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.
Where to Buy Bobbing for Watermelons
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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Where to Buy Possum Cops, Poachers, and the Counterfeit Game Warden
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.
Use the links below to learn more about Virginia or to purchase her book:
Where to Buy The Space Between
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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Where to Buy Kettle of Vultures
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
Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Last of the Independents, Invisible Dead, and Cut You Down. Wiebe’s work has won an Arthur Ellis award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. His short fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, among other places. Visit samwiebe.com or follow at @sam_wiebe .
Years ago, long before I wrote anything even the most generous editor would call fit to publish, I took a course on American Lit. I was already reading voraciously, and struggling through my non-literary courses, and and trying my hand at stories of my own.
Our professor introduced our unit on poetry with a video interview of Robert Frost. To this day I remember a phrase Frost used—that to write you have to start “on insufficient knowledge.”
That phrase broke down my biggest assumption about successful writers—that they knew.
To this day, writers publicly hype the amount of research they do, the forensic or procedural authorities they consulted—as if this grants their work authenticity.
I don’t know about authenticity, but it seemed to grant them confidence, something my younger self didn’t possess in abundance. Frost was the first writer I heard who hinted that he, too, had felt unprepared for what he was about to undertake.
I finished my second year of college and then quit. Held a bunch of different jobs, most terrible and low-paying. Wrote sporadically and accrued rejection slips.
In my mid-twenties I went back to college, finished my bachelors, and went on to grad school. Around that time I realized if I didn’t put the time in to write a novel, to finish what I started, then I was probably closing the door on that dream. I had to start. Even worse, then I had to finish.
Without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a novel. I stole time between classes, on the bus, in the library carrels after others had gone home. I finished a book. It was awful, a mess. But it was a complete, finished, awful mess.
Each year I make a goal for myself, and that year my goal went from “write a book” to “write a good book.” Something I’d be proud of, something I’d be comfortable to submit.
Obviously I’m glossing over a few things, like hard work and luck, but my point is, every step was taken with insufficient knowledge—in other words, in faith.
Faith is a weird word to someone who’s not all that religious. Maybe you prefer confidence. Fine by me. Whatever you call it, with writing, ultimately you learn what to do by doing it. Books on writing, classes, critique groups, only take you so far.
When I was working on what became my debut novel, Last of the Independents, I met Ian Rankin at the Vancouver Writers Fest. After his panel I asked him for advice. His answer was, “Remember, Sam, we’ve all been where you are now.”Nothing ever removes doubt, but other writers—every writer—has felt that same doubt. Maybe there’s some comfort to be found in that.
An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don't pay.
When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver's terrifying criminal underworld.
And it all goes downhill from there.
Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he's content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.
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Where to Buy Invisible Dead
Evan Hundhausen received his MFA in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He writes blog posts at DirtyFilthyDiscoTrash.com and his self-published short story collection, "Accelerated LearningTechniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories," can be found for sale on Amazon. Currently Evan spends his time writing for magazines, writing novels and even screenplays. See him DJ at djcola.net.
Thank you, Gatsby!
By Evan Hundhausen
Maybe you've had a similar experience as me. I went to grad school to get my MFA, wrote shorts stories, got critiqued, and then looked for journals I should send them to only to get rejected. After grad school I landed smack dab in the real world. I worked at a grocery store where I would see my former MFA professors shopping for organic milk in the dairy section. Basically, I stopped writing all the time and wrote only a "little" throughout the ensuing years like that was okay! But it wasn't. I was uninspired and it took me a long time to realize I needed to go find some more writing classes (say what?!) even though I had my MFA degree already.
It was one of best decisions I ever made and today I'm a proud member of two writers groups, which is where I get the inspiration I need for free!
I write blog posts, I self-publish my books on Amazon and I'm currently learning how to pitch screenplays to Hollywood. I'm not spending thousands of dollars like I did during Grad School. I spend much less and I learn a lot more in writing classes I've discovered around town and in the community I live. I'll mention that one of the most important things I ever learned on writing happened a long time ago at a reading in New York put on by one of my favorite authors.
