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.

The F-Word

 

Last week I had lunch with a friend who had just turned 71, my own age. We talked about the absolute bizarreness of being 71, and shared thoughts about what future might be left for us. Afterwards, we went into his music studio (he’s a piano teacher and gifted and accomplished pianist), and I noticed a book by Kinky Friedman on his bookshelves.

71e4pSXoaDL._AC_UL640_QL65_If you don’t know Kinky Friedman as an author, you might have heard of him as a country singer. He named his band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys; one of his big hits was a parody of “Proud to be an Okie from Muskogee” called “Proud to be an Asshole from El Paso.”

As you can tell, Kinky is not a serious, straight-laced kind of guy.

But he has a series of terrific, hysterical mystery novels that I read and loved. His detective is a former country music singer named “Kinky Friedman,” who lives in Greenwich Village and hangs around with a group of friends whose names are the same as the real Kinky’s real group of friends (Ratso, Rambam, and so on). The books are rife with Kinky’s brand of wry, post-modern, satiric humor.

I remarked on this book on my friend’s bookshelves, and we started talking about his library. When I took a closer look at his shelves, I noticed they looked a lot like my bookshelves—albeit his were a lot neater than mine. We shared the exact same taste in authors . . . there was Last Exit to Brooklyn, there was Nabokov, Joseph Conrad, Jerzy Kosinski, Thomas Mann, Tolstoy, Updike, Solzhenitsyn, and many, many more books that I also owned.

On its face, this wasn’t surprising; after all, we were very similar, my friend and I, with similar backgrounds and life experiences.

There was even one of my own novels on my friend’s shelves, along with a book by his brother, who had written some historical mystery novels published in the 1990s by St. Martin’s Press.

My friend described his writer-brother as an alcoholic failed writer, and holding his book in my hands I said, “Not that there’s anything wrong with being a failed writer . . . Half the people in this room are failed writers!”

We both laughed. But like Kinky Friedman’s books, it was funny in part because I was being deadly serious.

Like most creative people, I’m never more than half a step away from the phantoms of failure. Too often I feel their cold breath on my neck, their ghostly arms holding me back.

636348737695712187-2016-Ghost-Medium-3-003.jpg

In my friend’s studio, in view of all these books from authors whom I had once devoured as a young man, and whose works so influenced my own intellectual development, the specters arose again. With our lunchtime discussion of aging fresh in my mind, I told my friend, “This makes me feel nostalgic for the time when I discovered all these writers.”

Thinking about it later, though, I understood that what I was actually nostalgic for wasn’t the young man who had yet to discover these great writers. Rather, it was for the future that young man imagined . . . a future as a writer, a future that lay ahead, open, waiting to be lived, containing a sense of promise that I remember hoping for and in an important way relying on to get me through the difficult times of my youth.

An as-yet unfailed-in future.

gotham-1

On a visit to New York City in the 1970s, when I was in my twenties, I went into the famous Gotham Book Mart and wandered around practically open-mouthed at the literary life that storied store represented for me, with stacks of books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Ellison, Flannery O’Connor, Kerouac, Graham Greene, Dos Passos, and other classic works of fiction and philosophy from America and Europe, as well as what was then the cutting edge of the literary life . . .  . Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, Saul Bellow, Allen Ginsberg, Susan Sontag, John Barth, John Barthelme, Kurt Vonnegut, and others.

Even now, so many years later, I remember thinking, “This is the life I want to live.”

Except in the end I didn’t.

Today, as I contemplate my gathering senescence, that future I imagined exists only as a nostalgic memory of possibility, not as a remembered past.

I tried. I paid all the dues you’re supposed to pay, including collecting rejections by the score, along with enough acceptances to keep me going. And then, in the early 80s, a hotshot New York agent agreed to represent a novel I’d written. He was the real deal, and I thought it was just a matter of time until I broke through.

Except in the end it wasn’t.

After three years of trying to place it, the agent regretfully sent the manuscript back, saying he couldn’t do anything more with it. Nobody wanted it. He didn’t want it. And he turned down the novel I’d written in the meanwhile.

I was crushed. That final rejection was it for me. I’m not meant for this, I thought. I failed.

