Short Stories. It’s time to write ’em and read ’em. Mark Fine Interview.

TWISTED TALES & AUTHORS – The Mark Fine interview

ON 24/05/2016

The amazing author of the Zebra Affaire, and an all-around creative machine of a man, visits my blog today. The man who has been mingling with amazing world famous artists all of his life certainly has a lot to write about. It is a privilege to have him over as a guest.

Twisted Tales short story collection featuring author Mark Fine
Karmic Odds by Mark Fine


STORY: “Karmic Odds”–from Twisted Tales short story collection

1. Why did you accept to write a short story for Twisted Tales?

Hello there, Anita. A belief in the value of short stories in our busy 21st Century lives. I like the idea that a reader can enjoy the full arc of a complete story during those in-between moments in life; waiting for a bus, lunch break at work, and all those other gaps in time that would otherwise turn to impatience.

2. What is your story about and what made you write it?

Though I’ve lived in America for three decades, I still have an accent from my native South Africa. It’s amusing how people respond to it. Some regard it exotic. They project on me a level of worldliness that’s not, to be honest, correct. In ‘Karmic Odds’ I riff on this stranger in strange land theme of an ‘exotic’ foreigner that finds himself a beautiful bride. Will they live happily ever after in domestic bliss, or is there a twist? It’s up to the reader to find out…

Mark Fine short story, Karmic Odds
Karmic Odds by Mark Fine. Featured in Twisted Tales short story collection

3. What is the biggest challenge for you in writing short stories?

Never attempted it before, so it was the challenge itself I found so motivating. Short stories demand efficient craftsmanship. The ability to wedge into a few thousand words the richness of character, time, place and plot really pushed me; and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

4. What is your favourite famous traditional short story, or short story author and why?

Roald Dahl. A stunning story titled ‘A Fine Son’—I was drawn to it for egocentric reasons; the use of my name ‘Fine’ in the title. Wow! Not a typical surprise twist yarn but the revelation at the end is shocking. One heck of a fine story…just to let your readers know it was subsequently published under another title, ‘Genesis and Catastrophe’.

5. What did you like about writing for Readers Avenue Park?

Readers Avenue Park is international community of Readers, a kind of virtual book club…and that’s why I write; to be able to weave words into the minds of readers, everywhere. I appreciate the invitation from Readers Avenue Park to participate in this unique short story anthology.

6. What do you like most about the Twisted Tales?

The brief was liberal, as in not restrictive. As an author I was free to express myself freely, genuinely, without the constraints of some artificially imposed criteria. That’s rare in this exploitive, commercial environment.

7. Can you share a favourite quote from your TT story?

Sure, how about this one, ‘… the fragrance of her was breathtakingly real as it drifted toward me across the ocean breeze. And so there I stood with trousers rolled-up and damp, with my nude toes clawed in the sand, awaiting swift execution.’

8. Any message for TT readers or potential readers?

I must champion the short story format. For me they are like a hit single, rather than the full music album. As such they are easy to enjoy, especially in the context of our busy, busy lives.  Also, they provide a marvelous insight into the mechanics of an author’s mind. In other words short stories are the perfect ‘sampler’ when a reader is seeking out fresh author voices. By the way, download yourself a FREE copy HERE!


Mark Fine Author links

Book Trailer

Mimagey thanks to Anita Kovacevic for this interview originally posted on

Author: Mark Fine

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire.” As research for his writings (and opinions) Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in an effort to better appreciate being a stranger in a strange land. Due to his African roots, he is a strong advocate for wildlife conservation and is an ardent #RhinoProtector. Readers may follow him at and

Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with Mark Fine

To paraphrase Forrest Gump (and his momma): “twisted is as twisted does”- so grab your free copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s an eclectic collection of 15 stories by authors from around the globe.

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Mark Fine. Mark was a label chief for PolyGram records. He has written the critically acclaimed novel ‘The Zebra Affaire.’ As research for his ‘Karmic Odds’ story, Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in an effort to better appreciate being a stronger in a strange land.

