Author interview! Introducing Ana Spoke, author of Shizzle, Inc.!

I am absolutely delighted to be one of the stops on the blog tour of the very talented Ana Spoke, fellow blogger and self-published author!


Ana’s debut novel:  Shizzle, Inc. has just been released on Amazon and you can find it here.  It has already reached #23 in the humor category!  It’s my privilege to welcome her to my blog for an interview.  Now, hang on while I channel my inner Oprah!

Ana, first of all congratulations on your sudden success!  Since you describe yourself as a writer moonlighting as a middle manager, how much of your work experience gave you material for Shizzle, Inc.?

Thank you Dr. Meg!  Fingers crossed it keeps going this way!  To answer your first question:  I think that it’s not only work – my life in general has been nothing but comedy material.  Over the last twenty or so years, I’ve moved countries and changed professions multiple times.  I’ve been a designer, a professor, a scientist, and a manager.  Each of those changes was exciting, but inevitably brought on that dreaded feeling of “what did I get myself into this time?”  and “I’ve finally bitten off more than I can chew!”  This is exactly what happens to Isa – she dreams of escaping her mediocre life, but when she finally gets an opportunity, the stress of it all is almost unbearable.   Poor Isa has certainly bit off more than she can chew, and now she has to chew like hell!

What were some of the challenges you faced as an Australian, writing a story set in the USA?

Hmmmm…  have I mentioned that I am a Russian-born Australian?  I actually used to live in the USA, in fact that’s where I spent my “formative years.”  Still, it’s amazing how the Australian version of English took over my American memories.  Also, since it’s been years since I left the US, I had to do a lot of research to make sure that Applebee’s restaurants still operate, and to check what they have on the menu.  I’ve had to use a professional proofreader to replace my Australianisms with American versions of the same words.  Good thing that there’s Google and Grammarly to make sure that what I remember is actually true!

Who was your inspiration for Mr. Hue?  I was visualizing a wacky Richard Branson!

Haha, yes – some of Mr. Hue’s behaviors are caricatures of Richard Branson, but there’s also Donald Trump, and the dashing Mr. Peterman – Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld.  At first, Mr. Hue was quite a flat, cardboard parody, and it bothered me.  The billionaire playboy did not seem to have a personality!  I had to go back through the first draft and add “color” to his dialogue and reactions.  I’ve actually read books by Richard Branson to get an idea how an eccentric billionaire might think.  After that, it was a matter of seeing the same through a “funny mirror”, and viola!  Mr. Hue came to life!  

Let’s talk about the writing/publishing process.  You’ve stated on your blog that you’ve been writing for about two years.  Has that all been on Shizzle, Inc. or were there other projects you started with?

Since I’ve started the blog, it has only been Shizzle, Inc., although the majority of those two years was spent editing and trying to pitch it to agents and publishing houses.  Before that, I’ve started multiple other novels such as a dating-disaster chicklit novel and a dystopian YA novel.  While I was writing Shizzle, Inc., I’ve had many other ideas but I just noted them in a document “for future reference” and put them away.  I’m easily distracted so I’ve had to consciously discipline myself to finish one project. Maybe one day I will come back to them, like the one where a disgruntled office worker, obsessed with historical romance, starts a web of intrigue unmatched even by Marie Antoinette herself…

You, like many of us, have chosen to self publish.  How would you describe the experience?  And did you ever consider going the traditional publishing route?

I’ve spent at least a year trying to pitch Shizzle, Inc. to agents and publishers.  It was a grueling process, and I have a spreadsheet with over 70 contacts to prove that I really, really tried.  I’m truly happy that the traditional route did not happen as I originally hoped – I’m now completely in control, and I’ve had so much fun producing and marketing my book!

The self publishing project was very hard, but very rewarding as well.  I hear they say the same about children?  I’ve made a plan, which is set out on a large whiteboard in my bedroom.  I saw it every day before going to bed – talk about obsessive!  At the same time, I tried not to overload all at once, and just did one step at a time.   Sometimes its best not tot think about how overwhelming the task at hand may be.  Still, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy some of the steps were, like for example, uploading the finished book to Kindle.  I only wish cover design was that easy!

My next project is producing a print version with Createspace, fingers crossed it will go smoothly.  So far, I’ve only managed to create an account, had a look at the front page, got overwhelmed and put it aside for now.

What can we look forward to in the future?  Are more adventures in store for Isa and Shizzle, Inc.?

Most certainly!  I envision this series as a “trilogy in seven volumes” – in other words, it will keep going until Isa grows up, matures, and becomes boring… wait!  She will never do that!  

Without giving too much away, I’ve started working on the second installment, which will be set primarily in India.  Now, that will be a challenge, considering that neither Isa nor I have ever been there!

I’m having a lot of fun creating new characters, but will definitely weave some of the existing ones into the fabric of the next story.

Finally, Ana, what would you like to say to the blogging community in general, and to aspiring writers in particular?

