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!)

 

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Brenda Hasse

Hasse author photoWith 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 Brenda Hasse, a prolific, multi-award-winning author and freelance writer. Brenda has written and published young adult historical romance, pre-teen historical mystery, and adult metaphysical/visionary novels. She is also the author of several picture books for children. Brenda volunteers her time researching the history of Fenton, Michigan, and writing scripts for the Fenton Village Players to perform during the Ghost Walk and Historical Cemetery Walk. She is a guest teacher at Fenton High School, and resides in Fenton with her husband and cats.

Brenda’s novels include The Moment of Trust (2020), From Beyond the Grave: An Afterlife Journey, Part 2 (2019), A Lady’s Destiny (2018), On the Third Day: An Afterlife Journey (2017), The Freelancer (2014), and Wilkinshire (2010). Her books for children are A Unicorn for my Birthday (2009), My Horsy and Me, What Can We Be? (2006), and Yes, I Am Loved (2005).

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

DL: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

BH: It was difficult for me to learn to read as a child and I hated it. I was one of five students who had to be pulled from my class several times a week to work with a paraprofessional to improve my reading skills. Throughout my education, I relied on notes to pass a class. Upon graduation from college, I worked for General Motors as a computer programmer analyst. I didn’t appreciate the written word until my mid-30s (so, like yesterday, lol) I enjoy reading now, though. I think it is quite ironic that I write for others to read.

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

BH: My latest book is titled, The Moment Of Trust. It is a young adult historical romance, which was published on April 21, 2020. I am also working on the third book of a trilogy titled, Until We Meet Again: An Afterlife Journey, Part 3, which I have set a goal of publication by the end of June. The trilogy’s genre is metaphysical/visionary with the first book, On The Third Day, soon to be made into an audiobook.

I am also writing a book based on the true experience of human trafficking titled, A Victim Of Desperation, and hope to publish it by the end of September/October.

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

BH: I mostly write young adult historical romance. I have always enjoyed history, especially the medieval time period. Even though it was a dirty and oftentimes brutal era, there is a distinct romance about that time that I like to bring to life.

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

BH: My writing process begins with knowing how the story will end, creating relatable characters for the reader, and a loose outline. Next, I write an extended outline, rewrite adding on the average 10,000 words with each pass-through of the manuscript before passing it onto my beta readers. Once I receive feedback from my betas, I take their comments into consideration, make changes, edit several times, and format the manuscript for printing before passing it onto a professional editor. Once I update the edits, I give the manuscript to another editor to ensure most, if not all of the typos and mistakes are found. Unfortunately, some may still slip through.

While waiting for feedback from beta readers and editors, I am busy writing the synopsis for the back of the cover and designing the front cover. My graphic illustrator helps to layout my design for the print and ebook covers. All of my files must be converted to pdf, jpg, and ebook for submission.

My favorite part of the process is designing the cover and promotional video. The least favorite part is rewriting and editing, which at times is tedious.

My ideas come from my imagination, life experiences, or at times they find me. The book I am writing about human trafficking formulated through the random meeting with the victim. Since she had not told anyone else about her experience, I like to believe I was chosen to tell her story. I also participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for encouragement and goal setting.

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

BH: It is good to create something, whether through sculpture, composing music, or other forms of art. I like to think when I write, I am painting with words. As someone reads my words, pictures form within their mind. Even though the pictures are intangible, they seem real at the moment they are read. Since writing is usually a solitary craft, it is refreshing to participate in signings and share what I have learned about writing with others in writing groups and lecturing.

Even though I have received several awards for my writing, it is nice to overhear someone who has read one of my books boast about its quality to someone else. I volunteer to write scripts for my city’s community actors to perform during the annual ghost walk and cemetery walk.

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

http://www.BrendaHasseBooks.com

I don’t blog often, but there are a few that I have published via my website.

Thanks for spotlighting me on your blog!

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Jean Davis

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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 proud to host Jean Davis, who writes speculative fiction. Jean lives in West Michigan with her musical husband, two nerdy kids, and two attention-craving terriers. When not ruining fictional lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she can be found devouring books and sushi, enjoying the offerings of local breweries, weeding her flower garden, or picking up hundreds of sticks while attempting to avoid the abundant snake population that also shares her yard. Her novels include The Narvan Series, Destiny Pills & Space WizardsThe Last GodA Broken Race, and Sahmara.

