Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Diana Kathryn Plopa

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Every other Monday, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today’s featured guest is the multitalented novelist, memoirist, short-story writer, editor, publicist, publisher, writing coach, and television host Diana Kathryn Plopa. She holds a degree in English, with a concentration on creative composition, as well as a certification in early childhood development.  In addition to her published books described below, she has also edited several anthologies. She has worked as a features writer for a Detroit newspaper, wrote copy for several websites and blogs, and wrote copy for a popular Detroit radio program. She currently directs Pages Promotions, LLC, a Michigan-based marketing and publicity advocate working with independent authors to promote and present their books to the public. She also hosts Indie Reads TV, a new community access television program for southeastern Michigan.

 

Recently I posed some questions to Diana. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Diana, welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

DKP: I’m a wife, mother, dog mom, and passionate person of the book.  I love the written word more than almost anything else. My muse is a small, invisible mallard duck named Drake, who has been with me since about age seven. Hot cocoa is my secret weapon, and snow is my kryptonite. I gain tremendous personal satisfaction from helping other Indie Authors reach a wider audience and I host a weekly television program just for that purpose. I’m an editor, Indie Publisher, and mentor to writers of nearly every age, stage, and genre, from school-age children to senior citizens. I believe cheese is a major food group. I encourage everyone to go on a hot air balloon ride, and go indoor skydiving at least once in their lifetime, because controlled chaos is a thing everyone should experience so they can write about it with acumen. I support building libraries in all towns with a population greater than one (if you live alone on a desert island, or in the middle of the woods, you should have a library of at least twenty books in your home at all times). When I’m not writing or reading, I love kayaking, playing with the dogs, bonfires, music, hiking in forests, swimming, and impromptu storytelling.

DL: Please tell us about your latest books and works in progress. Where did the ideas for those works come from?

DKP: It’s interesting to contemplate answering that question. The first thing that comes to mind is Neil Gaiman’s answer (YouTube it here, it’s priceless). And yet, I won’t dodge . . . for me, ideas come at me from every direction, and in nearly every moment of my day. No kidding. I once walked down a street with a friend in a part of East Lansing I’d never encountered. As we were walking, I saw a narrow blue door that led to an upstairs flat. It had a glass window that, because of the way the sun was hitting it, seemed to be opaque. I went home that afternoon and wrote a short story about that door and where it might lead and who or what might be on the other side. (I’m still waiting to figure out what to do with that piece, but I wrote it.) Truly, story ideas come from everywhere, at any moment.

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My book, Free Will, came from a very serious religious conversation about the Old Testament and the concept of free will on Earth, yet preordained destiny in the afterlife. That lead me down a “what if” path that ended with a giggle-fest. That story begged me to write it.

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A Tryst of Fate began as a collection of short stories that I thought might simply be a collection with perhaps a few of them working into a novella one day. Drake pointed out that they all followed a similar theme. Once I accepted that, Drake then suggested that I weave them together with a backstory, and TADA! A novel was born.

The novel I’m working on right now, Splinters, is a western; a genre that I thought would be outside of my reach, until you, Don, suggested that I take a crack at it anyway. See what happens when you plant a seed? It began as a thought experiment in your memoir writing workshop, and now it’s about thirty thousand words into a western adventure which I hope to release in December of this year. Who knew? Certainly not me!

Also in the works are a political thriller which Drake outlined late one night after several weary hours of the evening news and has accumulated about sixty-five thousand words already; a science fiction story that noodled its way into my imagination after a conversation with a psychologist about the concept of what might happen if a society implemented a program of extreme-anger management; an “alternative” historical piece that Drake insisted I outline while we were watching a National Geographic special in a hotel room in Muskegon the night before a book festival; and a children’s book about elephants that keeps needling at me since my mother’s death several years ago.

So, I guess, to answer your question, I find wayward ideas lingering in empty alleys, in philosophical conversations, in thought experiments, and in abandoned emotional warehouses in unspecified locations. Drake and I collect them, treat them gently, and sometimes they become stories that eventually grow into novels. I have neither control nor influence . . . although Drake tells me he can get me a great deal on a bestselling plot —if only I settle down and ignore everything else. I tell him, thanks, but just not yet. It’s too much fun to write lots of stories simultaneously. I can wait for stardom. But that doesn’t keep me from buying the occasional lottery ticket and dreaming about my lonely writer’s garret on an island off the coast of Greece with a plate of flaming cheese, a puppy at my feet, and a new novel in the works.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

DKP: I have a shirt that says, “I write for the same reason that I breathe; because if I didn’t, I would die.” That kind of sums up why I write. I think that if I ignored the ideas, shut Drake out of my head, and put down the pen and keyboard, I’d be an excruciatingly depressed person. This writing thing is what gives my life meaning and makes me feel whole.

