Indie Spotlight on YA Author Piper Templeton

Rain Clouds and Waterfalls, is a coming-of-age novel told in linked short stories, with each story/chapter named for a Beatles song, that sets the theme of the chapter.  NOW AVAILABLE as an audio book as well.  You can get Rain Clouds and Waterfalls at Amazon and Audible.

The Beatles – Timeless Icons Who Influence Pop Culture Across Multiple Generations

The Beatles continue to influence pop culture as their music inspires and delights multiple generations.   I’ve been a witness to this phenomenon as I’ve seen three generations of families soaking up the unadulterated joy experienced at Paul McCartney concerts.  Their songs are part of our broad pop culture, and they also serve a more intimate purpose to many individuals:  The songs deliver comfort, wisdom, poignancy, and lots of smiles at the memories they invoke.

Their songs are embedded in our collective conscious and plant themselves into ordinary, everyday facets of our lives.  I pass a street sign every evening on my commute home from work named Blue Jay Way.  I often see salads on menus named Strawberry Fields. I have a container of popcorn sitting on my desk right now that I ordered from a Youth Group fundraiser.  The name of the popcorn?  Sergeant Salt & Pepper.

The Beatles have been a recurring presence in movies, whether through dialog, one of their songs playing, or actual footage. As a very recent example, in Twin Peaks:  The Return that recently aired, one character starts telling his work buddy about a dream.  After he recaps his dream, he starts telling the other that he woke up, and then he recites the middle part of “A Day in The Life”  “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, found my way downstairs…”  The characters give each other a knowing grin.  In Boyhood, there’s a great scene where the dad makes his son a composite of Beatle solo songs that he calls “The Black Album” and walks his son through the rhyme and reason of it all.

Beatles songs play in the background of many films.  One of my favorite examples is the unforgettable parade scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.   Who can forget Ferris dancing away on a float to “Twist and Shout”?  In a somber example, the use of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the end of The Killing Fields seared our memories and hit the perfect emotional note.

 

How could Forrest Gump guide us through the 1960s and 1970s without bumping into a Beatle?  I love the scene of the old Dick Cavett footage in which Forrest is superimposed over Yoko One, and he finds himself seated next to none other than John Lennon.  Through Q&A with the host, he then inadvertently inspires the lyrics to “Imagine.”  It’s priceless!

You can check out a detailed, lengthy montage of Beatles references in film from the SgtPepperChannel on You Tube.

On a more personal, intimate level, I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ve found that many of their songs function as a Greek chorus to my life.  “Take a sad song and make it better” from “Hey Judge” automatically plays in my head when I’m going through a difficult time.  One day I was driving to work after experiencing a crushing loss.  Weeks had passed since the ordeal, but when alone, I could not get past the crying part of the grief.  I would think about the loss, and the tears would surface.  One morning as the tears started filling my eyes, “All Things Must Pass” came on the radio, as if in direct response to my personal grief.  It helped put matters in perspective and offered me a handle on my grief.

When I think I’ve got my day and week all planned out, and chaos instead ensues, I hear John Lennon’s lyric from “Beautiful Boy” floating through my head:  “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”   When life deals blows that seem to come crushing down on me, I hear my Greek chorus again:  “Bang, bang Maxwell’s Silver Hammer came down upon her head.”

The Beatles’ music has always been playing along either in the foreground or deep in the background as I journeyed through life.

BIO: Piper Templeton lives and works in the New Orleans area. A Liberal Arts graduate from the University of New Orleans, she loves writing fiction that mines beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary people’s lives. She combines her love of children and books by tutoring second graders in reading.

Other passions include animals, music, nature, long walks, and good laughs.

She developed a love for writing fiction in childhood and forayed into self-publishing in 2014 with her Beatles-inspired novel, Rain Clouds and Waterfalls. If you’d like to know more about Piper you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indie Spotlight on Historical Romance Author, Kirk Raeber

A trove of forgotten letters reveals a love that defied a world war.

