Monday, December 08, 2014

Monty McCord Award Winning Author of Mundy's Law

Monty McCord, a name synonymous with heroism, fell in love with all things western and law enforcement as a young boy. He’s not only an award winning author, but the subject of other authors’ works.
Monty’s own career in law enforcement started in 1974, and by 1993 Monty held the rank of lieutenant for the Hastings, Nebraska Police Department when the Chief picked him to attend the FBI National Academy--the FBI's academy for ranking officers worldwide with training at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. After working as a deputy at two rural sheriff’s offices, Monty finished his nearly three decade career as a Lieutenant of the Hastings, Nebraska Police Department.
Monty’s writing career began with his book Police Cars-A Photographic History-1991,  then Cars of the State Police and Highway Patrol-1994, and Law Enforcement Memorabilia-1999 (all from Krause Pub.) Monty’s works also includes many articles and historical accounts.
More recently, Monty released his fiction novel Mundy’s Law (Five Star/Cengage 2013). For his audio book version (Books-In-Motion), Monty received a 2010 Spur finalist award for Best Western Audio Book from Western Writers of America and Mundy's Law (print version) won a PEACEMAKER AWARD from the Western Fictioneers for Best First Western Novel, and a Finalist for Best Western Novel in 2013. The book was also a Finalist in the 2013 Will Rogers Medallion Awards.

Monty has also featured his love for his home state of Nebraska in his books:  Hastings-The Queen City of the Plains (Arcadia Pub. 2001), I Christen Thee Nebraska-The History of the USS Nebraska  (iUniverse 2005), and The 1931 Hastings Bank Job & The Bloody Bandit Trail  (The History Press 2013).

Glenda: Monty, I’ve covered only a portion of your interests and works. However, there is a Monty McCord behind the books and awards who fell in love with the subjects he writes about. For this part of the interview, I’d like you to share with us some history of you and what made you identify with the subjects you write about. So the page is now yours for as much as you’d like to share.
Monty:  Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s was fun in part because of all the great television programs we had on only 3 channels. The westerns and police dramas really caught my eye. Hopalong Cassidy was the earliest western I remember. I lost some interest when they started singing though! But when Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, aired, I was really hooked. When I was about 7, I got my first horse. We soon moved to the country and added to our herd, which included some cattle. Although we don't have any now, my love of horseflesh never died. My daughter is infected with it too, she trains horses and people in South Dakota. Through all of this and school studies, I was hooked on history.  
                Also, at some point, police programs added to an interest in law enforcement. At my parents urging though, I first tried training for refrigeration and air conditioning repair, but was bored to tears. I ended up transferring to marketing and management, something that helped when I got my first police job in 1974. When asked why I chose police work, my only answer was sort of a cliché, but it was true. I wanted to help people. I was in a position to help crime and accident victims, especially children that I removed from homes due to abuse and neglect. All police officers help way more people than the public ever knows about. They all know when bad things happen however...
                It is from this background that I write about lawmen. And of course, lawmen wouldn't have much to do without outlaws! I try to portray lawmen in a realistic way for the given period in my books. The period I write mostly is from around the 1850s to 1950s. Crime solving stories are more fascinating to me when there are no computers, DNA or NCIC (National Crime Information Center) involved.

Glenda: Almost all writing takes at least some research. You, as a novelist, and historian must do week, months or even years of research for your books and articles. Personally, I’m a great fan of good research, would you mind explaining your approach to research?
Monty:  As you know, I write both fiction and non-fiction, and BOTH take LOTS of research. All of my reading of history has really helped my writing, including fiction. If you're not doing a lot of research for fiction as well as non-fiction, you're not doing right by your readers. Reminds me of a novel writing session I took at a convention in New Mexico. They talked about an author who wrote a submarine story. It went something like this, "Dive, the captain ordered. So the man controlling the knobs that would make the submarine dive, turned those knobs and the submarine dived." That's the simple version, but the original kept the group laughing for ten minutes! Obviously, it illustrated a lack of proper research for a novel. And, we've all read them!
As far as my approach to research, I first decide what I want a book to cover and write notes or an outline. I examine every piece of information I find for leads to further research (pretend you're a detective). Nearly every bit of info will give clues to more. You may decide not to use some of it, that's fine, but you can be satisfied that you've covered everything you could possibly find. I've learned that when I tire of research for a project, I buckle down and work harder and longer at it. I've never been sorry; in fact this extra effort usually produces a bit of solid gold information. Poorly researched books are dime-a-dozen. I try to not make mine one of them. I also have to give credit to my wonderful wife Ann, because she is a great research assistant!
Research can also be an editing tool. Case in point, I just wrote a book review for a national magazine. The book I reviewed had the incorrect first name of one of the most famous westerners of all time (more than once!). Part of the problem was an over-dependence on internet research which rings a death knell for authors. We, as writers, don't know every fact, and sometimes just plain get things wrong, so it's good to double-check now and then. Bottom line, don't be lazy with your research.
                I mentioned editing, so will throw this out here. If you publish traditionally, any real publisher will provide professional editing. If you self-publish (POD, printed locally or from book producers, etc.), NEVER, NEVER, EVER, be the only one who edits your book. Pay for editing services if you don't have a contact who knows how, and will do it. One of my books is self-published and I may go that way again. I have nothing against self-pub, but it continues to get a bad name because of no editing, or the author does the edit, AND for non-fiction books WITHOUT an index and bibliography! I have purchased many self-pub books on fascinating topics (that should have sold to publishers) but have been disappointed with every one of them because of these types of problems. 'Nuff said.

