became more crowded her clenched fingers slackened. I searched the aisles, worried about returning home empty-handed. Failing to find any spices, I started making my way back to Miss Mattie and then noticed a young woman with a basket tucked between her knees. Loose braids stuck out from under her head scarf. Kind hazel eyes invited me forward. Curious, I bent over to check out the samples. The woman pulled me closer and stuffed a piece of cloth into my waistband.

“A gift from the Goling family, Miss. Put it in safe-keeping. This has been my honor.”

Miss Mattie swooped in at my heels in a matter of seconds. She sniffed the air several times and shoved me away from the vendor’s stall. We left thirty minutes later, my impatience to unwrap the cloth’s contents shielded.

Unpacking the supplies, I started dinner. Then, while the meal simmered, I sneaked to my room and pulled out the puffed packet. Wrapped inside were five cinnamon sticks. My smile must have been a mile wide. I decided to add them to my hideaway after Miss Mattie left for church that Sunday.

As my guardian angel instructed, I wrapped a small piece under the ribbon tied around my braid. I noticed Miss Mattie’s immediate reaction. Her harsh tone gentled and she even allowed me to eat with her at the dining table. A welcomed change, my nerves were still on guard, unsure of how long Miss Mattie’s tolerance would last. Against my better judgment, I decided to ask about Caleb and Cassandra.

“Miss Mattie, do you think I can visit with my sister and brother sometime soon?”

Growling, Miss Mattie cocked her head and then swung around to face the door. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets. Her head snapped back as she sniffed the air.

“Why are you sitting at this table?”

I warned you, Grandmother. Leave the table now!

Miss Mattie’s neck protruded as her limbs extended. Fingers mutated into claws and hind legs ripped through her lower extremities. Wiry tufts of hair sprouted all over her body. Her face contorted and elongated as saliva slimed down enlarged jowls. My hand stifled the scream roaring through my head.

Get up and walk away slowly. Do not turn your back on it. Now!

Author Simone Salmon

Author Simone Salmon

Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a Jack Russell terrier. Simone is still working on her exit strategy from Corporate America, but in the meantime she writes novels, poetry and expands her multi-sensory perceptions.

She is a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness. Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things. Learn more about Simone on FacebookTwitter, her blog: Origisims, and her website. You can also find her on Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Amazon Author Page.

Featured Author: Auden Johnson

In one of my recent forays onto Twitter, I came across the profile of one Auden Johnson.

I stopped because I rarely come across black female dark fantasy writers–even fewer that write sword and sorcery–and I love to talk with other female writers of dark fiction to get a feel for their experiences writing in the genre. I’m also excited that she has a dark fiction world-building guide planned. So I reached out.

Auden was gracious in responding and agreed to be a featured author on my blog. A little about her in her own words:

I am a Dark Fantasy writer. I can’t help but be one and believe me, I’ve tried. It seems no matter how far you run, your passion always catches up with you. I didn’t make the choice to be a writer, the stories made it for me. Dark Fantasy allows me to combine my two great loves–horror and fantasy. 

Darkness and dark things have always fascinated me. I’ve tried to write light or “normal” stories but you can’t make the stories into something they don’t want to be. Subtle creepy is beautiful. Without meaning to, all my stories deal with darkness in some way.

“The written word reaches into my soul and pulls out someone I didn’t know existed. ” –Auden Johnson

Words are an escape. They somehow lift the weight of the world off my shoulders. I talk about them as though they’re alive. Well, a writer’s job is to make words come alive for you. I’ve been writing for ages and I’m still surprised by the things my mind creates. My mind has always been this vast other world, bottomless, where nothing is impossible. I love it! 

Cover art for The Marked Hosts.

Cover art for The Marked Hosts.

Auden has published three short stories: No Vacancy, Clipped Wings, and Welcome to My World and three novellas: Visible Through Darkness, Shadows under the Light, and Devdan Manor. Her first two novels in The Merging Worlds series, The Sciell and Chains of the Sciell are now available. Her latest release is a dark fantasy/sword and sorcery novella titled, The Marked Hosts.

Synopsis:

She should’ve left the boy to die.

Contessa Torain’s job was simple: Talk humans out of blowing up her homeworld, Devortus, because of a few rogue Brevia soul eaters. A moment of pure insanity leads her to save a child, Asamee Banks, and the brat follows her home. He smells like her kind, but different. His existence creates a mystery she must solve.

The brat is an aggravation when all she wants is a quiet life.