I left imaginative writing behind. I became a writer, yes, a professional, earning my living by my pen (or word processor, as the case may be). But what I wrote were speeches, grants, newsletters, annual reports, video scripts, and everything else you can think of for hospitals, government, and businesses as big as IBM and GM and as small as one-man computer start-ups.

A body of accomplishment, to be sure. But not as a writer, with all that had represented for me. I was good at knocking out speeches on the AIDS epidemic in New York City, but not writing novels about the moral life of the universe.

It was impossible not to agonize over why I failed. Lack of talent hit me like a pie in the face, of course. Some have what it takes, some don’t; I was the latter.

Other explanations arose the more I thought—and agonized—about it . . . explanations like bad luck (another agent wanted to represent that early book but she died before anything could happen); ambivalence about the end goal; a prideful unwillingness to do the kind of sucking up I perceived I needed to do, and the concomitant lack of a mentor helping me along; the need to earn a living; a low (and lowering) self-image that wouldn’t let me consider that I actually had what it took to find a place for myself in the world where I wanted to live, along with a pathological shyness that kept me from promoting myself more aggressively, a dangerous combination; perhaps an abiding timidity that kept me from screwing my courage to the sticking place when it most mattered.

Perhaps ultimately a combination of all of those.

Whenever I felt the urge to write imaginatively (which, by the way, was relentless), the memory of having failed so spectacularly stopped me. Nobody wants what you have to say, my inner demon insisted; just stop already.

During that time, I wrestled almost constantly with what success as a writer really meant. I tried to pinpoint what it was that I had failed at.

Eventually, I became a college professor, and, a decade after I stopped creative writing, I realized I needed to start again. The pressure to create grew too insistent to ignore. After all that time, I was still smarting from failing as a fiction writer, so I began writing poetry, which I hadn’t failed at yet.

And then to my surprise, people began to publish my poems. One poem won a prize. Then I wrote and published some short stories and one of them won a prize.

Finally, I tried my hand at another novel, and wrote a series of mystery novels. I just published my seventh. I published two slender collections of poetry.

So am I a success? By some measures, yes. I kept at it; I didn’t quit; I started back writing again, itself an act of both defiance and liberation. I  became an independent author and took the means of production back into my own hands.

By other measures, no. I published all the novels myself, under an imprint I created, which meant no authority has validated me as a writer (Mystery Writers of America doesn’t even consider me a real mystery writer); the poetry is published on the Internet and tiny journals, with the books from two miniscule presses, neither of which even exists anymore. Reviews are few and far between; my work is invisible to prestigious reviewers. Despite my best efforts, each novel I publish sells fewer copies than the one before.

So am I a failure?

That question will never go away. I always tell people it’s the work that matters, not the sales or the reception, but secretly in my heart I know I don’t believe that. I think most creative people don’t. 

Everybody knows Shakespeare’s lines about there being “a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” What often gets left out is the end of the quotation: “omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

Even now, I’m not sure I ever saw that tide. If it came in, it feels like I never took it.

I won’t say the voyage of my life has been bound in miseries—on the contrary, it’s been extraordinarily fulfilling in a variety of ways. But looking backward, as I was doing in my friend’s music studio, face-to-face with the reminders of a future that was as yet unfailed-in—it’s impossible not to fear that my life as a writer—the life I had wanted to live—has been bound in the shallows. And that I’ve been spent my time splashing around, near the beach, while others are out in deeper waters.

“Our doubts are traitors,” says Shakespeare. Unfortunately, they are often our best friends, too.

Several years ago, I was thinking about Bob Dylan and his own journey. We like to believe that talent will out, and so his fame and fortune were inevitable. But I started to think about what would have happened if, by some combination of misfortunes, he had never made it. I wrote a poem about that, which binds up some of the ideas I’ve touched on here. The poem imagines an alternative history for Dylan. What if he had never made it when he moved to New York, the poem asks.

What if all the breaks had gone against him? 

What if he had failed?

 

At the Red Lobster in Duluth, MN*

He left behind the frozen landscape

and empty mines of his upper Midwest home

to head east, for New York City

where he heard it all was happening.

At every stop on the way to the Port Authority

he jumped out to grab a smoke

and check on the heavy battered Gibson

riding in the luggage compartment

beside his big suitcase. In between

he took in the fields and crossroads

on the freedom highway of the vast country.

