Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Ingar Rudholm

This week on Indie Monday I’m happy to host Ingar Rudholm. Ingar is the author of two books, the Traveling Circus (Argon Press, 2017), and the brand-new prequel, Traveling Circus and the Secret Talent Scroll (Argon Press, 2020). Both books are aimed at readers aged ten to thirteen. A talented artist as well as an author, Ingar wrote and illustrated both of these books. Based in western Michigan, Ingar is well-known across the entire Michigan writer community for his creative marketing and publicity ideas, as well as for his great generosity in sharing his knowledge and insights with other writers as he helps them to achieve their goals.

This week Ingar will talk about his most recent release, Traveling Circus and the Secret Talent Scroll.

DL: Welcome and congratulations on your new book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

IR: I just published Traveling Circus and the Secret Talent. The book is a young adult fantasy story for 10 to 13 year-olds. 

Here’s the description:

Buried in the wreckage of a sunken ship, Cordelia finds a skeleton clutching an ammo box. Inside, she discovers a magic scroll that turns any natural talent into a superpower. Transforming an ordinary girl like Cordelia into something extraordinary—a mermaid.

When a tragic car accident shatters Cordelia’s dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer, her father, Salvatore, is determined to harness the scroll’s magical powers to heal his daughter. But his tampering with the scroll comes at a steep price.

Will Cordelia achieve her Olympic dreams or remain forever cursed as a mermaid in a circus sideshow?

Currently, I’m working on Book 3 in the trilogy, Traveling Circus and the Skeleton Key.

DL: What inspired the creation of the latest book?

IR: You raised a tough question! Technically, I wrote Traveling Circus as a stand-alone book and I had no outline for a trilogy. Since I never know when an idea will pop into my head, I keep a notepad on my nightstand next to my bed. My inspiration for stories comes from my subconscious mind during the few quiet moments before awake and dreams.

Here’s the breakdown for the trilogy. In Book 1, I wrote in my journal an idea of a ringmaster in a surrealistic circus. The ringmaster was loosely based on Salvador Dali with a magic pocket watch. In my imagination, I saw a circus act where a rabbit turns into a lion (which is metaphor for the boy in the story finding his courage.) In Book 2 (a prequel), I let my subconscious mind run free with a burning question, “How did the ringmaster become the bad guy in the story?” Thus, I came up with a back story where the ringmaster’s wife, Gala, dies in a tragic car accident and he uses the magic pocket watch to erase his sadness. If you lose your ability to feel sadness, you can’t feel empathy for other people. Therefore the ringmaster turns into the bad guy in the trilogy. For Book 3, which I’m working on now, I had a daydream about a mermaid swimming to the bottom of ocean (into the abyss) to face her fears and rescue her father, the ringmaster, from the belly of a monster (metaphorically speaking the dark side of human nature.) The inspiration for Book 3 was loosely based on Pinocchio, Geppetto, and Monstro the whale.
 
DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? 

IR: For Book 3, I decided to co-write the book with Michigan author Jean Davis. Working with another author was both fun and rewarding. I learned so much about my own style and I learned by studying someone else’s writing process. For me, one of my shortcomings is telling vs. showing. I definitely improved on my shortcomings when working with a writing partner.

DL: Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

IR: A fellow Michigan author asked me: How are you marketing a new book during a pandemic? Unfortunately most of my book events have been cancelled for 2020.

Since I can’t go to book events, here are some things I’ve been doing to market my book during the “stay at home” order:

1. For the past few years I’ve been collecting emails at all my book events. When I finally released Book 2, I contacted everyone on my list.

2. I ran a free giveaway for Book 2 in exchange for a book review on Amazon.

3. I’ve been running Amazon Ads.

4. I created a Book 2 trailer for my YouTube channel. (All you need is an Ipad, microphone, and video editing software to create your own trailer.) I also read chapters from my book and put it on video.

5. I ran a Facebook Ads targeting everyone that “liked” my author page. The ads announced Book 2. I also ran ads targeting a certain age group and their book interests. I also sent Facebook messages to parents who bought Book 2 for their kids.

6. I promoted my book on Instagram using pictures and hashtags. I also sent Instagram messages to all the readers who have “liked” my book, notifying them about Book 2.
 
DL: What was the best part of/most fun about writing this book?

IR: After writing and illustrating a trilogy, I’ve come to conclusion that I want to spend more time drawing and less time writing. I figure 40% writing and 60% drawing would be a good fit for me. For my next series, I will create a graphic novel.
 
DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

IR: Even though co-writing with a critique partner was fun, it did come with some challenges. For example: who writes which sections of the story, deciding what creative idea to keep and what elements should be removed, and accidentally writing two versions of the same scene. Communication is the key to working with a co-writer.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?
 
IR: You can find the #Traveling Circus Trilogy on Amazon. Here’s a link to the books:

Traveling Circus: Young Adult Fantasy (Traveling Circus Series Book 2) – Kindle edition by Rudholm, Ingar, Ingersoll, Donald, Rudholm, Ingar, Turek, Kelsey. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Mark M. Bello

This week on Indie Monday I’m happy to host Mark M. Bello, an attorney and award-winning author of realistic fiction and political-legal thrillers. Retired from handling high profile legal cases, Mark now gives the public a front-row seat watching victims fight for justice in our civil and criminal justice systems. Mark’s award-winning Zachary Blake Legal Thrillers mirror our times and the events that shape our country. In addition to being an author and veteran attorney, Mark is a member of numerous trial lawyer associations and a feature writer for the Legal Examiner and other popular blog sites. He has written articles for numerous publications and made guest appearances on radio and talk shows and multiple podcasts.

This week Mark will talk about his most recent release, Supreme Betrayal.

DL: Congratulations on your new book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

MMB: Supreme Betrayal will be released this Spring. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. In the novel, a right-wing president has nominated an extremist for an open seat on the United States Supreme Court. Unknown to the president and his right wing cronies, the nominee has covered up a youthful indiscretion. When he was a young law student, he sexually assaulted an underaged female high school student. Both are now adults. The candidate will resort to anything, and I do mean anything, to secure his place in history. For the young lady, Hayley Larson Schultz, a seat on the Supreme Court for a sexual predator is a bridge too far.  She contacts Zachary Blake and retains him to help her prevent the nominee from being confirmed. And the legal-political battle royal begins.

DL: What inspired the creation of the book?

MMB: The novel was, obviously, inspired by the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, however, with one caveat. In my novel, the candidate, Oliver Wilkinson, is clearly guilty, clearly a predator, and the book establishes his guilt and evil. By contrast, while Christine Blasey Ford laid out a compelling case against Kavanaugh, he denied the charges and was never proven guilty of anything. He was confirmed to the Court and took the oath of office in October 2018.

DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? 

MMB: My writing process has changed a bit since I wrote my first novel, Betrayal of Faith. I was writing a fictional account of a real case I handled in the 1980s. Writing a book about the case of my career was a “bucket list” item for me and it took me years to bring it to fruition. I was certain that I was a “one and done” author. Along came the 2016 election, and it inspired my second novel, Betrayal of Justice, a novel about a bigoted president of the United States and a political/legal conspiracy to frame an innocent Muslim woman for a murder she did not commit. From that point on, national political/legal events have inspired four more novels, including Supreme Betrayal.  

