Tag Archives: historical fiction

The Writing Life with Historical Novelist Joan Schweighardt

joanJoan Schweighardt is the author of several novels. In addition to her own projects, she writes, ghostwrites and edits for private and corporate clients.

Website: www.joanschweighardt.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joanschweighardtwriter

Twitter: @joanschwei

What’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

I’m calling my book new book, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun, a historical novel because I haven’t been able to come up with a better classification. Actually the story is based in part on the true history of the times I write about and in part on legends that grew out of the same time period. Because I had these rich materials to draw on, I did not have to work as hard at being creative as I would have if I were making up the whole story. But where I got off easy regarding that end of things, I had the challenge of having to do a ton of research and then being able to blend historical and legendary materials so that they would come together seamlessly.

What is so great about being an author?

If you love to write, being an author is great, just the way that it’s great if you love horses and get to ride all the time.

When do you hate it?

attila coverI complain a lot about how hard it is in these times to draw attention to books that are not published by one of the five big publishing houses that are able to throw money and clout behind their titles. I’d love to have a wider audience for my work. Not having the audience I want sometimes makes me question why I bother. But then I think about all the reasons I bother and go back to writing again

What is a regular writing day like for you?

I am at my desk every weekday by 8:00 a.m. But I don’t work on my own projects until I’ve finished client work. Sometimes I have no client work for days on end and can work on my own projects.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

Well, there are two kinds of authors. There are a handful of authors who have made it big and there’s the rest of us. I would think those of us in the latter category probably don’t have big egos. I don’t know about the others.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Nowadays most of the reviews a body gets are from the public at large, as opposed to professional reviewers. Some people are used to reading very uncomplicated books with unrealistically happy endings. So, if they accidentally purchase something a little darker or more challenging, they may say bad things about it. That can be hurtful to an author.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Everyone loves to get a positive review. But in these times I think some people are more interested in the number of reviews they get than in whether they are negative, positive or somewhere in between. If you have 600 reviews on your amazon page, readers will think they’re missing out on something and want your book. That’s why lots of people “buy” reviews. I still can’t get my head around the idea of every “buying” a review, but I understand where the people who do buy them are coming from. We all want to sell books.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I’m much better at talking about the books I write for other people than I am talking about my own books. So I usually talk about my ghostwriting and editing projects for clients.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Since I write for a living as well as for my own pleasure, I am pretty much always writing. I take a break on weekends. Sometimes if I have having trouble with a project, whether for a client or myself, I tell myself that if I want I can get a book and go lie down on the sofa and read until I fall asleep. That’s my escape valve. Knowing I can do that if I want to keeps me from ever actually doing it (mostly).

Any writing quirks?

I’m sure I have plenty but I don’t know what they are. When I’m writing fiction, I do the dialogue between characters out loud, often saying the words with the intonation they would. That doesn’t feel quirky to me, but if my husband is home and happens to overhear me, he’ll raise an eyebrow and give me “the look.”

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’m happy to say the people who mean the most to me take my writing seriously. If they didn’t, I guess I would just have let it go.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

I’m shrugging. I never “hate” writing. I do dislike many things about the publishing process, such as the need to market your work on social media and the fact that there are so few professional reviewers these days, and the ones that exist are inundated with review requests. But as for the process, I have no complaints.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

We all need money to pay the bills. While you can derive immense pleasure from doing the thing you love—whether it is writing or knitting or making flower arrangements—if you can sell your book or sweater or bouquet to someone who appreciates the love you put into it, so much the better.

What has writing taught you?

Writing taught me to think at another level. I don’t know if it’s a deeper level or just another level. I do a lot of lucid dreaming, where I am asleep and awake (or at least aware) at the same time. I think that comes from writing all my life, from trying to grasp the thoughts behind thoughts before they slip away.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

My best advice for first time writers and writers who just want to write better is read, read, and read. And don’t just read books in your genre of preference. Read everything, all the time.

Title: The Last Wife of Attila the Hun

Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction with a Legendary Component

Author: Joan Schweighardt

Website: www.joanschwweighardt.com

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Two threads are woven together in The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue. Lovers of history and fantasy alike will find realism and legend at work in this tale.

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Next O&W Train From Tennessee Book Blitz – Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!


Next O&W Train

Title: Next O&W Train from Tennessee

Genre: Historical Fiction

Author: JR Holbrook

Publisher: Xlibris

EBook: 123 pages

Release Date: March 30, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-46918-802-7

James Holbrook is the great-great-grandson of Nancy Moody. Nancy Moody was the daughter of Charlot Moody and Johnathon Moody-Johnathon Moody was killed in the Civil War-Nancy Moody being the mother of Armeldia Moody and the grandmother of Raymond Wright, Selby Wright, Clara, Cora, and Edith. This is the second short story of James Holbrook, who also published Making Sense in 2011. James graduated from Sullivan University in 2008 with honors and decided to try the option of writing some short stories and children’s books. What James likes most about writing is creative expression.






JR Holbrook has traveled to many places in his life and lived in more than just a few places over nearly fi fty years. While in Hawaii, he had many wonderful experiences, and some of these are in his book. He has been to the Grand Canyon, and saw eagles and condors fl y over its enormously high cliffs. When he traveled to Punta Cana and Costa Rica with college students, he had a great learning experience. He was amazed as he watched the water fall over the edge of Niagara Falls. He also enjoys writing and has studied it through the many years while being in college. He has served as a security offi cer for many years and has an interest in legal issues. Most of his family members from his father’s side who lived in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, were medical doctors, and this
is also in his book.


Pump Up Your Book and JR are teaming up to give away a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Terms & Conditions:
  • By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
  • 1 winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive each of the prizes
  • This giveaway begins April 1 and ends on April 15.
  • Winners will be contacted via email on April 16, 2014.
  • Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Good luck everyone!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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First Chapter Reveal: I, Walter by Mike Hartner

I, WalterTitle: I, Walter
Author: Mike Hartner
Publisher: Eternity 4 Popsicle Publishing
Pages: 224
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0973356154
ISBN-13: 978-0973356151

Purchase at AMAZON

This is the life story of Walter Crofter, an English commoner who ran from home at the age of 11.  After two years living on the street, he ended up on a Merchant Mariners boat in the service of the Crown.

