Wednesday, 23 April 2014


LINDY SPENCER, crime novelist from Oklahoma, USA, talks to me about Route 66, Karma, and shooting Canons…

So, Lindy, tell us a bit about yourself?

Oh, starting with the hard questions, I see! I can talk all day long and never say a word about myself. Let me see... I enjoy reading, writing, riding motorcycles with my husband, and shooting a Canon. Canon as in a camera, not a real cannon, though now that I think more about it, I believe I would enjoy that as well! I adore photography as much as I enjoy writing. A lesser known fact about me is that I’ve had a photography exhibit on display at the Historic Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma. That was a real treat for me! All of this happens after hours or on the weekends, as I still hold down a full-time job. One day I hope to be able to quit working for someone else and write to support my husband and myself; that day has not come yet. I haven’t given up on my dream!

How long have you been writing?

I started writing, dabbling actually, while I was still in middle school. A poem I wrote was published in a book while I was in high school... then nothing until my children were grown and gone. I finally got serious about writing back in 2009 when I began the journey that became The Boomerang Effect.

Tell us a bit about your books?

My first book, The Boomerang Effect, is based around karma and the effects a person’s actions have on their lives when things come back around. Katy, a high-school aged girl, starts the karmic wheels in motion when she innocently chooses to walk home. An unforeseen situation spins out of control and lands her in a coma. Fast forward a few years, and the boomerang comes back around for the people directly, and indirectly, responsible for her being where she is, and for those who had a hand in the people who put her there getting away with it. I am currently working on the sequel.
My second book is an anthology; that is, a compilation of short stories, and they are all written by me. The stories are all psychological thrillers, and have been likened to the works of Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone), Stephen King, and Dean Koontz. I am humbled by the comparisons, and hope to continue living up to the level my readers have put me on.

Which writers influence your writing style, and what are your favourite books?

Good question! I enjoy the stylings of Nora Roberts, especially in her J.D. Robb, In Death, series. I also try to emulate Lisa Gardner in the way she tells a story. Both of these ladies are amazing storytellers. There are so many books to choose from, I would have to say it depends on the day as to what books would hit the top of my favourites list. I have found a few Indie authors who can spin a mean story, along with the well-known authors!

What inspires you to write?

The people who exist in my head, and who are the characters in my stories, inspire me. It gets rather noisy in my brain, so I either let them have their way with my hands on the keyboard, or with a pen to paper, and once they’ve had time to tell me their stories, we all feel a little bit better and things get quiet for a bit. I really enjoy the quiet times, when I’m the only one in my head, and that is what inspires me most. Some of the characters are so insistent to have their story told, they bother me in the shower, while I’m cooking dinner, and yes, when I’m trying to sleep.

Your work is very character driven. Are there any characters in your books that are based on real people? 

Oh, most definitely. Every piece of every character has come from somewhere; every day of my life I see people and mannerisms, and even watching television or reading a book, things tend to stick in my subconscious. As far as basing a character solely on one living person, no, I can’t say that I have; though as far as traits from individuals I know in real life, absolutely.

Where do you like to write?

I have a room in my house that used to be a child’s bedroom. It is now my reading/writing room. I have bookshelves with books that I enjoyed enough to keep in my personal collection there, as well as a copy of each of my books. I have a Papasan chair, which I would like to replace but works for now, that I recline in while I create, and I’m surrounded by things and pictures that calm me. Sometimes I write in the living room, if it’s quiet in the house, and occasionally I write during my lunch hour. A good portion of my short stories were written during lunch.

Would you ever sell the rights to the film version of your books? And who would you want to play your characters?

I would definitely be interested in seeing my books turned into movies for the big screen. I don’t know how any of that works, though I’d love to find out! Come on, Hollywood, make my phone ring!

You know, it’s probably strange that I haven’t imagined real people playing my characters. I have thought about it a little bit in the past, and would love to see some unknown talents make it big playing my characters. There are so many talented young actors and actresses who would also love to make their big break, I’d love to give them the opportunity. Knowing how hard it is to be the little guy, unknown by so many, I would definitely put my hand out and choose them.

Do you have a particular writing process?

