Meet A New Fantasy Author

Today I have the pleasure of featuring author, Laura Kentowski. Her debut novel, Guardian of Fate, has earned many positive reviews, mine included. Rather than try to tell you about this lovely lady, I’m going to step aside and let her do one of the things she does best. Write.

Laura, it is a privilege to welcome you to Alice’s Blog. So draw up a hypothetical chair and pour a virtual cup of tea. Tell us a little about yourself and how you manage to juggle a full time job with being a wife and mom.

Hi Everyone! First of all, I’d like to thank you, Alice, for having me here on your blog. It’s truly an honor.

I’m really your typical working wife and mother with a drive to push myself to exhausting limits. Five days out of the week I work as a corporate manager, come home to a whirlwind of a 5yr old, and eventually find a little quiet time late at night to delve into imaginary worlds with my writing. With the help of my husband, I’m sometimes able to sneak in more of my hobby if ideas can’t be ignored. Nothing beats the feeling of creating a whole new existence for my characters, even if I’m running on fumes.

Alice:  When did you first suspect that writing was your passion?

Laura:  I’ve been a big reader for as long as I can remember. I loved how my favorite authors had the ability to take me away from everything with their words, they still do. I can remember coming home with stacks of books that I could barely carry from the library, demolishing them within days, only to go back for my next stack. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I attempted my own story. Something about a roller coaster, if I recall (twists and turns seem to be an overall theme in my writing – both figuratively and literally, now that I think of it). There were a few more stories here and there, but I was usually too wrapped up in school and friends to have the time for more. A year or so ago I started a book review blog as a way to combine my love of reading and writing. After about 4 months of that, I was compelled to write more. Short stories bloomed, until 1 idea took on novel proportions and I couldn’t stop. Writing became a ritual.

Alice:  Knowing that you graduated with a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice, I’d love to know how those fields of study helped to shape Guardian of Fate.

Laura:  It’s funny because my first few novel ideas were psychological thrillers. Who knows, I still may use them some day. I’m a huge fan of twists and turns in novels and movies. I love finding ways to wow the psyche. By nature, I investigate everything with a need to figure things out. The human mind is an amazing entity that works in miraculous ways. If I can make a reader say, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” then I feel that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

Alice:  When did the idea for your book first begin to take shape?

I was haunted by a recurring vision that my main character, Cassandra, was having. She didn’t know why (nor did I at the time) she was having it, but it was compelling. As I started looking more closely at her life, it began to unfold for both of us. There was no going back as we found out together how important her role in life was. Secrets were being kept by those she loved at the same time that mysterious entities came forward, and we had to find out why.

Alice:  Do you have a special place where you write?

Laura:  With all the havoc in my life, I take it where I can get it. Most times at night I’m camped out in the recliner with my laptop. Earphones plugged in to iTunes playlists or Pandora radio, keep the noisy drone of the outside world from creeping in.

Alice:  Do you keep a notebook for stray ideas or bits of dialogue or description?

Laura:  I have several: in my purse, on my phone, in my work bag, on my desk at work. Half the time I lose track of where I put all of them. Thankfully, I’m so anal that I transfer the ideas the minute I can to my writing program so they are not forgotten.

Alice:  Do you like to outline or just fly by the seat of your pants?

Laura:  I’ve tried so hard to be one or the other, but I’ve relented to the fact that I do both. Guardian Of Fate started by the seat of my pants for several chapters until I got stuck. Being new at the whole novel idea, I was devastated as to what I should do. I searched and searched for a way out, but couldn’t find anything that prompted me forward. One day I set out to outline and the ideas just started flowing again, but only so far. So I started writing it out in detail again, until the next block. Eventually it became a pattern: write, outline, write, outline. I vowed to outline my entire next book, but Seeker Of Fate seems to be headed in the same direction of the back and forth routine. What does that make me – a planter (panster/plotter)?

Alice:  Once your first draft is finished, what comes next? Do you let it sit and chill, or do you dive right in with revisions and edits?

