Books by Melissa Bowersock

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Author Interview: Bob Brawley

Today I’m sitting down with my buddy Bob Brawley to talk about his fascinating new non-fiction book called Adopted by the Amish. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but Bob, why don’t you give us a summary of what the book is about?

BB:  Adopted by the Amish is the true story about a young family’s pilgrimage from the modern world they knew into the highly restrictive, simplistic, sectarian world of the Old Order Amish. It is the story of a despondent and dispirited man, seeking to save his marriage from the free-fall that has left it in shambles, a man determined and committed to saving his marriage and reconnecting with God.

MJB: I think this is such a unique experience, especially in this day and age. What would you say were the main drivers that led you to try out such a different lifestyle? What was the draw, and what were you hoping that living in the Amish community could do for you?

BB: I joined the Old Order Amish seeking a better way of life for myself and my family. To reconnect with my faith, to take a step back in time when life was simple, uncomplicated and innocent, the way I remembered it was on my grandfather’s farm. This was my second marriage and I wanted, more than anything else in the world, to make it work. I thought that by removing myself and my family from the stressful world we knew we could re-discover life as it should be, the way it was meant to be, to find peace, harmony and happiness.

MJB: I think all of us can relate to looking for peace and happiness, especially in the turbulent world as it is today. Now, looking back on the experience from many years later, how do you feel about it? Was it worthwhile? What did you learn then that still resonates in your life now?

BB: I’ll be 73 next month, and as I grow older I find I spend more and more time reflecting on my life, my family, people I’ve met and things I would “do over” if I could. The thing I would not change, the thing that has had an ever-lasting impact on my life, is the special time I spent with the Old Order Amish. Even today, I find myself looking at the world through “Amish eyes,” remembering how simple and innocent the world was back then and how protected and secure I felt. I cherish the bonds I made with my Amish family and will forever hold dear the time I spent with these very special people, for that very brief moment in time.  

MJB: It sounds like it was a very special time, and it's surely beneficial that you are able to keep it alive in your heart. What would you consider the most challenging aspect of writing a personal story like this?


BB: Peeling back the many layers of my memories of living with the Amish I relive the struggles and the good times we had, the wonderful people we met and loved, and the feeling we had of being a part of a close-knit family. I sometime find myself wishing I could turn away from this life and return to those days, to once again sit in a horse drawn buggy and hear the clop, clop, clop of hoofs on the dirt road, to see my Amish family’s faces, to hear their voices, to breathe in the smells of a farm. The thought of it makes my heart hurt.

MJB: Setting such highly emotional times down on paper is obviously a very difficult task, but you've done an admirable job of it. I’m curious about the evolution of the book. Did you imagine writing it down as you were living it? Or did the idea to write it down come later? How long after the fact did you start writing, and was it easy to access your memories?

BB: I have never thought of myself as a writer, and did not think about writing this story until five years ago. It’s not that I hadn’t thought of the Amish and the time I lived among them. I had... In fact, I have maintained communications with them to this day. Accessing my memories of those special days has never presented a problem. I think about them most every day.

MJB: In my mind, the fact that you never thought of writing it down just goes to show how deep and compelling the experience was. Maybe you didn't think of yourself as a writer, but this was a story that had to be told. Are you working on any new books? Any other ideas in your head, or down on paper?

BB: I’m currently working on a memoir, “His Mother’s Son,” the honest and intimate story of a boy’s personal experiences and anguish as he and his family move from state to state and city to city, pursuing his mother’s dream of becoming a singing star. He was a boy desperately trying to find inner courage, his own identity and self-respect.

MJB: Sounds like another very emotional remembrance. You'll have to keep us posted on the progress of that one, as well. Now, let’s have a little fun here. Tell us three things about you that most people don’t know and would be surprised to learn.

BB: I worked as a cowboy on a ranch in Mustang, Oklahoma. I was a boxer and trained with world-rated amateur and professional fighters: three of which fought for world championships. I’ve driven the Alaska Highway seven times, six of which when it was still gravel. I competed in drag racing for many years.  

MJB: Obviously you are a multi-talented and multi-interested man! Thanks for sharing your story with us today, and if people want to find out more about you and your journey, how can they do that?

BB: I may be contacted by email: mailto:RobertL.Brawley@hotmail.com, or on Facebook at Bob Brawley.