As for what I want to accomplish, well, that answer has three parts. First, I write so I can turn off my brain at night and sleep. It sounds wacky, but it’s true. If I don’t get it on paper, it just nags at me and I don’t sleep. I’m sure there’s some psychotic diagnosis for that, but it has yet to be revealed. Second, I write to satiate a curious fascination with what genre might actually be my favorite. You see, I don’t know yet, what I like best of all. So, I’m on a quest to write one book in all thirty-three major genres. I think writing is a little like eating ice cream, you have to try all the flavors before you can declare a favorite. Finally, aside from sleeping, remaining sane, and feeding my own weird curiosity, I’d like to think that my writing contributes something positive to the lives of those who read my work. Perhaps it helps them fall asleep; maybe it tickles their brain with a thought they haven’t had before; maybe it inspires them to take a stab at writing themselves; or perhaps it just simply makes someone happy. I don’t really have any grandiose expectations for what my writing should do.However, above all else, I want to contribute something to the world library—be it good, or mediocre. I think there’s always room for more stories.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

DKP: I love the outline stage. That feeling of crafting something new, feeling out all the pieces, and putting them together to form a story is quite exhilarating for me. I love the actual writing part, too, because my brain goes to places sometimes that surprises me. I like that a lot. It’s a nifty thing to watch what appears on the screen and think to myself, “Wow, I’ve never had that thought before, that’s interesting.” The act of creation is fun beyond description.

As for my least favorite part?  I’m not a fan of implementing a new marketing program for each book. Yes, I write in several genres, so each book needs to be presented to readers differently. But that would be true even if I were to stick with only one genre. Books aren’t widgets, and they require different approaches to reach different readers. I understand that, but I’d much rather have a magic script that would entice people of every background and interest to buy every one of my books equally. That is a fantasy, of course. So, I have to do the work of marketing. Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely enjoy meeting readers; that’s not the tough part. The tough part is figuring out things like what tagline is going to be enticing, how should I write the back-cover blurb, what festival table display will catch the most interest, and what social media memes are going to draw the most attention. It’s an elusive magic formula that’s impossible to get right every time. Yeah, I’d much rather only work on writing or outlining the next book. But just like the “terrible twos” are part of raising children, and housebreaking is part of inviting a puppy into your life, marketing is part of writing books. You’ve got to do it. But it’s not my favorite part of the process.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

DKP: When I was a kid, we didn’t have a television in the houses for several years. It broke and my parents took their time replacing it. So we read—a lot. I fell madly in love with books. They were so much more exciting for me than television. I liked being able to imagine through the words, putting my own spin on it all. As I got older, I discovered that words were so much more powerful than anyone had ever let on. In elementary school, words were the only way I could understand math. I had a modicum of success with story problems. In middle school, my attention to detail and a large vocabulary rewarded me with good grades on research papers and lots of passes to the library, which is far better than sitting in a classroom, any day. In high school, I was part of the theatre program. Storytelling helped me fit in when I felt mostly awkward. I cultivated a boat load of friends. They all “got” it.  Storytellers . . . I’d found my tribe.

As an adult, working in the corporate environment, learning to weave words helped me land better jobs, make more money in those jobs, and garner more appreciation from my boss and coworkers. Working in journalism taught me the value of story and how story impacts lives. I’d found my calling. Now, helping others experience the same joy found in words and world creation, I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

DL: Many thanks for joining us today, Diana. What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

DKP: My author website is www.DKPWriter.com, and there’s a page there where people can read about my books, and order them in both print and ebook formats. For those die-hard Prime members, I also have an author page on Amazon.

My professional author website shares space with my Author Advocate and Publishing company website, www.PagesPromotions.com. There’s a lot going on in my little cyberspace, with tons of opportunities for readers to discover authors, and writers to discover literary services, including an episode schedule for Indie Reads TV, writing contests, community service projects, writer’s support groups, and so much more. I’ve even got a Blog Thingy page where I talk about writing craft things, post book reviews, and a host of other creative thoughts.

I’m a little exuberant with my level of engagement when it comes to bookish things, so don’t be too surprised at all the content. I welcome any and all contacts. I always give quarter, and never take prisoners.

Thank you for your kind invitation to share my story with you and your blog readers, Don. I genuinely appreciate it!

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Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Thomas Galasso

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Every other Monday, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today’s featured guest is the multitalented author, musician, actor, and teacher Thomas Galasso. Thomas received his bachelor of arts in English from Wayne State University, and eventually earned a teaching certification in Secondary English, Speech, and Drama. He also received a master of arts in English from Marygrove College. He has been teaching in Detroit Public Schools for over twenty years. He worked on another certification, and now teaches kids with Autism. His “serious hobby” is playing guitar, bass, a little harmonica, and singing. Thomas is the author of a novel, When the Swan Sings on Hastings (Aquarius Press, 2017), described in detail below.

Recently I posed some questions to Thomas. Here’s what he told me.

DLThomas, welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

TG: I was born and raised on the East Side of Detroit. My grandparents were immigrants from Italy and never spoke English fluently. My mother at five or six years old, remembered pulling into Ellis Island and got so excited, she started ringing the ship’s bell. My parents never graduated from high school, but they were serious about education. They sent my sister and me to Catholic school for twelve years. Early on in grade school, I was an avid reader and I used to make what is now considered graphic literature. My first story I ever wrote was in third grade. It was about a kid who wakes up and has a head of cabbage instead of his own head. I won some contest in school for it. However, I stole the idea from a similar story I read at the neighborhood library and then put my own spin on it. At the time, I didn’t understand plagiarizing or its crime, but I certainly was not going to say anything.

When I got to be a teen, we took the bus downtown to J.L. Hudson Department Store and I fell in love with exploring downtown. We also spent a lot of time at Belle Isle, as well. I took Creative Writing classes at Wayne State and then got involved in theater. After doing a dozen plays or so, I spent one year making a living on just acting. I joined Actor’s Equity, the Screen Actor’s Guild, and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, three unions I no longer belong to since I stopped paying dues. I studied acting at the University of Detroit and with famed actress/acting teacher/author, Uta Hagan, both here in Detroit and at her old HB Studios in New York City.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. Where did the ideas for those come from?