On his first voyage, he rescued a girl from pirates.  A very important girl, who stole his heart before she was returned to her home.

This is the story of his life.  What adventures he had at sea; what took him off the waters, and what happened to him as he lived his life and stayed true to his character.

First Chapter:

“I, Walter Crofter, being of sound mind….”  Bah, this is garbage!  I tossed my quill on the parchment sitting in front of me.  People may question my sanity, but they should hear the whole story before judging me.  I’m sitting here, now, at the age of 67, trying to write this down and figure out how to tell everything.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get it right, though.  Too many secrets to go around.  However, this is my last chance     to offer the truth before I die.  The doctors say it’s malaria, yet I’ll be fine.  Perhaps.     But if the malaria doesn’t kill me, my guilt indeed will.  Maybe if people know the facts surrounding my life, everyone will have a better understanding.

I dipped the tip in the inkwell again, and wrote:

I was born September 2, 1588, and named Walter.  I didn’t belong in this Crofter family, who were storekeepers in London and not farmers as our surname might indicate to those who study this sort of thing.  My parents were courteous and even obsequious to our patrons.  Yet they received little or no respect.  The ladies came to us to buy their groceries or the fabric for their dresses, but as seemly as they comported themselves, and some even called my father ‘friend,’ it was not out of regard for him.  I was forced to run.  Well, “forced” might put too harsh a point on it, like that of a sword, but others can judge for themselves.

By the time I reached the age of 12, I’d found another family that was more     “me”.  They weren’t rich, but they were comfortable.  The parents had several children, including a girl my age who was named Anna.  Within two years, we had come to know each other quite well, and were getting to know each other even better.  Her father caught us getting too close to knowing each other better yet, and showed up at my parents’ house with a musket in his hand, telling them if I ever came near his daughter again, he’d use    it on me–and then on them.

I paused to dip the pen and wipe my brow.  Even though I was wearing a light cotton shirt, it was bloody hot in early August in Cadaques.  My wife, Maria, entered    the room and looked at my perspiring face and what I had just written.  Between fits of laughter, she smiled at me with wide lips and said, “You can’t possibly write this.  You’re not the only boy a doting father ever had to chase away.  Nobody cares about this sort of thing.”

“It will at least give a pulse to this writing,” I replied.  “It’s too boring to say          that I left because I was mismatched with my own family, so much so that I was positive someone had switched me at birth.  Or that I thought I was ready for more in life than what I could find at home.  Nobody would read that, not even me.”

“I agree, so tell the story that really means something.  All of it.”  She sighed softly and placed the parchment she had been reading on the desk in front of me and kissed my cheek.  The gleam in her eyes shed 20 years off her age and reminded me of    a much gentler time.  God, how much I love her.

I said, “Before I met you, I spent my life like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.  I’m just trying to make my story more interesting.”

“I’ve heard the accounts of your life before you met me.  Or I should say found me.  It was anything but boring.  So, if you insist on including in the story lines like those you just wrote, make sure they’re the only ones.  If you don’t, I’ll consider adding my own material.”  She winked.  “You know I’ve had good sources.”

She turned and walked away, laughing loudly as I called after her, “Yes, dear.”

I dipped the quill and put it to parchment again.

In my earliest days, I remember my father, Geoff, being a bit forceful with other people.  I also recall my brother Gerald, nearly five years my senior, and myself being happy.  Or at least as contented as two boys could be who were growing up in the late 1500s in England, and working every day since their seventh birthdays.  It was a time when boys were earning coin as soon as they could lift or carry things.  The money   could never be for themselves, however, but for the parents to help pay the bills.

Father lived as a crofter should.  He was an upright man and sold vegetables off   a cart like his grandfather did, and he also dabbled in selling fine fabric for the ladies of status.

One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my brother came home and got into a heated debate with my father about something.  When I ran to see what was the matter, they hushed around me, so I never got the full gist of the argument.  But whatever it was about, it was serious, and the bickering continued behind my back for five straight days.  When I awoke on the morning of the sixth day, Gerald was no longer at home.  And he never came back.

Soon afterwards, my father lost enthusiasm for his business and became generally passive.  I assumed this was because of Gerald’s leaving, and only on occasion would I see flashes of my dad’s former self.

At the start of my tenth year, our family moved closer to London.  We rented    the bottom floor of a three-story building in which several families lived in the upper floors.  My father said we relocated because he needed to be closer to more business opportunities.  But my mom didn’t believe he’d made the right decision, since he was  now selling food out of a cart and not inside a storefront.  One night, she greeted him at the door when he came home.  She was wearing a frown and a dress that had seen better days.

“Did you bring in any decent money?” she asked him before he had time to take off his coat.

“I told you, it will take some time.  It’s not easy to make good money these days.”

“Especially when you let the ladies walk all over you.”

“I know, I know.  But what am I to do when they aren’t running up to me to buy what I’m selling?”

“You at least bring home some food for us?”  My father had carried in a bag under his arm.

“It’s not much, a few carrots and some celery.”  He handed her the bag.

“What about meat?”

“We’re not ready for meat yet.”

“That’s true enough,” my mother said.  “But you should at least try to feed your family.  Walter’s growing, and so are our other children.”

“Leave me be, woman.  I’m doing the best I can for now.”  He sat in his chair, leaned his head against the wall, and fell asleep.

That same debate played out between my parents for the next two years.  Except for the summer months, when food was plentiful; then the arguments subsided.  But for the rest of the year, especially during the winter, the same discussions about money continued on a daily basis, and they were often quite heated.  I lost two younger siblings during those two years.  One during my tenth winter and the other during my eleventh winter.  Neither of the children was older than six months.  I always suspected hunger    as the primary cause of their deaths.

Just before my twelfth birthday, my father started taking me with him when he went to work.  My closest living sibling was nearly six and not feeling well most of the time, and the family needed the money I could bring in by helping my father, who was bland and wishy-washy, particularly when selling fabrics.  I had no idea what he was like before, but in my mind his lethargy explained why our family was barely making ends meet.  Our lives had become much harder since Gerald left, and part of me blamed him.  I’m going to thrash him if I ever see him again and teach him a lesson about family responsibility.