DL: Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

MMB: I tend to write in fits and spurts—my subsequent novels were completed in less than a year. The pandemic has been a mixed bag for me as an author— it has created expanded writing time because my other business has slowed down, but it also delayed the launch of Supreme Betrayal.

DL: What was the best part about writing this book?

MMB: The best parts of writing these legal thrillers is taking important social justice topics and presenting them to the public in an interesting and though-provoking way. Our individual 7thAmendment rights are being trampled on by large corporations, corporate lobbyists, insurance companies, and politicians and most Americans are not aware of it. I have also enjoyed creating a brash, highly successful, lawyer-protagonist who excels at his craft and can handle the political ramifications as well.

DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

MMB: This book was no more or no less challenging than the others I have written. You’re an author. I’ve read your Martin Preuss novels and they are terrific. You know how difficult it is to write a novel (very few have done so), let alone six novels. I would suggest that the overall process is difficult: Formulating an idea, creating an outline, writing that first chapter, writing when you don’t feel inspired, writing when your work is not well known—while, at the same time, you write in a difficult competitive environment, creating plot sequences, compelling characters, the whole nine yards. Writing a novel, as you know, is a complex undertaking. That is also why the end result is so satisfying.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?

MMB: Readers can purchase Supreme Betrayal at Amazon (https://amzn.to/3j1KMbU) or on my website, at www.markmbello.com. Anyone who pre-order purchases the new novel at my website and mentions this interview will receive an autographed copy when the book is released. Sound good?

DL: Sounds great. Thanks so much for joining us this week, Mark. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

MMB: I would like my Zachary Blake Legal Thriller novels to spur a movement. I’d like people to realize that the issues my novels feature are real—they happen to real people all across America, even the world. Knowledge is power—together we can change things for the better.

 Clergy abuse is still an international scandal almost 50 years after the case that inspired Betrayal of Faith. 

 We have elected a new president, but it took a global pandemic and an insurrection to get people to appreciate how dangerous the rhetoric of his predecessor was. Betrayal of Justice tells the story of a country in turmoil after the election of a narcissistic, bigoted president. I get accused of doing a hit job on our former president, but, if you think about it, he imitated my guy, not the other way around. The book was finished before he became POTUS. 

Betrayal in Blue looks at White Supremacy, criminal law, domestic terrorism, and the blue wall of law enforcement. 

Betrayal in Black does a deep dive into police shootings of innocent black men, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how the civil and criminal justice systems might handle such an event. Betrayal High takes a similar look at a school shooting and examines the national and local political/legal ramifications of these tragic events.

As previously indicated, Supreme Betrayal studies financial/political power and sexual assault.

My recent novella, L’Dor V’Dor—From Generation to Generation (available free on my website, www.markmbello.com) is a Holocaust prison camp escape story told by a maternal grandfather to his 13 year old grandson, Zachary Blake, at the time of his Bar Mitzvah. How many real people were lucky enough to have such a conversation with their loved ones?

I am currently working on a Blake legal thriller about our country’s immigration issues.

All of my novels feature real issues affecting real people. Hopefully, my novels inspire others to act, but, more importantly, prevents citizens from becoming victims of the conduct depicted therein. Now, that would be extremely satisfying.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Linda K. Sienkiewicz

This week on Indie Monday I’m happy to host award-winning author, poet, and artist Linda K. Sienkiewicz. Linda’s short stories, poetry and art have been published in numerous literary journals. Among her awards are four Finalist awards for her novel In the Context of Love, a Pushcart Prize Nomination, and a poetry chapbook award from Heartlands. She has three other poetry chapbooks. She studied at Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, and has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda is a member of Detroit Working Writers, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

This week Linda will talk about her most recent release, a children’s picture book, Gordy and the Ghost Crab.

DL: Congratulations on your new picture book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

LKS: Thank you, Don! 

In Gordy and the Ghost Crab, Gordy’s big brother scares him by telling him that ghost crabs will snip off his toes and eat them. When Gordy sees a ghost crab in danger of being taken away from the beach by a girl with a net, he has to make a fast decision: stay away or save the little crab. 

The story highlights empathy, problem solving, and caring for nature for children ages 3 – 8. 

I designed a comprehensive teacher’s guide; email me at lindaksienk (at) live (dot) com for a copy. Here’s the link to a book trailer that I’ve prepared: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvOKoTdmbRs.

DL: What inspired the creation of the book?

LKS: My grandson, then three, was frightened by ghost crabs that live in deeps burrows along the shore when we vacationed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We couldn’t find him a book on these interesting creatures. My daughter said, “Mom, you’ll just have to write one for him.”

DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? 

LKS: I have a brother, nine years older, who loved to tell me wild stories, so the idea of the scary story and the rescue came quickly. I approached editing much the same as working with a poem or short story. What is the character arc—in this case, Gordy’s? What’s at stake for Gordy, besides his toes? And what’s at stake for the ghost crab? 

DL: Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

LKS: I believe we’ll eventually be back to having book festivals and fairs, and I can sell that way. I hope to visit east coast bookstores and gift shops in Virginia and the Carolinas in the spring. So much of selling involves online networking, and that hasn’t changed.

DL: What was the best part about writing this book?

LKS: My friend, poet MaryAnn Wehler, suggested I rewrite the story in rhyme. I knew it would be difficult, but I couldn’t resist trying. In the end, I think that’s what makes the story so much fun to read aloud.

DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book? 

LKS: After I decided to illustrate the story myself, I had to learn about children’s picture book layout, and then decide what to illustrate. I’d gone to art school over forty years ago, and we didn’t learn to draw on iPads or other drawing apps! This was all new to me. There’s also an art to picture books, a way to get children to turn the pages, and to stimulate their imagination, too, that I had to learn. Honestly, it was daunting, but I was determined. 

Originally I had one page of information on ghost crabs in the back of the book. After my editor, the brilliant MaryChris Bradley, laid the entire book out, we ended up with several more pages. So I went back to research and the drawing board! Now, readers can learn about different kinds of crabs, and what makes ghost crabs unique. 

For example, did you know ghost crabs are the fastest of all the crabs in the world? Do you know what the smallest crab is? The largest crab? Or that horseshoe crabs are not really crabs at all?? There’s lots of fun in this book for kids and grownups.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?

LKS: The book is available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1941523226/)
and Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gordy-and-the-ghost-crab-linda-k-sienkiewicz/1138253716), or readers can order it from any bookstore.

I also offer signed copies directly from me in my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/listing/902198984/gordy-and-the-ghost-crab-picture-book).

DL: Thanks so much for joining us this week. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

LKS: I never imagined that I’d write a children’s book. I have a novel and several poetry chapbooks; I’ve published in anthologies and literary journals. I do enjoy reading to my grandchildren, however, and admire well-written and illustrated books. Writing one myself never interested me until inspiration struck. 

