Tag Archives: author tours

Interview with Alexandrea Weis, author of ‘Recovery

Alexandrea Weis began writing at the age of eight. In college she studied nursing and went on to teach at a local university. After several years in the medical field, she decided to pick up the pen again and began her first novel To My Senses. Since that time she has writen several novels and sold two screenplays (White River and Blood Will Tell). Blood Will Tell is currently in pre-production with Buyer Group International. Her work has been critically acclaimed and is continually growing in popularity.

Her most recent book is Recovery, the second novel in the Nicci Beauvoir series which takes readers on a Big Easy thrill ride when a lover’s murder is solved and a spy with a bulletproof bravado quickens Nicci’s broken heart.

Alexandrea is also a permitted wildlife rehabber and works rescuing orphaned and injured animals. She recently has been working to aid oil soaked birds in the Gulf disaster.

You can visit Alexandrea’s website at www.alexandreaweis.com or connect with her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/alexandreaweis.com and Facebook at www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/To-My-Senses/113609858681394.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Alexandrea. Can you tell us what your latest book, Recovery, is all about?

Set amid the backdrop of post-Katrina New Orleans, the story is about Nicci’ Beauvoir’s soulful search for Recovery. Once a darling of New Orleans society, Nicci pens a novel about her departed love, the artist David Alexander. While promoting her book in the Big Apple, she’s approached by David’s former boss, Simon La Roy, who has a theory about David’s death that devastates Nicci. She learns David’s murder may be linked to someone from her past. Enter Dallas August, an elite member of Simon’s organization of corporate spies prized for his ruthless ability to get the job done. Playing the part of Nicci’s lover, Dallas returns to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans with her to flush out the killer. But everything is not what is seems in the Big Easy, and soon the couple finds themselves trapped in a psychotic’s twisted game of revenge.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Nicci Beauvoir, the heroine, is a burgeoning writer drawn into the hunt for David Alexander’s killer by Dallas August, a distant man with a tragic past.  Together the two clash but then the common bond of searching for the murderer turns their relationship from adversarial to amorous. Nicci is supported by a rather sharp-tongued group of family members, whose wit and charm help to bring some wonderful humor into the story. The most prominent of these are Nicci’s father and uncle. Their brotherly banter provides a little bit of insight into why Nicci is the way that she is.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

I feel it is a little of both. I find that every character I write has elements of people I know in them. I believe if you talk to any writer they will tell you that some of their best characters are based on people they have known. After all, isn’t that what fiction is all about? Reality blended with bits of imagination makes for the most compelling dramas.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

It develops as I write. I always see the end of the book first and then go from there. A book is an adventure to me because I never know where the story will take me.

Q: Your book is set in New Orleans.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I am from New Orleans. It is the most eclectic, culturally diverse, and intriguing place I know. I have traveled a good bit in my life, but no place has ever been more interesting to me than the Big Easy. It is the most unique place on earth, and despite its negative press and sinister reputation, it is a part of me, and a part of everything that I write. Everyone always says write about what you know. Well, I know New Orleans.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes, I feel the characters recovery from their past emotional upheavals mirrors the rhythm of the resurrecting city of New Orleans. In the end, neither the city of New Orleans, nor Nicci Beauvoir, learns that they can ever forget about their tormented pasts. Instead, they both learn to grow from what they have been through and move on.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Dallas and Nicci are discovering that they make each other uncomfortable. It is a pivotal point in the book where the reader can feel the sexual tension building between the two main characters. For Nicci, it is the first moment where she realizes that Dallas has awakened something inside of her that she thought had died with David.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

The world had suddenly become a little darker for me, and for the first time in my life, I feared the future. I had survived the sharp-tongued insults of a snobby southern upbringing, the heartache of my mother’s death, betrayal, intrigue, engagement to a moron, and the loss of the only man I had ever loved. Even the devastation of Katrina had not dampened my belief in the eventuality of good. From all things bad something good does come, I was once told, and up until that moment in my life, I had believed it. But how do you sustain such hope when your faith in the certainty of tomorrow is threatened? What do you believe in when another is killing for control of your destiny?

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Alexandrea.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me today, and thank you to all of your readers. I hope you enjoy my second installment in the Nicci Beauvoir series and look forward to hearing what your readers have to say about Recovery.   

 

 

 

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Zumaya Publications and Pump Up Your Book Announce ‘The Tapestry Baby Virtual Book Tour 2011’

The Tapestry Baby

Join Carole Waterhouse, author of the literary fiction novel, The Tapestry Baby, as she virtually tours the blogosphere June 6 – 30 2011 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

About Carole Waterhouse

Carole WaterhouseA creative writing professor at California University of Pennsylvania, Carole Waterhouse is the author of two novels, The Tapestry Baby and Without Wings, and a collection of short stories, The Paradise Ranch.