Glenda: When I started reading Mundy’s Law, one of your characters, Lute Kinney, has an eye you describe as larger than the other. For some reason, the face of Jack Elam, the old western actor, flashed through my mind. Putting any visual cue into the mind’s eye of the reader takes a keen mind’s eye from the author and a way to describe it. When choosing your characters and describing them, what do you ask yourself in order to answer that same question for the reader?
Monty:  Oh yes, the reference to killer Lute Kinney was, "One eye socket looked larger than the other, and no one knew if he was born that way or it was the result of an injury." Now, we shouldn't give a detailed description of everyone and everything in our books, but we DO want our readers to be intimate with our primary characters. Regarding Lute Kinney, he is a cold-blooded killer, so his description leans toward something un-attractive instead of describing his "smooth golden skin" for example. I don't mean that he should be made into a caricature either. And of course, some killers look very handsome or attractive. We have to decide how we want him to appear in a given story.
                I try to avoid describing my characters like I'm reading from a police report. Here's another character from Mundy's Law, Judge and Justice of the Peace Elsworth T. Worden..."with a white beard and soon-to-match hair. Tufts of hair protruded from both sides of his head and on top, which combined with the beard, covered all of the points of a compass." There's a little more to his description as he is a regular in the story. For a character who only appeared once, but in an important scene, I described..."Elizabeth Ranswood was a handsome woman of forty-three years. She sat erect on a velvet-upholstered armless chair and waited for Lyman to speak. Her red hair was piled and pinned on top of her head, her blue taffeta dress immaculate."   
Study people and think how you would describe them. I write only period 1950s and older, nothing modern, there's plenty of that now. Some people I see in public are easy to imagine in a different time period and place. Some look like bad guys and some fit other characters we need for our stories. This is only one source, books are another.

Glenda: From the time you were a young boy, you’ve also had an interest in horses. You’ve also raised quarter horses. We can escape into our writing and we can escape into reading a book by another author. However; we also need a way to escape from books.  You also worked many years in law enforcement, which must be stressful. Are horses a way for you to escape in another way?
Monty:  I wish horses were one of those escapes, but we don't have them anymore. But, I will say that reading is still a major escape for me. Fortunately, or unfortunately(!), I have fairly wide interests. I claim to be a closet naval buff which resulted in my 2005 book, I Christen Thee Nebraska - The History of the USS Nebraska and Nebraska Related Naval Ships. Not all of my interests produce books and probably never will. I'm interested in U.S. war history, specifically, Civil War naval warfare, World War I fighter pilots and aircraft and Indian War cavalry. Other interests are Jack the Ripper (I own 30 books), miniature models, photography, 19th century architecture, dirt track auto racing and the old auto thrill shows, Husker football and Boston Red Sox baseball. I've also collected police badges and memorabilia for 40 years. I enjoy all of these things through reading and movies. Watching old movies is most likely my favorite escape.


What can I learn from Monty McCord in this interview? First I’ve learned that Monty is a conscientious author. He doesn’t cut corners, like doing a bit of research and filling in the rest. That happens more than I’d like to see. I’ve learned that Monty loves to bring history to life for us in both his fiction and non-fiction. The ability of a writer to bring information to life with a face, colorful environment, or whatever; is what can grab at the reader with that “oh, Lute Kinney reminds me of Jack Elam.” That puts a real picture in my mind, something identifiable.
Monty isn’t afraid to continue his research long past what may fit in his story, but make no mistake, that information may become part of another story or article. I never consider research as a waste of time.
Monty’s process and love for his topics make him a sought after and award winning author. I’d rather have Monty teach me through his work than to study a history textbook. The one exception being if I’m going to write about a period of history, then I need to research for myself.

Thank you Monty for sharing knowledge, interests and a desire to read your works and maybe develop a new interest through them, much the way you developed interest in westerns and law enforcement.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Interview with Mark Coker, CEO Smashwords Publishing

Ten years ago, Mark Coker co-authored a novel with his wife titled, Boob Tube.  It’s a roman a clef about the daytime television soap opera industry.  Despite representation from a top NY literary agency, publishers refused to publish the novel because previous soap opera-themed novels had performed poorly.

The experience helped Mark realize that publishers were unable, unwilling and disinterested to take a chance on every author.  He imagined hundreds of thousands of fellow aspiring authors whose dreams had also been crushed by a publisher’s unwillingness to take chance.