Monday, April 17, 2017

Family Stories: Leaving a Legacy of Words

Every family has them: stories of Great-Uncle Harold’s time in the trenches of WWI, Grampa’s side trip into bootlegging during Prohibition, Aunt Helen’s wanderlust that took her around the globe twice, Grandma’s ground-breaking work as the first female at Lockheed Aeronautics during WWII. These are the stories that may only get trotted out once a year or so, maybe at Christmas or the infrequent family reunion, but otherwise stay hidden away in shoeboxes at the back of closets or in the dimly-lit corners of an oldster’s mind.
And very often, the story and its teller are, eventually, lost for all time. Why? Because the stories don’t get written down.
There’s a Mandinka proverb that says every time an old person dies, it’s as if a library has burnt down.
I was lucky. My dad wrote his autobiography over the last 20 years of his life. After he died, I converted the typed pages to digital, added family photos, and published his story. I didn’t care if I sold a single copy; I just wanted the book out there. Surprisingly, I have sold quite a few, but that’s not even the point. The point is, his story will never die. It lives on. And I can’t tell you what a treasure trove it is for my family.
So a few years back on Veteran’s Day, I was thinking about my aunt who was an Army nurse during WWII and was taken prisoner by the Japanese in the Philippines. I had heard this much of the story all my life, but very few details. I began to do some research to see if I could find out more about it; hard to do, as she and all her generation are gone. I was shocked to find out that the Wisconsin Historical Society (she was from WI) had in their possession two scrapbooks that were created by my grandmother, filled to overflowing with letters, telegrams, news clippings, and photos of my aunt’s time in the service. It not only chronicled the events of her capture and imprisonment, it also told the story of my grandmother’s tireless efforts to find out information about her daughter and bring comfort in any way she could. It was a story of two women on opposite sides of the earth, each in their own way striving to push through extremely difficult times.
And it was stuck in a drawer in a back room.
I knew the story deserved to be told. And I knew I was the only one to do it. There are other writers in my family, but none that devote as much time to it as I do. So even though I’m a novelist by choice, it was time for me to write non-fiction.
I’m glad I did. Again, I didn’t care if the book sold at all; I just wanted the story out there. Surprisingly, it has touched a lot of people, won awards, was even featured in a TV documentary on Wisconsin’s military history. And it got me to thinking: how many stories are there like this, that never get told, that never see the light of day? A ton, I’m sure. And I think that most people believe publishing is way beyond their reach, but here’s the irony. It’s not. It’s fully accessible in our time. Okay, the writing part is never easy and that still has to be done, but the publishing? That’s a breeze. Using CreateSpace, you can do it for about $10, the cost of a proof book and shipping. Really, I mean it. Ten bucks. Indies Unlimited has more than enough information and tutorials in their archives to get you started.
I would encourage anyone — EVERYone — who has family stories to write them down. Get them out there! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, as I was, how they can touch people well beyond the confines of your family. Because these are not just family stories.
They are human stories.
And they deserve to be told.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on 4/22/12.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

New Release: Skin Walk

What's better than a shiny new book? Nothing! I love releasing new books. I'm very happy to announce my latest book, Skin WalkThis is the second book in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery series. You may recall that Lacey is an ex-LAPD cop turned private investigator, and Sam is a half-Navajo medium who communicates with ghosts. Together they tackle some very spooky and exceptional mysteries. The first book, Ghost Walk, took place in Los Angeles, California, but in the new book, Lacey and Sam take on a very different situation.



Just to refresh your memory (or tantalize you, if you didn't read it yet), here's the story behind Ghost Walk:

Lacey Fitzpatrick is an ex-LAPD detective with an axe to grind. Tainted by the betrayal of her drug-dealing cop boyfriend, she’s on a quest to prove to herself—and the world—that she’s still a competent crime-fighter. In order to do that, she teams up with Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts. With his talent and her research, they tackle troubling unsolved crimes, but their latest case is the toughest. They have to solve a murder—where no record of a murder even exists. Can Sam glean enough information from the victim’s ghost to unravel the mystery, and can Lacey convince the authorities that the murder actually happened?

And here's the story behind Skin Walk:


Lacey and Sam are on the job again. This time, the pair of investigators have been called out to the Navajo reservation to look into the suspicious death of Sam’s cousin. What they uncover leads them into a realm of the supernatural beyond anything Lacey ever imagined; her years on the LAPD did nothing to prepare her for dealing with witches and shapeshifters. With clues few and far between, can they determine who the murderer is before they themselves become the target of deadly curses and feral shapeshifter beasts?

And the best part? Both books are on sale right now for just 99 cents! Catch up with Sam and Lacey on their latest adventure, or get both books at a gonga deal if you're new to the series. Take a WALK on the ghostly side. 

Oh, and stay tuned for the third book in the series, Star Walk.

Sale extended thru April 9, 2017!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cover Reveal - Skin Walk

Coming Soon! My new book, Skin Walk, will be released soon, but until then, I wanted to share with you the cover. This is the second book in the Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud Mystery series. You may recall that Lacey is an ex-LAPD cop turned private investigator, and Sam is a half-Navajo medium who communicates with ghosts. Together they solve some very knotty mysteries. The first book, Ghost Walk, took place in Los Angeles, California, but in the new book, Lacey and Sam take on a very different situation.