 

When he landed in the city

he walked happily down Eighth Avenue

through the smells of pickles and pizza

to locate himself in a railroad flat

on the sixth floor of a walkup

where he shooed away rats on the stairs.

Most nights he made the rounds

of the folk clubs in the Village

singing in his rough raspy voice

the songs he had written on the backs

of invoices from his father’s store.

Nights when he wasn’t singing somewhere

he spent soaking in the tub

in his kitchen and dreaming of the future.

 

But the gigs got shorter and came less often

and he started getting to parties

after the important people had left.

The record company stopped returning his calls

and one day a club owner told him, “Kid,

I’ve seen it all, and you just don’t have it”

just as his money ran out

and rather than ask his father for more

he took the A train back uptown

but not before leaving his guitar at the Salvation Army

on Spring Street at the corner of Lafayette

and twisting his harmonica rig

into the shape of the state of Minnesota

and dropping it in a trash can on the street.

Though his friends begged him to stay

he jumped on a Greyhound back to the north country

where he learned how to cook

or at least defrost and reheat fish

at the Red Lobster in Duluth.

 

He gave up listening to music at all

though occasionally lyrics formed

unbidden in his head

as he stood over the big stove

turning flounders that smelled of butter.

He hummed these secret tunes to himself

growing old behind the cries of the servers

clamoring for their orders.

 

*A version of this poem was published in Shaking Like a Mountain, March 2010.

 

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.

So Why Mysteries?

[This week’s blog post brings back an oldie but a goodie from a few years ago. Enjoy!]

When I give people my elevator speech for the Martin Preuss mysteries (“This is a series of mysteries etc.”), one of the questions I often get is, “Do you have a background in law enforcement?” After I tell them no, I was an English professor and before that a professional writer, their follow-up question is often, “So why mysteries?”

While I understand the question comes out of genuine curiosity, I also suspect it has to do with the stereotype many people have of an English professor who wants to write the Great American Novel. And mysteries, of course, as “genre fiction,” don’t qualify.

What I typically tell people is a condensed version of the truth: I’ve always been drawn to the mystery form, ever since I was a little boy when I would make up my own episodes of Dragnet. There is a vitality in the mystery that I find more compelling than in “literary” work, which tends toward an interiority, dare I say pretentiousness, that is for me less interesting.

(Sorry, I can’t keep myself from using those quotes around “literary.”)

I say that’s a version of the truth, because the real story is a bit more complicated.

thumbprint.gif

When I was young, I had my own high-fallutin’ literary pretensions. The authors that I read, the ones who were doing what I thought of as the real heavy lifting of literature, were the novelists . . . Tolstoy and Jane Austen, James Joyce, Saul Bellow and John Updike and Bernard Malamud and Vladimir Nabokov, among others. I wanted to write what they did: serious, important works.

I had wanted to be a writer since I was a little boy, and I prepared for that life in the usual way: took an English degree, read widely, and so on. Once I graduated college, however, I found myself at complete loose ends. With little usable life experience to write about (a story for another time) and no concrete plans for the future, I was temporarily stymied.

Added to which, at the time my older brother was having drug problems that were worsening by the day, which caused nonstop chaos in my family. It was not a pleasant time.

During summers while in college, I had a job as a movie theatre assistant manager, and when I graduated, my summer job turned full-time; the miserable, alienated college student became a miserable, alienated theatre manager. I took refuge from the disorder of my life in the seedy darkness of movie theatres at night, and in clean, well-lighted libraries during the day, trying to write but also relearning how to read for enjoyment again.

I found myself going back to reading the kinds of books I used to love: mysteries and detective stories. I discovered a world of new authors. I read through Dashiell Hammett and Rex Stout and Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler and especially Ross Macdonald. Except I wasn’t reading them for the mysteries or the puzzles, which didn’t interest me, but rather for what I needed at the time: some notion of how to live.

To me it felt like the detectives in the books I read were virtuous in the old Elizabethan sense of confronting and controlling experience. They were good men and women struggling to live well in a corrupt world, facing down the turmoil and tumult of that world—much as I was trying to do with my own life . . . except they were succeeding, unlike me (or so I felt).