Laura:  Again, this was a complete learning process for me. I was ready to dive right in with my revision and edits once Guardian Of Fate was finished, but I hit another cement wall. I’d start, but found myself looking for all the wrong things, not sure of what I needed to do – completely lost. Frustration set in and I found myself putting it off for about a month. Once I got back in, it was like the flow of writing again. I knew exactly what needed to change and kept at it until the end. It was definitely my least favorite part of the whole process.

Alice:  I think Guardian of Fate would make a great movie or TV series, especially since you’re already writing a sequel, Seekers of Fate. What are your thoughts on that?

Laura:  Ahhh, my dream put on a screen, how wonderful would that be. You know, I actually get this overwhelming euphoric feeling when I see other authors’ works come to life on TV and movies. I imagine how they feel to see their characters played out in front of their eyes – literally. Of course, I would love that to be my work someday. My only fear would be capturing the emotions of the characters just right. I’m a true believer that most books are 100 times better than even the most award-winning movies. It’s just so hard to get all of those important details portrayed in such a small amount of time. I think Guardian Of Fate has enough drama, action, and twists to be a movie (I’m just a bit biased), with much more to come in the forthcoming books in the series. I’m just chomping at the bit with more surprises for everyone! Seeker Of Fate is turning out to be just as tortuous with its twists and turns as GOF.

Laura, it’s been delightful to have you as a guest and learn the ins and outs of your writing incentives and techniques. I enjoyed reading Guardian of Fate and can’t wait for your next novel, Seeker of Fate.

Guardian of Fate is available in print and e-book through Amazon.com or at Barnes & Noble. It can also be downloaded in other formats for a variety of e-readers.

Read Laura’s blog at LJ Writes.

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Published in: on February 7, 2012 at 8:51 am  Comments (7)  
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Scattered Pieces Released by Webfoot Publishing

It seems fitting and somewhat ironic that in announcing the publication of Scattered Pieces, I should think back upon my life. Perhaps all lives are scattered pieces, pieces dealt to us by fate, and the pieces we chose to play in such and such a way.

In my story, Katie Harris looks back to assemble the scattered pieces of her past. Katie’s life was marked early when her little brother, the mischievous Jimmy, wiggled away from her at a Cleveland train station.  His disappearance marked Katie and her parents with what might be a brand that says: LOST. AT FAULT.

As I write that, I think I might bear a similar mark. LOST. TWO SONS. Though I never consciously plotted Katie’s story using my personal history, it may have been at the core of my disseminating dream. My dream: a little boy waits with his father outside a train station. As a spectator, I see the father bring the boy inside. But two menacing figures accost them and the child vanishes.

This was the first dream. The second began after I went back to sleep. This time I’m at an airport, sitting on an outside bench.  A little girl wheels an empty baby buggy toward me. “I’m looking for him,” she says, and walks toward an airplane waiting on the tarmac. Waking again, I reviewed the two dreams, and Scattered Pieces began to take shape in my mind.

As Katie’s life of trauma, love, and mystery unfolded, Lisa Nowak was one of my best pre-beta readers.  Her enthusiasm for Scattered Pieces culminated this week with its publication through Lisa’s company, Webfoot Publishing. Besides having stepped into the world of publishing, Lisa is also the author of the YA series Full Throttle , beginning with Running Wide Open, a coming of age story set against an exciting background of stock car racing.

I want to thank Lisa and Webfoot Publishing for making this dream a reality. And the awesome ladies of Chrysalis who listened and commented, week after week, during it’s initial reading.

Scattered Pieces can be found for the low price of $2.99 in e-book format at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and on Kindle at Amazon.  The print version will be available sometime in November. If you’re interested in reading it and letting me know of any typos you spot, I’ll send you a free copy. Just leave a comment below.

