Books by Melissa Bowersock

Monday, December 22, 2014

Giving: Not Always Easy

'Tis the season for giving. We all know that, just like we all know that 15 minutes could save us ... well, you know. But I've been thinking a lot about giving lately, mostly because of my dog. 

My husband and I got this new Airedale puppy. We love her, but Airedales are scary smart, stubborn, independent, stubborn, hard-headed, stubborn, and described in their breed standard as "willfully disobedient." Did I mention they're stubborn? Ours is no different. She can be a total love (still wants to be a lap dog at 30+ pounds), or a total maniac. Her choice. We've been brushing up on our training advice in order to mitigate the problems, and the answers to many of the issues are: keep them busy. Dogs need jobs, and if we don't give them jobs, they will find their own--and we may not like them. Tire them out. A tired dog is a good dog. That means, for now, our lives revolve around this pup. We take her for walks. We play with her in the house. We play with her out in the yard. We teach her manners and tricks. We hide treats and have her find them. When she's in an agreeable mood, it's all fun. When she's not, it's harder than hell. 

Annie the Airedale

So the other day she was being a brat and I was getting short-tempered. I was resentful for not being able to do what I wanted to do and mad at her for doing all the things puppies do: jumping up on me, getting dirty paw prints on my pants, biting me, thinking I'm playing when I'm trying to discipline her, you name it. Aggravated, I kept doing the things I thought she needed, and she kept being a brat. 

Finally I had to walk away.

And then I remembered. Ages ago, I read somewhere (can't remember where) one book of many about taking care of ourselves. About mental health. I don't now remember what book or who wrote it, I remember nothing but one line:

Giving out of less than fullness is giving poison.

I realized I was doing that. I was trying to meet the pup's needs but I was neglecting my own, and it showed. I wasn't connecting with her, I wasn't being effective, I was just making myself mad and her crazy for all the wrong reasons. I wasn't giving out of fullness. 

It occurred to me that this same principle can apply to everything we do in life. It certainly applies to writing. Not completely committed to the book you're writing? It shows. Writing commercial fiction to meet a deadline, please a publisher or make a buck? It shows. But writing from the heart, writing from fullness, that shows, too. Writing from fullness means pouring ourselves into the story, it means giving fully what the story needs for no other reason than that the story requires it, and it means not putting anything down on the paper until we, ourselves, are topped off completely in all the ways that matter. Mentally, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually full. Anything less diminishes the story and diminishes us as writers. Easy? Hell, no. (You did read the title of this post, right?) But it's a valuable concept, one well worth considering.

And something for which I need constant reminding. Luckily, I have this dog ...

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Stories

Christmas is a wonderful season for stories. There are all sorts of traditional stories, of course, but the season lends itself to newer variations as well. A few years ago, my husband and I began a new tradition in our home of watching all our favorite Christmas movies during the month of December. In the past, we might have watched these movies now and then during the year, but since we started this tradition, we don't, and now we really look forward to seeing them all in December. I thought I would share with you my favorite Christmas stories (even though these are movies and not books--stories are stories, right?). In alphabetical order, they are:

Bell, Book and Candle - Okay, not primarily a Christmas movie, but it does have Christmas in it. What better way to celebrate Christmas than with witch Kim Novak and "victim" Jimmy Stewart? One of the best lines is when Stewart tries to tell his ex-girlfriend that Novak is a witch and she says, "Oh, Shep, you just never learned to spell."

Brother Sun, Sister Moon - Another not exactly Christmas movie, but one that always brings the season home to me. I'm not a church-goer, but the end of the movie where soon-to-be Saint Francis goes to the Vatican to see the Pope fills any need I might have for organized religion. Sir Alec Guinness as the Pope delivers the most classic line in this beautiful and luscious story. I cry every time I hear it.

The Holiday - A surprising little story of two women (Carmen Diaz and Kate Winslet) who switch houses for the holidays, each trying to get away from their unhappy and stressful lives. The heart of the story, however, is Eli Wallach as an aging Hollywood writer. And Jack Black is cute enough to eat with a spoon.

It's a Wonderful Life - The quintessential Christmas movie about a man who thinks the world would be a better place if he'd never been born. If you're not familiar with this movie, you must be living under a rock. This is THE classic.

Joyeux Noel - You don't often find war movies in a Christmas collection, but this one is a gem. It's based on true incidents during WWI when French, Scot and German troops agreed to a spontaneous and unsanctioned Christmas Eve truce between the trenches. The surprising events underscore the true essence of humanity.