Don’t give up!  This is not a new sentiment, and the history ia full of authors who have been rejected time and again, only to find success on a hundredth try.  I myself have been rejected or ignored over 70 times, and yet here I am, with a self-published bestseller and huge psychologist bills!

Another message I have is that any success takes a lot of work, so you better start now.  Also, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or a chore – it can be like a game, a welcome distraction from the everyday monotony.  If you become addicted to blogging or writing the way most people are addicted to Angry Birds or Candy Crush, you are guaranteed to be a success!

Thank you so much, Ana, for stopping by on your “world tour” of the blogosphere!    I wish you all the best on your continued writing career and look forward to your next best seller!  Once again, to buy Ana’s book, you can find it here on Amazon!

Finding my audience

My blog is a way for me to connect with other writers, readers as well as to hone my skills.  So for today’s assignment, finding our audience, I decided to share an excerpt from my first novel:  Three Empty Frames.  It’s the first in a series of books I’m writing about my home region.   I had finally worked up the courage to publish the complete manuscript in July. Bear in mind that the action is not going to flow as quickly as in a short story.  If you enjoy it, the book can be purchased here.


Old Mick Monaghan liked to talk. Mick was serving a life sentence, no chance of parole. But unlike some of the other guys doing hard time in Langford State Correctional Facility, he was easy-going and good natured. Like most old timers, he told stories of his glory days. Not many of the guys listened to him anymore. They said he was getting senile. But Joey Castori listened to him.
Mick would’ve graduated in 1969 if he hadn’t dropped out to join the student uprising against the war. They were going to change the world, he said. He was a true believer. His little brother too. The group he belonged to didn’t mess around putting flowers in soldiers guns and all that other nonsense. They wanted to start a real revolution. The trouble was, Mick said, all real revolutions need money, lots of money. And getting lots of money meant taking big risks. And taking big risks had got his little brother killed and him a life sentence with no chance of parole.
Joey Castori got paroled with 18 months left on his sentence. His sister Maria picked him up at the prison gate. She said Uncle Louie would have work for him if he was a good boy and kept his head down. He said to Maria, “Boy, do I have a story to tell you.”
And he did tell her, on their way back to Philadelphia. When they pulled into Uncle Louie’s used car lot, Maria said, “Welcome back, Joey. It’s good to have you home.”


