Narrative Identity and Photographs: An essay by Jeri Walker

JeriWB 03As promised, here is an honest and poignant essay by Jeri Walker, a writer and editor who has been a friend of this blog almost since the beginning. If you’ve ever had to take care of an aging parent this essay will resonant with you. If you’re looking for an editor, Jeri’s many clients all sing her praises.  If you’re looking for vivid and “no holds barred” writing, check out her stories on Amazon.


Parents mess their children up. That’s a given. But in the same breath, they’re trying to do their best. The waning of my parents’ health has coincided with my rather shocking divorce, and I find myself at a crossroads. I can’t change the people who have hurt me. After years of stagnation, it’s time to put myself back on a transformative path.

A bevy of oxygen tanks, tubes, and inhalers ushered in the reality of parental decrepitude this past holiday season. My perpetually active father is now besieged by emphysema, no doubt exacerbated by a former smoking habit and long career as a silver miner. On the other hand, my eternally stubborn mother did not seek proper medical treatment for worsening asthma symptoms and ended up being intubated right before Thanksgiving and then once again at Christmas. 

It’s hard to hold a grudge against the wheezing and frail creatures who could once yell and curse with such gusto. I find my personality in flux, and my brain seeking to make sense of the hand I’ve been dealt. I’m rebuilding the past, observing the present, and imagining the future. Brains strive to create a narrative identity for the sake of giving some kind of structure and meaning to essentially chaotic lives. It’s time to revise my personal narrative. 

Old photographs remind me my parents are only human. All things considered, I turned out okay.

Wedding Collage

On their wedding day, they shared the sideways glances of the smitten. She was still in her teens, and he was twenty-three. At least Dad had made it out of Idaho for a few years before coming back. When I was a kid Mom had told me she thought about joining the air force, but getting married straight out of high school was the thing many people tended to do in those days. They set up house, had kids. They drank, they fought, they made up.

Mom knew she was a looker. A delicate but fiery redhead with a rebellious streak. Her father an alcoholic, and her maternal grandfather mentally ill. She slept under the attic eaves so she could have some space to herself in my grandparents’ house that lacked electricity or running water. She was the middle child. The troubled one.     

Mom Collage

The mother I’ve known has often not been very happy. The first psychotic break occurred in her late twenties, followed by another not long after my birth. At some point, I lost count of the hospitalizations. When I started middle school, both sisters were out of the house. Thus began a four-year stretch where I did my best to look after her while Dad was at work. The shame of having a crazy mother molded me.

In between manic episodes, I remember good times when she would smile and heartily laugh. Those time were far and few between. Sometimes we snuggled on the couch as she watched soap operas, but most of the parenting I got came in the form of instilling common sense. Don’t get me wrong, knowing how to take care of one’s self is a good thing. I just wish I would have felt cared for.

Dad Collage

The father I’ve known has tended to cuss a blue streak, his carefully coifed Brylcreem hairdo marking him as a perpetual greaser. The reputation of this tough-as-nails man precedes him as it does with all Walkers. He had to be able to stand on his own two feet growing up in a household of eighteen children. He still doesn’t take any shit from anybody, and can be hard to like—though old age has mellowed him.

At the same time, he’s the one who carved pumpkins and dyed Easter Eggs with me. He held the seat of my bike as I learned to pedal on my own. He is the one who entertained me with stories of Squeaky the invisible mouse who lived in his shirt pocket, and Dad is also the hero who burned the Boogie Man up in the stove. Only years later, did I grasp what an expert miner he was and good dad.

Like all those we love, we love them despite their imperfections. We love them knowing only bits and pieces of the whole person. All any of us can do is attempt to be a better version of ourselves, to not give in under crushing circumstances, to remain strong. Let’s focus on the possibilities of the present rather than letting ourselves be mired down by the past or crippled by the what ifs of the future.

Our lives really are stories written line by line, minute by minute.

When is the last time you browsed old family photos? What do those photos invoke?


About Jeri: Truth really is stranger than fiction, and it’s a long damn story. The psychological and romantic overtones of Jeri Walker’s contemporary fiction stem from growing up in the eccentric North Idaho mining town of Wallace and then later falling in love while working in Yellowstone and Everglades National Parks. The influence of a bipolar mother and Jekyll-and-Hyde ex populate her literary landscape. 

She and her demanding pets call the Pacific Northwest home. In the continual pursuit of finding herself, she plans to someday live in an RV or a tiny house. She dwells online at Word Bank Writing & Editing, eternally grateful to be charting a course as a freelancer. 

