JOHNNY WORTHEN is an award winning best-selling tie-dye wearing author of books and stories. Trained theatre and standup comedy he has graduate degrees in modern literary criticism and cultural studies. When not teaching, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction—thriller, horror, young adult, comedy and mystery so far. “I write what I like to read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan.”
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
Steven King explained horror as three levels. There’s the Gross-Out, which means showing you things that are icky, threatening your ability to hold down your lunch. The Horror which threatens your life with monsters and threats that chase you through graveyards, and Terror which preys upon your imagination and endangers your soul and consciousness.
“I’ll try to terrify you first, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll horrify you, and if I can’t make it there, I’ll try to gross you out. I’m not proud.” –Stephen King
Terror his is the level of spooks I reached for in my book WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, or at least tried. There are a few moments of unpleasant goo (thematically placed of course) and creepy suspense as the threats grow ever closer, but ultimately what makes my otherwise philosophical fiction into a literary horror is my challenge of Terror.
As a literary and cultural critic, I write to theme. The idea behind the book is as central to my process as character, plot and setting. In WHAT IMMORTAL HAND, I wrestled with the very nature of good and evil and realized the western conception of a binary nature of good and evil was at once unsatisfactory and obviously wrong.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” to quote The Bard speaking through Hamlet.
Good and evil are a a construct, and how we define it is completely subjective. An angel that’s kicking your ass is a demon. It is a simplistic world view that disregards the complexities of actual observation. Winter is bad because it’s cold and things die, while the summer is good because things grow and you don’t need a coat In truth, both are necessary and to label one moralistically superior to the other is short sighted at best.
With this truth rattling in my mind, I envisioned the agents of evil not as bad but as necessary. Like garbage men they serve an important but maligned function.
And herein lies the terror.
There are other systems of belief than Judeo-Christian. There are older and more complex religions that account for the “evil” we see in the world. Hinduism is freed from the West’s binary construct of good and evil and at their center is a trinity of gods, Krishna, Vishnu, and Shiva, the Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer respectively. Each gains ascendency at different times like the seasons, and the wheel turns.
I’d long nurtured a story about the Thugs—an ancient cult of Indian dacoits eradicated in the 19th century. In researching their origins and beliefs I discovered the Dark Mother, Kali, consort of Shiva who drank his tears and became the most terrible and bloodthirsty creation in the universe. She then, became my muse and I walked with Her through the pages of my book and founds saints of a different color and challenged the western mind to a comprehension and appreciation of murder and mayhem.
It was a dark journey for me and my protagonist, Michael Oswald, but we arrived where we must and the horror lies in understanding why.
WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is available now from Amazon from Omnium Gatherum Media.
What Immortal Hand
Michael is called of God; just not that God.
What begins as a routine investigation of a hijacked truck turns into a desperate and personal quest for memories, faith, and meaning. The answers to these, for Michael Oswald, like the strangled cries of a thousand murdered travelers, is found in the dark heart of an ancient cult of killers.
Literary and dark, What Immortal Hand is a road trip across American wastelands and into the depths of spiritual darkness, where the Dark Mother, Kali, has set up house in the New World, and her children, the Thuggee cult of ancient India, are alive and thriving.
Well researched and imagined, in the tradition of Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali, throbbing with symbolism and epic undertones, What Immortal Hand answer’s William’s Blake famous question from The Tyger: “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” It is the Goddess Kali, consort of Shiva, Lord of Destruction. Through her worshipers, the Faithful Tigers—The Thugs of old, she culls the roads of travelers and prepares the fires of renewal.
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Less than 48 hours after returning from Las Vegas, my husband and I flew to Los Angeles to spend some time with one of my best friends (and to celebrate my 40th birthday). When I woke up that morning, the wind was howling and I thought to myself “this is going to make the flight fun.” The pilot tells us there were 90 mph gusts over the Rockies. Do you know what 90 mph gusts feel like at 30,000 feet? My stomach and I do. Even Allen said that was the worst turbulence he’s ever experienced. You know it’s bad when it shakes Allen up.
Anyway, we made it to L.A. alive and without throwing up, so we considered that a victory. We made our way to Santa Monica, where we’d be staying for the week, and then on to Thousand Oaks to celebrate my friend Nick’s marriage to the lovely Victoria. There’s this amazing spot in Thousand Oaks called the Gardens of the World that not only makes a lovely backdrop for pictures, but is a tranquil setting in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles suburb.
