Author Interview & Book Giveaway – Merry Christmas Stories by Jeff Spalsbury

Welcome to Author Jeff Spalbury


Jeff R. Spalsbury was born in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, and grew up in the small town of Logan, Ohio. He attended Ohio State University, San Jose State University and the University of Denver. He currently lives in Visalia, California. Before deciding to become a full-time novelist and short-story writer, he was a research librarian, director of a college library and a college professor. He writes Christmas short stories, contemporary, western and science fiction novels.


If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?
That’s a tough question because I write in both the past and the future. Avalon published my first western Hunt the Hunter in 2010 and will be publishing my second one The Hunted Return in July 2012. Then, just this month, my science fiction novel (the first one in the trilogy), Space Dream One: That Others May Live was published for eBooks. Of the two choices I think I’d like to go back to the Old West and see how accurate my western novels are. I always try to make them as historically accurate as I can, even though they are fiction stories.

If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
Dr. Albert Schweitzer. There are some people who are so dedicated to helping others that you have to be amazed at their sacrifice. I particularly admired his idea of a “reverence for life” philosophy and included that in my recent science fiction novel, giving him full credit, of course.

Night owl, or early bird?
More night owl. When I’m writing, I put in 10 to 12 hours a day. I’m usually up by 7:30 a.m. and don’t go to bed until near midnight. My best writing time is from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. I become very focused when writing the first draft of a new novel and will often write from four to six weeks—seven days a week, without taking a break. Then I’ll take off for a long five- or -six day weekend to refresh my brain and when I come back, go right back at it. I love getting so deep into my characters’ lives but, of course, being single helps with this beastly schedule.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
You should read Merry Christmas Stories because it’s about love, laughter and uplifting happy endings to get you in the best possible mood ever for this magical time of year.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
I’ve just completed the first draft on a contemporary novel I Dream of a Rainbow. It took me five months to write the first draft. I Dream of a Rainbow is the story of an Afghanistan veteran, who loses everything in one day and proceeds to gather up four of his hurting veteran friends, opens up a creative art center and tries to reclaim all their lives. I’m hopeful that I will have it completed by the end of the year and ready to send to my editor. I’m very excited about this novel and hope it does well.

In January 2012, I’ll start work on the third western in my ‘Hunt’ series for Avalon. This one will be called Hunt for a Bride. I hope to have it completed by the end of March.

As I mentioned, my science fiction novel, Space Dream One: That Others May Live was just published as an eBook. It’s a very long novel, over 700 pages, and is really two books in one—a mystery-adventure novel on earth and a science fiction-adventure novel in another galaxy. The parallel stories intertwine throughout the novel and add a double layer of suspense and mystery for the reader.

The second book in this trilogy Space Dream Two: A Nat-Sat Legacy is similar in length and format, two books in one, and is written and in a second draft mode but still needs serious editing. It will be published in October 2012.

I enjoy writing in three genres, and I’m often asked if it is hard to switch back and forth among them. Actually, I find it very refreshing except (like right now) when I had to do the final edit on my science fiction novel while still working on my contemporary novel and answer questions for this interview about my Christmas story collection. But, normally, by the time I’ve finished one book, I’m ready to switch genres and work on another.

And, of course, there are those times when I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for yet another novel. Then my computer comes alive at 3 a.m. and I’m writing like crazy to make sure I don’t forget this gem before going back to bed. After I get up, I check to see if my words are as brilliant in the harsh light of day as I thought they were in the foggy darkness at 3 a.m. Alas, not always, but that always gives me a big laugh because some of the things I’ve written turn out to be so silly. Yet, there are times the words I wrote are still exciting, and I suddenly have yet another novel to work on, so the night’s effort is always worth it.

What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen?
There are too many to mention. I was given a library card at a very early age because both my mother and father were big readers and encouraged reading. With free access to the library (and within walking distance of my home—the advantage of growing up in a small town in Ohio) I read everything I found interesting from books for my age to adult books. The library was a magical place for me and because of my experiences there, I ended up getting my Masters in Library Science degree at the University of Denver and was the director of a small college library in California for 12 years.

I currently live in a house with over 10,000 books. I like the comfort of being surrounded by books as well as the stories and knowledge they provide me. I’m hopeful, as eBooks become a bigger source of reading for young people that they never lose the magic of books, even if it is in a new format.

Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters?
Both a song and a movie with the same name—White Christmas. Talk about an old-time (1950s) feel-good movie. That’s what I hope my Merry Christmas Stories book makes people feel like after reading it.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
In today’s publishing world the key word is persistence. Never give up believing in yourself and what you are writing and never stop trying to make it better. As a writer, I have gotten so many rejection slips and I’m occasionally surrounded by so much negativity, that it can be hard to keep trying. But don’t ever quit. Never give up searching for your rainbow—never give up your dream.

The other advice I give writers is to find a great editor. For me, at least, I can never seem to find all my ridiculous typos or grammar mistakes, no matter how many times I go through my manuscript. My editor delights in making my pages bleed with her red pen comments. As painful as it is to see all the mistakes I missed and her comments, my novels are always just that much better because of her special talent. A few typos or grammar mistakes can quickly turn off a publisher or agent. You don’t want that working against you. I’ve acknowledged my editor in every book I’ve published and I have now sold six.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I once visited a house in Cambria, California. On the back porch, which was on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, you could hear the waves. I believe it would be great fun to write a novel there and listen to that rhythmic breathing of the ocean every day. But, of course, Malibu or Dana Point, California would work, too.

What is your favorite Quote?
“Life isn’t about how to survive the storm but how to dance in the rain.” It was written by one of my favorite authors, Anonymous.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
There is always a bit of me in many of the characters and particularly the protagonist. There is also a bit of many of my friends. My friends like to read my novels, then quiz me if this trait or that description is someone they know or even themselves. I never tell them.