My method isn’t traditional, by any means. For my novels so far, I have characters that interact with each other on a regular basis throughout the story, and I write their portions all together. In another document, I write the next set of characters that spend time together throughout the story. Lather, rinse, repeat. When I’ve finished writing each of the characters’ storylines from beginning to end, I shuffle the pieces into a manuscript. It’s probably not the easiest way to go about it, but it works for me so I stick with it.

As far as the anthology stories go, I wrote each of those from start to finish; some of them I had no idea what was going to happen until I read what I’d written; some of those were as big a surprise to me as they were to my readers. One story in particular, which I believe you’ll be able to read after this interview, is called “The End – Or Is It?” and is about the tornado that ripped through Oklahoma on May 20, 2013. I live in Oklahoma, and I know the power of tornadoes, the destruction they can – and do – cause. This particular tornado took a dear friend of mine, and my grief drove me to write this story. It is based on the historic event, though that’s where the similarity stops. I wasn’t in the path of that tornado, so I only know what I saw on the television and read in the newspapers as to what actually occurred. It is my vision of what it would have been like for the people who were in its path.

What’s the best rejection letter you’ve ever had from a publisher?

I have not received any rejection letters from publishers. I’m not a patient girl, and I don’t like to jump through hoops for the sake of jumping through hoops. When I researched what the process would entail to gain publication through a large company, and the difference in the amount of money it pays to go that direction as opposed to self-publishing, then considered the fact that they would want me to change my story to fit their vision, I decided none of that was the way I wanted to work. I chose to self-publish from my first book, full well knowing it was a hard road of self-promotion along with finding my own editor, cover artist, and formatter. I did it anyway. I’m happy to say it was a good choice for me; I now have a team that I work with that knows what my vision is for each project and are happy to help me get there from here. Now, that’s not to say I won’t consider a publisher if they approach me. Depends on the offer they make.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. Finish that first draft, put it away for a couple of weeks and then go back and read it. Edit it. Edit it again. Then edit it again. Edit it until you’re sick of reading it, then find a really good editor who can help you tighten it up and make it pretty. Work with them, edit it again. If you must throw a temper tantrum, do it in private, not on social media. That’s suicide to a career. Once you’re sure that your book is the best it can be, either find a publisher or publish it yourself. The leap from “aspiring writer” to “published author” is huge... it’s Grand Canyon big. But let me tell you, the feeling of satisfaction is bigger than that.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you? 

I woke up one morning after having a dream that I’d killed someone, and my hands were covered in blood. It had rained heavily throughout the night before, and there were no muddy shoes or wet clothes lying about, nor was there any person in the house bleeding. To this day I have no idea why I had blood on my hands. Spooky, huh?

Do you have any psychotic fans?

Probably... but if I do, I don’t know who they are. Here’s a random fact that I learned while researching for a future book: 25% of the world’s population are sociopaths. True statement... not all sociopaths are dangerous; there is more than one variety, but we’re surrounded by them.

Where can readers get a hold of your work?

My books are currently available in paper and e-book format through the following links:

Between the Devil and the Darkness:

CreateSpace (paperback):
Barnes & Noble:
The Boomerang Effect:

Vote for Lindy in the Indie Author Land 50 best self-published books worth a read award at:


From a lonely writer with the disembodied voice of her mother in her head, to vengeful housewives, Spencer creates a vivid set of stories based in small town America.

The real strength of this anthology is in the characters. All of Spencer’s characters are well formed, multi-faceted and intriguing. Her great, down to earth, characters battle the same problems of our mundane world that we all do, which makes them very easy to relate to. Within a few lines, the reader connects with the occupancy of the fictional Aspen Grove, and all of their secrets. Spencer does not shy away from complex issues such as organ transplant and the moral dilemmas that accompany domestic violence.

What makes ‘Between the Devil and the Darkness’ such a good read is the master manipulation of the reader that occurs throughout the stories. Thick with suspense and full of dark foreboding, this crime and horror writer creates an element of disturbing unsettlement in her work. Within each believable scenario, Spencer interweaves some aspect of the macabre or strange, and the reader is swept along with the tale. Imaginative settings and plots allow Spencer to create twists in her stories that genuinely surprise and add richness to the narrative.