Here's the blurb:

Lacey and Sam are on the job again. This time, the ex-cop and the Navajo medium have been called out to the Navajo reservation to investigate the suspicious death of Sam’s cousin. What they uncover leads them into a realm of the supernatural beyond anything Lacey ever imagined; her years on the LAPD did nothing to prepare her for dealing with witches and shapeshifters. With clues few and far between, can they determine who the murderer is before they themselves become the target of deadly curses and feral shapeshifter beasts?

Sound like fun? Stay tuned for the release date, and then... the third book in the series, Star Walk.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Travel Channel: The Dead Files

What does a Travel Channel series about ghosts have to do with writers--specifically this writer? It all began over a year ago when I got an e-mail from a gal at the Travel Channel, wanting to know if I'd be interested in being on a show called The Dead Files. It's a reality series about an ex-NY detective and a medium who investigate claims of haunted buildings. While she (the medium) walks the house and gets her impressions of the ghosts who linger there, he (the detective) does the research to find out who these people are and what their tie is to the house. This particular show was going to be investigating a supposedly haunted restaurant in the Sedona area, not far from where I live. 

I've seen shows like this before, where experts often weigh in on unique phenomena or occurrences. While I hardly consider myself an expert on anything, I have noticed that many of these people are authors. When I expressed some trepidation about being an "expert" on anything in Sedona, I was told that they particularly like having authors on because authors "know how to tell a story."


Well, count me in.

We filmed the show just about a year ago. It took the better part of a morning and was a lot of fun. The crew were very organized, very professional, and knew how to get things done. I worked with Steve DiSchiavi, the investigator. While Amy did her mediumistic walk through the restaurant, Steve and I talked about the prior inhabitants of the area, primarily Native Americans and cavalry and their inevitable conflicts. Having just researched a time travel book about this very time and place, I was pretty familiar with the events. 

We were originally told the episode would air last fall, but for whatever reason, schedules got juggled and now the show will air this Saturday night, March 18. There is an encore showing on March 19, all on the Travel Channel. I hope you'll tune in and see what we discovered about the haunted restaurant in Sedona.

And by the way, if any of this sounds familiar to my regular readers, it's because I "borrowed" the concept of the ex-cop working with a medium to solve mysteries for my Lacey Fitzpatrick and Sam Firecloud series. The first book, Ghost Walk, was released a couple of months ago. Book 2, Skin Walk, will be out soon, and Book 3, Star Walk is about half done. I'm very thankful to the Travel Channel and the people of The Dead Files for inspiring my latest creations.

Lacey Fitzpatrick is an ex-LAPD detective with an axe to grind. Tainted by the betrayal of her drug-dealing cop boyfriend, she’s on a quest to prove to herself—and the world—that she’s still a competent crime-fighter. In order to do that, she teams up with Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts. With his talent and her research, they tackle troubling unsolved crimes, but their latest case is the toughest. They have to solve a murder—where no record of a murder even exists. Can Sam glean enough information from the victim’s ghost to unravel the mystery, and can Lacey convince the authorities that the murder actually happened?


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Author Interview: Thom Stanley

Today I’m sitting down with my buddy Thom Stanley to talk about his two books. His books are, to say the least, unique. Although the two books are similar in tone, they are still very different even from each other. We’ll take them one by one.

Amazon says this about My Chupacabra Ate My Homework: A satirical and humorous look into all things paranormal. Through the years, there have been many questions that have gone unanswered regarding ghost, aliens, UFOs and other paranormal topics. This book attempts to answer some of those questions with a bent toward the light and humorous.

It looks to me like Thom has some serious explaining to do. So without further ado, we’ll get to it.

MJB: Thom, would you tell us first about My Chupacabra Ate My Homework? What the heck is a chupacabra, and what does it have to do with homework?

THOM: A chupacabra is literally Spanish for “goat sucker.” From Puerto Rico to the Americas, chupacabras have allegedly been responsible for animal mutilations, especially livestock. While scientists have yet to acknowledge its existence, witnesses have described the menacing beast as resembling a small bear on hind legs with spines protruding from its neck and back.

MJB: Hmm, I have a sneaking feeling that most teachers wouldn’t fall for this excuse from a student in class, but the kid might get an A for effort. How did you gather all this information on the paranormal?

THOM: For more than ten years, I research books and online paranormal sites to discover what people were asking and allegedly sighting.

MJB: So would you consider yourself an expert on these weird goings-on?

THOM: Absolutely not. First I believe there are no experts on any topic, as life is in constant flux. I find a question I appreciate for whatever reason and exaggerate the answer based on the nonsense of the question.