Her fiction has appeared in Arnazella, Artful Dodge, Baybury Review, Ceilidh, Eureka Literary Magazine, Forum, Half Tones to Jubilee, Massachusetts Review, Minnetonka Review, Oracle: The Brewton-Parker College Review, Parting Gifts, Pointed Circle, Potpourri, Seems, Spout, The Armchair Aesthete, The Griffin, The Styles, Tucumari Literary Review, Turnrow, and X-Connect.

A previous newspaper reporter, she has published essays in an anthology, Horse Crazy: Women and the Horses They Love, and Equus Spirit Magazine. Her book reviews have appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Pittsburgh Press, and The New York Times Book Review.

Her latest novel is The Tapestry Baby, a novel depicting a mother who believes her child is born to fulfill some special destiny and discovers her life is intertwined with six other people, raising the question of whether any of us really control our own decisions, and through the process learns that greatness can be defined in the simplest of gestures.

You can visit Carole’s website at www.Carolewaterhouse.com.

About The Tapestry Baby

Tapestry BabyKarin lives in terror that her child will be born a multi-colored version of the mysterious tattooed man she met one night. When Anna is born normal instead, she becomes convinced her daughter is meant to fulfill some special destiny that she herself can’t provide. A believer of signs and premonitions, she takes off on a journey with Vonnie, a writer friend who can’t complete any stories because the peacefulness of her own life leaves her without inspiration hoping she can make a decision along the way. The choice, however, may not fully be her own. Their lives are randomly connected with six other people. There’s Ward, a cross-dresser who chooses his lovers based on their ability to make him look good, and Daria, a photographer who wants to feel emotion with the same level of intensity she can show it in her work. Mrs. Brown is a librarian with a sordid past who masquerades in her own dowdiness and her secret admirer Ned, a music teacher experiencing a nervous breakdown who finds that his images of make-believe women are deteriorating as notes break on his piano. Pivotal are Reggie, a massive tattooed man who despite his best efforts lives in fear of destroying women the same way he once accidentally crushed a bird he held in his hand and Clarissa, a fake fortune-teller who is responsible for bringing them all together. The Tapestry Baby raises the question of whether any of us really has control over our own destinies.

Visit Carole’s official tour page at www.pumpupyourbook.com/2011/05/07/the-tapestry-baby-virtual-book-tour-2011 to see which blogs and websites he’ll be stopping off at during her The Tapestry Baby Virtual Book Tour 2011!

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Out of the Slush Pile and Out to the Readers by John L. Betcher

We’re happy to have John L. Betcher guest blogging with us today at As the Pages Turn. John is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.

Out of the Slush Pile and Out to the Readers

by John L. Betcher

Since I am a self-published author, I have to deal with all the same challenges that other self- and indie-published authors must confront. Writing and editing my books. Designing interiors and exteriors. Finding a quality printer. And selecting distribution channels.

But I think the single greatest challenge self- and indie-publishers face is how to differentiate their books from the growing slush pile of unvetted publications inundating the publishing world.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, it appears that there will be more than a million new book titles published this year in the United States. About two-thirds to three-quarters of them will be self- or indie-published books.

Who’s in charge of determining the quality of all these publications?

Well . . . we would like to think that mainstream publishers still give their titles a thorough vetting – though some readers would claim the overall quality of traditionally-published books has declined a bit during the present upheaval in the publishing industry. And mainstream book reviewers still devote 99% of their attention to these traditionally published books. We should expect that their reviews are honest and useful to readers.

But just how does a self-published author make his or her book stand out from the other 700,000 or so new self-published titles flooding the book distribution systems?

The optimistic answer is that “the cream will rise to the top.” Although I am optimistic, I don’t personally see the opportunity for the cream to rise when the milk is spilled all over, as it is in today’s publishing world.

For example – If you are an avid reader of thrillers (the genre in which I write), how can you find my books in the “slush pile” without first knowing my name or the title of my book?

Here are some possibilities–

Why not search Amazon, or B&N for “thrillers”? Good idea.

Wow! Lots of thrillers out there. Don’t see mine anywhere near the top of the list. Maybe instead of sorting by “Relevance,” we should sort by “Average Customer Review Ratings.” Tried that, too. Lots of different books than the first search. But my thriller still isn’t in the first dozen pages, even though it has a 5.0 star rating from 10 Independent Reviewers (not friends or family).

Maybe if you go to the library and ask for thrillers by indie-authors? Reference Desk: “Sure. I can help with that. What’s the name of the author or the title of the book?”

