My guest today is the very talented and prolific author Thomas L. Peters. Tom and I have worked together, at MuseItUp Publishing, on Tom’s most charming story The Boy Who Delivered the Wind. I hope to get the chance to work with him again soon. In the meantime, I have been reading some of his other books and thoroughly enjoyed them.
Here is a short biography of our guest.
After graduating with honors from DuquesneUniversity in Pittsburgh and the University of MichiganLaw, Tom Peters made partner at a large law firm where he retired a few years earlier than most. Tom’s favorite activity is giving his dog long walks in the woods. His second favorite is playing the violin, much like the character in the Dickens’ story who loved to play scales alone on his cello. Tom’s musical repertoire is a bit more extensive than simply scales and leans toward the Baroque, but he nevertheless views his music, along with his writing, as mostly a solo pastime. His favorite part of writing is when the book is finally done.
N&R: Hi Tom. It’s so nice to have you drop in to speak with us.
Tom: Thank you very much for having me. To begin I must say that you are one of the best editors working in the publishing field today, and I very much enjoyed our collaboration on The Boy Who Delivered The Wind.
N&R: Well, thank you very much. I certainly appreciate the compliment. Feel free to tell that to my boss. LOL. First, I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories. I love your sense of humour, the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and activities of some of your characters, and their voices. Your talent as a writer is multi-dimensional and covers a lot of territory, from unique characters, simple effective story telling, to adult action thrillers and romance. I have to ask, where does all this come from?
Tom: I know one thing for sure. I don’t deserve such words of high praise. Where what little talent I have comes from, is a mystery.
N&R: I see you are a classically trained violinist. I am also a classically trained musician—my instrument being the piano—and I am aware of what it has given me. What about you? How has the world of music affected you and your writing?
Tom: It provides me with some sense of the grand dimensions and the wonderful possibilities of art in general and also instructs me on the necessity of pouring one’s passions into the work, be it music or writing.
N&R: Have there been any authors who have influenced you? And if so, who, and in what ways?
Tom: I like Flannery O’Connor for her sheer brilliance and Steinbeck for his mastery of dialogue. Otherwise, I try to keep the influences of other writers to a minimum, I guess out of fear that I might lose my own voice.
N&R: Yes, I certainly understand what you mean. You also have a background in law. What kind of law did you practise? How helpful has that study been to your work?
Tom: I practiced corporate law. Legal and creative writing are so different that I really don’t believe there is much interchange.
N&R: Do you find writing gives you the same degree of satisfaction as legal work did?
Tom: An honest job done as well as one is able, always seems to provide some measure of satisfaction.
N&R: I love Jake Stone’s legal world. It seems pretty crazy sometimes. Should we consider some of the legal events of Jake’s characters as ‘enlightening’ or as mostly ‘fiction’?
Tom: It’s all fiction.
N&R: Well, that’s comforting to know. Have you written other books which are similar in style and/or character to An Imperfect Miracle or The Boy Who Delivered the Wind?
Tom: Gracie and the Preacher and A Puppy’s Progress. Both stories are highly recommended for dog lovers.
N&R: Here’s a short description of Gracie and the Preacher.
Brent Everett and his feisty dog Gracie hook up with a good-natured street preacher who, when he isn’t dodging the law, makes his living by holding fire and brimstone revivals across the country. Soon, however, Brent discovers that there are limits to what even the preacher can get away with.
And a short description of A Puppy’s Progress.
A mistake from birth, half Lab, half Rottweiler, weaned in a puppy mill and dubbed “Star” for the white furry blotch on her chest, the valiant pooch unwittingly becomes the “bag man” in a diamond heist when the thief, hoping to hide the stones from his greedy wife, implants them under the puppy’s skin. After Star is mistakenly sold, the bumbling villains set off to retrieve the diamonds, but are bested at every turn by our feisty canine hero.
N&R: When comparing your Jake Stone characters to the more spiritual or innocent ones, as in Miracle or The Boy, do you have a preference?
Tom: No. I think they all come from the same place.
N&R: Are there any challenges to overcome in creating either of these characters?
Tom: I think that one simply has to let the writing flow as honestly as one can.
N&R: I love the invisible ghost dog ‘Chewy” in An Imperfect Miracle. He certainly touched my heart. Please tell us more about the dogs, both past and present, in your life?
Tom: Chewy is largely based on my dog, Star, who is also the model for the dog in A Puppy’s Progress . The Dog in Gracie and the Preacher is largely based on my Golden Retriever friend, Buffy.
N&R: Of your prolific list of writings, can you share with us which ones you like the most? Can you tell us a little about some of your work and perhaps give us an excerpt from each?
Tom: I’ve listed below a selection of my works of which I am especially fond. Here is an excerpt from Book Three of the Jake Stone Thrillers, The End Game.