Your story ‘Karmic Odds’ appears in t he Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology ‘Twisted Tales.’ What made you decide on that story?

When the Grand Poobahs of Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park invited me to write something for ‘Twisted Tales’ I was delighted. By the way ‘Karmic Odds’ is not autobiographical; though there’s some truth at the heart of the story.

As an immigrant to the USA I’ve been amused by the way folks respond to my accent; to them my South African speech patterns seem so, well, let us say ‘exotic.’ In turn, they assume I’m far more interesting than I really am.

Obviously, back in South Africa the way I speak is downright dull. So let’s be honest, it’s still the same dull me no matter where I live. This duality intrigued me and lent itself to some great irony within my story.

Did you find writing a short story easier or harder to write than what you’ve written in the past?

I’d had this short story circulating in my mind, and it wanted out.  This made the task relatively easy. I enjoy the efficiency of both writing and reading short stories so it was never about being easy or hard. Similar to a photograph that often looks better cropped, I felt a story can improve by being tightened.

Yet, I see songwriting as the ultimate short story. Consider the Rolling Stone’s ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ – two thousand years of human history is recited in rhythm and rhyme in only a few minutes. Now that’s what I consider to be truly difficult task.

Who has been an important influence on your journey as a writer?

I’m a fan of both O. Henry and Roald Dahl as masters of the short story, and relished the surprising sting-in-the-tail treats they provided us readers. As a homage to these two writers, I have a twist -in -the -tale, of sorts, lurking within ‘Karmic Odds.’

What is your next project?

Sub-Saharan Africa continues to intrigue me as setting for my novels. Fortunately my historical fiction book (with it’s generous dollops of romance and suspense) called The Zebra Affaire   has been well received. Not a sequel, but continuing on the African theme, is a work I’ve tentatively titled The Hyena Axis. It’s set in 1978 Rhodesia as that country (now known as Zimbabwe) was being torn apart by  the Bush War, as a consequence of the liberation struggle.

Please share a little more of your writing background.

As a music business executive and record  producer I’ve always been a part of the creative process. As for books, my grandmother owned a library which elevated the value of the written word within our home. Growing up I had the honor of the legendary author, Alan Paton (‘Cry, the Beloved Country’) give a lecture to my high school English class.

Then, as friends of the family I was fortunate to know Wilbur Smith (I still have an autographed copy of his novel, Gold Mine, on my desk). His powerful historical fiction-based yarns of Africa have been a tremendous influence over the years. All this contributed to my love for writing, and reading.

Where can readers reach you?

Would welcome hearing from readers. Joe, as you well know writing is a “living process” and it’s vital as authors engage with the world at large. So the opinions of readers is crucial to the creation of better books, and to themes within our books. For example, I got a wonderful review from a reader. She applauded me for taking on the difficult subject of apartheid. But she chastised me for not confronting the issue of poaching–especially rhino and elephant.

Thanks to her I’m now including this vital wildlife conservation theme in my future writings, and my current promotional efforts under the theme #RhinoProtector and #ElephantProtector. So feedback does a great service to both an authors work and the greater community at large.

So please, reach out to me at:


Source: Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with Mark Fine by Joseph Mark Brewer

Joseph Mark Brewer writes the Shig Sato mysteries. Mix up some Kurt Wallander and Japan Noir and you have a new series set in the heart of Tokyo. Click for your copy of The Gangster’s Son and The Thief’s Mistake – and sign up for his monthly newsletter at

TWISTED TALES: 15 Literary Lies & Epic Yarns: “Karmic Odds” by Mark Fine

Short Story Review by Elizabeth Newton

Mark Fine B&W (72dpi)WebI must confess Mark Fine is one of my favorite indie author’s. I further confess his short story contribution to Twisted Tales, Karmic Odds, is one of my favorite stories in the collection. With the same adept use of prose he shows in his full length novel, The Zebra Affaire, Fine weaves a tale that is both compelling and disturbing.