Okay. That service is helpful once you and your books are already known. But what if the readers are still trying to find the “cream.” They don’t know of you yet. So they can’t ask for you by name. Rats!

There are several websites claiming to be the gatekeepers of quality independent publications. “We separate the wheat from the chaff so you don’t have to.” What about them? Are they the answer?

Reason tells me that no website can afford to hire enough people to give the 700,000 slush pile books a bona fide review. I have visited many of these sites. My conclusion is that nearly all are profit-driven – not really trying to provide a useful reference tool. (If there are bona fide sites out there, I apologize — and good luck to you. I haven’t found you yet.) Rats again.

So just how is the cream supposed to rise from the spilled milk?

As far as I can tell, there is currently no definitive way for a very marketable, high-quality, self-published book to reach its readers without the author employing diligence, hard work and lots of time. And even then, a substantial modicum of fortuity is required.

That’s right. I said you need to be lucky. Believe it!

How do you increase the chances of having good luck with your book?

Just because luck is required for success, that doesn’t mean authors should throw in the hat. Do actors quit because they can’t find good acting parts right away? Not the ones you know about. They didn’t quit. So don’t give up. No white flags allowed.

Instead, try the following:

1) Write well. If readers find your book and don’t like it, it will not be a success.

2) Market creatively, both online and in the real world. Just because there aren’t many really good marketing tools doesn’t mean there aren’t any! Get that website up. Get on Twitter. Maybe on LinkedIn or FaceBook, too. Join some author groups. Share ideas. Make connections.

3) Give free books to libraries. Libraries tend to have a lot of readers stopping in. (Surprise!) Maybe one or more will pick up your book on a whim – or because they like the cover, or the cover text.

4) Seek out Independent Reviewers. If someone happens to stumble upon your book, those reviews will give the reader/buyer greater confidence that your book is the kind of book they want to read.

5) Alert the media to your author activities. Let your local paper, radio station, TV station know when you have book-signings, speaking appearances, published reviews or interviews.

6) Keep writing. The more books you have available, the greater the chance that a reader will stumble upon one.

7) Be patient. Writing and selling books is a marathon endeavor – not a sprint.

8) Keep improving your own skills. This applies to writing, publishing and marketing. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from the successes and mistakes of others. Keep on learning and improving.

9) Undertake any legal means at your disposal to get the word out about you and your books.

Do I guarantee these things will make your “cream rise to the top”? Of course not. But we operate in the real world. There are no guarantees. Until some big player (like Amazon, Google, B&N, Independent Book Sellers of America) promulgates a useful way to discriminate between good indie books, and not so good ones, you will continue to swim upstream.

This is the hand you are dealt. Play it out to the last card! Be tough! Be an author! That’s what author’s do – at least the ones you’ve heard about.

# # #

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Interview with John Betcher, author of ‘The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller’

We are honored to welcome John L. Betcher here today at As the Pages Turn!  John is on a virtual book tour throughout the months of November and December to talk about his new book, The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller.  Enjoy the interview!

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota.  He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery.  The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.  His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.


Q: Thank you for this interview, John. Can you tell us what your latest book, The 19th Element, A James Becker Thriller, is all about?

In The 19th Element, al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist two homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play. He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists.  Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

May the better men win.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The book’s main character is James “Beck” Becker, a native of the small Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minnesota. He’s recently returned to his hometown following retirement from a twenty-year career in clandestine military operations. His cover job is as a small town attorney. But his real interest is in helping local law enforcement.

The book’s three main supporting characters are Beck’s wife, Beth, Ottawa County Chief Deputy Sheriff, Doug “Gunner” Gunderson, and Beck’s enigmatic American Indian friend, Bull.

Beth has been with Beck all through his time on the operations “Team.” In fact, they met one another in D.C. while she was employed as one of the CIA’s top encryption/decryption specialists. She supports Beck in all things – occasionally employing her code-cracking and computer talents in aid of Beck’s own considerable skill set.

Gunner has known Beck all his life. They went to high school together in Red Wing. Gunner is one of only a few people in Red Wing who know anything at all about Beck’s sub rosa government background. He and Beck bring different approaches to crime-fighting. Gunner operates strictly by the book. Beck . . . by his own rules. But they seem to be able to work together for the common good.

