Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Storm - John M. Wills

My guest today is award-winning author John Wills. I have had the pleasure of editing his recent books, including this current release. I asked him what inspired him to write this book. Welcome, John.

Hi, Lorna. I wanted to let your readers know about my latest novel, The Storm. Here’s a brief synopsis: Anna’s life in the small town of Heavenly Harbor, Michigan, seems idyllic. Married ten years to her childhood sweetheart, Mark, she wants for nothing, except a baby. Unfortunately, her husband doesn’t share her enthusiasm. Anna has been secretly keeping a journal. She’s recorded her suspicions about Mark’s reluctance to share her dream and his possible infidelity. As she is about to confront him, lightning strikes, literally, causing her to lose her memory. The Storm will not only damage Anna physically, but possibly destroy her marriage as well—and Mark’s secret life is about to implode.
I was inspired to write this story because I’ve had people in my life who’ve suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ve witnessed the steady progression, sometimes developing slowly, however, it may also have a sudden onset. The destruction the malady causes is beyond description. After a while, the victim hardly realizes what is happening. Sadly, however, those close to the patients suffer immeasurably. Their once-vibrant loved one disappears before their eyes. In the final stages, it’s not unusual for the victim to be unable to recognize family and friends.

So, while I was pondering a story involving memory loss, I thought it would be interesting if it centered around a young person. Rather than Alzheimer’s, I thought an injury-induced case of amnesia would make for a compelling story. Thus, the making of Anna’s story began.

I did my research with respect to injuries resulting from lightning strikes—how they affect the physical and mental well-being. And I wanted the protagonist to be likeable, believable, and strong. Anna is that person, and her tenacity after her injury makes her character even more powerful. The injury transforms Anna’s character, once a one-dimensional teacher and wife, into a strong determined woman who knows what she wants and how to get it.

Of course, what would a story be without at least one antagonist readers dislike right from the beginning? We have such a character in Vicky, a personal trainer at the local health club. Her chicanery and outright lack of morals wreaks havoc upon Anna’s marriage. Add to the mix a couple of great cops, and the recipe for a great novel is ready to serve.

Early reviews have been outstanding and I look for more to be posted. Now excuse me as I need to start the wheels turning and come up with a tale for my next book.

Thanks, Lorna, for allowing me to introduce my newest novel—The Storm.

John M. Wills is a former Chicago police officer and retired FBI agent. He is a freelance writer and award-winning author in a variety of genres, including novels, short stories and poetry. He has published more than 150 articles relating to officer training, street survival, fitness and ethics. John also writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. His book, Women Warriors, is available online and at the National Law Enforcement Memorial Gift Shop in Washington, D.C. John’s books include The Year Without Christmas: A Novel, Healer, and Dancer. Visit John at: https://jwillsbooks.com/.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Oak Tree Authors Cook!

Thanks to Jackie Taylor Zortman for blogging on this subject. https://jtzortman.wordpress.com/ 

I used much of her blog to create this one. I appreciate her efforts as well as her contribution to the book itself.

A few years ago, fellow Oak Tree Press author, Ilene Schneider,  suggested an authors' cookbook to feature recipes from our books. She compiled the recipes, and I edited and formatted the manuscript, but other projects got in the way. Recently, Ilene I decided to resurrect the cookbook. It is now available in two editions. One features a full color interior and sells as a paperback SPECIAL EDITION for $24.99. The second has a black and white interior. It sells for $14.99.  Both are available at http://www.amazon.com. Both are 6×9 trade paperbacks.
otp-cookbook-ebook-coverThe gorgeous artwork for the cover is an original pastel painting called "Wine and Cheese" by author Mary Montague Sikes.  The following authors contributed recipes Amy Bennett, Holli Castillo, Lorna Collins, Lesley A. Diehl, Michael Eldridge, Nicola Furlong, J. L. (Janet) Greger, Shirley Skufca Hickman, Ann K. Howley, Marilyn Levinson, J. R. (John) Lindermuth, Nancy LiPetri, F. M. (Marilyn) Meredith, Sharon Arthur Moore, Radine Trees Nehring, Carolyn Niethammer, Eileen Obser, Beryl Reichenberg, Tanis Rush, Ilene Schneider, Anne Schroeder, Mary Montague Sikes,  Denise Weeks, Robert Weibenzahl, John R. Wills and Jackie Taylor Zortman.
The Amazon description  of the book is: ” Not only are the
Back Cover of OTP Authors Cookbook
Back Cover of OTP Authors Cookbook
Oak Tree Press authors wonderful writers, they are also great cooks.  Meals often appear in their books.  This cookbook assembles the best of their recipes along with author profiles and a bit about their books.  Special thanks for the owner of Oak Tree Press, Billie Johnson, for her support and encouragement.”
Books make wonderful holiday gifts. Consider them for hostess gifts and for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah presents.  Please keep all our books, including this one, in mind as you prepare your holiday gift list.  Buy a copy for yourself, and wrap copies to give to someone who likes to cook or who just loves books.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