Published in: on September 12, 2011 at 10:46 am  Comments (11)  
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One To Get Ready, and Two To Go

The “one to get ready” announcement is a reminder of the NW Publishers Book Fair in Portland’s Pioneer Square on July 30th.  Puddletown Publishing Group will have a table, and I’m very excited to be one of their authors.  Pat Lichen, Roxie Matthews, Susan Landis-Steward and I will be there to schmooze and autograph copies of our books; Volunteer for Glory, Kidnapping the Lorax, Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice, and The Blind Leading the Blind.  Other tables will feature other publishers and authors.  Don’t miss Jean Sheldon, publisher and mystery writer (Flowers for Her Grave and Woman in the Wing) and Veronica Esagui, host of the local TV show, Authors Forum, and author of Veronica’s Diaries.  Come out to peruse, visit, and buy. The Fair runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tents are provided for the booksellers in case the fickle Oregon weather decides to drizzle.

My “two to go” is announcing that, Scattered Pieces, my third novel, has come to the final round of checking for typos.

Scattered Pieces is scheduled for a late August release through Lisa Nowak’s Webfoot Publishing. Between now and then is the final run through of the manuscript and approval of a completed cover.  Lisa has just published her own YA novel, Running Wide Open, the first of a five book series set in the world of stock car racing.  Her second book, Getting Sideways, is set for publication in September.

I am still completely hyped with the positive reception that Volunteer for Glory is receiving and will continue to work hard at marketing, but I’m also looking forward to releasing Scattered Pieces first in e-pub formats and then in POD.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the story, Scattered Pieces is set from 1946 to 1961, a more recent era than the Civil War or turn-of-the-century. (Wrenn, Egypt House.) When Katie Harris’s little brother, Jimmy, disappears at a Cleveland train station, her life, and the life of her family, will never be the same. Determined to be the best she can be, and to make up for her brother’s loss, Katie excels in school, eventually majoring in psychology.  In the course of a graduate counseling internship, she is assigned an unsettling client who may be the link to what happened to Jimmy.

Volunteer for Glory—Part 3

Here’s another excerpt of Volunteer for Glory, so that you can see whether or not it’s a book you might like to purchase.

Rachel, muffled in a heavy winter shawl, pail in hand, met them in the yard.  The afternoon had grown late, and, as twilight approached, she had prepared to milk the bawling cow.  Now she was embarrassed, for Stuart had not come alone.  Her dress was limp and bedraggled after a day spent over the laundry tub. Angry with her husband, she would have liked nothing better than to withdraw to the house in silent dignity.

“Hello, sweetheart.”  Stuart swung off his horse, well aware of her displeasure, but willing to risk a kiss anyway.  “I wasn’t going to leave you with the chores.”  He smiled as he took the empty pail from her unresisting hand.  “I’ve brought company.  Mrs. Westbrook’s nursing at the Dudleys so I thought Ferris and Jared could use some home cooking.”

By the time the men came in from the barn, stamping snow from their boots and unwinding their mufflers, Rachel had regained her composure, though her cheeks were hot with hurry.  While they unhitched, and Stuart did chores, Rachel had been tidying, smoothing her hair, and tying on a fresh apron.

Jared, who had only seen her once before at a distance, was taken aback at her nearness, and the sound of her pretty voice. Her blue dress made her eyes seem all the bluer.  At twenty-four, he was inexperienced with women, school studies, and work on his father’s farm, conspiring to keep him solitary.  His only near romance had ended prematurely when the young lady he had been attracted to had grown tired of his procrastination and married another.  A fleeting picture of the girl passed through his mind but without regret.

He hung his hat and coat on the pegs by the door, and, feeling too tall and clumsy, sat down by the fire.  Looking around, his attention focused on a nearby bookshelf. Books, he knew.  He was comfortable with them, the way he was comfortable with the changing seasons that dictated the work of the land.  He couldn’t help trying to guess which books she had chosen. Whittier, Longfellow, Keats, and the several anthologies were most likely hers, for he couldn’t imagine Stuart musing over an Ode to a Grecian Urn.  The books on agriculture and animal husbandry were likely his, he conceded, but not the rest.  While his father and Stuart debated secession, he glanced at an open book lying on the footstool beside him.