Bull is a full-blooded Mdewakanton Dakota American Indian. Born on the local Prairie River Reservation, he left his home and family at the age of sixteen to join the army. After departing the Rez to “be all that he could be,” Bull’s family and friends heard nothing from him for more than twenty years. Based on Bull’s behavior as a teen, they assumed he had been killed in a knife fight at some bar. Then one day he had shown up on the doorstep of his parents’ home on the Rez. Bull never told anyone where he had been for twenty years. And after a few altercations, folks quit asking.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

This book’s characters are entirely fictitious. But to an extent, they have composite characteristics of persons I have known and fictional characters I have read about. The backgrounds of the persons who inhabit The 19th Element are, for the most part, much more interesting than those of anyone I know in real life.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I spend a lot of time researching subject areas before deciding which directions a novel’s plot might take. I select topics that interest me (such as terrorism, chemistry, nuclear power, or cyber-espionage). Then I speak with experts. I just keep asking them questions until a thriller plot presents itself.

Then I spend more time doing internet research and speaking to ancillary experts to flesh out the plot’s details and develop subplots and character-types.

But once I have finished the research and selected the plot, it typically doesn’t vary a great deal as I write the book.

Q: Your book is set in Red Wing, Minnesota.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Red Wing has its own nuclear power plant, and an airport very near the plant, both very similar to the ones described in The 19th Element. I have also worked for Red Wing’s electric utility and possess personal knowledge the nuclear plant and it operations. The final factor that made Red Wing a no-brainer is the fact that I grew up there and have practiced law in Red Wing for the past twenty-five years.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. The plot is all about a terrorist plan to create a “nuclear disaster” at the nuclear power plant. The nearby airport plays a part in the terrorist assault on the plant. And the proximity of the plant (and the town) to the Mississippi allows for not only a dramatic plot twist, but a taste of river culture as well.

In addition, Red Wing is a typical U.S. city – not a location where one normally expects international terror – which is exactly why we should expect the next big attack in just such a location.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Beth is calling her husband – panic in her voice – to tell him that their college-student daughter seems to have a mysterious stalker. Beck departs his law office with haste to help Beth assess the potential threat.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

The best excerpts, in my opinion, would give away too much of the story’s climax. But here’s one that introduces one of the terror cell members.

CHAPTER 9

On March 28, 1979, an ‘incident’ occurred at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Metropolitan Edison owned the facility. But its design and operation were closely monitored, and to a large extent controlled, by the federal government through the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC.

John Sigler knew the entire debacle was the government’s fault. The administration’s energy policy had not only driven entire coal mining communities out of work, but had also deposited the American public on the doorsteps of Hiroshima.

It was only a matter of time before something horrible happened. And in fact, it had taken a mere three months after TMI’s commissioning for the disaster to occur.

After the total melt-down of TMI Reactor Unit 2, the government and the utility had both assured neighboring residents that there was “no significant release of radiation.” Everything had been safely contained. Multiple government-sponsored “investigations” had concluded that, although the incident was extremely unfortunate, and TMI’s neighbors had suffered substantial psychological distress, the melt-down posed no physical health risks to surrounding communities. Eventually, the government even allowed TMI Unit 1 to resume nuclear operations, while Unit 2 remained a pile of rubble filling a hole in the ground where the “incident” had occurred.

But John Sigler knew the radiation leak had not been “insignificant.” He and his family lived just east of TMI, in the small community of Elizabethtown. When John turned twelve in June, 1979, just three months after the disaster, he had already seen some of the radiation’s hellish effects.

His mother was pregnant with his brother, Jacob, at the time. She had lost most of her hair and was frequently so weak she couldn’t get out of bed. The doctors assured the family that pregnancy hormones were the likely cause of her hair loss and weakness. She should remain bed-bound until delivery, just to be safe.

When Jacob arrived on July 4th, 1979, his family was in shock when the doctors sympathetically told them that Jacob had been born with an unusually small brain. Mental retardation was likely, they said. They were sorry, they said.

Less than three years after Jacob’s birth, both he and his mother were dead. Each had died of lung cancer, though no one in the Sigler family ever smoked. The doctors could offer no explanation for the coincidence. But fourteen-year-old John and his dad knew the reason. It didn’t take a genius to know that two-year-olds don’t die of lung cancer.

TMI was the cause.

A few years later, John’s father developed leukemia. Not common for a man his age, the doctors said. But it happens, they said.

The cancer progressed inexorably through his body. Evilly patient. Excruciatingly earnest. John had dropped out of school so he could remain by his father’s bedside as the cancer silently ravaged his organs. John’s father finally died, after months of agony, in October, 1985.

John was eighteen.

John wished he had died, too. Dying would have been easier than drowning in his family’s pain, gasping for a breath of relief.

Even after the shock of the nuclear assault on the Sigler family had subsided, there were the nagging questions. Pursuing him. Unrelenting. Why had he, alone, survived? For what purpose?

John never forgave the United States government for torturing and murdering his family. Ultimately, he concluded there was only one possible reason he had been spared – to take vengeance for his family’s suffering.

