Mastodon The Writing Desk: February 2015

26 February 2015

Wolf Hall: The Inside Story ~ so unlike a historical novel?

I always recommend reading the book before seeing the TV adaptation, as it can be almost impossible to not recall the imagery once the BBC have put their stamp on it.  A possible exception to this is Hilary Mantel’s celebrated novel Wolf Hall. I must admit to struggling a little with the book, although all became clear when I watched the slow-paced but otherwise excellent TV series.

Last night the BBC rounded off the final episode with a fascinating interview with actor Mark Rylance about his performance as Thomas Cromwell.   Asked about historical accuracy, he said, ‘She [Mantel] made it seem so unlike a historical novel. That is maybe why people assume her work is so reckless or careless but she researched this for over five years, so you need to remember she did a lot of work, She didn’t just write a popular version of this story.’

This made me sit up and think. As a historical fiction novelist, I wonder if the best compliment I can look forward to is that my work is unlike a historical fiction novel?  What does that mean, I wonder? Perhaps it is really what writing mentor Emma Darwin describes in her thought provoking post: Psychic Distance: What It Is And How To Use It. Mark Rylance also said when he read Wolf Hall ‘it was almost as if you were in the room with them.’ 

As for the debate about Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell, I applaud any re-telling that challenges the ‘popular view’ of history.  What we ‘know’ is so often derived on accounts written decades after the events and often rely on portraits of uncertain provenance.

Psychic or narrative distance is about where the reader is, relative to the character, so perhaps the challenge is to find ways to new and original ways to not only take readers back in time—but also take them inside the character's heads.

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” ~ Anais Nin

So You Don't Have Enough Time To Write? Guest Post by Nava Atlas

Woman at her Writing Desk, by Johann Ender
A 1921 interview described author Willa Cather’s work schedule as follows: “Miss Cather works but three hours a day—hours of perfect joy and happiness, she describes them. She finds that at the end of two or three hours she has exhausted her best efforts. 
She spends the remainder of the day with her friends, or taking a walk in Central Park, or listening to good music… She believes that a writer should keep in as good physical condition as a singer, and so she regulates her life on a simple, normal schedule. She writes easily and seldom tears a paragraph or a page to pieces.” 
Would that we could all enjoy such a schedule—and free of angst! However, most of us are lucky if, after two or three hours, we’ve written more than a few paragraphs that upon subsequent inspection don’t read like sheer drivel. Let’s not forget that prior to this interview Cather had already published four of her major novels, and those, after her long apprenticeship as a journalist. When she sat down to write for those two to three hours, she was a seasoned writer. Despite this leisurely schedule, Cather wrote ten more novels, plus many essays and short stories, in the years that followed this interview.
Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888)
Louisa May Alcott, on the other hand, was less than happy with her curtailed work days. Though she complained of being “chained to my galley,” that’s what she preferred. L.M. Montgomery may have spent few hours at her desk, but worked all the time in her mind, unlike Cather, who left her work at her desk. Maybe there will be times in your life when, as Alcott described it, “the steam is up.” 

That usually means it’s time to take a breather and let the well fill up again. But whether  your writing schedule is constrained voluntarily or by circumstances, much can be accomplished, so long as whatever time you have is spent  diligently and, if at all possible, joyfully.

Brilliance in no time flat

Willa Cather (1873-1947) 
For me, the morning is the best time to write. During the other hours of the day I attend to my housekeeping, take walks in Central Park, go to concerts, and see something of my friends. I try to keep myself fit, fresh: one has to be in as good form to write as to sing. When not working, I shut work from my mind.
Willa Cather, from an interview in The Bookman, 1921
Twenty pages in two hours
I used to write from morning till night without fatigue when “the steam was up.” Now, however, I am paying the penalty of twenty years of over work, & can write but two hours a day, doing about twenty pages, sometimes more, though my right thumb is useless from writer’s cramp.
Louisa May Alcott, from a letter, 1887

L.M. Montgomery in her 30s
L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942) 
Women have always multitasked …