About Ichabod Wolfe

Today my guest is Frank Fiordalisi, the author of Ichabod Wolfe. I asked Frank to share his inspiration for his debut novel, Ichabod Wolfe. Welcome, Frank.

Writing Ichabod Wolfe

American history fascinates me. The most critical times in bygone days serve as signposts and testament to the courage and character of our nation. The Civil War may have started when Fort Sumter was fired upon in 1861, but war began years before. The rapid westward expansion of the country had a monumental effect upon the politics of slavery and states’ rights. While policies were argued in Congress, guerilla-style battles raged between slave and free states. The Kansas-Missouri border conflict became the prelude to the War Between the States. Actions taken by passionate men resulted in what historians refer to as “Bleeding Kansas.”

Ichabod Wolfe is set in those times. The exploits of men like William Quantrill, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, John Brown, and the Jayhawkers fill the pages of nonfiction and fiction alike. They tell of violent and often heroic deeds. But what was it like for the non-political farmers and shop keepers who wanted peace, security and better times for their children?

I didn’t sit down to write a “western novel.” Rather, I began to write a fictional story of a thirteen-year-old orphan who happened to live in Kansas in 1860. Ichabod Wolfe led me farther west, and the story became a western. The protagonist’s decision to follow the Santa Fe Trail in order to seek his fortune caused me to doubt his wisdom. However, like a pair of new Levis, it became more comfortable in time. Ichabod Wolfe is a story of success in violent times, rather than heroics.

Nothing changes with the passage of time. The same emotions and needs drive us now as they did our ancestors. We all desire success, recognition, someone to love, and for love to be returned. We all live with failures, regrets, guilt, and rejection, as did Ichabod Wolfe. He was a good man living in violent times. That is who he was and that is how I tried to tell his story.
Frank Fiordalisi was born in NYC and attended St. John’s University where he received a B.S. degree in Pharmacy. After teaching high school science, he returned to the practice of retail pharmacy. He later moved to Miami, Florida and joined the Miami-Dade County Police Department, where he served in a number of assignments, retiring as a Detective Sergeant after twenty-nine years of service. He has a daughter, Jacqueline, and a son, Francis. He currently lives with his wife, Christine, in Gainesville, Florida.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Good Old Days?

Today I welcome my friend and fellow author, J. L. Greger to tell you about her inspiration for her new book, The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories. I had the privilege of editing this one, and I loved her tales.

Intertwining Facts, Memories, and Imagination to Create Fiction

After I read several nauseatingly glowing accounts of the “good old days,” I asked friends about their memories of their childhoods and teen years. Then I began to write short stories and published fourteen of them in The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories.

Memories need to be supplemented with facts. Although I took copious notes as friends spoke of their past, key details, necessary to make the tales believable, were missing or garbled. I found these details were “hooks” to readers. For example, in the story, “Dirty Dave,” I mentioned the nested Pyrex mixing bowls in yellow, green, red, and blue. Several readers noted I’d gotten the sizes right. The yellow bowl was the largest; the green was the next size. I was glad I had researched the subject. (By the way, these vintage sets often sell for over $100 on eBay. I’ve seen them sell for more at antique shows in New England.)

Memoires help to create a mood. I wrote my stories in the idiosyncratic way of memoirs. Although my vignettes are fiction, the auras of my friends, but not their physical characteristics, are infused into my characters. Thus, some of the characters are playful, and others are cynical or grouchy. I modified the tenor of the stories by telling some of them from the point of view of a child and others from the perspective of an adult. A five-year-old’s view of department stores in the 1950s (e.g. The elevator operator wore gloves. Everything was fastidiously arranged by color in the Notions Department.) in “Questions” is funnier than an adult’s observations.