Beginning with an easy pace, relating the trials and tribulations of a rather unpleasant marriage, Fine sets the tone for the story. From Roxanne’s first vitriolic outburst at long suffering Gerhard I wanted to smack her in the head. Unlike the poor man’s cheerful mother, Roxanne makes dinner time an Olympic event in castration by words; a contest Gerhard is doomed to lose. Escaping from her viper’s tongue Gerhard travels back in time to a memory that begins pleasantly before turning to a more disturbing recollection.

This is where Mark Fine spins his best magic web. He has a knack for bringing the past to life, embracing the reader with vibrant historic events, making his reader comfortable in the membrane of notable occurrences. Gerhard may have had loving parents in post war Germany but his happy if simple life is turned upside down when he is forced to leave his family behind and travel across the sea to the United States. It is in the golden west, with its sunny beaches and fifties rock and roll that Gerhard meets his future bride, Roxanne.

Roxanne’s “chameleonesque” personality may have sent up warning flags but like many men who have succumbed to beauty and the attentiveness of a stunning woman, Gerhard pushed his reservations aside.  He made the “beach-tinted” “breath of fresh air” his wife.

It would seem at this point the story would have a happily ever after conclusion but that is not to be. This is the story of a woman who is both superstitious and greedily demanding and her foreign born brow beaten spouse. It is the tale of lucky numbers and lottery tickets. It is the account of a man who sets a juicy trap for a conniving bitch. The conclusion of this story is as delicious and sweet as the Slurpee Gerhard consumes at the local 7-11.

Kudos to Mark Fine for not only driving the knife in to the hilt but twisting it skillfully and making me almost jump up and shout out “hurray”! Upon completion of reading this short story I was able to sit back and smile with the satisfying comment, “Karma is a bitch”.

TT Free

FREE E-Book: Twisted Tales​

The Zebra Affaire | Book Trailer


FiNE REVIEW: “Unsevered” by Traci Sanders. An emotional, yet hopeful Love Story.

This book’s loving message is meaningful: that in the most unexpected way second chances are always possible.

An unconventional tile: “Unsevered”

51lfwjT9lNL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Let me first address the book title, “Unsevered”. An unconventional word that’s both awkward to say and discordant to hear. Why not, for example “Unbroken” or “Unbowed”? Curious, I had to read the book, and in doing so, I’m impressed how with a single word author Traci Sanders was able to capture the complexity of the human condition.

The antonym to “severed” suggests amputation.

Forgive me for being personal here, but I lost my wife to breast cancer, and the emotional tear of feelings was akin to “amputation”–not only the permanent loss of a loved one, but also the knowledge that the future life we had hoped to live together was forever destroyed.

This is what Jewel experienced when she lost her dear husband Harley to the unkindness of war. But Sanders use of “UNsevered” is a clear indication that there is always hope, and that loss need not mean “severed”.

A glimpse into the full life of a woman.

To this reader (taken from my distinctly male perspective) it was a forthright glimpse into a wife, lover, widow, friend, daughter, mother and bride.

In doing so I sensed the quiet of an anti-war song, the pang of a love letter, the grief of a widow, the camaraderie of a friend, the undying gratitude of a daughter, the selfless love of a new mother, and the wisdom and courage to fall in love, again.

Is there an enriching life after grief?

Though it is a universal experience it’s amazing how ill-equipped we are when it comes to grieving; and then moving forward beyond those bleak days. There is no formula. However, many of us are crippled by the notion that we are destined to have only one single “great love” in our lives. This prevents us from moving forward with optimism, and hope. And that, for me, is the significance of this love story; it is author Traci Sanders’ valiant message of hope.

It tells us to keep our hearts open for the unexpected (Yes, that’s another possible title for this book “Unexpected”) because in the cycle of life we do get do-overs.