IMG_0354.JPG

When in the 70s I came across the works of two Swedish co-authors, Maj Sjoval and Per Wahloo, I knew I had discovered something else that was important about mysteries. The authors of the Martin Beck series of police procedurals, Sjoval and Wahloo had consciously set out to use the detective novel format to comment on changes in their society. I realized that, far from being fluff, good mysteries could have as much depth to them as the most literary novel—in addition to being enjoyable, energetic reads. (The name of my main character, Martin Preuss, is partly an homage to Sjoval and Wahloo’s detective, Martin Beck.)

The more I read, the more I saw that good mysteries were novels of personality; great mysteries, said Henning Mankell, the Swedish author of the Kurt Wallander series, were novels of society seen through the lens of crime. I saw how mysteries could be a powerful form for personal as well as social transformation.

Many years later, when I again started seriously writing long works of fiction after a long hiatus (yet another story for another time), mysteries were my natural go-to.

At this particularly dreadful moment in history, when corruption seems widespread across our society, most especially at the highest levels of government, and baser instincts seem to reign, we are badly in need of transformation.

We need a literature that allows us to enter imaginatively and empathetically into the experience of others, individuals as well as the group, and be transformed. If we’re going to survive, we need a literature that expands, not contracts, our sympathies.

Writing mysteries is a way for me to do that. It allows me to enter the mind and heart of characters under the stresses of crime and see the world through those eyes, and help others understand that character’s world—and, ultimately, our own.

The great crime writer Don Winslow asks the question in his novels, “How do you live decently in an indecent world?” Mysteries help give me and my readers a way to test the tentative answers to that question that Martin Preuss arrives at throughout the pages of my books. 

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: Angela Verges

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 award-winning author and humorist Angela Verges. A graduate of Michigan State University and currently working in the field of recreation, Angela is the author of Menopause Ain’t No Joke: Blending Faith and Humor in Perfectly Imperfect Situations (2018). The book started as a collection of blog posts, which have also accompanied her on stage in the comedy sets she performs. 

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AV: You know, Don, that’s always a tough question for me to answer. Can I have a different question? Just kidding. Sometimes it’s easier to talk about other things rather than oneself. I’m a people person—does that sound cliché-ish? My sons always tease me because they say I talk to people anywhere. I’m that person who will make small talk with a person in the grocery store line, the post office line, or any other line. Maybe I just don’t like standing idle in lines.

Anyway, I have two young-adult sons. I’ve always lived in Michigan—a few different cities, but always in Michigan. I love to read. Reading is my gateway to writing. If you were to ask me about my hobby, I would say I collect words and phrases . . . and books. My love of writing began in fifth grade when I received my first diary.

At the top of my list for things that I like to read or write, would  be things that include humor, inspiration, and encouragement.

I guess I had more to say about myself than I thought. I feel like I’m rambling, so I’ll stop there.

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

AV: I became a first-time author in 2018 with the publication of my book, Menopause Ain’t No Joke: Blending Faith and Humor in Perfectly Imperfect Situations. It’s a non-traditional devotional that is a collection of my personal essays on parenting, fitness, aging, and everything in between. Served throughout the book are dishes of menopause, sprinkled with humor. Each essay ends with a scripture and space for the readers to journal and reflect on their situations. 

As far as a work in progress, I have an eBook in the works. Although my season of sweat is still in full swing, the eBook is not on the topic of menopause. The book will include some form of humor. I’m not ready to reveal the title yet because it’s a working title and may change.

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

AV: Writing is therapeutic for me. It also feels good when I can encourage someone through my writing. I’ve often heard it said that the writer should write with the reader in mind. I want a reader to find something in my writing that resonates with her or him. I hope there is a nugget of inspiration, humor, or insight that the reader walks away with.

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

AV: My writing process consists of jotting down ideas when they come to me. I’ve lost many ideas by not making note of them right away. Now, I write down on whatever I can find. One of my sons asked me, “Why do you have notes on a paper plate?”

I told him, “Because it matches the notes I have on a napkin.”

My favorite part of the writing process is sitting in a coffee shop with my laptop and taking in my surroundings. I have a special writing spot at home, but I like getting out of the house. There are times when ideas flow like a water faucet, then they slow down to a drip. Changing my writing location often helps. There are other resources I include in my writing process. I’ll play around with writing prompts, create words with my Bananagram tiles, or pull out my Writer’s Toolbox.

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

AV: Writing has taken me to different platforms. I’ve written for a church newsletter,  a parenting blog for my local newspaper, and I’ve written and performed comedy.