Memories are snapshots of history. My stories are snapshots of major historical events and societal problems during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Nostalgia is fine, but honesty about the past is important. One aspect of several of these vignettes—child abuse in so-called “nice” homes—is not funny. I hope these tales will encourage older readers to remember the past honestly and will let younger readers realize most social problems aren’t new.

Here’s the start of one tale. “How Old Is the Earth?” in The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories.

This story is based on reminiscences of a friend. He mentioned the Golden Book Encyclopedia, but couldn’t remember any particulars, as he told me about the limitations of his grade-school education. My research supplied all the details about this hot promotional item for A&P Stores in 1959 and 1960. The geological facts are also correct. However, the George in the story is fictional. My friend doesn’t look like George, isn’t a professor, and has never enjoyed a Friday afternoon on the patio of the Wisconsin Student Union. He does like a beer occasionally.

I hope you enjoy this intertwining of facts and memories in fiction.

How Old Is the Earth?

“You’re a scientist. How old is the earth?” My friend, an art professor, looked around the rather raucous crowd on the patio at the University of Wisconsin Student Union on a late summer afternoon. When he waved his tanned arm, I noticed thin, white scars crossed the back of his hand. “What do you think these students would say?”

“First off, I’m no geologist. I don’t know the current scientific estimate, probably several billion years.” I nodded at the students as I sipped my beer. “I doubt any of them could give you a better answer, even if they were sober.”

George pulled his hands through his longish gray hair and then stroked his much darker short beard. “Four and a half-billion years. The most painful and maybe most important fact I ever learned.”

I blinked. “Really? Somewhere in grade school, I accepted the earth had a long history, but I was never fascinated by paleontology or geology.”

“You’re not from a religious home.”

I frowned. “We went to church most Sundays.”

“I mean a home steeped in strict interpretations of the Bible.” He leaned back in his yellow, sunburst metal chair and chewed a handful of popcorn. “Did you know church leaders calculated the earth to be six thousand years old on the basis of the book of Genesis?”

I threw a couple of kernels to nearby birds. “You must really like the Discovery Channel and PBS nature specials. What got us on this line of conversation? I expected you to be reliving your years as a professor of photography this afternoon, one week before your official retirement.”

George took a long swig of his beer. “Today would have been Mum’s birthday. Made me think of the day I was most proud of her. She was your typical stay-at-home mother of the fifties. Well, except Pop was afraid other men would notice her. So, she wore her long dishwater blonde hair in braids wrapped around her head. She looked like a Norwegian immigrant just off the boat in the old daguerreotypes. Didn’t matter to us boys. We thought Mum was pretty.”

He gazed out over the lake for so long I interrupted his thoughts. “What did your mother do on this special day?”

“Be patient. I was remembering how it all began. Do you remember when A&P offered the Golden Book Encyclopedias as a sales incentive in fifty-nine and maybe sixty?”

I pushed my green starburst metal chair back. “Vaguely. I can’t remember the deal exactly. Let’s see...if you bought twenty dollars of groceries, you could purchase one of the volumes in the Golden Book Encyclopedia for an additional dollar or two. Every month, they offered another volume. I think there were…fifteen or sixteen volumes all together.”

George smiled. “Yeah, they had shiny covers in bright colors, not like the standard encyclopedias, World Book and Britannica, with their fake leather covers and gilt-edged pages. Okay, I’m ready to tell my story.”

For the rest of the story, read The Good Old Days? A Collection of Stories. Available at Amazon (paperback and Kindle): http://amzn.com/1537743813

J. L. Greger usually writes mysteries and thrillers with "sound bites" of science and travel: Murder… A Way to Lose Weight (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Assoc. [PSWA] annual contest and finalist for New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards) I Saw You in Beirut, Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA contest) Coming Flu, and Ignore the Pain.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Happiness Essentials

I just watched Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture video again, for at least the twentieth time. And I laughed—and cried—again. (It is the very best video I have ever seen, and if you haven’t watched it, do so now.)

Randy was a forty-seven-year-old professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he received the diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. The college had a tradition of inviting professors to give the lecture they would deliver if they knew it was the very last one they would ever give. In Randy’s case, it was in fact, his last lecture.

I was struck, once again, about the joy he exuded, even as he knew he was dying.
I’m a happy person. I grew up in a family of dour Scots, and I never felt I fit in. So I decided to share what I know about happiness.

Before we were married, my mother-in-love said something I’ve never forgotten. “No one else can make you happy. You have to decide to be happy.”