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TG: My debut novel, When the Swan Sings on Hastings, is under the genre of historical fiction. It’s about a group of black and some white businessmen, numbers runners, hustlers, and Hastings regulars who face the destruction of their beloved neighborhood to make way for I-75 in an age of segregation. The neighborhood was razed from Gratiot all the way beyond Warren Ave.

The novel has a very interesting upbringing. It started as a bunch of dramatic monologues and then morphed into a one-act play that I wrote and directed for my drama class. It was performed at Detroit Northern High School where I taught. A year before I wrote the play, I was teaching drama at a DPS middle school. We put on a show every year for Black History Month that would include my drama class, the vocal music class, and the school band. The vocal music teacher, Ms. Rosalind Stearns-Brown, is also the daughter of Turkey Stearns, the Hall of Fame outfielder who played for the Detroit Stars of the Negro Leagues. His plaque is on the wall outside Comerica Park. (Ms. Stearns-Brown also sings the National Anthem every year for the Negro League series game at Comerica. Recently, she sang it at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck where the Stars once played.)

For Black History Month one year, she wanted to do “something about my dad” for our annual presentation. I wrote some monologues of three Negro League ballplayers, Stearns, Cool Papa Bell, and Jimmie Crutchfield as older men reminiscing about the old days.

Segue to a year later, and I rewrote the monologues into a one-act play that takes place on Hastings Street in Detroit’s historical Paradise Valley. I did research on the Negro League players and on Paradise Valley for the play.

This mash-up of Negro Leaguers and Hastings Street came about from my befriending blues musicians who played on Hastings. I bartended in Greektown in the ‘90s, and when I got off work I would go down to the now defunct Music Menu Bar on Monroe to listen to music. They had some great bands playing there. Through the great Detroit drummer, R.J. Spangler, I met Johnnie Basset, the famed blues guitarist who played on Hastings. I also met the extraordinary blues vocalist, Alberta Adams.

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Hastings Street in Detroit, ca. 1960. Photo credit: Detroit Historical Society

When they took their breaks, I was lucky enough to corner them at the bar and they would tell me stories about Hastings Street and its lively music scene and nightclubs and after-hours joints. One thing led to another, and I decided to bring the Negro League guys into the world of Hastings Street. I also decided a novel was more accessible to an audience than a play; one can read a novel anywhere, even on the other side of the world. (Actually, I know someone who read it in South Korea.)  So I took a deep breath and said, “Well, I think I can write a novel. We will see one way or another.”

My work in progress is a series of short stories—a dozen or so that have to do with “working Detroit.” Two, however, are set in San Francisco. Three of them will be published in a few months along with stories from three other Detroit writers, Diana Wolfe-Popa, Ryan Ennis, and Michael Schwartz, in a collection.

I pull my art from my work and life experiences. The characters in my new batch of short stories are all working people—waiters, orderlies, assembly line workers, and actors trying to scruff their way through. I am also working on a screenplay of my novel, When the Swan Sings on Hastings. I am co-writing it with Heather Buchanan, producer of AUX Media. We have a short film of the same name showing at the Royal Oak Main Theatre on August 28 at 7p.m. We are going to show the film and play some blues with a little band I put together. I play a numbers runner in the film. But I am most excited about the cast. Arthur Ray and Grover McCants, two acting veterans from Detroit, star in it. Shahida Hasan, a dynamic actress/vocalist, plays the “Aretha” role and sings her heart out.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

TG: I write because it is who I am. Creating is very important to me, be it playing guitar, acting, or whatever kind of creative activity. I could take a more spiritual stance and say it is a gift from God, which I believe. It would be wasteful if I didn’t create. Ever since I was a kid, I was an avid storyteller and it is natural for me. In terms of accomplishment, I hope to give my readers a fulfilling experience that leaves an impression after they put the book down. I want to take them “there.” I want them to feel something—visually, emotionally-—I want them to touch, smell, and listen to the world I am creating for them. I want to take them to a place that I have living in my head and in my heart. I want them to get inside someone else and feel their joy, pain, or other emotion. I believe when we read, we see the world better, and not just from our own perspective.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

TG: My writing process consists of rethinking incidents that I experienced in my life and finding the “literature” or the “story” in them. Everything in our mundane moments in life contributes to a bigger canvas or movie. I used to do a lot of writing with a glass of red wine or a pint of beer or at times a joint and sit in a corner at a bar and scribble away. Jack Kerouac called it “sketching.” I would sketch physical aspects of a room or people or conversations I overheard. I would scribble them down and then go home and within hours, maybe days or even weeks, I would take them and put them in a story with more meaning.

Then, there is the craft of the art. What can this story tell? What do I want my reader to feel? I love rewriting something I wrote months ago. I like to write and let it sit for a while and then come back to it with a clear head. A writer should not fall in love with one’s own words too much. Use only what drives the story. Pruning, cleaning up, watering, nourishing-—that is what I love. When I have nothing in the well, I stop. I play guitar and do other things, maybe act.

I can’t think of anything I don’t like about the writing process except forcing myself to write when I should be doing something else.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

TG: Ever since I was a kid, I was told I was a good storyteller. I never looked at it that way. I just said, “Man, lemme tell you what happened today.” After reading bios on Hemingway and Kerouac, I found how we can take our everyday moments in life and make them something bigger than that moment. There is so much to be found in our simple daily lives. The beauty of literature is that it takes these simple moments and makes them so much more important, psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually. Every second of life is holy. There is a story in everybody and that is what makes being a writer so precious, exciting and yeah, HOLY.