The rest of the weekend was meant to be relaxing but there’s so much to do and see in L.A. that we were on the go constantly. Our hotel was about 5 blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. The first morning we took a walk on the beach and then to the end of the pier where we met Herman. Herman is a seagull. He perched on the railing a few feet from us and stayed there (so, of course, we named him), studying the fisherman. I chuckled and said, “Herman is waiting for one of these guys to catch a fish,” which was funny because we’d just watched one fisherman cast his rod directly into the ocean. But soon, we realized that Herman was an even smarter bird than we’d realized. That same inept fisherman took one of his remaining rods down the pier, leaving his bait and tackle behind. The moment he stepped away, Herman swooped down, plucked up some bait and flew away to enjoy his morning catch.
Herman is smart. Be like Herman.
Over the next few days, we visited the Museum of Death, took a 5 hour tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and found a lovely little Polish restaurant for my birthday dinner. I found Judy Garland’s prints at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater, enjoyed a Brownie Monster at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and visited the original Muscle Beach. Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I think this was one of the strangest and most memorable holidays I ever had. I certainly won’t forget turning 40 anytime soon. We ate at a place called Solidarity in Santa Monica. The food was outstanding!
Now, I’m sitting back in my office in sunny Boulder, getting back into the thick of things. And I am reflecting on the teachings of the learned Herman. That bird had a plan. He sat patiently, kept his eye on the prize, and was rewarded with a delicious meal. I get the feeling Herman is quite practiced at his profession. So, my goal for 2018 is to be like Herman. My writing plans are in place, my next class starts in a few weeks, and I know that my patience and persistence will pay off.
Happy New Year! What are your goals?
You know the saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” That useful little phrase that gives us all the green light to behave very very badly. Don’t worry. I won’t give away your secrets. But I would like to share my own holiday experience with you. I just got back from four days in Las Vegas celebrating Christmas with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. It was quite possibly the least Christmasy Christmas, and yet, it will stand out in my memory as one of my favorites.
This trip was like entering an alternate universe. I boarded the plane in Denver at a balmy 10 degrees and landed in Sin City with a headache and too much clothing for the 60+ degree weather. As I stumbled off the plane, my eyes scanned past the sea of slot machines to the nearby Starbucks, a much needed caffeine pit stop. After throwing back some migraine medicine and an iced mocha, I made my way to the terminal to find my parents.
Now, my parents and my sister are my favorite people to spend time with, anywhere. I grew up in a large family – lots of aunts and uncles and cousins running around everywhere. And holidays were always huge in our family. At Christmas, we’d put up hundreds of luminarias and host a Christmas Eve open house complete with piping hot posole ad tamales. Over the years, we’ve spread out, with branches of our family stretching from coast to coast. But at the holidays, it’s not uncommon for us all to come together.
However, after my grandmother passed away four years ago, that trend began to change. She was the heart of our family, maybe more than any of us ever knew, and getting together has happened less frequently. We stay in touch, but it’s never quite the same. My mother, who was the primary caregiver for my grandmother in her final years, has been particularly affected by her loss, especially at Christmas. So going to Las Vegas made sense. We had our Christmas dinner at Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. We walked for miles up and down the strip. We ate, we drank, we gambled. We slept in late and stayed out late. And we laughed. We laughed so hard and so much that my face is still sore. We were together and very happy to be so.
We’re all very different people, but there is so much love that the differences don’t matter. In fact, those differences create hilarious moments and bring us closer together as a family. On our first night out, we saw the Tenors of Rock at Harrah’s, which my mother pronounces “hurrahs!” This show was not my sister’s cup of tea, but by the end of the night she was singing along at the top of her lungs as my mother jumped around like a teenager (no knickers were thrown on stage, but I think it was a close call). Me being me, when I heard that one of the singers, Jonathan Williams, played Jean Valjean in London’s West End, I sauntered over after the show and asked if he’d sing me a little Valjean for my birthday. Not only did he oblige, but he took me up in his arms and sang “Bring Him Home” in my ear. Be still my heart! (shh…don’t tell my husband…what happens in Vegas…)
We rounded out our stay with a delicious dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse (New York New York). The dinner was to celebrate my birthday (I turn 40 on New Year’s Eve), and as we sat around the table and talked, I was ever aware that I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world. We are odd, zany, high-strung at times, moody, funny, and all the things in between. We are everything.