But more Brevia invade the human world, feeding off the residents. Contessa, and her team–along with the bratty Asamee–escape back to Devortus, but find it empty.

The Sencil, dragon-like guardians of Devortus, are dying and they now care only about getting another body as host to survive. Contessa’s only goal is to find her family. But which one of her team is marked?

If you’d like to pick up a copy of Auden’s latest release, The Marked Hosts, you can find it on Amazon here.

Dark fantasy author Auden Johnson.

Dark fantasy author Auden Johnson.

Auden’s bio:  Lover of dark worlds. Nerdy & proud. Anime fan. Nature photographer. Sometimes silly, everyday dreamer, forever lovely. Just trying to be me–writer to the core. Find out more about Auden on her blog, on Twitter, or on G+.

The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie: A Review

Bob the zombie

I’ll admit it. I’m not a huge zombie fan when it comes to horror books. I’ve read a precious few and no standouts come to mind. Although I’m tempted to give Armand Rosamilla’s Winter of Zombie a try later this year.

Not that they aren’t a good monster; they are—ravenous, relentless, single-minded in their drive to devour you. But I tend to feel they work better on screen. In addition, I’ve noticed some publishers stating outright in their calls for submissions: No Zombies.

I understand. There is a plethora of zombie books out there and I imagine slush readers have to wade through a ton of not-so-creative stories to find any glimmer of new penny brightness. Bob the zombie

The Misadventures of Bob the Zombie was that newness for me. While the series of novellas by Jaime Johnesee isn’t marketed as Young Adult, she crafts the character of Bob with plenty of innocence and wide-eyed discovery of the world around him, and I think this series would appeal to a young readership as Bob reacts in a way I associate with younger characters. Bob’s voice is almost light-hearted when her tells his tale of how he attained zombie status, and he doesn’t have the anger and angst you might be expecting in such a character. He also has charming qualities you might not normally see in a twenty-five year old ghoul: he embarrasses easily—especially when his body parts fall off—and he’s a staunch and loyal friend.

Johnesee’s collection includes five separate stories: Bob the Zombie, Bob the Spy, Bob the Valentine, Bob the Hero, and Bob the Mentor. Bob’s adventures are fun and funny, with intermittent moments of sympathy and the occasional groan of “Are you kidding me?” tossed in.

This series is not your typical mindless, human devouring zombie series. He wants to improve his community, keep his Mom happy, and just generally stay in one piece (which he does with the help of a stapler).

I enjoy books where the hero has good intentions, is a tad awkward, but manages to get everything sorted out by the end. How can you not like a guy, er…zombie, like that?

Jaime Johnesee, author of the Bob the Zombie novella series.

Jaime Johnesee, author of the Bob the Zombie novella series.

Jaime Johnesee is a wife, mother, zoologist, and author, who spent nearly fourteen years as a zookeeper before a debilitating illness caused her to lose that dream. Being the stubborn sort, she decided to rise from the ashes and pursue her other dream of writing full time. She’s living proof that dreams do come true if you work hard and set your mind to it — So, don’t give up.

One of her favorite things is receiving reader feedback. Hearing about what you liked and what you didn’t like helps her become a better author. Feel free to email her at JJ@JaimeJohnesee.com and find her on her websiteFacebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and G+.

Graveyard Shift Sister: Chatting with Nuzo Onoh

I was updating my media kit recently and I realized I’ve been writing features for the Graveyard Shift Sisters blog for over a year now. For anyone unfamiliar with Graveyard Shift Sisters, it is a site dedicated to purging the black female horror fan from the margins. Before sites such as GSS, many of us had few like minds to discuss our love of the genre with. In talking with other black female horror writers, we also experienced surprise from others–readers and authors alike–and it was much the same:

*You* write horror? Really? 

Yes. Yes, I do and I’m not alone.

Those responses were the reason I reached out to the owner of GSS, Ashlee Blackwell, and asked if I could write a feature on the black women who write horror. To my delight she responded with a resounding, “Yes!”.

My posts for these features tend to be my reading a book of the author’s choice and reviewing it, along with sending them an emailed list of questions about their work and inspirations, their experience with horror, and what shape they would like to see future of horror take. I’ve been told it’s one of Graveyard Shift Sisters’ most popular features. *Blush* (Actually, I think it’s badass.)

Badass as in Rosalind Cash as Lisa in The Omega Man badass.

Badass like Rosalind Cash as Lisa in The Omega Man badass.