On the other hand, some of my friends and family do end up in my novels as ensemble players. It’s always with their permission and they seem to enjoy reading about themselves playing a new role.

What was your favorite children’s book?
My absolute most favorite children’s book is Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Her opening line about the Herdmans still makes me laugh aloud every time I read it. If you haven’t read it, do so. It’s a wonderfully funny Christmas book with a terrific message and is a fun read for a child or an adult.

How do you explain to someone that you have 21 nicknames? Of course, there are all the variations on Jeff, Jeffrey, Jeffy, etc.; some just use my initials JR and my last name, Spalsbury, got twisted into Spudnuts and Spudnuts the Great. Then there is the Harry Stiletto name that turns up in my newest novel, I Dream of a Rainbow. Two doctor friends from Denver and Interpol are responsible for that one. We won’t go into how I got the Lugie name (far too long a story), but The Lug was a slip up of my own doing on a custom license plate. It turns up in my Merry Christmas Stories short story collection before it was cast on my shoulders as yet another moniker.

What really makes it hard is that I send out more than 120 Christmas and birthday cards every year and I have to check my Apple address book for each card to make sure I’m signing my name correctly. Sheesh!

What’s your favorite season/weather?
Unquestionably, fall is my favorite. To see the breathtaking multicolored leaves of an Ohio hardwood forest in the fall is wonderful. Walking through the forest and hearing the crunching sound under your feet or smelling the wonderful perfume of fall leaves burning immediately brings back memories of my youth.

I remember driving through the high country of Colorado in October. You stop your car and step out to look over a mountain valley where you can see for miles in the clear air. You are mesmerized by the bright yellow aspen leaves and the deep green of the pine trees—so beautiful that you know that no picture you take of it can capture what you see before you.

And a few weeks ago, I stood on the sandy California beach where the waves were majestically wild and seemingly out of control. The spray wet my face and I took a deep breath and smelled the sweetness of the ocean. Yes, fall for me is magical.

How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
What is your guilty pleasure?
I’ve put these two questions together because how I celebrate the sale of all my books is, in fact, a guilty pleasure. There is a wonderful old fashion ice cream parlor 30 minutes from my home called the Superior Dairy that’s been around since the 1920s. They serve the most decadent French vanilla and marshmallow milkshake in a tall glass with the extra placed beside you in an old-fashion metal tin. All the cholesterol and arteries in my body clog, gasp for air and beg me for mercy but I ignore them because it just tastes soooo good!

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you’d be embarrassed to admit?
I must admit that I can’t answer the TV show question. I gave up my TV 26 years ago. I decided I had too many books to write to give up three or four hours every evening to a contraption that was sucking the creative juices from my brain. OK, that was a tad melodramatic but I haven’t missed it and I’ve written a lot of novels during the time I would have spent watching TV.

I haven’t been without entertainment, though. I have a large DVD collection that I watch when I want to and without the mind-numbing commercials. The thing is, I seldom watch a movie all the way through in one session. Usually, I watch 20 to 30 minutes of a movie to unwind late at night. Then I stop and watch some more a few days later. It can take me up to two weeks to watch a full-length movie.

All right, I’ve sidestepped the embarrassed aspect of the question. For books, I love Rosamunde Pilcher’s books. I have all the books she’s written. Not exactly the books a tough western writer would want to admit that he not only reads but also thoroughly enjoys. For movies, I enjoy many of the Disney and Pixar animated movies. Perhaps that’s because I’m always telling my friends to let the little child in them out. So many adults have forgotten how to laugh and let the little child out and I find that sad. Some people would probably prefer that I put my little child away but I just laugh, ignore them and keep dancing in the rain and playing with my toys.

Favorite places to travel?
I travel throughout the Western United States particularly Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, almost every year. I’ve enjoyed my trips to England, Europe and particularly Biarritz, France. I would love to travel to Italy and the Greek Isles—haven’t made it there yet but my plan is to rent a villa for a few months in the next few years and write a novel using that location. New sights, smells, food would be an inspiration for my writer’s soul and spirit. And a barge trip or two down some of the rivers of Europe to check out the wonderful wineries and castles. Ah, writing a novel on a slow-moving barge and drinking great wine. How much fun that would be.

Thanks for your time. Love and laughter, my friends. That’s what my books are all about and I hope that is what your life is about as well. Thank you for joining me on this interview.

Jeff R. Spalsbury

Merry Christmas Stories

These 25 short stories for the Christmas season will make you laugh, smile and just feel good about this magical time of year. These delightful stories, written in a variety of genre, all reflect Christmas love, hope and charity. Detective Nick Tracer just wants to get drunk over the holiday season but an eight-year-old girl hires him to find Santa, and it changes his life. A magical Christmas bus enriches the lives of a veteran and his young daughter. The last S-2, an indestructable android, is given the toughest assignment of his long existence. A Christmas ghost discovers the real magic of Christmas, and on a beautiful California Christmas morning, two people in their 80s recall their lives while sitting on a park bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean. A ghost plays matchmaker for his younger brother, and two children do the same thing for their single mother. A best friend turns the tables on his buddy, and a sad poem opens the heart of a lonely poet. A bag lady enjoys the view and receives an unexpected guest. And sometimes being too smart can be a disadvantage, particularly when there is a bronze olive involved. These are just some of the fun and exciting stories in this compilation. There are stories of adventure along with humor, unexpected surprises, romance and poignent moments. These are feel-good stories, to uplift your spirit and to leave you with a smile or a warm feeling. Just the way Christmas should feel.

Giveaway Details:
1 copy of Merry Christmas Stories
Open to US Only
End 12/15/11

Charissa J