The Serendipity of Blogging

Today I’m honored to be interviewed on Jeri Walker’s multi-faceted blog Word Bank, Make Every Word Count.  

Isn’t that a great title for a blog – “Make Every Word Count?”  Every word should count, as every word has the potential to provide hope or reinforce despair. Writers should take a stand with their words which is why we all need an editor – to save our sorry hides from the “really pretty,” the “kind of sad,” and all the weak-kneed phrases we hear day in and out that filter in and grind our work to pablum.JeriWB Square Logo Small

Jeri is one of this blog’s earliest and most supportive followers and thus is worth her weight in gold and silver and diamonds and/or chocolate. On her blog she features tips on writing, editing, publishing, marketing, and more. One of my favorite posts is Writers Workout Memoir prompts which I urge you to check out if you’re interested in writing a memoir.  IMG_0584

In the serendipitous world of bloggers, old souls attract each other. Jeri and I were both raised in dusty western towns whose prominent citizens were the owners of bordellos and saloons, where cowboys came in once a week for a bath and a lay and to spend a week’s paycheck and a night in jail.  I’m happy to say that in February she’s agreed to post one of her essays on my blog. Can’t wait!

Has the serendipity of blogging drawn you across space and time to a kindred spirit?  

This post was inspired by Linda G. Hill’s Just Jot January series!  Please check out other #JusJoJan Serendipity posts.  

The Passionate and Whimsical Poet of Penzance

This week, before I go on a wireless vacation, I’m delighted to showcase the talents of a gentleman known OwainGlyn.128.348405to thousands of devoted fans as Owain Glyn.  Not only is he one of the most prolific poets I’ve ever run across but his work spans the emotional spectrum from romantic sonnets to whimsy and scathing diatribes against politicians to anything that “fits in a sock drawer” (a collection he calls Miss Sellanious).  Although he is revered on Wattpad (the free-read site where I first ran into him) and could easily rest on his laurels, he still finds the time to read and comment on literally hundreds of poems and stories of all genres every day! One of his poetry collections, Windswept, has just been published by Outer Banks. Here are some early reviews:

Windswept Front CoverWelsh writer Owain Glyn has brought us a collection of poetry worthy of his homeland Windswept is exquisite, you will want to keep it by your bedside for years to come. – V.L. Sloan
Windswept is awash with words that appear simple but work like magic. This is poetry that Tom, Dick, and Harriet (And I) can read, and enjoy. It connects with us, and has the power to transform us. – Colm Herron
Owain Glyn’s Windswept brings to mind the great romantic poetry of the nineteenth century. It’s nuances eloquently displayed through the shifting winds that have swept through heart of this wonderful poet. – Lisa Cole Allen

And now meet Glyn Hockey!

JTT:  Greetings my friend! Congratulations on the publication of Windswept!  I’m looking forward to soaking in a bubbly bath, drinking champagne and reading your beautiful poems by candlelight.  (And then maybe a little hanky panky later with the hubby) Here is one of my favorites:

What would you do
If I turned up on your doorstep
At two in the morning
Dressed only in my violin?
You know,
The one without a bow
That I play in the metro
Tunnel,
Surrounded by funnel web spiders.
I don’t stay,
Because they say
It’s illegal,
And anyway
I can’t play.
This is nonsense
Of course,
Just like
The pantomime horse
On my bedroom wall.
All I really want to say,
Is what would you do
If I turned up on your doorstep
At two in the morning
Dressed only in my violin?
Would you send me away?
Because I can’t play?

The thing I love about your poems is they never seem stretched, you know what I mean?  It’s as though you just sat down, held a pen in your hand and the words arranged themselves brilliantly on the page.  No effort, no sweat. 

7879977-100-k473391GH: Ah, I only wish it were that simple. I start with an idea that I hand write, I leave it to settle for a few days before I return to it. if I still think it has merit I will produce a word document that I can edit and play with. A few days later I will return to it again, only if I am still happy, will I post it.

JTT:  I think I’ve forgotten how to write by hand! Aside from the fact that you live in Penzance on the coast of Cornwall and have a grandson named Jack who you’re urging on to naughtiness, all I know about you is from Tag it A-Z:

  • You’re allergic to royalty, politicians and tax collectors so you only eat them sparingly on rare occasions.
  • You love cake so much that you plan to be buried in a large chocolate eclair.
  • Apparently you wear underwear only when you expect to be run over by a bus.

Any other revealing things we should know about you?

GH: I guess my sense of humour reflects my interest in life, it is also a defence mechanism that helps me to see that not all is as bad as it may appear. I am an animal lover, (being Welsh that sheepmeans a strong emphasis on sheep) and a follower of Rugby Union, (Welsh Rugby Union)  I consider all the years spent residing in England as missionary work.

