Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Blackbirds First Flight on sale now!

Blackbirds First Flight is officially on sale now! This brand new anthology features dark, twisty short stories and poems from Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Jean Schara, and Tamara Siler Jones. 

To buy the book from Lulu.com, go here: Blackbirds First FlightGet free mail shipping or 50% off ground shipping on your order by using coupon code: GMF14. (Offer ends Oct. 6 at 11:59 PM. Offer cannot be combined with other offers.)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pre-release sale!


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Festival this Thursday!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall Book & Author Festival slated for Thursday

ADA – Ada Writers Second Annual Fall Book and Author Festival will be Thursday, Sept. 18, 4:30-6:30 p.m. hosted by Karen’s Art and Farming, 108 East Main. The festival will feature books by local authors and “Creations 2014,” the latest anthology by Ada Writers.

“This is our chance to show our appreciation for the support we’ve received from Ada and the surrounding area,” said Stephen B. Bagley, Ada Writers president. “We will have a limited number of signed copies of ‘Creations 2014’ available.”

The anthology features short stories, poems, memoirs, and more by members of Ada Writers, including Kelley Benson, Eric Collier, Stacey Foster, Gail Henderson, Mel Hutt, Sterling Jacobs, Ken Lewis, Rick Litchfield, Don Perry, Martha Rhynes, James Sanders, Anna Tynsky, Joanne Verbridge, Tim Wilson, Tom Yarbrough, and Loretta Yin. Unsigned copies are available for purchase on Lulu, Amazon, and other online retailers.

“We will also be featuring books from our members,” Bagley said. Among the books offered will be “Floozy & Other Stories,” “Tales from Bethlehem,” “Murder by Dewey Decimal,” and “Murder by the Acre” by Stephen B. Bagley; “On Target: Devotions for Modern Life” by Kelley Benson; “Montana Sunshine” by Arlee Fairbanks; “Red Bird Woman” by Gail Henderson; “Devoted to Creating” by Jen Nipps; “The War Bride,” “Secret of the Pack Rat’s Nest,” “Jack London,” and “How to Write Scary Stories” by Martha Rhynes; and “Tree Stand Scribbles” and “Treasures of the Kingdom” by Tom Yarbrough. “The books range from mysteries to romance to biography to inspirational and more,” said Bagley.

Several members of Ada Writers will read from the various Creations anthologies, and original music will be provided by member Anna Tynsky. “We will have refreshments, of course, and plenty of good conversations about books and writing, and a few surprises,” Bagley said.

Ada Writers has been helping local authors with their writing goals for more than 25 years. The group meets the second and fourth Saturday of each month in the upstairs meeting room at the Ada Public Library at 11 a.m. Meeting times may be changed to accommodate holidays and bad weather. The meetings feature writing programs and tips aimed at beginners, professionals, and all those in between. For more information about Ada Writers, visit their website at www.adawriters.blogspot.com.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

First paragraphs from Blackbirds First Flight

Heir to the Warrior Queen
By Wendy Blanton
I gripped the sword hilt in the pre-dawn gloom as I stood watch overlooking the sleeping village of Londinium. It wasn’t much of a village from what I had been able to see. Small, unprotected. Why would the Romans leave their trade center unprotected?
         A small scraping sound preceded warmth on my shoulders. My mother fastened the cloak under my chin and wrapped her arms around my shoulders. Her touch was the only one I could bear.
         "What are you still doing with that Roman sword, Scotta?"
         "I am going to kill Romans with it."

Robbing the House of Roche
By Kent Bass
He moved quickly through the crowded Parisian streets, keeping his head down, careful not to make eye contact with anyone, not to go any place familiar, not to give anyone a chance to recognize him. He knew he had to get out of the city and fast. He had hidden for two days and waited until tonight to come out. He had to be gone before the night ended.
         Etienne had always lived on the edge of society but always on the safe side of that edge. He never did anything that would draw attention to himself. He worked odd jobs and committed the occasional petty theft, but nothing serious.

Rage
By Gail Henderson
Nine o’clock.
         The book that had fascinated her at eight lay across her lap, face down, her hands rigid on its spine. Dark rage welled up inside her, filled her, and leaked out into the room, replacing wall-to-wall emptiness. With clenched teeth, she turned the book toward her face; her eyes straining to bring the words into focus, reading and re-reading the same paragraph, until, abruptly, she switched off the lamp next to her chair, placed the book on the end table, rose, and walked through the rage-dark room into the kitchen.
         She touched the light switch, illuminating a pan of cornbread and a pot roast cooling quietly on the stove and a few dirty dishes in the sink. Rage shrank back from her habit of orderliness. Rinsing out pans, wiping off counter tops already shiny dissipated her dark energy into apprehension. Nine o’clock was not so late. There might have been problems. Maybe a flat tire. He might not be able to call and tell her he was going to be late.
         What if there had been an accident?