Mark decided to do something about it.  In early 2008, he launched Smashwords, a free ebook publishing and distribution platform that allows any writer in the world to self-publish an ebook at no cost.  Six years later, Smashwords has grown to become the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, delivering books to channels such as Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo, OverDrive and Baker & Taylor.  Smashwords had revenue in 2013 of more than $20 million, and about 85% of that went straight to Smashwords authors.  For two years running, Forbes Magazine has named Smashwords among its top 100 “Most Promising Startups.”  The company represents nearly 100,000 authors who have collectively published over 300,000 titles at Smashwords.  Some of these writers have achieved enormous commercial success. 

As CEO, Mark takes an active interest in helping other writers publish with success. He has published three books about ebook publishing best practices, including the Smashwords Style Guide, a step by step guide to formatting an ebook and preparing it for publication, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, which teaches writers how to promote their books for free; The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success which identifies the 30 best practices of the bestselling self-published authors. The three books have been downloaded over 600,000 times.  Mark also does speaking engagements. In other words Mark is a very busy man.

Glenda: Mark, thank you for fitting this interview into your schedule. I’ve briefly introduced the professional Mark Coker. However, the person often gets lost in their professional credits. What would you like to tell us about you and those around you?

Mark: About me:  I think about Smashwords almost 24 hours per day including my dream time.  It doesn’t feel like work.  It’s a passion.  I want to change the world of publishing one indie ebook at a time.  When people doubt me (and they have doubted me every step of the way), it just adds more fire to the passion.  Six years in, I still feel like we’re just getting started.  We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do for our authors.  When I’m not working, you’ll find me outside in my garden (I’ve got 30 tomato plants this year!), or enjoying my cats, fruit trees, chickens, pure-bred homing pigeons, or hiking, or hanging out with my wife.  About those around me:  Although Smashwords started as my crazy idea, it wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing staff of 22 book-loving professionals.  From engineering to author support and customer service and finance, Smashwords would be nothing without the team that makes it all work.  And we’d also be nothing without the 95,000 amazing writers and publishers who publish their books with Smashwords.  We exist to serve our authors and publishers.  We exist to make authors who work with us more successful than those who don’t.

Glenda: Jumping into a bit of nature versus nurture philosophy on writing, where do you see your voice would fit in that analysis and why?

Mark:  Prior to starting Smashwords, my prior startup was a technology public relations firm.  My job was to take really complicated technical products and tease out what those products meant to consumers, and then how to communicate that to journalists so they felt compelled to relay the communication in the form of press coverage.  What does the product do, why is it special and why should the consumer care?  I am not a technical person, but the experience helped me bridge the worlds of techies and normal consumers.  I know how to make complex things simple and accessible, and I’ve brought that to my writing about ebook publishing best practices.  I know how to teach anyone ebook publishing best practices, and I can do it without technobabble or jargon.  I know how to make smart writers into smart publishers.

Glenda: Who do you see as most influential to you as a person and a writer?

Mark:  As a person, it would be my mother.  She was an anti-war, free speech activist as a student at UC Berkeley in the 1960s.  She tells me she brought me to the demonstrations in utero and later in a stroller.  She’s a free thinker and very independent-minded, yet she also has incredible compassion for people everywhere.  Mention how young men and women are going off to war and it’ll bring instant tears to her eyes.  My mom taught me to be skeptical of the status quo. Just because someone in power tells you how something should be, doesn’t mean they’re right.  Sometimes you need to fight the power.  I’ve inherited this attitude.  Tell me I can’t do something and it makes me want to do it even more. 

In 2008, I don’t think anyone other than Dan Poytner believed that self-publishing was the future of publishing.  He believed it.  I believed it too.  People are now starting to come around to the view, but most people still don’t get it yet.  Even self-described indie authors don’t fully understand how they will not only inherit the future, they will shepherd it.  Their decisions will determine everything.    

As a writer, a few people have influenced my writing.  I learned I enjoyed writing in my college English class at UC Berkeley taught by professor Theo Theoharris when he gave us the freedom to write a paper about anything.  I wrote about the five most common positions for sex, based on Masters and Johnsons research.  That paper got me an A, my first A in English ever.  Later, in my first PR job, my boss Dave Murray and my supervisor Deborah Caldwell taught me to write with greater clarity, purpose and precision.  And boy, if you haven’t read Stephen King on Writing, you’re not as good of a writer as you could be.  When I was doing PR for McAfee Associates, the anti-virus software firm, their former CEO Bill Larson was an incredible writer and strategic thinker  he taught me how to use written communications to articulate strong visions, and how to communicate and demonstrate your execution on that vision.  When I was a blogger for VentureBeat, my editor Matt Marshall taught me more about the journalistic style of writing.  Though I think he would still cringe at the length of some of my blog posts for the Smashwords blog!  J

Glenda: Most people who start up a business have goals, but some go far beyond the scope of what they imagine. Did you have any idea that your efforts and those around you would become the powerhouse for self-publishing that it is today?