I write fast, having “thought out” plot and dialogue while I go about my household work. I only do three hours’ literary work a day—two hours’ writing and one typewriting.
L.M. Montgomery, from a letter, 1909

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About the Author
Nava Atlas is the author and illustrator of many books on vegan and vegetarian cooking, most recently Wild About Greens and Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Her backlist includes Vegan Express, Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, The Vegetarian Family Cookbook, and The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet. Her first book, Vegetariana, published in 1984, is considered a classic in its field. Nava also has written scores of articles on healthful cooking with natural foods, which have appeared in Vegetarian Times, VegNews, Cooking Light, and numerous other publications. In addition to her food writing, Nava also produces visual books on family themes, humor, and women’s issues, including Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife (2009)— a satiric look at contemporary marriage and motherhood through the lens of a faux 1950s cookbook. The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life, (2011) explores first-person narratives on the writing lives of twelve classic women authors, and comments on the universal relevance of their experiences to all women who love to write. Nava is also an active fine artist. Her work is shown and collected by museums and universities across the U.S. You can see her work at Her home is in the Hudson Valley region of New York State, where she lives with her husband; they have two grown children. Find Nava on Twitter @navaatlas2.

25 February 2015

Guest Post: To Dance With Ugly People by Lorene Stunson Hill

Do you believe dreams can come true?

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

I was a writer that had a fear of my protagonist or antagonist embarrassing, cruel or stupid moments being seen as truths about me. I worried that there would be readers out there feeling that I had revealed too much about myself. I do have a fear of confrontation and as far back as I can remember I have written. When angry, as a child, I wrote notes and stuck on doors, as an employee I placed notes on desks of co-workers and as a wife (now divorced) I wrote letters and placed under the dinner plate. Oh and there are many letters of protest, love or rage that has been dropped in my nearby mailbox. But, when it came to writing a book there was a sudden fear. I wrote anyway. As a teenager I hand wrote a book every summer while school was out and at the end of the summer, tossed it in the trash, terrified someone would find out something terrible about me.

Finally, in my late twenties, I took Creative Writing classes at the University of Central Florida. My instructor's name was Wyatt Wyatt, an unusual man with an unusual name. I took many of his courses. One day he invited me to his office, one of the weirdest rooms I'd ever seen. Odd and unusual things including NUDE MANNEQUINS and a COUCH were placed in there. It was an end of the semester conference and once we were seated, he screamed COWARD at me! I sat there stunned! I learned from him that the best fiction often reflects some aspect of the author. It's almost impossible to write anything that doesn't have some part of you in it. As for as which parts, of my book, reflects me, I keep my readers guessing. The first question I get from those who read my book, that know me, is, “Is that TRUE?!” My answer, “If you wonder, then the book is well written.”

I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. My life career was in Insurance – Automobile Insurance. In 1999 that career ended and I worked for a Job Placement/Unemployment office at the Front Desk. The stories you hear! After surgery, in 2005, I was laid off from that job. Broke, I wrote the first manuscript by hand, I had something to say. Then I typed it on an old computer/printer I dug out of the dust of a thrift store called, “Our Fathers Closet.” I started it as therapy to get through tough times, despair of being where I was in life, after a lifetime of working so hard and many family disappointments. I felt it deserved to be published, but I couldn't seem to create a Query Letter interesting enough to catch an Agents eye. “Not interested,” was many of my first rejections, so it sat it on a shelf for EIGHT years. I pulled it out of the dust during a recent move and decided to self-publish as an EBook and paperback.

I want to tell my audience that you have to get inside of the mind of any character you create to do it justice. If you can't do that, the book won't be very good. You don't have to kill someone to get inside the mind of a killer. Some authors chose to be reclusive to avoid addressing these issues, but people will think whatever they want to think. I read an article once that stated, “A great writer is one who is not scared of what people think of them and their writing. They are the ones who can take a bad situation they know about or have experienced and turn it into a great story. You should not be scared of what your pen bleeds on to the paper, just let your heart and soul talk to your readers.”