Notable stories with a real sense of fear about them are the modern day re-imagining of Spencer’s Frankenstein in ‘Garden of Eden’, and the sheer terror of the force of nature in ‘The End…or is it?’

‘Between the Devil and the Darkness’ is a great read for US and UK audiences alike, without any pretensions or overtly Americanised language. For readers of Spencer’s earlier work, ‘The Boomerang Effect’, readers will love heading back to Aspen Grove, and seeing other characters in this dark town weaving their own stories. For readers that are just discovering Spencer, this anthology is a great introduction to her work, and really showcases her talent as a fantastic observer of people and developer of characters.

If you like crime and devilishly scary tales, ‘Between the Devil and the Darkness’ is definitely a read you don’t want to miss!


The End…or is it? (From the Anthology Between the Devil and the Darkness, 2013)
By Lindy Spencer

The price of gas just keeps going up. I was irritated by the thought. Looking down at my fuel gauge, I calculated how long the less-than half a tank I currently had would last. Not until payday, that’s for sure. Twenty dollars will probably get me through the weekend and past the price hikes... if we stay home and out of the holiday traffic. Not like I’d made any plans anyway.
It was Monday, May 20, 2013, and the average price of gas was edging up toward four dollars per gallon. With Memorial Day weekend coming up, the price was sure to continue to climb for at least a few more days. It happens every time a holiday rolls around. I only wish I’d thought about it last week and filled the tank then. Gasoline was sixty-six cents cheaper per gallon seven days ago.
I kept one eye on the red stoplight as I ran my hands through my hair and pulled it up into a ponytail. I pulled down the sun visor and looked at myself in the mirror to make sure my lion’s mane was at least relatively tamed. It was difficult to get all these natural curls into one hair tie. They were all corralled, more or less, for the moment anyway. My eyes looked tired; hell, I was surprised there weren’t bags under them, with as little as I’m sleeping lately. I pulled the skin back on the sides of my eyes, gently, like I’d seen my mother do so many times when I was younger. When did I get these wrinkles? I’m pretty sure they weren’t here yesterday.
The windshield wipers kept up a rhythmic staccato beat—swish thump, swish thump, swish thump—as they chased each other rapidly back and forth, trying to keep up with the increasing rainfall. I hope these things hold out until the rain quits. Just one more thing that needs to be replaced on payday… damn wiper blades. The light turned green. I kept enough distance between me and the car cruising along in front of me so spray thrown up off the road by their tires wasn’t adding to the poor visibility; between the spotty wipers and the wind-whipped rain I don’t need any more distractions. As if on cue, lightning seared across the distant sky. Out of a habit borne in childhood, I counted the seconds between lightning and the rumble of thunder… one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand, si—boom! The portion of the storm that produced that bolt of lightning is five miles away.
With a sigh of resignation, I put on my turn signal and pulled into the Zippy Mart parking lot. A white SUV was the only other vehicle currently parked at a gas pump. I was happy to see an open space underneath the overhang where I could get gas without getting soaked. The rain, which had started shortly after I’d left work, had steadily gained intensity and didn’t look like it would let up anytime soon. The wind bursts spit the rain under the overhang, but wasn’t strong enough to fling it all the way to the middle, directly in front of the gas pump. There was a two-foot wide stretch of concrete that wasn’t wet. This was not an unusual sight; it was springtime in Oklahoma after all.
I turned off the key and dug through my purse for my credit card while I waited for the engine to complete its sputtering noise routine in protest. I needed to have a mechanic figure out what the problem was. Yet one more thing I couldn’t afford right now. When the engine quit with a sigh of its own, I climbed out and inserted the card into the reader on the pump. The readout on the screen promptly requested that I take my card inside to the cashier.
Freakin’ figures. I don’t even have my umbrella. I reached back into my car for my purse. They would probably want to see my driver’s license before they ran my card through in there. Mentally congratulating myself on thinking ahead, I snagged the newspaper from the passenger seat and held it on top of my head while I made a mad dash for the door. Within two steps of reaching the door, the wind whipped up and snatched the newspaper from my hand, pelting my face with rain. I hadn’t read that yet! I made it to the covered sidewalk in front of the store and looked back, wiping the rain off of my face with my hands and drying my glasses with the hem of my shirt. Probably wouldn’t have been able to read it, anyway, after using it as a hat in this weather. The paper disassembled in the air, performing a ballet of sorts. Separating out and flying different directions, it made me think of the trip to Texas the year I took the kids to see hundreds of bats fly out from their cave at sunset. That was a fun trip for all of us, I thought wistfully.