And then, like anything I do, I doggedly pursued it. I can be obsessive, in a good way.

So, if you’re a writer with an idea, no matter how difficult or farfetched it seems, go for it! When I was struggling with so many unknown aspects of this venture, I asked myself, What have you got to lose by trying? You know, in the end, there’s really nothing. You always learn something. 

And don’t ever think that you’re too old to learn new tricks.

DL: How can readers connect online with you?

LKS: Here are my contacts:

Website: http://lindaksienkiewicz.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lindasienkiewicz.author

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindaksienkiewicz/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lindaksienkwicz/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaKSienkwicz

The First Two Chapters of the Newest Martin Preuss Mystery

In the House of Night is the newest entry in the Martin Preuss mystery series. Published in October of last year, it’s one of the darker books in the series, due to its subject matter. In the book, Preuss faces off against a group of white supremacists–a subject much in the news in the wake of the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, this week.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll just note that the ideas for the book took shape for me in the wake of the violent Charlottesville, VA, neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally. That event was chilling and horrifying, and I knew I needed to incorporate far-right extremism in my next Preuss book in some way.

The book is set in 2013, before the events of Charlottesville. But it traces the most recent beginnings of a movement that has been present in American culture since its beginning.

The members of the group in the novel are fictional, but they’re based on considerable research into not only the reach of far-right extremist groups, but also their connection with Christian nationalism.

Neither of these is apparent in the beginning chapters; Preuss, like the reader, must unfold the connection as he plunges deeper into the investigation.

Here, then, is how the events of In the House of Night begin. The paperback version may be purchased through Amazon or on order from your favorite bookseller; the Kindle version is available through Amazon.

1

Brittany Fortunato was not happy.

“Has anyone seen Charlie?” she asked.

No one had.

Charlie Bright, the recording secretary of the Woodland Park Improvement Association, had not missed a meeting in ten years. Tonight might be the exception.

The Association met on the second Tuesday of every month in the Media Center at the Roosevelt Elementary School in Ferndale, a city that lay beyond Eight Mile Road north of Detroit. Like many neighborhood associations, it had a small number of officers—a president, vice-president, and treasurer, in addition to the secretary—and a dedicated core of a dozen or so residents who attended every meeting. 

Typically, the president would call the meeting to order shortly after seven. They would work through their agenda, and the evening would end with chatting, good-natured ribbing, and the newest gossip over plates of cookies and cups of coffee from the local Biggby Coffee.

Often they invited a guest to speak about issues of interest to the city’s residents. Tonight’s guest was the police chief of Ferndale, Nick Russo. The topic was local crime statistics. 

Ferndale was exceptionally safe, especially considering its proximity to the larger metropolis of Detroit. So Russo saw his primary task tonight as calming nerves and assuring the residents that things were under control. A big, muscular man, he made an impressive sight in his blue full-dress uniform, complete with cap under his arm as he stood talking with attendees. 

He seemed unruffled and relaxed.

Not so Brittany, the Association vice-president. The more people who said they didn’t know Charlie Bright’s whereabouts, the more agitated Brittany became.

“Brittany,” the Association president said at last, “what’s going on?” 

The president’s name was Elspeth Cunningham, and she tried but failed to keep the disapproval out of her voice. Brittany was a troublemaker while trying to appear reasonable and friendly. 

What’s her problem now? Elspeth wondered.

“Charlie isn’t here yet,” Brittany said. “We can’t start without him.”

Elspeth shot a look at the clock on the wall. Quarter after seven. “Odd,” she agreed. “He’s never late.”

 “Right?” Brittany said. “I talked to him this morning, he said he’d see me here. And we have to get started. I promised the chief we’d be done by nine.”

 “I’m yours as long as you need me,” Russo said.

 “But we can’t start without Charlie,” Brittany said again. “Who’s gonna take the minutes?”

“I will,” said a man seated at one of the kid-sized library tables, eager for the meeting to begin so he could get home in time to watch Rachel Maddow.

The Association officers looked at each other and shrugged. “Okay,” Elspeth said. “Let’s get started.” 

She called the meeting to order.

They adjourned at eight-thirty on the dot. Charlie Bright never showed.

“Now I’m really worried,” Brittany said as they stood around the refreshment table. “This is totally unlike him.”

“Maybe an emergency called him away,” Elspeth offered.

“Charlie never misses a meeting,” Brittany said. “Something’s not right. I’m sure of it.”

They all exchanged worried looks—Brittany’s concern was contagious—and everyone’s glance settled on Chief Russo.

“If you want,” he said, “I can get somebody over to his house, make sure he’s okay.”

“Would you?” Brittany asked. The others’ heads bobbed in agreement.

“Not a problem,” said Russo. He pulled out his cell phone and turned away while he called the Ferndale Police Department dispatcher.

“I hope he’s all right,” someone said.

Russo disconnected and turned back to the group. “A unit’ll swing by his house.”

 With the group slightly calmed, Elspeth unwrapped the tray of cookies and invited them all to dig in.

2

Patrol Officer Paul Vollmer stood on Charlie Bright’s front porch in northwest Ferndale and waited.

When nobody answered the doorbell, which Vollmer heard ringing inside the house, he knocked hard on the substantial wooden entrance door. 

Still no response. 

He shone his flashlight through the dark living room windows. Vollmer couldn’t see anyone moving inside.

He came down off the porch and walked around to the back. All the doors and windows were secure. A light shone in the kitchen but he couldn’t see anyone there. Behind the house was a garage, but the door was closed and Vollmer couldn’t see inside.

He walked around to the front again.

“Yoo-hoo!”

Vollmer turned and saw an older woman peeking around the storm door of a house across the street. 

When she saw him looking at her, she waved him over.

He strolled across and she said, “Are you looking for Charlie Bright?”

“I am. Have you seen him?”

“Not today.” She must have been in her late seventies or early eighties but her voice was high, almost girlish. She had silver hair set in plump curls and she held a wool coat bunched at her throat against the night’s chill.

“Is that unusual?” Vollmer asked.

“Oh yes,” the woman said. “I always see him during the day. Usually in the morning before he goes off for his day.”

“But not today?”

She shook her head.

He looked back at the dark house. No car in the driveway or the street.

“Maybe he’s out of town?” Vollmer suggested. 

 “He would have told me if he was going away. I always watch his house for him.”

 She opened her palm and showed a shiny brass key. “I have the key to his house, if you need it.”

Vollmer thought for a moment. 

On any other night he would let something like this go, but it came directly from the chief, so . . . 

Better see it through. 

He opened his notebook and said, “Can I get some information from you first?”

He smelled it as soon as he entered the front hall, a sweet scorched odor, like burning paper. There had been a fire in here. 

Vollmer switched on his flashlight. The house was larger on the inside than it looked from the street. The front hall opened onto a stairway going up; to the left was a sprawling living room, and to the right was a dining room. The table there overflowed with piles of mail, some opened, some not.