Lorene Stunson Hill

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About The Author

Lorene Stunson Hill is a new aspiring author from Florida, USA.  Her first novel, To Dance with Ugly People, is published as an E-book and paperback.  Lorene grew up in Detroit, Michigan then moved to central Florida. Her life was not as she would have wished it to be; one of ease and luxury.  In fact the opposite was true yet she wished to make it more than it was and tell her story, warts and all, to help others and  help bring something good from misery.  "To Dance with Ugly People” draws on the wealth of experiences placed in her path. Along that path she completed Creative Writing Courses at the University of Central Florida under the esteemed guidance of Professor Wyatt Wyatt. Follow Lorene on Twitter @Hill008  and on Facebook

23 February 2015

Book Launch ~ Midnight Sun, by Charlotte Raine @CRaineBooks

Wyatt, Alaska is a place of family, beauty, and unspeakable tragedy. A couple of years after Aaron Grant lost his wife and daughter in a fire, one of his daughter’s best friends, Sarah, is kidnapped. After spending the last two years as the town drunk, he reluctantly investigates the kidnapping along with the ambitious FBI Agent Teresa Daniels. The case takes several twists and turns, which will end up leaving the whole town of Wyatt in the wake of destruction. In the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, the sun never sets during the summer, but the light creates shadows, where anything can creep and kill.

New on Amazon US and Amazon UK

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About the Author

Charlotte Raine is the author of several romantic suspense books with more on the way. She worked in marketing and advertising for 15 years before focusing on her true passion, telling great stories. Charlotte gets inspiration for her writing from the scenic but serene mountains around her home in Vail, Colorado. When she is not writing you will find her after a long day of skiing at one of the many lodges in Vail. She will most likely be next to a warm fire, drinking a glass of wine and telling stories. If you would like to hear more about Charlotte's books, visit her website and find her on Facebook and Twittter @CRaineBooks

Brookhollow Series Blog Tour‏ with Author Jennifer Snow

Brookhollow Series Spotlight

The Trouble With Mistletoe:  You can't say no to a mistletoe kiss, no matter who's under it! Since leaving Brookhollow and her fiancé, Luke Dawson, twelve years earlier, Victoria Mason hasn't looked back. She's traded the small-town dream of marriage, kids and family Christmas dinners for late nights working at a high-powered acquisitions firm, lunches at trendy New York restaurants and jet-set vacations on the slopes So her latest work assignment, to acquire Brookhollow's sporting-goods store, poses a challenge for Victoria, in more ways than one. Because it's almost Christmas, and she's got other holiday plans. And the owner is reluctant to sell. And the owner is Luke. She needs to wrap up the deal before she gets caught up in her old life and her old love…or becomes trapped under the mistletoe. Again.

What A Girl Wants: Friendship is overrated, if you ask her. She's always just been one of the guys…until she falls in love with one of the guys. Except Bailey Sheppard has carried a torch for firefighter Ethan Bishop since high school. And now that his long-term girlfriend has left him brokenhearted, she's free to go after what she's always wanted. Not that Ethan sees Bailey as anything but a friend. A best friend maybe, but still not a woman he'd be interested in. Pining for his ex has made him blind to the possibility of happiness with anyone else…. But can Ethan resist a woman who knows what she wants?

Falling for LeighCan she be his cure for writer's block? For New York novelist Logan Walters, falling for the girl next door was more than a cliché. It was a calamity! If Leigh Norris hadn't been so attractive, and hadn't been hammering relentlessly while he was trying to write, Logan would never have ascended her rickety ladder in a misguided mix of gallantry and frustration. And he wouldn't have a broken wrist—or a guilty new assistant who can't type. Clearly, his escape to the Brookhollow B and B was not going to be the quiet, idyllic retreat he needed to finish his overdue manuscript. But it was fast becoming much more interesting than expected….