In 1924, eight-year old Robert Campbell accompanies his missionary parents to Japan where he befriends a young Makiko Asakawa. Robert enjoys his life there, but the dark tides of war are rising, and it won’t be long before foreigners are forced to leave Japan. Torn from the people Robert has come to think of as family, he stays in contact by exchanging letters with Makiko, letters that soon show their relationship is blossoming into something much more than friendship. The outbreak of total war sweeps all before it, and when correspondence ends with no explanation, Robert fears the worst. He will do anything to find Makiko, even launch himself headfirst into a conflict that is consuming the world. Turmoil and tragedy threaten his every step, but no risk is too great to prove that love conquers all. Forgotten Letters is published by Honey Rock View Publishing and available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Audible

From a Dream, Comes a Novel…

The inspiration for “Forgotten Letters” came to me ten years ago in the form of a dream so vivid that I began to see it as the starting point for the story portrayed in Forgotten Letters. The dream began with an earthquake in the early 1900’s somewhere in Japan. My most vivid memory from the dream was not so much the destruction, which was devastating, but the strength and courage of the Japanese people in resurrecting their lives in the face of such tragedy.

Over the years, I have researched the many earthquakes that are a regular occurrence across the Japanese Islands. The “Great Kanto” of 1923 seemed to best mimic the earthquake from my dream, in particular the unstoppable fires that destroyed most of Tokyo and Yokohama. This is where my story begins.

Ironically, the two cities were again destroyed during World War II and, as they were after the “Great Kanto,” have been rebuilt by the dedicated, hard working people of that amazing country.

The story starts with Fumiko and Ichiro entering their recently deceased parent’s house.  They enter the house with thoughts of childhood memories and what to do with the dilapidated home.  Fumiko and Ichiro are both dealing with personal problems that seem to consume most of their thoughts as they wander through the house.

Ichiro finds a trapdoor to the attic and enters a dark and dusty area that has not been visited for years.  They look around the room and see old furniture and trash.  Ichiro pulls out a military footlocker with his father’s name printed on the outside.  Ichiro states “This was Dads”.  Ichiro has some difficulty opening the footlocker but is finally successful.  Inside he finds an old World War II officer’s uniform and a precisely folded cream and red colored kimono.

Underneath the two garments they discover a box which is wrapped in red foil and secured with a white ribbon that is squashed flat.  Fumiko and Ichiro look at each other thinking what secrets are in this special box.  Ichiro unties the ribbon, unfolds the paper and removes the lid.  Inside the box lie rows of letters, yellowed and stained.  The letters are in random order the earliest postmark is 1931.  The letters are correspondence between their parents.  Fumiko opens a letter postmarked 1931 and reads aloud “Dear Robert”.

When you read Forgotten Letters, remember three words from the beginning of the book and then are revisited later on.  I think the reader will smile when they read these words again.  The three words are spider, baseball and birthmark.

My sincere hope is that you will find Forgotten Letters an enjoyable read.

Bio: Kirk Raeber is an emergency room physician. He has always had a strong interest in World War II history and especially in the war in the Pacific. He served in the US Navy and was stationed in Japan for one year. Forgotten Letters is his debut novel. He lives in California with his wife and three Anatolian Shepherds. If you’d like to know more about Kirk and his books, you can visit his website: http://www.theforgottenletters.com, and/or follow him on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Forgotten-Letters-814455975239863/  and Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomkirkraeber

 

Indie Spotlight, YA Author TE Carter

Bruno Guenard / BIOSPHOTO

I STOP SOMEWHERE (releasing 2/27/18) available for pre-order in the US and UK

Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter’s stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture, but it makes you slow down and think about what it is to be human.

Telling contemporary stories that focus on crime

As a reader, one of my favorite genres is crime fiction and mystery. I’m a huge fan of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, but also of traditional mysteries like those by Agatha Christie. This extends a bit into my personal life as well, as I’ve always been drawn to dark stories and crime shows on television.

When I started writing, I knew I wanted to write something that I would like to read, but for some reason, I found that writing mystery, crime fiction, and horror – despite being some of my favorite genres – didn’t come naturally to me. Instead, I began delving into contemporary fiction, which I also love. As I started writing, though, I also noticed that my reading preferences found a weird way of looping themselves into the contemporary stories I was telling. In a way, I was creating a mashup of genres I loved and telling contemporary stories that focused on crime.