The table had been set, and he caught Rachel’s inquiring glance as she passed him.  “Yours?”  He lifted the volume of Emerson’s Essays to show her.  A shy nod acknowledged his gesture.

Catching the by-play, Stuart quipped, “Rachel fancies herself a scholar, but I tell her blue stockings are out of fashion for pretty young ladies.”

Laughing, they took their places around the table for a meal of smoked ham and delicately seasoned root vegetables. Rachel’s experience as a minister’s daughter had taught her be both quick and inventive when dealing with unexpected guests.

When Stuart mentioned the shots fired in Charleston Bay, her dark brows drew together.  Divining that a change of subject would be welcome, Jared urged his father to tell them stories of the early days.

Warming to this, Ferris related that he had come west, and fallen in love with a pretty Norwegian girl. Once married, he and Elsa began farming in 1830.  Wolves had roamed the prairies, and he made a good story detailing how they had huddled together on winter nights, listening to howls rising from the creek bed that now ran through the Norcross acres.  But wolves no longer roamed the prairie, Ferris assured Rachel.  The farmers and the railroads had driven them out.

*          *          *

            After their guests had gone, Stuart helped Rachel carry the damp laundry out of their bedroom.  “You didn’t mind me bringing company, did you?” he asked, haphazardly draping a garment across the wooden drying rack.  He glanced sideways at her.

“No.”  Rachel shook the wrinkles from an apron and rearranged his part of the work.  “But I was mad about the milking!”  They laughed and Stuart caught her to him.  He pulled the pins out of her hair, fixing her with an intense look.  Seeing her with the Westbrooks, watching their gallant attention, her desirability was enhanced.  He had forgotten her pregnancy.  Her dark lashes and full pink mouth intoxicated him.  He unbuttoned her dress.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (6)  
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Volunteer for Glory—Part 2

Here’s another excerpt of Volunteer for Glory, so that you can see whether it’s a book you might like to purchase.

Rupert’s Prairie, like most farming communities on a railroad line, had expanded from a single mercantile store, one saloon, and a church into a respectably sized town.  Two churches served the spiritual needs of the community.  In addition to the depot and telegraph office, were Puckett’s General Store, a smithy, a harness and carriage repair shop, two saloons, a doctor’s office, and Gallatin’s dressmaking establishment.  The sheriff’s office had three jail cells that were seldom occupied, for Rupert’s Prairie, despite its saloons, was rarely disturbed by anything more serious than a fistfight or an occasional dispute over land boundaries.

Further away, and opposite the schoolhouse, a grain elevator loomed against the sky.  Children looking out classroom windows could sometimes see sacks of pale wheat and golden corn being loaded into railroad cars.  Nearby stockyards held cattle and hogs awaiting shipment to big city slaughterhouses.

Jared Westbrook, his height and blond good looks betraying a Scandinavian heritage, was tying his team to the hitching post in front of Puckett’s Store when his attention was distracted by a rider whose mount threw up bits of snow.  Stuart Norcross was making his predictably flashy entrance.

Stuart dismounted, so near to Jared that the other man had to move aside to avoid being jostled.  “Papers in?”

“Expect so.”  Jared tossed a blanket over his team before joining Stuart who was already crossing the wooden porch that ran the length of the store.

Ian McGruder greeted them with unconcealed excitement” They’ve fired on our ship in Charleston Harbor. And more succession.  Mississippi, Florida, Alabama.” He ticked them off, one by one.

“Dang  ’em anyway,” observed one shabby fellow, aiming a stream of tobacco juice into a nearby spittoon.  “We ain’t gonna let ‘em bust the Union.”

Murmured assents arose from the men who sat, stood, or leaned on counters.  Stuart, adopting a careless pose, pulled his hat off, revealing thick dark hair. Isaiah Puckett, a mere raisin of a man, paused in his wrapping of a parcel to listen.