The Mistletoe Melody'Tis the season of forgiveness…but can she ever forget? Brad Monroe was truly unbelievable. Blowing back into Brookhollow for three days to film a Christmas special—three years after the accident that killed his best friend…her husband—and expecting Melody to be civil? Please. He'd been the only one who'd survived the tragedy, hightailing it to Nashville and hijacking her dream…Patrick's dream. She'd spent that time grieving, working three jobs, struggling to raise her boys and keep a roof over their heads. Now she was losing ground on all fronts, and not about to forgive and forget. Or give him the one thing that could save them all…

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

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About the Author

Jennifer Snow lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and four year old son. She is a member of the Writers Guild of Alberta, the Romance Writers of America, the Canadian Author Association, and  She is also a regular blogger on the Heartwarming Authors site and is a contributing author to Mslexia Magazine, WestWord Magazine and RWR.  Her 2013 Holiday Romance-The Trouble With Mistletoe was a finalist in the 2014 Golden Quill Contest and the Heart of Denver Aspen Gold Contest. More information can be found on her website and follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferSnow18

21 February 2015

Sahara, By Angella Ricot @AngellaRicot

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

When three sisters overhear their father’s overwhelming deal to sell them into prostitution, they immediately take fate into their own hands in search of their own destiny. They embark on a powerful and compelling journey that takes root in the exotic realm of the Caribbean island of Labadee, later to spring fully fledged in the glamorous cosmopolitan city of New York.

Out of the struggle emerges the valiant and beautiful heroine, Sahara, a sensational gold thief who gets herself entangled in sensuous political games and dangerous liaisons. Sahara is a story of love, lust, money, and betrayal that is ingrained with power, politics, and prejudice. The plot spins to a volatile climax that sets the stage for the ultimate scandal in the White House.

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About the Author

Born in Haiti, award-winning author Angella Ricot immigrated to the United States over twenty years ago. A graduate of the University of South Florida, she was trained in both psychology and the medical sciences. She has appeared in the Miami Times and in the New York Caribbean newspapers. Her first book, Mirror of Souls, was released in 2004, with subsequent works pending publication. AngellaRicot currently lives in the heart of the cosmopolitan city of New York. While her rigorous training laid the foundation for her career, her roots in the Caribbean mixed with the zest of urban city life provide the tapestry for her inspirations. Find out more at Angella's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @AngellaRicot 

20 February 2015

Guest Post by Author M.K. Tod: Inside Historical Fiction – what do readers want?

While planning this year’s activities, I made the decision to focus on a topic I call ‘Inside Historical Fiction’. As I said on my blog, “what I plan to do is look under the covers of historical fiction to illuminate those attributes that make it different from contemporary fiction.” With that overarching objective in mind, the topic will explore seven aspects of historical fiction writing: setting, characters, dialogue, world building, conflict, plot and theme.

Readers are a critical point of reference. So, what can they tell us?

When asked what kind of stories they prefer, almost three quarters of those surveyed chose ‘fictional characters within a backdrop of great historical events; close to half chose ‘the life of a significant historical figure’.

When asked what ingredients create a favourite novel, 86% said ‘feeling immersed in time and place’, but ‘authentic and educational’ stories, the ‘dramatic arc of historical events’ and ‘characters both heroic and human’ also ranked high. When asked why they read historical fiction, 76% said ‘to bring the past to life’.

Readers love historical fiction, but become annoyed when authors play around with historical events. When asked ‘what detracts from your enjoyment of historical fiction’, a large portion of readers cited historical inaccuracies while others mentioned too much historical detail, cumbersome dialogue, and characters with modern sensibilities.

Well now, that should be an easy recipe for writers to follow, shouldn’t it?

Setting: discover enough about your setting(s) to immerse readers in that time and place. Add details to inform and educate. Help readers understand what living was like for all manner of people.

Characters: if you choose a famous figure, ensure the details you include are accurate and find ways to make bring out both heroic and human dimensions. When facts are absent, search for the plausible. Understand the restrictions and obligations faced by men and women of different classes. Avoid anachronistic behaviour.

Dialogue: use accessible language sprinkled very lightly with references to era-specific language and terms. Avoid words, phrases and idioms not yet invented. Be careful with words whose meaning has changed over time; the word gay comes to mind.