(Blurb: In this third installment of The Jake Stone Thrillers, Jake may have finally met his match when he confronts Snowflake’s long lost sister, Sandy. Will his beloved Snowflake come to Jake’s rescue one more time, and will Detective Crisp nail Jake for his increasing litany of crimes? Check out this fast-paced and action-packed new series filled with plot twists, crazy schemes and wild brawls galore.)
“Snowflake grabbed Jake by the throat and then rocked her entire body backwards, in the process jamming her bare feet against his naked chest and flipping him headlong behind her. Groaning and wincing in pain, Jake landed in a small sand dune. As he rolled onto his belly, he watched a mature male blue crab with brilliant blue shading on his shell and claws scamper sideways for about a foot and then descend into a tiny hole next to a red bay shrub, its dark leathery leaves shimmering in the early evening ocean mist.”
Here is the opening paragraph of Gracie and the Preacher.
“Star and I got back just as Mom and her new boyfriend Pete were starting to roll around on the living room floor grappling and laughing. She’d met Pete at the gym where she went looking for all her boyfriends lately. Mom could bench press over 280 pounds on a good day. Of course, her arms were short and that helped her some.”
This is the opening paragraph of a short novel, Stock Boy.
“I’d just gashed my finger on a rolling wooden crate crammed with Jones of New York dresses and was feeling a little raw and ornery at the world. I hated those crates because they always gave me splinters whenever I unloaded them solo from the delivery truck to the loading dock. The containers weren’t so much heavy as awkward, and if the driver didn’t back the truck in just right there was always a little crack where the truck bed ended and the metal dock floor began. Then I’d have to get a running start to cajole the crate to roll smoothly out onto the dock.”
And a little blurb about Stock Boy…
Clarence Smith, a lonely stock boy toiling away in an upscale department store, entertains visions of a grand life when he tries to hook up with a beautiful and aloof store executive. But when he begins to shoplift expensive merchandise to sell to a shadowy fence in order to raise enough money to impress her, his life, as well as hers, take an unexpected turn when he discovers that she has been shoplifting too, but for a wholly different reason.
Here is the opening paragraph of a rather quirky novel, Say Nuthin’ Bad. (Two boys attempt to solve a series of assaults and murders gripping a small rural town.)
“Charlie was long and skinny and always wore baggy pants that he sometimes bought but mostly stole from the Army Surplus store. They had big pockets all over them where he kept his important stuff — knives and matches and playing cards and little sharp edged rocks good for throwing at some kid’s head who was giving him trouble — and these skinny cigars he smoked that looked like cigarettes except they were brown. He had a long nose and short curly blond hair and his teeth were all crooked. His mom claimed that his crooked teeth would make his jaw grow in funny and had tried to get him to wear braces the year before. But Charlie had kept yanking them out at night and twisting the wires all around until she gave up. He must have felt funny about being so tall because he always walked around with his shoulders tilted forward a little, like the wind was blowing strong against him and he had to lean into it to keep from getting knocked over.”
Finally, this is the opening paragraph of another short novel, The Falling Ascent of Adrian Loft. (Adrian Loft sees a strange vision, ordering him to do something that may subject him to vicious public ridicule and perhaps ruin his career and even his life. Adrian tries desperately to write off the vision as some psychic quirk, but things keep happening to him, things he can’t ignore.)
“Around two-thirty on a Tuesday afternoon in conference Room 6C after the other lawyers had all slithered back into their cubicles, and while Adrian Loft was munching down the last of the firm’s complimentary stale glazed donuts because he had worked thirteen hours straight without a decent meal, which was unusual for Adrian since he was a slacker of some note, the Word came to him: Hurry down to the corner of State and Main, between Jake’s Tavern and the whorehouse masquerading as a jazz club, and pick up the black leather bound book lying on the rusted manhole cover, open it to page 126 and read aloud in a strong voice the text beginning at chapter 1. Continue reading until you come to the end of the passage on page 171. If you finish the entire assignment, place the book back onto the manhole cover and your task is complete. If for any reason you are unable to finish, take the book with you and complete the assignment later, either all at once or in installments. Remember that you must read the text aloud in a strong voice in the presence of strangers. When you have read the entire passage in this way, return the book to the manhole cover. Your job is done. Do not be alarmed. You are, after all, a halfway decent lawyer. You can do this. It is really not all that hard.”
N&R: I have to add, at this time,an excerpt from The Boy Who Delivered the Wind. First a little blurb about the story…
Little Sammy needs ten thousand dollars, and fast, if he is to save his home from foreclosure and his family from catastrophe. Russ befriends the lonely boy, and soon the two embark on a series of adventures that reveal the sorry underbelly of humanity and the glorious mysteries of nature.
And now, my favourite scene…
“He must have been glad to see me because he grabbed my shoulders and gave me a big hug and then stood back to look me over. He said I was the prettiest sight he’d ever seen and he’d never met anyone as honest before. I was about to tell him that I didn’t much like being called pretty, and that I wasn’t all that honest either, but he broke in before I had the chance.