MJB: So you answer nonsense with exaggeration? Sounds reasonable. What do you think is the most amazing and unbelievable incident in your book?

THOM: People who claim to have been abducted by extraterrestrials, probed, and returned to tell their story fascinate me. I just don’t understand the human orifice fetish that life clearly more advanced than ours has.


MJB: Gee, when you put it that way…  (*Hides DVDs of the X Files*) Okay, now tell us about Frankly Fanny By Herself: Questions that Could Not Be Answered By: Dr. Joyce Brothers, Oprah Winfrey, Ann Landers, Dear Abby, Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Yoda. Is the book longer than the title?

THOM: The title length is due to the vast number of revered consultants. People seem more apt to follow the advice of celebrities, some with and some without credentials, than to trust their own instincts or seek the help from a loved one or friend.

MJB: What was the impetus behind this book? Did you find the usual advice-givers were falling down on the job?

THOM: The usual advice givers are no more qualified than Frankly Fanny to advise people who have reached out to outside influences to solve their problems. The intent of these answers is to offer comic relief to what seem to be issues of concern.

MJB: What would you say is the weirdest question that you cover in your book?

THOM: I find questions from parents about the appropriate time to talk with their children about the things their parents never talked with them about to be most perplexing. The simple answer is that you will always be too late to tell your kids what they already know about sex.

MJB: I think you’re right about that. That’s a conversation that everyone seems to want to avoid for as long as possible, and by the time they get around to it, it’s almost obsolete. Maybe they could just hand the kid your book.

Obviously you gravitate toward the weird, the funny and the strangely useful. What are you working on now? What subjects do you have planned for the future?

THOM: I am compiling original horoscopes for my book: Astrology For The Weak, The World’s First and Only Multiple Choice Horoscopes. Again, a lengthy title, sorry. Also, I’m working on a book of what I believe are the world’s best quotes. My intent through these books is to offer people a respite from the trials and tribulations of daily life and the sorrow or pain it may bring.

MJB: Giving people an alternative to the stress and teeth-gnashing of our complex society? That’s commendable. I think we all need a break from that once in a while. If people want to find out more, how can they find you?

THOM: I’m on Facebook, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Still working on website, but other works available at SedonaExcentric.com.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

First Impressions Count — Big Time

So you’ve written the next Great American Novel and you’re ready to publish. Now you’re down to the silly details that try your patience. You have to choose your categories and then come up with a short description, almost every writer’s bane. How do you distill 600 pages down to six sentences? How do you convey all the passion and wisdom and inspiration of your story into one or two paragraphs?
Careful. It’s tempting to throw down a few sentences and call it good.
Don’t do it.
In a recent discussion with other authors, we talked about errors in books both traditionally-published and self-published. It’s an age-old problem that we all face. We re-read, edit, re-read, edit, send out to beta-readers, re-read and edit again and still we miss something here or there. I am guessing it would be more difficult to find a book with absolutely zero errors than it would to find them with one or two if not more. I am actually wondering if there are any books out there without a single error. Maybe, but it’s doubtful. None of us like it, but it does seem to go with the territory. Doesn’t mean we don’t work hard to correct errors, but I don’t think any of us are going to commit hari-kari over it, either.
However, there are two areas where errors are positively absolutely never forgivable. I’m talking about the cover and that description you just tossed up on Amazon.
Spelling errors on covers are just the most inexcusable thing ever, so I don’t even think it requires a discussion. On the lighter side, here’s a web page with famous covers with one letter missing. Makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it?
But now back to that description. My friend author K.S. Brooks talked about how to write a good one, so I won’t rehash that here. But once you’ve got yours done, don’t just slap it up there. Look at it through a magnifying glass. Check each word. Seriously. Every word. Because this, along with your cover, is the first impression the prospective reader gets of your writing talent and style. If a reader sees an error in your description, what does that say to them? That you’re … lazy? Uneducated? Incompetent? Certainly not conscientious and thorough. Many readers will not — will not — buy a book that has a mistake in the description. If you’ve thrown that description up there with only a cursory glance and there’s a misspelling or a punctuation error there, you’ve just lost the opportunity for a sale not just once, but over and over and over. Is it really worth that five minutes of time you saved yourself? What good is writing that Great American Novel if readers can’t or won’t even get past the description?
One last area to think about is the first chapter. This first bit is what the reader can access via the Look Inside feature, so it likewise needs to be top notch. The entire book, of course, should be as error-free as you can possibly make it, but especially these first impressions.
As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Make it a good one.
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on October 21, 2014

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Valentine's Day Sale!

In the mood for Valentine's Day? If not, I've got the solution. I'm putting all of my romance novels on sale for just 99 cents through February 19, 2017. I've got contemporary romances, historical romances, and a romance satire. Get 'em while they're hot!