DL: Many thanks for joining us today. What is the link to your book’s web site so readers can learn more about it?

TG: Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Here is the link to the Amazon page for When the Swan Sings on Hastings: https://amzn.to/2LKL4Gk.

 

 

 

 

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Andrew Charles Lark

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Every other Monday, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today’s featured guest is the multitalented author, playwright, actor, and teacher Andrew Charles Lark. Andrew is a graduate of Wayne State University, where he received his bachelor of arts degree in English. His play, Stop Up Your Ears!, a farcical account of a month in the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, won Wayne State University’s Heck-Rabi award and was produced at the Hilberry Studio Theater in Detroit. Other plays have been produced at theaters around Detroit and Hudson, New York.

Recently I posed some questions to Andrew. Here’s what he told me.

DLAndrew, welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

ACL: I’m a Metro-Detroit boy through and through. For all its troubles and woes, I love this city and its thriving arts and literary scene, and I’m delighted and revel in the true renaissance it’s experienced over the last few years. Detroit is a blue collar town but it’s a town that’s in love with culture, and that’s evident when one looks at the massive international impact we’ve had in our thriving music scene with Motown, and scores of other genres; our literary luminaries like Elmore Leonard, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Philip Levine to name a few, and although I stand in the shadow of giants, I’m proud and honored to contribute, in my own small way, to our area’s literary scene through my short stories, books, and plays.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. Where did the ideas for those come from?

ACL: I have a children’s book coming out later this year titled, Monstergarten, and it’s my hope that it will help to allay those first day jitters that many five-year-olds go through as that first day of kindergarten approaches. I’m working with Danny Raymond, a wonderful illustrator who’s found just the right mix of fun and scary to make Monstergarten a delight for children four through seven years of age, but really, I think everybody who picks it up will love it. 

I’m also writing a short story that’s one of three stories in an upcoming dystopian anthology. Two other authors, for whom I have great admiration, are contributing as well. I’m really excited about this anthology because it addresses the end of humanity. Each author has been assigned a different take on that tragic time when humanity finally snuffs it—natural, man-made, and alien/supernatural. 

My ideas for this formed over the last year or so, and I had to do something creative to help process the depressing news I see almost daily regarding our imperiled planet and humankind’s seemingly boundless lack of empathy when it comes to the environment, the climate, and rampant species extinction. This may sound depressing, but I think it’s a topic of vital importance, but rest assured—the book doesn’t have a political agenda; it’s merely three great “what if” stories written by three very imaginative authors.

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I also continue to work on The Persistence of Whispers, the sequel to Better Boxed and Forgotten, my first novel, a supernatural-fantasy-mystery set in Detroit’s historic Indian Village. I’m also writing a full-length play titled, Viv n Vince, that brings classic Hollywood and Stonewall together.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

ACL: I’ve always been a story teller; even way back in elementary school, when we students would have to get up and share something with the class, my arm would always shoot up to go first. It was always fairly easy for me to invent scenarios and assemble them into fun and imaginative stories. My father was an artist and my mother was a poet, so I think some of that rubbed off. My brother is a musician, and my sister has mad skills in the kitchen as a professional chef, so we were always encouraged in our individual artistic endeavors.

As far as accomplishing anything with my writing, I can only hope that my stories and plays engage and entertain. Deeper themes always manage to creep into my stories, but in ways that are not overt and obvious, and that’s fine. I guess it’s like this: if you’ve ever walked out of the cinema after having seen a great film that generates great conversation between you and the person you saw the film with—that’s what I hope to accomplish. I hope to entertain and to make you think a little perhaps.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

ACL: When my writer hat is on, I strive to get, at a minimum, two single-spaced, 12 font, New Times Roman pages down on paper. I typically don’t write at home. I enjoy writing in coffee houses where there’s a slight buzz of people engaged in their individual things. I tune the white noise out and get to work, but I need to look up every now and see what’s going on.

I love those times when I’m writing and the subconscious seems to take over. As it is with Freud’s concept of the Id, Ego, and Super Ego—these reside inside and are instrumental to my process. When they’re in harmony, there’s a stasis and equilibrium, and my writing goes swimmingly, and other times there are battles and conflicts and I really struggle to get words onto the page. I also self-edit. I’ve heard that this is a bad habit that I should try to break, but I can’t help it. I’m a bit compulsive, and if, for example, there’s an error on page four, or an awkward sentence that needs work on a previous page, this will bug me and stand in my way until it’s fixed to my satisfaction.

My least favorite parts of the process are when things have run dry and I’m struggling for ideas. For example, it’s taken me way too long to finish The Persistence of Whispers, and that’s because I’m struggling with a well that needs time for the waters to replenish. Honestly, if I had it to do all over again, I would have written Better Boxed and Forgotten as a stand-alone book, but I didn’t, and I owe it to those who loved it to soldier on with book II.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

ACL: Again, I’ve always been a story teller. It’s the way I process stimuli. A teakettle whistles when the water starts to boil, and it’s the same with me. The ideas roil and boil inside and they need to pour out. My writing has also brought me the gift of being part of a great community of Detroit area, independent authors whose work and creativity inspire me in my own work.