Then, we headed over to Zumanity, Cirque du Soliel’s “adult” show. So, there I was with my mom, my dad, my sister, and her boyfriend, whom we’d only just met a few days before, watching topless acrobats and talking about sex. Merry Christmas to us! I would say don’t take your grandma, but the retired teacher they pulled up on stage was one of the highlights of the show (her comic timing was perfect despite being flustered by all the half-naked performers). And until you’ve seen the acrobats in the giant champagne glass, you haven’t really lived.
So, while what happens in Vegas may stay there for some people, I’m happy to say that I brought every bit of love and a whole suitcase full of memories home with me. (and a boatload of fodder for future stories....stay tuned).
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, intrigue, and betrayal into the backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the Apollo’s Raven series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Thank you, Amy, for giving me the opportunity as a guest to discuss how my writing career evolved.
As a young girl growing up in the 1950s in Colorado, I was inspired by myths, legends, and historical accounts of powerful women warriors, sorceresses, and goddesses. In third grade, when my friends were reading Nancy Drew mysteries, I was devouring books on Greek and Nordic mythology. By eighth grade, I was reading adult historical fiction classics such as The Egyptian, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and Ben-Hur. These novels swept me into other bigger than life worlds. This is when I began creating characters which I would use later in my books.
I did not actively pursue my passion of becoming an author until later in life. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry after the birth of my second child and worked in pharmaceutical development. Even so, I continued creating stories in my head based on my life experiences. I escaped everyday routine by reading a wide genre of fiction and non-fiction. I particularly liked epic novels written by James Michener (Centennial), Diana Gabaldon (Outlander), and Marian Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon).
After my semi-retirement in 2010, I completed the draft of a book in a historical fantasy series, Apollo’s Raven. In preparation for writing the novel, I had extensively researched the history, mythology, and archaeology of ancient Celtic and Roman civilizations. Although I was soaring high with the accomplishment of drafting the novel, I had to face the hard reality that I needed to hone my craftsmanship and learn more about publishing.
Since then, my journey to publishing my debut novel, Apollo’s Raven, has been the most challenging yet rewarding experience in my life. I initially explored the traditional publishing route and pitched my books to agents. Last year, I decided to independently publish. Apollo’s Raven is the first book in a series inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, and the historically-based Celtic warrior queen, Boudica, who united the Britons to rebel against the Romans. It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic culture where women owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought in battles, hunted, rode horses and used bows and arrows, just like the men, to maintain the integrity and protection of their society.
What I’ve learned is becoming an author is like running a marathon. It takes persistence, training, and writing quality books to establish one’s reputation as an author and to increase readership. My role as expanded to being a publisher responsible for formatting, marketing, and distribution of my books. One of my greatest challenges is balancing publishing activities with writing. Since I can’t do it all, I’ve had to use the services of consultants and vendors to assist me along the way. It is critical to find a good copy editor and proofreaders to catch mistakes in your book before it is published. For next year’s launch of my second book, Empire’s Anvil, I plan to send out advance copy proofs to selected readers for their feedback and reviews.
One of the greatest pleasures I’ve experienced is getting to know other authors through social media and writers groups (Historical Novel Society, Northern Colorado Writers, and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). Many successful independent authors graciously support each other and promote each other’s books. At my website and blog, I post author interviews and provide reviews of books. Being a volunteer reviewer for the Historical Novel Society has provided me an opportunity to review soon to be released books in my genre and to meet other authors.
I’ve had the great fortune of taking workshops and meeting Diana Gabaldon. One of the reasons I admire her is that she writes true to her heart and graciously shares her knowledge. I wish I could have met Marian Zimmer Bradley and learned more about the research she did on the ancient Celtic religion depicted in The Mists of Avalon.
My advice to aspiring authors is to follow your dream and never give up.
An ancient curse threatens the fates of the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin and her people in 24 AD Britannia. Torn between love, family, and country, Catrin must make grave choices on how to use the powers of the Ancient Druids so she can alter the dark prophecy that looms over her kingdom. Will the power to foretell the future through the raven prove a curse or an advantage?
Apollo’s Raven is a soaring epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, magical adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia.
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April Moore is director of Northern Colorado Writers and author of Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men, a historical nonfiction, and Bobbing for Watermelons, a novel. April’s other works, including an essay for the spring 2017 issue of Fort Collins Magazine, can be found on her clips page of her website
Thank you, Amy, for the opportunity to guest blog for you and your readers today!
