It’s a bird… it’s a plane…

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My very first favorite TV show was the George Reeves Superman series.  And my very first story was spun off the 1960s Batman show.  So it makes sense that the latest publication I’m involved in (with my writing group, the League of Original Woolwrights, a/k/a LOOW) is a collection of superhero stories!  It’s up for pre-order now, for only $0.99 — the actual release date is January 2, and a paperback version will be available shortly.  All profits go to charity (details below).  Hope you’ll check it out!  Just click the cover image to go up, up, and way… to the Amazon page.  :)

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They walk among us. They are our friends and family, our neighbors… even our enemies. Individuals with extraordinary abilities.

Some view their powers as a blessing. Others, a curse.

From the marvelous to the mundane, each of the charcters in this anthology must come to grips with the burden that has been placed upon them. Some choose to do good for others; some retreat into more pedestrian pursuits, only to discover they can run from everything but themselves. Some find solace in simple acts; others glory in the grandeur of their exploits. Some want nothing more than to disappear permanently. Yet through it all, hope and humanity prevail in unexpected ways.

Featuring nine super stories by ten amazing authors, this is truly an anthology of the extraordinary.

Proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit the Sickle Cell Clinic at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Sickle Cell Disease can cause chronic, lifelong pain. Riley Hospital for Children provides a holistic approach to care for patients affected by Sickle Cell Disease, and also helps family members cope with the impact of the diagnosis.

For Christmas… a brand-new story!

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Santa smallThe original theory, when I stepped down from my day job to become self-employed, was that I’d write in the morning and edit other folks’ work in the afternoon.  Sometimes that actually happens.  And sometimes… my brain just won’t cooperate. The past couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to prod myself into writing anything at all.

Then last night, I was pinged with an idea.  It seemed like a viable one, so as soon as I got up, I grabbed the laptop and got to work.  And 12 hours later… there’s a finished product!  Written, edited, covered, and published.

Introducing: Santa on My Doorstep!

Lisa’s life is just fine. She has a 7-year-old son she adores, a comfortable home, a good job… and it’s Christmas. But something’s missing – something (someone) she firmly denies she needs until a white-bearded stranger shows up at her door and advises her, “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want.”

You can find it at Amazon here.

Kimberly Readnour – For My Daughter

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visions cover webIndy author Kim Readnour is making her first foray into publishing this month with Visions: The Mystical Encounter Series Book 1 – a book she wrote for a very special reader, one who’s also her most devoted fan!

When I discovered that the main theme of this blog was family, my daughter immediately came to mind since my entire writing career could be attributed to her. In the back of my mind, the thought of writing a novel was always present, but I never followed through. That changed when my daughter reached her teenage years. With her passion for reading, we often read the same books. One day, after completing a particular book that neither one of us liked, something sparked inside me. The desire to write her stories took precedence over everything else. That began my journey for writing.

After completing some mediocre novellas, I wanted my next story to be meaningful. With my daughter’s varied interests, I wanted to write something different. Something that neither one of us had previously read. My goal seemed impossible, but I was determined to try. After pondering what to write, with unproductive results, frustration set in. I remembered lying down that evening, thinking I needed to relax. If I relaxed, the story might present itself. The next morning I grabbed my laptop and began writing the story.

What started out as a standalone novel easily transformed into a trilogy. After I finished the first book, it was nerve-wracking allowing my daughter to read it. When she finished the story and told me she loved it, the sensation swarming through me was enough justification. Pleased that the story made her happy, I worked on the second section.

With my daughter as the target audience, I never had inspirations of publishing. She, of course, had other ideas and tried convincing me to get the first book published. After sending it to a few literary agents and being politely turned away, I stalled on finishing the series. Their rejection derailed my confidence, slowing down my writing. After a few months passed, I reread the manuscript and became embarrassed. What I had submitted was more like a rough draft than a polished version. Boy, I had a lot to learn.