Writing for the theater has been rewarding as well, in that a couple of my plays have enjoyed professional productions both in Detroit and New York. It’s an incredible experience watching a play that I wrote—something that came from my imagination—engage, other professionals in their skills with costumes, lighting, set design, directing, and acting—and watching how my plays have been interpreted by these other artists is the most fascinating aspect of all.

DL: Many thanks for joining us today. What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

ACL: Thank you for the interview. It was an honor and a lot of fun. My website and blog: www.alarksperch.com.

Better Boxed and Forgotten’s Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Better-Boxed-Forgotten-Archive-1/dp/1508873143/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1560536789&sr=1-1.

My Facebook Page is: https://www.facebook.com/andrew.lark.5.

Indie Monday

Today’s Guest: Patrick W. Gibson

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Beginning today, Indie Thursday becomes Indie Monday. Every other Monday, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves. On alternate Mondays, I’ll be making my own posts about the writing life.

Today’s featured guest is Patrick W. Gibson. Recently I posed some questions to Patrick. Here’s what he told me.

DL: Welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

PWG: I’m a Michigan native and a Wayne State grad. In the past five years, I’ve also attended The Writers Studio and obtained a certificate in fiction writing from UCLA. My day job has taken me for extended living periods in Chicago, Toronto, and Japan. These experiences show up in my writing.

My short stories and flash fiction pieces favor a working class feel. I’ve been published by The Flexible Persona, Medusa’s Laugh Press, Wraparound South, Dark Ink Press, Fiction Attic Press, ARTIFEX, UofM Bear River Review, and the Ripples in Space podcast.

My wife and I live in Northville and she’s my biggest supporter in this writing adventure. We enjoy home and family, traveling, and have been avid SCUBA drivers. Three shark dives, without cages, and all limbs intact!

I’m also a hobbyist musician and my enthusiasm more than compensates for any shortages in singing and guitar playing ability.

I run the Northville District Library Writers Group. So, if you find yourself near the library on the fourth Wednesday of each month, around 7 pm, then join us for supportive discussion and feedback.

DL: Tell us about your latest works in progress. Where did the ideas for those come from?

PWG: I’ve completed one novel manuscript and I’m querying it right now with the goal of getting a traditional publishing contract. I’m also working on two more manuscripts. One is a sequel to the queried work, and the second is in a different genre, horror. All three are big city, working class tales, grown from short stories, and born from my studies at UCLA and The Writers Studio.

Besides the big projects, UofM Bear River Review recently published my flash story about an elderly couple and their love for each other and an old Buick. It’s a vision of love transitioning the physical challenges of age and dementia. I was drawn to the age and memory loss aspects from my own father’s battle. The story’s twist is fictional.

Artifex literary magazine published a creative non-fiction piece about my mother-in-law’s journey from Nazi Germany to the United States via Canada. It’s a little story set within a big story setting and deals with becoming a US citizen on the very day President Kennedy was assassinated.

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And Ripples in Space produced my sci-fi story “Apprehension Soars” as a podcast complete with music and sound effects! I could describe the story, but it’s more fun to listen to it here.

The ideas for my work often come from family and family challenges. For example, The Flexible Persona literary magazine published my creative non-fiction piece, “Birthday with Dad.” I spent one birthday with my father, and my recollection, told through a blend of baseball love and a musty estate auction, outlines a childhood. You can read it here.

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Other ideas for my work are all fiction. For example, the journal Wraparound South called for story submissions featuring contemporary Southern literature that “disrupts the expected.” My piece featured reflection and upheaval in an urban Southern family. Read it here.

And please check out my back-porch advice on writing here, also in Wraparound South.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

PWG: I write because I enjoy creating characters, putting them into situations, and seeing how they react to the quandary at hand. I’m especially drawn to flash fiction, which challenges me to develop a character, tell a complete story including emotion and a twisted ending, all in the fewest words.

I hope to craft compelling stories that captivate readers and leave them thinking about their own situations. My work may be serious, comical, even educational, but at the core is characterization. I might apply themes others might choose not to write about and situations we may not want to deal with, think dementia, family alcoholism, absent parents, and divorce. But most of us have witnessed it, perhaps experienced it. I know my characters have.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

PWG: I love doing the research and reading everything I can, in whatever genre I’m working in. I don’t think you can write well unless you read, reflect, and learn from others.

During the early stages of a big project, I like to write scenes from the beginning, middle, and end simultaneously. I do this because the plot is still malleable, the character development immature, and I’m really not sure where I’m going with things. But once I have a few dots, connection and refinement can occur.

I’ve grown to enjoy the editing process. Self-editing is one necessary discipline but working with a professional editor is very different. Your manuscript, the one you’ve worked so hard on and for so long, now becomes a team effort. It’s no longer just about you! Trust and a solid working relationship are crucial, for both parties. Similar comments apply to critique groups and beta readers.

I’m heavily involved in the query process, and it’s new to me, so I can’t say querying and publishing are my favorites, but I think any trepidation is due to their newness. Long term I expect I’ll grow to enjoy them like the other aspects in this fascinating business.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

PWG: Writing and success with my published short stories has enabled me to step back from the day job that used to be all-consuming from a professional standpoint.

Being a writer has also allowed artistic growth beyond words on paper. One of my characters strives to be an actor, and I took a few acting classes so I could write about the fear of going on stage. I did that, but I also learned how difficult it was to give a ten-minute monologue, memorized, and delivered with honesty and realism.