Mark:  “Smashwords as powerhouse” is a surprise, and frankly, although I appreciate that some in the industry view us that way, I still view us as the scrappy startup with something to prove.  I knew the world needed something like a Smashwords, but I’d done enough startups prior to this to know that great ideas are a dime a dozen, and to create something great you need good vision , great execution and a lot of funding, but above all you needed a healthy dose of luck and lucky timing.  I knew my business idea for Smashwords (we wanted to publish writers that publishers didn’t want to publish!) was crazy and would most likely fail, but I never once doubted the truth of my core believe that all writers deserve the right to published, all writers are special, all writers have something valuable to share with the world, and that if I could give all writers a chance, readers would identify the very best writers and catapult them to worldwide fame and recognition.  People ask me all the time what is our secret sauce?  It’s difficult to describe, but I can tell you the most important ingredient is my core belief that all writers are special and deserve to be published.  All writers deserve the chance to be judged by readers.  That belief is still blasphemy in many publishing circles, but it’s most important secret that explains why we do what we do, and unless a competitor truly feels it they can copy the outward-facing edges of what we do but they can’t copy the essential spirit that drives our engine.

Mark Coker blogs at and tweets @markcoker

I am over-the-hill admirer of Mark Coker’s vision for authors. It’s hard to think of what I put on paper as important, but those who write things now, will help shape the future of our world and of writing just as translating the Bible to English as in the King James Version in the 16th century, the same era that Shakespeare wrote his stage plays. Were they popular then, not so much as they are today. I’d like to be a bestselling author, but time will tell and my own efforts will determined. If not for people like Mark Coker with the vision to plow through the stubborn soil for the rest of many of us, and many a great writer, would never be read.

I highly recommend Mark’s books listed above: Smashword’s Style Guide, The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, and The Secrets to Ebook Publishing. They are free and I can tell you, they are extremely valuable for the self-publishing author looking to use a digital format.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Interview of Dennis Timothy author of Merry Hell

Dennis lives in the small town of Dodge, north of Lincoln, with a population between 600 and 700 people. He grew up in Nebraska and enjoys sports, gardening, photography, and of course writing.

Dennis Timothy started writing at least twenty years ago. His first works were published when a local paper asked him to do an editorial series.  From there the idea of publishing a monthly called Legendary Iron News, for collectors and restorers of antique farm equipment, flared a desire to write fiction.  One early short story, “Found Them“, was published in the e-magazine Golden Visions. Dennis has since published a book of short stories titled One Heartbeat Past Normal, a novel Merry Hell,  and is working on a series The Whiskey Scrolls he hopes to publish book one this year. The first two books listed above are available on Amazon and both rate five stars.  Dennis’ style contains unexpected twists and at times a nearly poetic pen. He brings the reader into his mind’s eye by using the skills all writers are taught, but not all achieve to the degree Dennis does.

Glenda: Dennis, your style is descriptive in a unique way that engages the reader in what I would define as often poetic. For example from One Heartbeat Past Normal, in your short story “Perspective”, you wrote the following; “I remember the sky then darkened for an instant, as if the sun decided to blink.” Simile is a great tool for writing, but not always in such a way that we can imagine so distinctly. Is there any other writer you consider a model to help find your own inner voice?

Dennis: This was a great catch on your part, Glenda. I turn to prose at some point in all of my writings. This is homage to John Gardner who wrote Grendel, which was the re-telling of the Beowulf legend from the monster’s point of view. The man was a genius at poetic descriptions, and was taken from us far too soon.

I also have a different style of rendering detail in my writing. I describe just enough of the scene for the reader to grasp what is happening, and allow the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. I don’t write a lot of detail unless it drives the story forward, at which point I use dialog to flesh out the finer points of a scene.

At one time I was a voracious reader; and now I find it difficult to find the time to read as much as I would like to.  C.S. Forester, Kenneth Robeson, Robert Heinlein, John Jakes, and Nelson DeMille have probably all had an influence on my writing style. Everyone who has read or reviewed my work usually has the same two comments - “quick paced”, and “it’s like watching a movie in your head”. This is the style I bring to my stories.

Glenda: Most of us, as authors, like to draw from our experiences and then add to these our imagination. You always have more to tell. What are some of the places or events in your life that you’ve drawn from for your stories?

Dennis: In my book Merry Hell, I explore what would happen if family and friends were suddenly trapped together because of a freak snow storm. The setting is rural, and the event is Christmas Dinner where all the characters think they be getting together for a short visit, and have their plans interrupted by Mother Nature.  The humorous family drama that ensues is drawn largely from my own experiences.  However, the idea for the story came from an acquaintance that had this very thing happen to them.

The inspiration for One Heartbeat Past Normal comes from a variety of sources.  I was raised in the country several miles south of Nebraska City.  My brothers and I walked over two miles to a one room country school house. As youngsters, every abandoned building, every odd shaped tree, every owl hoot became the basis of a story we would tell each other as we walked to school. Also, south of Nebraska City are the Seven Sisters Hills.  Legend has it that about a century ago, a man went crazy and hung his seven sisters at seven separate hills.  This area is known for car problems, mysterious screams, ghostly encounters, and even stories of Big Foot.  This certainly influenced my imagination.

In so far as individual stories from One Heartbeat Past Normal, the story “Found Them” was a direct result of the Seven Sisters legend. “The Discovery in the Woods” came from a childhood story my father once told me. “The Brothers” was based on an actual event, as were “Hunting a Haunt” and “Home”.