“Once we retaliate, there’ll be no going back,” Jared said slowly.

This comment roused both agreement and disapproval.  Though Jared was respected as an educated man for having graduated from the Bloomington Normal School, several men frowned and muttered among themselves.

“You can’t just let armed rebellion go by.  You have to admit that, Jared.”  Stuart leaned forward slightly, as though daring him to disagree.

But it was the elder Westbrook who spoke, shifting his weight on the wooden packing case where he sat.  As he placed his reading glasses into his jacket pocket, Ferris’s blunt kindly features creased with thought.

“Any of you been to war? It’s a bloody business, and it doesn’t take long to get a bellyful of dust and dysentery.  Keeping the Union’s a better cause than fighting the Spanish over Texas, but war doesn’t prove who’s right.  Only who’s strongest.”  His voice held authority for he had fought in ’47

“ They’ve dishonored the flag, and I say we give them a licking.” Stuart argued. “The way I see it, it’s a question of whether you believe in the Union or not.”

Ferris shook his graying head. “The Union must stand,” he admitted.  “And if it comes to a fight, I’ll defend her.”

“To the Union.”  Stuart raised his hand as though proposing a toast.  Then suiting his action to his words, he swept up his hat, and opened the door, inviting the assembly to join him. “Let’s wet our whistles at the Red Dog.  Arguing politics is mighty dry work.”

Published in: on July 4, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Free sample: Volunteer for Glory

As promised, here is the first excerpt of Volunteer for Glory.

The Paths of Glory lead but to the grave.

—Gray, Elegy in a Country Churchyard

 CHAPTER ONE

The Illinois snow all but covered the cabin; it mounded on the roof, bulked over eaves and formed icicles that glinted gold, blue, and pink.  Smoke from the fieldstone chimney rose into the cloudless sky, and wind-sculpted drifts swirled around fence posts and barn walls.  In an unusual quirk of benevolence, the previous night’s storm had scoured most of the snow from the road leading out of the farm, a fact Stuart noted as he looked out the small frosted kitchen window.  Scraping a circle on the glass with his hand, he squinted against the blinding sunlight that danced over the white fields.

Rachel stirred in their bed, and he heard her sleepy voice.  She had been dreaming when he’d gotten up, her eyes moving behind her closed lids, one arm out-flung, pink lips parted.  He had lingered, tempted to indulge in lovemaking, but he had more important plans for the morning.  He pulled on warm trousers and a thick flannel shirt and added wood to the fireplace.  Felt-lined boots in hand, he sat on the bed.

Rachel drew her nighttime braid from behind her shoulder, and when her husband leaned down for a quick kiss, she took his face in her hands, rubbing her thumbs over the dark sandpaper of his jaw.   “Hurry back,” she whispered.

“I’ll be ready for breakfast after chores.  I’m going to town, so if you need anything at the store, write it down.”  He shrugged into his coat and stepped out into the cold.

He hadn’t closed the bed curtains, and a gust of ice crystals and sharp air blew in, making Rachel gasp.  She dressed by the fireplace, now crackling with flame, and stepped into flannel bloomers, petticoats, and skirt.  Dropping her shawl, she hurried into her camisole and linsey-woolsey blouse.  A splash of cold water to wash, and, thank goodness, the builders of this cabin had situated it directly over the well.  A water pump came right up through the floor into the kitchen.

Rinsing her mouth, she reached for the little elm twig with its frayed end and rubbed it vigorously over her teeth.  She had learned to do this from one of her father’s old parishioners and employed it twice a day.  A tiny mirror over the washbasin enabled her to admire the results.

Touching the circle Stuart had made in the frost, she looked out at the snow.  She couldn’t see the barn, but easily imagined him gently haranguing the cow before milking, throwing grain to the chickens, corn and slops to the pigs, and hay for the horses.  She knew he would slip his riding mare, Flossy, an extra helping of oats.  But the two draft horses would stomp and snort until they too were favored.   When she told him he should treat them the same, Stuart had only laughed, saying it was a game between him and Flossy.  “She’s like you.  Wanting to be noticed and made over.”