The Last Holiday - Queen Latifah shines as a struggling sales associate in a scrooge-like chain store (think Wal-Mart) who is diagnosed with a terminal disease. When she decides to blow her life's savings doing all the things she never dared to do before, she shows everyone around her what living is all about. 

Love Actually - My favorite Christmas movie, weaving together no less than seven or eight (it's hard to keep track, since they all criss-cross each other) stories about the true importance of Christmas. Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy and Keira Knightly and many others make this ensemble story a real winner. 

The Santa Claus 2 - Of the series, this is far and away the best. The first movie was good, the third was horrible but this one is perfect. This movie has more heart than a dozen Hallmark movies, plus it's funny. Don't skip the credits at the end though; one of the best parts is Elizabeth Mitchell doing her Mrs. Claus dance.

Sleepless in Seattle - One of the best stories about following your heart and doing the very thing your head tells you not to. Tom Hanks brings a heart-breaking realism to the kind of fantasy we all yearn for. 

Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Ghost of Christmas Eve - If you're not into hard rock and heavy metal, I can understand if you've never heard of this. However, I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try. TSO's ground-breaking music and retelling of traditional stories are absolutely transcending. They are like Mannheim Steamroller on steroids. My Christmas would never be complete without TSO echoing through the house. Here's a youtube link to one of my favorite songs: Canon.

So here's my present to you; pick one or all of these movies and watch them. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Author Interview: Janet Mainville

Every day is a breakthrough, milestone day for someone somewhere. Just recently, my pal (and distant relative) Janet Mainville had her breakthrough day; she published her first book, Scar Tissue. I can remember that heady day (over 40 years ago for me), that jumping-for-joy, happy-dance day. It’s a day that should be celebrated and remembered.

So Janet, congratulations! Tell us a bit about your book. What’s in it and what inspired it?   

Well, Melissa, it's a book of poetry and essays that are related to the human condition. I wanted an outlet for the feelings that I was coping with and writing the book provided that release. My inspiration for the book was my own personal experiences, my family and my interest in writing through the eyes of a different character, one who I share no common ground with.

When you originally wrote the pieces in the book, did you actually intend to publish them? I’m just wondering if you wrote with the idea in mind that people everywhere would someday be reading them.   

Actually, I planned to publish some of them but not all of them. I opened up and shared some writings that I never thought that I would. It was actually the idea that one day, someone would be reading the book that made allowing myself to be vulnerable that made it possible for me to write the book. It's my hope that somewhere someone will read my book and not feel alone in their struggles.

A very worthwhile intent, to be sure. Writing personal experience (and personal emotion) can be scary, but it can also be very therapeutic. Did you find that writing down your experiences was helpful to you? How does writing help you in your own personal process?  

I found writing to be very therapeutic and terrifying simultaneously. Sometimes the words that I want to say are on the tip of my tongue but I just can't seem to get them out, but when I write, I can bare my soul and that has made all of the difference.

You’re facing very serious health issues in your life. Did writing about them help you to cope? Did it help to give you some perspective?    

Absolutely!  Coping was so much more difficult before I began writing! I was stuck before I began writing and that was not helping me at all. Since I started writing, I have gained so much perspective and I've become able to find strength that I never knew that I had!

That is good to know. I'm so glad. I've also found writing to be immensely therapeutic.

I’m guessing that writing about your experiences has proved helpful for others who have similar health issues. What kind of feedback have you gotten?  

I'd like to think that my writing has had an impact on others with the similar health issues. I started a Facebook community page called "Just a Little Lupie" and a closed group called "Just a Little Lupie". I wrote a petition regarding Judge Judy's uniformed and ignorant comments regarding lupus and in a pretty short amount of time, I had well over 4,000 signatures. I am also working on a photo collage banner for the group/page that represents our daily struggles, what we've lost, what had changed for us and what has made us stronger. The feedback that I have received has been unreal! A big part of the reason feedback has been so strong and positive is because I have 2 other admins who are awesome where I tend to not be as strong. I've been working on a document compiling a list of all of the vitamins, minerals and herbs and their effect on the body (the good and the bad). I have a medical background so that has been really helpful.

Wow, great results! Obviously you're on the right track and accomplishing exactly what you had planned. I'm sure you'll be doing more and more as you go.

Okay, now down to brass tacks. How was the publishing process for you? Scary? Fun? Frustrating? Liberating?   

I have to say, it's a bit terrifying! While it's been a bit on the scary side, it really has been fun. Liberating doesn't even begin to describe how I feel! This has always been a dream of mine and I love that I have been able to make it a reality!