I grew up reading mysteries and thrillers from authors like Christopher Pike, Agatha Christie, and I loved David Morrell. Interestingly enough, I don’t write mysteries; I wouldn’t even attempt it. I admire authors who can seamlessly weave together intricate plot twists and create page-turning intrigue. Quirky stories also drew me in. I was particularly obsessed with a short-lived television show in the late 80s/early 90s called Amazing Stories. It was created by Steven Spielberg, but each 30-minute episode was written and/or directed by well-known directors and writers and featured popular actors of the time. The stories were odd, wacky, supernatural, funny, strange, and just plain bizarre (to this day, I still don’t understand what Martin Scorsese’s was about). My early stories in middle school and high school were certainly influence by this program, however, my writing has evolved to more nonfiction, women’s fiction, and presently, contemporary young adult.
Before this, however, my love for art detoured my writing and I majored in Fine Arts instead of English or Creative Writing. Blinded by visions of big city art gallery shows and an art studio filled with colorful canvases, I used my paper and pencil for drawing, not writing. I had a career in freelance art and my own greeting card business for ten years when writing decided it had had enough of being in the background. I took a novel-writing class in late 2003, helped form a critique group, and by 2008, I had finished my first novel. It was then that I closed my card business and focused on writing. After shopping the novel for a while, with little success, I shelved it. That’s when my first published book, Folsom’s 93: The Lives and Crimes of Folsom Prison’s Executed Men, became my focus for the next five years. The topic was far from whatever I thought I’d write. True crime? That stuff scares me. But the project sort of fell into my lap and I quickly became enthralled in the history and the stories of these ninety-three men and their victims. It also solidified my love of writing nonfiction. The book came out in 2013 and after rewriting much of that first novel, Bobbing for Watermelons, it was released two years later.
While I found Bobbing (women’s fiction) easy to write, I’m discovering that getting into the head of a sixteen-year-old boy for my current young adult manuscript, is proving difficult. I have a nineteen-year-old son which has helped with initial character development, but thinking like a teenage boy is something well outside my realm of expertise. Despite this, I’m not giving up because I feel so strongly about telling his story.
As much as I love writing, it doesn’t come easy for me. Writing is hard and we avoid things that are hard, right? I often tell myself I’m not “feeling it” and I find something else to do. As director of Northern Colorado Writers, an organization of writers of all levels and genres, I allow myself to get sucked into NCW tasks instead of focusing on my own work. Making time for my own writing is definitely something I need to work on.
Reading books of varying genres always helps inspire and motivate me, but again, I have to make more time for it. One author I always have time for is the late Ivan Doig, who wrote literary fiction. I get lost in his clever prose, the lives of his beautifully crafted characters, and original plots. His passing over two years ago, devastated me. I’ve been spacing out his fifteen or so books so I don’t finish them all too soon. I’ll likely read them all twice.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, is one my favorite books as well and is a must-read for any writer, particularly ones who are struggling with capturing and cultivating their creativity.
Writing is a unique individual journey for every writer, but being a part of a writing community, or even just a critique group, is, I think, vital to a successful writing life. It’s how we grow our skills, find inspiration, and most important, discover a sense of belonging. I always encourage writers, no matter where they are in their journey, to seek out writing events, classes, and groups because they’re more likely to stick with their passion for writing and storytelling, than if they had gone it alone. Find your tribe and you’ll find a fulfilling writing life.
Bobbing for Watermelons
In the small town of Brookwood, Iowa, forty-one-year-old food columnist Helen Munson, unappreciated by her two teenagers and her lazy husband, longs for more out of life, but hasn’t a clue how to make that happen. In fact, her tendency to overreact and put herself in embarrassing situations sabotages her own efforts to assert herself.
Helen impulsively starts writing a spy novel whose main character exudes traits Helen tries to embody in her own life: power, assertiveness, and the ability to kick butt. However, this persona doesn’t quite manage to keep her out of trouble, or jail. With help from a cast of quirky characters, such as her hippie best friend, a free-spirited drifter, and a pair of fashionable gay store owners, Helen just might be able to pull of the transformation of a lifetime.
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Susan’s novel When Darkness Fell won the Indie Award for best Regional Fiction. Her first novel The Bottom Rail placed as semifinalist in the Georgia Author of the Year Awards for first novel. Her memoir Possum Cops, Poachers and the Counterfeit Game Warden took first place in the Northern Colorado Writers Toop of the Mountain literary contest and second place in both the Georgia Author of the Year and the Florida Writers Royal Palm literary contest.
Two short stories won first place in their genres from the Knoxville Writers Guild. She won the George T. Youngblood award for short fiction in 2017. She has won numerous awards for fiction, nonfiction and poetry at various SWA workshops. She has ten published books and one now undergoing publication.