Removing a stove lid, she put bits of wood shavings and twigs over the coals that smoldered under last night’s ashes.  The hinged stove door was left open to encourage a draft.

Winter had begun early that November, and now, in January of 1861, spring seemed far away.  Before moving to Illinois, all of Rachel’s nineteen years had been spent in Massachusetts, so she had experienced cold weather.  But winter in the city was a far cry from the isolation of a farmstead.  In Boston, streetcars provided transportation, and houses were cozily situated side-by-side, making visitors and shopping only steps away.  In that old life, she had been kept busy with church and household duties.

Her father, a widowed Presbyterian minister, had not remarried after his wife’s death.  By the time Rachel was fifteen, the parishoners considered her a permanent fixture, prevailing upon her for everything from visiting the sick to baking and selling cakes at fundraisers.  Now her own mistress, she was expected to obey her husband rather than her father.

Taking the mixing bowl from its shelf behind the calico curtain, she dipped two cups of flour from the storage bin.  Salt, baking soda, and two brown eggs to break into the cup of milk came next.  A bit of lard set to melt on the stove, and she was well on her way to making pancakes. But her thoughts wandered from pancakes to late summer when she could wear cotton dresses with big skirts and ruffled aprons.

She and Stuart would walk through the tall prairie grasses, surveying their hundred and twenty acres.  It was a vast amount of land to a city-reared girl, and this would complete their first year of residence.  Although the deed was in Stuart’s name, the land had been purchased with an inheritance from her mother—money her father felt should have been his by rights.  And, hadn’t she had to work to screw that out of her father’s tight fist?  Arthur Comstock hadn’t known what to make of his meek little daughter flying at him with fire in her eyes.

Rachel loved their cabin with its round logs, beautifully hewn, and tightly chinked. On the plank floors were the bright rag rugs she’d made when she was still in her father’s home.  They weren’t large, but added color and warmth to the furnishings.  The bedroom was a curtained alcove, and the lean-to kitchen narrow..

She thought of Stuart.  He wasn’t fooling her with talk of groceries.  The papers would be in from Chicago, and the local men would be waiting to receive them.  Following Lincoln’s election only months ago, South Carolina has openly rebelled against the Union. Talk of war dominated every gathering from Atlanta to Massachusetts.

But war wasn’t in her plans. She and Stuart were starting out, their whole lives ahead of them. Whisking the eggs into the milk, she tried to think of something else.

The fragrance of boiling coffee filled the room, making Stuart sniff appreciatively when he returned from the barn.  Ruddy with cold, he set the milk pail on the sideboard.  Tossing jacket and hat onto a chair, he caught Rachel about the waist, and held her against his slim, horseman’s body.  He nibbled her neck, just under the ear, where she was ticklish.  Giggling, she fended him off, and when he had taken his seat at the table, she set his plate before him piled high with hot cakes.  A jug of maple syrup and a pat of butter completed their breakfast.

“Anything special in town today?” she asked, pretending she had no idea why he intended to travel miles through the snow.

“Papers’ll be in.  If more states follow Carolina’s lead, there’ll be a showdown. Buchanan might play safe, but once Lincoln’s inaugurated, things’ll change.  He won’t take secession laying down.”

“I don’t see how threats will change anything,” Rachel objected.  She salted the smoking griddle, and set it on the stove shelf to cool.

“Not threats.  A good fight.”  Wiping his mustache, Stuart abandoned breakfast.  “Pat and Carter say there’ll be a military call-up come spring.”

Rachel flushed with more than the heat of the cook stove.  “You’d like that, I suppose?” she asked with sarcasm.

“For Christ’s sake!”  Stuart threw his napkin down where it stuck to his pancakes.  “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. But I know what’s in your mind.  And I won’t be left to milk cows and slop pigs while you play soldier.”