Writing has connected me with people I may not have otherwise met. I’ve made new friendships.

As my children have gotten older, I’ve noticed a change in my writing journey. I began with writing picture book manuscripts. I loved reading to my sons when they were younger. As they became older and involved in sports, I found myself writing more parenting articles for our local newspaper, which eventually led to the creation of my own blog.

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

AV: Readers can find out more about me at my website: www.angelaverges.com.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Andrew H. Kuharevicz

author picture

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 Andrew H. Kuharevicz, author, poet, editor, blogger, and book-buyer and manager for the indie bookstores The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague, Michigan, and The Book Nook Too in downtown Muskegon. Andrew is also the editor-in-chief of West Vine Press. He is the author of many volumes of poetry and prose, including most recently Okay Birds Quiet Please, a book of poems; Pickpocket of Reality, his fourth poetry and prose collection; and the novel, The Future Book of War, the final volume of the Adventures of a Dying Young Man series.

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

AHK:A little about myself? What … self? Ok, where to start. Right off the bat a very loaded question but here I go:

I’m an American citizen, a human and all around pretty normal sorta guy who lives in a sleepy sorta town in Michigan named Montague. I run a bookstore called, The Book Nook & Java Shop. In my opinion, one of the best indie bookshops in the world. I’m biased but yeah, we’re on the smaller side but we do move a lot of books. There’s a full bar and a stage, which in non-pandemic years features author readings and music three or five days a week. Basically, my life feels like a dream. I mean I get to sell books for a living, something numerous people said wasn’t possible in the modern United States economy.

Today, I live a much different life than I did when I was younger. Instead of a wandering writer where I prepared for chaos each day I woke up, I now live a somewhat reasonable stable existence, I’m a father to two great kids, Sawyer (2) and Lucy (6 weeks), so they keep my wife and me pretty darn busy. Often it feels like real life is the novel, and that somehow, I just ended up here.

Prior to the Book Nook, I worked in a crazy pharmacy for a couple years in Downtown Muskegon, but before that I traveled the country as an idealistic young writer for about ten years. That happened after I moved to Ann Arbor and was fired from a job at a wine store. Back then I wanted to write and not sell wine, drink wine, not sell wine. I wasn’t ready to settle down yet so getting the boot I got on the road. I graduated from Western Michigan University, majoring in Sociology and Criminal Justice, with a minor in philosophy. Furthering my education, because I didn’t want to get stuck in my hometown, I started grad school studying Philosophy of the Mind. I dropped out, though, by the second semester because get this, I just wanted to write.

I grew up in Roosevelt Park in Muskegon, going to Catholic School from grades 1-12. Other than my parents, my grandmother was the most important person in my life. She was one of the only people who would sit and listen to me read my material. But writing isn’t something I developed when I was young. My first love was baseball, and during the summer I’d ride my bike every day with the other kids in the neighborhood to the little league field and we’d play until sunset. I continued playing baseball in high school and my first year of college.

During my last semester in university, The Stranger by Albert Camus was assigned by a criminology professor. I stayed up all night devouring the book, and when I got to the end, I decided that I was going to be a writer. After that I lived in many states, and worked many strange jobs. As they say, it’s a long and winding road, but I’ll stop there.

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

AHK: Most recently, the end of 2019, I published a big novel that I worked on for about six years, The Future Book of War. It’s a stand-alone novel that takes place in the world of the main protagonist named Henry Oldfield. You can call it a series because he is featured in more than one book I’ve written, but you don’t have to read any others to enjoy the others. Each of the five novels that make up The Adventures of a Dying Young Man Saga is a complete story with a beginning and an end. But if you want to know more, you can read another one, which layers the story with a fuller picture. The overall story is about a boy born dumb who wanders the last years of what we know as the United States before it becomes something different and new. The Future Book of War is a book I’m very proud of and was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut and also, e.e. Cummings’s The Enormous Room.

Other than my novel-length books, I also work on poetry, mostly spontaneous and in the vein of the Beat Generation. My most recent book-bound publication was a book titled Pickpocket of Reality, words about Manhattan, where I go just about every year for the Book Expo. Inside of Pickpocket of Reality you’ll read words about cats and there’s also poems about water, writing, and running a bookshop during the technological age. Basically, just life ya dig.