“I laid awake all night worrying you weren’t gonna come.”
“I told you I was. Why wouldn’t I?”
“I figured you’d keep all that stuff for yourself. I never knowed nobody who was honest before. Not even my folks. I gotta watch everybody around here like a hawk. My brothers would steal the pants right off me if I let ’em.”
Just then a whole pack of little runts flew past and spilled over the porch and out into the yard. They whipped up such a wind going by, that the shirt I was wearing puffed out a bit along my shoulders.
“How many of ’em are there?”
Sammy shrugged and then lowered his chin down to where it was almost touching his skinny little chest.
“Hard to say. Mom pops ’em out one after the other and then gives ’em away so she can get some welfare money from the state. Then a few weeks later, we find ’em in a crate on the front porch. Somebody’s always coming and going, but I’d say most time, there’s about fifteen of us holed up here, not counting Mom and Dad, and any uncles or aunts or nieces or nephews who happen to be hanging around. That don’t count the dogs either. I think we got about a dozen dogs, although they’re always having puppies, so it’s hard to keep track.”
“How do you all fit into this little house?” I asked him, squinting into the haze.
Sammy shrugged again, but this time his face seemed to perk up a bit.
“I don’t really know. Now at least, you can see why I’d like to have that ten grand. As wild as things are, it’d be a whole bunch worse if we had to all live out in the woods.”
“I can see that,” I said, taking one more look around. “Now that you have your stuff, I think I’ll be going.”
“Don’t you want a share of the proceeds? You earned it.”
“You can do with the profits whatever you want. You need it more than I do.”
Sammy gave me another hug, but all that yelling and screaming, barking and whimpering and yelping was starting to freak me out; not to mention all the dust flying around which was making me sniff a little. I pushed Sammy away and was about to make for the highway as fast as I could, when I felt Sammy’s hand on my wrist holding me back. He had a pretty firm grip for such a little runt, strong enough anyway to delay my exit for the time being.
“That’s the problem,” he mumbled. Sammy usually talked real crisp and sharp, so I figured he must be embarrassed about something and it was turning him a little mushy. “I can’t really do what I want.”
“We don’t got a car, and even if we did, I don’t know how to drive and my old man would never take me anywhere. He don’t ever do nothing for nobody but himself, unless Mom beats the snot out of him. I wouldn’t want to go riding with him now anyhow, seeing as how much he’s been drinking lately.”
Sammy whirled around and slapped his hand through the air fast enough to blow some of the dust away, to where I could see a whiskered-up old guy in blue overalls, sitting on a stool by himself in the middle of the floor, holding a torn umbrella over his head, like it was raining.
Now if it had been storming outside, instead of being a nice sunny day, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a thick gush of water had found its way down past the roof and into the house, but that morning, it was dry as a bone—outside and in. Sammy pointed at the old guy’s feet, which looked more like gnarled up tree stumps, and he kind of chuckled a little. I guess when things get that sad, chuckling is about the best thing you can do to keep up your spirits.
“He’s sat like that for two days straight and hasn’t said a word since last Thursday. It always happens when he mixes beer and whiskey.”
I would have asked him where his mom was, but I didn’t see the point.
N&R: Thanks Tom. What a great selection of writing. I hope my readers will have a look at your work. I think there’s something for everyone in your portfolio. Well, we’ve read your bio and discussed the lawyer, musician and pet parts of your life, but when I read the fight scenes in the Jake Stone series, I am amazed at the descriptions of the action. Do you have a background in boxing, wrestling or martial arts? What else do we not know about you that we might be seeing glimpses of in those pages?
Tom: I did take a rather aggressive kick boxing class a few years back, but that’s about it.
N&R: What are you working on right now?
Tom: Absolutely nothing. I have just started reading, however, Graham Greene’s classic, The Power and the Glory.
N&R: That is one of my favourites. Now, if you could help some budding authors, in regard to the writing or publishing world, what would you like to tell them?
Tom: Don’t be afraid to self-publish. It’s a lot more reputable these days with the advent of electronic books.
N&R: Well, thank you so much for coming by and visiting with us today. We have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about your creative world and your life, and we hope you can come and visit again in the near future. I look forward to eventually reading all of your books; I know I will enjoy them. That’s a given. Thanks again.
Tom: Thanks for hosting me, and before I go I can’t resist putting in a plug for your new short story, A Hallowe’en Tale, which is available from MuseItUp Publishing at:http://tinyurl.com/9kv8494
N&R: Thanks Tom. I certainly appreciate your support.
Tom’s blog can be found at http://tlpeters.blogspot.com. A full listing of his books and where they are sold is also located on that site.
The Boy Who Delivered the Wind is available from MuseItUp Publishing at http://tinyurl.com/8bohxqv as an ebook and should be out next year in hardcover.