Davisbooks B 2020

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

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

JD: I write speculative fiction for young adults and adults. Most of my work falls under Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I like to dabble in Paranormal, Romance, and other genres depending on where inspiration leads me. By day, I own and operate a sign shop, grow microgreens, and take care of my small flock of egg-laying chickens and ducks. When not working or writing, I’m a Netflix addict, collector of books for my many TBR stacks, and human petting machine for my two terriers.

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

JD: I’m so glad you made that plural. Because: projects! Currently I’m putting together my second short story collection, Dreams of Stars and Lies. This collection focuses on science fiction and includes six never-before-published stories. I’m hoping to have that out this summer. This fall/winter, I’m planning to release Bound in Blue, the third book of The Narvan. As far as new writing, I’m working on Spindelkin, a YA fantasy novel that I started last November.

In March, which, as it turns out, was a horrible time to release a new book thanks to this whole virus pandemic, I released Chain of Grey, the second book in my space opera series, The Narvan.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Life outside the Narvan is not as ideal as Vayen would like. His job is unfulfilling, the people aren’t his, and even after five years, Anastassia still hasn’t quite forgiven him for stranding them in obscurity. 

Vayen’s idle daydreams of returning to the Narvan turn into a nightmare with an assassination attempt. Old friends have become enemies and old enemies are even less happy to see him. Threats barrage him from all sides, endangering not only his own life, but those of his family. 

There are too many hands vying for the Narvan, sinking the system into chaos. Vayen’s well-intentioned plans have blown up and his homeworld, along with everyone else, is suffering. Putting the Narvan together again means showing his face to the High Council, who will want to make an example of him for betraying their trust.

Staying out of it will get him killed. Unfortunately, his odds with jumping into it aren’t much better.

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

JD: I write for much the same reason as I read or watch tv: to escape from reality. Life is busy and full of obligations, but my writing chair puts that all on hold for a couple hours at a time. There, I can create and solve problems for fictional people. Most days, it’s so much easier to deal with their lives than my own. I suppose you could also call it therapy.

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

JD: When I’m coming up with ideas, my launching point is usually a “what if…” question. From there, I start a story with a sentence and see what comes next. Does this make for more editing later? Sometimes, but it makes the writing enjoyable for me so that’s how I roll. I’ve tried outlining, but if it gets into any level of detail, I have no inclination to write the story because I already know what happens. If I do any planning ahead of the game, and that applies more to my series books than standalone novels, it’s very generalized and often more of a few-sentence summary of the story than anything else.

It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the writing process. I suppose it would be the first edit. That’s where I start sewing all the pieces together and adding layers. My second favorite comes after the worst part, which is sending it out to my critique partners to tear into. But their comments always spark great things, often some of my favorite scenes.

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

JD: Writing used to be just an escape for me, but now that I have books out in the big world, I enjoy sharing that escape with readers. Throughout the many stages of writing, both the learning parts and the publishing end, I’ve met so many wonderful people, fellow authors, aspiring writers, and readers too. It’s been great being part of a very supportive and inspiring community.

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

JD: You can find links to all of my books on Amazon on my blog:

http://jeandavisauthor.com/

The Narvan series is also available in all the usual places.

Trust (Book 1)  Amazon / Kobo / B&N

Chain of Grey (Book 2): Amazon / Kobo / B&N

I’m also on Facebook and Instagram with pictures of books, authors, dogs, flowers, chickens and ducks:

https://www.facebook.com/jeandavisauthor

https://www.instagram.com/jeandavisauthor

 

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: D. A. Reed

DA Reed Headshot

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 proud to host D.A. Reed (Deborah Reed), who writes young adult (YA) novels, as well as novels in the mystery/thriller genre. Deborah’s young adult novels are based on challenges children and adults face every day. Her characters touch the hearts of readers even after the last page has been turned, and Deborah’s hope is that the message her novels contain will help and encourage those who read them.

Deborah’s young adult novels have garnered the attention of children’s author Johnathan Rand, who invited her to be a writing instructor at his Author Quest writing camp for young writers in 2016-2020. She is in demand as a presenter at writers’ retreats, workshops, and conferences, and taught creative writing workshops to children in the United Arab Emirates at the Sharjah International Book Fair in 2019. In addition to her novels, Deborah has had short horror stories published in Share Your Scare: A Lulu Anthology, and The Garfield Lake Review.