I’ve worked with local musicians, notably Bill Boley and Jill Jack, to learn vocal, instrument, and songwriting skills. Bill runs a weekly rock/folk class in Plymouth that has built my confidence in front of groups. Nothing says performance like being called on to sing “Don’t Stop Believing” in your best falsetto, while strumming a guitar. And Jill’s Big Dream studio in Ferndale is a multi-disciplined inspirational space. It’s amazing to see your poem transformed via chords, melody and voice into a three-dimensional entity.

All these actions have expanded my writing abilities and enriched my life.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

PWG: My website is the place to find links to my published work, follow my blog entries, and join me on my writing and creative journey: https://patrickwgibson.com.

Follow me on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/pwgibsonauthor.

My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009860826706.

 

Indie Thursday

Today’s guest: Emma Palova

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Every Thursday, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today’s featured guest is Emma Palova. Emma is the author of two books: a new book, Secrets, in the Shifting Sands Short Stories series, which will be released on July 1, 2019, and the first book in the series, Shifting Sands Short Stories, published in 2017.

Recently I posed some questions to Emma. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

EP: I was born in former communist Czechoslovakia and I studied civil engineering, which I hated. I had no choice, that was our punishment for leaving the country illegally. We immigrated to the USA for the first time in 1969 in the aftermath of the Prague Spring, a political movement for socialism with a human face.

We returned back to Czechoslovakia in 1973 for President Husak’s amnesty. My dad, Professor Vaclav Konecny, decided to leave the country illegally again so he could teach math in the States. It took my mom Ella four long years to join dad. I married in the meantime. We left the country for the USA the second time in 1989 with my children. I was naturalized in 1999.

Politics have formed my life, from a civil engineer to a reporter for local newspapers in West Michigan. The trek was long and painful marked by mistakes and victories. I was constantly without money chasing after stories, even though I gathered some awards along the way. I quit journalism for good in 2012 to pursue my author’s dreams during the rise of the Internet with new opportunities.

My only regret is that we returned to the old country in 1973. Otherwise, I am deeply humbed by all the opportunities this country has given to me.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. Where did the ideas for those works come from?

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EP: My newest book is called Secrets. It is part of the Shifting Sands Short Stories series. It is a collection of fifteen short stories; two of them are historical fiction, while some stories deal with aging. Many of my short stories are based in my journalistic experience. Some of the real-life stories we could never publish because we had no corroboration from the witnesses. Today, the newscasts say whatever without any attribution. We have no way of verifying the truth behind the news. That wasn’t always the case. Plus, if you live in a small town, you have to live by hometown rules. We all know each other. We know who lives where, and who slept with whom. We know it, but we don’t write about it. These are all workable ideas for me: things unsaid, stories untold and people hurting. I like to combine fiction with realism. It’s called magic realism spiked with surrealism.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

41qf6SgXDrL._AC_UL320_EP: I write because I don’t want people to be bored. That’s my tagline: “You deserve to be entertained.” I don’t want us to just be watching politicians arguing. I think we all deserve a little break from the mundane and the ordinary.

I want to accomplish making my historical fiction story, “Silk Nora,” into a movie. I have written a screenplay registered with Writer’s Guild of America, West. I want to write “Silk Nora” as a screenplay, as well.

Just like any other writer, I also want to express myself in a manner that makes other people think long after they’ve read the stories. That is my sincere hope and desire. I also like to write timeless stuff for any generation. If it transforms someone, that is even more important.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

EP: The writing process itself is a lot of small elements that have to fuse together like atoms in a nuclear reaction. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and I have no idea what I am going to write about. Then, comes a small thing like meditation or studying Spanish that fuses it together, or staring into the water at a lake or at sea.

My favorite part is that I don’t know where the writing process is going to lead me or how is going to surprise me with new discoveries.

My least favorite part is the drudgery of it. By that I mean pushing yourself beyond your limits every day. There are times when I envy people like highway workers or the guys in lime green vests who turn the stop sign into go or proceed with caution. I like cashiers at the stores, too. I know they have their worries and troubles. I worked at a Midwest grocery chain store for four years. It inspired stories in my first book like “Orange Nights.” Each experience enriches a writer, and we have to take it to a higher level. Plus our highest mission is to entertain and rescue people from everyday misery.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

EP: Being a writer has transformed me from a naïve person into a person with deeper insights into the lives of other people. Writing has changed my life in different stages like a butterfly. It’s basically something I cannot stop doing, even if sometimes I want to. As any writer can attest, writing is not about money or the quest for it. It’s a calling. If money comes, it’s a bonus, a friend once told me. I would like to talk about the book covers. I designed both covers based on my love for photography. The credit for the cover of Secrets goes fully to the Belrockton Museum. I found the picture of “The Face of Gossip” in the girls’ dormitories. Pictures and art also inspire me, but in a different way, more toward movies.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

EP: My blog is EW (Emma’s Writings) at http://emmapalova.com.

My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/emmapalovaauthor/.

My Twitter page is Emma Palova (@EmmaPalova) | Twitter.

Here are the links to my books in all formats:

The new book, Secrets, will be released on July 1, 2019. It’s now available on pre-order on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SH9YGQH/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_SUscDbF62RNRR

The first book in the Shifting Sands Short Stories series is available on Kindle: Shifting Sands: Short Stories (First volume Book 1)

And also in print: https://www.amazon.com/Shifting-Sands-Short-Stories-stories/dp/152130226X/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_img_6?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=YJPBRBBEN6J7NB40A2EW

Indie Thursday

Today’s guest: Wendy Thomson

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Today I’m happy to offer another Indie Thursday entry. Each week, I’ll feature other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves. Their writing is first-rate, and they’ll take you places you’ve never been before.