My debut YA novel, I STOP SOMEWHERE is a contemporary novel at its heart. It’s about the world we live in and the things that happen to young women unfortunately. It’s also a story of a crime, but told in a different way. Instead of being about the crime itself, it’s about the reverberating effects of a crime on the people who experienced it. Ellie, the protagonist, is viciously assaulted and the story mainly focuses on her, but it also shows how this attack reaches her father, the detectives investigating the crime, other victims of the same perpetrators (as well as other victims of sexual assault not necessarily connected to the same parties), and even the reporter assigned to cover this case.

From I STOP SOMEWHERE, I continued writing in this mashup genre that one of my critique partners called a form of introspective crime fiction. My second title, releasing in 2019, is also about a crime, but it’s about a girl whose brother commits a heinous act and how his actions affect her. We frequently see stories in the news and we have a morbid fascination with dark crimes, but on the periphery of that, there’s an entire group of people affected on a daily basis by these things – well beyond the criminals and the victims themselves. In this novel, the story follows her coming of age in a world where anyone who gets a hint of her brother’s actions tries to define who she is because of him. It’s about the assumptions we make about people, as well as how we play a role in each other’s experiences.

This has grown to be an area where I enjoy writing. I like considering how actions echo and how people you forget in the storm of a murder trial, for example, live each day with that hovering over them. It’s not necessarily the same focus on the inner workings of a criminal’s mind or on the criminal procedures to track a murderer, but instead, it’s on the realistic and contemporary effects of crime on regular people. I like the label of introspective crime fiction, because crime drama is often more of a public spectacle. We don’t necessarily take the time to consider the inner conflicts and emotional turmoil it may have in real life, partly because crime fiction and mystery are still forms of escapism. I have enjoyed taking a realistic lens to these news stories and considering the questions we usually don’t ask. I think it’s given me a chance to mesh the genres I love with my own writing style and to create something new. I hope readers agree!

TE Carter was born in New England and has pretty much lived in New England her entire life (minus a few years in high school). She still lives in New England with her husband and their two cats. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading classic literature, playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge-watching baking competitions. If you’d like to know more about TE you can visit her website follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Indie Spotlight Gothic Horror & Non-Fiction Author – Julie Ann Greenawalt Hacker

What Scares YOU!?

 

Someone recently asked, “As a spiritual-metaphysical-mystical author and life coach… …what scares you?

What I’ve noticed in life, is that many people freeze in the name of FEAR. I’m not referring to your everyday type of fear like the fear of death, or car accidents, or getting sick, spiders, or the dark, not phobias or catastrophic type of fears (these nemeses we’re born into and they appear on the outside of who we are in a physical sense); but un-explainable fears hidden in the deep wells of our sub-conscious—you know, that subtle torture you don’t even know about because it creeps up on you like a soft teddy bear in the night. And suddenly, when you finally wake from your deep slumber, you realize you’re snoozing alongside an angry, ravenous black bear.

  • This bear doesn’t care that you’ve ignored the deepest parts of you. He just wants to eat your fears as they pulse inside your body.
  • He wants you to be unaware of those dark crevasses so he can continue to feed, day-after-day, year-after-year; perhaps life-after-life. And, if you can picture your very own ‘Self’ or soul being an endless supply for the angry black bear because of the unwitting ways this world teaches us to survive and live…yeah, it can get pretty intense.
  • Now multiply that fear by billions of people and you’ll get the idea.
  • But yet, we still walk around everyday either ignoring it or not being able to identify why something is “off.” This is the hidden fear.

Unidentified, this silent enemy caresses the soul deep inside and lulls us into an obscure manipulation of what we call reality. These fears creep out all over the place without our acknowledgement.

Now, picture that nasty black bear as another human being. FEAR of succumbing to the belief that another being, whether human or otherwise, would willingly suck the soul right out of your mind and body, if left to do so, is pretty scary. (This is one of the few things that used to scare the hell out of me.) And I believe these are our most ultimate questions:

Why does this happen?

What is doing it?

And how do we stop it?

The process used by these people or unidentified forces can be very clever, unless you learn what to look for.

I know, I know. This all sounds a little esoteric and whoo hoo. But, when you take the time to inspect it, I mean, get really close to it, and someone can guide you there so you’re not all alone, the sting of fear diminishes.

