#WhatsYourStory Featuring Eric Lee
Eric “Rick” Lee is a native of Chicago, Illinois. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant after completing Army ROTC at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Rick earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Alabama and a Masters Degree from Murray State University.
The son of a World War II and Korean War era veteran, Rick’s eight year military tenure included assignments in leadership, personnel and logistics. He is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and he served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the Third Armored Division.
Rick maintains close ties with World War II organizations as well as former service members throughout the country. He has also worked with a team on the Library of Congress’s Veteran’s Oral History Project. Additionally, the veteran has been a member of the Military Writers Society of America.
Rick has chronicled many of the prolific stories of America’s “Greatest Generation” in his work entitled Tribute to Valor and Courage and shared their accomplishments through presentations in bookstores, churches, schools, retirement homes, libraries and other venues. He is currently working on a sequel to this work.
For those with an interest in military and narrative history I would like to introduce a new work. To be entitled “Legacies of Valor and Courage” this project is a follow up to by first book “Tribute to Valor and Courage”.
It is a continuing, collective saga highlighting the exploits and achievements of American veterans from World War II. As children of the Great Depression the Greatest Generation rose from the deprivation of the 1930s into an explosive global conflict in the 1940s.
I have been privileged to capture a cross section of that time and follow it through the veterans lives into the 21st Century. This distinguished group arose from varied backgrounds and geographic locations. Their mix includes both genders and an array of ethnicities and races.
From a Tuskegee Airmen who helped desegregate military aviation to a wounded Marine who became Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Tribe to my own father who served as an undersized young teenager, the common threads of sacrifice, bravery and discipline knitted this diverse band into the tapestry that is America.
These and numerous other stories will compel you to fully appreciate these national heroes in the sunset of their lives.
Feel free to visit my facebook page at Rick-S-Lee-512121945572303 for upcoming details on “Legacies of Valor and Courage”. Also check out www.rickslee.net to hear stories from “Tribute to Valor and Courage”.
#WhatsYourStory Featuring Wanda Morris
Wanda is a corporate attorney and writes under the pen name, W. Michelle Morris. She has completed her first novel, The Elephant Fighter, a psychological thriller set in Atlanta, Georgia .She won the ITW’s Thrillerfest Conference Best First Sentence Contest in 2016. She has attended the Yale Writers Workshop and this year she was selected as a Mentee in the 2018 Pitch Wars Mentor class. She is the 2019 Vice President of Sisters in Crime - Atlanta Chapter and a member of Mystery Writers of America.
LIFE AS AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER
My writing journey has been a series of ups and downs, stops and starts – essentially a dream detoured. For nearly two decades, I harbored the dream to become a professional writer. With echoes of my parents’ voices in my head, I convinced myself that writing was a folly and I had a “real” job as a lawyer. Yet, I still continued to read books – many of them written by lawyers. And therein lies the fallacy of my logic.
Twelve years ago, I finally put pen to paper (or rather, fingertips to keyboard) and wrote what Stephen King so aptly calls a “shitty first draft” titled, “The Good Guys.” After reading it a few times, the “smell” was so bad that I decided to put away my dreams of writing for good. I went about my life and my “real job” trying to forget that book or my nagging desire to create stories.
Several years ago, I had a health scare. Suddenly, I saw my life from a different perspective. So I did what any other self-respecting person does when they realize that they are mortal and the days ahead should be filled with purpose – I decided to follow my dream and I pulled out that manuscript. This time when I read it, I moved past the “smell” and tried to understand the real story I was trying to tell with my manuscript. And that story and those characters took up residence in my head like cockroaches in a cheap motel. They came out at night in the dark, when I sat in traffic or a meeting, anywhere where I had a spare corner in my brain. I started to tinker with the novel again. But this time, I took writing classes and honed my writing skills. I joined writing communities. I devoured craft books. I learned about story structure and pacing and anything else having to do with creating engaging stories. Eventually, I retitled my novel The Elephant Fighter. And I never stopped writing.
So am I published yet? Nope. But I’m on my way. Two years ago, I decided if I believed in my writing, maybe others out there who would believe in it too. I challenged myself to do something I never thought I would do. I entered the ITW (International Thriller Writers) Conference’s Best First Sentence Contest. Baby steps folks – I wasn’t quite ready to let someone see the whole darn thing. On the day of the conference when winners were announced, I sat up in my chair a little straighter, a little prouder because I had submitted what I believed to be a spectacular first sentence. They called out the winners and my name … was not among them! I was heartbroken.
But I didn’t stop writing.
The next year rolled around and I entered the contest again. This time, they called my name. I was one of the winners.
And still, I didn’t stop writing.
After a ton of revisions, I applied to the Yale Writers Workshop using an excerpt from my manuscript. Miracle upon miracles, I was accepted. I learned as much as I could from that experience. It was during that summer at Yale that I had an epiphany. I discovered that I was a writer. Not because someone else graced me with that title. I was a writer because I did what writers do – I wrote.
My epiphany came late albeit, but nonetheless, the mental shift was dramatic and I finally became comfortable with the idea that I am a writer, that writing could be a “real” career. It didn’t have to be my day job, but it could be a legitimate line of work.
Riding the high of my new mindset, I started querying, confident that agents would be clamoring with requests to see the full manuscript. It would be just a matter of time before I would be “getting the call,” a publishing contract, and an advance. Oprah’s Book Club Pick, here I come!
Well, not so much. The form rejections started rolling in almost immediately after I hit the “send” button. The agents who actually took the time to read my submission or have their assistants do it, sent their rejections a few days later. All the while, I was told to consider myself lucky as some agents take months to respond. Personally, getting rejected sucks whether it comes as fast as a bullet train or as slow as a steam tanker.