But John was no fool. He knew he couldn’t defeat, or even seriously damage, the nuclear juggernaut by himself – especially not as a boy of eighteen. He needed collaborators, others who hated the nuclear establishment as much as he.

For years he sought out anti-nuclear organizations to aid him in his mission, to feed his pathological need for revenge. He posted his contact information in chat rooms on the rapidly expanding internet. He joined in anti-nuke rallies and attended meetings.

But without exception, these nuclear opponents were far too passive. He wanted to send a serious message. He wanted clear retribution for the death of his family at TMI.

John was patient. John was pragmatic. While he searched for help, he also maneuvered. Years passed, then decades. He attended trade school, served an apprenticeship and eventually developed a high degree of skill as a metal worker and welder. He earned a good living.

But he never forgave. And he never forgot.

Finally, an opportunity arose for him to infiltrate the enemy. Willing to leave his hometown for this chance, he accepted a job as a Plant Engineering and Systems Repair Specialist at the Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant near Red Wing, Minnesota.

Initially, John was very excited about his new job. He had assumed that his employment with the utility would surely present chances for revenge. But he soon discovered that even his status as a nuclear insider did not afford him the opportunity he sought. The facility’s design included too many back-up systems, obstacles, counter-measures. For John by himself, assaulting the plant was still impossible. He needed to reach out farther, beyond his comfort zone. He still had to find a co-conspirator to lend him aid.

Then he suffered a devastating setback. Although at the time of the TMI incident John had appeared to suffer no serious radiation effects, he now learned that radiation damage can be subtle and sometimes slow to make itself apparent. At the age of forty-one, with his lust for revenge as great as ever and still unrequited, John was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.

He first underwent radiation treatments and then chemotherapy. After twelve long months of treatment, his cancer was cured. The doctors declared it to be in remission.

But despite his apparent victory over the cancer, John knew his time to take retribution might be running out. He desperately needed to take action soon. The nuclear bastards had to pay!

Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, he had received a telephone call. By the man’s accent, John would have guessed the caller to be English, or possibly Australian. Although no one mentioned the organization by name, when the group the caller actually represented became clear, John was taken aback. He had always considered Al Qaeda the enemy. But in this case, his interests and theirs aligned perfectly.

What was the saying he had heard during the Gulf War? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend?” After some consideration, John decided he didn’t care if they were Al Qaeda, Nazis or Martians, so long as they would help him achieve his goal.

Al Qaeda had done its research on John before making contact. They knew his family background at TMI. They knew he wanted action, not passive protest. They assured him they had a plan – a plan that would devastate the nuclear industry. When he indicated an interest, they acted swiftly.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, John.  We wish you much success!

Thank you very much for your time. All the best!

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‘The 19th Element’ John L. Betcher on virtual book tour November & December ’10

John BetcherJoin John L. Betcher, author of the suspense thriller, The 19th Element: A James Becker Thriller (Createspace), as he virtually tours the blogosphere November 1 – December 17‘10 on his first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

John L. Betcher is a University of Minnesota Law School graduate and has practiced law for more than twenty-five years in the Mississippi River community of Red Wing, Minnesota. He possesses substantial first-hand knowledge of the Prairie River Nuclear Plant’s real world counterpart, as well as Red Wing’s airport and the flight rules around the nuke plant.

In addition to The 19th Element, he has published a second book in the “Beck” series entitled, The Missing Element, A James Becker Mystery. The second book is available everywhere.

The author has also been a long-time supporter and coach of youth volleyball in and around Red Wing and has authored three feature articles for Coaching Volleyball, the journal of the American Volleyball Coaches Association. His most recent article was the cover story for the April/May, 2009 Issue.

His book on volleyball coaching philosophies entitled The Little Black Book of Volleyball Coaching is available at www.johnbetcher.com and at amazon.com.

The 19th ElementThe 19th Element‘s premise promises to have you on the edge of your seat. Al Qaeda plans to attack Minnesota’s Prairie River Nuclear Power Plant as a means to return the down-trodden terrorist organization to international prominence.

In addition to their own devoted forces, the terrorists enlist some homegrown anarchists, and a Three Mile Island survivor with a pathological vendetta against the nuclear establishment, to assist in the assault.

James “Beck” Becker is a former elite U.S. government intelligence operative who has retired to his childhood hometown of Red Wing, Minnesota – just six miles down the Mississippi from the Prairie River nuclear facility.

Possessing wisdom born of experience, Beck suspects the terrorists’ intentions as soon as the body of a university professor turns up on the Mississippi shore – the clear victim of foul play.

He recognizes connections between seemingly unrelated incidents – the murdered agronomy professor, a missing lab assistant, an international cell call, a stolen fertilizer truck – but can’t piece it together in enough detail to convince government authorities that a larger threat exists. Only his American Indian friend, “Bull,” will help Beck defuse the threat.