It took me less than a week to realize that the people my father was dealing with, as with those in Bristol, had no respect for him.  They regularly talked down to him.  Rather than asking the price, they regularly paid what they wanted to pay. And he took it without a quibble.  And when he tried to curry favor, he would never get it.  His customers looked upon him as a whipping board, at least that’s how it seemed to me.

I remember when we got home in the dark after a long day of work in late November, and my mother started in on Dad.

“Well?  Have you got the money for me to buy food tomorrow?”

“A little.  Here.”  He fished a guinea from his pocket.

“A guinea?  That’s it?  That won’t feed us for a day.  You’ve got to start working harder.  With what you earn and what I bring in sewing clothes, we can barely pay the rent, and there is nothing left over to heat this place.  And it’s going to get colder, Geoff.”

“I know, Mildred, I know.  I’m trying as hard as I can.”

“You haven’t worked hard since Sir Walter Raleigh left favor.  You can’t wait for him forever.”

“He’ll get favor back.  And when he does, I’ll be right there helping him.  You’ll see, we’ll be fine again.”

She groaned.  I was aware that this was not the first time my mother had heard this from my father.  It’s great talk from a man trying to get ahead.  But after several years of the same song, it loses its credibility.  She had enjoyed respectability in the early days when my father grabbed the coattails of the then revered Sir Walter Raleigh, and it was hard not having this luxury now.  She hadn’t planned to be satisfied with being a shopkeeper’s wife, and she wasn’t even that, at present.  She changed the subject, not her tone.

“I overheard the ladies gossiping on the street today.  They were talking about seeing Gerald’s likeness on a ‘Wanted’ poster.  A ‘Wanted’ poster, Geoff.  There’s a warrant out for our son’s arrest.  What are we going to do?  What can we do?”

My father stared at the wall.  “Nothing.  He’s an adult.  He’ll have to work it out for himself.”

I watched quietly as my mother cried herself to sleep, her head on my father’s shoulder.  No matter how bad things got, they loved each other and wanted their lives to be better, the way I was often told they were before my birth.  Maybe this is why I wanted to get away from them as soon as I could.

I didn’t usually watch my parents fall asleep.  But, that night I did.  And, after they were sound asleep, I left.  I had no plans.  I didn’t know where I was going.  I just left in middle of what was a dark, chilly night.

I could hear the dogs barking around me as I scurried along the roadside.  It felt as if they were yelping at me and coming towards me.  I began running, faster than I’d ever sprinted in my life, my speed assisted by my sense of fear.  Every time I heard a dog, or an owl, or any other animal, or even my own heavy breathing, my pace increased until I was exhausted and had to stop.  This continued throughout the night until the sky started to lighten and I found a grove of overhanging bushes and crawled inside for some sleep.

I scavenged for food during the day and swiped a few pieces of fruit from merchants along the way.  This became my means of subsistence.  I left a coin when         I could, as I’d pick up an occasional odd job, but I was always out of money.  I also tried begging, and while I did survive on the street, I found life difficult.  Yet for nearly two years I stayed with this vagabond existence before deciding to make my way to the sea.  Too bad my internal compass wasn’t any good.  Turns out I was moving more to the west than to the south.  But before long I was on the shores of Bristol.  And my life changed forever.

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A Conversation with Gary L. Doman, Author of Vinland Viking


Gary L. Doman, whose (pen-)surname rhymes with “roman”, the French word for “novel”, was born in Syracuse (New York) and has spent the majority of his life in Connecticut.  He has degrees from Fairfield University and the University of Connecticut.  He has developed an interest in just about everything, especially history, geography, religion, language, and the natural world.  He began writing as a child and has never really stopped, although he does periodically need to eat and sleep, and also devotes considerable time to his other creative and intellectual endeavors; these include his “weblog” the Doman Domain and one of the items of interest found there, namely, “The Best Comic Strip Ever!”.  Further, he has taught himself to sing and founded his own political philosophy.  His greatest accomplishment may be remaining humble despite the preceding! 

Visit Gary online at http://domandomain.blogspot.com/

Q: Thank you for this interview, Gary. Can you tell us what your latest book, Vinland Viking: An Original Saga by Gary L. Doman, is all about?

A:  Vinland Viking is an “epic novella” and a “Christian historical fantasy-adventure” set at the time of the conversion to Christianity of Iceland and Greenland.  The protagonist is a young Northman who longs to lead the storied life of the pagan Vikings. His opportunity comes with Leif Ericsson’s exploration in North America, but his fortunes change in a way and by a means that no one could have anticipated, and which lead him ultimately (in a surprise ending) to the one true god.

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

A:  The protagonist, Yngar (later Brand-Yngar) Magnusson, is a native of the Orkney Islands.  He’s basically virtuous but also young and obstinate. He resents the fact that the Scandinavian world is accepting Christianity, which is putting an end to the practice of going “Viking,” that is, raiding.  Like me, he admires character in women at least as much as he does beauty, and he finds both those qualities in Asny Svansdottir, Vinland Viking‘s leading lady (or, to use a silly coinage of mine that does not appear in the book, “Viqueen”).  She’s even younger than Yngar, being just 16 when she first appears. Unlike him, she’s a devout Christian.  These two are really the only main characters.  The supporting cast consists largely of giants, dragons, other monsters, dwarves, and even some gods.

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

A:  Only the monsters are based on “real people.”  Actually, I create characters from my imagination, since, for me, the ability to do that is one of the greatest rewards of writing.  I cannot say, though, that no actual human beings have any influence on them.  As I stated in my answer to the previous question, Yngar shares my taste in the opposite sex; he’s also obstinate, and I think that at least the potential for obstinacy exists in my personality.  It ought to be noted here that Vinland Viking is just one tale in what I regard as an “epic cycle” built around several protagonists of a common ancestry, who live in different periods of history (over a total span of 13,000 years) and together represent all mankind, and that I’m trying to give each a different prime character trait that I deem present in myself.

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

A:  The plot can evolve somewhat as I write, but my policy is to map it out with as much detail as I can before starting one of this fella’s novellas.  A nightmare of mine is writing a large portion of a story and then realizing that it just won’t work as planned, because of something that I’d failed to consider. (I’ve always succeeded at whittling down the edges of a square peg so that it fits into a round hole, but I’d rather that everything just proceeded smoothly.)