But I didn’t stop writing.
In August of this year, I submitted my manuscript, The Elephant Fighter into the Pitch Wars Contest. Selected writers are assigned to a published author who mentors them for three months on their manuscript revisions before querying. Another miracle happened. I was selected. I am now in deep revisions of my novel with an incredibly talented author who truly exemplifies the generosity of the writing community.
So what is my lesson from all this, if you’re inclined to take advice from a newbie writer still working on her first book with no publishing credits to her name?
As I tell my kids, I’ll give the advice, it’s your choice whether to take it.
My advice is simple … Never stop writing.
Brenda Donelan is a life-long resident of South Dakota. She grew up on a cattle ranch in Stanley County, attended college in Brookings, and worked in Aberdeen as a probation officer and later as a college professor. Currently, she resides in Pierre with her two Himalayan cats, Yeti and Wolfie. She loves reading, playing with her cats, and traveling.
Blood Feud is the sixth book in the University Mystery Series. Brenda is currently working on her next book. She’s always looking for new inspiration for upcoming mysteries.
The author can be reached by email at email@example.com. For more information on Brenda Donelan, books in the University Mystery Series, and tour dates, check out her website at brendadonelan.com or find her on Facebook at Brenda Donelan – Author.
I’ve loved to tell stories and write stories for as long as I can remember. As a little girl I read Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and other books with strong female protagonists. I fantasized about being a detective, and as I got older, I was able to do investigative work in a number of my careers. I worked as a social worker, a probation officer, and a federal investigator for a total of 9 years before I started teaching at the university level. By then, I was over the idea of being a detective anymore, but I found that I still liked writing mysteries. After teaching sociology and criminal justice for 11 years, I decided to work full time as a writer. Of course everyone thought I was having a midlife crisis because who abandons their career as a tenured professor to become a self-published writer? Um, that would be me! I’ve been writing full time since 2013 and have written six books with the seventh installment in the University Mystery Series to be released this spring.
My first book, Day of the Dead, was inspired by actual events. In 2004 I was teaching at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota when a fellow professor was found shot to death outside the building where we both taught. The resulting investigation left us on campus with more questions than answers. Years later, I used this premise as the inspiration for my book. After writing Day of the Dead, I realized that I had tons of background information from my previous occupations I could use and, thus developed a series.
The University Mystery Series can best be characterized as cozy mysteries with an edge. They take place in the small, quirky, fictional town of Elmwood, South Dakota. My protagonist, Marlee McCabe, is a professor of criminology, struggling to figure out the politics of university life. At the same time, she’s balancing her love life, struggling with overeating, and has a bit of a drinking problem. While she’s muddling through her professional and personal struggles, she finds herself pulled into mysteries in the area.
In an attempt to avoid “Cabot Cove Syndrome,” my latest book, Blood Feud, is set in Delhi, India. This came about organically when I went on a trip to India with one of my best friends. Once I arrived and experienced the richness of the culture I knew I had to make it a setting for an upcoming book. As a university professor, my protagonist was coming up for sabbatical; a release from work duties on campus to complete research. I decided to have Marlee travel to India while she was on her sabbatical. Once there, she falls into similar academic pitfalls that beleaguered her back in Elmwood, SD. She also experiences the murder of a new friend and tries to uncover the details of his death while navigating the Indian culture.
I’m currently working on the seventh book in the University Mystery Series. As of yet, it’s untitled, so I’ve been referring to it as #7. Don’t worry, I’ll come up with a better name. After completing this book I’m excited to start on a new series. It will also be set in South Dakota, but will be a bit darker than my other books. It will still fall in the Mystery genre and can be categorized as Prairie Noir.
In my work as a probation officer and social worker, I developed a strong sense of empathy for victims of crime. Fortunately, I’ve never been a victim of a serious crime, but have worked with many people who were victimized. When I began writing Day of the Dead, I decided to begin each chapter with a sentence or two in the words of the victim. The victim’s words might be foreshadowing of events to come or a reaction to something a character said or did in the book. In Blood Feud, I began each chapter with a Hindu proverb. The book is set in India and the victim often speaks in proverb form, so it seemed fitting.
Motivation is more important than inspiration, in my opinion. If I waited for inspiration, nothing would get finished. Since 2009 I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) as a way of getting the majority of a first draft completed during the month of November. At least part of all of my books have been written during Nanowrimo. I need the challenge of meeting a daily word count and writing 50,000 words in a month. I publish a book about every ten months. This is slow compared to many authors I know who crank out four or more books a year. Could I write four books in one year? It’s doubtful, but if I did they wouldn’t be fit to read. Every writer is different and for me I need the better part of a year to work on my story plus all the revising, editing, marketing, etc. that goes along with being a self-published writer.
My best advice for aspiring or new writers is to write and keep writing. If you get stuck, give it some time. Switch to a new story or do something else creative for a short time. Don’t stop and don’t throw anything away. Also, limit the amount of time you spend reading what so-called experts have to say about writing.
When an unexpected teaching assignment whisks Marlee McCabe off to New Delhi, India, she lands right in the middle of an ongoing family dispute and an academic firestorm. Before long, Marlee is faced with the most difficult decisions of her life, causing her to choose between her life back home and a new life in India. Without the familiarity of the Midwest, she’s dependent upon the good graces of strangers. But are these new acquaintances really who they pretend to be? Sacrificing her career and her own safety, Marlee struggles to unravel the mystery of who murdered her only friend in India. Can she unmask the killer before she becomes the next victim?
Where to Buy Blood Feud
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.