“Unsevered” is well worth the read. Get it HERE from Amazon 🙂

Twisted Tales: Meet the Authors – an interview with Mark Fine

Joseph Mark Brewer

Some say beware the Ides of March – but what you should really do get a FREE copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park. Literary lies, epic yarns – it’s an eclectic collection of 15 stories by authors from around the globe.
Twisted Tales 15LitLiesEpicYarnsFINAL

In today’s Meet the Authors series I’m delighted to welcome to the blog Mark Fine. Mark was a label chief for PolyGram records. He has written the critically acclaimed novel ‘The Zebra Affaire.’ As research for his ‘Karmic Odds’ story, Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in an effort to better appreciate being a stronger in a strange land.

Your story ‘Karmic Odds’ appears in t he Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park’s recent anthology ‘Twisted Tales.’ What made you decide on that story?

When the Grand Poobahs of Readers’ Circle of Avenue Park invited me to write something for ‘Twisted Tales’ I was delighted…

View original post 665 more words

Twisted Tales: an interview with Mark Fine

[Joseph Mark Brewer​ is a journalist, author and ex-Navy man.  He was kind enough to do this Ides of March interview with me…which I’m happy to share with all of you.  My “foreign accent” is a feature of the article, and my new short story “Karmic Odds” featured in the TWISTED TALES anthology.]

Some say beware the Ides of March – but what you should really do get a FREE copy of Twisted Tales, a Readers’ Choice selection of short fiction from Readers’ Circle of Avenue Par…

Source: Twisted Tales: an interview with Mark Fine

FINE REVIEW: “Bride Without a Groom” by Amy Lynch ~ Great Fun & Highly Amusing

Bride Without a GroomBride Without a Groom by Amy Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I loved this book! I chortled and giggled my way through all 300 odd pages. How could I not after floating in the head of one self-absorbed, dilettante named Rebecca on a mission to land herself a husband. As for the target of her ambitions, Barry the lawyer, well, he was simply outgunned. The poor man had to beat a hasty retreat to Bangkok, (or was it Hong Kong, or Taiwan?) in order to muster his defense against Rebecca’s ‘you have to marry me’ onslaught. In Barry’s absence there’s hope that Rebecca would see the light, which she attempts through a veil of self-indulgence, fried-foods and gin & tonics. But Rebecca isn’t alone in her quest as she has the unwavering support of her BFF, the wealthy Emer.

Every dastardly challenge is rewarded with a mani-pedi, spa retreat, body wax, spray-on tan, and another gin & tonic; in other words Rebecca’s world is deliciously superficial. And that’s the brilliance of author Lynch’s writing, because as a reader you still wish for Rebecca to get her man despite her obvious failings.

As for writing style, it’s so successful rendered in the first person, from Rebecca’s perspective, that I could not help but become fully engaged in her trials and tribulations. The dialog was sassy, snappy and spot on in a British/Irish kind of way (which I found thoroughly refreshing). I especially enjoyed it when Amy Lynch lifted the lid on the inner workings of Rebecca’s mind; I so enjoyed the ruminations and rationales made by this hopeful bride in her effort pursue her life’s single purpose–to get herself a husband. Poor Barry never had a chance! There is no doubt I’d be delighted to read Amy Lynch’s next book because of her ability to both charm and amuse me. A fun, fun read.

View all my reviews

FINE REVIEW: The China Pandemic by A.R. Shaw ~ A Post-Apocalyptic Thriller with a Humanist Heart

The China Pandemic (Graham's Resolution #1)The China Pandemic by A.R. Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I totally enjoyed it, surprisingly so, as I’m typically leery of post-apocalyptic material. It is the gratuitous nihilism of the genre that tends to numb me. However, with A.R. Shaw’s “The China Pandemic” the caricature of dystopian mayhem is displaced, instead the reader is treated to a well-developed humanist portrayal of individual and community survival despite awful odds. The sense of responsibility borne on the shoulders of the main protagonist Graham, is palpable. His cautious generosity, taking care of a motley crew of survivors at great personal risk–some being children, is admirable to witness. Seeing the personal growth of all the characters as the narrative unfolds is satisfying; they are at times pitiful, vulnerable and cruel, yet, at other times they are resourceful, compassionate and selfless. This all seems plausible to me considering the extraordinary pressures everyone was living under.