Her stories, poetry, articles and editorials have been published in several anthologies as well as in local, state and national magazines, including Southern Living. Her nonfiction subjects have ranged from Gone With the Wind to wildlife management.
Before her retirement, Susan worked as a reporter and feature writer for a daily paper, then moved to Boston area where she wrote motivational publications and edited technical papers for Raytheon Manufacturing and later edited research papers at MIT. From Boston, she returned to Georgia and worked as writer and editor at the Centers for Disease Control. Her work-for-hire has been translated for use in Africa and Asia.
What an honor to be asked to say hello to y’all and tell you about myself as an author in the South.
Writing was a dream born before I can remember, and dreams have become a source for my writing. My aunt was an award-winning journalist and a friend of Margaret Mitchell who came to visit when I was a child. What more could anyone want as an inspiration? I had another one, in-house. My dad was an award-winning author in college and I loved his works. First poem I memorised was one of his.
Then along came a new neighbor, Flannery O’Connor. She and her mother lived across the farm fence. Our cattle became characters in her stories, as did our mutual neighbors.
Twelve published books to date. I edited three, wrote the other nine. Several books won awards, one from the Northern Colorado Writers.
One of the toughest to write was the biography of my aunt, Susan Myrick, who was technical adviser on Gone With the Wind. I almost had too much reference material: Her diary, her letters to Mitchell, and her fifty years of newspaper writings. But the result was very rewarding, for at book events I met Melanie’s “son” Mickey Kuhn who also played young Matt Garth (the young Montgomery Cliff) in RED RIVER, met and grew fond of Ann Rutherford and corresponded with “Melanie” (Olivia de Havilland).
The summer of 2017 has been a super time for me and my books. POSSUM COPS, POACHERS AND THE COUNTERFEIT GAME WARDEN in manuscript form won the TOP OF THE MOUNMTAIN award from the Northern Colorado Writers last year, and this year placed second in the Georgia Author of the Year contest and second in the Florida Writers Association contest. The Florida Writers contest is one of the most competitive and carefully judged contest I know of. Each book goes through several levels of judges who use specific criteria to provide a numerical value to each book. Pass one judge, your book moves up to another. And another. I feel quite proud of obtaining their silver medal this year. If you believe in the magic of ”keeping the fingers crossed,” please do so—this book is entered in two more contests!
This year, even more excitement: Two books of short stories, WHITETAILS AND TALL TALES and EMPEROR OF THE UNITED AMERICAN STATES, released within six weeks.
Strange titles? Strange stories, many beginning when I woke up from a dream and thought “that would make a good story.” So, I wrote. And dreamed and wrote.
Imagine: Bill and Hillary making reservations at a run-down rural motel in the middle of nowhere. A man waking up from a dream of fishing in Alaska to find fresh salmon in his fridge. The biggest-ever large-mouth bass (that isn’t) getting caught, photographed and luring the Fishery Management biologist to town. An old man explaining to his grandson how he overthrew the U. S. A. and became emperor of the United American States. A visit to the afterlife. Murder. Mistaken identity. An old woman going turkey hunting to keep out of a nursing home. (Oops). A new TV called “4-D.” A mountain turned on its side. A midnight conversation between a married couple about snoring. Poachers who get their come-uppance.
And a few more.
One reviewer called the stories in EMPEROR “black humor ranging from the believable to the unimaginable.”
Steve Berry, New York Times and international best-selling author, called EMPEROR “spicy harsh reality.” Dana Wildsmith, author, poet and writing teacher, said of WHITETAILS that like the sharp report of a rifle close by, “these stories will snap you to attention.” A Georgia Author of the Year winner said, “visual writing and stunning, profound stories.”
What more could an author ask for? A long enough life to keep writing and having fun. Now 81, I still have plans for several books.
Possum Cops, Poachers, and the Counterfeit Game Warden
The afternoon shotgun pellets plummeted the leaves around her on her own hunting grounds. Susan Lindsley did not run and hide. She took off after the poacher. Only one of many she pursued.
He did not come back. Neither did any others of those she caught and jailed.
Even Susan herself could not try to outrun the law. When she accidentally killed a doe out of season, she called the local possum copy on herself. And the word began to circulate in her community: "If you poach on Susan Lindsley and survive, you will go to jail."
She went from "I don't want to hunt" to an avid deer hunter, an expert tracker, a teacher for her friends, and a ferocious activist for game management. She writes as she lived those years: With a heart for animals, an enthusiasm for the outdoors and a love of painting pictures with words.