Quin
By Jean Schara
Francois’s hand had been poised to open the door to his new employer when it opened, revealing a courtly gentleman decidedly out of place in this rundown industrial district.
         “Mr. Bergeron, I presume?” the man asked.
         “Yes. Please call me Francois.” He offered his hand for a hand-shake, hoping the gentleman would introduce himself, because he did not like being at a disadvantage.
         The man took his hand, guiding him into the building before releasing his grip and shutting the door behind them.

Grave Matters
By Stephen B. Bagley
The dead man on the blood-drenched bed had clearly seen better days. Justina Grave slowly approached the body. His heart had been cut out of his chest. Crow and raven feathers were scattered around the room along with other spell materials.
         “Charming,” she muttered. Her Nethersenses probed for signs of magic. She found many. Dark tendrils of energy hovered in the area, visible to any Mage. Something had fed on the victim’s life force and used that energy to power a spell.

Endorphins
By Tamara Siler Jones
Edyth stood in the shower, hot water thrumming on her aching head, the heat refusing to soothe her tortured soul. “I just can’t do this anymore,” she sighed through the steam. She scrubbed herself with a complete lack of enthusiasm, refusing to acknowledge her loose sagging stomach, her wide cellulite-dimpled thighs, jiggly arms, or her soft, jowly face. Still sighing, she finished her shower and turned off the heat.
          As Edyth toweled off, she told herself not to look in the mirror, but she sought out her shame anyway. She stared at her reflection, at the droops and rolls on the stranger staring back at her. The hideous person she had become gawked back, sickened disbelief carved into the fat. How did this happen? she asked herself. How did I become so ugly, so utterly repugnant? But maybe, just maybe, I’ve found a solution. Maybe my luck is about to change.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

An Unattended Death, Part Two

An Unattended Death, Part Two
By Stephen B. Bagley

I didn’t know Aaron Brody or his family so my involvement in his death should have ended there. They didn’t know me from Adam so it was a strange twist that I attended Aaron’s funeral.

Not that I really wanted to, but our sales manager, showing that compassion that made us call him Hitler behind his back, decided that the entire sales staff of the radio station should go. His reasoning: lots of our customers would be there so we should be in case any of them needed to discuss their advertising. No, I am not making that up.

Thus, I found myself in a car with three other salespeople. We enjoyed ourselves on the way to the funeral, comparing our sales manager to various animals. (He drove his BMW to the funeral.) The other three championed a skunk, but I happen to think skunks are fine animals, perhaps a little smelly, but they didn’t deserve to have our sales manager lumped with them.
Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral. Leon Brody was well known and well liked. I saw Simon Williams and several of my other clients. None of them, strangely enough, approached us to discuss advertising, a fact that Charlie, our morning DJ and afternoon salesperson, said he was going to make sure our manager knew.

Dozens of flower bouquets lined the front of the church. I counted at least a hundred different sprays. The florists in town were making money. I wondered if they gave a special discount on funerals ... And would it be too tacky to advertise it if they did? How could you word the radio spot so that it didn’t sound ghoulish and macabre? It’s an absolute joy to live inside my head sometimes.

“Wow,” Charlie breathed.

I looked and saw a young woman in an extremely short black dress walk by. Her hair was that bright blond that only comes from a bottle, and she was thin to the point of starvation. All in all, a hottie by the current accepted definition. (I, however, prefer women that don’t look like they would need anchors in a strong breeze.)

She sauntered down the aisle and sat in the pew reserved for family. After a few moments, one of the attendants hurried down the aisle to her, and there was a sharp whispered conversation. I couldn’t hear what was being said, other than a few words from the woman, and they weren’t words you’d want to repeat to your mama, depending on who your mama is, of course.

She got up, pushed past the attendant, and strode toward the door. She paused, then turned and looked at all of us already seated, and loudly said, “Take a picture. It’ll last longer.” With a contemptuous flip of her hair, she exited, leaving a lot of scandalized conversation behind her.

“Who was that?” Charlie asked, his eyes bright with excitement.