Q: Your book is set in lands that border the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean.  Can you tell us why you chose this place in particular? 

A:  Yes: The reason why my story is titled “Vinland Viking” is that Yngar Magnusson, who has just settled in Greenland, flees to the part of North America that Leif Ericsson has explored and named “Vinland;” in my novella, it’s part of Newfoundland.  This gives him the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a true Viking (one who goes “Viking”, or raiding), although, as I hinted in my answer to the first question, his life takes an unexpected turn. 

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

A:  It does.  One of my chief interests is geography, and so I try to make the most of the location of a scene.  Local weather phenomena such as blizzard and fog, and even local wildlife, play a very significant role in advancing the plot. 

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

A:  If you mean page 69 of the print version, the answer is “nothing,” because that edition is only 67 pages long.  Since the revised, electronic Vinland Viking is readable on various techno-gizmos that allow one to change the font size and so forth, which page is number 69 is largely a matter of one’s preference, but, let me look at the manuscript in “reading view;” this yields 110 screens.  On number 69 of those, I see that Brand-Yngar is examining weapons that dwarves have just given him so that he can fulfill a certain mission. I provide a detailed description of the weaponry, rather as Homer did for the armor and shield of Achilles in the Iliad

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

A:  Only if you promise to give it back!  I don’t want to excerpt material that gives away too much of the plot, and I like to think that every part of Vinland Viking is the best part, but I’ll provide the following:

Long after they had left the sight of the Kraken, Brand-Yngar and his cohort could see nothing in the bleakness except an occasional skua, ptarmigan, or arctic tern, all of which were too adept at flying to be caught by a party of such limited resources.  Nonetheless, since snow did not currently cover the ground, the trio considered that they had a good chance of locating whichever animals had already donned their white winter fur or plumage.  They also remembered to examine the nearby shore, knowing that the ocean might provide what they needed.

Later they spotted another avian, but one that seemed to hold out more promise of being caught: a beautiful, black-barred female snowy owl, roosting in a depression in the treeless tundra.  On Brand-Yngar’s advice, he and the others flattened themselves on the frozen earth and inched toward the bird.  As they did so, Brand-Yngar felt hypocritical, for he had recently admonished these same charges of his that “A Viking never crawls!”

The men continued to slide and grind forward on their bellies; if this part of the island had been frosted by snow and ice, they might have resembled oversized penguins.  They had approached their quarry within a few score of yards, never knowing whether it failed to detect their presence, merely bided its time before taking flight, or perhaps had to stay put to protect eggs or owlets, when abruptly its mate winged to the attack from a heretofore unseen post on the summit of a boulder.  In silence the golden-eyed, nearly pure-white partner repeatedly and fearlessly swooped upon the hunters, each time wheeling away to strike from a new angle; the flustered Northlanders sought to down the large bird with their weapons, but it manoeuvred around the flailing steel, getting its talons so close to their eyes that they thought it very capable of gouging them from the sockets.  In frustration they conceded victory to the owls, and swiftly circumvented the area.

As the group trod further along, the air grew noticeably chillier.  This did not alarm anybody until one observed that the very storm that had forced the dragon ship ashore was moving northwest.  Worse, it now qualified as a blizzard, for the winds were beginning to dust Helluland with snowflakes.  Death was merely a possibility to those staying with the Kraken, whereas it was a certainty here in the midst of a snowstorm; Brand-Yngar therefore instructed the other members of the triad to attempt to retreat to the longship, even though this meant going straight into the powerful and blinding air currents.  They saw several animals hiding from the atmospheric fury; to catch these would have been easy, but all their attention was now dedicated to their own immediate survival.

Brand-Yngar felt his legs growing heavier with each step, and he had no doubt that the rest were growing similarly exhausted; the fact that they had to lift their feet steadily higher to extract them from the swiftly accumulating snow didn’t improve matters.  During particularly strong gusts it seemed to the comrades that they were barely progressing, for the might of the wind was nearly equal to their remaining determination.  Brand-Yngar would have offered words of encouragement, but the frigidity had numbed his lips.  He couldn’t avoid marveling that he was experiencing a worse blizzard than any that he could recall as an Orcadian, where his home had lain at 59 degrees North Latitude, yet this was not yet autumn!  Being ignorant of the Gulf Stream, which brought warm water to his birthplace, and of the Labrador Current, which carried cold water south in the Western Hemisphere, he wondered in his distress if this might be a stage of the Fimbulwinter, the severe winter or winters that the sages had foretold would precede Ragnarok.

Hours passed.  His associates faltered, first temporarily, and then permanently.  Their leader wanted to give them a proper burial, but he knew that to expend the necessary time and energy would merely expedite his own demise.  He could only unsheathe each dying man’s sword and place it in each man’s hand, so that the pair would, in Norse belief, be granted entrance to Valhalla.  Brand-Yngar himself continued onward as long as he was capable of movement, and prayed, as long as he had consciousness, to the deity who, as the creator of storms, had the power to calm them: Thor.  Then, he blacked out. 

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

A:  You’re welcome, and thank you.

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Was there a conspiracy behind JFK’s death? Interview with Jack Duffy, author of ‘The Man From 2063’

Jack DuffyJack Duffy is an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas.  The Man from 2063 is his first book.  On November 22, 1963 he was in school at Bruce Shulkey Elementary when he heard the news about President Kennedy’s assassination.  His parents were at the breakfast in Fort Worth, Texas, that morning when President Kennedy gave his last speech.  In 1970 he saw the Zapruder film for the first time.  He has been researching the JFK assassination since then.  He has interviewed many eyewitnesses including Marina Oswald and several Parkland physicians who treated JFK.  He has met many researchers who have written books on the assassination.  He came up with the idea for a time travel novel in 1998.  He has one of the largest private collections of materials on the JFK assassination.  He graduated from Texas Tech University with a B.A. in Political Science.  He then earned an M.B.A from Baylor University.  He then graduated from South Texas School of Law with a J.D.  He is an Eagle Scout.


The Man From 2063Who are some of the key people connected with the JFK assassination who died suspiciously?