JTT:   I guess it was a sacrifice you had to make! I enjoyed England although I never want to drive there again.  For readers who know little (or nothing) about Wattpad, it’s very common on that site for writers to work together on collections – sometimes romantic, sometimes silly, sometimes holiday themed.  You’ve participated in a couple, my favorite being9502915-80-k283346 your The Whole Cole collaboration with a writer known as @knightwriter.    It’s a tit-for-tat between Old King Cole and his homicidal wife Alice. When you were working on it did you ask your wife and beloved mother-in-law (about whom you speak so sweetly) to act out scenes?  (you know – to get inspired…)

GH:  I had considered my mother-in- law for role play but she was far too busy teaching Ghengis Khan some basic manners.

JTT:  Glad to hear she’s keeping busy! From the silly to the very very serious, three of your collections, Armageddon, Marta, and the World According to Owain, address the many injustices in the world, leading you in one poem to ask:

“So, my question,
if man is forged in the image of God,
is he or she as perverse as we?” 

In other poems (War, for example) you expose a deep contempt for government institutions :

“I am war,
the whore of your government,
I ride my black steed among you,
at their invitation.”

Do you think there’s any hope for this world of ours? 

GH: There is much darkness in this world of ours, but there are shafts of light too. Conflicts are not caused by the many, but by the few. If we all learn the meaning of a few words; tolerance, compassion, empathy, we have a chance. We need to celebrate our differences, not use them as barriers.

JTT:  Sigh.  You’re so right.  I really wish we could go on forever but I know you’re busy with the release so let’s conclude with a final question about Wattpad.  The openness of 7235951-80-k466149the site has led people to post just about anything, which has resulted in toes being stepped on, gripes about the software they’re using, and the airing of personal health issues which can be difficult to “vote” on.  As a former “ambassador” (community advisor) you’ve tried to remind people to be civil and to remember that it is a free site. Do you think eventually they will begin monitoring content more closely than they currently do?  For those people who are not familiar with Wattpad, what would you like to say about your experience?

GH: Wattpad has the capacity to be a wonderful place, it allows writers of all levels of competency to interact. None of us becomes a master overnight, it takes practice, and encouragement. Wattpad, and its users are a microcosm of wider humanity. Yes, there are glitches more than I would like, but with a platform this size some problems are inevitable.

JTT:  I’m always amazed by the generosity of other writers on that site.  You’re absolutely right – despite a few problems, it’s a great place to mingle.  

Thanks again for taking the time to be here with me. I really appreciate it.  Releasing a book can be an extremely trying time. I had to hire a caretaker to strap me into a straight jacket (which made for a very interesting release party!) Then, as the reviews came in, post release anxieties descended on me like evil flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz!   “Did I release too early? Too late?”  To save you from such a fate, I’d like to point you to the best advice I’ve come across regarding life in general and fame in particular:

“If you compare yourself to others, never look upwards, you will get dizzy and invariably disappointed.  Always look downwards, that way you can make sure your feet are firmly on the ground and pointed in the right direction.”  – Owain Glyn, Advice to My Sons

My friends, I have only touched on the depth of this man’s talents.  You can read some of his poems on Wattpad for free but maybe not for long! OwainGlyn on Wattpad

For a limited time you can order a copy  directly from the publisher for $9.99 click Windswept – Poems of Love. Bring some love into your life!

See you all in a week!

Meet Shelley Sackier, author, blogger, pilot and whiskey drinker

Today I’m delighted to welcome Shelley Sackier, creator of the always entertaining blog – Peak Perspective – and author of the upcoming teen novel DEAR OPL.

Shelley Sackier author photo3JTT: Hey Shelley – thanks for being here!  First of all, how did you come up with the title Peak Perspective?

SS: The blog title and tagline (Peak Perspective: trying to see above the fog.) was born of both sight and wordplay. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m surrounded by mountains, and living on top of one gives me a spectacular view, except when it doesn’t. Some days I’m fogged in, occasionally I’m above the cloud base, but most days, the scene is truly breathtaking and allows me a view of three counties. As I’m always staring out one window or another for a moment of inspiration, rare is the day when something remarkable does not flit across my field of vision. It’s a little like living on the live set of a National Geographic special filmed by the Weather Bruichladdic viewChannel. Some days are truly spectacular. Some days are scary. A couple have made me think that it might be time to start doing bladder strengthening exercises.

JTT: Please send me a copy of those bladder strengthening exercises ’cause I need ’em.  With those spectacular views there must be a lot of artists living in your part of the world however your illustrator, Robin Gott (who I just adore), lives in Essex England. How did you find him?  