The lady in front of us turned and whispered, “His girlfriend.”

Charlie leaned forward, and he and the lady (using that term loosely) exchanged a few minutes of gossip. To hit the low points: the girlfriend’s name was Marlene Postwain, she was thought to have started Aaron on drugs, she had been arrested several times but let off because her uncle was a state senator, Aaron’s mother Margaret hated her, and all in all, she was basically naughty. Charlie and the woman had a good time. Nothing like gossip to liven a funeral.

A few minutes later, the family entered. Leon Brody looked terrible. He walked as if he would fall at any moment. Several friends hung close to him, but I never saw him let them help him. His haggard face would haunt me later. His wife Margaret was wearing a hat with a black veil, the only time I had ever seen that except on TV. About two dozen other people made up the rest of the family. I recognized a couple of them from events around town.

The funeral was fairly short. A prayer, a couple songs, the eulogy, another prayer, and it was over. Aaron didn’t leave people with much to say about him. As I stood in line to view the body, I wondered how he had managed to mess up his life so badly.

Aaron looked young and small in the coffin in a suit that seemed oversized. I turned and hurried out of the church.

Outside, the other radio station people and I stood around, waiting for the parking lot to thin out. Our car was blocked in. A lot of people were in the same situation so little knots of people talked and laughed. While the mood was somewhat somber, most seemed to treat it as an occasion to catch up with friends. Isn’t it strange that people can treat funerals like social events? Perhaps it is a comfort of some sort to renew our friendships, catch up on family news.

Charlie told our sales manager that we hadn’t sold any commercials. Our manager said, “I didn’t say we would. I said we had to be prepared to sell some.”

“We’re just like the Red Cross of the advertising industry,” Charlie deadpanned.

Our manager nodded as if that made perfect sense. His car was free so he left.

The family finally came out of the church. Margaret Brody stumbled on the steps, and Leon reached out to steady her. She jerked away from him and made her way to the car. He stood there for a moment in the harsh sunlight, looking at the crowd. For a weird moment, it seemed like our eyes met, and then I realized he was looking beyond me. I turned. A police car was parked across the street under a tree, Police Lieutenant Ron Sims leaning against the car. I looked back at Leon. He entered the family car. People formed the procession, turned on their headlights, and headed for the graveside service.

I knew Ron. He came to the station once a month to record public safety messages for the police department’s drug prevention program for kids. I had helped write a couple of spots for him and set him up in the recording studio. I started to go over to him, but he got into his car and left. He didn’t join the procession, instead turned and followed a little red car that had been parked on the other side of the parking lot. I stood there for a moment, shrugged, and went to our car.

That was that. Or it should have been. But not even two weeks later, I would be in the woods where Aaron was found, looking for clues like a real world version of Scooby-Doo and the gang, facing a gun.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book blurb!

Here's the book blurb for Blackbirds First Flight:

An unhappy wife can’t decide what to do about her boorish husband until an uneaten meal gives her a dark idea...
Something is raising zombies in Tulsa, and Justina Grave is the only one who can stop it...
When a fat farm promises to make Edyth thin again, her dream comes true. She will never be fat again—or safe...
Hopping a freight train can be a cheap way to travel. Unless you pick the wrong boxcar...
One kiss gives Francois immortality, but at a cost he doesn't see coming...
A woman warrior must choose her fate as the Romans ravage her land...
Stalked by terrible creatures seeking vengeance, a band of robbers runs for their lives in medieval France...

This anthology will lead you into dark, twisted places filled with mystery and delight. Enjoy thrilling stories and chilling poems by authors Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Tamara Siler Jones, and Jean Schara.

It goes on sale October 1st! Watch for it!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Coming October 1!

Friday, August 22, 2014

A new anthology!

MANY RIVERS HARBOR TO PUBLISH NEW ‘DARK’ ANTHOLOGY

ADA, OKLAHOMA—Many Rivers Harbor announces the publication of Blackbirds First Flight, an anthology of thrilling stories and chilling poems by new and established writers. The book will go on sale October 1, 2014, on Lulu.com and soon after on Amazon.com and other online retailers.

Blackbirds First Flight is an anthology of stories and poetry with a dark, sensual twist,” said Pru Simmons, MRH associate editor. “The stories run the gambit from thrilling Gothic adventure to modern urban fantasy to fantastic encounters with the macabre. The poetry is uniformly excellent and tells dark stories of its own, many related to mythology.”