“Hello,” he called. “Ferndale Police. Anyone home?”

When there was no reply, he called again. “Ferndale Police. Mr. Bright? Is anybody here?”

Silence.

Vollmer went into the kitchen. No dirty dishes in the sink, the counters clean and tidy, the oven empty and cold. Vegetables in twisted shapes Vollmer had never seen before hung from the ceiling in wire baskets.

 A door off the kitchen led to a stairway down to the basement. The burnt odor seemed to originate there.

 Vollmer proceeded down the stairs into a basement that was as clean and uncluttered as the kitchen. Very different from mine, he thought; his own cellar was filled with boxes and tools and old chairs and end tables piled high from his wife’s antique furniture refinishing sideline. 

This one, in contrast, held orderly rows of bookshelves with hundreds of hardcover books. Behind one of the bookcases a cot had been set up.

The joists overhead were scorched, but had not caught fire. Fortunately for the house, and for the surrounding neighbors.

A light was on in a room in the rear of the basement. The burnt smell was strongest here. 

Vollmer looked into the room, which was set up as an office, with a desk and more bookshelves and file cabinets. On the desk, a laptop computer and printer had been smashed to pieces. 

In the center of the floor was a large pile of ashes. Vollmer bent down; they were cool. They seemed to be the remnants of sheets of paper, curled and blackened but smashed down so the contents were unrecognizable.

Sticking out from a pile of academic journals between the desk and a file cabinet were two running shoes connected to two legs. 

A man’s body.

Vollmer leaned in and looked into the grey face of an older man. 

He felt for a pulse in the man’s neck. 

Nothing.

The man’s skin was cold to the touch. His sweatshirt was dark with blood and seemed to have a dozen slashes through it.

Vollmer knew the detectives and fire inspector would not want him poking around here any longer than he had to. If this was Charlie Bright, he was very dead.

Vollmer called it in and went upstairs to secure the scene and wait for the cavalry.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Elizabeth Wehman

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With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m happy to host author, journalist, and editor Elizabeth Wehman. The President/Founder of Shiawassee Area Writers, Elizabeth is the author of five novels: Under the Windowsill (2014), Promise at Daybreak (2015), Just a Train Ride (2017), Mere Reflection (2019), and The Year the Stars Fell (2020), all published by Summit Street Publishing.

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

EW: I’m a born and raised Michigander. Besides my writing, I’m a trucker’s wife and mother of three grown children. I’ve worked in the newspaper business as a reporter and editor for twelve years, and also am the President/ Founder of the Shiawassee Area Writers here in Owosso. I love to garden, mow the lawn, and be outside whenever possible. I’m smelling retirement, just around the corner, but don’t see myself stopping the creative juices of fiction writing anytime soon. I’ve dreamed of being a writer for my entire life. In first grade, I read 100 books and it was then that I fell in love with stories and story-telling. 

DL: Tell us about your latest books and works in progress. 

EW: My latest book came out on April 15, 2020, and is titled, The Year the Stars Fell. It is my first complete historical fiction and is based on the first settling family to enter Shiawassee County in 1833. I will soon be starting the second in a three-part series, continuing to tell the complete story of a little village in Shiawassee County that no longer exists, before it went extinct around 1880. The series is called, “North Newburg Chronicles.” I am also helping my writing group, mentioned above, publish their third anthology and that is titled, Summer in the Mitten. The group has previously published, Winter in the Mitten and Spring in the Mitten. We hope to publish Autumn in the Mitten in September 2021.

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

EW: Like I’ve said earlier, I love to write. Creating stories from my imagination is something I love to do. I also hope to instill good hometown values, the helping hand someone gets from a neighbor/friend, and the value of lessons learned from days long ago. I like to instill good, solid beliefs in God that help us through all of life’s trials, and show that within the words of my stories. My ultimate goal is to give insights on how to maneuver through life at our best, but with the help of our Creator and to give Him the praise when we do.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

EW: I sit and write. I don’t let writer’s block or lack of ideas stop me from writing. I like to push through those roadblocks and see what can come from the days I feel off or when writing doesn’t come easy. My favorite part is the first time I sit down and begin a novel. I love creating believable and unique characters and then fleshing them out in the story. As a newspaper reporter/editor, I loved the research part of the story. When a small tidbit would release the thoughts of…what if’s…better than anything else. That’s why I’m so excited to write about this village, and hopefully more, that once existed and now does not…for whatever reasons.

Some of my greatest ideas come while I’m in the shower or on the lawnmower. The shower is my greatest thinking place. I can often get through difficult ideas/scenes by working them out while doing those two mundane things. Also walking often helps me create as well.

My least favorite is the editing part. When I’ve gone over edited my book over and over again and then I send it off to a formal editor and she/he sends me back with a million changes. I thought it was at a successful point, until someone else takes a look and changes my mind. LOL! Hard to be critiqued on something you thought was fairly good. It somehow discourages me the most and my confidence wanes.

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

EW: Being a novel writer is a dream come true for me. I’ve always told people that someday I hope to write books. Ever since college. So this job is literally a dream come true for me. The reward is seeing my writing as a useful/helpful tool in people’s lives. If they are touched, enlightened, affected, or even changed due to something I have written, that makes the process even more fulfilling for me. I used to go into the bookstore or library and push the books aside at the location on the shelf where my name would fit. I would tell my child, if they were with me, that’s where my books will be someday. To see them there now, just makes me smile. What a gift I’ve been given to have the opportunity to now have five books on the shelf of a bookstore or library.

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

EW: My website is: http://www.elizabethwehman.com.My Facebook wall is Elizabeth Wehman/Author. I’m on Twitter @elizabethwehman, Instagram at summit.street.writer and Facebook. I’m also on Amazon and Good Reads at Goodreads.

Here are links to my books:

Under the Windowsill

Promise at Daybreak

Just a Train Ride

Mere Reflection

The Year the Stars Fell

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Jeffrey Schoenherr

pig ride

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m happy to host prolific children’s book author Jeffrey Schoenherr. A native of Michigan, Jeffrey is the author of five well-received illustrated books: Lillie Saves the Day (2013), Lillie and Hamlet Meet Their Special Friends (2016), Hamlet Goes to School (2019), Lillie and Hamlet and the Baby in the Tree (2019), and his newest, Lillie’s Big Parade (2020). 

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

JS: I was raised on a farm in White Cloud, Michigan. I came from a family of eight, so you know the fun never stops. We are close and I always use them to throw around my ideas for books. It helps to keep me on track. I now live in Mt Clemens, Michigan. I have two children. My daughter is in college, and my son just finished his degree. I have five Lillie book’s out now: Lillie Saves the Day, Lillie’s Big Parade, Lillie and Hamlet Meet Their Special Friends, Lillie and Hamlet and the Baby in the Tree, and Hamlet Goes to School. There is also a new series on the way.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.

JS: My latest children’s book should be out by early August.  It’s called Smitty’s Great Escape.

It’s a true story about my grandfather and his dog. This was something that happened when I was a young kid. I almost always use real-life events for my books. The story is about a boxer dog who knows how to escape from his dog pen.