World building: search for details that illuminate the period. Make sure you understand the political, social, religious, legal, military, bureaucratic and family context. Country borders are also a factor. Consider etiquette, fashion, food, drink and social customs. Avoid anachronisms. Find the big events your characters would know about – a plague, a riot, severe food shortages, wars, an eclipse, a monarch’s death, a pope’s edict.

Conflict: understand the conflicts inherent to your time period. These may or may not be the dominant conflicts of your story, however, they will provide context for them and could affect major or minor characters.

Plot: historical fact is critical when it comes to plot, especially when writing about major characters. You can’t have Eleanor of Aquitaine in England if the known facts are that she was in a particular part of what we now know as France at that particular time. Significant historical events cannot be ignored but use them to add tension or plot twists.

Theme: themes are generally universal. Myfanwy Cook offers a list in her book Historical Fiction Writing: “ambition, madness, loyalty, deception, revenge, all is not what it appears to be, love, temptation, guilt, power, fate/destiny, heroism, hope, coming of age, death, loss, friendship, patriotism …” Interpret them against the era of your writing.

Give some thought about how you guide readers into and through your world. It's good to educate but don’t overwhelm with details - and always respect the facts.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

19 February 2015

Book Tour ~ The Ultimate Guide to Consulting in the Networked Age, by John Watson


Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

The Ultimate Guide to Consulting in the Networked Age by John Watson is a step by step guide to starting your own consulting practice with proven strategies to build a consulting practice with global reach by capitalizing on technological innovation including the latest in social media marketing trends. "Many people have the operational skills to strike out on their own as a consultant either in the B2B or B2C space, yet hesitate to take the leap into establishing their own consulting practice. This step-by-step guide will assist prospective entrepreneurs turn their dreams of establishing successful consulting practices into reality.” 

The book features articles contributed by leading business, marketing and sales authorities including: Kendra Lee, bestselling author of The Sales Magnet; Robert Klaric, CEO of The Property Expert; Richard DiPilla, Market Development Expert at Berkshire Hathaway Media Group; Steve Klaric, Principal Engineering Consultant in Chicago; James Fredric, Specialist Consultant at What's Your Plan?; and Jamie Cawley, Publisher at

"I want to share the knowledge I have built up over my two decade long business analysis career to assist emerging entrepreneurs apply world class business success strategies to their own small and medium sized businesses. With rapid technological change including the rise of social media, disrupter technologies including new payments systems , global e-commerce platforms, and advances in website design and development transforming websites from e-brochures into automated, interactive lead generating sales funnels; it is now becoming commonplace for small businesses –even ones initially run out of home offices – to have global reach not just in terms of sourcing supplies but also in terms of servicing international clients – both firms and individuals." 

John Watson  
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About the Author

John Watson is a highly experienced investment management professional and founder of Margate Financial Research Solutions, providing cost-effective third party research, marketing, and business development services to leading financial market businesses. John has a strong reputation for delivering consistent first quartile investment performance and substantially increasing funds under management. His clients include Morgij Analytics and BlueSky Alternative Investments. John also offers business coaching; sales training; strategic planning consulting; project evaluation; presentation skills and design training; social media strategies; and mentoring for small and medium sized businesses across all industries.  Find out more at John's Website and find him on LinkedIn and 
Twitter @johnpwatson5 


18 February 2015

Special Guest Post by Michael Schmicker, Author of The Witch of Napoli

Italy 1899: Fiery-tempered, seductive medium Alessandra Poverelli levitates a table at a Spiritualist séance in Naples. A reporter photographs the miracle, and wealthy, skeptical, Jewish psychiatrist Camillo Lombardi arrives in Naples to investigate. When she materializes the ghost of his dead mother, he risks his reputation and fortune to finance a tour of the Continent, challenging the scientific and academic elite of Europe to test Alessandra's mysterious powers. Meanwhile, the Vatican is quietly digging up her childhood secrets, desperate to discredit her supernatural powers; her abusive husband Pigotti is coming to kill her; and the tarot cards predict catastrophe. 

Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK

I have a confession to make –The Witch of Napoli started out as a 15-page film treatment. I had stars in my eyes. I studied documentary film production at New York University and at the British Film Institute before I became a journalist and book author, and knew the basics of the cinematic craft.  So when I stumbled across Italian Spiritualist medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) while researching my first (non-fiction) book, Best Evidence, I decided she was my ticket to 20th Century Fox.

I’d write a film based on her life. The real-life Signora Palladino levitated tables and conjured up spirits of the dead in dimly-lit séance rooms all across Europe towards the end of the 19th century. Her psychic powers baffled Nobel Prize-winning scientists, captivated aristocracy from London to St. Petersburg, and annoyed the powerful Catholic Church, which suspected her paranormal feats were the work of Satan. Her meteoric rise to fame, her humiliating fall, and miraculous redemption made world headlines at the time – when she died, she earned an obit in a dozen national papers, including the New York Times.

I had visions of a biopic, or even better a Sony Pictures period drama starring Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek. Forty-year old Eusapia was such a wild woman – fiery-tempered, amorous, vulgar, confident – in a Victorian age where respectable matrons were insipid saints on a pedestal, stunted socially, sexually, intellectually, economically.  She allowed strange men to sit with her in a darkened room holding her hands and knees and legs (“proper” women would have fainted, or throw themselves off a precipice, if caught in that situation).  She flirted and teased her male sitters, argued loudly, slapped an aristocrat who insulted her, flew at men who accused her of cheating (even when she did).  Yet she was also extremely kind and generous to anyone in trouble, loved animals, gave to beggars. Her heart was large. I thought she’d make a hell of a heroine. And there was that spooky paranormal twist to her life. I came up with a clever logline – the one sentence summary you use to pitch your film to super-busy Hollywood execs: “Downton Abbey meets the Exorcist.”

But the L.A. crowd told me selling a film treatment was a million-to-one shot.  I needed to write the novel first, then option the book.  I didn’t want to hear it. I’d never written fiction before. A novel is a nightmare for the amateur, and a challenge even for a pro. It requires playing with a Rubik’s cube of characters, plot, subplots, pacing, dialogue, style, emotional arc – pieces which the writer must move in a certain sequence, and introduce at the proper moment,  to propel the tale forward, hold the fickle reader’s attention, and arrive at a successful denouement. Historical fiction raises the complexity another level. Where do you find information on the cost of a plate of pasta in late 19th century Napoli?  Was the typewriter around? How many hours was the train ride to Rome? How do you weave the history in without slowing the story and boring readers? Frankly, I was scared stiff. But I finally took the leap. Now that The Witch is up on Amazon, I’m glad I jumped; somewhat surprised I survived; and extremely appreciative of the many positive reviews it has garnered.  Kirkus Reviews is featuring The Witch in its current issue (February 2015); it’s found an audience; and sales are climbing. If you’re a film buff, look carefully – you’ll even find multiple cinematic tricks buried in the structure of the novel.

Meanwhile, I’m still determined to see The Witch of Napoli on the silver screen – with Salma or Penelope. Know anybody at Sony Pictures?

Mike Schmicker
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About the Author

Michael Schmicker is an investigative journalist and writer on scientific anomalies and the paranormal. He is the co-author of The Gift, ESP: The Extraordinary Experiences of Ordinary People (St. Martin's Press (USA); Rider/Random House (UK). His first book, Best Evidence, has emerged as a classic in the field of scientific anomalies reporting since its first publication in 2000. He is a contributor to EdgeScience magazine, a book reviewer for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, and his writings also appear in three anthologies, including The Universe Wants to Play (2006); First of the Year 2009 (2009); and Even the Smallest Crab Has Teeth (2011). Michael began his writing career as a crime reporter for a suburban Dow-Jones newspaper in Connecticut (USA), and worked as a freelance reporter in Southeast Asia for three years. He has also worked as a stringer for Forbes magazine, and Op-Ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal Asia. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. You can find Mike on Twitter @Schmicker