Simmons said the book might become an annual anthology. “We have had many inquiries about the book and its theme,” she said. “We definitely think there is an interest in dark, twisty fantasy that tells a satisfying story and follows traditional narrative arcs. We hope there will be another flight next year.”

The book will retail for $12. For more information on Blackbirds First Flight, readers can visit blackbirdsflights.blogspot.com.

The book features works from Stephen B. Bagley, Kent Bass, Wendy Blanton, Gail Henderson, Tamara Siler Jones, and Jean Schara.

Stephen B. Bagley wrote Tales from BethlehemMurder by Dewey DecimalMurder by the AcreFloozy and Other Stories, and EndlesS. His works have appeared in Creations 2014Creations 2013Creations 2012ByLine MagazineFree StarNautilus MagazineOKMagazine, and other publications. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. He is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.

Kent Bass enjoys writing and reading Gothic action/adventure stories. He graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business and from the University of Oklahoma, with a Master of Science in Accountancy. He and his family live in Dallas, Texas, where he works for the nation’s leading tax software company. He is a member of Ada Writers. Blackbirds First Flight is his first publication.

Wendy Blanton published three fantasy novels, The Dragon’s LadyRogue Pawn, and Sword and Scabbard under the pen name Elizabeth Joy with co-author Scott Carman. She has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Business Management from the University of Mount Olive and served in active duty for the United States Air Force for eight years. She is an apprentice bard and tells Celtic folk tales at Scottish Highland Games and other venues.

Gail Henderson collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a book of poetry and photography. Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry, was published in 2013. Her work has appeared in Creations 2014Creations 2013Creations 2012, and ByLine Magazine. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.

Tamara Siler Jones is a wife, mom, writer, quilter, and cat-wrangler from rural Iowa. She has three novels in print/eBook (Ghosts in the Snow, winner of the Compton Crook Award for best first novel of the year in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre; Threads of Malice; and Valley of the Soul; all published by Bantam Books), two more books (Morgan’s Run and SPORE) being marketed in New York, three novels in progress, and a screenplay in first draft.

Jean Schara retired from a 28-year career in the United States Air Force in 2008 and took up residence in Texas. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland University College with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing and of the Troy State University with a Master of Science in Adult Education. She has had several book reviews published in the Air Power Journal and several articles published in Vision: A Resource for Writers.

ABOUT MANY RIVERS HARBOR

Many Rivers Harbors, a micropublishing company based in Oklahoma, is dedicated to helping authors publish and promote their books. For more information about MRH publications, visit MRH at manyriversharbor.blogspot.com or email at manyriversharbor@gmail.com.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Blackbirds

Blackbirds

In the end what we learned
was not what you taught
even though you warned
we would lose your love

You thought to teach us
fear of what was different
but we studied the strange
and accepted them unto us

You gave us prejudices of those
whose skin held different shades
but we married all colors
because we saw inside

You wanted us to worship
money and all it carries
but we left the good jobs
that ate away our souls

Your god wanted huge buildings
and self-serving prayers
but we met the God who created
an universe unbounded

In the end we lost your love
as you told us we would
but like a cloud of blackbirds
we had flown away years ago

Copyright 2014 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. No copying without express prior permission. Thank you for reading.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 27 photos

Went out driving today in the summer heat and took some photos.

Smith Lake in the background, of course.
Four fawns and a squirrel!
Lovely little creatures.
A painted rock by the side of the road.
Beautiful round bales.
A lovely field of grain.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Author Speaks: Laura Eckroat

This week we talk with children's author Laura Eckroat.


Laura Eckroat was born and raised in Whiting, Indiana. She has lived in Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, and now lives in Fort Worth, Texas. She is married to Steven and has a daughter named Ashley. She also has a one-year old Anatolian Shepherd named Muffin, who was rescued by the Eckroats when she was 12 weeks old.

Laura is certified in Special Education and is an elementary school teacher. She teaches and volunteers at the Fort Worth Nature Center using her books to teach children about the beauty and wonder of nature; her workshops also teach children how to start a Science journal. She previously was a human resources manager and the general manager of an educational toy store. She is also a Chicago Bears football fan -- and will always be. Even though Dallas Cowboy Fans try to convert her!