I am working on a story about a Scottish lad as well. I hope to have it out this year as well. I have several more Lillie books in the works and I am working on a story of a Gulf War veteran. This book is a little more challenging.

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

JS: I had these memories in my mind about things that happened when I was growing up, and I always thought they would make great stories. When something stands out so much in your mind, I knew I had to get the stories out there. My mother won the Detroit News spelling bee long ago and was an avid reader. She really was and is the inspiration for all of my Lillie books. Her name was Lillian, a very kind woman who shared the value of treating people and animals with love and care.

One time we had a baby piglet that wasn’t going to make it. My mom brought the piglet in the house and started feeding it with an eyedropper. Pretty soon we had an eight-pound piglet in the kitchen! The piglet thought that my mom was his mom as well.

My hope is that these books will help children learn to read and be better people. When you hear numbers like 50% of children can’t read, it’s time to help change the trend.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

JS: My writing process is more or less using memories I have and composing the thoughts to paper. It’s usually writing the outline of the story, then rereading it. I usually write the stories out freehand and then I can move the pieces around until I’m happy with the results. Then I type it out. With children’s books, the slow process is the illustrations. So it’s a bit of hurry up and wait. I also have stories that have just popped into my mind and I again put the ideas on paper. The average children’s book takes about a year to complete, start to finish.

My favorite part of the process is seeing the story come to life and my least favorite is waiting to complete it.

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

JS: As I reflect on writing, I never really thought that I would be a writer. I sort of think that the stories chose me. I was compelled to write the first book, Lillie Saves the Day. To be honest, when I saw the book finally completed, I cried. I never felt so accomplished.  That lead me to write the next book, and then it made me push to get more books out.

What helped was when I had a Name the Pig Contest. I asked the kids from my old elementary school, White Cloud Elementary, to come up with several names. The teachers loved the idea. The kids came up with fifteen names. I chose the name that I thought fit the story. (I actually asked my oldest sister what name she liked out of the fifteen names the kids gave me. She chose the same one that I did.) The kids had all voted on the names.

I went to the school and announced the winning name. There was a whole gym filled with kids and teachers. When I announced “Hamlet” was the name, they all cheered. It was amazing. I never felt that way. It was overwhelming. As all the kids left the gym, the kids hugged me, they thanked me, they high-fived me. I knew then that I would continue to put out good feel-good stories for these little people. I’m proud to be a writer.

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

JS: As of now I have my books on Amazon and am working on a new website. My Amazon Author’s Page is:

https://www.amazon.com/Jeffrey-Schoenherr/e/B00GHZ3FZY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

 

 

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: J. Q. Rose

Me in mustang 400 x 300

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m happy to host prolific author J. Q. Rose. A resident of Western Michigan, she has written both fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction books include Girls Succeed!: Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women (2014), Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing: Tips on the Writing Process, Publishing and Marketing (2015), Your Words, Your Life Stories: A Guide for Sharing Memories (2019), and Quick Tips on Vegetable Gardening: Starting Your Garden (2015). Her mysteries published by Books We Love Publishing are Terror on Sunshine Boulevard (2nd ed., 2019), Deadly Undertaking (2nd ed., 2019), and Dangerous Sanctuary (2nd ed., 2019).

Jan. 2020 JQ's books

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

JQR: Hello Readers! Thank you, Don, for hosting me on your blog today! The trip from beautiful West Michigan to your place in cyberspace was lovely. I look forward to interacting with your readers.

Whether the story is fiction or non-fiction, I am “focused on story.”  I offer readers chills, giggles, and quirky characters woven within the pages of my mystery books. Using my storytelling skills, I provide entertainment and information in articles featured in books, magazines, newspapers, and online magazines. With my non-fiction book for girls, Girls Succeed! Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women, I returned to my first love, writing about real people.

I taught elementary school for several years and never lost the love for teaching passed down from my teacher grandmother and mother. I satisfies the teaching aspect of my character by presenting workshops on Creative Writing and Writing Your Life Story.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy photography, playing Pegs and Jokers board games, and traveling with my husband. We spend winters in Florida and summers up north with our four grandsons and granddaughter.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. 

I am a life storytelling evangelist! I believe every person’s story is important and should be shared as a gift to family and friends and/or published to get their message out into the hands of readers.

In November I self-published a journal, Your Words, Your Life Story: A Journal for Sharing Memories.The low content paperback book offers folks who are interested in telling their life story ways to begin what seems like an overwhelming project. I break it down into small bites. For folks who are not writers, I encourage them to use audio or video to tell their stories and suggest programs (apps) to do so.

For those who prefer to read eBooks, Your Words, Your Life Story: A Guide for Sharing Memories is also available with all the information, inspiring quotes and exercises as in the journal. You will have to provide your own journal or notebook. This is available at Amazon and major online booksellers.

At the moment I am writing a memoir, which is just one slice of a person’s entire life story. My husband and I pursued our dream of being entrepreneurs in the floral industry. So the story of the first year is about our move to a small town in Michigan to start our business. We did not have friends or family there, nor did we have any experience in selling flowers or operating a business. The only way to explain our bold move is that we were young. The book, Arranging a Dream: A Memoir,will be released January 2021 by BWL Publishing.

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

JQR: Because I am a wordsmith and love putting words together to make a story. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? My purpose in writing fiction and non-fiction is to entertain and enlighten readers.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

JQR: My mysteries are sparked by news stories. Real life can be as unbelievable as fiction, so I tweak and twist the true life story to a fictional story filled with quirky characters and humor. My non-fiction books are about what interests me such as gardening, inspiring young girls to follow their dream and encouraging folks to write life stories.

My favorite part of the process is beginning the story where so many possibilities for characters, settings and twists in the story are available. My least favorite is culling out all the words, paragraphs or chapters that do not add anything to the premise of the book.

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

 JQR: Connections. Writing is a solitary job. I am so glad my crit group talked me into trying to publish my first novel. I almost felt guilty if I didn’t try after all the meetings we’d had together and the suggestions and thoughts they had on that story. If I hadn’t continued to write and publish, I would have missed so much. I made friends through writing that I could never have made. My horizon has widened by meeting folks from all over the world! I have plugged into thoughts from very smart people who share their world view so different from mine. I have connected with readers.

But the best part . . . my granddaughter thinks I’m famous! I took her with me to visit a talented children’s author in our town. My granddaughter chose a picture book and Jane autographed it for her. When we returned to the car, Aubrey said, “Now I know two famous people.”

“Two famous people? Who are they?”

She replied, “Jane and You!”

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

JQR: An up-to-date list of my books with blurbs and buy links is available on the page on my blog: https://www.jqrose.com/p/fiction-sunshine-boulevard-available.html.

Readers can connect online with me at my JQ Rose Blog—Focused on Story https://www.jqrose.com/.