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It has been such an interesting and exciting year, especially here on the blog. We'll have new authors telling us their stories starting next week, but today I'd like to take this chance to thank all the amazing authors who've shared their experiences with us. We've been so fortunate to have aspiring and emerging authors, self-published and traditionally published authors, just starting out authors and New York Times Bestsellers, and everyone in between. Thanks for the stories. And thank you readers for taking an interest in all these wonderful authors! Below you'll find the links to all the authors who've participated in #WhatsYourStory to date. Check them out, add their books to your to-be-read lists and share them with your friends and family. Happy Thanksgiving!
Virginia A. Simpson, Ph.D., FT has been a bereavement care specialist for 32 years and is Executive Counseling Director for hundreds of funeral homes throughout the U.S. and Canada. She is the author of the award-winning The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life (She Writes Press, 2016). Described as “touching and vividly human,” The Space Between “offers a testament to love’s enduring and transformative power throughout our lives and in our closest family ties.”
I am the perfect example of the adage “it’s never too late to live your dreams.” I wrote as a child but life had other plans for me. Decades flew by and I would tell my friends, new boyfriends, and husbands I wanted to write a book. Events and insecurity intervened. Fear of failure held me hostage preventing my accomplishing the one thing I claimed I always wanted to do.
On my way to not writing a book, I wrote in my journal and started stories I never finished, certain they weren’t good enough. I had no clue that published authors also write “shitty” first drafts but, unlike me, they keep working on their craft. Instead of continuing to write, edit, and finish a project, I acquired college degrees, husbands, boyfriends, and heartbreaks. I saw a few therapists hoping someone could fix me.
As I’m sure is now clear, I was a master of diversion, distraction, and procrastination, having successfully not written or published a book for decades. A journalism professor I met during my twenties, provided the ideal excuse. He said many writers don’t become authors until they are in their fifties. The decades of my life continued to tick away as I told myself I had time.
I was lucky because I did.
My route to writing and publishing was lengthy and circuitous, filled with potholes of excuses. My attitude and perceptions changed after my mother’s death. I was 56 years old. I stretched past self-doubt and inertia and jumped on opportunity when I read a newspaper ad announcing a memoir writing class in my community. The classes provided focus and accountability.
A slip on wet tile interrupted my progress. The resulting flight into the air ended with a direct landing on my shoulder. I seized the pain of my shattered shoulder, which left me helpless and housebound, as my chance to focus on my book. My shoulder was the (no pun intended) break I needed. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, using only one hand, I slowly plucked out the first draft of my memoir.
When I read the finished pages, I knew the story was good, but the writing was flat. I didn’t know to fix it. I’d later understand from reading Lisa Cron’s wonderful book Wired for Story that writing and reading engage different parts of our brain. Thus, prolific reading of good books does not necessarily translate into good writing.
I didn’t let this uninspiring draft stop me. I searched the internet and discovered that Jennifer Lauck, author of the New York Times best-selling Blackbird, was coaching writers. I contacted her and with hard, tedious work, recognized the elements necessary to create a good story.
Although encouraging, Jennifer was also not shy about critiquing and copiously editing my work. Instead of viewing her critique as rebuke, I began to relish the opportunity and lessons it offered for improvement. I learned to embrace critique as an important gateway for a writer to hone their craft. To this day, I apply Jennifer’s lessons when I read and edit my work.
Eventually, I joined Jennifer’s online group. Through writing and submitting eight to ten pages each week, The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life was born. When I left Jennifer’s group, I began to work with Linda Joy Myers. Linda is President of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of the recently released beautiful memoir, Song of the Plains. With Linda’s guidance, I finished the book I had started in Jennifer’s group.
I grew a lot from writing and exposing my work to others. Good writing comes from a willingness to listen, learn, edit and rewrite until you’ve crafted the words that will make readers want to journey with you on the pages you’ve created.
While I wrote, I continued to read memoirs and books on writing. I recognized the importance of showing not telling, using only the details which move a story along, and, as Stephen King advises, “killing your darlings.” I also realized that memoir demands creating the linear story of events while offering insights learned, or what we call “takeaways” for the reader.
I hope your “takeaway” from this overview of my writing journey is that the struggle is worthwhile and you’re never too old to achieve your dreams.
Creating new dreams is part of the fun in being alive. Included in mine is my goal of meeting Dani Shapiro, Sue Williams Silverman, and Joyce Maynard, whose depth of self-discovery through beautiful writing continue to inspire me as I work on my new memoir.