1. Tell us how The Life of Bud,  your first book, came to be.
 After 10 years of working on this book, Bud was born. For the longest time, the name of the book was Bud, The Littlest Leaf. I could never figure out how to finish the book or figure out really what I wanted to say to pull it together. After going through a tough time after my dad passed away, the book came into full focus and I could see the whole book in my head. I worked for about four hours to finish the book. The book follows Bud, who is the bud of an oak tree, through his life, through the seasons. He sees amazing things, makes wonderful memories, is hurt and scared. This book is a great way to teach young readers about the life cycle and can also be used to gently talk to children and adults about losing a loved one.

2. A Simpler Time was your second book. What prompted you to write it?
I am a lover of all things Nature. I loved sharing that passion with my daughter Ashley when she was little. This book was my way of reliving those memories and sharing with other moms and children, that there is more to life than hanging out in front of the TV or your computer! Go out and see the beauty that is right out your door!

3. Your third and fourth books feature Muffin, a rescue dog. Tell us HER story.
I am a DOG person and will never be without one!  It was a SUPER HOT day in August of 2010. We decided it was time to add to our family. Steven scoured the internet looking at many shelter dogs. After a couple hours he called me over to the computer and said, "Look at this cutie!"

My heart melted when I saw her face and her name--Muffin. She was at a rescue facility in Springtown, Texas. Steven called the facility and learned they usually didn't see people on Sunday, but made an exception. When we got there, we saw a puppy that definitely needed a home. She was 12 weeks old and had already been in four homes. She barely weighed eight pounds, and most of her fur was missing from the back half of her body (she was malnourished and dehydrated). As I held her, she melted into my arms. When I did set her down for a moment, she walked over to the gate on the deck and get looking from me to the gate handle as if saying, "Let's go!"  Well ... she came home with us and we nursed her back to health!

When I came home, my Facebook post was Went Out To Get a Donut (I waited for a few moments) and then posted Came Home With a Muffin -- and posted her picture. I knew it had to be a book. While writing it, I started singing the lyrics, and the rest is history.

Muffin and I love going to rescue dog events and donate as much as we can to help other pups find their FURever homes.

4. Why do you write children's books?
I have stories in me that I want to share with children. I love reading to them and helping them realize reading and writing is a lot of fun.

5. You travel to many places to promote your books. How do you plan this?
I spend a lot of time marketing my books. I am honored when librarians, schools, book fairs, and author fairs invite me to come and share my passion. I truly don't plan events. When they are presented to me, I make them work!

6. What's a favorite story from one of your travels?
Hmm ... I have many interesting things happen: My first book signing had over 200 people attend and was celebrated on my daughter's 16th birthday; I was the grand marshal of my hometown's Easter Parade and also did a whole school book reading at my Elementary School and the principal that was there when I attended came back to introduce me; I've met the nephew of Andy Warhol; I was asked to give the commencement speech at my high school. But my very favorite thing is to see children's eyes light up as I read to them ... it truly never gets old!

7. How do you write? Computer, pencil, tablet? And what is your writing process?
I start a story in a journal. I have many story starts that probably will never become a book. When I do "feel" a book coming on, I begin writing in the journal, and there is a rough story. I then need COMPLETE silence and go into AUTHOR mode and type the story into the computer and if I can't think of a word or just the right word, I leave a blank or fill in the spot with several word choices, but I don't want to lose the momentum. I type and type until the entire book is out. I then do not look at it again for a few days. Once I'm refreshed, I'll look at the book again and then re work it.

Since the Muffin books are songs, I do write down words, but I also use QuickVoice on my iPhone and sing the tune and the words. It helps me with the cadence and rhythm. I also do NOT want to lose the tune that I've come up with, so it helps capture that as well.

8. From idea to completed book, how long does it take you?
The Life of Bud took 10 years! But Went Out To Get a Donut - Came Home With a Muffin took about a week.

A Simpler Time and What's In The Corner? A Muffin "Tail" each took a few months.

9. What's your current project?
I have a "sequel" to The Life of Bud in the works called Daisy, and I am working on Where's Muffin's Shadow? A Muffin "Tail" (a working title).

10. How can we learn more about you and your events?
There are many ways to find me: My website is The Books of Laura Eckroat, and I'm on Facebook at Life of Bud and Went Out To Get a Donut. People can email me HERE. And my books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and Tate Publishing.

I am available for school visits, literacy nights, library visits, book clubs, and more.

I am a kindergarten teacher, also, and I believe every child should have access to new and wonderful books. I am raising money to purchase books from up and coming authors and donating the books to the KIDS NEED TO READ organization. You can contribute HERE! Please help this worthy cause.