After some major revisions and the “save” button pressed, the manuscript sat untouched. In the meantime, my daughter started pressing for me to self-publish. Her enthusiasm for my book was encouraging, but I didn’t know if I was ready to take on that challenge. Four years, I sat on the manuscript. Four years, she kept encouraging me, insisting on a wider audience. Finally, I heeded her advice and recruited a friend of mine to read over the manuscript for a second opinion. When she finished, she not only demanded that the series be completed, but also demanded that it be published. That was my final push.

Now, after professional editing, I feel the book is ready for a wider audience. My hope is that other readers enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Whether or not any copies sell, just by having it published, I deem it a success. The entire journey was for my daughter. From writing an unusual story, to following her advice, everything was for her benefit. Knowing how proud I made her by pursuing this, makes me proud. Not to mention having the book I wrote solely for her eyes out in the world.

You can find Kim’s author page on Facebook right here.

Mikey Chlanda – My Firefighter Family

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What better day than Thanksgiving to feature a guest post from indy author Mikey Chlanda talking about true American heroes?  Mike’s career as a first responder spanned 29 years, and he’s got some terrific stories to tell! His new book The Last Noble Profession: 29 Years of Kicking Down Doors and Helping People will be available in mid-December.

Backdraft was an awful movie from a firefighter’s perspective, but one line rings true. It’s towards the end, where the lieutenant is hanging onto the firefighter that was the arsonist by his hand.  The arsonist was yelling at the lieutenant to let him go, and the lieutenant replied, “If you go, we go.”

We have to have that trust in our brothers and sisters. That no matter what happens to us, our firefighter family will get us out.

4108Y2cpKsL__AA160_If you ever see a firefighter’s death on TV, you’ll see some firefighters carrying the body out. Those are his fellow brothers on the compnay he ran on. It is an unbroken tradition on the fire department that in the case of a line-of-duty death, his brothers from his fire company will bring him out. It is the saddest thing in the world, knowing that you could not save your brother.

We spend a lot of time with our brother firefighters.  We sleep, eat, and spend downtime with each other just [bullcrap]ting with each other in the firehouse. Citizens see us out in public buying food for dinner. Or washing the rigs outside the firehouse. The public perception is that we just hang around the firehouse, waiting for a run.

Filmmakers and journalists can’t go where we work. We have 47 pounds of gear on, carrying twenty pounds of tools, plus dragging a couple-hundred-pound, water-filled hose. Then we go to work in a 200 to 400 degree environment in close to zero visibility. Things often go wrong and we depend on each other at fires to save each other’s lives. We trust each so much that we go into burning buildings with our brothers voluntarily, knowing that if a beam falls on us, they will drag us out or stay with us and die trying.

That trust is not easy to build up. We have to know that guy is going to be there to pull us out. You do not want to have any doubts about the person you are going into the fire with.

We’re pretty hard on new firefighters. We have to know if we can break you. Yeah, you passed the test. You took the class.  But are you going to be there for me when we’re in a fire, each lugging over two hundred pounds of assorted gear, tools, and fire hose, iin 400 degree plus temperatures, five minutes left on our air supply, and the roof collapses? Can you pull me out? Can you?

If we can break you with words or practical jokes, then the fire is definitely going to break you. And we can’t count on you. Trust me, we’re going to find your buttons pretty quickly and we are going to keep pushing them to see how you react.

A fire department is just like a family. More specifically, the fire station you run out of is your extended family, and the crew you run with on your rig is your nuclear family. We always joke about the fire department being a dysfunctional family but it really isn’t. A real family may have rifts that never heal, but a fire company can’t — and doesn’t — function like that.

Don’t get me wrong — we have hellacious, knock-down, drag-out fights between ourselves. But at the end of the day, the only question left is, “Can you pull me out?”

My first fire department was the Antioch College Fire Department, nicknamed “Maples” after the dorm we lived in that was next to the fire garage. For about three years, eight of us lived there — most of us year-round. We were hard on newcomers, but once you were accepted, you were family. Thirty-five years later, we’re still very close.

The feeling grows over the years. Our shared experiences, the runs we’ve been on, and the joys and sorrows of life that we’ve known together create a deep bond. We’ve seen each other at our best, hugged each other at our worst, and know we will always be there for our brothers.