The headlines of my own life drove me to contemplate those very questions. And, what I found out about myself and the world blew my mind.

This is why I write Gothic horror, non-fiction/self-help, blog, and coach people just like any one reading this who can’t identify the reasons why they’re stuck in life keeping them from Stalking their own life PATH!

So, my ultimate message for this post is:

You exist in time, but you belong in eternity’s loveliness. Find the fearful secrets that keep you from being free, then, don’t be afraid of releasing them, they’re not your friends, and allow them to disintegrate forever.

Best in all your Re-WILDing & Path STALKing,

Julie Ann

!!BIG HUGS & THANK YOUs to my dear friend ANITA RODGERS for giving me this opportunity to guest post on her blog!!

If you’d like to know more about Julie Ann, her books, or her Wild Beautiful You movement connect with her on her website and facebook.

Free gifts for you!

As a special thank you to my readers, Julie Ann is offering a free PDF copy of Re-WILD Your ‘SELF’ & Stalk Your PATH! web-book, which you can get by signing up at her website.

And a free PDF copy of The Dead Dance Faster: Unsacred Awakening her awesome scary Gothic-horror novel, which you can get by emailing her at: julieann@wildbeautifulyou.com  (or by contacting her me via WBY!’s contact form on the site).

HAPPY LABOR DAY – LET’S HAVE A PICNIC..OR SOMETHING…

It’s sad I suppose that summer is on its way out and well Labor Day is the punctuation mark that heralds the end of the season.

Did you know that in a galaxy long ago and far far away that there was this rule that you mustn’t wear white after Labor Day?

So what’s on the menu for your Labor Day picnic – fried chicken, two maybe three kinds of potato salad, sandwiches and lemonade? In that case, these recipes are sure to please.

And don’t forget the cocktails

If  you’re planning to stay home and do some serious binge watching on Netflix or Amazon Prime, check out Ray Donovan, Bosch, Luther, Gilmore Girls Reboot, House of Cards, The Man in the High Castle, all the Star Trek iterations and more…

If you want to get out and about and live in the L.A. area check out the top weekend events, fairs, festivals, fun in the sun and lots of eats

Or just stay home in your jim-jams and read a good mystery

Whatever you plan to do or not do as the case may be – be well, be happy, and be safe.

And say a little prayer for our firefighters out here in CA, presently working 24/7 to knock down the La Tuna Canyon fires – and our friends struggling with the havoc of Hurricane Harvey.

 

Annie

Which Story Would You Want to Read? (and some fun news)

After I complete the trilogy, I’ve decided I’m going to delve into some short fiction and at present have three ideas for stories. Below is the first (few) lines for each story. Would you do me a BIG favor and just let me know which story you would want to read based on those lines? I would really appreciate your input.

Story idea #1

“The truth was that I thought about killing him in his sleep every night—it’s just that somebody else beat me to it.”

Story idea #2

“Suddenly, I was her. The woman who could turn cold at the snap of a finger. Now my rage would do the talking. No more Ms. door mat. That. Was. Over. My need to kill consumed me.”

Story idea #3

“On his way to pick up Angel, Jesus stabbed Jack to death.”

You can tell me your choice in the comments below – and any thoughts you may have had about them as well, if you like.

And now for the FUN news…

I’m very excited to announce my book was just nominated for the 2017 Readers Choice Awards! If you would like to do me the honor of voting for it, you can do so here: https://www.tckpublishing.com/readers-choice-voting 

Just look for the slider for the various categories and find the Mysteries section.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Have a lovely and creative weekend.

Annie

Indie Spotlight on Biographer Elva Green -My Writing Journey as My Father’s Biographer

Today, we welcome biographer Elva Diane Green, who discusses writing a biography of her entertainment pioneer father, Eddie Green who was an actor, playwright, singer, dancer and all around performer – in short, a real Renaissance Man.

Note from the author: “In 2014 I started a blog to chronicle the writing of a book about my father, Eddie Green. First blog. First book. First laptop. Because according to the internet when writing a book I needed a “platform”. I needed a “following.” I needed to get the right publisher, and learn how to write a query letter. After spending too much time agonizing over what was what, I just gathered all of my papers and started writing. On the blog I began at the beginning, adding anecdotes and photos and funny pictures from Google’s advanced image search, and along with the blog I also began writing my book.”