Today’s featured guest is Wendy Thomson. Wendy is the author of two books, Summon the Tiger, a memoir, and The Third Order, a novel, and as she will discuss, has several other projects in the works.

Recently I had the opportunity to pose some questions to Wendy. Here’s what she told me.

DLWendy, welcome. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

WST: I grew up here in Michigan—Birmingham, to be precise—but spent nearly ten years away, living in Florida and Chicago. I got to Florida by jumping ship, literally. My father had purchased an old Dutch freighter and outfitted it for a two-year journey around the world. That adventure didn’t go exactly as planned, so I got off, found a job, got an apartment, and was on my own.

I had dropped out of Michigan State, where I was pursuing a degree in Linguistics, to join the ship. When I did go back to school to finish my undergrad degree, it was at University of Miami, and it was in Business. I moved to Tallahassee for a man . . . that was a bust, but I did end up going back to school at Florida State for a Master’s degree. I was working full time and going to school at night. When my company transferred me to Chicago, I finished that degree at University of Chicago. I moved back to where I grew up forty years ago—again, for a man (again a bust.) I have spent those forty years working full time, raising a couple of sons, and occasionally performing classical music around town, in addition to performing a concert tour in Italy.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. Where did the ideas for those works come from?

WST: My most recent published work is The Third Order, which came out in 2018. The plot was the last thing that fell into place. My first book, Summon the Tiger (2016), was a memoir, a reflection on how my values and determination have taken me to extraordinary destinations, and given me the strength and grit to face any hardships that came my way. I wanted to write a second book, and I felt most comfortable writing about things and places I know. Well, I know Italy fairly well, and I especially fell in love with Assisi. I also know Scotland fairly well, since my father was born there. Those were my two major constraints: I needed a way to tie those two places together. I started looking into St. Francis, and details of his life started shaping the plot. I then looked for a tie to Scotland, which I found in the Third Crusade. The rest started to fall into place. It was a fun romp.

Thomson book 3I currently have two works underway: the first is The Man from Burntisland—a saga of a hard-scrabble Scot born in 1899 who emigrates to the US, enduring both World Wars and the Great Depression. I am very excited about this work, as I feel it demonstrates the strength of determination and tenacity in the face of great odds. Life was comparatively so much more difficult for folks like him. I am basing this historical fiction on snippets of what I know of my grandfather’s life.

The other work underway is Silo Six. It is a sci-fi/dystopia novella about the end of humanity on earth. I was asked to contribute this for an anthology as one of three authors. The other two authors are amazing, and I am honored to have been asked.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

WST: I sometimes ask myself that very question. I write because it is a generally enjoyable activity, especially during long winter evenings. I write because people keep telling me they like to read what I write. What do I hope to accomplish? That varies by book. In Summon the Tiger, my goal was to tell a story of determination and grit. One of my sons suggested I write it. I realized that my sons had no idea of the forces that helped shape who I became. I hope that as they grow older, they will come to appreciate the events detailed in the book more and more.

For The Third Order, my main goal is to entertain my audience. If they learn a little bit about history while doing so, then that is an extra added bonus. Just fun.

My hope for The Man from Burntisland is to both educate readers on life in the early 1900’s and to describe a man of particular tenacity and pragmatism. It’s not all pretty, and he is in no way a saint. I hope that readers will see the complexity of a driven man whose life circumstances caused him to make uncomfortable choices.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

WST: I have a rather fluid writing process. Topics seem to bubble up from my sub-conscious—I call that part of my brain my Co-Processor. I never force myself to write on any particular day, but I do set very generalized goals . . . for instance, I would like to get The Man from Burntisland published this year. That might be too lofty a goal, given the work I need to do for Silo Six. I tried to set a daily word goal once, but life has a way of being a great disruptor. I do get antsy to write if I’ve been away from it for a couple of days.

I never outline. The most I have ever done is to jot down notes on character’s back stories and to create cheat sheets on characters and specifics (who they are married to, what jobs they have, etc.) so I don’t need to scroll back and find what I may have said before. My little Co-Processor seems to think about plot lines and required prose all on its own while I am busy doing life. When I pull out my laptop, the words and story direction are developed and only require being committed to paper.

My very favorite part of the process is finding logical solutions to the issues the plot hands me. Case in point is in The Third Order. How in the world can I wrap a story around Assisi and Scotland? So I started researching, and I found one Alan FitzWalter, second Steward of Scotland, who returned from the Third Crusade in 1192. That’s fact. Then I found an old Italian farce of a movie à la Monty Python, and I learned that, many times, soldiers would travel to the boot of Italy and sail for the Holy Land instead of trudging around the Mediterranean. Then I learned that St. Francis became a soldier as a young man. Taking small snippets and crafting them into a woven fabric of logic is my very, very favorite part.

My least favorite part of writing? Trying to make sure I have perfect copy. It is So. Damn. Difficult to publish a flawless work. Even with a professional editor, things get through. And while it’s not difficult to correct the found error in the next printed copy, it irritates me that there are different versions out and about.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

WST: I spent the vast majority of my life in quantitative fields. My highest tested aptitude in school was mechanical engineering. And while I was often told that I developed creative solutions in processes and analyses, I never considered myself particularly creative, and definitely not particularly emotional. And now comes Kirkus, which announces to the world at large that The Third Order “taps into the powerful emotional satisfaction that comes with solving a puzzle,” and that the book is “a satisfying synthesis of mystery, history, and emotion.” “Me” and “emotion” have rarely been seen in close company.