The best feeling in life is sitting on the back of the rig with a couple brothers after a righteous stop on a fire. We’re peeling off equipment, hacking the smoke out of our lungs that snuck in past our masks, blowing black chunks of God knows what out of our noses. We’re sucking oxygen out of a tank, struggling to get our breath back, thinking over the close calls. No words are spoken, but none are needed.

As Kris Kristofferson said, we may not have always beaten the devil, but we sure drank a lot of his beer for free. That, my friends, is the closest feeling in the world.

If you’d like to pre-order a copy of The Last Noble Profession: 29 Years of Kicking Down Doors and Helping People at a $10 discount, pop on over to GoFundMe right now!  You can check out Mikey’s other books at his Amazon author page, here.

New release time!

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Back in college, I took my first stab at writing some original science fiction — and it came out well enough that I scored a round of applause from my writing workshop when I read the story aloud.  But I had no publication venues open to me at the time, so the story made its way into a drawer… until this past July, when I dusted it off and decided it was worthy of an upgrade.  And publication.

Escape 1 smallA “couple whiles” after it debuted to that first audience, here’s Escape!

Meet Eli Christopher – a 29-year-old factory worker who loves the theater. It’s his only escape from a dusty, frustrating life, a place where his imagination can run free, where he can feel some genuine joy and take a nap in the sun.

This same theater is also a place of terror, for those who can’t bring themselves to leave – the people who scream in panic and beg to stay.

This isn’t Now, and Eli Christopher isn’t on Earth. He’s in a place where silence and obedience are required, where you can never change the status you were given on arrival. Where something as simple as a clean drink of water is a near miracle.

He’s in a place where a moment of joy brings with it an enormous risk: that you’ll be carried, screaming, beyond the black door…never to be seen again.

You can find it here at Amazon.

Book Tour – Vanessa Wester, Author of the “Evolution” Trilogy

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Vanessa Wester - Author Picture 3As readers of Vanessa Wester’s EVOLUTION trilogy know, reaching the end of the trilogy doesn’t necessarily mean the story is finished. Vanessa is continuing her popular saga with the brand-new prequel novella EMILY, which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.  With the help of e-mail and book tour host MY BOOK FAIRY, I “sat down” with Vanessa to chat about her life and her thoughts about the trilogy.

First, an introduction to the story:

Steven Thorn has no trouble settling in at university. He is confident, hardworking and intelligent. When Caitlin Chance catches him off guard he is bemused by the instant attraction, and the more he gets to know her, the more he likes. Yet, Steven has a secret past that is destined to reveal itself, and he is soon to become a stranger to everyone. The wheels are set in motion for his radical upheaval. But first love is a powerful thing, and the connection forged between Caitlin and Steven is not easily broken. The impossible is only the beginning…

Take us back to the very beginnings of your trilogy! What came to mind first — a character, a scene, the desire to do something in that genre?

When I first started HYBRID I wrote a scene that is no longer in the book. I think I was inspired by Grease and I liked the idea of a beach romance that was then renewed whilst at university. Of course, I added a sinister twist. My main character, Steven, was attacked whilst on the beach and awoke in a cave, disoriented and alone. It was pretty cool, but after many rewrites I took the scene out! I changed the beginning of my novel so many times. So, I’d have to say the scene came first… and my character was definitely inspired by a mixture of John Travolta and David Boreanaz!

You published all 3 parts of the trilogy within a few days, but I’m guessing the book took shape over the course of several months (or more). Once that world began to take shape in your mind, did the writing come quickly, or did it tease you along, a little bit at a time?

Amazon allows you to update your books, so the publication date corresponds to the date they were all updated. I don’t think Amazon allow you to change the publication date anymore, but I wanted to make sure that readers knew it was a new version. I would say Hybrid and Complications were written alongside each other. The first 10% of Complications was originally in Hybrid, but I did a complete rewrite of the end of Hybrid when I saw it needed more. This is why Complications was finished within 6 months of publishing Hybrid in March, 2012. Return took a year from beginning to end. I have to admit that I am terrible… I could easily rewrite the entire trilogy again, but I have to let go and move on to new projects!