Take it away Elva!

My Writing Journey as My Father’s Biographer

I decided to write the book in 1996. My father was famous. But my reason for writing the book was not because of his fame but because of the inspiration his story could provide for my grandson. As a child, my grandson was convinced of his inability to complete homework assignments. His words were always “I can’t.” I figured I could provide inspiration for him by writing a book about his great-grandfather who had become successful during the early 1900s. The inspiring part was evident in that Eddie was a Black man, and in those early days in America just to survive was a struggle for Black men.

While working on this book I came to realize that it could inspire not just my grandson Edward, but other young people like him. It could inspire anyone, actually, who felt an inability to succeed or who had run into obstacles while trying to achieve their goals. The title of the book became Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer. It is a rags-to-riches story of a man who became a filmmaker, a Broadway and movie star, a composer, and an Old Time Radio icon. His career spanned the years from 1917 until his death in 1950. As an entrepreneur he was a music producer, he owned a string of restaurants and headed two movie and television studios, Sepia Art Pictures Co. and Sepia Productions, Inc.

I was only three when Eddie died and my memories of him are vague. My mother, Norma, told me about some of his achievements. I say some because I did not find out about the restaurants (and a few other things, which I will get to further down) until 2015. She told me he became famous as a result of being cast as Eddie, the waiter in the popular, long-running radio program Duffy’s Tavern. That he had also played the lawyer, LaGuardia “Stonewall” Jackson, in the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio program. When I was eight years old she allowed me to stay up late one night to watch the Paramount movie Duffy’s Tavern (1945), because Eddie had been chosen to portray his radio character, Eddie, the waiter, in the movie.

Mom also told me that in 1917 Eddie wrote his most famous song “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and that Frank Sinatra had recorded the song. She did not tell me of the fifty or more other folks who had recorded the song. I was told that Eddie had performed on stage in a theater production where he sang “Titwillow”: “On a tree by a river a little tom-tit, Sang “Willow, titwillow, titwillow!” What I was not told is that the song was from the theater adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. The adaptation was produced by Mike Todd and titled the Hot Mikado and featured an all-Black cast starring Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Eddie played the part of KoKo, the High Executioner. I learned this in 2015 which is also when I learned that the show was performed on Broadway and at the 1939-1940 NY World’s Fair. For a brief glimpse of the performance it can be seen on YouTube.

Anyhow, my mother and I began the process of writing the book. As I began research in the old newspaper archives, I kept finding more and more information which led to more and more research, that began to make for a lengthy process. Life stepped in and that process became delayed. I lost a job, went back to school and in 2006 mom’s health began to fail and I put the book aside. After mom passed I decided to put both feet into getting the book done as a way to handle my grief. The thing was, once I got back into the research I found still more information. Surprising information. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t begin the writing process because I could not stop reading all the newspaper clippings about my father.

Imagine my surprise as I discovered that my mom was Eddie’s fourth wife. When I discovered that Eddie had worked the Apollo. When I discovered he made five movies not just one. I discovered that he worked with Paul Robeson on a radio show for Commander Byrd in the Antarctic. That he appeared on Jubilee radio shows for the United States service members during WWII. And that one of the radio skits was about Santa Claus bringing Private Eddie Green a Lena Horne doll as a Christmas present (the doll turned out to be the real Lena Horne.) There was much, much more. Remarkable.

I began to realize that Eddie had been “somebody.” Just like Lena or Robeson or Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. I also began to realize that if I mentioned “Bojangles” people knew who he was. If I mentioned Lena, people knew who she was. Not so when I mentioned Eddie Green. It was as if Eddie had simply vanished from the picture. And so my intent for this book expanded to include the mission of bringing my father’s name back to the fore of the public’s memory and to honor his vast amount of work.

Well, the book was published in 2016. I have been named the winner of the Foreword INDIES 2016 Bronze Book Award. I have just completed an interview with the National Public Radio (NPR) which will soon be available (I am told an author would give one of their molars for a chance like this). Thanks to my blog, this has been one experience that has kept my spirits up.

Anita, thank you for being a friend, a part of my mission and for asking me to guest post.