Thanks, Laura, for participating!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Author Speaks: Gail Henderson

Gail Henderson recently collaborated with noted Oklahoma photographer Michael Duncan to produce Bare, a newly released book of poetry and photography that explores the enigma of womanhood in the world. She wrote Red Bird Woman, a collection of her poetry published in 2013 under the name Gail Wood. She has been published in ByLine Magazine, Creations 2014, Creations 2013: 40 Ways to Look at Love, and Creations 2012. As a board member for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, she honors the memory of her sister who suffered from bipolar disorder. She holds a Masters of Education in English and Social Studies from East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma. She loves hiking, gardening, cooking, and life. She taught junior high and high school English for 14 years in the small rural school from which she graduated and served as federal programs administrator for the same school for eight years. She is a member of Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. and Ada Writers.

1. Your latest book Bare was released this year. It features your poetry and artistic nude photography. Tell us about how Bare came to be.
My brother-in-law, who is an amateur photographer, showed me pictures of a nude in rural Oklahoma settings. He wasn’t sure how I would react to them. They were beautiful and inspiring--so evocative of the feminine spirit--so the first words out of my mouth were “I want to write poems for these!” He came up with the idea of a book of photography with poems written specifically for each one. It was such a joyful project.

2. Red Bird Woman is the name of your first book, but it's also a name that your Native American husband gave to you. Tell us how that happened and why you identify with it.
Neil and I were hiking when we heard a cardinal. It sang a three-part song ending in what sounded like “woogie, woogie, woogie.” He turned to me, squeezed my cheeks three times while saying “woogie, woogie, woogie.” It was so spontaneous and funny that he christened me Ohoya Hoshe Homma (woman bird red in Choctaw), which translates into Red Bird Woman. Neil understands my connection with Nature. Now the red bird symbolizes that connection.

3. Why do you write poetry? 
I love playing with words, trying to find the best word or phrase to express a thought in a way that is pleasing to the ear and accessible to the mind. I’m not a good story teller so short stories and novels are difficult for me to write. Poems are everywhere. I don’t have to make anything up. I just translate little pieces of life into words.

4. Do you find certain favorite themes in your poetry?
My poetry is woman-oriented, personal. I love being a woman, and I love expressing all the heartache and joy that goes with it.

5. Name a few poems you enjoy and tell us why.
My favorite poem is “Patterns” by Amy Lowell. I love the way it sounds, the images, the emotion it contains--I cry every time I read it aloud. Lowell squeezed so much into that poem. I am amazed every time I read it. Also, I love Shel Silverstein poetry. It’s musical, clever, and always has twisty endings! My children loved it when I read his poetry to them so I have good memories of his poems.

6. What is your writing process? Do you use a pen or computer?
I might jot ideas down on paper, but I mostly compose at a computer. It’s so handy to have an online thesaurus. I wish I could say I were disciplined and wrote everyday, but I take spells of writing --unless I have a particular project, then I can work more steadily. Sometimes it takes me 15 minutes to write a poem--that’s rare. Most of the time I struggle with the poem until I finally let go and let it be what it wants to be. That can take weeks, but a good poem always wins.

7. Many people are turned off by poetry. How can they be turned back on?
I’m turned off by so much of today’s poetry! A poem should make sense, not be an obscure accumulation of words that involves detective work and a hundred readings to understand it. If you are writing for the literati, be obscure and intellectual, but if you want to be read by the masses, make sure your poems are accessible and appeal to the emotions. I would never make it in New York City!

8. What do you want a reader to take away from or learn from your poetry?
First, I want my reader to say, “I get it!” It is important that a reader understand the poem at some level. Second, readers must like the way a poem sounds--the music--even if they can’t tell you why. It is not necessary for a reader to identify alliteration or metaphor to enjoy the result.

9. What has been the best writing advice for you?
Be concise. Use the best and fewest number of words.
And what has surprised you the most about the process of publishing a book?
When you have good friends helping you, it’s easy.

10. What will be your next writing project?
Right now, I am helping my husband write the story of his journey to receiving his Ph.D. For my own project, I’m not sure yet. I’ve learned not to force myself to establish specific writing goals. That doesn’t work well for me--it sets up too much pressure and causes my creative self to rebel. It comes from too many years of proposal writing and deadlines. I keep myself open to ideas. I’ll recognize the next project when the words “I want to write poems for that!” leap out of my mouth.

I am considering a poetry project about my baby sister who died eight years ago of a drug overdose. I miss her everyday and writing about her would keep her spirit alive. My heart will know when the time is right for this very personal project.