So it’s Beck and Bull versus international terror.

If you’d like to follow along with John as he tours the blogosphere in November and December, visit his official tour page at Pump Up Your Book. Lots of fun in store as you learn more about this gifted author as well as win prizes, too!

Join us for John L. Betcher’s The 19th Element Virtual Book Tour ‘10!

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in virtual book tours. You can visit our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

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Interview with Ann Putnam, author of ‘Full Moon at Noontide’

Ann Putnam holds a PhD in literature from the University of Washington. She teaches creative writing and gender studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.  She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism and book reviews in various anthologies including Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice, and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review.  Her latest work is a memoir, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Ann. Can you tell us what your latest book, Full Moon at Noontide:  A Daughter’s Last Goodbye?  is all about?

Yes, thanks for asking.  I’m going to give you a little excerpt from my “Preface”:  “This is the story of my mother and father and my dashing, bachelor uncle, my father’s identical twin, and how they lived together with their courage and their stumblings, as they made their way into old age and then into death. And it’s the story of the journey from one twin’s death to the other, of what happened along the way, of what it means to lose the other who is also oneself.

My story takes the reader through the journey of the end of life: selling the family home, re-location at a retirement community, doctor’s visits, ER visits, specialists, hospitalizations, ICU, nursing homes, Hospice.  It takes the reader through the gauntlet of the health care system with all the attendant comedy and sorrows, joys and terrors of such things.  Finally it asks:  what consolation is there in growing old, in such loss?  What abides beyond the telling of my own tale? Wisdom carried from the end of the journey to readers who are perhaps only beginning theirs.  Still, what interest in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people?  Turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.”

Q: Is this your first book?  If not, how has writing this book different from writing your first?

And the next day the trespass of her picture in the paper, her life so suddenly laid open for all to see, how she was carried off, half out of her mind.  She was twenty-one.   Then the violence of the hooks and barbed wire and dynamite to bring the bodies up. And the taste of the day bitter on her tongue forever after, and the plums, where were the plums?   Who had eaten the plums?”

They’d spread the tablecloth on the grassy hill above the beach, where they’d gone for a picnic—the bowl of fried chicken covered with a white linen napkin, and potato salad and cucumber pickles, fresh bread, and fruit.  There would have been chocolate, of course.  Pearl would have brought it from the candy store where she worked.

As they carried Alfreda off the dock, she looked back one more time to that place in the water where the boats now circled, so still, so dark.  How could he be so suddenly gone? That night she lay numb and disbelieving in her boardinghouse room, while thunder cracked against the house and the wind blew the curtains and someone came in but who? to shut the window.  She lay with her head in the pillow and tried to sleep, but every time she closed her eyes, she saw him floating over the bottom in that green, murky water, his arms outstretched in astonishment.  She did not see Pearl anywhere.  It was better to keep her eyes open.  So she watched the lightning flash across the sky as Will lay at the bottom of the lake, and she knew her prayers had gone unanswered.  When the lightning shattered the sky, she wondered what goodness ruled the universe now.

“Once the boat flipped over, she’d gone under fast, her skirts weighing her down, but she’d pushed through the dark green water with her strong, swimmer’s legs, to see William swim away from her and toward his sister, :Pearl, to see her grasp his neck and pull him down, no thrashing to the surface for a second try.   She saw the rush of water knit itself back again, still as glass.  When the other boats reached her she’d called out to leave her and save the others.  She’d stayed like that, hugging the boat for over an hour, refusing rescue until it was clear even to her that they were gone.  It was the first of May.

I’d like to illustrate this with an example from my memoir, which involves my paternal grandmother, whom I had never met, who watched her fiancé die in a boating accident.  It was the event that marked and marred the rest of her life.  I needed to understand this and the only access I had to her was through my imagination:

That being said, I must tell you that many scenes had to be invented, as it were, out of memory, dream, intuition, but invented from absolute fidelity to the “truth,” if that doesn’t sound completely contradictory.