Tangent starts now....
Now, you should know I'm not one of those bloggers who thinks it's okay to name drop without backing it up (It's not okay. You could get sued, so don't do it!), so I won't tell you who this author was. I waited in a long line to get this author's autograph and when I finally had my chance to stand in front of him, all nervous like, I said, "Your writing has inspired me so much!"He replied with a shrug, "Don't thank me. Thank The Great Gatsby!" I walked away embarrassed. What a weird thing to say to an adoring fan? Only after lots of time had passed did I realize the bomb he dropped on me. Often I will find myself in a used book shop and will buy an old, yellowing copy of "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'll put it on my bookshelf or on my computer desk where I write, so I can be reminded how to write a great book. It's reference. I'll thumb through it. Maybe read a paragraph or two to see what I'm up against when I finally go to work on my own fiction. This author ultimately taught me you have to study the "classics" or risk looking like an amateur when it comes to your own writing. It sounds harsh, I know, but stick with me on this idea for a minute, will ya? Have you ever read "Moby Dick?" You probably don't remember this, but it was written in first person. It's like the narrator or main character Ishmael is talking just to you while you both sit at a bar together. "Moby Dick" has been made into umpteen movie versions. A common formula you will find every time you visit a Barnes and Noble; best sellers are advertised there on a table and on each book cover you see, Now a Major Motion Picture. If you read through one of these B&N books you'll most likely notice it's written in first person just like "The Great Gatsby" and "Moby Dick." Is this a coincidence? No way, dude! This is what people want to read today just like they wanted to read years and years ago, so technically nothing has changed when it comes to classic literature. I don't really want to argue with you about it, so keep writing in whatever style you want to, but honestly I can't see how rereading a book like the "The Great Gatsby" could hurt. We all took English classes in high school and college, so we already know what the classic titles are. Now, it's time for all us "aspiring writers" to go back and reread them. Get them at the library. Read them for free online. Get them at the used bookstore for cheap. The "classics" are the tools you want to put in your "tool belt" to make you look like a seasoned professional. For example, you wouldn't want a plumber without a tool belt on to fix your toilet would you? Not likely. Reread and imitate classic books. It's the best way to end up writing a good book yourself, but most importantly, in the end, thank "The Great Gatsby" and not me!
Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
If you came here because of "Realizing Magical"-- that was the old title. Me and a friend were sitting around talking and he came up with something like "Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath" and I thought "That would make a great title for a short story collection!" so I changed the title because you can do that on Amazon. There's no story in the collection titled that. I don't know. It's just to sucker you in to reading my stories. That's it.
I self-publish and it's one of the biggest challenges I've ever had as a writer.
So if you buy one of my books and see a mistake... or don't like it and are thinking about getting a refund please don't return it. Keep it, so I can keep all the money that you spent. And don't troll. Because I will pull out "the whip" on y'all.
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Where to Buy Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
Award winning author Kathryn Mattingly has taught fine art, creative writing, and English literature at several private colleges. Aside from her short story collection and literary suspense novels with Winter Goose Publishing, Kathryn’s work can be found in numerous small press anthologies and various print magazines. Kathryn has been a professional editor for a small publishing house and at one time ran her own editing service. In addition to her fiction, she has over 30 nonfiction articles published. Kathryn lives in Historical Old Town Napa, where she shares a 116-year-old house with her husband, their cat Sophia, and a resident spirit named Genevieve.
As a writer I study the masters to perfect my skills. There are lots and lots of things you can do to become a better writer, but nothing trumps that. After years of reading the best fiction out there, I can name three things those bestselling authors have in common, regardless of their genre. They are all great storytellers, they all have a highly developed sense of imagination, and they all create characters we can relate to.
Think Stephen King. He is a master of all three, and because of that he is a legend in his own time. Think Donna Tartt and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch. Despite all the varying opinions about her book, I love every word of it. It is art unfolded to me, like an Andy Warhol painting in its reflection of an unsettling societal picture, unraveled in a pure genius fashion.