This time, I had a real treat with the feature. Since I’ve moved to the UK, I’ve not been able to find a strong group of writers to talk shop with and I missed that feeling of camaraderie. So when African horror author Nuzo Onoh emailed me to review her latest release, Unhallowed Graves, I asked her if she’d be open to doing the interview on the phone instead of via email. (My first review/interview with her was via email on her short horror collection, The Reluctant Dead. You can read about it here.)

Nuzo agreed and I’m so glad she did. It’s different conducting an interview on the phone, but it was the right call to make. (Ha!) We had an inspiring talk about writing, writing horror as a woman of African descent, the similarities between her culture (Igbo) and mine (Gullah-Geechee), and the differences between England and America. (That last topic is for another post.)

Read my review of Unhallowed Graves and my conversation with Nuzo on the first two topics on the Graveyard Shift Sisters site here.

Do you know of a black female horror author whose work I should feature on a future post? Let me know!

60 Black Women in Horror Writing

Eden Royce:

Check out Sumiko Saulson’s “60 Black Women in Horror Writing”. There’s great information on these authors and their work. (I’ve had so many people express surprise that we write horror.) There’s even a free short story or two!

Originally posted on Damsels With Chainsaws:

Sixty Black Women in Horror Writing compiled by Sumiko Saulson

February is my favorite month to discover new authors. It is both Black History Month and Women In Horror Month (WiHM). Woohoo, double win! Sumiko Saulson’s unique compilation, 60 Black Women In Horror Writing is celebrates both holidays in grand style.

Some of the women profiled in this book are literary geniuses you’ve read before (Octavia E. Butler, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison) but Saulson also introduces us to talented women we’ve never never heard of, too. This book is comprised of interviews, essays, and short stories from the author, herself, and Crystal Connor and Eden Royce. Of the short stories I liked Crystal Connor’s “Amber’s New Friend” the best. I’m a sucker for southern gothic ghost stories, however all of the stories presented are worth a read.

Who Fears Death written by Nnedi Okorafor

All 60 women profiled…

View original 189 more words

The New Mrs. Collins: A Review

I love a female villain. I don’t read about a lot of them, however. Maybe it’s the books I’m choosing but I don’t see it often enough in my opinion. And black female villains? So rare. During an online Twitter party a week ago, I read about how many readers would love to see a black female villain.

Enter The New Mrs. Collins by Quanie Miller. It’s listed as paranormal on Amazon, but I’d venture to say this book steps its toes into the waters of horror. Just a bit. Enough to cause a few ripples.

Deservedly so. The New Mrs. Collins is an unsettling book with a female villain whose origins are initially obscured. Adira doesn’t know what she is (and neither does the protagonist or the reader until much later.). I enjoy when an author is able to make a “What type of monster is this?” background work for a character. I also love to draw my own conclusions in a book, so I like that not everything about the villain is spelled out.

Adira has a great deal of self-hatred, perhaps understandably, but it didn’t make me sympathetic toward her. I did, however, sympathize with our heroine. Leena is jilted on her wedding day and finds out her husband-to-be had taken up with the mysteriously beautiful, poised, and successful Adira. Adira breezes in, making demands that Leena “give in” to what’s happened and try to move on with finding her own happiness.

Cover of The New Mrs. Collins. Gorgeous. Chilling. Love it.

Cover of The New Mrs. Collins. Gorgeous. Chilling. Love it.

But she can’t. There’s something wrong with Mrs. Collins and few people can see it. Those who do are quickly dealt with in ways made even more chilling because of the distant, almost carefree manner Adira uses.

Miller’s writing style is strong and self-assured. I found the setting of small town Louisiana realistic and refreshing in a story that isn’t steeped in voodoo. She doesn’t hesitate to include colloquialisms, and glimpses into the African-American lifestyle in the South in her work without explanations for those unfamiliar. Since I am familiar, I enjoyed those gems: quips and witticisms of town matriarchs, creative expletives, the whole town’s involvement in preparations for the wedding, and the town ladies’ open criticism of the other woman.

In addition, I felt the fact Leena had a child, was not something covered in a lot of paranormal stories today. It made a connection to the former fiancé that was unbreakable, also making Leena’s son a pawn in Adira’s game. Miller is also not shy about putting her characters in desperate situations. After the jilting Leena gives the store clerk her engagement ring to pay for her “My world is crumbling right now” snacks.