Lightning Strikes (Contemporary Romance)Jessie Evans is a free-lance journalist, emphasis on the "free," with no plans to tie herself down. While researching a story in Flagstaff about Indian influences in Arizona, however, she encounters Lucas Shay, a smoldering paradox who is part Indian, part architect and all man. Whether igniting her temper with his arrogance or challenging her beliefs with his laser-like insight, Jessie can't deny that Lucas sets fire to her soul as well.


Remember Me (Contemporary Romance)Elly Cole wakes up bruised and battered in a hospital-and has no idea who she is or how she got there. Her brooding giant of a husband informs her that she had been fleeing with her lover who was killed in the car accident that left her injured, that she is pregnant with that lover's child and that she has nowhere else to go but home-with him. Struggling against the threat of her husband's dangerous rage and jealousy, Elly strives to regain her memory and reconstruct the life she left behind, wondering how she could ever have loved this man who hates her.


Superstition Gold (Historical Romance)Married and widowed within a 24-hour period, beautiful Leigh Banning watches as her storybook New Orleans life crumbles away piece by piece. In a heartbroken attempt to start over, she travels to the wilds of frontier Arizona in an effort to understand the father she never knew and is rewarded with gold from the legendary Lost Dutchman gold mine in the Superstition Mountains. The gold comes with a price tag, however—the murder of innocent people. Leigh’s quest for justice leads her to a remote Apache camp in the company of a proud Pima Indian and a handsome cavalry officer. Torn between the fiery kisses of the Major and the respectful love of the Pima, Leigh joins forces with the Apaches to battle gold-hungry killers and in the process discovers her true self and her one true love.


The Rare Breed (Historical Romance)The daughter of a white woman and an Indian brave, Catherine Boudry had spent the first thirteen years of her life among the Cheyenne. Restored at last to her mother’s wealthy parents, Cathy blossomed into womanhood surrounded by all the “civilized” comforts of the white man’s world. But at the age of twenty, the lure of her Indian heritage drew her back to the western plains. It was a journey that would awaken her to the joy and agony of passion in the arms of two very different men—Jory, the virile young trapper, and Barred Owl, the Cheyenne brave to whom she had been pledged in marriage long ago.


And for something completely different, here is my satire of romance novels. Not for the faint of heart! 




Love’s Savage Armpit by Amber Flame (Satire) (Originally published as The Pits of Passion)Young, nubile Elizabeth Montgomery is too beautiful for her own good. Accosted by lust-struck males every time she appears in public, she is profoundly grateful when sea captain Benjamin Elliott saves her from a would-be ravisher. Her gratitude, however, turns to shock when Elliott himself seduces her and ruins her chances for an honorable marriage. Sealed to the man in an arranged marriage, Elizabeth rides the surging tide of shock and denial, lust and love, as she is swept from the manicured gardens of England to the savage shores of Africa and the wilds of the New World, never quite sure which Captain Elliott is the man she loves. Caution--this over-the-top satire is NOT your mother's romance novel!