 

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

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

DAR: I am an author of five young adult fiction novels (Daisies in the Rain, Dancing with Shadows, The Rejects of Room 5, Dare Accepted, and Nothin’ but Gutters and Pocket Change) and three mystery/thriller adult novels (Web of Deceit is a stand-alone mystery/thriller; When Darkness Killed Her and When Vengeance Reigned are books 1 and 2 of the Caitlin O’Reilly trilogy). I have also published two volumes of short horror stories under the pseudonym H.G. Evans. I am a wife and a mother of a superhero and a princess. Not only do I love writing, but I love reading, and devour books of all genres. I also enjoy running, and plan many scenes from my novels while my feet pound out miles on the pavement!

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

DAR: My latest novel was released April 15th and is titled Nothin’ but Gutters and Pocket Change. It is a young adult novel that portrays the struggles of homeless teens. Here’s the synopsis:

Two separate lives, one goal: survival

 She is afraid for her life…

Summer Jackson and her brother Levi don’t tell anyone about what happens at home, dealing with the fights between their mother and live-in boyfriend Bracken in secret. But when Bracken puts their mom in the hospital, Summer realizes they can’t go back home, even if it means she and Levi end up sleeping in a gutter.

 He is abandoned by his family…

Midas Ramirez may not be rich, but at least he has a place to call home. That is, until he finds out the bank is taking the house, his parents are moving, and Midas isn’t welcome. Abandoned and with nowhere to go, Midas turns to the one thing he knows will get him cash fast – but it could also ruin his life.

 Both are out of options…

When things take a turn for the worse, Summer and Midas realize they have a choice to make – learn to trust others with their secrets…or risk losing everything.

I am currently working on the third and final novel in the Caitlin O’Reilly mystery/thriller trilogy, When Death Whispered Her Name. It will be released in fall of 2020.

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

DAR: I write because I love stories and how they draw me into another world. More often than not, I become so engrossed in the book I am reading and the emotions in brings out in me that someone (my husband…my kids…) can call my name and I won’t hear them. There are several books I have read where the author elicited emotions as if the events were happening to me personally. Words are incredibly powerful, and those books made me want to create that same emotional response in others as well.

While my mystery novels are more purely for entertainment, my young adult novels all deal with real-life issues that kids (and also many adults) struggle with today. I try to incorporate a message in each of my YA novels that will help readers navigate these situations and this crazy thing called life!

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

DAR: I try to write every day, even if it is only for ten minutes. It keeps the writing muscles moving, keeps the story fresh in my mind so when I sit down the next day, I know exactly where to go next.

I am not one to outline my books before beginning them. I tried outlining before and stared at a wall for over two hours before giving up and just going for it. Typically, I know how the novel will start, a few things that happen in the middle, and how it ends. Once I begin, the characters tend to take over and tell me where to go! (They can be rather bossy…) I love when the characters begin to take on a life of their own; they no longer are statistics on a page, they are real with a specific personality, way of talking, etc.

I think my least favorite part of writing is editing. Creating a written work is intensely personal and it can seem like a direct attack against your person when readers and editors critique that work. However, I truly believe that learning and evolving are continual processes–and the only way to improve and grow is to be willing to take a good, honest look at what others have to say. (Even if it hurts!)

My ideas come from everything around me. Conversations I have, things I see, smell…anything can set off a story in my head. One time I was running in downtown Rockford during winter and saw a woman bundled up in a winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves. She was sitting on a bench and reading a book while holding a coffee cup in her other hand. I thought she was insane! It was only about thirty degrees outside, and the wind made it feel even colder. But she was outside, reading and drinking coffee. That woman stuck with me – and became the main character of a short story I began writing the next day!

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

DAR: Writing has opened up many opportunities for me, for which I am incredibly grateful!

I think the biggest wonder for me is knowing how my writing has touched the lives of others. When I first began writing young adult novels, I was overwhelmed by the response from readers. Many thanked me for writing the stories and for the messages within. A mother contacted me to tell me about how one of my novels not only helped her daughter, but also herself personally. I often hear of my books being passed around to various family members as one person reads it and wants to share it with others. What floored me was also having a high school student approach me and say her friends keep wanting to read my books, but every time they go to the library, they’re already checked out. To know that the messages in my books are helping others is the greatest gift writing has given me.

Through writing I have also been blessed to meet a wonderful community of people who are loving and supportive as we all pour our hearts out through the written word. I have also been able to share my passion for writing with children and adults through writing workshops and presentations, some international.

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

DAR: All of my books are available on www.amazon.com and www.lulu.com.