040813nakedartist (729x800)

Cartoon courtesy of Robin Gott

SS: I love the fact that Rob and I live in separate countries and have worked together for a few years but have never met. There’s something so remarkably “today’s business world” about that. We were introduced years ago and had almost worked together on a different project. The blog venture just sort of spilled out of that serendipitous past.

Robin is one of those incredibly multi-talented folks whose craft spills over into myriad dimensions. Animation, acting, drawing, writing. His work is prolific and I feel so fortunate to have this time to be creative with him. I’ve discovered what it feels like to work with someone whose brain will likely be preserved for science.

However long the blogging business keeps us artistically woven together, I can think of so many other missions I’d like the two of us to take a crack at. Time will tell. Fingers are crossed. Pencils are sharpened.

JTT:  Blogging does provide us with some interesting bed fellows doesn’t it?  Well, ”bed fellows”isn’t exactly the right term.  Collaborators?  Gads, that’s not much better… (help me troops!)

Haggis in glasses

Haggis of Peak Perspective

Speaking of blogging, I’ve been in awe of your blog for a long time.  I wonder if you’d mind sharing some blogging tips and tricks (or is it top secret)?  When did you start?  How did you build your incredibly supportive audience? 

SS: Well, firstly, thank you for saying so. That’s the hope of so many writers. Tips and tricks? I think, as with so many things in life, you have to be willing to stick your neck out and embrace vulnerability. And even more importantly, you have to be willing to fail. I’ve gotten pretty good at kicking myself out of safe mode, skinning both knees, and then moving on. There’s so much to learn when you make mistakes. Being careful does not make a terribly exciting life. And I crave challenge. And chocolate. I’m not sure which I devour more.

Also, it might be extraordinarily helpful to have a roadmap—a story grid of a sort. Why are you blogging? Is it to share wedding photos? A trip to Dubai? Your time in the slammer? It helps to understand what the end goal is.

My blogging exploits began strictly to develop a skill I thought I needed improvement with—churning out about 1000 words on demand. Butt in chair, holler to muse, write the damn essay, finish the laundry. When you devote attention to something every day, bit by bit the challenge begins to feel increasingly more comfortable. Welcome to the new normal.

Jonathan Sackier Blue Ridge Mountains VirginiaAnd building the supportive audience comes from caring about what people have to say. There are so many wildly interesting people on our planet, each with a distinctive voice, and I find it’s like a funky orchestral hot mess when I engage with everyone. It’s a huge time commitment, and I’m not looking forward to the approaching day when I’ll have to back off because of other writing commitments—ones from people who are actually paying me to produce work for them, but I’m hoping to have at least created a community of people who can carry on the conversation if I’m not there and who have made worthy friendships simply from having had my blog site been their playground.

JTT: “Butt in chair, holler to muse, write the damn essay,” AMEN!  However, you did manage to finish DEAR OPL while building your audience.  Congrats on that major accomplishment.  You deserve chocolate, lots of chocolate.  However, I know from reading DEAR OPL (and your blog) that keeping our food safe, nutritious, and delicious are important issues for you.  I don’t want to spoil the plot for potential readers but the main character, Opl,achieves some amazing things while battling a common bugaboo for many of us growing up:  a negative self image.  At first, I have to admit I thought the mother was cruel – always making a big issue of Opl’s understandable weight gain (I mean, she had just lost her father!) but by the end you managed to make the mother sympathetic.  I think it had to do with Opl’s growing awareness that staying healthy need not be an arduous task. Was personal experience a motivation for writing DEAR OPL?

SS: I’ve had food issues for as long as I can recall, but not of the same type as Opl. Working in the entertainment industry, one gets judged every which way but Sunday. It was brutal. Costumes were measured and remeasured on a regular schedule. If you lost a pound of sweat during a show from exertion, and your waistband had a half an inch worth of give in it, it was immediately sewed shut. I survived for years believing that fat was an enemy and that tinned peas and Cream of Wheat was my culinary lot in life. This was horrifically rough for someone who grew up in a family full of caterers, butchers and chefs. I loved food, but was always being deprived of it because of the fearful sweeping top to bottom gaze of an unforgiving producer or director.