Monday, January 30, 2017

Words, Perfect Words

I love words. I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t.
One of my other vocations beside being a writer is being a hypnotherapist. I don’t practice it much; writing is my first love and takes up 99% of my time. As a writer, I have always been enthralled at the power of words to describe, to evoke, to inspire, to create. As a hypnotherapist, I found the power of words took on an entirely new dimension and that is the ability to induce an alternate consciousness. It still amazes me that I can lead a person into an altered state from where they might examine their psychological issues, fears, even past lives, simply with words. What amazes me even more is that I, too, can be coaxed into an alternate state, even when I understand the process inside and out, even when I’m fully aware of what is happening, simply by the use of the right words.
Words, with all their delicate meanings and nuanced emotion, can build empires or bring them down. They can harden hearts or move us to tears. They are freely available and yet only a portion of humans seem to have the will or talent to string them together in meaningful ways. Yet there is simply no denying that words can capture our imaginations and move us in ways that nothing else can.
I was reminded of this one morning as I was sitting quietly, taking a mid-morning snack break and listening to the radio when The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel came on. Now I normally have music on but I normally hear very little of it; if I’m concentrating on my writing or any other task, my ears just stop working. I have that kind of attentiveness that lasers in on one thing at a time so any other considerations (husband included; just ask him) fade into white noise. When I’m writing, people often have to call my name several times before I can drag myself up out of the depths of a story to even hear them. It irritates the hell out of some people, but I don’t do it on purpose; it’s just the way I’m wired.
So anyway, The Boxer starts to play. This is one of a handful of songs that, when I hear it, I have to stop whatever else I’m doing and just listen (or better yet, sing along) because the way the words are put together just knocks me out.
I honestly don’t know what it is. The music and the cadence have a lot to do with it, of course, but the way the words come together is just magical to me. The meter, the rhyme, the images all combine to create a beautiful soap bubble of imagination that just picks me up and floats me away from the rest of the world. It just all comes together flawlessly.
Bits of books and movies can do the same thing to me. If I’m channel-surfing and Grapes of Wrath comes on, particularly Tom Joad’s soliloquy, I cannot surf away; I have to watch. I have to listen to every word.
Then I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be ever’where—wherever you look. Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there… I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’—I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folk eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build—why, I’ll be there.
And it doesn’t even have to be an entire verse or a long paragraph. How many of us would kill to know that the first line of our book resonated with and was instantly recognized by millions?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, …
Call me Ishmael.
I have some favorite books that I read over and over, but sometimes I might pick one up and read just one scene, one section that stuns me with its perfection. In A Prayer for Owen Meany, I can read the part about getting the Volkswagen off the stage in the school auditorium for the 50th time and still end up crying because it’s so blessedly funny. The same is true for Rita Mae Brown’s Six of One; I can read the part about the Fourth of July parade and end up weak from laughter. These are the kinds of things that writers dream about, when all the right words come together at the right time, in the right combination, in the right meter, the right cadence and the result is absolute perfection. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it doesn’t just flash like a star; it shines like a super-nova.
And that’s when we know that, for that one moment in time, we’ve reached the pinnacle of our craft; we’ve attained the highest potential for being a wordsmith, a writer. We’ve strung a few words together that capture the human psyche and take it on a journey of the mind.
Then it’s on to the next opus.
Your turn: what lines, phrases, passages grab you like this? What are your nominees for the most perfect words ever written?
Originally published by Indies Unlimited on June 24, 2014.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Release! Ghost Walk!

I'm happy to announce the release of my latest book, Ghost Walk. After three time travel novels, I have returned to ghost stories, but with a twist. This is the beginning of a mystery series involving an ex-LAPD female detective and a male half-Navajo medium who commune with ghosts to find out who killed them. Here's the story behind this first book:

Lacey Fitzpatrick is an ex-LAPD detective with an axe to grind. Tainted by the betrayal of her drug-dealing cop boyfriend, she’s on a quest to prove to herself—and the world—that she’s still a competent crime-fighter. In order to do that, she teams up with Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts. With his talent and her research, they tackle troubling unsolved crimes, but their latest case is the toughest. They have to solve a murder—where no record of a murder even exists. Can Sam glean enough information from the victim’s ghost to unravel the mystery, and can Lacey convince the authorities that the murder actually happened?



The book is available in both paperback and eBook, and to celebrate the release, I have priced the Kindle version at just 99 cents through January 28, 2017. 

I'm excited about these new characters, and am already  working on Book 2 of the series: Skin Walk. Stay tuned for more information about that in the coming months. And in the meantime, enjoy Ghost Walk!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Cover Reveal: Ghost Walk

I'll be releasing my latest book, Ghost Walk, very soon, but for now, I want to share with you the spooky cover. The design was done by Brenda Remlinger at coversbydesign.net, and I think she did a fabulous job. Here's the blurb for the book to give you an idea of the story line:

Lacey Fitzpatrick is an ex-LAPD detective with an axe to grind. Tainted by the betrayal of her drug-dealing cop boyfriend, she’s on a quest to prove to herself—and the world—that she’s still a competent crime-fighter. In order to do that, she teams up with Sam Firecloud, a half-Navajo man who communicates with ghosts. With his talent and her research, they tackle troubling unsolved crimes, but their latest case is the toughest. They have to solve a murder—where no record of a murder even exists. Can Sam glean enough information from the victim’s ghost to unravel the mystery, and can Lacey convince the authorities that the murder actually happened?

 And here--ta da!--is the cover:


Watch this space for more information on the release date. Coming Soon!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Author Interview: Brendon Marks

Today I’m sitting down with my buddy Brendon Marks to talk about his new book, On Your Marks, Get Set, Laugh, a collection of one hundred columns originally written for newspapers. The articles have in common that they were all written by the same man, yet they vary widely in subject matter and scope, and there’s a liberal sprinkling of humor throughout. I found them to be fun and fascinating at the same time.

MJB: So, Brendon, tell us a bit more about the book. Over what period were these columns written? And for what newspapers?

Brendon: These columns were the first 100 that I had published and were written from mid-1997 to late 1999. I was writing for The Villager Journal, a weekly in Salem, Arkansas, The Sedona Excentric, a monthly in Sedona, Arizona, and the Arizona Roadracer, a bi-monthly runner’s newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona. I also did some freelance work for Inside Texas Running. These columns were published in soft and hard-cover in December 1999.

MJB: How did you start writing for newspapers? If any of our readers out there wanted to follow in your footsteps, how would they go about doing that?