Thanks, Gail!

To learn more about Gail and her poetry, visit her website Red Bird Woman.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Author Speaks: Christy Bower

Christy Bower is the author of more than twenty books, including Christian nonfiction and youth fantasy fiction titles. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (2004) from Multnomah Biblical Seminary.

Christy lives in northwest Montana, where she considers Glacier National Park her backyard. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking, cleaning, and doing mundane tasks. She says, “Being an author isn’t as glamorous as people seem to think.” And if you hang out with Christy very long, you’ll discover she’s a Star Wars geek and proud of it. She sat down and answered 10 questions for us.

1. What's your latest published book?
My first book, Abundant Life (2002), has been out of print for several years so in honor of publishing my 20th book (Bible Surveyor Handbook), I decided to give new life to my first book by making it available in electronic form for the first time. I republished it under a new title, Unstuck: Escape Spiritual Stagnation, Experience Abundant Life. Unstuck is for people who feel like they are doing all the right things as a Christian but they’re still not growing or they feel their relationship with God has flat lined.

2. Why do you write inspirational books?
Writing inspirational books comes from my heart. Faith defines my life, but I’ve struggled with my relationship with God over and over in different ways. People at church don’t talk about struggles like these, but I was pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way so I decided to speak out about overcoming these obstacles so I could help others who suffer in silence.

3. What are you working on now?
Right now I’m in the production stage of finishing Donkey Oatie’s Bushel of Fun Cookbook (now released) It’s a companion book to the Dragon Hollow trilogy, my youth fantasy fiction books for ages 9-12. Not everything I write has a Christian flavor. My youth fantasy fiction is just good clean fun that organically portrays virtues such as loyalty, courage, and forgiveness. They’re packed with action and plenty of humor.

I’m also working on editing my September release, Sweeter Than Chocolate: Developing a Healthy Addiction to God’s Word. And I’m finishing my Christian apocalyptic novel, Return of the Elves. I stay busy.

4. What’s your writing process?
As you can see, I work on several projects at once. I don’t know if other authors work that way or not. At any given time I have projects in the idea stage, planning, writing, revising, editing, and production (layout and design). I usually have five projects in the works so if I’m not in the mood for fiction, I can work on non-fiction. I write best at night, from 10 p.m.–2 a.m., but that can quickly become an all-nighter if I’m engrossed in my content and lose track of time.

My writing process revolves around self-awareness. I have bipolar disorder so I have manic swings in which I am highly creative and can generate lots of content. At other times things swing the other way and I’m mired in depression so it’s not a good time to write, but it is a good time to edit. To some degree that’s true for everyone: our brains operate in right-brain creativity and left-brain logic. Rather than trying to force creativity or analytical editing, I choose to shift to the type of project my brain is capable of at the moment.

5. Do you write with pencil, pen, computer, or tablet? What’s your favorite?
I generate first drafts with pen and paper. Sometimes pencil. I like how a pencil feels, but my hand gets tired faster. And I have good reason for using pen and paper, too. When you type at a keyboard and make a typing error, your brain shifts to left-brain analytical correction mode. Then your thoughts become more critical about the words you put on the page because your brain is analyzing. Writing by hand allows me to stay in my right-brain creative mode because I’m writing down words I will correct later on. It tells the left-brain, “It’s not your turn yet, but you’ll get your chance.” I actually plan to write a book on this next year.

6. What has been important advice to you in pursuing a writing career, and what advice would you give to a new writer?
The most important advice I received early on was: “Don’t fall in love with your own words.” The publishing committee will change your title, the editor will change your words, and entire chapters may fall on the editing room floor. Don’t be offended. The editor’s job is to make your message better. Why wouldn’t you want that?

But more and more writers are going independent today, so my advice would be: learn grammar and punctuation and keep learning it. Take a class at a community college. Take a class online. Or at least go through a grammar book. I read one book a year on grammar or punctuation. There are some fun ones on the market. You might even laugh and learn at the same time. Ongoing education is important for any writer, but even more so for a self-published writer. And don’t be afraid to hire an editor. I have.

7. What has been the most gratifying or most surprising result from your writing career so far?
Twice I have been named “Writer of the Year” by American Christian Writers (2007, 2011). These awards corresponded with the releases of my books by Discovery House Publishers, Devotion Explosion: Getting Real with God (2007) and Best Friends with God: Falling in Love with the God Who Loves You (2010), both of which have now gone into a fourth printing. I never dreamed my books would enjoy longevity and popularity. It has been an unexpected blessing.

