Books by Melissa Bowersock

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Author Interview: Arlene Eisenbise

Veteran’s Day is such an important day for so many of us, I thought it only fitting that we extend the remembrance a while longer. Today I’m getting to know another fellow Arizonan, Arlene Eisenbise, whose book BIG WAR Little Wars is a YA historical novel about growing up during WWII. I have not read the book myself, but I’m guessing there might be more than a little bit of autobiography in this story. True?

You’ve guessed right, Melissa. The novel is a blend of fact and fiction. I often say that once I write something, it becomes fact to me. The experiences that the character Raymie endured in the story were those told to me by a cousin who served during World War II. He was a sharpshooter sent on a secret assignment as the war ended. None of his loved ones knew where he was or whether he was alive or not. Eight of my cousins served in that war, but I was advised by editors to cut the number because no one would believe they all came home.

That is a pretty amazing stat, and yes, might be hard to believe if people did not know it was true.

There are other fact-based accounts in the novel. The case of the waiting wife, for example, who learns her soldier husband has fallen in love with another woman in a foreign country. Such conflicts on the home front are the Little Wars in the title. The BIG WAR, of course, was World War II.

Can you give us a capsule description of the story? I’m wondering what messages you may have buried in the book for kids (or readers) to remember or discover on their own? This kind of war seems so distant to most of us, both in place and time, that it’s hard to imagine what it was like, both for the people who were directly involved and for the people back home.

It’s vitally important, in my opinion, that all ages are aware of what a war involving the world means. My favorite quote from the book is on the back cover: “Daddy said that nobody really wins a war. They only make it look that way.” I encourage envisioning peace.

I’ve heard from readers aged thirteen to ninety-one who have read or are currently reading the book. Each age discovers something different. Older readers are reminded of a time of great patriotism and/or they relive their personal experiences. One fifty-year-old reader stated she didn’t know her parents had experienced such times. And many readers say their relative who served never talked about their war-time experiences. Younger readers are studying World War II in school and characters in a novel can bring history alive for them. I claim on my website that this is a story for all ages, and that appears to be true.

There's nothing better than telling a story that can be viewed through the lenses of people of all ages. Each generation brings its own experiences to the story, enlarging on it. It is truly a world story.

The story is of a very real time in our history. Most people made sacrifices and did what was required for a common cause. The Great Depression left families desperate—penniless, hungry, and threadbare. Suddenly, there was big money to be made in the war plants. That often meant relocation so trailer camps sprang up near the cities. The novel is set in such a camp in a Milwaukee, WI, suburb. The camps provided space for those taking advantage of the employment opportunities. Camps were also a stop-over for the colorful transients passing through, those following their own dreams.
The story unfolds through the eyes of teenager Milla Jaeger. Her family resides in what her mother labeled “a 6X14 foot cracker box on wheels.” Dreams are placed on hold. Earnings are high but items the money would buy are rationed. And yet terms such as “for the war effort” and “we have to make do” were on everyone’s lips. Soon after the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor, five of Milla’s cousins left for European battlefields. Milla’s deep concern is for Raymie; they are connected by a long-kept secret. The secret is not revealed to Milla until her family nearly perishes early one bitterly cold Wisconsin morning. Longing for news of Raymie when the waiting becomes unbearable, Milla gazes on an evening star. She makes a promise—a deal, actually—involving her own love interest. She places it on hold until they learn her cousin’s fate.

Between the red-white-and-blue covers of BIG WAR, Little Wars can be found much more than a story. Included are a Study Guide, a Glossary, and an extensive Suggested Reading section for both books and Internet links. The book can serve as a teaching tool or as a discussion guide.

That's what you call a multi-purpose book! On your website, you have a page dedicated to your PHOTONOPSIS (a photographic synopsis of the story). So many of the photos there are reminiscent of those in old, black photo albums we all paged through as kids. Are the photos all from your family?

Most of the photos are right out of the 1940s with one or two of them from an earlier time. Many of the photos were probably taken with a Brownie box camera like one of the props I use during my Story-Behind-the-Story presentation about the book. Some of them are family photos, some not.  I had to restrict myself to not give away the book’s ending with too much text accompanying the photos.

I see on your web page that you have two trilogies slated as future releases. In the first, the Crystal Skull series, it looks like you’re combining Atlantis lore with Hopi legend. How is that coming along? How far are you on the three books?

The Crystal Skull books are complete except for the third one about the Traditionalist Hopi. A few of the ending chapters are still to be written. They are a trilogy rather than a series, for they are each stand-alone novels.  I have it on “good authority” that the Atlantean, ancient Mayan, and Hopi cultures were connected.  Readers can choose to believe that, or not.