William Pitzer is one of the most important strange deaths. Pitzer was a naval commander who took the photos and X-rays of JFK’s autopsy.  Pitzer told his family he was going to go public with the photos after he retired from the Navy.  He was threatened with court martial if he talked about the autopsy. He was visited by CIA agents and warned not to reveal what he had observed at the autopsy. Pitzer made a 16 mm film of the autopsy.  In the mid 1960’s a Green Beret was asked to kill Pitzer for the CIA. He refused to kill him.  Later Pitzer was found dead in his lab at Bethesda naval hospital. His death was ruled a suicide. His 16mm film disappeared.   Dorothy Kilgallen was a reporter for the NY times. She was the only person to ever have a private interview with Jack Ruby.  She later told people she was going to blow the JFK assassination story wide open.  She was found dead in her NY apartment. Her death was ruled a suicide from a drug overdose.  Albert Bogard was a used car salesman who met a man who claimed he was Oswald at his car lot.  He later said the man was not the real Oswald. Bogard passed a lie detector and recieved death threats. He was found dead in his garage. A hose had been connected to his cars exhaust pipe and put in the window. His death was ruled a suicide. George DeMohrenschildt was a close friend of Oswald’s. DeMorenschildt worked for the CIA.  In March 1977, he committed suicide with a shotgun at his home in Florida hours before he was to be interviewed by an investigator from the HSCA.  Several high ranking mobsters were murdered before they could be brought to Washington D.C. to testify before the HSCA.   

What is the single bullet theory?

The single bullet theory was developed by Arlen Specter who was a junior lawyer on the Warren Commission.  The theory is that one of the bullets fired by Oswald from the School Book Depository hit JFK in the back of the neck, exited his throat, hit Gov. Connally in the back, struck one of his ribs, exited his chest, entered his wrist shattering it and then ended up in his thigh.  The bullet was later recovered from a stretcher in Parkland hospital.  The bullet was Commission exhibit 399 and had very little damage to it. It has been called ‘The Magic Bullet” by critiics of the Warren Commission. 

What are some of the problems with the single bullet theory?

First, Gov. Connally never agreed with it. Connally was an experienced hunter and testified that one bullet did not hit him and JFK.  Connally said he was hit by a separate bullet.  The surgeons who operated on Connally disagreed with the theory.  They said the trajectory of the bullet that wounded Connally proved it could not have hit JFK first. JFK’s shirt and coat prove the bullet entered his back several inches below his neck and could not possibly have exited from his throat.  Autopsy photos show the location of the back wound on JFK.  One of the pathologists at the autopsy stuck his finger in JFK’s back wound and could not feel any point of exit.  An Admiral present at the autopsy ordered the pathologists not to track the back wound. Tests done at firearms labs with the same ammunition that Oswald allegedly used show bullets that are flattened out completely after being fired into cadavers wrists.  More bullet fragments are present in Connally’s wrist X-rays than are missing from CE 399.

Is there evidence that JFK’s head wound was caused by a different type of ammunition than Oswald allegedly used?

Yes. X-rays of JFK’s skull reveal a snowflake pattern of small bullet fragments scattered throughout JFK’s brain. This is indicative of a hollow point or dum dum bullet that explodes on impact and fragments into dozens of pieces. This is the type of bullet often used by the Mafia and CIA because it is almost impossible to trace and causes massive damage to the victim. Oswald was allegedly using military jacketed ammunition which does does not explode into dozens of fragments like a hollow point bullet.

Were gunmen observed on the Grassy Knoll several days before JFK was killed?

Yes. On Wednesday, November 20, 1963 two Dallas police officers were driving down Elm Street through Dealey Plaza when they saw two men dressed in suits and ties standing behind the picket fence with high powered rifles. The policemen ran up the knoll however the men drove away in a car before the officers could catch them.  The police officers made a report about the incident. The report was buried by the FBI until the HSCA discovered it during their investigation of the assassination in the 1970’s.

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A Conversation with Spy Fiction Author John Knoerle

John Knoerle

Please welcome my special guest, spy fiction author John Knoerle. John is here today to talk about his latest release, The Proxy Assassin. John  began his creative endeavors in the early 70s as a member of the DeLuxe Radio Theatre, a comedy troupe in Santa Barbara. He then moved to LA and did stand-up comedy, opening for the likes of Jay Leno and Robin Williams.

Knoerle wrote the screenplay Quiet Fire, which starred Karen Black, and the stage play The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club, an LA Time’s Critic’s Choice. He also worked as a staff writer for Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.

Knoerle moved to Chicago in 1996 with his wife Judie. His first novel, “Crystal Meth Cowboys,” was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, “The Violin Player,” won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction.

John Knoerle’s novel, A Pure Double Cross, was the first volume of a late 40s spy trilogy featuring former OSS agent Hal Schroeder. The second volume, A Despicable Profession, was published in 2010. Knoerle’s latest book,The Proxy Assassin, Book Three of the American Spy Trilogy, has just been released.

Visit his website at www.johnknoerle.com.

It is a pleasure to have him here with us today!

Thanks for this interview, John.  What an illustrious background!  Let’s start at the beginning?  How did you get intoThe Proxy Assassin the entertainment field?

John: I was working at the college radio station at UC Santa Barbara in the early 70s because I was a music nut. One fateful day two members of The Firesign Theater, a very popular and sophisticated comedy troupe, swung by to record promo spots for a gig on campus.

My job was to engineer the session. Firesign’s David Ossman and Phil Proctor improvised three brilliant and hilarious thirty-second spots in no time and left me in Studio B, stunned and amazed.

I didn’t have a clue if I could do what they did, but I sure knew I wanted to give it a try!

Was comedy your passion?

John: It became my passion. And The DeLuxe Radio Theater had good success in Santa Barbara in the 70s. But we were big fish in a small pond.

When I moved to LA to do stand-up, what comics call the room, got a whole lot colder.

Foolishly, I thought that my brilliant material would win them over and I wouldn’t have to stoop to that hackneyed ‘Where are you folks from?’ patter to warm up the crowd.

Lesson learned. Unless you’re well-known, you have to establish a connection with the audience before they will laugh at your jokes.

How’d you go from comedy to writing spy fiction?  Was it something you loved reading?

John: Yes. Though I wrote two novels based on personal experience before I branched out. It took me years of research to become conversant enough in espionage to attempt to fictionalize it.

I’m pretty confident that if you Google ‘former stand-up comics who now write spy fiction’, I’ll be the only hit!