8. You've written 20 books. What are some of their titles?
In addition to the books I’ve already mentioned, I have a series of 12 Crossword Bible Studies containing crossword puzzles for every chapter of the New Testament. And this year I released Bible Surveyor Handbook: A 15-Lesson Overview of the Entire Bible, which gives readers a basic understanding of what’s happening in the Bible. And, of course, there’s my Dragon Hollow trilogy: The Legend of Dragon Hollow, The Secret of the Sword, and The Rise of the Dragon King.

9. Which of your books is your favorite?
I have two. Grant me one non-fiction and one fiction.

Devotion Explosion has always felt like a book I was meant to write. The message of that book is important to me. It’s very freeing and I want others to experience that freedom in their relationship with God.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the Dragon Hollow books because they are filled with puns, silly The Secret of the Sword was my favorite of the three because in writing it I had to solve some serious problems with how to get this boy to overthrow a usurper king and convince the people he was the rightful king. That took some thinking and I was pleased with how it came out. It has songs, humorous incidents, and hidden literary references. It’s like Christy unfiltered.

10. How can people learn more about your writing?
My website, Christy Bower, offers lots of free downloads, including sample chapters, resources for Christian growth, articles I’ve written for magazines, as well as downloadable extras to go with my books. But to stay up with the latest, you can receive a chapter a week in your inbox from one of my books. Sign up at HERE. Thanks for the thought-provoking questions.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

The summer of the blood-suckers

It’s time for the sounds and smells of summer: barbecue, people splashing in pools, coconut suntan lotion, happy laughter, freshly mown lawns, all is happy, happy, happy as people rejoice in the sunlight—except for me, of course, since I’ve been hiding in my darkened house as soon as the flocks of mosquitoes started returning from whatever nightmarish place they spent the winter at.

Yes, I know that supposedly they lay eggs that somehow survive the winter’s cold, and those eggs hatch into larva, which grow up to suck blood and lay more eggs to survive the winter, but I don’t believe it. Have you ever seen a mosquito nest? Me, neither. What really happens is they follow the sun to torment South Americans. Mosquitoes live many years, and all of them speak fondly of me, their Promised Land of white, soft skin that conceals the most delicious and nourishing liquid.

Not all of the mosquitoes hunt me, of course. Half of the mosquitoes are male, which only feed on nectar and Big Macs. The blood suckers are all deadly, single-minded females. (They are called Hillarys and Palins by biologists.)

Even though I’ve purchased enough insecticide to permanently alter the DNA of my entire town and my downwind neighbors are threatening to file an EPA suit, the mosquitoes remain.

Naturally I started looking for solutions, including some home remedies, such as these:

1. Wipe yourself dry after your shower with a fabric softener sheet. This doesn’t seem to do anything, but I do smell Ocean Breeze Fresh.

2. Avon Skin So Soft. Many people swear by—and at—this lotion that supposedly functions as a safe insect repellent. Only result for me was that the mosquitoes would tell their friends, “There’s a strange seasoning on him, but underneath is pure scarlet goodness.”

3. Drink a lot of whiskey. My friend Renaldo uses this and was telling me that it works. I stared at him and noticed his arms were covered by bites. I pointed that out, and he said, “I know, but I don’t care.” Later he would collapse from blood loss, but not before hundreds of mosquitoes were unable to fly in a straight line.

4. Eat several cloves of raw garlic a day. This might work. It does keep people away from you, so maybe it will insects.

5. Catnip. Tuck a several twigs of catnip in your pockets and in your collar. This works. You have to run from the crazed cats, and the mosquitoes can’t keep up. Except in my case, I run from one flock of mosquitoes into another. So this doesn’t work; besides, I hate running. God wouldn’t have given us cars if He wanted us to run.

6. The Native Americans used to rub a combination of mud and rancid animal fat on their bodies. Alligator, raccoon, opossum, or bear fat was preferred. Let us know how this works out for you, okay?

7. Mix six drops each of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper into organic soy oil during the waning moon with a spoon made of willow—oh forget it.

Anyway, think of me as I wave at you from behind the sliding glass doors of my house. I may be as pale as the underbelly of a frog from the lack of sun, but come the first frost of fall, I’ll be back.

(Copyright 2014 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from the forthcoming A Little Floozy. All rights reserved. No copying without express prior permission from the author and publisher. Thank you for reading.)