I opened the door and walked in, pulling the door shut behind me. That wind was really picking up. Taking my place in line, I waited behind a woman with a toddler on her hip. I wiggled my fingers at the boy peeking at me over her shoulder. He stuck his thumb in his mouth and smiled at me around it, wiggling the rest of his fingers in response. He lowered his head to her shoulder, apparently shy. I looked around absently. The sky continued to darken, and for the first time I noticed that the clouds were looking particularly ominous. As if on cue, thunder rumbled deep, low and loud. It seemed to come from all sides at once. Fast moving storm, I thought.
The cashier finished the transaction. The woman hiked her child up into the air and wrestled him into a football carry position. His infectious giggle made me smile. She asked him if he was ready to go, and he clapped his hands and kicked his little feet in response. She carried him that way out of the store and ran toward their car, calling out the run as if it was a football play. “Mom gets the Bryan and makes a beeline for the door, dodging left, stepping right, jumping clear over the puddle…” The wind closed the door with a forceful slam, cutting off her recitation and his belly laugh. Enamored, I watched her cross the parking lot at a serpentine run, dodging imaginary opponents, entertaining her son the whole way. She got to her SUV and lifted him in the air, doing what could only be interpreted as a touchdown victory dance. The lights flickered, breaking my trance.
I was still smiling as I stepped up to the counter. Before I could say anything, the cashier, who couldn’t have been older than high school age, apologized for the inconvenience. “I know it’s a rough day for the pumps to act up, I’m sorry you had to come inside.”
“Not a problem. I’m glad I did. I might not have seen her play with her son like that.” I motioned over my shoulder, toward the parking lot. “That was fun to watch, took me back to when mine were little. Have the gas pumps been giving that message to everyone?”
He blinked at me as if I was from a different world. The generation gap loomed large between us. Apparently he didn’t have any memories like that one from his own childhood. “Since the rain started, yes. How much gas did you need?”
As I opened my mouth to answer, the tornado sirens sounded. We both looked out the window immediately, as Oklahomans do, and saw nothing except more rain. The woman at the SUV looked at the sky, startled by the sirens, and quickly hung up her gas nozzle before jumping behind the wheel.
Apparently not one to take a chance, the clerk reached over and clicked the remote control, turning the television to a news station and un-muting the volume. “Take cover immediately, tornado on the ground, I repeat, tornado on the ground!” The excited voice of the storm chaser filled the store. “If you’re in the Moore area, you need to be in your storm shelter or safe room NOW!” called out the weather man. “The tornado is on the ground on Fourth Street, about half a mile from Tuxahawney Road, heading east. Oh! It just took out the strip mall! Oh, my God, look at that. Oh, my God… Get underground immediately, right now, RIGHT NOW, it’s gaining intensity!”
We looked at each other, both of our mouths hanging open. The Zippy Mart was on the corner of Tuxahawney Road and Fourth Street! “This way, hurry!” He yelled over his shoulder as he turned toward the back of the store and the door to the cooler, not waiting to see if I was going to follow. He knew what to do in this situation; it must have been part of his training because he didn’t waste time.
I ran to keep up. The floor trembled, and the power went off with a loud pop. The light fixtures and television exploded, raining shards of glass down all over the store. I ducked and dodged, covering my head with my arms.
Thunder and what looked like lightning, but could have been street lights exploding, filled the air around me, crushing in from all sides, reflecting off overhead security mirrors used by the cashier to watch customers throughout the store. The inside of the store was completely black except for the erratic bursts of light from outside, and the sound of the rain was drowned out by the unmistakable and increasingly loud sound of an oncoming train. The tornado was almost upon us! The air pressure changed; I felt like I was being crushed. Breathing became a chore, and the last few steps before reaching the cooler and the outstretched hand of the teenaged cashier were like running through mud. The ground shook and rolled, coming apart underneath my feet.