Readers of One Heartbeat Past Normal will appreciate the variety of the stories. Many collections of short stories follow a formula or a common theme.  In this collection, the fifteen stories are completely different from each other. I build plot, character, and structure quickly; and I vary the perspective from first person to third person depending on the tale.

Glenda: I think the key of the previous question is imagination. From your own experience, do you feel imagination is something we either have or don’t, or is it something that is cultivated throughout life?

DennisI think it depends on the person. Obviously someone like Stephen King had an active imagination at an early age.  Frank McCourt didn’t write his first book Angela’s Ashes until he was 66.  I’ve known people with active imaginations that couldn’t commit one word to paper, and I’ve know those who had little if any imagination.

I consider it my great fortune that I was raised in a day and age without the electronic distractions of today. As a child, I used my imagination for entertainment. Also, my father was a great story teller.  I think it depends, in some part, on a genetic predisposition. My mother taught piano to a great many people, but I was her dismal failure. I have a nephew who at age six could play the piano as though he were classically trained. I think each of us just have different gifts and talents.

In my own writing discipline, I am constantly on the lookout for something unusual or interesting to write about. I’ll come home from work with my pockets stuffed with notes of things I’ve heard or thought about.  I also keep a digital recorder at my writing desk and make verbal notes of potential story lines or scenes I might one day use.

Glenda: You wrote a publication, Legendary Iron News, for people who like to restore old farm machinery. That’s a huge undertaking to target such a specific audience. You must have some interest and experience in refurbishing. Do you still publish that because of a personal interest and articles written by collectors and restorers? How did you go about promoting a publication? Is that any different from your promotional plan for your books?

Dennis: Wow. That’s a huge question - but I’ll do my best to keep the answer manageable. I had a business in which I did freelance graphic design and custom printing on caps, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and school apparel.  One day I was approached by a member of the Nebraska Antique Power Association. His name was Jerry Wymore, and he was interested in getting some apparel with the club’s logo.  As he and I visited, it became clear that a lot of what the club was restoring were the things we used on the farm as I was growing up. I didn’t consider them antiques at the time.

I met with the club, and discovered that there were very few sources who catered to the needs of these individuals.  I developed a line of t-shirts that featured old tractors and began to attend shows where collectors gathered. Then I developed a line of reprinted manuals that these people needed to understand their machinery.

The internet was not as active at that time. Collectors and sellers were limited to shows and magazine ads for the items they needed to restore this antique farm machinery.  That’s when I hit upon the idea of a “buy-sell-trade” publication that would bring all these people together, and help me sell my t-shirts and manuals.

I contacted some of the people I had met at these shows, and they were only too happy to share their knowledge of how things worked in yesteryear.  I had an individual, who called himself “The Tractor Doctor”, who would answer technical questions sent in by subscribers. Another gentleman, Menno Kleiwer, had lived through the depression while living in rural Nebraska, and had many stories to share. I had several regular contributors who shared their experiences of acquiring and restoring equipment.  And, I sold advertising on the back pages of the publication.  I printed two hundred of the first issue, took them to the National Antique Power Show, and passed them out for free. The back page had a subscription order, and the rest was history. 

I became the editor and smoothed out the rough edges of the stories people sent me. I also had a monthly editorial column that I hope people enjoyed. I would comment of the current state of collecting, agriculture in general, and blended the two with my own brand of humor. The publication almost grew beyond me.  I think I had subscribers from thirty of the forty-eight contiguous states. It was a lot of work pasting it up each month, getting it printed, and mailing it out; but it was a lot of fun as well.

The age of my contributors, and the easy access to the internet finally brought an end to the publication.  And any attempt to recreate such a paper probably couldn’t work today.

My current marketing plans for my books are pretty mundane. I use social media and word of mouth to generate sales.  I am gathering something of a hardcore fan base. This helps during those times when you are given to self-doubt (a trait shared by most authors.) I try to target groups on Goodreads, or social media, who would have a specific interest in my stories. The mass market is a myth, so today’s author has to ferret out the niche markets for his product.

My next story, The Whiskey Scrolls, is so epic and so well done that I will probably pitch it to a small press or independent publisher.  It deserves at least that much effort.  The story has been professionally proofed, and the cover art is complete. So, we’ll see where this adventure leads.

Dennis Timothy epitomizes the disciplined technical writer who crosses over to the fiction market in a way most of us only dream. I agree with Dennis that talent for writing comes in many different ways. Some fiction writers develop their imagination, or it was cultivated by parents or teachers such as Dennis’s father. Some are born with a vivid and sometimes disturbing imagination, but where would we be without them to make us jump when gripped by that moment when the story or a character turns.

I’ve said before that every interview I do with other writers is a learning curve for me. I relish the styles, personalities and processes. Most of all, through the progression of asking questions that are sometimes a bit much, I appreciate the willingness of someone like Dennis skillfully answering instead of requesting I break it down. He would have been right to do so. However, he so skillfully put the puzzle together so we could understand the entirety of his essay. There is no one particular way to write a story or a paper that surpasses another. There is the writer and their work the way they do it best.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Go Indie -- Discover Indie Authors. Hosted by Robert Stanek: Get Featured!