Brendon: I credit my wife Hwa-Ja for the initial success. We had purchased some property near Salem, Arkansas with the idea of retiring there and when we went for a visit she thought I should start writing for one or more of the local papers so I would be a celebrity when we finally moved there. We hand-delivered some of my samples to every little newspaper within a fifty mile radius and David Cox, editor of The Villager Journal, liked what he read. I was very fortunate; if I were starting out now, I honestly don’t know if I could make it. So many newspapers are going under due to the instantaneous aspect of the internet that it is very difficult. You must find a paper that matches your style and don’t expect to get paid much, if anything.

MJB: I noticed a distinct similarity to Dave Barry and Bill Bryson with your very dry wit. Did you model your style after anyone, or is it all your own?



Brendon: I did not, I started writing casually. I would be at work and send out an email to several of my coworkers relating a story about something that had happened to me on the way home from work, or over the weekend, or while shopping with my wife. I received so many positive responses and “You should write book” urgings that I figured “What the heck.”

MJB: What the heck, indeed. Why not give it a try, and look at it now. 

You’ve taken some very mundane, everyday occurrences and transformed them into humorous and informative articles. I get the feeling that your brain simply works that way, taking in the events of the day and turning them on their head. Do you find yourself narrating everything that happens during the day? Does everything inspire you to see the humor of it?

Brendon: It does, at first I was surprised when the things I wrote were found funny by others, then I realized that some other members of my family were similar. Mom would say something 100% serious, we would explode in laughter and she would have this puzzled look on her face that made it even funnier. When I set out to write a column I don’t ask “What should I write about?” I ask “What can I say that’s funny about…..?” I always have a subject in mind when I start, even though the direction may change before I finish.

MJB: Sounds like a formula that's worked out for you. And of course there's never a lack of inspiration in the happenings around us.

Paul Harvey and Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul) perfected the art of short essays that are both funny and uplifting. Yours is the kind of book that can be picked up and put down on a moment’s notice, available anytime a reader has a few minutes but doesn’t require total immersion like a novel might. Do you find it easy to write short bits like this, or do you ever struggle with wanting to write more? When you write, do you just write until the episode is done, or do you have to do quite a bit of cutting after the fact? (I only ask this because I’m a novelist, and suffer from diarrhea of the pen!)

Brendon: It’s easy for me to write the short articles. I try to have my articles read in five minutes or less for a couple reasons. One, I dread that if I drag it on my reader will lose interest, give up, and never get to the important part. And two, humor is very subjective. I can get comments on the same column ranging from “It’s the best you’ve ever written” to ”it’s the worst you’ve ever written.” If a first-time reader is reading an “it’s the worst” article I don’t want them to be permanently turned off, I want them to try another, because the next one might be one they’ll relate to. I do write until I’ve said what I want, but I’m always mindful of the reader’s time and attention span. Another factor when writing for a newspaper or magazine is space limitations. With a book you can always add four more pages, but with periodicals you have a finite space. The Villager Journal wanted 600 words. Also, I find it is more often easier for me to add than it is to cut. It’s like fluffing a pillow, you don’t add anything, just put more space between the good bits. Bob Early, the long-time editor of Arizona Highways told me (along with 15 other writers) that if a sentence was not informative, interesting, inspirational, or insightful,…cut it. With that in mind my columns are quite lean to begin with. I have many columns sitting in the bull-pen waiting for more fluffing.

MJB: Sounds like the newspaper gig was excellent training for you. The Flash Fiction contests on Indies Unlimited is like that, too, and helps writers hone their words into only what's necessary. 

Can you tell us what your favorite column was, and why?

Brendon: That’s very difficult. I looked back over these 100 columns attempting to pick my favorite of just those and couldn’t do it, expanding that to all that I have written would be impossible. However, I can narrow it down to a theme. My favorite articles are those that involve my wife. She has always been my greatest supporter and the opportunity to poke fun without having to hire a food taster has given me a freedom not enjoyed by all husbands. Furthermore, the husbands and wives alike relate, albeit for different reasons. However, my shining moment (so far) was when I had an article published in the August 2005 edition of Arizona Highways.

MJB: Congratulations! That's quite a milestone. 

Do any of your observations ever lead you to think about spinning out further stories, writing fiction, writing a novel?

Brendon: I have always been impressed by fiction writers. I can barely do justice to things that have happened to me or that I have observed. I can embellish a little or change the outcome, but to just make stuff up while developing characters and a plot seems like a whole lot of work.

MJB: LOL, I think you'd be surprised. For us fiction writers, the hard part is deciding what NOT to write. I have way too many characters and plot lines clamoring for attention all the time.

What’s next for you? More books? More columns?