I watched dry eyed as Mother’s casket was lowered into the ground. Even though I was her only child, she regarded my unexpected arrival late in life, as an intrusion rather than a happy surprise. Mostly she ignored me, leaving all the day to day responsibilities to our housekeeper, Lucinda and the big decisions to Dad. For reasons unknown to me, she clung to her unhappiness like a security blanket and I swear it was the thing that finally killed her. She was dead at 68. And I found myself pretending to be sad at her funeral.
I held my father’s hand as the casket reached the bottom of the grave. “You all right, Dad?” I asked.
He sighed, “I wish I could’ve made her happy.”
“Dad,” I squeezed his hand. “You tried. I don’t think you could’ve done anything to make her happy. Happiness comes from within.”
“Sweetheart, you’re a remarkable young woman, you know that? You deserved better than what she gave you. Yet, you have a good head on your shoulders. I’m so proud of you, dear.”
“Dad, you more than made up for it. You were always there for me. I’m glad I make you proud.”
My father and I had always been close. He tells me I was his little shadow, following him into his office to pretend to “work” along side him in the evenings. Even though he had some pretty old fashioned ideas about proper careers for women, Dad sent me to school for engineering and hired me at the company he had founded.
We turned from the gravesite and began to walk back to the cars. Along the way, we exchanged farewells and thank yous with the small circle of friends and family that had joined us at the cemetery. Lucinda helped my father into the car, while I hugged my best friends Joni and Desdemona and promised to call them later.
“Join me for a drink and keep me company for a while?” Dad asked, as we pulled out of the cemetery road.
“Sure, Dad. I’d love to.”
I drove us back to my parents’ old Victorian home in Doylestown, the county seat of Bucks County, about an hour north of Philadelphia. I followed Dad into the house and helped him out of his coat. At 81, he was slowing down, but still spry for his age. He made his way down the hall and into his study, his favorite room. The space was manly and comfortable, a combination office, library and sitting room. The walls were lined with bookshelves that held everything from Newton’s ‘Principia Mathematica’ to Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Kane and Abel’. He also had a large desk, a drafting table and a pair of soft leather chairs. In a cabinet behind his desk, he kept bottles of good whiskey, cognac and bourbon along with tumblers and an ice maker.
“What’s your pleasure, Jen?”
“Whatever you’re having, Dad.” He poured an Irish whiskey and handed it to me. “Thanks.”
He poured one for himself and settled back in his chair. “So. What should we do with her things?”
“What’s the hurry? We can work on it a little at a time.”
“I’d just like to get it over with.” He gave me a wry smile, “I’m an old man. Who knows how much time I have left. Humor me.” He turned serious. “There is something I have to tell you, though.”
“I’ve decided to move out of the house.” He put up a hand to silence me. “This is too much house for me. I’m starting to hate going up and down the stairs all the time. I’m moving to Westlake Village. It has apartments, assisted living and nursing care, so when I start going downhill, I can move along the system without a lot of fuss. And before you say anything, Lucinda is going to Florida to live with her sister. We’ve got it all figured out.”
“Wow. That was fast.” I stared at the old desk that had belonged to Dad’s father before him and remembered the times, as a child, that I had taken refuge beneath it to escape my mother’s moods.
“I’d been trying to get your mother to downsize for years, but she wasn’t having any of it.” he grumbled. “My question is, do you want the house? Or should we sell?”
“Geez, Dad! I don’t know what to say! This is unexpected. Are you sure you don’t want me to move home and help you out?”
“My dear, you are a young woman just getting started. You shouldn’t have the burden of caring for an old man.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “Besides at Westlake Village I’ll have a whole new audience for my jokes.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ok, let me think about it.” I sipped my whiskey. “When does Lucinda leave?”
“She is hoping to get to Florida before fall, so that gives us time. If we get things settled before then, she will go earlier. The apartment I’m moving into will be ready May first, so we have about six weeks to pack my things up. Lucinda will continue to look after the house until you make up your mind.”
“Wow, we have a lot to do before then.”
“Not to worry, Lucinda and I have already been sorting through old papers and clearing things out. When your mother got sick, I saw the writing on the wall. I’ve already gotten rid of a lot of stuff. I’ve got my favorite books already packed.” He swept his hand around. “You can either keep what’s here or donate the whole lot to the library.” He paused. “Your mother wouldn’t let me touch any of her things though. I’m afraid her bedroom, sitting room and the attic are going to be a challenge. I’m sorry, dear.”
I groaned. “Great. I’ll start as soon as I can.”
“There’s something else.” His eyes twinkled. “I have a new lawyer.”
“What?!?!” I was shocked. “You’ve been with Vince Quinn for 40 years!”
“Exactly. And he’s retiring. His son Tommy is taking over his practice. Trust me, you’ll like him. Didn’t you meet him today at the funeral? Or last night at the viewing? He was there.”
“I don’t think so. The whole thing was a blur.” Was he the cute guy I had seen standing with Vince and Margaret Mary? How could I have forgotten meeting him? “I hope he’s as good as his dad.”
“He’s got everything well in hand. Besides his father has done such a nice job helping me plan our affairs that young Tommy shouldn’t have much to do. When I die, he can probate the will and settle the estate. I’ve made a nice provision for Lucinda and left the rest to you.”
“Please don’t talk like that. I hope you’ll be around for a long time.”
“Well, no matter. Tommy will take care of it all and you won’t have to worry about a thing. And you’ll get to meet him Sunday. The Quinns have invited us for dinner. You didn’t forget?”
“No I didn’t forget.”
“Very good. Now listen, I’m going to call it a day. You start thinking about what you want to do with the house and let me know.”


I drove home in the fading light to my condo. When I’d finished school and moved home, I found that I just couldn’t stand being under the same roof as my mother. I had bought the place as soon as I could afford it. Dad helped me with the downpayment. It was just the right size for a single person with a great room and two bedrooms, the smaller of which I used as an office. I had lovingly chosen all the furnishings and artwork, the paint colors and fabrics. When I thought about how much I had put into this place, I couldn’t imagine giving it up, especially to rattle around in that big old Victorian all by myself. Besides, it’s not like the house was full of happy memories.
I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and called Joni and then Des to check in. We made plans for our usual girls’ night out next Friday night. After that I curled up on the sofa and watched TV until I started to doze.


Joey Castori hated living with his sister, Maria and her loser husband and their bratty kids. His room was a hastily converted space in the basement. Compared to his prison cell this was living in luxury and he knew he should be grateful. Besides, he couldn’t afford his own place. Yet. At least she had good cable service and fast internet. So Joey searched the web. They didn’t allow access to the internet in prison so he was never able to verify old Mick’s story until now. Sure enough, after multiple searches, everything he found checked out. God bless the Internet. Now he needed to search the name he had and see if he could find the old gal. What he found was an obituary.

Please allow me to introduce myself…

I’m not a man of wealth and taste…  I decided to start this blog as a way journal my progress as a writer.  As a woman in middle age with a real desire to succeed as an author, I thought sending some words out for other creative minds to read and comment on would be a good way to test the waters.

I am a practicing chiropractor with a home office in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, so writing hasn’t exactly been part of my skill set, well, beyond noting patients’ charts.  Nonetheless, I love to read, passionately.  And seriously, doesn’t every reader want to write?

Recently, I came up with an idea for a series of romantic suspense novels set in my home region and decided to set pen to paper (figuratively) and have self published the first in the series on Amazon. The second and third manuscripts are complete and at the editing stage, so…. Stay tuned!