One of the best things about the book was that these female characters were fighting for something other than a man. Yes, the struggle began because if his abandoning Leena at the altar, and you would think the entire plot struggle would make him crucial in its resolution, but it happily didn’t. (Honestly, I’m struggling to recall his name.) But the story is about the mystery of Adira that Leena can’t leave alone and her determination to uncover her secrets. She knows there’s something wrong with her… something off and she has to solve it.

Even after being warned off, Leena has to get to the bottom of Adira’s origins. Her obsession causes people who were on her side to turn their backs on her. (Another reason I want to call this a horror novel. Leena experiences so much isolation. Most from her legitimate attempts to help other people whom Adira has tried to destroy.)

Finally, Leena discovers Adira’s mother and we find out a little more about the woman’s motivations through a glimpse at her childhood. Again, it didn’t make me necessarily sympathetic toward her, because kids can be creepy. But I did see the genesis of evil, helped along by a heavy dose of parental fear.

I won’t give you anything on what Adira is capable of, that’s part of the fun of this book. But I will say that I would recommend it as a great summer chiller.

Get The New Mrs. Collins on Amazon or find out more about the author on her website.

Writing the Other: Interview with Jay Requard

Writing the other–authors writing characters with backgrounds not of their own, whether that “other” is race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion–is a minefield to some authors.

I’ve spoken with authors who stay away from writing the other and choose to “write what they know” instead. Many times, it’s just that they write within a comfort zone–their own field of experience–and they don’t deviate from it. Which is fine, if that’s their preference. But other authors want to write characters of the other but are hesitant to because they think they’ll be berated for it. So they never make the attempt.

As author Jim Chines says in his blog post, people don’t complain when you write a character who happens to be female (or Asian, or gay, or Jewish). But they might complain if you do it badly: make them one-dimensional and/or steeped in stereotypes.

So how do you do it well?

There are several places to read up on how to do it well. (Although I think, like anything, practice is needed.) Nisi Shawl’s article is a good place to start reading. And listening.  But I wanted to reach out to people doing it. Since I don’t know James Patterson, Patricia McKillip, or Tabitha King, I decided to interview a few authors I do know who are writing the other.

First up is Jay Requard, author of The Gem of Acitus, a short sword and sorcery story published by Mocha Memoirs Press.

Synopsis: Master thief Manwe, known to the frontier city of Tolivius as “The Panther”, stalks the streets in search of riches to fuel his people’s rebellion out on the savannah. Lifting a fabled stone from the possession of a posh noble, he is soon trapped in a web of lies and deceit. Caught between the cruelty of a merchant and a lie meant to incriminate him, Manwe must ply the darkness if he is to prove his innocence and save the man he loves.

Cover art for The Gem of Acitus

Cover for The Gem of Acitus

ER: Where did the idea for The Gem of Acitus come from? What influenced you?

JR: I’m a big believer in serendipity, as I think writers should be reacting to the world around them. I had the idea for a long time about writing a “rogue story” that would be part Indiana Jones, part Thief (a classic video game), with notes I had learned from Robert E. Howard early-Conan works and Ari Marmell’s Widdershins Adventures. I love the idea of characters using their wits and intellect over bruising their way across a battlefield, though that is my bread-and-butter as well.

Serendipity was cruel for Manwe the Panther, however, as the idea for the main conflict came from an NPR story where an African-American man was released after spending 40 years in jail for a rape conviction that was never properly adjudicated according to the actual evidence because of his race, speaking to how people of color do not often get a fair shake within our society. I believe firmly in social justice and an egalitarian sense of equality, which I believe expands to fair legal treatment. Anyone with a sense of reality or critical thinking ability knows that more often than not, people of color are not afforded that. I had something to say with Manwe, so I said it.

ER: Tell us the storyline in two sentences.

JR: Set against by the dark city where he wins his coin through his wits alone, Manwe the Panther must steal the truth from the mouths of liars if he is save his lover. Facing greedy lords, weird shamans, and time itself, this master thief leaps into action, hoping that he won’t be too late.

ER: When you come up with the concept of a story, do you consider where it’s going to be published before or during writing?

JR: Great question! Yes and no. When it comes to novels (I’ve written three and am working on a fourth), I know what level of publishing I want to throw a manuscript at first. Short stories, however, are like art pieces—I finish them, and then worry about selling them. Since I write in a very specified set of genre (Epic /Heroic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery), I know the markets available to me. Thankfully, I’ve been able to at least prove myself on the short fiction scene, so it’s easier to get work placed now than it used to be.

ER: Has the story changed from its original concept? How many revisions did you go through?