The Space Between
As a bereavement care specialist, Dr. Virginia Simpson has devoted her career to counseling individuals and families grappling with illness, death, and grieving. But when her own mother, Ruth, is diagnosed in 1999 with a life-threatening condition, Virginia is caught off guard by the storm of emotions she experiences when she is forced to inhabit the role of caregiver.
In a quest to provide her mother with the best care possible, Virginia arranges for Ruth to move in with her―and for the next six years, she cares for her, juggling her mother’s doctor’s appointments, meals, medication schedules, transportation needs, and often cranky moods with her own busy schedule. In The Space Between, Simpson takes readers along for the journey as she struggles to bridge the invisible, often prickly space that sits between so many mothers and daughters, and to give voice to the challenges, emotions, and thoughts many caregivers experience but are too ashamed to admit. Touching and vividly human, The Space Between reminds us all that without accepting the inevitability of death and looking ahead to it with clarity, life cannot be fully lived.
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They say only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun. This describes Mark P. Sadler perfectly. A transplanted Brit, he finds himself in the heat of Tucson's Sonoran desert with a wild tale to tell of murder on the Mexican border. Uniquely told in his own bold and direct way Sadler welcomes the reader to a Southwestern tale of border noir,
Having started reading before I was four years old and being brought up in the English school system I have always felt like a writer. Essays were written weekly. When I was ten I wrote an essay recording the view from a train as it travelled from my rural home eight miles into the more urban setting of a nearby town. When I read it back to myself I knew I had what it took. At that moment I knew I would write a book.
I was interested in a career in journalism and took those courses at college, however family responsibilities got in the way of graduation and I took on a career in a financial field. I kept writing and free-lanced for a couple of magazines and newspapers, published some poetry and incorporated media into my life as I could. It took me a life experience after my divorce to create the fuel for my first novel, Blood on His Hands, a thriller set on the Appalachian Trail. I hiked a portion of the trail in a head-clearing motivational moment and decided, like many AT hikers, to write a book about the experience. To avoid the clutter of non-fiction written about hiking I fashioned a novel loosely-based on my own journey.
I self-published Blood on His Hands. I was discouraged by the amount of agent rejections so decided, since I had another novel brewing, to pay to get published. It was well received and reviewed but as a new writer it didn’t carry a lot of weight in the market. Like a lot of fledgling novelists I initially decided my writing was good enough that it didn’t need an editor, especially when the research into editors showed they were really pricey. If I can give one word of advice to those looking to write a book, whether it’s the first or the twentieth – GET AN EDITOR! It is absolutely essential and a good one is worth every penny.
I grew up reading adventure stories by authors like Nevil Shute, H. Rider Haggard and Robert L Stevenson, loved whodunits like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. These days Jo Nesbo and Jim Crace are some of my favorite writers. I have had the privilege of meeting many authors, my peers because I have the opportunity of reviewing for an online publication, Suspense Magazine. While other authors have little idea who novelist Mark P. Sadler is they all know Suspense Magazine and it has opened so many doors for me to meet and interview, hangout with and befriend some of the people whose books grace my shelves. One of my good friends is Paul Kemprecos, the original co-author with Clive Cussler, and through that relationship I got to meet Mr. C himself, and review his latest novel, too. The friendships I have developed has also given me the opportunity to call on some well-known names when it comes time to get cover blurbs and reviews as my novels are completed.
I was forced to use my middle initial when publishing as another novelist has used Mark Sadler as his nom de plume. Disappointing but it works. All my social media uses the middle initial too. Blood on his Hands recently had a revamped cover and is now available at Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/727334. My most recently published novel is the first in a trilogy and is titled Kettle of Vultures. It is the story of Tucson police detective, Nate Duarte, the son of an illegal alien and a U.S. Border Agent. The book follows his story as he not only solves some of the most heinous sex-crimes committed in Tucson but tracks down the evil Mexican cartel leader, Ramon Adolfo ‘El Perro Guapo’ Sanchez, the man personally responsible for the death of his parents. You can read more about it on my website www.markpsadler.com or my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Mark-P-Sadler-78046901586/. The novel is available on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Kettle-Vultures-Mark-P-Sadler/dp/193732785X/ref=nav_custrec_signin?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481242355&sr=1-1&keywords=kettle+of+vultures&. You can follow me on Twitter @markpsadler.com and read more about books I review and recommend on my critic’s blog, http://damnedinsatiablethirsteternallanguor.blogspot.com/. Of course I have several projects under some form of completion including the second in the trilogy, a memoir and a great adventure story in the H-Rider Haggard-style. Keep up with me and buy a couple of books as I write the next one.