Readers can click here to sign up for the J.Q. Rose Courier, delivered once a month to your inbox to keep up-to-date on news, sneak peaks, giveaways and fun from JQ: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/m7v2z3

Your Words, Your Life Stories: A Journal for Sharing Memories is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1702360571. The e-book version is available at Amazon and major online booksellers: https://books2read.com/u/4ExnDY.

My Facebook group to support those who are telling their stories, “Telling Your Life Story and Memoirs Circle” group, is accessible at https://www.facebook.com/groups/telllifestories/.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Andy Lockwood

 

Lockwood_crop 2

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m happy to host Andy Lockwood, author of horror and supernatural fiction. A prolific writer, Andy has published the novels Empty Hallways (2013), House of Thirteen (2015), and the newly-arrived Threshold (2020). He has also published At Calendar’s End: Omnibus (2017), a compilation of his twelve-part At Calendar’s End serial begun in 2016. He has also contributed short fiction to several anthologies.

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AL: Obviously, I’m an author—independently so and Michigan-based. I write horror and supernatural fiction. I’m a horror buff, so it was only natural for me to gravitate to that genre. I recently published my fourth novel, and have numerous stories in anthologies.

I’m also a pop culture and multimedia addict. I absorb creativity in all its forms: movies, tv, art, video games, comics, books, songs, podcasts . . . you name it, I love it all.

I have two degrees in film and have made a few short indie films. I’ve created comics in my off-time. I love to draw and design and create. I have a million side-hustles—screen printing, woodworking, painting, etc.—that I pick up and put down constantly. It’s a wonder I’ve gotten anywhere with any of them.

I’m one of your typical “I’ve always been a storyteller” people. I started telling stories when I was young. I’ve played with comics and video and written narratives, bouncing from one medium to the next because I couldn’t settle. Studying film opened my eyes to some amazing subtleties in writing and narrative, and has heavily influenced my writing style. I’m told quite often that my writing “is like watching a movie.” I really appreciate that.

When I write, I’m not creating; it’s more like transcription. In a way, every story I write is a novelization of a film—it’s just that those films are all in my head. I’m putting down what I see playing out before me. Often, I’m discovering the plot right alongside the characters; I try to have an idea of what is going on, but I’m rarely included in the plot development.

By trade, I’m an eLearning Developer. Not the most common profession, even now, but it’s gotten some attention in recent months. All those courses people are taking from home? That’s kind of what I do, more or less. I’ve been working in the industry for thirteen years, and absolutely love it. I love balancing learning with fun, tempering education with interaction. There’s as much science in there as there is art.

Most importantly, I’m happily married. Bailey is my wife, editor, partner-in-crime, and steadfast supporter. She’s my Swiss Army Wife—whatever the problem is, she’s got a tool to help me fix it. Whether I am struggling with my writing, or art, or depression; maybe I’m being indecisive or high-strung or—heaven forbid—melodramatic; Bailey has some method of helping me through it. She’s always been a helper like that. She’s also one of the most fun, smart, interesting people I know. I’m lucky she tolerates me.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.

AL: My latest book, Threshold, came out May 1. It’s been a very strange release, but interesting nonetheless. It’s certainly given me an opportunity to find new ways to get the word out about my book, rather than relying on face-to-face events. I certainly appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given to promote myself through other people’s blogs and social media outlets. It’s amazing how gracious and supportive fellow writers like you are, so thank you. I genuinely appreciate it.

On the surface, Threshold is a story about a young woman who acquires an antique mirror—one that is more than it seems. As the story unfolds, we learn that her reflection has a personality of its own. But is that real? Or is it all in her head?

My stories all stem from my own fears and fascinations. Threshold is no exception. I’ve always been fascinated by reflections—not in an egotistical way, but by the clarity of the room beyond the mirror’s surface. A perfect parallel to our own. That there is such a thin surface separating us from that world and what might lie beyond it is always scratching at the back of my brain, so I tried to let that fascination loose on the page to see what might happen.

This story is also the continuation of an on-going experiment. It is very much a love story folded into elements of supernatural horror. Since I started my first novel, Empty Hallways, I started consciously working from a position of, “I don’t write horror stories, I write love stories where horrific things happen.” Threshold is a testament to that. It’s more than a story about an ancient mirror with supernatural properties—I want my readers to care about what happens to the people involved: Cate, Lucas, their friends and family. I want to know that the story affects my readers.

I think every author has that desire and that longing. I hear how creepy my stories are. How readers leave the lights on, jump their own shadows . . . I’m not complaining—that’s great. That’s exactly what I want. But there’s another part of the story that I worry everyone is missing out on: that human element. I always want to know about the rest, how everything else affected them. I’ve worked at that in my other novels, but I think it really came together in Threshold.

I’m always in some stage of writing on a couple of short stories. One is currently for the next installment of Recurring Nightmares, an anthology produced by the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers.

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

AL: I write because I’m a storyteller. Because to not write—to not weave tales and create—is detrimental to my health. Creativity is part of my existence.

Sometimes, I write because the stories I experience don’t satisfy me. Maybe I didn’t like the ending. Or maybe they wasted too much time with extraneous details. I don’t need origin stories, let’s just cut to the story. These are my hangups, obviously, we all love different things for different reasons. But when something doesn’t sit well, it sticks with me. I think about what I would have done differently, what I wish would have happened. Eventually, I start writing my own version—a completely new story on those old bones.

The great thing about this is it can work for anyone. If you don’t like a story, analyze it. Figure out what you don’t like, what would be better to you, and start writing. Make your own story out of those bones and make it better than what you read.

I guess this is what it comes down to for me: I want to show people that it can be done. I meet people all the time who find out I’m a writer and they say something like, “Oh, I wish I had what it takes to write.” You do. Everyone does. There is no difference between me and any other writer on the planet except time spent at the keyboard and the number of words put on the page. I refuse to accept “I can’t” when it comes to writing because you can. If you can post an opinion on Facebook, you can write a novel, you have all the tools necessary. You just have to take the time to do it.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

AL: My ideas come from everywhere. From other people’s stories, from nightmares and daydreams, from silly thoughts spoken out loud on car rides. There’s a million ideas in my head and on my notepads at any given time, but it’s the ones that are too loud to ignore that get turned into stories. They take up the most space in my head and need to get out. It’s why I have a list of stories that I *want* to write, but I haven’t gotten around to them yet.

My favorite part of the process is the ideas: it’s fun to conjure up ideas. Even bad ones. The bad ones can actually build into the best stories. You know what is terrible about a bad idea, so you can start picking it apart and fixing it right away. it’s harder with a good idea that isn’t good enough. We like good ideas. We’re proud of them. They’re harder to throw away when they’re flawed. We’re already attached.

The worst part of the process is editing. I just want it to be polished and done. I don’t want to fix plot holes and correct issues and add more elements that I don’t want to be there. I just want to write the first draft and be done. I know that’s not how it works, but it’d make me happier if it did.

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

AL: *laughs* It’s certainly made my eccentricities easier for people to accept. “Why’s he like that?” “He’s a writer.” “Ohhh.”

In some ways, not much has changed. It’s one more thing to juggle, and one more thing I have to make time for. But there is always something occupying those hours, so why not writing?