Go Indie -- Discover Indie Authors. Hosted by Robert Stanek: Get Featured!: Robert Stanek has featured more than 200 authors in the Go Indie blog. Share the love by featuring Robert Stanek and his books in your blo...


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Interview with Ugandan poet Denis Gadfly Muwoung:

Interview with poet Denis Gadfly Muwoung:

Denis Gadfly Muwoung from Kampala, Uganda is an avid writer of poetry, short stories and essays. His poetry reflects a sensitive spirit aware and participating in his world. Denis, a practicing Christian, states his political view in line with Jesus commandment “Love Thy Neighbor.”  Denis’ writing strikes me as honest and pertinent to his relationships and views of the world. Much of his work is autobiographical.  His writing is a historically relevant record of his family, life and culture. That said, I’ve only read Denis’ writing on Facebook and hope he will publish a collection one day.

Glenda: Denis, if there is one thing I’ve noticed about your poetry; it’s that it brings out discussion. You express your thoughts, family and often culture and beliefs seemingly without worry of what others may think. What do you believe gets the most discussion from you poems?

Denis: It depends on the current affairs....if there is a rape case somewhere, a corruption scandal a cold in blood murder case etc, and you write about , people will greatly write current affairs dictate the discussions of the day.
I love writing about African culture to portray how it can cope with globalization, i love to show how we love, how we live and all that, but still current affairs always tend to over write all this.

Glenda: Uganda is bordered by countries that are often in upheaval and from what I understand are primarily Muslim. Does this prove as a problem for Christians in your area? How much do you feel the unrest may spill over into your beloved homeland?

Denis: Uganda has both Muslims and Christians. During the colonialism time when Christianity came in, we had wars...especially in Buganda....people learnt from those wars that its useful to fight religious wars...they can debate and argue and sometimes get rough but not serious for the neighboring countries, it’s just Sudan that has many Muslims, but they have been too busy fighting racial wars, to even notice that they have religions.

Glenda:  The following is one of your poems that I feel shows the depth of your understanding of the need for love and the need to fulfill love for others which follows your philosophy.

October 16, 2013 at 7:52am
He has an acrid body odor
that’s so pungent that it
makes a skunk’s friendlier;

The look on his face
would make a mirror break
if he ever looked into it;

When he tries to talk
he roars and makes all
hearts to skip bits;

And yet with all this
this here beauty-fool
eloped with that beast;

Sometimes things happen
for reasons that onlookers
can never ever as certain;
   Denis Gadfly Muwoung

There was a time, before television and internet when poetry and story-telling served as time honored forms of communication and speaking to the hearts of others. Do you feel poetry like the one above, if shared more often, would have a positive effect on people as a whole, or does it fall flat for too many who simply don’t care?

Denis:  Poetry can have a lot of impact. Everyone loves poetry but they just don’t know it. Music is poetry too, and many love it. People always talk their way into other people hearts, and they scold them cold when irked...all that is poetry...If written in a rich but simplest of form, I believe that everyone can not only enjoy it but also learn from it.




October 16, 2013 at 7:49am

Every civilization has had
Their set of touching stories
That talk of human beings
Ranging from villains to
Heroes that turned into gods;

Our ancestors of old that
Did many a thing that
Left an indelible mark                                                                     
In our lives are numerous
In this here earth we walk;

There was this prince that was
Expected to arrive on a white horse
With a risen sword to save
An abducted beautiful princess
But all in most painful of vain;

Valhalla was a place where
Heroes lived with gods
And they used the stars
To map out destinies of mortals
So that they can read them;

Apollo the god of the sun
Protected the Greeks
From the most formidable
Of foes that they ever had
For a gazillions of years;

Kibuuka the Ganda war god
Gipiri and Labongo the Luos
Are among the heathen
Men of oldthat need
No explanation to any one;

When our story is written
People of generations to come
will be very heart broken
and no kind of glue will ever
patch their hearts up;

 As I stated earlier much of your poetry seems philosophical, how we affect the world and how the world we live in touches our lives. Would you mind telling me and my readers how poems like the one above present a message that you would like to pass down to your children and grandchildren?

Denis: Our Really Ill Legacy, is a poem that shows that all the people that walk the world have their sets of beliefs....yet despite the differences, they all have stories which talk about good being rewarded, or good men becoming gods, or good winning over’s one that has to show that there has never been and there will never be room for evil in society, despite the differences in beliefs.

It strikes me how similar we are as people. We have crime and honor, love and hate, Christianity and Muslim, wars and peace, crime and justice much the same as our friends half way around the globe. It doesn’t matter how far Denis may live, He is still my neighbor. I share Denis Biblical philosophy of “Love thy neighbor.” I wait for the day when Denis decides to publish a collection of his poetry.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Inspiring Interview with author Barb Franze

Barb Franzen can make a day smile. I don’t know how she does it, but just the thought of chatting with her or getting an email can lift my spirits. I met her when she joined the Nebraska Writer’s Guild. When I say met, I don’t mean face to face. I met her through an online message service the NWG uses. Her perceived demeanor with her photo gives me the image of a woman of peace and joy.
She had not yet told me much about her life outside our mutual love of writing. When I read her biography, I found an impressive professional history. She’s been a therapist, particularly for women, speaker and more.
However; with all that, exchanging emails, I know that Barb has overcome more than most of us and persevered to make life changing decisions that make her the wonderful person I’m getting to know.
Now, Barb is releasing her book The Rag Princess. I'm not able to upload the cover image of the book as it is still not released.  