I was determined to raise kids with the idea of nutrition as the motivating factor for meal planning and food education, and didn’t want to create battles over what we put into our mouths. I knew that as my kids grew more independent I’d lose a lot of sway over what they’d be choosing to eat. I knew that layering information in small bite-sized chunks, and also walking the talk would be important components of whether or not they’d remember what I’d said, and did as I advised. Most importantly, indulging in food they knew I’d cringe at was a given, but I hoped that they’d pay attention to the correlation between what they ate and how they felt afterward. I know the pressures teens feel when trying to fit in with their friends, and that sometimes food issues become friendship issues. In my mind, I believed they’d make diet related decisions based on things other than what the crowd was doing. They learned to love good food, and cooking it themselves has been an ongoing joyful discovery.

JTT: You’re absolutely right – making decisions about what to eat based on how you will feel afterwards is far wiser than going along with the crowd but it is a hard lesson for many teens to learn. On your blog you’re doing an excellent job of what marketeers call “building your platform” and so I’m fairly confident this next question will be an easy one for you to answer, please describe Dear Opl’s ideal reader?  Who are you talking to?  What do you hope your readers take away from the book?

IMG_0694SS: DEAR OPL’s reading base is 9 to 13 year-olds, but I’m hoping to attract kids who may be in a similar situation as Opl—those who feel like they are either losing the battle with weight, or who feel they can’t stop eating junk food, but mostly kids who are desperately looking for a bit of direction. People don’t realize how much help is available and often give up before they’ve even begun.

My hope is that Opl will be able to communicate that there is no “magic pill,” and that change can happen in small ways that have a ripple effect result. If we expect to shift the habits of a lifetime, it requires education, support, patience and faith that you’re doing the right thing. (And a big dose of self-forgiveness when you don’t.) I feel that all too often we’re told by marketers to expect a miracle effect with their slick headline promises and a mind-blowingly easy overnight success. I’m hoping to impart some savviness.

JTT:  You’re absolutely right – kids are bombarded by “lose weight overnight” ploys which are nothing by quackery.  It’s horrible.  Speaking of horrible, now onto the uncomfortable revelations part of the interview (just pretend I’m Barbara Walters).  You’re a pilot and whiskey drinker, is that correct?  Were you also abducted by aliens like other famous whiskey-drinking pilot drinkers, i.e., Harrison Ford? Please describe some close encounters of the third kind you’ve had while soaring through the clouds.

SS: Really? Ford was abducted?

JTT:  Whoops, sorry.  I was actually thinking of the drunken pilot from the movie thThe Fourth of July who saves the world from aliens somewhat in retaliation for having been abducted by them. 

SS:  Well, flying and whisky have been a significant part of my life. Although, never at the same time for obvious reasons.

When I was first learning to fly, in order to gather up the courage to do solo night flying (which is incredibly different than daytime flying — you’ve got nothing but a Lite-Brite board beneath you), I’d belt out the theme song to Raiders of the Lost Arc while doing finals and preparing to land the aircraft. You have to acquire a fair amount of knowledge to fly and land an airplane, and a teensy bit more if you’re hoping to reuse it. But you also have to have an element of faith. 

Also, having an old codger for a flying examiner was a lucky thing. I think he realized as I was taking my final physical flight exam that I was still too timid with the aircraft. He took the controls and shouted, “You’ve got to manhandle this beast, lass! And you’ve got to know its limitations.” He then proceeded to pull the plane up into a stall and let her do a falling leaf pattern for about twenty seconds before recovering the aircraft. Kept telling me, “She ain’t gonna break!”

nightflying

Flying at night

I think that was about as close to an extra-terrestrial experience as I’ve ever had, as I was fairly sure I’d not live to walk on our planet again.

JTT:  I love that story! My father was a pilot – he loved to get me into his little Cessna and do loop-de-loos! Okay, here’s your chance for revenge, what embarrassing question would you like to ask me?

SS: You see, this is where I’m struggling, Jan. I can find absolutely no dirt on you. You are one of the most impressive humans I’ve come to know. Your work with the Make a Wish foundation, your advocacy for at risk foster children, your books, your blog, your terrific writing … yeah, I got nothin’.

But maybe I’ll ask the question readers are probably wondering: how is it that you can get so much done in one lifetime?

JTT: How sweet of you but perhaps I should have given you my ex-husband’s phone number!  

Whenever I hear the theme song from Raiders, I’ll think of you soaring across the skies! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me and best wishes for the release!  


IMG_0693

DEAR OPL’s back cover

DEAR OPL is available for pre-ordering on Amazon here.  The official release date is August 4, 2015.  Here’s my review:

DEAR OPL is an honest look at a problem facing many young teens: negative self-image brought on by weight gain.  It is also the story of a family trying to move ahead after a catastrophic loss.  Young OPL (who left the “A” off her name in order to lose weight – LOL!) has a talent that surprises her classmates and gives her an outlet for the ongoing frustrations of teen life.  She can blog!  In fact, she rapidly becomes a blogging superhero as “Dear Opl” dispelling advice to her peers with an abundance of sass and wit.   But she doesn’t just make a difference in her own life, she reaches out and makes a difference in the lives of others. 