Adding to the tension of this well-written novel is the unseen presence of a well-organized compound of Preppers. The addition of this group leads to further intriguing plot lines; and raises questions about the amazing lengths ordinary men and women are prepared to go in order to survive. Appropriately, the reader is consciously aware that all the resources of civil society have been eviscerated by the pandemic, and that the threat of anarchy, lawlessness and death remains a constant in every chapter. For instance, any chance meeting with a stranger may well have dire consequences, whether it be contagion, assault, abduction or even execution. Then there is the change in the social order; a segregation between the Carriers (those immune, but carrying the virus) and the Preppers who are understandably struggling to remain disease free. I found this to be immensely provocative…and emotionally powerful.

I’m looking forward to reading A.R. Shaw’s next book in the Graham’s Resolution series now that my misgivings of the genre have been so effectively allayed.

Review by Mark Fine of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story

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Readers Avenue Park’s Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour showcases author MARK FINE

I’ve been fortunate to be showcased by Readers Circle of Avenue Park in their on going Most Excellent Worldwide Book Tour. Please check it out…..thanks, Mark 🙂

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Introducing MARK FINE, author of THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE

Mark Fine B&W (300dpi)Print Mark Fine was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has made the United States his home since 1979, living in New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. For well over a decade he headed an award-winning record label that he founded, called Hammer & Lace, that united non-profit organizations with world-class celebrity and music talent to create benefit albums and entertainment events to raise awareness and funds in aid of breast cancer research, at-risk children, the blind, freedom of speech, and wildlife conservation. For these philanthropic initiatives Mark was voted by Variety magazine as the “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision.” He has also contributed articles to entertainment industry publications, and conducted public speaking engagements at media and charity events.

The oncology community has honored Mark for his innovative, entertainment-based approach to health education. But he is especially proud of his “Paws of Fame” award he received from The Wildlife Waystation for support and commitment of animals worldwide. As such, animals always make an appearance in Mark Fine’s writings. Now he resides in the South Bay, where he lives with his two sons, his “significant other” and Charlie, a neighborhood dog that drops in from time to time. There he wrote the historic romance novel, The Zebra Affaire. Set in apartheid South Africa, Mark brings an insider’s perspective to the gripping account of a bi-racial couple’s forbidden love.

Blank bookcover with clipping path

Book Blurb

IT’S THE SPRING OF ‘76. For Elsa, her affair with Stanwell may well prove lethal, as she’s white and he’s black, and they dared to fall in love in apartheid South Africa. The terrified lovers are the prey in a deadly manhunt from the golden city of Johannesburg to the exotic but dangerous wilds of the African bushveld. The Zebra Affaire is a thrilling fusion of romance and suspense—laced with rich South African history. The tension is palpable as the persecuted couple race against time and bigotry. Reviewers rave about this intimate, yet dangerous love story; that’s set against a canvas that is both vividly authentic and powerfully provocative.

Book Reviews


“A book to savor slowly…appreciating each moment. I found myself re-reading sentences and whole paragraphs; such was the quality of the writing. One of the best books I’ve read this year.”
 Jean Gill, author of ‘Song at Dawn’

“The story of Stanwell and Elsa really touched me. Racial discrimination was so dehumanizing. This book took me to the days of the liberation struggle, and I experienced the hurt as I read. It was a real privilege to read the history, a period of pain and hope, as seen through Mark Fine’s eyes.”
– Thandi Lujabe-Rankoe, Former Freedom Fighter & Senior South African Diplomat

“More than a daring, multiracial romance set in a racist 1976 South Africa, that nation on the turbulent cusp of collapsing due to apartheid; The Zebra Affaire grips your soul and won’t let go. Never mind zebras, think lions, raw and roar.” – Geoff Nelder, author of ‘ARIA: Left Luggage’


The Zebra Affaire is aptly described in cinematic terms as Romeo & Juliette meets To Kill A Mockingbirdin Out of Africa, with all the passion, racial strife and wild, exotic setting that those three books (and film adaptations) suggest. In a recent development, a screenplay based on The Zebra Affaire is currently in development.

