Sunday, June 26, 2011

Guest Author - Douglas Carlyle

My guest author this week is not what I consider a senior, but he tells me he is old enough to belong to the AARP, so that means he qualifies for my blog.

Doug Carlyle has written a book with the fascinating title: “In Search of the Fuller Brush Man.” The name really takes me back to my childhood, when I lived in a small town in South Central British Columbia. We had no access to any large stores; there was no television; and, of course, the war was raging in Europe. So the monthly visit from the Fuller Brush Man was about as exciting as it got in the area. One of the questions I asked Doug was about the plot for his story. Here is the interview.

Betty: People hardly think about the Fuller Brush men anymore, Doug. How did the idea for a plot based on that job come about?

Doug: The book is not so much about the ‘man’ as it is those words – “Fuller Brush Man”. My mother passed away in 1987. While she was dying of cancer, she kept a journal that I still have in my possession. The last words she ever wrote were, “Fuller Brush Man”. Hence, the search begins...only it was for the central character in the novel, Sean Marcum. In the book, he strives to find the meaning of those words.

Betty: Is Sean Marcum modelled on a real person at all? He is rather obsessive.

Doug: Sean isn’t so much obsessed with the idea of finding the meaning of his mother’s swan song. Rather, he is lousy at solving riddles. His mother always taught him life’s most important lessons via riddles, and he is convinced she has left him one final one to solve. By taking every wrong turn imaginable trying to solve this ultimate enigma, he amasses a huge collection of Fuller Brush memorabilia while chasing each and every red herring. Fortunately, he solves the mystery and benefits from its profound message, as will all of the readers of this novel.

Is he real? Let’s just say that much of this novel is biographical and leave it at that.

Betty: What actor do you envision would play him, if they made a movie out of your book?

Doug: I am a very visual person. As such, I have to have a clear image of a character. So, in fact, I create a cast for all of my characters. Kevin Costner would play Sean Marcum. He is of the correct age, good looking, confident, yet somewhat timid. Much like what I see in the mirror each time I look into it. Oh, I neglected to say, arrogant.

Betty: Can you tell us a little about your background? You live in the beautiful state of Texas, I believe.

Doug: I am a geek by education, though I think somewhere along the way I took a wrong turn. I graduated an electrical engineer from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, incidentally my home town, and one setting for my novel. Throughout grade school, high school, and college, I wrote articles and stories that received great reviews. But I traded the pen for a slide rule (now I should fit comfortably into your ‘senior’ group) and spent 26 years manufacturing chips for computers, games, and phones so that now the human race no longer has to interact with one another on an intimate basis. Read this as I have serious regrets with respect to what technology has done to society. Like I told someone recently, the inventor of the Facebook will long be forgotten. But we will never forget Ernest Hemingway.

Happily, once I holstered my slide rule, I picked up the pen once more...okay, a laptop. I write when I can. The back cover of my novel reads, “Doug lives in the Texas Hill Country. Against this backdrop of mountains, valleys, live water, and wildlife, he is writing fiction intended to touch all of his readers in a very special way”.

I still work. One of the wrong turns I took was away from the medical field. I should have been a doctor. I learned that too late to do anything about it. For thirty years now, I have been a paramedic in the rural areas where I have lived in Central Texas. This is my medical ministry. The top of my home page at reads, “Writing Fiction & Saving Lives...All in a Day’s Work”.

Betty: That's a very important job, Doug. Paramedics saved my husband's life when he had his heart attack so I think highly of that particular profession.

I know you are also very busy, at the moment, marketing this book with book tours and readings, etc. but, even so, I believe you will soon have another book published. Can you tell us about that?

Doug: The title is Vinegarone. It is about a paramedic (sounds autobiographical already) who befriends a homeless woman whom he rescues from the streets. They fall in love and retreat to his ranch in a mysterious region known as Vinegarone (it’s a real place). All is well except for one problem. She is not truly a homeless person. What’s more, someone is out to kill her.

I am writing the final chapters this summer and hope to have it available in November this year. Look for it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. There will be both paperback and e-versions.

Betty: Well, that should certainly be another fascinating read. Thank you for being my guest author this week, and I wish you much continued success with your writing career. Looks like it’s off to a great start.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Guest Author - Fantasy Writer, R.A. Knowlton

My guest interview this week is with fantasy writer, R.A. Knowlton whose book, “KnorraSky: The Deception” pronounced “NorraSky” has been published by IFWG Publishing and is available on and Barnes & Nobel, and includes both Kindle and Nook downloading. R.A. currently lives in Missouri, but has his roots in the state of Maine.