Readers can follow me on:

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

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dareedauthor

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com (D.A. Reed, Author)

Feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/gtszKT

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Ingar Rudholm

Ingar

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

Today I’m proud to feature Ingar Rudholm. Ingar is the author of two books, the Traveling Circus (2017), and the brand-new prequel, soon to be released Traveling Circus and the Secret Talent Scroll (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.

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

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

IR: I was born and raised in Whitehall, MI. My mom owned Homestead Art Gallery on Mears right across the street from the Howmet Playhouse. (My mom would pay me an allowance so I could go across the street to watch plays like Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan.) My dad built and remodeled homes in the Muskegon County area. When I was a child, my mother encouraged me to take art classes, and my father encouraged me to write. Thanks to my mom’s art gallery, I’ve met several local painters and attended local art fairs from Traverse City to Rockford around the state.

During the day, I’m an engineer for Industrial Assemblies in Fruitport, MI, which manufactures store fixtures and displays for retail chains. And at night, I write and illustrate children’s books.

In 2010, my mother passed away, leaving behind a set of brushes, a box of paints, and several art history books. She had dementia, leaving her unable to paint during the final years of her life. Traveling Circus is my first illustrated novel and includes references to a lot of famous painters, but it is also a tribute to the first artist I’ve ever known and loved: my mom.

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

IR: After positive reviews from parents, I decided to write a prequel to Traveling Circus called Traveling Circus and the Secret Talent Scroll. It’s an origin story of how the circus started and how the ringmaster turned into the “bad” guy.

Here’s the book 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. The scroll transforms 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?

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

IR: I love books, art, plays, music, and movies. Writing and illustrating are my outlets for being creative. After college, I almost gave up on all of it and I settled for a “day” job. But, like the mafia, creative people draw me back into the family. Crime doesn’t pay, neither does art. I’m kidding!

Luckily, most of the things I wanted to accomplish with writing already became a reality. I have an editorial review from the Detroit Free Press, a guest spots on a few radio/television shows, school visits, and even a fan letter!

Moving forward, I’ve set new aspirations. I plan to create a platform, using books and art, to inspire and entertain kids. Who knows if my goals will work out, but I’ll have fun creating value-tainment. (Okay, so I made-up that last word.)

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

IR: I keep notepads next to my bed, couch, and kitchen. Every time I have an idea, I reach for my notepad. If I encounter writer’s block, I’ll go for a walk. There’s something about being in the fresh air and exercising that stimulates my brain.

My favorite part about writing is coming up with the initial story idea and polishing the final manuscript. During the creative process I encounter what I call serendipitous ideas. These ideas tie characters together with a scene or an emotion. Most of my “happy accident ideas” occur when I’m reading an news article or listening to a podcast, letting the subconscious mind run wild while lying in bed, or in the shower.

The least favorite part is the rough draft. I have to accept my first draft isn’t going to perfect, I’m going to make a lot of mistakes, and all the pieces won’t fall into place right away.

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

IR: I need to stay busy, otherwise I get the “mean reds.” To quote an Audrey Hepburn line from Breakfast at Tiffany’s: “The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of.” By staying creative, it keeps the demons at bay. Also, I’ve always felt comfortable when I was surrounded by artists. Traveling all over Michigan, I meet tons of creative authors, artists, and musicians.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog?

IR: Here are some links so readers can learn more about me and my work:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B086X7JKJ3/ref=dp_st_1482077620

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=822qOUnQjUA

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12106604.Ingar_Rudholm

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Jordan Scavone

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

Today I’m delighted to feature Jordan Scavone. After receiving his undergraduate degree in Children’s Literature and Theater for the Young from Eastern Michigan University, Jordan began working on his first picture book. In April of 2016, Jordan received his M.A. in Children’s Literature from Eastern Michigan University. Currently, he lives with his wife Chelsea, their cat Lizbeth, and soon-to-arrive baby boy (June 2020!).

Jordan is the author of five books. Four are books for children: Might-E (2017, illustrated by Caitlyn Knepka), The Mud Princess (2018, illustrated by Monica Guignard), A Girl Named Adam (2019, illustrated by C.N.J. Zing), and Turtle Day (2019, illustrated by Monica Guignard). His latest publication is a young adult novel, Night Warrior, newly released last month and already getting rave reviews.

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

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

JS: I am an author with four children’s books out and one brand-new young adult novel! I am a infant/toddler teacher and strive to bring as many new books into my classroom as possible. I like video games, movies, unicorns, and playing Dungeons and Dragons!