Kettle of Vultures
DRAGNET MEETS SILENCE OF THE LAMBS ON THE U.S.-MEXICO BORDER NEAR TUCSON, ARIZONA.
Nate Duarte’s life is full of dark, diabolical twists. As a young boy he witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of a Mexican gangster. Nate knows this same violent desperado also murdered his father, a border patrol agent. Putting on hold his dream of studying law, Nate becomes a police officer to help bring his parents’ murderer to justice.
In this introductory novel in the Border Noir Trilogy readers are introduced to Nate as a 31-year-old detective, working the Sex Crimes Division of the Tucson Police Department. Dealing daily with the most horrendous abuse and defilement mankind can handout, Nate must do battle with a fiendish killer, a psychopath who wants to become the worst ghoul humanity has ever seen. Nate also keeps a running chronicle on his personal nemesis, the man who killed his parents, now head of the Sonoran cartel.
Time is running out. Five women have been kidnapped and tortured. Can Nate find a way to stop the brutality before they all die? Is one of the missing women Nate’s half-sister? His mettle and valor meet up with assaults, physical and psychological, as he leads the charge to destroy this evil once and for all in a battle to survive the worst odds possible.
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Nina Laurin is a bilingual author of suspenseful stories for both adults and young adults. She got her BA in Creative Writing at Concordia University, in her hometown of Montreal, Canada. Her debut, GIRL LAST SEEN, was released June 20, 2017 from Grand Central Publishing.
Social media is full of publishing professionals telling aspiring writers not to write to trends. Which can be a frustrating Catch-22 if you’re an unpublished writer in the query trenches. On one hand, they keep saying they want more of this or that popular thing—and then they go and tell you not to write to trends! So which is it?
Truth is, there are lots of reasons not to write to trends. Including the obvious ones: for example, it takes a book up to three years to be published, and in that time, the trend might end. Womp-womp. But writing to trends is also not that great for you as a writer—as I learned at my own expense.
When I first set out on the journey to traditional publication, a little over five years ago, I did everything you’re supposed to do. I studied craft, I researched, I read extensively. I focused my reading on the category and subgenre I decided to write in. I picked up the most successful books and analyzed them with (what I thought was) a critical eye. All I had to do was figure out the formula behind their success and recreate it with a personal touch. That’s what all the articles on writing tell you to do… right?
Unfortunately, the stories I produced to fit the “formula” never seemed to go anywhere. Either I got bored with them by chapter five, or, if I did complete them, they collected rejections. Maybe because the agents I queried, and even the beta readers I used, could detect the lack of soul. Sadly, no creative writing manual can teach you how to fake that.
After a while, I realized I wasn’t enjoying reading as much as I used to, and writing has become joyless work, not to mention a major source of stress. The activity that once brought me so much happiness and helped me escape from the real world had now become a burden. That’s when I knew things had to change.
I did a lot of soul-searching—and a lot of deleting stuff from my hard drive, which was even less fun than the soul-searching. I realized, in the end, that I was trying to write to a trend, and I had to stop.
Letting go of all that—the thrill of the chase, of feverishly writing what you think might be the Next Big Thing, and all the big hopes that come with it—was tough. But I finally understood why you shouldn’t try to shoehorn your writing into a trend. My chosen genre started to feel confining and ultimately unsatisfying—not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it didn’t suit the stories I wanted to write.
I learned to accept the fact that my stories weren’t meant to fit any one mold. And so what? Maybe I didn’t want to be the next So-and-so—I wanted to be the first, well, me. I finally felt like I was writing for the right reasons, and being true to the stories I was telling.
And I think some of that realness trickled down into my prose, because for the first time, I started to get genuinely positive reactions.
My most memorable meeting with a writer was, without a doubt, Gillian Flynn! I’ve been a fan for ages—she’s the kind of rebel-writer I aspire to be, and proof that you can be successful without following trends. At Thrillerfest 2016, I finally got to meet her at a book signing, for all of 10 seconds. And of course, I was so star-struck that I completely froze! So, on the off-chance you ever see this, Gillian Flynn, I’m really not as big a dork as I come across.
Girl Last Seen
Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.
I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can't bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.
If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw's whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact...
I've spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.
Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn't been another girl.
And now there is.
Where to Buy Girl Last Seen
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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