 No update on the letters from Sweden – but as soon as I find someone to translate, I’ll let you all know!

Crossing in Time: DL Orton

Today in my When I Get it Together (WIGIT) semi-regular series on meeting other writers, please welcome DL Orton whose sci-fi DL_Ortondebut novel CROSSING IN TIME (first in a series) was recently released and is free on Amazon May 25, 2015 (which I hope is today unless my talents using WordPress are total crap). This fast paced novel envisions a world on the brink of extinction where two star-crossed lovers may hold the key to survival.  However, they must go back in time. A very risky business.  From my reading of her book, DL has researched quantum physics, climate change, and – dare I say it? – Masters and Johnson’s studies on sex.  

JTT: Hi Deb, thanks for agreeing to be featured on WIGIT.  Let’s assume you’ve come from either the future or past (which is probably the truth). Which is it and why?

DLO: My pleasure, Jan!  I’m from the future, of course. Come to the dark side; we have time machines. Unfortunately, if I told you why, I’d have to shoot you. And yes, a woman DOES eventually get elected President, gays DO have a constitutional right to marry, and Florida IS going under.  If you want to know how Game of Thrones ends, sign up for my newsletter. (PS:  If you’d like to win a special prize, guess the news headline for May 4th, 2050, and include your email address written backwards e.g. moc.notrold@old in the comments.  I’ll send you a telepathic message if you win. Or perhaps I’ll arrive in your bathroom with the news!)

JTT:  Wow, well I’ll have to sign up.  In your book, Crossing in Time, you address two issues which psychologists believe are more strongly related that most people would think:  parallel universes and the gender gap. Your response?

DLO: A shower curtain, an ant, and a bowling ball.

JTT:  What?

Einstein

Bowling ball with Einstein’s image – incredible!

DLO: Start with the shower curtain: a two-dimensional object in a 3-dimensional world. Imagine that you, gentle reader, are an ant, walking, talking, and having sex (do ants do that??) on a thin, flexible membrane (or a “brane” in physics-speak). Layered beneath you are a million other shower curtains, all of them with their own allotment of ants (some of which get paid 78 cents on the dollar due to slight differences in their copulatory organs). In a very real sense, those other ant universes are close to you in space (and time), but still seemingly undetectable — until someone drops a red-hot bowling ball on those piled up plastic sheets and makes the real-world equivalent of a black hole.  Mind the gap.

SarahConnorJTT:  Okay you’re officially too smart for me. I saw strong similarities between your female protagonist, Isabel, and Sarah Connor of the Terminator Series.  Why is it that female protagonists in sci-fi series such as the Terminator, Alien and  Avatar are much more formidable than the protagonists of erotica such as Fifty Shades of Grey?  Can the sci-fi and erotica genres unite to gain an audience? 

DLO: Well, if the reviews I’ve been getting are any indication, then no. 😉 

Although my book is not erotica, I expect some women will be turned off by the sex (because my protagonist is the antithesis of the ditzy woman in 50 Shades, and Isabel’s lover is no demigod with a helicopter, handcuffs, and expensive taste in high heels. Sorry.)

JTT:  No reason to be sorry.  I think a lot of women fantasize about being an Isabel.  I hate to ask this question because it is so hackneyed in writer interviews, but as a reader I really am interested to know, what motivated you to write this series?  

DLO: When it comes to fiction, I find Frankenstein’s monster very appealing. I’m drawn to an author who tosses together eclectic body parts and then sews them into something cool and unexpected.  Books with character-driven sci-fi, lots of action, good (real!) sex, dark humor, strong female leads, a bit of a mystery, and an edgy love story are great reads, but there aren’t many out there. So I wrote one. And once I got started, the monster took on a life of his own.

JTT: That’s an interesting answer!  My book – the Monster!  Just one last question: What do you wished I’d asked you and why?

DLO: “What did you do with the $500,000 advance you got for the book?” But I’ll settle for: “Any advice for unpublished writers?”

I once googled “how to get rid of a dead body” as part of my book research. The browser ads I started getting after that were downright scary, and I began to wonder if the NSA was going to coming knocking on my door. (I can’t imagine what would have happened if I googled “how much fertilizer does it take to blow up a building.”) I have since learned about “private browsing,” and I highly recommend it.