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

JS: My latest book is called Night Warrior and it follows a high-school-age girl who is a wannabe fantasy author. However, after some magical shenanigans the characters in her book start to enter her world. Sword and magic adventure in an urban setting! It’s a bit of a contrast from writing children’s picture books, but it was a blast to do and people have been receiving it really well. This book pulls inspiration from playing Dungeons and Dragons, and I even used a campaign to help build the lore of the book.

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

JS: I write because I get too much creative energy and I need to get it out. My brain generates stories and I write them down. I used to just do it for myself so I could experience the stories in a better medium, and then I found out people liked them, so, books! I hope to do my best to allow everyone to find themselves in a character I one of my works. I want to be inclusive and welcoming to as many people as I can.

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

JS: My writing process is strange, at least I think it is. My favorite part also happens to be my least favorite part. I’ll sit down and write for hours on end and get a lot done, but then find issues with being able to write regularly. So, I love that I can sit and write for hours on end, but I also kind of hate it as it really takes up a whole day! My writing process is very unorganized…

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

JS: Deep down I always wanted to write for others and I think I knew that when I was a kid. I remember we had a program called “Storybook Weaver: DELUX” when I was in elementary school and I would write bad fantasy books with the stock images and characters they had in the program and then show them to everyone in my class. As I got more self-conscious, I stopped showing people my writing as much. I’m still self-conscious about my writing but am more willing to let people see it…clearly. At the end of the day writing has brought me new friends, new experiences, and so much fun. I think the thing that brings me the most joy is when people get happy when they read something I write. When I go to a school and do a reading for 400+ kids and they are silent during it then want me to read more books, it means a lot.

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

JS: Between these links, all the links to my books and contacts can be easily found:
Website: www.jordanjscavone.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/MightEBook

Email Contact@JordanJScavone.com

Twitter @RealJScavone

“The plague full swift goes by”

Like most other people in the world today, I’ve been thinking a lot about the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been taking me back to the time in the 1980s when I worked as speechwriter for the commissioner of the Department of Health in New York City. At that time, the prevention of AIDS/HIV was the main public health concern in the city, followed closely by tuberculosis.

There were, of course, many other problems, some particular to NYC (window falls by children, for example) and some more common everywhere (dog bites, drug abuse, the diseases associated with poverty, and so on).

The commissioner at the time, Dr. Stephen C. Joseph, was very active across the five boroughs, speaking on public health problems. He strongly believed that public health was a political process, and he spent a good deal of time out of the office, explaining and garnering support for the department’s policies across the city and in Washington.

(One policy was the necessity for widespread testing for infection by HIV, which exactly parallels the discussions over testingor lack of testing, I should saythat we are hearing today.)

It was a wonderful job for me . . . I felt I was contributing to the most important health issues of the day in the best way that I could, though my words.

Sometimes I wrote up to eight speeches a week, along with op-ed pieces and articles for medical journals signed by the commissioner and other physicians in the department. And whenever the Mayor’s Office needed something for Koch to say or write about public health, I was often tapped to write that, too.

Afterwards I calculated that I wrote roughly four hundred speeches about AIDS/HIV in my five years there.

And yet, the job had its consequences.

When I started, they found desk space for me in a cubicle in the Office of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Every day when I came in to work, I passed full-color posters of chancres, rashes, warts, and all the other lesions that STIs can cause.

I certainly don’t mean to make light of any of thisbut in the beginning, writing speeches every day about the effects of AIDS/HIV and tuberculosis, and spending my days among public health workers who spent their days tracing contacts of people who might have been infected with STIs without knowing it . . . all had an impact on me.

Riding on the subway to and from work each morning, I began to imagine the city as a vast sea of infection and all the people I passed as unknowing vectors of disease.

Not a healthy outlook.

I got over it, of course, but I’ve been reminded of that time a lot lately. The same issues that the city faced thenthe critical need for testing to stem the spread of HIV despite (at that time) there being no treatment for itare issues now.

When I began to write poetry seriously, infection as a metaphor was one I came back to time and again, due in large part to my time at the Department of Health.

Today’s blog entry includes two poems about infection. The first one, “Serial Killer,” is based on a story an office mate of mine years ago once told me about a job he had infecting mice in a vaccine development lab. It seemed a particularly gruesome occupation when he told me about it, and it stuck with me until I tried to exorcize it in the poem.

As you think about labs trying madly to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, give some thought to the little creatures who give their lives to the effort.

The second poem, “Influenza,” uses the idea of infection as a metaphor for how we respond to other things in our lives.