“Oh, you won’t, will you?”

Stuart’s expression was alarming and suddenly hateful.  Unthinkingly, Rachel raised her hand, but before she could slap him, he seized her wrist.   They glared at each other fiercely.

“Goddamn you, Rache!” He shook her hard enough to make her head wobble before he released her. When he did, she was sent staggering into the doorway.

As Stuart moved toward her, Rachel ran behind the unmade bed, posture defiant, eyes brilliant.

“Rache.”  He extended a hand as though she were a skittish animal.  “ I’m sorry.”  Tense seconds passed before she came into his arms, barely suppressing a sob.

“I’m going to have a baby,” she blurted.  “You can’t go to war.”

He sat on the bed, pulling her down beside him. Sunlight had begun to melt the frost on the window, and thin beams of light crossed the quilt.  “You couldn’t be mistaken, could you?”

“No. It’s been over two months since­­—”

They heard the fire shift in the stove, the wood settling. She pressed his reluctant hand against her still flat belly.  “You wouldn’t leave before the baby’s born, would you?”

“I guess not,” he said grimly.  “But there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go to town now, is there?”

Published in: on June 27, 2011 at 8:47 am  Comments (6)  
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How Sweet It Is

In this moment, I think of the happy or memorable events most of us experience in a lifetime. There are graduations, marriages, the birth of children or grandchildren, buying a first house, getting that awesome job, taking a great vacation, and, if you’re a writer, having a book published. Such times seem to engender other special moments, such as a baby’s first smile, the first paycheck, or the first party in a new home.

I experienced on of those watershed moments when Volunteer for Glory was published as an e-book on March 20. But holding the solid, print version is a not-to-be forgotten thrill for any author. To my mind, e-books seem somewhat ethereal, for I’m a throwback to the analog age. On June 9, that first copy rested heavy and real in my hands, the cover new and shiny, and suddenly the whole publishing process seemed real.

The characters and events I knew so well returned to vibrant life. Rachel, Stuart, and Jared assumed a kind of independence, and, I suspect, are living beyond the last page.  So what happened to them?  Other children must have been born. Did Philip go to Louisiana in search of his southern roots?  Did Jared take up a profession other than farming?  Did Rachel ever forget her first love?  So many questions whose answers lie only in conjecture.

I confess I’m as proud and nervous as any parent watching a beloved child wave good-bye at the schoolhouse steps.  To celebrate, I’ll post the first chapter in installments over the next several weeks. For those who haven’t read the book, this is a preview.  Hope you like it.

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 4:00 am  Comments (10)  
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Countdown to the Civil War: April 1, 1861

April 1, 1861: Within two weeks, The United States of America would formally declare a state of war in which the proposition of a United States would either be upheld or destroyed. South Carolina had presented a petition of secession on December 24, 1860.On January 9, 1861, Mississippi followed suit, joined in turn on January 10, by Florida and on the January 11 by Alabama.  The 16th brought the formal secession of Georgia. Louisiana troops had seized Fort Pike near New Orleans, and that state seceded on the 26th. By the time April rolled around, the country was in turmoil as more and more southern states aligned themselves with the Confederacy.  Delegates and legislators had all but abandoned their homes and offices in Washington D.C. The stage was set for the match that would light the fire of civil war.

On this date, April 1, 1861, President Lincoln was busy, compiling lists and orders, and receiving suggestions, if not policy recommendations, from Secretary of State Seward.  One of the Secretary’s suggestions was to change the emphasis from slavery as a bone of contention, to one of whether or not the compact of unity or dominion still held the states together under the federal government. There were concerns about foreign powers interfering or at least trying to influence the internal crisis fomenting at home. It is said that Lincoln at last had to remind Mr. Seward that he, not the Secretary of State, was president of the United States.

Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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Volunteer for Glory is now Available!