Glad to hear it. Writing while thinking about publishing can be somewhat of a safe haven because how many people actually go through with it? But once you've committed to it, it's a bit like jumping off a cliff. What did you learn along the way?  

Oh boy...where to start!  I learned that formatting can really be quite difficult and that it's good to have more than one person edit! 

Now the clincher; will you do it again? Are there more books in Janet Mainville’s brain?  

I am absolutely going to do it again!  I have so many ideas in my head and I have been finding myself getting extremely excited over the prospect of writing more books in different genres.  I want to branch out and I want to write in styles that I've never tried before!  I want to challenge myself!

Coming off your oh-so-recent success, if someone came to you and said they had a book they wanted to publish, what advice would you give them?   

My advice would be to love what you are writing or the book won't be what you want it to be.  It's important to take pride in your work. Another piece of advice is to be original.  There are certain themes in books that have been done to death and that's the kiss of death. Just be authentic.

Thanks for your very candid answers, Janet. I know your book will do everything you wanted it to do. Now, where can readers find out more about Janet Mainville and Scar Tissue?

Where can readers connect with you?

My email address is

Facebook Links:

Website  (This is a just in its beginning stages and my goal will be to sell my books there in addition to other places. It's a work in progress.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Author Interview: Mr. Pish

It’s not often that I get to interview a four-legged rock star. Although I am a huge dog-lover, most of the dogs that come into my life are the ordinary kind, not the globe-trotting, fun-loving, adventurous and highly intelligent celebrities like Mr. Pish.

Now I don’t want to embarrass you or anything, and I’m sure you hear this all the time, but you are quite a cute dog. What kind are you?

I’m a full-blooded rough-coat Jack Russell Terrier. And yes, I hear cute a lot. I do prefer dashing, however.

I'll try to remember that. And what’s with that one ear?

The ear is my trademark. Makes me irresistible, doesn’t it? You know you want to pat me. Stare at my ear. You are feeling happy. You want to give me treats. Is it working yet? Stare longer at the cute ear. I know you want to give me treats.

I would love to give you treats, but we do have a bit of business to discuss here first. You are the star of a whole series of books; what are their titles and what are they about?

Yes, I am – thanks! There is the Postcards Series – and there are 4 books so far there – I travel around North America, looking for awesome places for kids and their families to discover. All these places (and my books) promote outdoor learning and literacy. I’ve got two Cross-Country adventures (books 1 and 2), an East Coast adventure, and a South and West edition. I send a postcard from each cool place I visit! I also have written Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm (which was an Amazon bestseller in 3 categories, by the way), and Mr. Pish’s Woodland Adventure. I really want kids to get out and see what’s around them. I even have a section on my website that is dedicated to Mr. Pish Approved Places!  There is so much to discover!

And you've been out there discovering most of it. You’ve been to all kinds of places, both natural wonders and man-made creations. What would you say is the most fun place you’ve ever been to?

The most excellent places were the ones where I was treated like a BIG celebrity. Usually food was involved. I got in free everywhere I went – people rolled out the red carpet for me! It’s hard to put a paw exactly on the most fun place, though. I’ve been to wolf parks and a dairy theme park and Times Square and Yellowstone National Park and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – I don’t think there’s any way I could choose just one. (Although the deep dish pizza at Gino’s East in Chicago and the cheesesteak at Pat’s King of Steaks in Philadelphia were fun. Hey, I can’t help it – I’m a dog. I love food.)

And a smart one! Where did you have your greatest learning adventure?

I learned something cool everywhere I went. But at the Jewish Community Day School of Rhode Island, I learned that kids are really smart. One little girl told me that dogs can’t write postcards. So I had to tell her I just dictated them; my secretary actually wrote them. Tough audience!

Kids ARE smart. But now let's talk numbers. How many US states have you visited? How many countries?

I have visited 41 states in person. I’ve seen pictures of the rest. That counts. And I’ve explored 7 Provinces of Canada. I know my books are also being used in schools in India, Mexico, and Scotland, so I think those count, too.

Well, even if you haven't been to those places yourself, your books have been, so that has to count for something. But you know, I’m pretty sure you don’t have a driver’s license, and I don’t think you could reach the pedals anyway. How do you get from one place to another?