Glenda: Barb, we all have things from our past that shape us. Most of us don’t like to talk about some of that and I respect that. Without revealing anything that makes you uncomfortable, can you give us an idea what changed in your life into a winning story?

Barb: Glenda, when you ask about turning my life into a winning story, I assume you are speaking of my mother's death by overdose when I was sixteen. I have sought help over time as this was a heavy tragedy leaving me with PTSD. I would never want to fool people by saying that it was easy for me, as I faced many symptoms such as anxiety and depression. That said, I will share the reasons I have had at least a moderately successful life as a college graduate, a wife, mother, child therapist, and writer who now battles multiple sclerosis.

 My early childhood was extremely disruptive as I never knew when or if Mother would take her life. I knew she might because she was one to verbalize her moods and depressions, I, the youngest of four, in an affluent family, was her caretaker. People on the outside had no idea how disruptive our world was inside the closed doors of our new ranch house. We were the good looking family who was anything but. Two things that I had going for me were my mother's love and her belief in my talents. As one who acknowledged her problems, I had some insight into her illness. Likewise, she spent time coaching me for acting and singing. At fifteen I delighted her by being chosen as a Nebraska All- State soloist. Unlike some of my siblings, my disposition made her able to show me love-She had a vicarious relationship with me. On the other hand, I lived two lives-her illness and my own disruption as a result. I failed in school and was always in trouble. As an eighth grader, I made a pact with myself.

 I spent a summer planning how I would turn me around. I went from C's and D's to being an honor roll student, Homecoming Queen, paper editor, etc. The most difficult part of that was knowing that if I succeeded, I would be abandoning my mother. At least I saw it that way. Incidentally, she was brilliant-class president, top graduated, etc. who came out of an orphan setting, having lost her mother to the 1919 flu epidemic and her father to another wife. (He was married to two women at once-Her parents moved about the country as Volunteers of America-street corner evangelists. Mom was adopted and lived in the house that I showed on Google. -My father was successful at everything he touched-be it ranching, flying his own plane, racing cars, golf, etc. He was both loving and frightening- a good temper. (I made my eighth grade transition successfully.)

This leads to a second component. I have been told that I have incredible resilience. I am ambivalent regarding that concept. Children drain themselves by reaching too deeply with-in to survive. My resource was elderly people. I had very poor friends who did chores for old women. I would go along, but while they went to the basement to scoop coal, I sat by the warm stoves of the old ladies and ate their cookies and visited. It was my respite. I knew everyone in my small town and was a bit of a parasite feeding off of their nurturing qualities. Also, I had a marvelous imagination living on the prairie. I spent hours in my playhouse up in the barn or hiking to the Platte or to the Sand-hills behind our home.. Mother called me her cock-eyed optimist— one who drove my family nutty with my "happy endings" attitude and insistence. My father told me that I was the only one of four whose will he couldn't break. . 

Though I didn't come from a religious family, I believed in God and he was my biggest source of strength. I had a prayer above my bed. I would give anything to have my innocent faith back. Mother told me to marry a man whose family went to church, a man who would be good to me, a man who took time out for coffee breaks, etc. I followed that advice and got more than I deserve. I am blessed with a wonderful and supportive husband. Our son has his temperament.  Finally, I told myself that I had a choice of either giving up or deciding to live life. I chose life with the same amount of energy that Mom put into death. If nothing else, I wanted to be a contribution for her-something good that she added to this world. Her grief and despair were real and she tried everything to get better.

Glenda: In The Rag Princess you drew from your experience counseling women. The girl Celeste is abused emotionally, physically and sexually by the people around her she should be able to trust. It must take a particular strength to counsel women of abuse, but writing about something, for me anyway, makes it even more real. You chose to turn Celeste’s life into a fantasy of sorts. Did that help you deal with the subject matter?

Barb: Glenda, you mentioned working with those who have been abused. As a therapist I saw some horrible, unbelievable things happen to children.  Unlike Celeste, who has a chance to heal, these children had no outs. Some were from high class affluent families, while others lived with poverty.  I've met people who have a hard time believing that someone like Sylvie, a wealthy socialite, and the antagonist in my book, would be capable of heinous acts of abuse. We delude ourselves by believing this. Unfortunately, these kids are less apt to be protected or reported.

   In working with abused victims, the pain was there, but distanced. If therapists felt everything, the job would be impossible. One morning while working, I woke up from a dream where I had tears running down my face and was telling the supervisor that I couldn't take the agony of these kids any longer. I honestly didn't know that all of this was being bottled inside. As a child myself, I had to learn to dissociate and remove myself from the unbearable. As a caretaker of crisis, I learned my role very well. I got an award from Lincoln General while doing volunteer work with emergencies.

