My latest interview is with author Allen Schatz who was born and raised in the Philadelphia area (Pennsylvania, USA) and will always consider that his “home”. For the past 15 years or so he has lived in southwestern PA with his wife. They have two adult children. His “day” job is as a financial and accounting professional. Other pastimes include umpiring youth baseball and writing, of course. People will notice most of these characteristics are integral components of his novels.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Allen Schatz: Oddly enough, or not oddly, GAME 7: DEAD BALL is the first real story I’ve written. That’s not to say writing hasn’t been a big part of my life. It is, however, the first formal attempt to create a story. Prior to that, my writing was more business-related writing in my jobs, as well as personal letters and such. Throughout that time, however, I did hear a lot of “you should be a writer” comments.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Allen Schatz: Mostly it was a feeling of “I’ve always wanted to try this.” There wasn’t a particular event or person I can say inspired it to happen.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Allen Schatz: The creativity and freedom to explore things real life doesn’t let you do. I can go anywhere at any time without restrictions – like time or money. That’s what makes it fun. There are no “can’t” barriers in writing. If you can imagine it, you can write it.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about the series of books you published and the main character Marshall Connors?
Allen Schatz: Marshall is the “me” I never was, an alter ego if you will. Many things in his life are very similar to things in my life – not the situations he finds himself in the middle of, but more personal things. As for the stories, I’ve always been a fan of mysteries. I wanted to combine my love of baseball into a mystery, similar to what Dick Francis did with horse racing.
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the books and the character Marshall Connors?
Allen Schatz: I think the idea came out of how in sports, especially playoffs, there is a building intensity until the final game of a series or championship. I thought it would be cool to place a wider mystery within that environment, where off the field things intertwined with on the field events, to create something no one else had done. I decided Marshall would be something not expected, in this case a baseball umpire. I also then made him more of a reluctant hero because no one would expect an umpire to be such.
Books & Writing: I understand your love of baseball is the basis for the Marshall Connors series. Do you plan to write about something else in the future?
Allen Schatz: I think I will, yes. I’m sure baseball is always going to play a role in anything I write, but there are endless possibilities on doing that. I may also step into some other sports as well.
Books & Writing: What does your family think about your writing?
Allen Schatz: My wife and children think it is cool. A few of my other relatives are really excited by it as well. Some others don’t seem to have an opinion one way or the other. I find from talking to other writers, that’s about normal. A lot of people don’t really see writing as “a job” per se, maybe because most can’t really do it with much success.
Books & Writing: Are you working on something new?
Allen Schatz: I’m working on the next Marshall Connors story. It is tentatively titled “Liars Ball” and I hope to release it sometime this year. Most of the favorite characters will return, to the extent they can.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Allen Schatz: Start early. If this is what you love, don’t tuck it away until you’re in your late 40’s, like me. Grab hold of it and don’t let go. Publishing is changing and being part of this now is very exciting. Take the journey and make it your life.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Allen Schatz: Samples of my books are available on all of the websites where the books are sold. Visit www.allenschatz.com/wherebuy.html to find links to the eBook versions. At those links you’ll find additional links to sample portions.
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Allen Schatz: Visit the blog link on my website for past posts with other thoughts on writing.
Below is an excerpt from the book Game 7 Deadball!
June 20, 1997
Bluefield, West Virginia
Opening day for the minor league Bluefield Orioles baseball team was one of the few bright spots in this otherwise dismal and decaying town long removed from its former glory days. The same was true for Tammy Rogers. Her luck had been mostly bad for a long time and prospects of something better were fading faster than the worn-out shingles on the building where she lived. She needed out in a bad way.
On this night, she would get her wish.
The journey started, as it usually did, at a place called Wild Aces. At best, the bar was nothing more than a dive where the legal drinking age meant little, making it a must-stop for most of the ballplayers after every game. That many of these young men were barely out of high school never deterred Tammy because she was very good at ferreting out those old enough to play her game.
Her first pitch came shortly after ten P.M., when she paused just inside the bar’s entrance to size up the crowd—and let it return the favor. At twenty-six, she had a natural look and all the right curves in all the right places. Her uniform this night was a knee-length, spaghetti-strapped, pale yellow sundress. She had her long blonde hair loosely tied into a messy updo, and a light application of make-up finished the look.
Satisfied she’d delivered strike one, she sauntered to the far side of Aces’ long bar and worked herself onto her usual stool. She was greeted there by Billy Dubbs, the tavern’s proprietor and a man with whom she’d once shared a night. It never went beyond that, outside of being the reason for the always open and waiting stool after every Orioles home game.
“Hello, Tammy,” Billy said as he placed two drinks in front of her, a shot of Jack and a Miller Lite. “I’ll start your tab. Try not to forget to settle up this time.”
“Oh, Billy, it was only that one time,” Tammy said, applying her cutest smile. “And I made up for it, didn’t I?”
“You did,” Billy said, his head shaking but a smile giving him away.
A man standing near the bar at Tammy’s right was watching the exchange with great interest, and when she quickly downed the whiskey, he perked up even further. Tammy noticed the stare and adjusted her position on the stool to get a better look. The light around her, somewhere between an old flashlight and a handful of candles, was enough to allow for a decent view.
Liking what she saw, she fired her next pitch, a mouthed “Hi” in the man’s direction. He responded with a smile and moved toward her. The closer he got, the better he looked, and it was Tammy’s turn to perk up. As he reached her stool, he extended his hand and she took it. The touch sent a shiver down her back and she shuddered.
“Tammy,” she said after recovering.
“Nice to meet you, Tammy,” the man said before motioning to the empty stool next to her. “May I join you?”
That he failed to introduce himself never registered.
“Please,” Tammy said with a small nod.
Her heart was racing as the man sat, and she silently chided herself for being so flustered. It was usually the other way around, especially with the baseball boys, and as the man settled onto the stool, she took a swig of Miller and tried to regroup.
“You’re not from Bluefield, are you?” she said after swallowing.
“Nope, first time,” the man said as he motioned to Billy for a new drink.
“Oooh, a traveler,” Tammy said in her best pick-up voice.
The man offered up a nonchalant shrug.
“I get around.”
“I’ll bet you do,” Tammy said through a sly grin.
Billy interrupted the dance when he arrived with the man’s refill. Tammy used the break to take another sip of beer, accidentally-on-purpose dribbling some down her chin in the process. As the liquid made its way to the space between her breasts, she pinched a napkin off the bar and made an elaborate show of dabbing at the moisture.
“You missed some,” the man said before using the side of his finger to wipe a drop from her chin.
The touch produced new shivers and Tammy’s nipples got rock hard under the thin fabric of her dress. The man’s eyes took notice of her excitement.
“All fixed,” the man said.
Tammy pushed some air through her lips.
“Yes, it is,” she said under her breath.
The man smiled and sampled his beverage. Tammy waited for him to finish.
“So, what brings you to town?” she said. “Are you a ballplayer?”
“I’ve been known to play a game or two,” he said as his finger came back to her body.
He used it to draw an imaginary line across her shoulder and down her arm. Goosebumps sprouted and Tammy closed her eyes to absorb the sensations. What had started as her game had become his. She was wet from the simple touches and more than ready to go. All the man had to do was ask. An hour later he did.
It was the last time Tammy was seen alive.