It is a personal decision. If you aren’t happy where you are, you can’t be happy anywhere. As Randy said, “I’m dying, and I’m happy.”

I begin each day with gratitude. After all, I woke up. Then I give thanks for my husband and family and friends. Then I sit up, stand up, and walk to the bathroom. And I give thanks because I slept without pain after months of constant pain from my knee. I can walk, and some of my friends can’t.

Throughout the day, I find small miracles to give thanks for. It makes a huge difference.

It is nearly impossible to feel sorry for myself if I’m helping others.

Years ago, a trend began based on this statement: Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Beauty. I had it on a sweatshirt and on the mug I kept on my desk at work. I still believe in making sneak attacks of kindness—especially when the recipient isn’t aware of the source. These acts bless the person receiving them, but provide far more blessings to the giver.

I have worked for a couple of companies, which closed. Everyone was to be laid off. But each morning, I smiled at everyone I greeted. After all, I cared for them and wanted to savor every minute we still had together. (This was in the days before Facebook, and when the doors closed, I feared we’d lose each other.)

One day I met one of our hardware engineers coming down the hall. I smiled and said, “Good morning.”

He stopped. “I look forward to seeing you every day because no matter how sad I am about what’s about to happen, your smile makes me feel better.”

He made my day.

We are now friends on Facebook—along with many others I worked with there. We still repeat the same old jokes, and I haven’t lost the friendship.

Remember to smile. It can make someone’s day.

Anger takes energy. Life is short. The best way to defeat your ‘enemies’ is to make them your friends.

One of the takeaways from the video is this: Never give up on people. Just be patient, and they will surprise you. It’s something I sometimes have to remind myself. But I rarely give up on people. I sometimes have to distance myself from them if they are toxic, but I stay in touch. I keep waiting for them to change. Sometimes I’m the one who needed to change. And there’s another lesson.

You, too can be happy. Make up your mind to be thankful today, and tomorrow, and the next day. See if it doesn’t make a difference.

Don’t wait to be asked for help. See the need, and respond.


And watch the video again.

What are your secrets to happiness?

Monday, September 19, 2016

My dear friend and one of my favorite authors, Marilyn Meredith, is launching the next book in her Detective Tempe Crabtree mystery series, Seldom Traveled. Detective Crabtree is one of my favorite characters, and I love this series. Tempe is a Native American. This is one of the reasons I’m fascinated by her. For this post, I asked Marilyn to tell us a bit about the real reservation and the Tule River Indians who live near her. Marilyn and I met at a conference ten years ago and have remained friends since then.
What Eagle Mountain Casino has done for the Tule River Indians

Lorna asked me to write about how the casino on the reservation has changed the lives of the Indians who live there. For those of you who might not know, the Yokut Indians and others who live on the reservation have been the models for the Indians in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books.

The reservation was established in 1873 and covers 85 square miles of rugged foothill and mountains of the Sierra. Where the residents live, work and play is in a narrow valley. Though picturesque, for many years, life was hard. There was no electricity until the 1960s, and no jobs. The only employment available was in nearby Porterville which had to be accessed by a vehicle—and not many jobs were available to Indians.

In 1996, Eagle Mountain Casino was established. Along with the casino came many jobs, not only for Indians but also for people from the nearby area. Revenue from the casino made it possible for many new developments like a Health Center, Child Care Center, Education Department, a new Fire and Police Department, and more.

Eagle Feather, a gas station and large convenience store was built on Highway 190, along with a large automotive shop to maintain the casino buses. Eagle Feather 2 is located halfway between Porterville and the Pacific Coast.

The Tule River Aero Industries is located at the Porterville Airport and does major engine and airframe repair and has a sales department. The tribe also has a print shop, and owns and operates the Oak Pit Steakhouse in Porterville.

The tribe generously contributes to many different local charities and youth groups.

Though life may still not be perfect on the reservation, the casino has definitely made major improvements not only for the Indians but also for all of us who live nearby.

Seldom Traveled
The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Buy directly from the publisher in all different formats:

Marilyn Meredith has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.

New Contest:
Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Indelible Memories

Some events burned themselves indelibly in my memory. The day my father died when I was seven. The day President John F. Kennedy died. And 9-11-2001.

I remember every minute, how I felt, what I said and did. Mostly I remember how helpless and confused I felt. The reality was simply too overwhelming to comprehend.