Thank you for a wonderful question to think about!  Now I’ve published short fiction and written two novels, which I’m currently revising, so fiction is the logical choice for me.  In fact I was in the middle of revising a novel called Cuban Quartermoon, which is set in Cuba just after the discovery of Che Guevara’s bones, when life intervened and my duties as caretaker for my father and his identical twin brother took over everything.  When my uncle died, I began taking little notes—just words or phrases or lines someone had spoken, or first, quick impressions of what my family was going through. When my father died six months later to the day, I found I had collected several little notebooks full of such things.  Now the really interesting take on this question for me is why didn’t I render this family drama in fiction?  Why did I choose memoir?  My first novel was autobiographical and so this narrative of my parents might seem a natural for fiction.  Still, it was the voice that emerged from my little scattering of writings that felt like a memoir to me more than fiction.  I needed to be wholly, fully myself, with no masks at all, to tell this tale.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book?  Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

I would say the first rough draft was the hardest.  The first thing I wrote described the death of my father, which comes late in the book as it was finally sculpted.  But I’d written that part for a reading at a conference.  It was about six months after my father had died and I thought I was ready to write about it.  I didn’t sit at my computer with tears running down my face at all.  I was cool and very much the writer at work, telling herself that she could do this just fine. But after about an hour, I would begin to feel ill. And sure enough found myself running a fever—the aches and weariness, the works.  I’d take a couple of Tylenol and lie down for an hour or so, and it would pass.  So I learned that I could only write about an hour at a time through those summer months.  That feeling eventually just sort of left me, and only returned now and then.  But as I wrote the memoir, I experienced more losses—the death of my mother, and then when I was doing final revisions, the death of my husband.  So I guess now that I look at it, it was all very very hard.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest work?  Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

So many readers have told me how my book has touched their lives.  There is no end to loss or to our experience of it. After my readings, people come up to me for a signing and want to tell me their own stories of loss and thank me for having giving voice to their own.

A magical story:  I received a message out of the blue on Facebook from someone named Susan, who asked me if I perhaps remembered her, as she was the nurse who cared for my uncle in the ICU at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, when he was dying.  She has no idea why she chose that moment to write me.  I had just published my book, and had not seen her since I walked out of the ICU years before.

I wrote her right back, and said, “Susan, I not only remember you but I wrote a book about it with you in it!”  And so we met over coffee and became friends.  I asked her how in the world she would remember my uncle and me across so many years and so many families that had crossed paths with her in the ICU.  She said, “How could I forget it?  What happened was as deep as it goes.”

I hope this little excerpt catches the magic and depth of her:

I still have not met Susan.

That night I do.  “Where do you hurt, Henry?” Susan croons to him like a love song.  She’s the night ICU nurse who is an angel on this earth.

“Everywhere,” he says. “I hurt everywhere.” And in a choreography of such lightness and air, she shifts his pillow, smoothes out the blankets, adjust his meds, and he can breathe again. Then she tucks him in for the long night, and he find his way back to the comfort of sleep.

“What’s happening to him?” I ask Susan.  She explains how systems are shutting down, one after the other.

“What is happening to his spirit?”  I ask Father Bill.

“He’s becoming pure spirit now, what he was and always will be.  He’s going to it now.  Everything else is falling away.”

His chest is quiet now, and the light has gone from his eyes though they are still open.  “We can give him something to close them,” Susan says.  Tears run down her face.  I am grateful for her tears because right then she is everybody who loves him who is not here.  And then as if on cue, his eyes close slowly, sweetly as in a dream, because that’s exactly where he is now.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

Ah, this is always such an interesting question.  I’m always asking this of others.  Still, turned to the light, I’m not sure I can answer this so easily.  I usually begin with little jottings and scribbles in a tiny notebook I always carry with me.  This way I’m not so intimidated at starting a big project.  At some point those jottings turn into free-writes. And this I can do easily and apparently endlessly.  Once I produced an eighty-page free write for a middle section of a novel.  It was a glorious time.  Words came unbeckoned and without end.  But then it stopped, and I had eighty pages of this and that and hardly any idea how to organize it.  So I’m very easy with right-brained writing, but seem to have little of the logical, left-brain to work with. So the next part can be terrifying and seemingly endless.  So I try outlines at this point but never ever before, as I try to encourage all apparent side roads.  I never know where I should really be going until I get there.   Eventually I have what I call a “working rough draft,” and at this point I begin to sculpt and shape and polish.  This is a calmer, saner process and I feel more in control.  Actually, at this point the terror leaves me and I can see what’s good and what’s really awful and does not deserve the light of day. These sections I move to the bottom of the manuscript in case I see later that they are worthy of redemption.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

I try to find some Law and Order re-runs. In this series, we don’t care about the victims because we only get to know them through flashback or refracted through the disingenuous views of others.  We don’t care about the killer because, well s/he’s the killer, after all.  After my husband died, this was the only thing I could do. I have no idea why.  I’d sit in this special place which was his special place, turn on the fireplace, and you know you can always find a Law and Order re-run somewhere.  It requires a left-brain engagement and unfolds without effort.  Reading is too difficult after a long stretch of writing.   Or if it’s in the middle of the day, I’ve stopped writing because the demands of life pull me out of it and rarely into anything relaxing. I do like the hot tub.

Q: What book changed your life?