Steven King’s use of imagination may be more flamboyant than the stark truth of what we experience with Theo’s point of view in The Goldfinch, until you consider how Tartt unraveled her entire story through the eyes of an adolescent boy. And like King, she manages to draw us into her characters by causing us to identify with them. That my friends, opens the door for the character’s world to become our world; their stakes in the game become our stakes in the game.
My books have been categorized as character driven suspense novels. They all have a central theme revolving around something puzzling that the main character is desperate to solve. People often ask which novel is my favorite, and the truth is that I love each of them for different reasons, based on the unique triumphs and challenges I had while writing them. I will say that for whatever reason, the first novel (Benjamin) seems to be a fan favorite. It also won an award as a manuscript. Somehow the pages are sprinkled with an extra scoop of magic, which is that elusive part of fiction we don’t realize we’ve created until our readers tell us. It is what makes readers think about the book long after the last page is read.
My main motivation for writing is how we as people view ourselves, and our world; how we solve personal challenges; how we grow as individuals. My settings are inspired by places I have lived or traveled to, because that’s what moves me emotionally and spiritually. I firmly believe that reading should engage all of your senses and knowledge about the world to date, and then it should mess with that. A good book should make you wonder, ponder, examine, doubt, fear, laugh, cry. A good book should deconstruct and reconstruct you on some level. It should be emotionally and intellectually comparable to the best ride you laid your ticket down on at the fair.
At one point I had a New York agent who encouraged me to get a resume of short fiction published while he worked on selling the books. So I began writing short stories and sending them off to anthologies soliciting submissions for their particular theme. Soon I was published in quite a few of them. This all happened during a time of tremendous change in the publishing industry. Self-publishing had come into being, and all types of boutique publishers appeared on the scene. Pieces of the publishing world fell out of neat order and into temporary chaos. My New York agent retired just as my personal world became equally chaotic.
For the next few years I ran the graphic art department at a private college where I also taught art and literature. When the college closed for financial reasons, my career evolved into being senior editor for Possibility Publishing. We put out a few wonderfully creative books before realizing (like many boutique publishers) that turning passion into profit was not that easy. It was during that time in my career where I once again considered getting my own novels published.
Of the publishers that wanted my work, I chose Winter Goose, because I loved the books they were putting out. I have been very happy with my Winter Goose family and all that they represent, which is a lot of great poetry and imaginative, gut wrenching fiction. They have published not only all of my fiction novels to date (Benjamin, Journey, Olivia’s Ghost, and coming next spring, The Tutor), but also a collection of my short stories (Fractured Hearts). A synopsis of each book can be found on my website: https://kathrynmattingly.com/ and on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE
Living in Napa, CA has been the inspiration for my next novel, Katia, which will take place here in wine country. I currently work for the Enthusiasts department at CIA Copia in Historical Old Town. Copia is the public facing half of the California campus for the Culinary Institute of America. I check guest registration for classes, run the cameras in the studio during our interactive cooking demonstrations, and give educational tours of the architecturally stunning facility.
I am having a love affair with Napa, where I am lavishing myself with knowledge about wine, food, and art in this richly diverse and creatively lush environment. My hope is that I can somehow sprinkle the pages of ‘Katia’ with a little of the magic so generously bestowed upon this valley of the grapes.
Jackson and Olivia Porter's daughter Ava is thrown overboard during a squall on Puget Sound. In a flash of lightning Livy sees someone on a nearby boat pull something from the water. No one comes forward with their child nor do they recover a body, yet Livy clings to the belief their daughter was rescued. Jackson believes his wife is mentally unstable and falls into dysfunctions of his own. Their marriage is torn apart and Livy flees to the Oregon Coast, where she encounters a legendary ghost-child in the lighthouse manned by her father. She begins to wonder if Jackson is right about her mental instability as she bonds with the ghost, who has a message about Ava. It is as if the squall from nowhere came to reside within each of them, as life unfolds into nightmares of their own making.
Check out Kathryn's Amazon Author Page here!