Also, my best-selling collection is a book that I got to read in the Village in Manhattan at this Lit-Pub named The KGB. It was the highlight of my writing career reading with other poets and friends at a place that is rich with so much history of great writers. The book I was reading from is called Okay Birds Quiet Please, and is more of the same. Just a book about writing, the love of life and the world at large, as well as the society we live in. It’s full of contradictions, just as we as a people are. It’s about silence and the moment before you start the tap… tap … tap, which is what I call typing on a typewriter.

Lastly, and briefly, I’ll be having a new book coming out in the next couple months. It’s a mix of creative nonfiction, poetry and journalism, typed up on a typewriter and titled, In Madness We Spring: Novel Words During A Pandemic. It tells the story of the first days of the Covid-19 outbreak up until the Michigan Stay at Home Order ended. It’s from the perspective of a small business owner and the pandemic, really uncharted and crazy times; In Madness We Spring will be out the end of September/Early October, published by West Vine Press, an indie from Michigan, for which I also act as an editor.

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

AHK: The question why I write is a good question. Also, a question I’ve forgotten about as my writing life has aged. So, I’ve written or edited in ninety-five percent of the days that make up the last ten years or so of my life. Hemingway said (and I paraphrase) that a writer is only a writer if they write, also, that when you are a writer you should restrain from talking so much. So maybe that’s why I write. To communicate with both myself and my expanded human family.

Writing is of course artistic, but art is still created for some kind of cause. A reason, if you will, and as you get older you often forget about the why; simply, art becomes part of you, a routine, something you do, like breathing, there’s always a reason but when it becomes habit, the reason disappears. Like brushing your teeth. Not sure if that’s a good answer, but I write to see what’s going on. I write to dig into my mind. I write to have fun. I write to talk and I write to predict the future. Ha.

Honestly, I write because I love to write, and as far as what I want to accomplish with my writing, well, back when I was just starting out I did it because I wanted to be the best writer to ever live. How outrageous is that? I was young and words were magic back then. I wanted to write the Great American Novel, living a life like Hunter S. Thompson and Henry Miller had done. Of course, that was naïve, but I had one hell of a time believing that was possible. But these days I just want to release books and try and get better with every new project I start. Being a specific type of writer, a so-called big-time successful author, isn’t Important to me, I just want to write and the only way to accomplish that is by, well, writing.

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

AHK: I have two ways I write. One for long-form (fiction, novel, short stories, and creative nonfiction) and another process for poetry.

For long-form writing projects, first, I mentally prepare for the writing process weeks and sometimes months before I even start the first draft. In the morning on some random day, I come up with a story in my head, I think it over, and play it out in my mind. I let it simmer if you will. Then when I’m ready to write, I pick a typewriter, each new book I write needs a new typewriter, one just right, fitting of the vibe if that’s possible, one to match the feeling of the story I’m going to tell.

Then, I place the typewriter somewhere in an isolated room, with no internet, no distractions, nature can be there but that’s it. Next, I place a blank piece of paper in, and just start typing. No breaks, little care for spelling and punctuation; I type for one straight hour every day until the story is done. I end each session during the first draft when I know what will happen next, so tomorrow I can pick up where I last ended and have no road blocks following the story.

It takes a good year for the first draft. Often more than one, and when I’m done there’s a stack of paper that I take and copy-write/edit into the second draft into the computer. After that’s done I edit it again multiple times and pick out a good font and change the size of the paper. Writing a long-form book is like sculpting, or building a good house, it takes time.

When I was in college, my friend who taught at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, said he liked my writing, but I needed to learn to edit more. So, I took that to heart and now my favorite part of the writing process is editing, I don’t know why, most writers say they dislike that aspect but to me that’s when what you’ve written really becomes something real, a world in-itself, self-sustaining with ozone and all.

As far as my poetry, I use whatever I have. I sketch ideas and pseudo-haikus down in notepads, type some disorganized poetics on a typewriter, write on my hand if I have an aha moment.

Writing poetry is like journalism to me, most of the truest pieces I’ve written have happened during the waiting moments of life, such as in airports, on flights, waiting for the bus, or just sitting by Lake Michigan for fifteen minutes during the middle of the afternoon. I can write a poem anywhere, it’s much freer than the long-form writing process.