Book Excerpt


EARLY MORNINGS IN MID-JULY on the Highveld were gripped in the bracing chill of a Southern hemisphere winter. White frost dusted the parklands and lawns. These tiny ice crystals were destined to thaw as they faced a warming sun. However, in Pretoria’s corridors of power, matters had heated up considerably. The nation’s administrative capital was at full alert as a consequence of the Soweto upheaval. Though the mob violence had been contained, the threat still simmered.

The Soweto Riots had eroded the certainty of the ruling regime. They feared for their way of life. Despite their apparent insensitivity to the plight of other humans, the Afrikaners were great champions of wildlife conservation—and similar to the white rhino, a victim of senseless poaching, they too felt as if they were an endangered species.

An endangered animal is desperate. A cornered animal is dangerous. The ruling regime was both desperate and dangerous as they felt their grip over the nation loosening. The Soweto Riots invoked a regime dictate of zero tolerance. From on high, directives to the nation’s security apparatus adopted an apocalyptic tone—the end of the volk was imminent, and all threats must be stopped, now. No deviation from the law by anyone would be tolerated.

The Security Branch considered Stanwell and Elsa’s romantic entanglement a matter of national security; what was once considered a tawdry “domestic affair” became a public symbol of rebellion and had to be crushed. The couple had undermined a key principle of apartheid; the white minority’s dominance could not be eroded by the intermingling of the races. Another outrage was Stanwell’s status as a business executive. His authority over white employees signaled to the Bantu that they were the white man’s equal, and that was unacceptable.

The Security Branch’s first act in their campaign against the couple was plagiarism. They lifted the “Zebra Affaire” headline from the newspaper article that publicly exposed them, and made it the operation’s code name.

Their second action was to classify Stanwell as an enemy of the state.
Malan Zander was delighted. Finally he had his marching orders. The mixed-race couple was now fair game, and it was time they suffered the consequence of their actions. He felt the buzz of anticipation. Others chose to be doctors, teachers, or builders in order to heal, impart knowledge, or create. Zander never understood that mindset.

As a child he found it more gratifying to demolish things, and as an adult, annihilation was his guiding light. Fortune shone on him when he found an employer that regarded the destruction of people’s lives a virtue.

For Zander restraint was an anathema; he’d much prefer bludgeoning the miscreants into submission. But his orders were clear: the Zebra Affaire must be handled subtly, as the world was watching. No killings, no public trial, no questionable disappearances—just make it go away. But for now just one problematic life required his immediate attention; he would deal with the girl later. As Stanwell’s crimes against the State were twofold, in business and in the bedroom, Zander had fertile grounds to create mischief.
Stanwell initially dismissed the disruptions, strange repeated hang-ups or silence on his telephone at work, as a nuisance. But paranoia grew when he heard mysterious clicks and echoes on the company phone. It could only be the State’s Security Branch meddling in his business.

Then the threats started, and Stanwell’s worst fears were confirmed. Vulgar in content and vicious in implication, faceless voices with rasping accents vowed public exposure. All Stanwell’s claims of innocence to his invisible attacker were brushed aside with merciless laughter until he began to plead. At that point he was given a specific warning: Miss Elsa Marais would soon receive something in the mail. After that the calls stopped, but the pressure continued.

Two white men arrived unannounced at the warehouse facility. Their ill-fitting suits were a signal to Stanwell’s staff that they were members of the Security Branch. The visitors were seen speaking with Stanwell through the executive office’s glass wall. The three men leaned toward each other in a conspiratorial fashion. Their body language was clear—they wished not to be overheard.

After the men left, the warehouse swirled with rumors that Stanwell was a snitch working for the apartheid regime. In that cesspool of tribal mistrust, Stanwell’s coworkers happily accepted the allegations as fact. This placed Stanwell’s life in potential danger. A revenge killing by embittered colleagues was now a real threat.

Understandably, Stanwell was terrified.

Available from Amazon


Author Contact, Information and Social Media links



Twitter: @MarkFine_author

Mark Fine – An Inteview

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