Where to Buy Olivia's Ghost
I am a single mother to a beautiful son, living and working in the Pacific Northwest. I am an Assistant Director of Career Development at a small, private liberal arts college, where I get to help my students pursue their career paths, whatever those may be. I was born and raised in the PNW, and have lived in Singapore and Mexico – which has shaped my world view and helped lead my career and life journey.
Through my “day job,” I conduct career counseling, work with community members, and develop career prep, networking and experiential programming to serve students and community. As my “other day job,” I am the founder of Montoya Media | Translations through which I serve individuals and business with translating, interpreting, and marketing in both English and Spanish.
Why I Write.
Why do I write? What a wonderful question. For whom are my words? For what are my words? I believe in vocation – that visceral calling towards finding meaning, an internal voice you were born with, and a journey through life that, through deviations, over hurdles, into the mist, guides you closer with each step, even before you know where you are even headed.
Through my position in career development, I get to help guide students through these ideas, and I also believe strongly that we are “natured” and “nurtured” into how we interact with the world, how we process our surroundings, and how we find meaning.
So, why do I write? I find that three reasons drive my writing:
I write to process. Writing is my reflection. My way of making sense of my world. The way I make cross-disciplinary “discoveries” and learn something from my own experiences. My blog is titled “What I Learn from my Son” because I learn so much from raising him. But if I don’t stop to ponder little moments, or to remember a vignette in my mind’s eye, or to just stay still and watch him be, the moments pass and I move on. It is through my blog posts, and through other writing, that I have realized some incredible life lessons, or that I take a step back to reflect on a hardship, or that I find strength and optimism in sometimes either painful, frustrating, or just plain annoying situations. I believe I am a better person for it, and I hope my writing helps me become more well-rounded, more grounded, more inspired, and more inspirational.
I write to share. I am a single mother of one 4-year-old son. I have a very strong family support system. My mom is my best friend, my brother and sister-in-law are my partners in crime. I have a couple close friends and supportive colleagues. This makes me feel loved, safe, and supported. They know most of my life.
But I feel alone. I often feel like all these wonderful things that my son does, and that we get to experience together, will evaporate into memories and no one will “know” us. Writing through my blog is my way of sharing “us” with the world, of sharing little moments, of funny blunders, of how he is growing and learning and becoming himself. Of how I am learning and growing as a mother. Of reinforcing that we are part of something outside of us. I write to connect with others and feel like I am connected with them.
I write because I have to. More specifically, because I am called to. It is part of my nature to use words and language and writing, no matter where and no matter what. Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator analysis (MBTI) with someone who can help you process your results and the meanings of the types? Or perhaps have you tried to uncover your passions and core strengths through story-telling and reflection? This is what I do much of my time with my students, and of course I believe in this, myself. My MBTI profile partly reflects my way of “being” as an introverted thinker – as I reflect on these two facets I realize that, for me, thinking + introversion = writing to process, writing for peace, and writing to connect with others.
One of my core strengths and meditation activities is writing. I uncovered this realization through story-telling methods to dive to the core strengths (called the Dependable Strengths Articulation Process). I realized that I have always written. When I was in third grade I started writing my first chapter book. Yes, I still have five wide-ruled notebooks full of an 8-year-old’s handwriting about a girl mouse in 4th grade and her adventures with friends, school, and a new house.
When I was in eighth grade I won a writing contest for my poetry and got to spend a day at a local university in a clinic for budding writers.
When I was in ninth grade I read a poem and a short essay I had written in front of my church congregation, about my reflections from a two-week long service learning-based mission trip to northern British Columbia.
Now, I write through my work, and I write through my blog. I have shaped almost every job I have had so that I get to write as part of it. I have been told by countless students that I should “write a book on all of this.”
Writing is drawn out of me. I have to do it.
Maybe one day I will write and publish a book. Until that day –
This is why I write.
Where to See Donna
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.
Be My Guest!
#WhatsYourStory? Are you an author? I'd love to hear your story and so would my readers. Email me for more information.