The release of my book has been a long time coming, but now that it’s here, it seems like yesterday when I wrote “The End” to Volunteer for Glory’s first draft.  The genesis for Volunteer came in 1974 when I dreamed of a beautiful, dark haired girl. Despite the vagueness that often accompanies such nocturnal adventures, I knew her husband and lover were soldiers in the Civil War. When I considered this as a book, the setting was sticking point because I knew so little of that time. Could I change the era, I wondered?  My characters resisted, declaring this is when they had lived. My arguments were wasted, so off I went to our small public library, since this was before the age of personal computers. I would conduct an overview only. No commitments.

After reading the first pages of the first book, I was hooked. I devoured every source on the subject. I ordered additional volumes from nearby libraries.  I bought others. I wrote letters. I accessed the Official War Records of the War Between the States in Portland State’s military history section.  Serendipitously, I discovered and was given an official atlas detailing the Atlanta campaign.

The Civil War became the setting that drove the novel’s theme. Stuart (Rachel’s husband) would join the volunteer cavalry; Jared, her second love interest, would march with the infantry.  Left at home with a new baby, Rachel would wait for a husband enthralled with dreams of glory.

Resurrected after its long entombment in a file box, Volunteer for Glory has been edited and, in some small ways, revised. It has now been published in e-book format and a Print On Demand book will soon follow.  Dreams do come true. For my characters, and for myself.

Description: When Stuart, Rachel’s dashing young husband joins the volunteer cavalry after Fort Sumter, she know she will have to find the grit and determination to bear their coming child and survive on the small Illinois farm. What she doesn’t expect is to fall in love with Jared Westbrook, a handsome young neighbor. The daughter of a Boston minister, she tries to deny her feelings for him and focuses on remaining faithful to her husband. While the men fight through the bloody battles of the Western campaign, they are molded by their wartime experiences. Sensitive, poetic Jared finds he can be a formidable line officer. Stuart pursues an old dream of glory. United in war, the two men are divided by love for the same woman. Who will Rachel choose? Or will the war itself make the decision for her.

Buy it at Smashwords

Buy it at Amazon.com (Kindle)


Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 8:59 pm  Comments (6)  
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When Things Go Right

It is a strange and wonderful feeling to actually sign your name to a book contract. I’m not sure I believe it yet. After a high point of excitement, I thought I was very cool about it and gave myself pats on the back for not being overly puffed up or jittery. At last, I thought, age brings a benefit or two. My emotions have become manageable. I’ve matured and can take life as it comes. My interest in philosophy is paying off, reminding me that “this too shall pass away.” Cool, huh?

I felt sure I’d have no trouble sleeping the night before the signing. I’d just drift into slumber. Wrong! My mind raced and scrolled like an Internet connection gone mad. The clock steadily ticked away. I must have drifted off somewhere around four o’clock, because when the cats began their morning chorus, I was in no mood to rise. Then, I remembered! This was the day!

At one o’clock, I presented myself to the Puddletown Publishing Group directors, Susan Landis-Steward, Renee LaChance, and Lisa Nowak. Thankfully I was immediately put at ease, so the segue into the purpose of our meeting was smooth. The contract was clear-cut, all points covered, and questions answered. I was ready to sign when someone said, “Wait, the camera.” I paused, pasting a grin on my face. The shutter clicked. For the capper, I was presented with a bar of F. Guittard Tsaratana chocolate. What a classy way to seal a deal.

Volunteer for Glory is now in the hands of Puddletown staff for copyediting. It’s been almost two whole days now, and I think I’m coming down to earth. When I see Volunteer as an e-book or in paperback, you might hear a champagne bottle blowing its cork!

A toast to Puddletown Publishing Group and its success! You can access their website here and their blog here.

As if this event wasn’t enough, I just received word from Veronica Esaqui that my interview is now available to see and hear on her website. Scroll down to my name, which is #27 on the list. I won’t know when my particular interview will air on TV, but should get that information from the producer in the next few weeks. I’ll post it then, but for folks who don’t get the local Comcast cable channel, the website is the best bet.

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 10:45 am  Comments (3)  
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