BIO: Elva Diane Green was born in and continues to live in Los Angeles, California. In 1996 she decided to write a book about her father, the legendary Eddie Green, to provide an example to her grandson of the ability of a person to succeed no matter the obstacles. Eddie Green The Rise of an Early 1900s Black American Entertainment Pioneer is the culmination of her extensive research into a book that draws the reader into the story of one of America’s most beloved comedians. Elva has been named the Foreword INDIES 2016 Bronze Book Award Winner. If you’d like to connect with Elva you can visit her blog, Pin in the Tush, follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.

 

 

Indie Spotlight Picture Book Writer MJ Belko – I Don’t Read Mysteries

Today’s indie author is MJ Belko. In her article she discusses the irony of not being a mystery reader and yet having written a mystery picture book for kids. Take it away, MJ.

I Don’t Read Mysteries

I don’t read mysteries.  I know, a pox upon me.  I don’t mind watching them, but I never felt compelled to read one.  I’m more of a nonfiction reader.  As a writer, picture books are my wheelhouse.  So, how did I end up writing Winthrop Risk, Detective—The Mystery of the Missing Hamster, an early reader with a nine-year-old detective who sounds like he just stepped out of a Raymond Chandler novel?

I certainly don’t have any disdain for the mystery genre.  I’m a rabid fan of Benedict Cumberbatch as a modern version of Sherlock Holmes.  I loved Derek Jacobi as Cadfael on PBS.  But write one?  Not on your life.  Plot twists and red herrings just aren’t my thing.

Picture books have always been my first love and I’ve written several, though I haven’t found a publisher for them.  I can only say that I stumbled upon my little detective.  He emerged out of an unfocused daydream, his character fully formed in my mind.

Winthrop Risk is a boy of about nine.  He’s smaller than his classmates and is considered by them to be something of a dork and an oddity.  Winthrop, however, has no doubts as to his skills.  He’s a first-rate gumshoe, and he knows it.  The school bully has it in for him and could easily beat the snot out of him, but Winthrop never runs from him.  He stands his ground.  Without fuss.  Without yelling.  Without threatening to tell the teacher.  Winthrop isn’t a boy on a journey of self-discovery (*gag*)—he knows damn well who he is.  I like that about him.

My inspiration came from a Steve Martin movie from years ago, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s brilliant.  Steve Martin plays a hard-boiled detective in the Philip Marlowe mold.  The movie was filmed in black and white, with scenes from old detective films spliced in to create a story.  It’s all there—the wisecracking detective, the beautiful dame, and the usual suspects; but I still didn’t have the framework for writing a mystery.

I began to watch more mysteries on TV.  I gorged on episodes of Murder, She Wrote and some of the more current “cozy” mysteries.  There’s a definite pattern to these stories.  An ordinary citizen, usually female, has a fascination with mysteries and routinely finds herself knee deep in corpses.  Because Winthrop was to be the hard-boiled detective type, I picked up a couple of Raymond Chandler novels and dove in.  Chandler had a fascinating way with the English language.  Before I had the plot fully worked out, I had a great deal of Winthrop’s witty repertoire written.  I formed the story around that.  The thing I found to be most interesting about the TV mystery shows and books is that the mystery itself is never really that baffling.  In fact, I’ve played games of Clue that were tougher to solve.  So what’s the selling point?  It’s the main character and the backdrop of the story.  The sleuth in these stories is always a keen observer, usually with no police training or experience.  In fact, of the mystery shows I’ve watched, the main characters include a Crusader-era friar, a baker, a librarian, a writer, a general contractor, a bookstore owner, and an antiques dealer.  Somehow, they end up stumbling over dead bodies at every turn.  The backdrop is usually some cozy little town straight off a postcard.

Naturally, I had to tone down the plot for my young audience, so there will be no dead bodies in the Winthrop Risk series.  Winthrop’s first adventure has him trying to find out what happened to the class pet, a hamster.  He’s hired by a classmate out of sheer desperation.  Over the four chapters of the book, Winthrop proves himself to be more than capable of solving the mystery, earning the grudging respect of his peers.  He’s funny, smart, confident, and has a definite way with words.  I think Philip Marlowe would like him.