Your first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, was optioned for a Fox TV movie.  Tell us about that?

John: Actually it was optioned for a TV series. Crystal Meth Cowboys was my first novel, self-published after years of rejection. A Hollywood writer saw it in a bookstore in LA – the only copy in the joint – and gave it a read.

Then I got an email inquiring about ‘sub-rights’. The writer and I – her name is Jacqui Zambrano – hit it off and wrote an hour-long pilot script that got the ball rolling. We got as close as auditioning actors and scouting locations when somebody upstairs pulled the plug at the last second.

Your latest book, The Proxy Assassin, is the last book of your American Spy Trilogy.  Is it sad to say goodbye to such a fantastic series?

John: Yes.

Can you give us a brief description of each book?

John: Book One, A Pure Double Cross, is Hal Schroeder, former OSS behind-enemy-lines spy, coming home to Ohio in late ’45, bitter and disillusioned after WWII. When the FBI seeks to exploit his undercover skills, he sees a way to make a pile and get the hell out.

Book Two, A Despicable Profession, is Hal’s uh-oh moment when he realizes he may enjoy intrigue and espionage a bit more than he is willing to admit.

Book Three, The Proxy Assassin, is, essentially, Hal’s transition from boy to man.

What’s next for you?

John: Not sure. I take the task of writing fiction very seriously, even if my style is somewhat smartass and throwaway. Making it appear to the reader that you’re not making much of an effort takes a ton of work, trust me.

And the prospect of writing another novel at this point in my life is….exhausting.

Thank you so much for this interview, John.  Do you have anything else you’d like to share with us?

John: Yes, here’s my great words of wisdom: travel! Break your routine. Travel to strange places, the stranger the better. It can help you appreciate what you’ve got and it makes life seem longer and fuller.

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Read-a-Chapter: The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle


Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the spy fiction, The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle. Enjoy!


The Proxy Assassin

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Steel Press (September 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982090390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982090398

October, 1948. Former OSS agent Hal Schroeder gets invited to Washington D.C. by Frank Wisner, who heads the CIA’s new covert ops division. Hal is whisked off to Wisner’s Maryland shore retreat and introduced to a brace of Romanian royals, including the scarily beautiful Princess Stela Varadja, a direct descendant of Vlad Tepes Draculea.

Then Frank Wisner pops the question. Would Hal consider parachuting into a remote mountain camp to meet with the leader of a group of Romanian anti-Communist guerillas?

“I had already survived two previous suicide missions and a third did not appeal. But I told Frank Wisner I would need a few days to think it over. I had some sightseeing to do.”

As it turns out Hal Schroeder gets to do a lot more sightseeing than he bargained for. A journey that brings the American Spy Trilogy to a surprising, and emotional, conclusion.


Chapter One

The key number to remember when you parachute out of an airplane at an altitude of five hundred feet is two. You have two seconds to do two things. Get your feet down and your cord pulled. That’s it, that’s all you need to know.

I hadn’t jumped since ‘44 so the flyboys thought it would be a good idea for me to take a couple low-altitude warm-ups from a C-45 at Andrews AFB. Shake off the rust after a four year layoff.

Sure. Why not triple my chances of falling five hundred feet in six seconds and smacking the sod at ninety miles an hour? I told them to get stuffed. I’d risk my tender hide only when it mattered. And I’d pack my own damn chute.

I was more of a jerk than I needed to be to those earnest young men who were just about my age but seemed like kids. It wasn’t their fault I had fumbled and stumbled my way into another suicide mission.

The drop zone was located in rural central Romania. Transylvania, an area ringed by the thickly-wooded Carpathian Mountains. Which explained the tiny drop zone which explained the low altitude jump.

The mission wasn’t a complete disaster. I jumped out the joe hole and into the night sky with one big improvement over WW II. It wasn’t a blind drop, I had a group of resistance fighters waiting to greet me.

I executed a perfect two-point landing in a clearing between two mountains. My contact was Captain Sorin Dragomir, a large fortyish man with waves of thick brown hair. His well-upholstered gut and full set of teeth marked him as a man of stature.

That and his tasseled hessians and uniform jacket, buttons bursting, the gold braid above his breast pocket jiggling as he shook my hand. His dozen or so khaki-clad men were smaller and darker-skinned.

A dozen men. Christ. Joe Stalin must be quaking in his boots.

I got on my hotshot new Joan/Eleanor transceiver, rang the radio operator of the C-45 circling overhead and gave him the code for a safe landing. “Chaise lounge.”


“Godspeed.” With any luck the crew would reach their refueling strip in northern Turkey with a couple gallons left in the tank.

It was late, all I wanted was a quick snort and some shuteye. But the Captain made his men stand to attention around a guttering fire as he made a welcoming speech in English about the deep and abiding friendship between our two great nations. An elderly man stood beside him and translated his remarks into rapid-fire Romanian.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that it sounded a lot like Italian. One thing I’d learned in my mission briefing was that, despite the vast expanse of pale and dour Yugoslavs and Hungarians separating them from Italy, Romanians considered themselves charter members of the Roman Empire. Which they were many centuries ago. Funny what people choose to take pride in.

The troops dispersed after the welcoming ceremony. The Captain and I retired to his little fortress at the edge of the clearing. It was a very old building. I had to bend at the waist to clear the doorway. The main room was lit by candles in an iron ceiling wheel. No fire in the fireplace though the night was cold.

Before the front door was closed I caught a glimpse of two of Dragomir’s troops skittering by, headed home. It looked as though they had changed back into civilian clothes, which I took to mean that Captain Dragomir had not secured even this obscure slice of real estate.

The Captain and I seated ourselves at a table made from dark, foot-wide planks. The elderly man, apparently Drago-mir’s valet, went to a rough cupboard and fetched a bottle of twenty-year-old hooch and two crystal tumblers.

“I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, Captain, but I don’t drink Scotch.”

“Why not?”

“It tastes like peat moss.”

The Captain laughed at me. I knew the local drink was plum brandy so I asked for some. Dragomir laughed some more and issued instructions to his man.

We were served a delicious cold supper by candlelight. Three kinds of cheese, smoked ham, crusty bread, cucumbers in sour cream and sliced tomatoes. I should’ve stuck with peat moss, however. The plum brandy tasted like gasoline.