That is probably a long way of saying that writing has brought out a side of me that, apparently, has been quite latent. I am a writer. I can create, and I can imagine.

DL: Many thanks for joining us today. What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

WST: The Amazon page for Summon the Tiger is https://www.amazon.com/dp/1537137441/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1.

The Amazon page for The Third Order is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HP9GX59/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537997744&sr=1-4&keywords=wendy+sura+thomson.

My Goodreads page is https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15801291.Wendy_Sura_Thomson.

My website is www.quittandquinn.com, which also contains my writing blog.

Readers can connect with me on Facebook as Wendy Thomson.

 

 

Indie Thursday

[My Monday blog post took a Memorial Day break, but it’ll back next week.]

Today’s guest: Mark Love

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Today I’m happy to offer another Indie Thursday entry. Periodically, I’ll be featuring other authors on my blog—authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves. Their writing is first-rate, and they’ll take you places you’ve never been before.

Today’s featured guest is Mark Love. A friend and fellow mystery writer, Mark is the author of two mystery series: the Jamie Richmond mystery series, including the novels Devious, Vanishing Act, Fleeting Beauty, and Stealing Haven, and a story in the anthology Once Upon a Summer; and the Jefferson Chene mystery series, including Why 319? and the newly-published Your Turn to Die.

Recently I had the opportunity to pose some questions to Mark. Here’s what he told me.

DL: Mark, welcome. Could you start by telling us a little about yourself?

ML: I was born and raised in metropolitan Detroit and lived there for many years. From an early age I enjoyed getting lost in a good story. As a teen, I discovered the great John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and quickly became hooked on mysteries. A while later it was Elmore Leonard’s work that caught my attention. It became a goal to someday write a mystery.

Growing up in Detroit, there was always a lot on the news about crime and scandals. I would follow stories and try to figure out who was behind such activity and imagine unraveling the case. At one point I was working as a freelance reporter for a couple of area newspapers. One of my assignments was a crime beat, visiting police departments in Oakland County. That was the equivalent of turning a kid loose in a candy store. I learned a lot and it helped sharpen my writing skills.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works-in-progress. Where did the ideas for those works come from?

ML: The latest book, just published in print and audiobook, is Your Turn to Die. It’s the second book in the Jefferson Chene Series.

perf5.000x8.000.inddChene is a Sergeant with the Michigan State Police, part of a squad of detectives that work on major cases. Most of their assignments center around investigations that cover multiple municipal jurisdictions. This story is about a successful businessman who is murdered at a paintball game. With over a hundred suspects to consider, Chene and his team know this won’t be an easy case to solve. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this victim was no choirboy and more than one person wanted him dead. Every turn brings out more suspects. Soon they’re looking into illicit affairs, possible connections with organized crime, and a fortune in jewels.

Currently I’m working on the third book in the series. I’m also considering dusting off a novel I wrote years ago and bringing that up to date.

My story ideas can be triggered by anything. I’ll start with the germ of an idea and kick it around in my head for a while. If it gains a little traction, I’ll write a couple of pages and see where it leads.

DL: You’ve published quite a few works of fiction. Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

ML: I think we all have stories to share. For me, it’s a chance to entertain. Maybe you’ll grow to like my cast of characters and see some traits you can recognize or relate to. I always share a little local flavor along the way. All of my novels take place in the Motown area and often include local venues that many readers may be familiar with. That’s something as a reader I enjoy.

DL: Please talk a little about your writing process. What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

ML: Despite all those years at Catholic school (yes, I still bear the scars from the nuns wielding their rulers), I can’t write with an outline. It’s too restrictive. So I’ll begin with an idea and one of my main characters, like Jamie or Chene, and see where it goes. More than once, I’ll be writing a scene when suddenly it takes a dramatic ninety-degree turn.  Upon review I know it’s perfect but it wasn’t anything planned. It just happens. The characters make the transition and I follow along.

I will write scenes as they occur to me. Then it’s a matter of weaving them into the timeline of the story where they make the most sense. As one of the nuns in elementary school would say, “crude, but effective.”

Dialogue to me is the most fun. It’s crucial to the story and can help convey so much information. And there are emotions that can be shown as well. The dialogue can make the difference between a great story and a dud.

My least favorite part? Editing is tough. It’s difficult to trim your work, to shape it, to make it flow better. But it’s so important. I’ve gone through some novels half a dozen times before submitting it to a publisher, only to do it again while working with an editor. But the end results are definitely worth it.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

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ML: Once I seriously started writing, I was pleasantly surprised at how the stories came together. Writing is not easy. It’s a lot of hard work. But when I’m able to finish a book or short story, there is a true sense of accomplishment. When those efforts have then been selected by a publisher and come to life in print, that just sweetens the deal. But the real icing on the cake is when someone reads my stories and enjoys them. I’ve had people tell me how much they love my characters and how realistic they are. Some have even told me “this would make a great movie,” which is a fantastic compliment.

DL: Many thanks for joining us today, Mark. What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

ML: My Amazon Author’s Page is https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B009P7HVZQ.

My blog page is https://motownmysteries.blogspot.com/.

Readers can connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MarkLoveAuthor.