Until I wrote The Rag Princes I would start a book about a child and stop just when the plot thickened. Writing doesn't allow me to distance from a character's emotions or struggles. To write well, is to delve into our characters. We must walk in their bodies and listen to them. In the scene when the pastor grooms Celeste as his victim, I wrote that over and over, trying to figure out what would happen. I was never satisfied as it sounded too planned, too unnatural. One night I opened up a file on my computer and began reading. It was a grooming /molestation scene I'd written!  It fit perfectly. A friend of mine had to put the book down before reading that part. In writing that scene, I had to enter it and then forget about it.

   Celeste's imagination helped me make it through writing this book. Her imagination is wonderful and helps her to cope. For example, she makes up an imaginary friend, an older woman who bakes with her and does other sweet activities with Celeste.  Writing those scenes, gave me a break. Her imagination gave both of us hope about what would happen to her. I also used humor, the best medicine there is.Whoever reads The Rag Princess will be soothed with laughter. They must read about the gum popping waitress and her black hairnet.
I could say more, but I think and hope this answers your question.

Glenda: I think it’s interesting that you chose to help Celeste change her view of life through romance. Many women never heal to the point of trusting anyone with that kind of love again. How do you see The Rag Princess as a way to help women to find that hope again.

Barb: Glenda, you asked about Celeste and my use of romance as related to her healing and being able to trust men.

First, I want to say a word about abused women-those who were abused by a man. The women I worked with almost always had a man. As children they learned to succumb to men. It wasn't that they trusted them. Instead the abuser lowered their self-esteem and made them think they were incompetent. In a very dysfunctional manner, Abusers teach the child not to rely on themselves, and to allow another to control their life. Imagine being beaten and told "You deserve this." The woman grows up and finds a man who beats her, giving her what she "deserves" or "asked for." They lean towards the familiar. It offers them what they know and it also fits the image they have of themselves...but it isn't a form of healthy trust.

Celeste's childhood sets her apart. She had her father, a trustworthy, caring man. A firm foundation had been established by the time she was taken from the farm. Those with solid beginnings do better under adversarial conditions, although she suffered a great deal. Another factor that worked this story into a romance-was that she knew Will from the past. In fact, her childhood was spent on his father's farm with his sister being her best friend. Will was always with her during the years she suffered while living with her aunt. I don't want to give the story away, so I won't reveal any more-except to say that the love story is delightful. Anyone who has read about Will adores him. He's has a great sense of humor and prior to Celeste, he was a ladies man. As children he was her nemesis...a "cocky tease."I am going to say that other than Will, she fears relationships. In my own life, my husband was the only man I felt comfortable with and trusted. Trust is an interesting topic. For me, it's easy to trust too quickly, before carefully looking beyond the surface of others.

I want to add that the church in the country remains significant to Celeste. It's the church her parents attended. She compares her God, to Pastor's awful God, and believes they aren't the same entity.

Glenda: Barb I have one last question. Can you compare the Barb of today to the Barb who suffered so much in her youth? What makes you Barb that to me and others can make a day smile?

Barb: About making a day sunny for others, I am not so sure I do! 

Let me start by saying that when I was a child, I played the role of comedian. In troubled families, each child plays a different role-each role having a purpose. Mine was to be funny and dumb-I would purposely mispronounce a word for a laugh. I called Hazel Bishop-Hazel Bishop. I entertained people by crossing my eyes! On the other hand I did and still do see a great deal of humor in daily living. If you read my book, you will pick up on this when you read the humorous vignettes.

I would be a comedian if given the chance.
It is my writing that makes a day smile...Not me. A friend who read my writing, in the beginning, felt it was a little like reading Bess Streeter Aldrich. I got one of her books and saw that she also had a character named Will. Later on, I placed in the Bess Streeter Aldrich contest. In the story that I entered, a woman loses the urn with her husband’s ashes and thinks she sold them at her garage sale. Four women frantically search for them only to discover they are still on the mantle. Their friend is getting Alzheimer.

The biggest difference between the child me and the adult CHILD me, is that I don't carry the worries I once did. Those are over. My biggest worry is on game days when I want things to go my son’s way. He's a head football coach, endearing and caring, while I am still the "worry wart mother." Like all of us, I have my own arena of issues.  I brood, lecture my husband, tire of his lectures, wish something’s life were different, obsess over my clothes. Tire of my wrinkles...but overall, I love this world and life. My joy is expressed in my blogs. Thank you for this opportunity, Glenda. Your interviews are fun and fascinating-both doing on and reading those of others. I have enjoyed working with you.

I told Barb, she must accept the compliment that she can make a day smile. Of course, it’s up to her if she owns it or not. I believe for me she does. Barb is a unique story in herself, and I’m excited to read The Rag Princess. I think women of any background should read this interview and think about Barb’s ability to heal to a point. She confided in me that she was diagnosed with PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We hear that diagnosis a lot these days about soldiers returning home with either apparent injuries or non-apparent mental distress. However; many people suffer and it can return if triggered.

Barb, in this interview, has given a brief look into the path she used to heal herself to a point of loving and living life. I hope you enjoyed this interview and do get her book which is due to come out soon. It’s called The Rag Princess.