JR: Another good question! The Gem of Acitus went through two revisions, though the original concept never changed. The biggest challenge was framing the ending. Originally I had it sequenced one way, but I ended up switching it. Both versions worked, but with the help of readers, my fellow writers, my fiancé, and just my intuition, I chose to leave it the way it ended up being published by Mocha Memoirs Press.

ER: Sword and sorcery is not typically a genre full of diversity. What made you create Manwe the Panther as he is: a homosexual man of color?

JR: The only way we bring people into genre is by having positive characters that they themselves can relate to. That is not to say that people of different ethnicities and origins do not love white characters or white authors (they obviously do). That being said, I have to defend my beloved genre: there have always been diverse voices in Sword & Sorcery, be it Charles R. Saunders’ Imaro, CL Moore (a FANTASTIC female voice for the genre), and many more who came from very diverse backgrounds, both socially and in terms of who they are. The problem has always been that for the longest time the arbiters of genre have paid more attention to something else, so many of these great voices were left out or paid little attention to. Thanks to the ability Amazon gives authors to publish their backlists, I hope this changes in time.

ER: Were you concerned about the reception The Gem of Acitus would receive? Why or why not?

JR: A little bit. I don’t want this story to come off as disrespectful. I think Manwe is the story of a positive character that represents a lot of different people, including friends of mine in the LGBT community. He’s a character who tries very hard to do the right thing, even though the right thing often goes in the opposite direction of society at large. I think those kind of characters are really important to talk about, and using a world that is a mix of Ancient Greek and African cultures, I wanted to create a multicultural setting where the world is meeting itself for an inevitable clash, kind of like what we are going through right now with race, gender, and orientation here in America. There are a lot of things to talk about, but what I hope is that I am adding to the discussion on a positive note.

ER: How did you do your research for this work? What sources, if any, did you consult?

JR: I started outlining this storyline near the end of 2013. At the time, I was reading Octavia Butler’s Kindred and listening to a lot of hip-hop, metal, and blues music centered on the ideas of revolution, spirituality, and liberation. I was also writing more and more stories that were firmly outside of the traditional “western European fantasy” box, taking them to different eras like the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, or settings that there were nuanced versions of India and China. In terms of the setting for The Gem of Acitus, I grew up reading David Gemmell, who wrote a wonderful series about Troy. I started reading more books on ancient Afro-Greek art and architecture of the Mediterranean. Franklin Snowden’s Blacks in Antiquity helped me visualize Tolivius, an Archaic city where Manwe’ story takes place. I also read a large body of African folklore for stories examining the passage between worlds, life and afterlife, and the topic of gender as it relates to spirituality. In doing so I found a really interesting West African myth about this hole in the ground where shamans would sneak into the earth for months on end, only to emerge with greater power than what they had had before. I really enjoyed incorporating these elements into the traditional structures of Sword & Sorcery in the dark vein of Karl Edward Wagner, and Manwe was the result.

ER: Many writers are hesitant to write characters unlike themselves. If authors want to write characters from outside of their own experience, whether it be a different race, gender, or sexual orientation, what advice would you give to them?

JR: That is a question that could honestly go on forever. Here’s the Cliff Notes version:

Go in there with honest intentions. The story comes first. You can have the glitteriest writing, the sharpest dialogue, or the wittiest subtext, but none of that matters if you don’t have a good story to begin with. Though I admit this is purely subjective, I wrote a great story first and finished the world-building second when it came to Manwe, including the external and internal issues he deals with.

More importantly, remember that your characters ARE NOT you. Treat them like they are their own individuals. Find the real core of the characters, what lies beneath. My Manwe wants to save his lover. Tolkien’s Bilbo wants to prove himself worthy of being in Thorin’s company. Nix’s Sabriel wants to know who she is in relation to who she came from. Find out what the characters truly want and write around that.

Finally, put in the work to understand perspectives other than your own. Some of us live with far less and some of us live with far more, but we all live with the reality that the world around us is precious and finite, though some of us live like it isn’t, which often leads to bad things. Stories are constructed by where you and your characters are, by who you and your characters are, but it is interpreted through them as first. Reflect what is going on outside within them and what they do in response.

Photo of Jay Requard, provided by the author

Photograph of Jay Requard, author of sword and sorcery story,  The Gem of Acitus

Jay Requard is a Heroic Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery author from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he is not fighting the good fight, he spends his time lifting kettlebells and maces, sipping scotch, painting, and reading voraciously. He has a fluffy cat named Mona.