I don't think it's too far-fetched to believe that so many of the ancient cultures were connected. With as many similarities as there are, it's probably harder to believe each culture came up with similar ideas without contact.

The Lolly Fox series looks like it might be aimed at younger children, and the stories sound like teaching stories. Again, where are you on that series? When can we expect to see the books for sale?

The three Lolly Fox books are targeted for Early Readers. The main character—a red fox—matures in the series. They are stories with subtle Golden Rule messages. Characters for a fourth book, several endearing nocturnal animals, have begged for attention. 

There are no publication dates for any of the other books. For now my energy is focused on BIG WAR, Little Wars. I chose to bring that novel out first because of my original goal to see the book published during my cousin’s lifetime. With amazing help, we did it. Bud is ninety-one and reading the finished product. He’d read an early version many times over.

That is wonderful to hear. I'll bet it was an amazing process for him to be involved in the writing and publishing, to see the story come to life. That's a great gift, for both of you.

It’s obvious that you’re comfortable writing different genres. Which do you enjoy the most? Do you find it difficult or easy to switch gears from one genre to the next?

When characters appear and begin whispering who and where they want to be, it’s time to listen. I get them started and then they take over at some point. It was different with the World War II book since it was more factual. My characters are family. The research and writing for each of the books was a totally enjoyable process. Since I only work with one manuscript at a time, there isn’t a problem with switching from genre to genre.

I think our processes are very similar. I, too, get overtaken with a character or a story and everything else falls by the wayside. I never know what genre a book will be until I'm done with it.

What else can you tell us about the world of Arlene Eisenbise?

I can become totally lost between the covers of a book—fiction, nonfiction, biographies, the spiritual. I’m reading The Book Thief for the second time, after seeing the movie twice, because I cannot let go of those characters and the images that take my breath away. I met with teenagers who were studying that rich book set in Germany and did a comparative of the two stories set during the same war but from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

I am a clergy member, have been trained as a Reconnective Healer, have been Vice-President of the Professional Writers of Prescott, served as volunteer for numerous worthy causes, had writings published in newspapers and periodicals. More can be found within the pages of my book or on my website. And . . . every summer I do water aerobics in an outdoor pool.

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

My website contains many “drawers” where much can be learned about me or the books. The site includes a TV interview, newspaper interview, the blog, events, where to buy, and more.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Veteran's Day Sale!

Just in time for Veteran's Day (and maybe some early Christmas shopping?), I'm putting my non-fiction book, Marcia Gates: Angel of Bataan on sale for just 99 cents. This is the award-winning true story of a courageous Army nurse and prisoner-of-war who just happens to be my aunt. 

This book was truly a labor of love. I had always heard growing up that my aunt was a prisoner of the Japanese during WWII, but not much more beyond that. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Wisconsin Historical Society had in their archives two scrapbooks that were created by my grandmother during my aunt's time in service, filled with letters, photos, news clippings, telegrams and every other bit of information from that agonizing time. I knew the story needed to be told, and I knew if I didn't do it, no one would. 

I've been hugely gratified by the way this book has touched others. It has garnered several awards and was featured in a TV documentary Our Wisconsin: The Military History of America's Dairyland. Here's a sample of some of the very nice reviews the book has received:

I found the story exciting, surprised by some of the descriptions of conditions and wondered why I hadn't heard this story before. The author has brought out one of the untold stories of World War II--about a nurse. I believe this book will have wide appeal to many audiences including: medical personnel, historians, veterans and anyone interested in good story with a happy ending.--Edward Kelly, Military Writers Society of America

If you like history, true stories, stories of dedication and commitment and humble bravery, you might enjoy this book. During this time of remembering and honoring our veterans, I believe it's important to keep their stories alive. I hope you will join me in honoring all the men and women who have served our country.

Want an autograph to go with your ebook version? You can now get an autograph for any of my ebooks here. It's free!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Author Interview: Amber Polo

Today I’m sitting down with my friend and fellow Arizonan Amber Polo to talk about her new book, Reprinted, Book 4 of the Shapeshifters’ Library, just released in late October. I read the first book in the series, Released, and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I haven’t had time to catch up on the two middle books. (I will!)  Even without reading those two (Retrieved and Recovered), the fourth book was excellent and made a nice wrap-up of the entire series.

First off, Amber, can you give us a quick description of the Shapeshifters’ Library books, then tell us a bit about the latest one.

Amber: Dog-shifting librarians nose to nose with book-burning werewolves. In Reprinted, Chihuahua shifter Pacifico Lopez, a readers' favorite in Released, the first book in the series, now at last has his own book. And his own romance. Richer and smarter than Bill Gates, Pacifico and werewolf book editor Landy Romero track down ebook pirates on a Caribbean island where they discover an e-book thieving sailing vessel called The Cloud, a diabolical book distribution plant, enslaved dog-shifters who hold the secret to the true dog-shifter werewolf history, and an unlikely romance that will shock the dog-shifter werewolf world.