February 16, 1954
I got off the school bus and saw cars parked in our driveway and in front of the house. I recognized some, but others were strange. I walked inside, the rooms were filled, and the blinds were drawn. This had never happened before. The greatest surprise was seeing my paternal grandfather with his arm around my mother. As a rule, they avoided each other.

Mom said my dad was dead. I couldn’t grasp what it meant, and part of me didn’t believe it. Except Mom was crying. My aunts were crying. Heck, even Grandpa was crying. I decided I should cry, too, so I did. It took a long time to accept the reality of his loss.

November 22, 1963
The PA system crackled at lunchtime one day during my senior year of high school. This never happened. Gilbert Strother, our principal, announced the president had been shot in Dallas. I don’t remember what else he said, but we simply couldn’t believe the news.

JFK was “our” president. Even though he was the same age as my mother, he represented youth and change.

We had just returned to class when the PA came on again. Mr. Strother’s voice broke as he announced the death of our president. Nearly everyone began to sob. I think a couple of girls screamed. Classes were shortened for the day.

When I returned home, Larry was there already. He had heard in class at Cal Poly Pomona, where he was a student. They had cancelled classes. We turned on the TV and began the marathon coverage of the funeral and burial. Grief engulfed the nation.

September 11, 2001
We woke early as usual since we both kept early hours. We turned on the TV to get the weather and traffic report. I had taken the day off because we were expecting the contractor to do repairs following an earlier water leak.

Just as the TV came on, the scene switched from the local feed to the New York coverage with the announcement of a plane crashing into a World Trade Center tower. Smoke billowed from the building, shown behind the network anchors. As we—and they—watched, a second plane hit the other tower.

I immediately turned to Larry. “We’re at war.”

At the time, no one knew exactly who was responsible or why. Larry left for work and I continued to watch the live coverage. I saw the emergency responders arrive, and experienced sheer horror as the towers collapsed. Iconic clips played and replayed throughout the day. Added to the footage from Manhattan, the feeds from the Pentagon were added, including a live audio report from inside the building as the plane hit. More and more reports came in, some accurate, and some speculative.

Unreality overwhelmed the country. During the next few days, just like in the days following JFK’s assassination, the news coverage was unrelenting. And our country stood together.

Like all our neighbors and most of our friends, we flew our flag for days, beginning on September 11. Our old flag finally shredded, and we bought a new one.

The flag flies again today as it did fifteen years ago. These memories do not diminish over time. They are still too raw and too real. What do you remember this viscerally?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Small Blessings

This morning I have been thinking about small blessings. These are the ones I receive every day and often don’t notice.

I woke up this morning. In itself, this is a blessing. I get another day. Another day with Larry. Another day to live in this glorious place. More of my friends are taken as time goes on, but I am still here. So what if I have a cough? So what if I don’t feel 100%? I’m awake and alive.

I rolled out of bed and stood up. What a gift. I often think about my friend Renee. She is paralyzed and can’t turn herself over without help. She needs assistance to sit up, move, dress, do her morning routine, and everything else in her life. She is not my only friend with physical disabilities. I’m grateful to be able to stand and brush my teeth and shower and dress by myself.

I took a hot shower. I have been grateful for hot running water for many years. I relish standing beneath the stream as I wake up and begin my day. When I think about it, a hot shower truly is a miracle.

I live in a place where many people pay a great deal to visit. We get to be here every day. The weather is close to perfect, and we truly enjoy it. Whenever we are at the marina, we remind ourselves of the gift of living in this special place.

We own a terrific house, one we never in our wildest dreams imagined we’d ever live in, much less own. It is big enough to share with others. Our daughter and my mother have both lived here. We have hosted several foreign students, and have housed various others over the years. We still love hosting company.

We are retired and, unlike so many of our friends, can afford to live in the same manner as we did when we were working at our careers. We have a second career as authors, and other people seem to enjoy our books. I have a third career as an editor. I’m busier than I would really like to be at this time in my life, but I’m grateful for a functioning brain and the ability to contribute to others.
The greatest blessing in my life is Larry. We dated for the first time when I was fourteen. I was crazy about him, and a few years later, he decided we should be together. We just celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. We still have fun together, and he still makes me laugh.

The secondary blessing is our daughter, Kimberly. She brings us such joy, and we are proud of the adult she has become.

Sometimes I forget how truly blessed I am. Then I look around and realize all the wonderful things in my life. How could I not feel blessed?