In other ways, it’s been a nice change. Writing is a solitary existence. It’s you, alone with your thoughts a lot of the time while you are working. So, one of the nicer things to come out of being a writer has been connecting the Michigan author community, and the indie author community at large.

It’s an amazing comfort to be part of a network that understands what I am going through—even if we aren’t in the same genre. There are frustrations that only authors have. Things that sound insane to non-writers. It’s a relief to have a community that you can vent to. That shared experience can carry you through a lot of strife, and it creates bonds that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

I’ve made some good friends in this community. Every book event is like a reunion. I look forward to seeing everyone, their new books, and new booth setups. It’s been hard not being part of these events this year. I still have the community online, of course, but it’s not the same.

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

Website/blog: https://www.happierthoughts.com/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Andy-Lockwood/e/B00EZAVBEU

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/happierthoughts/

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/randomgauge/

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Marie LaPres

LaPres author

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m happy to host Marie LaPres, novelist and educator. From Western Michigan, Marie is the prolific author of books for pre-teens through adults: Though War Shall Rise Against Me: The Turner Daughters Book 1 (2015); Be Strong and Steadfast: The Turner Daughters Book 2 (2017); Plans for a Future of Hope: A Vicksburg Story: The Turner Daughters Book 3 (2018); Forward to What Lies Ahead: The Turner Daughters Book 4 (2019); Wherever You Go: The Turner Daughters Prequel Novella (2018); Beyond the Fort: The Key to Mackinac Book 1 (2018); Beyond the Island: The Key to Mackinac Book 2 (2020); Whom Shall I Fear: Sammy’s Struggle: A Gettysburg Story (2017); and A Teacher Guide to Whom Shall I Fear: Sammy’s Struggle (2019).

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

ML: My name is Erica Marie LaPres Emelander, but I write under the middle part of my name, Marie LaPres. I am a Middle School (6-8th grade) teacher at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I teach Social Studies and Religion. I love my job, and am totally the teacher who will dress up in historic costumes. I love learning about history, so my focus in writing is Historic Fiction. I’ve attended historic reenactments and worked for the Mackinac State Historic Parks years ago.

I am extremely close to my family, both my parents, my two sisters, one brother, my three in-laws, and my three nieces and three nephews. Family is extremely important to me, and I feel that is reflected in my writing. I also enjoy watching sports and coaching. My faith is also very important to me and that also shows up in my writing. I help out at my church with the High School Youth Group. I also love listening to music and living in West Michigan, as I love the changing seasons and the Great Lakes.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress.

ML: My latest works include Plans for a Future of Hope, which concludes my Turner Daughter Series. This series follows the Turner family, and each of the four books takes place in a city that was hit especially hard during the Civil War (Gettysburg, PA; Fredericksburg, VA; Vicksburg, MS; and Petersburg, VA). In these books, one of the main characters is a part of the family, so the books are all linked, though they follow the same timeline. One of the main characters of each of these is also a historic figure, and these books are as historically accurate as possible. I plan on writing other books in what I call the “Turner Daughter World,” including one of my WIPs.

Another newly released book is Beyond the Island. This is the second book of four in my The Key to Mackinac series. It is a Young Adult time travel novel, all set in the Mackinaw Straits. The first, Beyond the Fort, focuses on 1775 at Fort Michilimackinac on the mainland, and the newly released one takes place in 1814 on Mackinac Island. The final two will take place at Historic Mill Creek and the Mackinac Point Lighthouse. These are individual adventure stories, but there is also an overarching story as well.

I actually have three-six works in progress: one being edited, one being written, and two in the planning stages. The one being edited is a loose retelling of the classic Pride and Prejudice. It takes place in 1928/1929 America. Ellie Bennett lives on the family ranch outside Spearfish, South Dakota, in the Black Hills. Wealthy new neighbors bring excitement and the possibility of relationships, but class differences, pride, and prejudices may cause problems. Ellie will also travel to Biltmore manor in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina, and St. Louis, Missouri, in her story.  It’s pretty different from any of my other writings, but I am really excited about it.

The one I am currently writing is Young Adult Historical Fiction. It follows cousins Cassandra and Matthew during the four years of the Civil War. Cassandra is left to care for the family farm in Winchester, Virginia, which was constantly changing hands throughout the conflict. Matthew lies about his age and joins up with the Confederate Army and quickly learns that it is not all glory. This book is basically everything I teach to my students in the Civil War in awesome story form.

I am also planning my last two novels in the Key to Mackinac Series.

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

ML: I love everything about literature. Reading and writing and creating stories have always been important to me. I incorporate what I am thinking and feeling in my books, and if you were to ask me “Which main character do you think is most like you?” my response is: all of them in, different ways. Writing is a way to express myself and perhaps help others get through their lives as well. I also write to teach. My books are Historical Fiction, and I am a huge history nerd! I love to share this love of history and teach using stories. Since I am a middle school teacher, I know that a lot of people learn best through stories.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

ML: I am always writing and usually writing and planning. My ideas come from my experiences. The idea for my first book came when I was on a family vacation to Gettysburg and heard the story of Ginny Wade. I never intended for it to grow from there, but then I went on vacation and we stopped in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I got to the idea for doing the series. I also get ideas for learning and researching current writing projects. There are characters in my Turner Daughter World that beg to have their own full stories told, so I have those ideas. I write a monthly Michigan History article for the Buy Michigan Now website and constantly get new ideas. I have an ideas notebook so full of ideas it’s crazy.

Once I get a general idea, I do my research. I use a lot of primary documents, such as journals, articles, and letters from the past. This is where I can get my actual historic characters that I like to both focus on and weave in my stories. While I am doing that, I use note cards to outline the story. I like using note cards because I can move some scenes around if I feel it is needed. I also usually write out some scenes that really stick out in my head at this time. I handwrite all of my prewriting notes, note cards, and first drafts. It is how my brain works. I then work on the first draft, then convert it to a typed document. This can also count as the first round of editing.

My favorite part is developing the characters. They really do become a part of you, and there are many times that they take the story in a different direction that I did not originally intend.

After my first draft, my mother/top editor/everything else other than the first draft writer edits it and gives her input. I edit and fix things and add things as needed. Then it goes back for another round of editing. We eventually edit it to a point and get it out to some beta readers for final read-throughs. Then on to formatting.

My least favorite part is the last draft editing, mainly because by that time I am so ready to get it out to the readers and want to feel that sense of accomplishment once again. It takes a little too long sometimes, and I often get frustrated that I didn’t catch the typos/mistakes earlier.

I have many favorite parts. Researching, creating the stories, developing and exploring the characters are all great, and I also love the feeling of accomplishment when I hold the final draft in my hand and can share it with all my loyal readers. Hearing their feedback is great too!

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

ML: I never anticipated being a writer. While I have enjoyed writing books and telling stories for as long as I can remember, I just didn’t think I would be good enough or that anyone other than myself and my Mommy would like my books. That has been the pleasantest of surprises. It has opened many doors to me, and it has made me a better person.