As always, please enjoy. And stay healthy!

Serial Killer

So the god swooped down, descending like the night.
                                    ─Homer

They weighed next to nothing, their bones
more fragile even than a bird’s
when I reached into the cage and
cupped one in my palm, tenderly.

Tenderly, too, the needle, filled
with what poison, what rare
killing toxin tested on these
small creatures, deftly slipped between

their brittle shoulder blades, the fur
bunched in my thumb and forefinger,
a move I learned the first week, saving
time and wasted motions.

They all died. Before injecting
my day’s subjects, I harvested
stiff tiny corpses from the
night before. Or else collected

those I had to sacrifice with
another kind of shot. How like
a god I was, reaching in and
randomly selecting this for

Vaccine Beta, that for Toxin
Alpha, this for a quiet end
in its sleep, that to be rudely
snatched away from the life it knew.

How they feared me, feared the shadow
of my hand as it moved into
position, nudged the cage door open,
and plunged down with unconcerned

speed to snap up the unlucky
and slip in my fatal point,
forcing them to yield up, squealing,
all of their terrible knowledge.

© Donald Levin, 2002. A version of this poem first appeared in Delirium, November 2002.

Influenza

All language is vehicular and transitive.
                           ─Emerson

The vehicle of
a moving tenor

catches us unaware.
When it first appears

we try our best to
ignore its urging

but when it makes its
presence felt, we take

some certain pleasure
in surrendering

to it. At the end
it makes us feel so

awful we wish we
had never been born

though after, we are
better protected

against its striking
again. People the

vehicle with the
rider of your choice:

love, death, sadness, joy,
or even the flu.

© Donald Levin, 2005

Reading Jane Austen at 37,000 Feet

This is one of my older poems. I wrote the draft of it on a plane on the way to Boston in 2002 to visit cousins and an elderly uncle whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was the first time I had flown since 9/11.

I wasn’t scared, exactly, but I was plenty uneasy.

Flying is not my favorite activity under the best of circumstances. But I was flying in the near-aftermath of the terror attacks, when everybody was on edge, and lots of other things down on the planet Earth below me made it seem as though order was collapsing.

This was the time when a sniper in a blue Caprice was shooting people randomly on Washington DC highways. Chechen rebels held 700 people hostage in a Moscow theatre, and the attempt to rescue them went horribly wrong. Bombs were routinely going off on Israeli busses.

The world seemed a tad nuts.

As it happened, I had assigned Jane Austen’s Emma to my Intro to Graduate Studies students that semester. I brought the book along to reread—and as we always say literature does, it took me out of myself and my worries and transported me into Austen’s world.

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If you’ve read Austen, you know it’s very different from our own. Though her world was also in transition, her characters negotiated the changes with civility and grace

I tried to capture the differences—along with my yearning for a more orderly world—in the poem.

At the time, it seemed as if things couldn’t get any crazier.

Except today, 2020 says, “Hold my beer.”

There’s a new movie of Emma out, and I saw it last night. It was a decent translation of the book to film, with the exception of some casting choices I took issue with. (Note to producers: next time switch the actors who play Knightley and Robert Martin; if you’re going to use the great Bill Nighy, give him more to do).

It reminded me again why great novels like Emma hardly ever make great movies: novels are all about language, and no film can do justice to the sparkling wit of Austen.

But shifting into Austen’s world is still a serene experience as disease, financial catastrophe, corruption, and stupidity rage outside the darkened theatre.

It helps us realize that once there were people who were civil and agreeable to each other. And maybe there will be again.

Hope you enjoy “Reading Jane Austen at 37,000 Feet.”

 

Reading Jane Austen at 37,000 Feet

A voice from the flight deck mumbles—something

about the weather in Boston—as the plane lumbers

into the dawning day above it all,

the sniper’s nest in the blue Caprice, endless

wars, dead hostages, suicide bombers

blowing nailed starbursts through sunblind busses.

 

Jane, how I welcome your astringent lines, sly

as a measured throw of cards on green felt tables,

the ordered games of Hartfield after dinner

while poor cold Woodhouse worries over the dangers

of rich cakes, and pretty Emma schemes.

Sealed in steel dread six miles up, I enter

your safe art gladly, shaking the dust

of crumbling civilizations off my boot-soles.

[© 2005 Donald Levin. A version of this poem appeared in my poetry book, In Praise of Old Photographs (Little Poem Press, 2005; reprinted in Detroit Metro Times, November 23, 2005).]