Brendon: This is only the first 100 columns. I already have over 200 more that will probably generate two more ebooks, and I will continue to write more columns as long as I can stave off dementia. Although some may think I have already lost that battle.

MJB: I'm sure that's not true. And if it is, well, you'll have your books to remind you of things.

If people want to know more about you and your unique take on the world, where can they find you?

Brendon: To say I don’t have much of a social media footprint is a gross understatement; however I am working on it. I can be reached by email at onyourmarksbook@gmail.com.

Monday, January 2, 2017

When Traditional Publishing Comes Knocking

Over at Indies Unlimited, we often engage in discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of being an indie versus being published by a traditional house. Just recently I talked about one major aspect, having control over the look and feel of a book. We’ve also discussed getting better royalties and having the flexibility to be instantly responsive to prices, trends, and sales.
But what happens when a traditional publisher wants your book?
I’ve done some thinking about this. I was lucky enough to have been inside the ropes of the traditional publishing process for the first few years of my writing career. I’ve also had some *ahem* experience with scammers and vanity presses. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. If a traditional publisher approached me now, my response would be very different than it was the first time.
First of all, I would pore over the contract with a magnifying glass. If I had any questions about the meaning of a clause, or the validity of it or how it might affect me, I would get legal help. Next, I would concentrate on a few crucial areas, and if the details were not spelled out sufficiently (or not to my liking), I would begin negotiations to change that.
Input/influence with the title – Back in the day when I signed my first traditional contract, the publisher retained all control over the title of the book and I signed away any rights I might have had. Today, I would ask for the right of final approval.
Input/influence with the cover design – Like the title, it used to be that the publisher had total control over the cover design of the book. Likewise here, I would ask for the right of final approval. In addition, if a trad publisher wanted to pick up one of my already-published books, I would fight like crazy to keep the exact title and cover I already have.
Financial issues: royalties and pricing – We all know traditional publishers pay paltry royalties. I would certainly negotiate for a higher rate, especially knowing what I can get for myself by publishing independently. Another financial issue is the retail price of the book. I’ve seen a book of mine priced clear out of the stratosphere, and there was not a thing I could do about it. No more. I’d want to be included in the pricing process and would want final approval.
Timeframe – Traditional publishers are famous for being agonizingly slow. Why I can put out a book in weeks or, at the very most, months and they can’t do it in less than two years is beyond me. I would certainly ask about this, and about any recourse I might have if they didn’t meet their end of the deal.
Editing – Traditional publishers love to blather on about how much expertise they bring to the table, but my experience has been otherwise. My first two books were published by a NY house absolutely verbatim as I sent them in—including typos. If a traditional publisher promised editing, I would ask what that process was, how many eyes looked at it, and I would want final approval of any changes made.
Point of contact – When I signed with that NY house, I got very little communication from them. The few letters I did get (remember, this is before e-mail) never came from the same person. If I wrote back to ask questions of “my” editor, I was informed that that person was no longer there and I had a new editor. These days I would definitely ask about a single point of contact, someone I could call or e-mail whenever I had a question.
Length of contract – I no longer have my original contract, and I don’t remember what the length of the agreement was. Probably 2-5 years or thereabouts. Normally there’s a clause about renewing for an additional two years if all is going well. However, some publishers are now issuing contracts that stretch for seven and even ten years. When asked about it, they insist they require that much time to make back all the money they are pouring into the book. I would certainly think long and hard about tying up my book for that length of time. If by chance the relationship doesn’t work out as planned, that’s a lot of years to be tied to a company you really don’t want to do business with.
Rights – It used to be that all rights were pretty much lumped together, and all went to the publisher. Nowadays, though, with hybrid publishing, we might assign the print rights to a publisher but retain the digital rights. Don’t forget the movie rights and the audiobook rights. I’d be very selective about what I signed up for.
Promotion – I have contracts that say that all promotion is at the discretion of the publisher, but it gives no detail about what that promotion might look like. More often than not, it was putting my book up on their web page and store front and the rest was up to me. If a contract presented today were that vague, I would certainly ask for more details about what this process might look like.
Copies – Publishers tend to offer very few free copies these days. The first time I asked for more than was offered, I thought they might balk, but they agreed immediately. If you want more, ask. Believe me, they can afford to send you a few more.
Discounts – Most contracts will detail the author’s discount if we want to buy directly from them. If not, ask about it; if it’s there, see if you can negotiate a better deal. Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
Those are the main issues that jump out at me. Having been an indie for many years now and having total control, just looking at this list gives me the heebie-jeebies. Signing a contract now would feel like slipping into a strait jacket. But that’s just me. If you ever do get approached by a traditional publisher for your book, I hope you will consider all the issues and make a very careful and informed choice. I’d also be interested to hear your own experiences and what other issues might be sticking points for you.