My second best tip is: Keep writing, but also keep reading! Lots of the unpublished writers I meet have stopped reading because they don’t feel they have the time for it, and I think that’s a mistake. Reading is an excellent way to keep your writing tools sharp, and hey, it’s damn good way to come up with unsavory phrases to google!

And my final tip: Murder the hero, maim the children, rip the clothes off the intrepid heroine, bestow fame and riches on the villain, and set the whole damn city on fire, but whatever you do, don’t draw cartoons of bearded dead guys, and don’t shoot the dog!

JTT:  Great advice!  Best of luck with the book.


Between Two Evils Series: The First Disaster

Between Two Evils Series: The First Disaster

DL ORTON lives in the foothills of the Rockies where she and her husband are raising three boys, a golden retriever, two Siberian cats, and an extremely long-lived Triops. Her future plans include completing the books in the BETWEEN TWO EVILS SERIES followed by an extended vacation on a remote tropical island (with a Starbucks). When she’s not writing, playing tennis, or helping with algebra, she’s building a time machine so that someone can go back and do the laundry. 

How to contact DLO:

The Interpreter – Arleen Williams

faceToday I turn the floor over to fellow author Arleen Williams whose ALKI Trilogy has just been released. For those of you who don’t know, Alki Point is just west of Seattle Washington, an area very lush and green.  Wikipedia describes it as “reminiscent of a Pacific Northwest beach town, with a mix of mid-century bungalows, medium-rise waterfront apartment houses, waterfront businesses, a thin beach, and a road with a bike/foot trail running several miles along the water.”  As you can tell by the titles, Arleen is a very active woman as are her protagonists! In this piece she talks about the inspiration for her novels.


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Years ago I was living in Mexico City and thought about studying English/Spanish interpretation. When I took the college entrance examination and failed, I was sad and filled with relief. It really wasn’t for me. I have too many of my own words and thoughts to express to fill the role of an official interpreter. Yet at times, I still feel like an interpreter. In The Alki Trilogy, I “translate” immigrant lives into stories, offering a window into the realities of modern immigration.

As I write these words, I am reminded of Reese Witherspoon’s 2014 movie, A Good Lie, about the lost boys and girls of Sudan. I remember sitting in the darkened theater shaking my head when those responsible for assisting these immigrants upon their arrival to the U.S. were portrayed as totally clueless.

“Nobody can be that dumb, can they?” I whispered to my husband.

“Most people haven’t spent thirty years working with immigrants and refugees,” he shot back.

In a world of instantaneous information, one would think we’d all know of the horrors that continue to bring immigrants – both documented and undocumented – across our borders on a daily basis. But we are inundated with snippets of news and information, with work schedules and family responsibilities, with the challenges of the hectic day-to-day routine so common in this country. We don’t always understand the stories or the worlds behind the headlines we catch as we rush from one responsibility to the next in our busy lives.

In The Alki Trilogy I introduce readers to characters living lives in the shadows of our own back yards, characters making livings, making love, making mistakes and often interacting with native-born Americans in relationships that enrich the lives of all. And like those immigrants who cut our lawns and clean our pools, who grow our fruits and vegetables, who care for our elderly and infirm, they do it carrying the horrors that brought them to this land branded on their souls.

I wasn’t on some sort of zealous mission when I started writing The Alki Trilogy. In fact, when I began the first novel, Running Secrets, I had no idea I’d be writing a trilogy at all. I simply had characters in my head demanding to be heard: a suicidal young woman and an Ethiopian home health nurse, a homeless Salvadoran girl alone after her parents were deported and the college student who offered sanctuary, an Eritrean man haunted by the terrors of his escape and the hatred of some African-Americans while buoyed by the love of another. These stories were rooted in a lifetime of teaching, explaining, interpreting my world to immigrants from around the globe in an attempt to help them build new lives in this strange land. I suppose at some point my audience shifted.

When I started writing Biking Uphill, I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to Gemila Kemmal, and when Walking Home came to me, The Alki Trilogy flowed from pen to paper as though I were nothing more than a conduit for the voices of my students and the characters based on the lives and experiences they have shared with me over the past thirty years.

Walking Home Front Biking Uphill Cover

 

 

 

 

About the Author:

Arleen Williams is a Seattle novelist, memoirist, and co-author of a dozen short books in easy English for adults. She teaches English as a Second Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and refugees for three decades. To learn more, please visit http://www.arleenwilliams.com and http://www.notalkingdogspress.com.

 

The Best Part of Blogging!

For me, the best thing about writing a blog has been getting to know other authors and bloggers out there in the cyber world. They pick me up when I feel like crap, comment on my often silly blogs and keep me entertained with theirs. And not only that, they let me take time from gazing at my own navel to explore theirs (okay – their virtual and not actual navels).