Frank Wisner, my boss, had set Dragomir and his men a task, which I relayed to him. They were to conduct surveillance on a Romanian Army encampment about ten kilometers to the southwest. This was to serve two purposes. To determine if the Captain’s men could follow orders. And to assess the readiness and morale of the Romanian Army in a remote outpost.

The Soviet Army was spread thin throughout Eastern Europe. They had a base outside Bucharest, for instance, but they relied on the Romanian Army to keep order in the hinterlands. And the hinterlands weren’t happy. The puppet government in Bucharest did as Moscow instructed. It collectivized farms and closed churches, which did not go over well with the locals.

Frank Wisner thought the Romanian Army would prove an unreliable ally for the Soviets, doubted they would open fire on their own people if push came to shove. How I was supposed to determine that by examining a remote Romanian outpost through binoculars was left to me.

Once I explained it to him Captain Dragomir agreed to Frank Wisner’s assignment without hesitation. We would march tomorrow evening, zero hundred hours. And how was his old friend Frank coming along in his important new job?


The beeswax candles flickered in the drafty, heavy-timbered little fort. The old man cleared our plates and went away. The Captain poured himself another tumbler as the shadows danced.

“This building dates back to the 17th Century. It was a Swabian hunting lodge.” He pointed to the stag horns mounted over the door, and the blackened hooks in the attic.

“That is where they smoked the meat.”

Meat hooks, ugh. Hitler was fond of meat hooks.

Captain Dragomir was keen to tell me all about his elaborate plan to foment rebellion against Moscow’s puppet regime in Bucharest but I was not, at this late hour, keen to listen to his delusions of grandeur.

That would have been a mistake under normal circum-stances. If you are sent on a risky and expensive mission to gather intelligence you don’t insult your source by saying, “I’m all in, Captain, let’s discuss this tomorrow.” That’s because tomorrow has a way of scampering off down the road while you’re lacing up your shoes.

But, as luck would have it, my bad attitude paid off.

Reprinted with permission from The Proxy Assassin by John Knoerle. © 2012 by Blue Steel Press

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As The Pages Turn Chats with Cynthia Haggard author of Thwarted Queen

Author Cynthia Haggard

Born and raised in Surrey, England, Cynthia Sally Haggard has lived in the United States for thirty years. She is the author of the Thwarted Queen series, which includes The Bride Price, One Seed Sown, The Gilded Cage, Two Murders Reaped and Rose of Raby. She has had four careers: violinist, cognitive scientist, medical writer and novelist. Yes, she is related to H. Rider Haggard, the author of SHE and KING SOLOMONS’S MINES. (H. Rider Haggard was a younger brother of the author’s great-grandfather.) Cynthia Sally Haggard is a member of the Historical Novel Society. You can visit her at: http://spunstories.com/,

https://twitter.com/ – !/cynthiahaggard, and




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


A: Thwarted Queen is a portrait of a woman trapped by power, a marriage undone by betrayal and a King brought down by fear. It is biographical fiction, about the life and times of Lady Cecylee Neville (1415-1495), which takes us from 1424 (when Cecylee turns nine and is betrothed to Richard of York), to 1495, two months before her death. (I don’t like deathbed scenes). It is set during the waning years of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).


Q: Is this your first novel? 


A: Yes. It took me seven years to write. I started it in September 2004, and completed it in May 2011.


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


Thwarted Queen Book Tour

A: This was an ambitious book both because it is about a real person, and it covered 71 years of her life. I have a PhD and I must say I think this novel was even more difficult to write than my dissertation (which is saying something)! Yes, I had times when I felt that I could not continue. Usually what I do in these circumstances is put the book down and work on something else. In those early days, I was so busy just trying to learn the craft of writing, and calling upon a dear friend (Beth Gessert to whom the book is dedicated) to help me. But from May 2007, I started writing my second novel, Family Splinters. So whenever things would get difficult with Cecylee, I would just work on Splinters. Then I would come back to Thwarted Queen feeling refreshed, and continue.


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


A: The book is slowly beginning to gather traction, particularly as I have been promoting it on Goodreads for the past couple of months. And I have received some flattering comments from various people online. One of my most thrilling experiences was when a 15-year-old young lady, who seemed to harbor ambitions of becoming a rock star, gave 5 stars on Goodreads to The Gilded Cage, the political novel about the opening of the Wars of the Roses. I was simply stunned. It never occurred to me that it would appeal. So I sat down and wrote a thank-you note.


Q: What is your daily writing routine?


A: I have various routines. But what I’m doing right now is writing for 2-3 hours each morning, because I have a new novel that I want to get started. After lunch, I then deal with the internet and all the marketing of Thwarted Queen I have to do.


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


A: I like to do physical things, like walking, hiking, yoga. I’m also thinking of taking up martial arts. And I enjoy playing violin and piano. Am hoping to start a string quartet one day.


Q: What book changed your life?


A: It’s hard to say about one book. I can name two or three. Tolstoy’s War and Peace comes to mind. I first read it when I was sixteen, and literally could not put it down. A little later on I was galvanized by Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary and Bertrand Russell’s Unpopular Essays, because they made me laugh so hard. More recently, I would have to say Elizabeth Lesser’s The Seekers Guide, her book on spirituality, which is what I think the Bible should have been like.


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


A: House of Secrets: A Conspiracy of Silence.


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


A: that I love writing my novels, and I hope they enjoy reading my novels as much as I enjoyed writing them.


Thank you for this interview Cynthia.  I wish you much success on your latest release, Thwarted Queen!

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Historical Fiction Author Jill Limber: ‘Spend as much time as you can promoting’

Jill LimberA multi-published author and former RWA President, Jill Limber’s latest books are Montana Morning, A Heart That Dares and The Right Track. As a child, some of Jill’s tales got her in trouble, but now she gets paid for them. Residing in San Diego with her husband and a trio of dogs and one very ancient cat, Jill’s favorite pastime is to gather friends and family for good food, conversation and plenty of laughter.

You can visit her website at www.JillLimber.com.

About A Heart That Dares

A Heart That DaresAmanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Jill. Can you tell us what your latest book,A Heart That Dares, is all about?