With a bit of research and observation, I think I accomplished what I set out to do.  I have an interesting and relatable main character with witty dialogue, a missing pet, a class bully, and a “like” interest (that’s as heated as it gets for a nine-year-old).   The trick with the sequel is to let the characters grow just a little bit, without outgrowing the elementary school backdrop.  The sequel will involve slightly more risky circumstances—a gang of thieves stealing from Winthrop’s school.  We’ll learn more about Winthrop’s home life and why he never talks about his dad.  We’ll learn about the school ghost and what’s really going on at the local railroad yard.

Writing Winthrop Risk was a huge step outside of my comfort zone, but I love how it turned out.  Don’t be afraid to take some risks of your own with your writing.  That path you’ve wandered down a few times could lead to something terrific.

Write on.

MJ Belko (O’Leary) was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963 to an Irish family of cops, firemen, and the occasional priest. She is a US Army veteran of the Cold War era and spent about seven years as a lieutenant on her city’s Community Emergency Response Team. After working for an arson investigator, a private investigator, homeschooling two sons, and spending years as a medical transcriptionist editing medical reports, she finally decided to pursue her dream of being a writer. She released her first children’s book, “Winthrop Risk, Detective”, on Amazon in 2016. MJ currently resides in Michigan with her husband of more than 30 years.

If you’d like to learn more about MJ, you can visit her website.

Indie Spotlight – Christian & YA Author Patricia Bell – How bullying led me to become a writer

Today, we welcome Christian and YA author Patricia Bell who discusses her experiences with bullying and how it led her to become a writer and advocate for young people.

And the gods of coincidence have shined down on us today because “From House to Home,” the first book in the Karina Journey series, is FREE on Kindle from August 14th – August 18th. Update: this is a more direct link to the free Kindle version.

For fifteen-year-old Karina Murberry, Life is about to change. When her drug dealing mother lands in jail, she finds herself sleeping on a park bench. What’s a girl to do? Just as she’s resolved herself to the idea of entering a group home full of bully’s and cockroaches, her principal discovers a mysterious emergency contact in her file.

 

How being bullied led me to become a writer

Growing up, I was not the prettiest or the most popular. As a matter of fact, I didn’t fit well into any group. I wasn’t athletic or particularly smart. I wasn’t a stoner or a nerd. I was mostly out of place. I had very little self-esteem and was picked on, sometimes relentlessly. It took a long time, to realize that I was loved by at least someone. God the creator. If only someone had been there to encourage me as a child.

It’s funny, really, now that I think about it. The way other children can get under your skin, and make you feel worthless. If the same thing were happening now, I’d probably let it roll off my back or at least pretend it did, and then go home and cry where no one can see.

But as a child, and being the youngest of seven, I was an emotional basket case. Kids would call me names and I’d cry. They would befriend me only to treat me badly. And somehow, I never learned. Then of course I would go home, and my brothers and sisters would pick on me some more. “Stop being a baby.” They’d tell me.  It was always the same thing. My mother would say. “Don’t you cry. That’s what they want.”  I’m sure that was true, but when you wear your heart on your sleeve, crying isn’t an option, it’s a heartfelt reaction. It cannot be shut off like a leaky faucet.

I think if just once, I’d have been given a hug instead of a lecture, I may have grown up with more confidence in myself and my abilities.

At the age of seventeen, I wanted to be a writer. I would write stories and poetry. I was artistic and loved all kinds of creativity. After entering a poetry contest and being told that I would never be a good writer because my poetry rhymed, I put the pen away and didn’t pick it up again until I was in my thirties.

To those who feel less than adequate, or did so as a child and still suffer with it as I sometimes do, I want to be a help. To be an encourager. A lover. And I want to show the love of God, in everything I do.

As a Christian author, and one who has a heart for children and teens who struggle, I wrote the Karina’s Journey stories to engage the hearts of those who are either teenagers who are going through a similar situation, adults who are as passionate about saving our youth as I am, and those who just want a nice, feel good story.

The Karina’s Journey series  is about a teenage girl who struggles with her identity. Like many teenagers, she wants to know who she is. But unlike the average teenager, Karina’s entire life is made up from lies. Throughout her journey, she finds love and friendships in the most unlikely places.