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Cinda Mackinnon, A Place in the World

My first interview was with my neighbor, Cinda MacKinnon. Funny story – we lived next door to each other for many years unaware that we were both working on novels! It is true – writers have a hard time admitting their advocation, especially if they’re writing fiction.

Actual conversation I had at a party:

Wendy: “So you’re a writer?”
Jan: “Well, yes.”
Wendy: “How are sales going?”
Jan: “They’re not.”
Wendy: “I know someone who wrote about cheese. Her sales are through the roof.”
Jan: “Damn, I wish I’d written about cheese.”
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Old Town in Bogota Colombia

Cinda spent most of her youth outside of the United States – in Costa Rica, Germany, Panama – to name just a few places. Her debut novel was set in the cloud forests of Colombia and involves adventure, romance, the search for identity, and, a place in the world (which is coincidentally the name of the book – A Place in the World). I learned many things from Cinda about the culture of Colombia, its food, its unique animal kingdom, as well as the ecological, political and cultural challenges central American countries face. I got a chuckle when she told me what appealed to her most about returning stateside: Watching re-runs of I Love Lucy and other popular sitcoms she’d missed! She confessed that she almost became a re-run addict!

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I guess this is a picture of the spaceship. Looks like Duke is contemplating a ride.

Next I convinced another expat, Duke Miller, to allow me introduce him to the world following the release of his novel, Living and Dying with Dogs. Of course he hardly needed an introduction to the world.  As an aid worker he’s been around it more than a few times, seen and done things that most of us can only imagine. I loved the story he told about his friend, an amateur spaceship builder and crime fighter in the Mexican town where he lives.

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Drawing by his talented daughter Nuala.

Next up to bat was Irish author Colm Herron who’s actually written a number of books, one of which (The Wake or What Jeremiah did Next) is due to be re-released sometime this fall. Besides being charming and hilarious, Colm is also one of the nicest persons I’ve ever met.  He written so many reviews for so many other emerging writers that it’s mind-bloggling. I loved the fact that after a fairly successful career as a young writer, he gave up writing “to live instead.” I think of those wise words often as I blog, tweet and pin the remainder of my life away.

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John Thomas Wood, Keeping up Seattle

John Thomas Wood writes both non-fiction and fiction. He’s also an amazingly talented artist. Besides his book on speaking to young girls about sexuality (Be Smart; Be Strong), he’s written Keeping it Up in Seattle in which he explores all forms of sexuality in a very forth right and unflinching manner while telling the story of a single dad dealing with a sixteen year old daughter.

Jennifer Hotes is a mystery, an enigma and the inventor of…

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Jennifer Hotes, Four Rubbings

kindness. She told the frightening tale of sensitive little girl’s night spent in a cemetery. Now most of us would want to put that memory far behind but Jennifer used it to tap into the feelings of alienation that teens and pre-teens often feel in her novel Four Rubbings. Bravo Jenn – well done!

Mary Rowan

Mary Rowan, Living the Beach and Playing by Ear

 

Mary Rowan. Wow, what can I say? How many of us have been bitten by idol worship while at the same time feeling either too fat or too thin or too pimply or too – take your choice – anything not perfect according to Vogue magazine? Countless millions, I’m sure. But this lady had the courage to write about it and how it affected her protagonist’s life in Living the Beach. I’ve been assured this is not her story but she wrote about it so brilliantly that I was surprised it was not a memoir!

Charlie Costello

Charlie Costello, Burma Bikes and Bejing Bikes

Lastly Charlie Costello, world traveler, photographer and organic gardener. I spent the very last day of the last century with Charlie  waiting for the ominous Y2K bug to take down all the computer systems running  the world. We were on the twenty-fifth floor of the Kaiser Building in an office with spectacular views of San Francisco getting a set of programmers guides in the mail to a Danish bank. The bank was threatening to the final million dollar payment to our company unless those guides were delivered by the end of the century so our necks were really, truly on the line. Miracle of miracles, the city th-1did not go dark, life carried on!

Since then I’ve watched Charlie pursue his passions all over the world with good humor and love in his heart.

(If you don’t remember the Y2K bug, in 1999 many people became convinced that when the internal clocks in the large computer systems running the financial institutions would not be able to rollover as they had on previous years and would shut down or worse.  The reasons are, to be honest, beyond me.  And the reasons why we did not have a financial armageddon are also beyond me!)

Anyway, I’m hoping when I return from vacation that I’ll be able to arrange interviews with other authors I’ve met via blogging.  I always learn so much!