Amanda Giles, an unconventional and free-spirited young artist, has to fulfill a deathbed promise to her brother before she can take up her life as a Bohemian in New York. She finds herself swept up in the perilous life of an undercover espionage agent for the Army of the North with handsome young Army Captain. Daniel McGrath. Daniel knows his preoccupation with the woman posing as his wife puts them both in grave danger, but he finds Amanda has no intention of abandoning their mission. As the danger increases, Daniel’s most vital objective is to secure a future for himself and the woman he loves.

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

The main character, Amanda Giles, is a woman ahead of her time. Her plans to work as an artist are interrupted when she is swept up in the American Civil War. She feisty and stubborn and independent. The hero, Daniel McGrath, reluctantly follows orders and works with Amanda, even though he is convinced a spy mission into enemy territory is no place for a gently bred woman. He is strong and steady, where she is impulsive and rash, a perfect match of opposites. The main minor character, a brave run-away slave women named Sylvie and her two children need to be rescued, and Amanda jumps right in.

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

Totally from imagination. I sometimes use personality traits from people I know, but the characters are totally made up.

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

 Definitely, I’m a plotter. I need the structure of a plot to develop a story properly and keep it on track.

Q: Your book is set during the Civil War in various locations in the Confederate States.  Can you tell us why you chose these cities?

For the plot of this book, the two characters needed to travel, and their adventures take them all over the South. I did a lot of research into where the armies were moving, and chose the cities that way.

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

Absolutely. I feel as if the setting was actually almost like another character in the book, totally necessary to the plot.

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

 Amanda has been wounded by Rebel raiders and Daniel is racing to get her back to camp and to the doctor before she loses too much blood.

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

Sure. I always love the first kiss scene in any book. 

“What do you mean, I don’t know how to kiss? How dare you?” Amanda sputtered, twisting away from him.

Daniel tightened his grip. “I mean you don’t know how to kiss the way a husband would kiss you. The way a lover would kiss you.”

Amanda glared at him. His eyes flashed back at her. Then in one swift movement he pulled her hard up against his chest, one arm circling her waist. He tilted her head back and slowly lowered his mouth to hers, staring directly into her eyes.

Amanda swallowed and tried to speak, but for the life of her she didn’t know what she would say even if she could find her voice.

Finally Daniel touched his lips, warm and firm, to hers and Amanda closed her eyes, savoring the feeling. She felt the strength leaving her tingling body and she leaned into Daniel for support.

He licked her upper lip with the tip of his tongue, then gently nibbled on the lower one. She gasped at the sensation, and when her lips parted, he ran his tongue inside her mouth.

Amanda found she couldn’t trust her legs and she swayed. When Daniel pulled away from her, she opened her eyes, but had trouble focusing.

His voice husky, Daniel murmured, “Goodnight Amanda.”

“Goodnight, Daniel,” she whispered as the door closed behind him.

He was right, she thought. She never had really kissed anyone else before.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

No, thankfully. I love to write and because I plot first, the story seems to come easily.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

 I’d do more writing. I find writing is the best part of my day.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

This is a tough question. I suppose if I had to choose, I would say any of the Harry Potter books. Who wouldn’t want the royalties from that?

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

Spend as much time as you can promoting. It is not what comes easily to most writers, but it is so important if you want to sell your work.

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



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The Story Behind ‘Shame the Devil’ by Debra Brenegan

Today’s guest is Debra Brenegan, author of the historical fiction novel, Shame the Devil Debra is here to tell us the back story behind her book!

In graduate school, I took a nineteenth-century American Literature class with a professor who told me, “I know a writer you’re just going to love.”  This writer, Fanny Fern, wasn’t on our reading list that semester, so, at my request, he added her book, Ruth Hall, to the reading list of a course I took with him the next semester.  And, he was right – I adored her!  Fanny Fern was the highest-paid, most-popular writer of her era.  She served as a literary mentor to Walt Whitman, earned the respect of Nathaniel Hawthorne and was friends with Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Fern’s personal life was a rollercoaster of highs and lows.  She was widowed, escaped an abusive second marriage, then married a third man, eleven years her junior.  I became so interested in Fern and her amazing life that I started writing papers about her.  I applied for and got a graduate school fellowship to visit Fern’s archives at Smith College in Massachusetts.  As I learned more about Fanny Fern, I couldn’t stop telling people about her.  And people were amazed with her rags-to-riches story.  They couldn’t believe that they had never heard of her.  When it came time to write my dissertation, I combined my interest in creative writing, literature and Women’s Studies to write a historical novel about this forgotten journalist, novelist and feminist.   I wanted everyone who hadn’t heard of Fanny Fern to learn about her; I wanted to bring her back to life.  My publisher is SUNY Press, Excelsior Editions.  I pitched the book myself, at a writer’s convention, directly to the acquisition editor.  He graciously listened to me, more graciously consented to read the manuscript.  It took a little while, but eventually, he and the rest of his editorial board decided to take on the book.  SUNY has been wonderful to work with from day one.  I’m extremely grateful to have found the perfect publisher for Shame the Devil.

 Debra Brenegan grew up in the Milwaukee area and graduated with a B.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked as a journalist and taught at Milwaukee Area Technical College before beginning her graduate work. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also taught. She teaches English and Women’s Studies at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. For her fiction, she has received a Ragdale residency and was a recent finalist for the John Gardner Memorial Fiction Prize, The Cincinnati Review’s Schiff Prose Prize, and the Crab Creek Review Fiction Prize. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Calyx, Tampa Review, Natural Bridge, The Laurel Review, RE:AL, The Southern Women’s Review, The Cimarron Review, Milwaukee Magazine, Phoebe, and other publications. Debra Brenegan’s novel, Shame the Devil, is a historical account of nineteenth-century American writer Fanny Fern (SUNY Press, Excelsior Editions). She is currently working on another novel, set in Missouri, and on a short story collection. During the school year, Debra lives in a 130-year-old house in Fulton with her husband, Steve, and their elderly cat. They spend summers and school breaks in their native Milwaukee. When not teaching, writing, spending time with family or driving back and forth to Wisconsin, Debra enjoys cooking, gardening, reading and traveling. You can visit her website at http://www.debrabrenegan.com or visit her at Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbrenegan or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/debra.brenegan; https://www.facebook.com/#!/shame.the.devil.book.

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