I gripped his hand and he pulled me off my feet and into the cooler, slamming the door behind us to the shrieking sound of ripping sheet metal. The roof of the Zippy Mart creaked and groaned under the pressure and strain before being torn loose with an exaggerated fingernails-on-the-chalkboard shriek. I cringed as I heard it go. The walls of the cooler shuddered and shifted, twisting, ripping. We shoved some boxes out of the way and crammed ourselves underneath the bottom shelf, away from the cans and bottles that were toppling and falling from the creaking and tilting shelves. I prayed the tornado would lift; our shelter wouldn’t be able to take much more. We held onto each other and the shelf above us. I was crying. Someone was screaming; I don’t know how I could hear it except… it was me.
The ceiling of the cooler suddenly and completely let go without much fanfare; I watched it disappear into the sky like the house in The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know what made me think of that. This whole situation was surreal, and it was so much worse than any movie. Unidentifiable debris poured in, swirling and whirling, slamming down all around us before being picked back up and thrown somewhere else. The walls of the cooler collapsed in, held off us by the only shelf left, the one we’d crawled under. I don’t know how long it was there, couldn’t have been more than a second or two, before it was ripped from the last of its moorings and lifted out of sight. It happened faster than I’d ever seen anything move. The cashier was torn away with it. He’d been holding onto my hand, but he was gone before I knew he was moving. The shelf above me was twirling, like some macabre dance, before whistling back down and lodging itself in the concrete floor inches from my head.
With no walls left between me and the outside, I guess I was outside now too, I watched my car flip end over end and bounce several times before being sucked up and out of my line of sight. I didn’t see the SUV with the lady and her son. I sincerely hoped they’d seen the tornado coming, and she’d been able to drive them safely out of the area. Lying as flat as I could, I pressed my body hard onto the concrete, trying to become one with it. I prayed that the tornado wouldn’t pick me to throw around like a rag doll as it had the clerk. Pieces of metal, shards of glass and fragmented wooden beams danced and dipped, shuddered and disappeared only to reappear and rain down from the sky. I couldn’t watch it anymore; I squeezed my eyes shut and burrowed my face into the crook of my arm, and I prayed over and over that it would end soon. I knew I was still screaming but there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had no control over anything, including myself.
As quickly as the tornado came, it left. The ensuing stillness was palpable; though there wasn’t any wind at all, the air was pressing in on me as I stood surveying the damage. Why can’t I hear the sirens? Surely they’re still going off; I wondered idly. Maybe I’m temporarily deaf. That would totally make sense. There wasn’t anything standing between me and the rain—no roof, no walls, nothing. In fact, there wasn’t anything between where I stood and the tornado. I could see it clearly and I watched it as it moved away, swaying like a drunken sailor, creating a path of destruction, and leaving devastation behind in its wake.
Where my car had been was a twisted hulk of metal. The overhang I’d parked under a few minutes ago was now wrapped around and through an old red pickup truck that hadn’t been there when we’d run for the cooler. I was pretty sure it didn’t drive itself in, either, as it was upside down and crushed to half its normal height. It was still raining. Why can’t I feel the rain? My car was nowhere to be seen. I hope it didn’t hit anyone or hurt anybody during its short career as a plane. Paper, leaves, and other lightweight debris floated calmly down, seesawing their way back to earth. The entire scene was surreal; so much destruction in such little time. I’d never seen anything like this before in my life and hoped never to see anything remotely similar again. I watched the tornado continue its trek, and I thought about the people it had yet to encounter.
A man in a worn pair of jeans, an old t-shirt, and well-worn work boots stepped out of his front door across the street. The tornado had missed his house by about four feet. His neighbor’s home was a memory, along with every home behind theirs. He scanned the area and started running toward the store, or where the store used to be, where I stood. I could see his mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear a word. He ran past me without slowing down and dropped to the ground, hastily pulling boards off a pile and flinging them to a relatively clear space next to him.