The editing process for my books works alongside the writing of new books. For example, I have already written about 30,000 of my new book, whilst I was editing and working on my new novella, Emily, and editing another novel (which might never get published). Sometimes, I am in the mood for one story and other times I write just for escapism and begin a story which I don’t continue. I have many novels that night never go anywhere!

Hybrid CoverJudging by all the 5-star reviews, your readers have a lot of passion for the story. What do you think it is about the characters and/or the storyline that has them so enthralled?

I think I have the answer to this… life! My characters and situations are real (or as real as they can be within a paranormal world). In fact, I read somewhere that people find it easier to relate to situations in a paranormal world, because they address the many issues we face today without thrusting it in your face. For example, within my trilogy I include instances of first love, lust, bereavement, suicide, murder, pregnancy, infidelity, unrequited love, thrill-seeking, coercion, paranoia… I think I covered a lot of bases!

You’ve had a very interesting career path — first in accountancy, then teaching, and now you’re hip-deep in indie publishing. What would you tell your students about learning to follow your dreams?

Everything is possible… you can do anything you want if you are prepared to work hard for it. Life has a way of shaping your path a lot, and it’s up to you to take hold of it and make it your own. It’s very easy to say, “That’s too hard” or “I can’t.” If you ask for help and share your thoughts with people around you it might surprise you. If I had never been brave enough to share my first romantic novel (as yet unpublished) with friends I would never have written the trilogy. Also, if I had not got pregnant again I would now be working as a secondary school teacher. Fate has a way of guiding your destiny and you just have to be brave enough to embrace the change. Yet, even when you follow one path, you can always take another one along the way!

On behalf of your readers, I have to ask: what’s next? Will you continue with the world and characters of the Evolution trilogy, or move on to something new?

I do have another trilogy linked to this first trilogy in mind, but at the moment it is on hold. I am currently working on a historical novel based on the life of my great, great grandparents. Both of English descent, they met in Jamaica, married and then moved to Gibraltar, where I was born. Victorian times are fascinating and I am having an amazing ride (if very daunting at times).

MBF Tour HostAbout Vanessa Wester

When Vanessa decided to start writing she found an outlet for her imagination. It’s the best way she can think of to express herself and escape from everyday life. She has a lot of eggs in her basket, since she’s a qualified Secondary School Mathematics Teacher, ASA Swimming Teacher, has a degree in Accounting & Law, has been a competitive swimmer and enjoys art, singing and drama. In addition, she is bilingual in English and Spanish, and speaks some Dutch, since she was born and raised in Gibraltar and has lived in Rotterdam. However, since her son was born, she has been a stay at home mum who gives up a lot of her time towards voluntary organizations.

Vanessa’s Blog
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Purchase Emily

Another addition to the catalogue!

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Wrapped revEven though the common advice is “Write novels!” – my stock in trade is short works, ranging from drabbles (100 words) to novellas. During the past 7 years I’ve turned out over 600 short stories, some of which I’ve been gathering into collections that I release from time to time.

This is the latest: a group of stories about a dad who was convinced he wasn’t ready. That he was just the “fun uncle.” That he couldn’t possibly provide all the right answers for a child of his own. But he finds out over time that his new little daughter doesn’t care, because he may be a jerk, but he’s her jerk.

You can find Wrapped Around Her Little Finger at Amazon – for only 99 cents!

Ree Mariani – Family Ties

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Ree Mariani is new to e-publishing – her first novel, City of the Seer, went “live” on Amazon just a few days ago. In the midst of all her debut-novel activities, she took a few minutes to share her thoughts about family and storytelling.

516Z8SOpjAL__AA160_Everyone has heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.” But what does it really mean? The modern interpretation is that family ties are more important than any other. But what if you don’t have any common ‘blood’ with your family?

In 1988 I was adopted. My immigrant Polish-Argentinian mother and my Italian-American father had tried for years to have a child with no luck. Then within six weeks they got not one, but two baby girls. My parents tell me that growing up everyone assumed my sister and I were twins – however, as we got older it became clear that my sister had a serious disability.