I still find it hard to reach out and sell my books/myself, but I am getting better. I find it easier to small talk with people and being a part of the writing community has been a blessing in my life. There are a lot of great writers/awesome people, especially in the Michigan writing community. Because of my books and selling, I have met a lot of great people in the Civil War Reenactment world as well. I am also now able to teach in many ways I never thought possible. I can teach through my actual stories, but this has also opened up opportunities for me to give speeches and presentations on my books and research practices, as well as historic topics. Writing and traveling to events has also allowed me to deepen my relationship with my mother. None of this would have happened if not for her, and I am so lucky that we get to spend so much time together.

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

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Marie-LaPres/e/B075J5VTX6%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Website: https://sites.google.com/view/marielapres/home

YouTube Page: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMovDGPKxKKcoWQP9lT3V8g

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mariejlapres/

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14923931.Marie_LaPres

Blog: https://authormarielapres.blogspot.com/

Thank you so much for this opportunity. I really appreciate it!

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Andrew Allen Smith

Andrew Smith - Author 2

With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press 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 I’m honored to host Andrew Allen Smith, novelist, short story writer, and poet. Originally from Anderson, Indiana, Andrew currently lives in Michigan. After several successful ventures in IT, research, and business, Andrew has become a prolific and creative author. He is the author of four novels in the Masterson Files series, combining action, adventure, and mystery: Vengeful Son (Book 1, 2016), Sinful Father (Book 2, 2018), Deadly Daughter (Book 3, 2018), and Fateful Friend (Book 4, 2019). A fifth entry in the series is in the works, as well as a number of other books, as Andrew describes below. 

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AAS: My name is Andrew Allen Smith. My quest is to learn, write, and have fun doing everything I do. My favorite color is blue, no red, no blue. Ooops, ahhhhh.

In all seriousness I have always been a storyteller, but as a writer I face something that many writers seem to face, focus. I have a significant number of partially completed books, short stories, novellas, poems, prose pieces, and inspirational items and have to focus to keep from pushing each pebble forward a little and not completing items. I went to college for Computer Science, and do very well with machines. My early goal was to develop AI and work in robotics, but I ended up working in hard core IT, and research. I have written a lot, and I only recently began collating and completing my writings. After huge successes and several business ventures I moved to Michigan in 2015 and was assisted by two friends in finishing my first book, Vengeful Son.

Since then I work, write, and hang out with my wife, two dogs, and cat. My children are all grown up, so it is a relatively peaceful life.

DL: Tell us about your latest book and works in progress. 

AAS: My most recent book is the fourth in the Masterson Files series. Fateful Friend is about a series of unpredictable events that accidently get our antihero, Jonathon Michael Masterson, involved in an attempted assassination. The book and my characters continue to grow and though this book was painful, it was another improvement in the series. I have enjoyed having the characters grow and have a lot invested in this work. It was more difficult because the story grew sideways for a while. It does involve some ancillary characters, but I had created a side story about race that I reduced simply because it was far too complex and did not add to the story.

I am currently working on several items. Book 5 of the Masterson files is complete and edited. I need a cover and have found a few people who are willing to work on it with me. Silent Sister is a pure roller coaster ride. My villain was a huge success with my editor and a beta reader, and my hero for this book was truly a semi-side character until now. Michael is still a major part, but my hero takes on more than he should, and there are several substories about family, trust, and how people sometimes need help and need to ask for that help.

I am also working on Burial Ground, a Young Adult story about a young lady who moves to the country next to an Indian reservation, makes some awesome friends, and is slowly possessed by a deceased Indian chief. It is a labor of love and will be out before the Muskegon Art fair in July (if that ends up happening).

Stealth Ride is about a man who lost his wife to a car accident while he stayed home and took care of his car. The story is existential as it questions the meaning of life, possessions, and relationships. I started this years ago and the story has been stuck in my mind to the last line, I just need to get it completed.

As if that is not all, I am working on Adam, a book about a man who find himself in a unique situation. He is immortal and can save a woman if he just acts, but there are consequences. In this first of the series, Adam tells his story. This book is all written in first person from Adam’s point of view, making it a different approach to my normal style of writing.

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

AAS: I write because I enjoy writing. Each night I dream, and usually it is a new story. As you can guess, I am a bit behind in putting them all down. I love the feeling of words flowing onto paper. The goal of each story is to entertain. It is the best feeling in the world to have someone come up and say, “Where is the next book,” or to tell me how engrossed they got in the story.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

AAS: Oops, I jumped ahead didn’t I. Usually I am inspired by dreams, but sometimes it can be items or a thought or person. I write each day at an inspirational site and those ideas come from everywhere. From people who say a few words to me to the passions of my life, and other people’s lives. To quote “The Seven Faces of Doctor Lao,” “Every time you pick up a grain of sand you hold a universe in the palm of your hand.”For me, every moment is like a grain of sand, and every moment has a story to tell about the universe.

I had a vivid dream once about death, the most vivid I have ever had, and the concepts and ideas were amazing, and my inspiration worked them out even further. Death as a person, an entity. Yes, it has been done in movies and books, but my dream was different, and the resulting “A Conversation with Death” was fairly unique.

I love getting the ideas out, and then shaping them into a cohesive story. My books grow themselves. I am not out to baffle readers with new words they never wanted to know, I am out to tell a story and, in the process, show my readers something fun, exciting, scary, amazing, horrible, passionate, and even uplifting.

I dislike editing and have had bad experiences with editors. A wonderful young lady, Jenny Bynum, reviewed my first book after it was published and loved the book but pointed out the errors. I spent a considerable amount of the books’ earnings on editors. Each has had their own challenges, and I blame myself each time. I can do perfect at work writing a quality document, but do not do as well editing my own books. I also dislike some of the dealings I have had with reviews. I have had dozens of good reviews, but the company that has my books online (Amazon) often removes those for no apparent reason, so it goes up and down a lot.

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

AAS: In my opinion, touching someone with words is making a difference. In the early 90s, I owned a social network and spoke on television about interacting mind-to-mind. Great writers and good writers are not just throwing words on a page, they are sharing their mind through words and painting a picture that can only be seen in the back of someone’s mind. To me that is amazing. Having someone come up to me and say, “I love Alan, who did you base him on?” and me saying he was created from the back of my mind, gives me a sense of satisfaction.

If you consider it, we are all like Doctor Frankenstein and our characters truly come alive. In my second book, Sinful Father, one of the main characters dies. I cried like a baby writing about a character giving a eulogy about a character I created killed by another character I created that broke the heart of yet another. None of the people existed, but in my mind they did, and the feedback I have gotten from people is similar. No, I will not get rich from writing, well, unless someone says “Oh wow! Read this now,” and I go viral, but I will feel with people as my stories progress.

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

AAS: You can see my inspirational blog daily at www.29000sunsets.com, short stories at www.shortstorysite.com, and books at  https://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Allen-Smith/e/B01KTVUFQS%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share (New site coming soon!)