A farewell to Arms. I read it as a college sophomore and it indeed changed my life.  After Catherine dies in childbirth and Frederick Henry walks out of the hospital into the rain, the book ends.  I remember putting it down and being unable to function for about a week I was so moved and taken with this book.  From then on I knew I would be an English major and that I wanted to live my life in the magic and power of language.  I wanted to be someone who could do that with words. I wanted to be someone whose work in the world was to teach others how to do this.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

Incantation

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

Inside I am very shy, and public performances come at great cost, though I do them very well.  All through graduate school I lived in fear that I would be found out as an imposter—I rarely raised my hand in class because I knew my answer couldn’t be right.   Now, as a new “widow,” and how I hate that appellation, I wish people knew how much I needed them but how shy I am of telling them.

Thank you for this interview, Ann. I wish you much success on your latest release, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Information about her book and how to order it can be found on her website at www.annputnam.com, which includes reviews and radio interviews and bio.  Her book can be ordered at any bookstore, through Amazon, and directly from the distributor at www.tamupress.com or by phone: 1-800-826-8911. She has a Facebook page also, as well as a website through her University: www.ups.edu/faculty/aputnam.html.

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Ann Putnam’s ‘Full Moon at Noontide’: heart-wrenching memoir about loss and laughter

This is the story of my mother and father and my dashing, bachelor uncle, my father’s identical twin, and how they lived together with their courage and their stumblings, as they made their way into old age and then into death. And it’s the story of the journey from one twin’s death to the other, of what happened along the way, of what it means to lose the other who is also oneself.

My story takes the reader through the journey of the end of life: selling the family home, re-location at a retirement community, doctor’s visits, ER visits, specialists, hospitalizations, ICU, nursing homes, Hospice. It takes the reader through the gauntlet of the health care system with all the attendant comedy and sorrows, joys and terrors of such things. Finally it asks: what consolation is there in growing old, in such loss? What abides beyond the telling of my own tale? Wisdom carried from the end of the journey to readers who are perhaps only beginning theirs. Still, what interest in reading of this inevitable journey taken by such ordinary people? Turned to the light just so, the beauty and laughter of the telling transcend the darkness of the tale.

During the final revisions of this book, my husband was dying of cancer, and he died before I could finish it. What I know so far is this: how pure love becomes when it is distilled through such suffering and loss–a blue flame that flickers and pulses in the deepest heart.

As I finish this book he is gone three months.

These are the words of Ann Putnam, author of the heart-wrenching memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye (Southern Methodist University Press).

Here’s an excerpt:

Writing this now in a rainy light after loss upon loss, a memory comes to me. When I was a teenager, I took voice lessons from Ruth Havstad Almandinger, who gave me exercises and songs I hardly ever practiced. I have wondered why this memory has so suddenly come to me now, and why this, the only song I remember, comes back to me whole and complete:

“Oh! my lover is a fisherman/ and sails on the bright blue river
In his little boat with the crimson sail/ sets he out on the dawn each morning
With his net so strong/ he fishes all the day long
And many are the fish he gathers
Oh! My lover is a fisherman
And he’ll come for me very soon!”

If only I’d known then that my true love would be a fisherman, I might have practiced that song harder and sung it with more feeling, which was what Ruth Havstad Almandinger was always trying to get me to do. If only I’d had a grown up glimpse of my true love when I was sixteen, I would have sung that song so well. If only I’d known he would have cancer and go to the lake for healing the summer after the radiation treatments were done. If only I’d known that I would be his fishing partner that miracle summer of the sockeye come into the lake from the sea. If only I’d known that the cancer would return and that I would do everything I could to save him, knowing all along that he could not be saved, and that my heart would break beyond breaking, then break again. If only I’d seen the sun coming up over the mountains and the sky shift from gray to purple and the pale smudge of light against the mountains turn gold just above the crest. If only I’d seen the sun glinting off those sunslept waters as my love lets down the fishing lines, and off in the distance a salmon leaps—a silver flashing in the sky as if to split the heart of the sun—before it disappears into a soundless splash, in this all too brief and luminous season, to spawn and to die—oh, how I would have sung that song.

Ann teaches creative writing and women’s studies at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. She has published short fiction, personal essays, literary criticism, and book reviews in various anthologies such as Hemingway and Women: Female Critics and the Female Voice and in journals, including the Hemingway Review, Western American Literature, and the South Dakota Review. Her recent release is Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye. You can visit her website at http://www.annputnam.com.

Ann will be on virtual book tour June 1 – July 30 ’10. Visit her official tour page at Pump Up Your Book to find out more about her new memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye.

Amazon or Barnes & Noble are the best way to obtain your copies, although it will be available to order in most local bookstores.

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