Betty: R.A., I’m a historical fiction writer, which entails a great deal of research but, at least, the information about the era and the setting are all available. But I’m always intrigued how a writer of fantasy is able to plan, not only a completely new race of beings; but also the lands they live in, the type of clothing they wear, they way they talk, etc. It seems to me it takes a great, imaginative writer to be able to portray these things. Where do you even begin to come up with such details?

R.A. Knowlton: I’ve always liked sci/fi/fantasy, so for me imagination comes easy. But I always base my stories on the tangible that the reader already knows and understands. Then I throw in the unexpected. It takes a lot of time and planning. Since I tend to write historic fantasy/sci/fi, I start with research of the estimated time period I plan to use in my story. In KnorraSky that is about the year 1450 in our time. Writing fantasy/sci/fi allows me the freedom to explore concepts that are constrained in our world, but are the norm in the worlds I create. I find that exciting. My style of fantasy is not mainstream. Because of my religious beliefs I do not include the elements of magic in my stories. When magic is mentioned, only in passing, it is only a by-product not a focal point of the story.

Betty: You have maps in the beginning of the book, which as a historian, I found very interesting. How does the idea for these come about?

R.A: I created the maps after I wrote the first chapter of KnorraSky. I knew the story I wanted to write so I set the boundaries of the story in the maps and wrote the story around the maps.

I feel that maps in a fantasy world are important for both the reader and the write. For the reader, it gives them a visual of the land that the story is telling them about. For the writer it ties them to the storyline. For instance when I was writing about the Yuba Territory in KnorraSky, the maps forced me to write with the idea of people living in a very mountainous area with beautiful waterfalls and tall trees. On the other hand, when I was writing about the land around the city of Knorr I was reminded that the land was mostly flat with only a few small hills and few trees. The other way that the maps helped me was for distance and time. I used the maps to decide how long it would take King Noman and his men to ride from point A to point B and so on. This makes the story more believable....well, it is a fantasy world so let’s say somewhat believable.

Betty: How long did it take from the time you first came up with the plot idea until publication?

R.A.: Two years. I rewrote the story thirteen times before I felt it was the story I wanted people to read.

Betty: Is “KnorraSky” your first novel and, if so, have you always wanted to write or did the desire just come in later life? Although, I must say, you don’t look like a senior to me.

R.A.: KnorraSky is my first novel. I never had the desire to write but with the prodding of a friend who is a published author and the desire for a easier retirement, I started writing. It was not love at first. My lack of formal writing education hindered me. But I joined an on-line writes group and the people I met there, including Gerry Huntman, Esme Carpenter and Warren Goodwin, help me greatly. I began to love this art form and now it is my passion.

A little more about me; I have worked in the metal roofing industry for the past 30 years. During that time I have also worked in almost every vocation of the construction industry. Before that I worked as a cook for about seven years. I am an ASE certified mechanic and worked in that industry for three and a half years then add a couple years of over the road truck driving and I sure feel old. 

Betty: So much time and thought goes into inventing this imaginary world, I presume you don’t want to stop now. Do you have a sequel or sequels planned?

R.A.: KnorraSky, it is a four part story. A complete description of all four parts can be read at
I also have a fantasy children’s book coming out soon title, The Well, and a standalone novel taken from the KnorraSky world titled, Raven’s Chronicle.
After all of these are finished I am writing a historic fiction story titled, Maria Dunn, the story of a farm family from Iowa that starts around the time of WW I and ends around the1970’s. I have also written and published another book, An Illustrated Guide to Metal Roofing which is available on Kindle.

Betty: Well, thank you for being my guest this week. I should also mention that "KnorraSky The Deception" was an Indie Book Awards Finalist. My husband has already read “KnorraSky” and found it extremely absorbing. And, even though, I don’t personally read much fantasy, I’ve started the book now, and find the concept intriguing. So best wishes and we’ll look forward to other books set in your fascinating world of KnorraSky.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest Author - Janet Oakley

Today I’m introducing the 2nd in my series of Authors who are taking advantage of their 'seniorhood' to write the novels that have been germinating in their minds for years. Janet Oakley is a historian who lives in the beautiful town of Bellingham, Washington. She just barely makes my “senior” list and has only recently retired.

The daughter of north westerners, Janet spent her childhood on the east coast, but since then, has lived most of her life in the west, including the Hawaiian Islands. While attending university in Honolulu, she met the man who became her husband. They lived for a time in Hilo before moving to Bellingham, where they raised three sons. Her husband passed away in 2001.