That’s when I saw what he was digging for; there was an arm protruding from underneath the edge of the pile. I tried to move toward him, to help. My ears don’t work; I can’t feel the rain, and now I can’t walk either? Jesus. What else could go wrong?
Another man, dressed in what was probably once an expensive suit and tie, climbed out of the sunroof of a car that had obviously been expensive too. The vehicle was crushed like a tin can, and partially wrapped around a telephone pole. Lucky for him, it was the passenger side that had taken the hit. Except for the blue plastic slide from a child’s swing set that was currently lodged in the rear door, the driver’s side of the car looked fine if you didn’t notice the deployed airbags visible through the windows. Suit man hopped down off of his car unsteadily and loped toward worker man and the wreckage. Suit man, worker man, and the wreckage. Sounds like the name of a heavy metal or punk rock band. He didn’t seem to notice the trickle of blood tracing a path of its own down the side of his face. He was intent on getting to worker man and helping pull the bricks and debris off the person underneath.
The rain slowed to a little more than a drizzle as the clouds began to disperse. The sky grew lighter as the storm passed. From here it appeared that the clouds were rubberneckers following the tornado, jockeying for position and watching to see what other horrors it was going to deliver. Wow, my thoughts sure turned macabre. I guess being attacked by a tornado will do that to you. Who knew?
As suit man continued to unearth the top portion of the woman’s body, worker man held his fingers to the wrist for several seconds and then tried to find a pulse in her neck. His eyes suddenly became sad as he shook his head once at suit man. Worker man reached into the purse near her body and pulled out her wallet, opening it and laying it on the ground near her head. They moved on, continuing to clear detritus, moving it to the side, searching for survivors. I could have told them the only other person in the store besides me was the cashier, and he was lying over there in front of what used to be a pickup truck, but even from here I could tell he was dead.
Wait. There were only two of us in the store. If he’s over there, and I’m right here, then who is she? Where did she come from, and when did she get here? Was she tossed in with the debris by the tornado? I didn’t see anything like that, never saw another person. Was it while I had my head buried in my arm? All of a sudden I felt lightheaded. I sat down on the ground, dropping my head between my knees. Well, no wonder, with what I’ve just been through. Why aren’t they asking me if I’m okay? It’s almost as if they can’t see me.
The lack of hearing, of feeling, of control over my body, it all fell into place with one last click and realization struck as quick as lightning. They can’t see me. I jerked my head back up, not wanting to know what I now knew to be true, fighting it every step of the way. That’s not another lady; that’s me. It can’t be! I’m not there, I’m here. I’m NOT dead!! Am I? I’m not… I’m not… I’m not…
In the blink of an eye, without feeling as if I’d moved at all, I was next to the men, looking down at the unmoving lady. She was me alright. As sure as I squatted here she had my hair in my ponytail holder, and that was my shirt and my watch and those were my eyeglasses broken in half and twisted around what appeared to be a door handle. Without a door, it was hard to tell for sure if that’s what it used to be. Somehow my purse strap had stayed on my shoulder—something that never seemed to happen when I wanted it to. I found it very funny considering a tornado had blown a building on top of me, and there was the strap finally staying where I put it—and my wallet was lying next to my hand, open to my driver’s license. No doubt that was me.
I can’t be dead; I’m not ready. Carrie’s coming home for the weekend after her last class tonight, Bill should be home from Iraq any time, and I promised to bake him a cake. Mom can’t drive herself to her doctors’ appointments. I need to live long enough to pay off my damn house and meet my grandchildren, and they’re not even conceived yet. I have so much to do. I don’t have time for this. I realized I was trying to pep talk myself out of this situation as I’d done for so many others. Somehow I don’t think it’s gonna work this time.
What am I supposed to do now? I tilted my head back and howled my frustration as loud as I could, with everything I had, until I was empty. Neither of the men turned to look, they continued moving bricks and wood and large clumps of grass, looking for people who weren’t in that mess. It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell them. They can’t hear me. Nobody can hear me anymore. Wait… if I’m dead, and I’m here, then I was right, there IS life after death. If I’m in my death after life, what the hell am I supposed to do now?

Lindy Spencer

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