*ahem/arf* Just because I don’t have a driver’s license doesn’t mean I can’t drive. But, since I’m a celebrity, I have a driver. I mean, come on. All the big stars have drivers, right? The Pishmobile is all decked out for me. I have a little platform I can lie on so I can see out my tinted window, and I have a little dogwalk (like a catwalk, except for a dog, of course) pulpit kind of deal between the two front seats so I can tell the driver where to go.

The Pishmobile sounds too cool. How many other celebrities have a pulpit? I'll bet even the Kardashians don't have one of those.

Kids really love your books, and I know you really love spending time with them, as well. What’s your message to kids in school?

Hi kids! Pass the biscuits to the front now. Oh, you mean like a lesson message? Isn’t it time for a treat break? No? Okay, well, I really would like kids to pay attention to what’s outside. I would love them to take just one minute and look up from their video games or iPads and listen to what’s around them. Take a look. Take a sniff. There is something to see, hear, and smell everywhere! Maybe they will see something awesome. It’s there if they take the time to look.

And they can start by taking a look at your books and then deciding what places they'd like to go! I'm sure they can get plenty of good ideas from you.

I don't think you can type, but I know you have a human (K.S. Brooks) help you out with the logistics of writing your books. How do the two of you work together? Do you dictate to her? Or do you sit in her lap as she types what you tell her?

Look, it’s Melissa, right? – you make a lot of assumptions. I can, in fact, type. I’m uber-talented. Unfortunately, what I type doesn’t make a lot of sense. But still, that’s typing. So, no more trick questions! But yes, my secretary follows me around as I brainstorm. She carries a pen and notebook in case I have an epiphany, and she doles out the dog biscuits and other treats. When we’re working on a project, I’ll sit on the chair next to her or on her lap to make sure she’s typing what I say. Because, these writers – man, they like to inject their own kind of je ne sais quoi into other people’s stuff. Yes, I’m a very well-traveled dog, I know some French.

You really are an intelligent and educated dog! I also know your human, Ms. Brooks, helped write a book called Triple Dog Dare, about West Highland Whites. What did you think of that book and the Westies in it?

I was a little annoyed that I wasn’t used as the main character. I mean, I inspired the book, so you know, come on! Credit where credit is due. But then when I read it, I was okay with it being Westies because the characters kept trying to trick each other by swapping dogs – and I mean, come on – look at me – there’s no way I would have a double! I thought the book was pretty fun because the people were very silly. Like real life, you know?

Er, uh, yeah, okay. I don't think I'll argue with you on that one. Finally, though, what specials are you running for the holiday season?

Thank you very much for asking! We’ve got the 2015 calendars – hanging and desk planner editions – available on Amazon  and Barnes & Noble. We’re also running Postcards from Mr. Pish’s East Coast and South and West editions for 99 cents for the month of December. And, lastly, Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm will be free on December 25, 26, and 27 so people can fill up their new Kindles with some fun reading! The Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm app for Apple and Droid products is always 99 cents. I have an English accent in that app. Quite classy.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Well, I know I gave you a little bit of a hard time, but I appreciate your interest! NOW may I have a treat, please?

No problem, Mr. Pish; you've been the perfect gentleman. Let me grab some liver snacks for you, but in the meantime, where can readers connect with you?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Announcing: Editing Services

I must be a masochist. There aren't enough hours in the day now, but I've just opened up another new business avenue, editing. Why would I do that? Well, over the past couple of years, I've been beta-reading books for friends as well as reading authors unknown to me and I've gotten very good at catching errors. When I've sent said authors my notes on what I found, I've gotten some surprising responses.

"You caught things that got past four other editors!"

"I paid thousands to an editor and you caught many more errors than she did, plus the ones she added in!"

I've always been a grammar and punctuation Nazi. Being such a nit-picky pain-in-the-butt has served me well, and I've been happy to share my annoying habits with friends. After all, I hate to have typos in my own books, and I'm extremely grateful whenever someone brings one to my attention so I can fix it. Most of the authors I've worked with feel the same way. At any rate, after the gracious thanks I've gotten, and with the huge satisfaction of knowing that I've helped polish a book for publication, I finally decided that it was time to offer my eagle-eyes to others. 

But is being a grammar Nazi enough to be an editor? I've been writing, editing and publishing for over 40 years. I have never hired an outside editor for my own books. I do all my own editing with the help of beta-readers who bring fresh eyes to my projects. I won't say I'll catch every error--no one is perfect--but I do a pretty darn good job of hunting them down. 

If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, take a look at my web page and check out the trial process I've outlined. If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. My goal, like yours, is to produce compelling, professionally-written books. 

We can work together to do just that.

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