I, of course, would love to see an Airedale as the hero (or heroine) of one of your shifter books; maybe there will be a story for that down the road?

Amber: Sorry about the lack of Airedale characters. Maybe you should write some Airedales into your stories.

Now there's an idea! Okay, I have to ask, where did the idea for dog-shifters come from?

Amber: After I wrote two Arizona romances, I knew I wanted to write fantasy. Fantasy allows an author to tackle subjects and make fun of serious topics not possible in real world stories. I kept seeing werewolf stories, realized dogs and wolves were very close in DNA, so why so few dog-shifters? I’d been involved in the dog world during part of my life. And at the same time I worked as a librarian and always wanted to reveal what happens inside a library. So I decided to put it all together for book lovers and dog lovers.

Did you have it in mind to write a series when you started, or did the succeeding books come organically out of the first?

Amber: When I first built the world, I knew there were many stories. Book 1 Released featured a small town librarian who saves the town from book-burning werewolves, helps free dog-shifters beneath her library from a curse, and falls in love with an Old English Sheepdog. And on the last page shifts into a Golden Retriever. Who knew? Book 2 Retrieved also stayed within the original town but added the archaeological aspect of a mound in the Midwest and a contest between a gentle dog-shifter (a Chocolate Lab named Godiva) and the werewolf Alpha.

You have a huge cast of characters in your Shapeshifters books. One thing I’ve noticed is that, even though you continue the series with most of the characters, it seems like you split off just a few to concentrate on in each book. I would think that would provide a fresher approach to writing the series, rather than the sitcom-style of same characters. Did you find that shifting (pun intended) your focus like this helped to keep the story fresh and exciting?

Amber: In many ways I enjoyed writing book 3 and 4 more than the first two. I think I was able to give the main characters more depth by taking them out of their comfortable settings and putting them in new settings. I also like writing villains much more than I expected. Of course, they are also my comic characters.

In Book 3 Recovered my characters took over and led me across country to New Mexico, naturally chased by villains. I thought that was the end of the series, until my publisher wrote the back cover blurb hinting another book would bringing peace to the dog wolf feud. Then I had to figure out which of my characters could accomplish this. In Book 4 Reprinted I blamed ebook piracy on werewolves, threw in a hurricane, added an author publishing a book, and put a pyramid in the Caribbean. It all came together.

The cover designs on your books are wonderful. Do you have any input into those, or does your publisher take care of that?

Amber: Thanks for noticing my covers. This series is unusual because my publisher lets me work with my own cover designer, the cover goddess Connie Lee Fisher. Definitely not the ordinary case. I’m more used to getting covers that didn’t work. I’ll never forget the cover where the typeface was unreadable and a male stood in water so it appeared his legs had been cut off. I complained and was told the artist could read the  title so I had to live with it.

When you are responsible for your own covers there’s the good – I got to select the dog cover models for Books 3 and 4 – and the not so good – Book 1 and 2 covers are beautiful, but I think the tone suggests dark fantasy, while I  write with a lot of humor. There’s a time when a book marketing professional needs to slap some sense into you. The cover needs to show the genre so readers know what they’re getting.
You also write romance and have one non-fiction. What’s your favorite genre to write?

Amber: I love it all, but fantasy is most fun. I tried writing about my neighbors, but most didn’t appreciate it. Heads in the Clouds is a finalist in the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards and only a few neighbors want to hear about it.

What’s next for Amber Polo?

Amber: I’m still working on the alternative history of dogs and wolves. Did you know Cleopatra was a dog-shifter, faked her death, and had a twin sister who was the Librarian of the Alexandrian library? I also want to bring out what I call my novel of coincidence, following two artists over a twenty year period as they stumble their way back to each other.

You know, I'm a bit rusty on my history, but somehow I don't remember covering that aspect of Cleopatra's life in class. I wonder why?

Upcoming for Amber Polo:

Amber will be having a Book Signing at the Crystal Lattice Gift Shop at 545 S. Main Street, Camp Verde, AZ 86322 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, November 8. If you’re in the Verde Valley area, please stop by and say hello. Then, she’s on to Albuquerque, NM for the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards Banquet on November 21. Exciting stuff. We’ll look for a report on her blog.

Thanks Melissa for inviting me to be your guest. See you at Crystal Lattice.

It's been great fun, and I will definitely see you on the 8th. Where can readers go to find out more about you and your books?

Twitter @amberpolo