I remember the first time someone told me I looked like my mother. Her kinky brown curls and gray eyes were nothing like my straight, strawberry blonde hair and avocado colored eyes. I didn’t look like my father, either, not with his reddened skin and his coal-colored hair. It should have been obvious that I didn’t belong – however, my family never made me feel that way and I think that is something I’ve carried on in my writing.

Family is not blood. Family is not the people with whom you share genetic similarities. Family is the people who support and love you, who will put up with you even when you don’t deserve it. In my premier novel City of the Seer, Braelyn makes her own family. She finds people who will support her no matter how poorly she behaves or how impulsive she is.

Blood is not thicker than water. Love is thicker than everything, and family is love.

Book Review: “Life As We Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer

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41q2QectsSL__AA160_Maybe you’re already familiar with this book – judging by the number of Amazon reviews, it’s pretty well-known, and I understand that it’s required reading in a number of schools.  But I haven’t been anywhere near a school reading list in a loooong time, so when I happened to spot it on a shelf in Barnes & Noble, it was something new.

Giant moon on the cover.

Yes, the full moon is something cool, and more often than not it sends me running for the binoculars.  It’s also one of my great bugaboos – most of my seriously creepy nightmares involve an enormous moon looming there in the sky.  (I’m talking BIG.  Like on the book cover.  Giant, look out, I-am-not-kidding-you moon.)  But we try to conquer our fears, right?  The tag line (“The weather finally broke…for good.”) was awesome, and the book wasn’t a typical size.  When I picked it up, I liked the heft of it, and the old-school cheap paper it’s printed on.  $8.99?  Sold.

Story?  In a nutshell: an asteroid hits the moon and knocks it askew, and its new position in the sky begins to wreak havoc on Earth.  Tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic explosions.  The skies fill with ash and the sun more or less disappears.  All of this is observed by a 16-year-old girl and chronicled in her diary.

Yes, some of the science is suspect.  With no alphabet soup attached to my name, I can’t speak to how bad it is; I will say some of it had me doing an “Eh? What, now?”  Ditto some of the everyday stuff.  As someone who frets every single winter about losing power because it will mean my heat – natural gas, but the thermostat is electric – goes off, I was baffled by how Miranda’s furnace somehow works long after the electricity has failed.  (About 3/4 of the way through the book, she finally explains that her father rigged up “a battery thing.”)  It’s also somewhat bewildering that no one attempts to invade Miranda’s family’s home to steal their food and water.  There is no anarchy in her town.  Everyone’s polite, and other than one desperate plea from a neighbor, they all go about their own business, starving or freezing to death without ever running amok.

But… eh.  I’ll let the author have that.  Maybe there are places where the people would remain civil during an apocalypse, places where nobody would bust into your house with a gun and steal food away from you and your kids.  Who’s to say?  The more important thing to look at is the voice of the young narrator – an honest 16-year-old whose typical high-school life has been completely torn apart.  A number of the Amazon reviews complain that she whines too much.  That the story is boring.  I suppose they expected those missing home invasions… or maybe some zombies.  Instead, the story revolves around one of my favorite themes: quiet desperation.  As things grow progressively worse, Miranda begins to remind herself that she should seize the day, no matter how bad it is, because tomorrow…

Maybe there won’t even be a tomorrow.

It’s thought-provoking.  A reminder that we’re all at the mercy of things that could change on a dime.  If you had a matter of hours to stockpile things that would keep your family alive for months – what would you grab?  Would you realize right away that things you’ve valued will be useless tomorrow?  It was of course of great interest to me that Miranda’s mother insists that family is all that matters – and to see how Miranda responds to that.  Her story is a good one.  Maybe not flawlessly told, but – I think – truly told.

Would you survive what’s essentially a nuclear winter?  Would your family?

If you did… how would you feel when the lights came on again?

4 stars.  Very family-friendly (no cussing that I remember; no sex).  If your kids have to read it for school, grab a copy and talk about it with them.  And let them know that nobody’s likely to survive if all they’re eating is canned vegetables.

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