Patricia Bell is an Arizonian, who has traveled much of the world. Growing up a military brat and joining the Navy herself, at the age of eighteen, has allowed her to see many places and experience the world. She’s also served on Mission trips to Uganda, Africa, which has greatly changed her perspective on life and living.

She has since settled down and now writes YA and Mystery Novels. She is an Avid reader of Christian fiction of any kind, and sometimes dabbles into the unknown world of Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and John Grisham.

She’s married to the love of her life and has three children who are now grown and facing the world on their own. Years of raising her teenagers has given her plenty of experience in the YA realm. As a matter of fact, if you read her stories, you may glimpse some of their characteristics within.

INDIE SPOTLIGHT – YA AUTHOR MELODY DELGADO: PERSEVERANCE PAYS OFF

Today we welcome Melody Delgado, an accomplished YA author whose new book, Royally Entitled (link below), has just come out and looks like great summer read. Melody discusses the value of persistence and perseverance in your writing/publishing goals. Take it away, Melody.

Many writers grow up wanting to be authors. While being an author wasn’t something I first considered, I did want to be work the arts. And I did just that. I was a vocalist for many years as well as a music educator and loved being able to work in a creative field.

In order to stay certified as a music teacher, I had to continue taking college level courses. After enrolling and sitting through music courses on topics I already knew backwards and forwards because I was teaching them, it became clear I needed to take courses that would be of interest. Courses where I could actually learn new information. I enrolled in a writing course, wrote a short story, had it published in a magazine and I was hooked on writing ever since.

As most writers know, however, writing a short story and writing a book are two entirely different animals. While several of my other stories were published in anthologies or magazines and I was also lucky enough have two picture books published, again, writing and publishing a longer work is a different kind of battle. Not necessarily harder, but different.

It took me years to write my first novel. It’s a humorous novel for young readers called OOPS-A-DAISY and it is coming to print, audio and digital platforms on September 5th. (I actually got interested in children’s stories while reading with my own children.) Even though OOPS-A-DAISY is only about 40,000 words or 160 pages long, it still was a bear to write because of having to  make sure my writing would still be readable by children in third or fourth grade.

Once my middle-grade novel was completed, I set out to write a novel for teens. I’d always been interested in European history and loved medieval stories featuring knights and princes. Since I didn’t want to be bound by actual historical events I created my own country, the nation of Brevalia. My protagonist had to be someone many people could relate to, so I made her a farmer’s daughter. That’s how ROYALLY ENTITLED came to be. It was released in May of this year and is available on all digital platforms.

What does all of this have to do with perseverance? Well, I started writing novels when my daughter was a toddler. She is now in college. I didn’t land my agent until 2016 and did not sign a contract for a novel until 2017. By the end of this year, I will not only have released two novels, but will be working on sequels of each novel, because my agent got me a contract for a three-book series for both The Brides of Brevalia, with ROYALLY ENTITLED as book one, and The De La Cruz diaries, with OOPS-A-DAISY as book one. Sounds like a lot, and it is. (Especially typing wise!) But none of this would have happened if I’d given up or allowed myself to become discouraged.

Many of us, writers and readers alike, will go through tough times or have to travel on long journeys in order to reach our goals. But if we give up, we won’t get to see where the journey may take us. Both of my main characters had to deal with adversity. Both Anika Pembrie, only 17, and Daisy De La Cruz, only 12, had to become fighters in order to beat the odds and strive for their goals. I won’t ruin the stories by telling you if they reached them or not. But I will tell you that both of them persevered and gave it their best shot. And in the end, that’s all that any of us can do.

Melody Delgado has been a published writer since 2000.  Her short stories have appeared in national magazines such as AIM (America’s Intercultural Magazine), VISTA, and CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE LATINO SOUL.

 She has published two picture books. TEN ROARING DINOSAURS was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and DO YOU KNOW HOW I GOT MY NAME? was recently published by Little Debbie/McKee Foods.

Her inspirational, historical romance for women and teens, ROYALLY ENTITLED, was released digitally by Clean Reads in May, 2017. It is the first in a three-book series called The Brides of Brevalia. A humorous children’s novel, OOPS-A-DAISY, is coming to print on September 5th of this year and is also the first in a children’s series, The De La Cruz Diaries. It will also be published by Clean Reads.