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

AHK: The label of being a writer means nothing to me. I write because I like to do it. I have things to say, stories to tell, so I say and write them. But if I try to give you a better answer…

Writing has made me who I am, opened my mind, refined my critical thinking skills, opened up the world, like a Copernican Revolution, and it’s humbled me, connected me to other writers and poets all around the world. Writing has created a path for me, and writing, it’s how I ended up here, today, now.

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

AHK: Below are links to my blog, and my publisher, West Vine Press; a Facebook page of the creative process of my current project; and direct links where you can purchase some books if you’d like to. 

Andrew H. Kuharevicz blog: adventuresinamericanwriting.com

The Future Book of War: https://www.buybooknookbooks.com/product/the-future-book-of-war-by-andrew-h-k-/4662?cs=true

Pickpocket of Reality: https://www.buybooknookbooks.com/product/pickpocket-of-reality-by-andrew-k-/4794?cs=true

Okay Birds Quiet Please: https://www.buybooknookbooks.com/product/okay-birds-quiet-please-by-andrew-k/4795?cs=true

More can be found here . . . go to Buy Books Here and scroll to bottom of page: westvinepress.com

The Novel streaming first draft From Author Andrew H. K.: https://www.facebook.com/thenovelahk/

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Elizabeth Wehman

small-copy-732x1024

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: Nan Sanders Pokerwinski

Nan Sanders Pokerwinski - photo

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 delighted to host author, freelance writer, and science journalist Nan Sanders Pokerwinski. A transplant from the Detroit area to west-central Michigan, Nan is the author of the award-winning memoir, Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta (Behler Publications: 2019).
Mango_Rash-cover_high_res_9781941887066_FC_resized

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

NSP: Writer, reader, photographer, woodsy-woman, yoga enthusiast, maker of peculiar things—that about sums me up.

I spent most of my working life writing about science, medicine, and well-being, first as science writer for the Detroit Free Press, then at the University of Michigan News Service, under the byline Nancy Ross-Flanigan. In my freelance work, which spanned more than two decades, I wrote for a variety of magazines, newspapers, online publications, and medical institutions.

Nowadays, I focus on writing memoir, personal essays, and—most recently—fiction.

My husband Ray and I moved to Newaygo from the Detroit area eight years ago, and we appreciate the creative community and natural beauty we’ve found here.

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

NSP: My memoir, Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta, was published in 2019 by Behler Publications, after winning first place in the memoir/nonfiction category of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Awards and placing in several other competitions. With a mix of teenage sass and decades-later perspective, Mango Rash chronicles my search for adventure—and identity—in two alien worlds: the tricky terrain of 1960s adolescence and the remote and rapidly-changing U.S. territory of American Samoa, to which my parents and I had moved from Oklahoma in 1965.

I’m currently working on a novel, tentatively titled Belle Jardin, about creativity, outsider art, and madness.

Another work in progress is a series of autobiographical collages to which I eventually hope to add micro-memoirs.

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

NSP: I write because I don’t know how not to write. From time to time I’ve tried to stop writing, to focus on other things instead, but without writing I feel off-kilter. Beyond that, I write to express my thoughts and feelings about things that matter to me and to try and make sense of the experience of being human in this world.

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

NSP: Ideas come from my life experiences, from things that—for sometimes inexplicable reasons—fascinate me, such as outsider art, and from events and issues I read about. My favorite part of the process is the writing itself. Whether I’m writing memoir or fiction, I love being transported to the place and time I’m writing about and interacting with the characters in the story. That’s especially true now, when actual travel and interaction are limited. And I’m one of those odd writers who enjoys revision, a process that employs a whole other kind of creativity.

My least favorite part of the process is probably publishing and promoting what I write. Certainly there are enjoyable and satisfying aspects to that side of the writing life, but it feels more like work and takes my attention away from the writing itself.

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

NSP: It’s hard to imagine my life without writing. For as long as I can remember I’ve written something—whether letters and journals, articles, or longer works. Writing has provided an absorbing and rewarding career, a community of kindred spirits, and most recently, a way to keep myself occupied during a pandemic.

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

NSP: Here are my links.

Mango Rash: Coming of Age in the Land of Frangipani and Fanta

Website: https://www.nanpokerwinski.com/

Blog: HeartWood

Facebook: Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, Author

Twitter: @nansanpo