Janet’s writing appears in various magazines, anthologies, and other media including the Cup of Comfort series and She has written social studies a curriculum for schools and historical organizations, and, in her spare time, demonstrates 19th century folkways. Her historical novel, “The Tree Soldier,” now available on is set specifically in the Pacific Northwest during the depression of the 1930s.

Betty: I gather you’ve been writing pretty much all your life, but this is your first published novel. When did you get the idea you wanted to write a historical novel?

Janet: I have loved history since I was in elementary school. Perhaps having a grandmother who was born in 1875 and lived to nearly 100 or maybe reading the pocket journals of my Civil War surgeon great-grandfather stirred up historical stories even then. I wrote a 125 page thesis in college so maybe the leap to big pages started there. But I had no idea of novel structure. I only read historical fiction. Once I began the opening scene, I just kept going.

Betty: You and I both have a great love for the Pacific Northwest, whether it’s in Canada or the U.S.A. And I note your book “The Tree Soldier” is set in our beautiful region. What gave you the idea to write this particular book?

Janet: My mom is a native of Idaho and grew up in Boise. During the summers she often went up to her uncle's ranch in Lowman. One summer in the early 1930s, a Civilian Conservation Corps camp appeared upstream. I heard the stories of the boys from New 'Joisey' that lived in those camps. I was looking for an idea for my second novel as well as write a term paper while I was working on my Master's in Elementary Education. My mom's stories came back to me when I learned that some of the campgrounds up at Mount Baker were made by the CCCs. I began to look at government publications to get background. Little scenes began to develop in my head and on paper. At the time I was working out in the woods for a local school district and had opportunities to talk to foresters. I learned some wood skills like handling a two man saw, splitting shakes. One of the foresters was Hank Reasoner, already in his 70s. He introdued me to a list of friends who were in the CCCs.

Betty: There must have been considerably research to do. How long did this novel take you to finish?

Janet: The research and writing went on for about two years. I gave a couple of talks to high schools during this time and ended up turning my term paper into an article which was published in the Journal of Whatcom County Historical Society. I began to pitch it and in 2001 it was a finalist at the Pacific Northwest Writer Association Lit Contest.

Doing historical research is very rewarding and you are always learning something new. I'm very glad I kept all my notes. It helps when giving talks.

Betty: I agree, Janet. I love the research for a historical novel almost as much as writing it. But your enthusiasm for history goes further than writing historical fiction. What are some of the other activities, which center around the past, that you are involved with?

Janet: I love teaching hands-on history to young students and have done so for over 30 years. You just don't read about butter making (like in Farmer Boy) but actually churn cream in a churn and then wash the butter when it's formed. I like to research local history and bring that research to life in activities that will help students understand the past from a people point of view, not dates.

I've written social studies curriculum for three school districts and wrote one on the Pig War for the national parks. I demonstrate 19h century folkways for San Juan Island Nautioal Historic Park on San Juan Island every year. And I've written 30 historical essays for

I work closely with a group restoring the Whatcom County Territorial Courthouse in Bellingham, WA, the oldest brick building in the state. When we won a Save Our History grant from the History Channel in 2006, I fell into maritime history surrounding the building which was built during the Frazer River Gold Rush. At this juncture I'm pretty besotted with the Ann Parry, a coastal trader with a colorful history. She brought the bricks. I'm working on an article and a book on her.

Betty: I know you are also working on two other books. Can you tell us a little about them and when we can look forward to them being on the market.

Janet: "The Jossing Affair" is actually my first novel. It's set in Norway during WW II and a favorite. It finaled twice at PNWA and came close to publication once. I have an agent interested in it, but I'll have to consider about self-publishing it. "Mist-shi-mus," my ABNA entry this year, is set in 1860, the year after the Pig War in the Pacific NW. I'm querying that now. Another completed novel is "Timber Rose," a prequel to Tree Soldier. I'm getting that ready for publication in November. They seem like a good project to do together. The world of publishing is in such a state of flux. Why not?

Betty: Why not, indeed. This is an exciting time for writers. We are basically now the masters of our own destiny in many ways. So good for you, Janet. You are definitely not going to sit around and dream away your retirement years, and I wish you much success with all these endeavors.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Part 2 on Clu Gallagher; Senior Citizen and Debut Author

Here is the 2nd half of my interview with master wordsmith and senior citizen extraordinaire, Clu Gallagher. Her novel “Shattered Seeds: Sophia’s Story” is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

Betty: Continuing with my questions, Clue, Your health wasn’t good, and you couldn’t keep working in the educational field, so I’m interested to learn what motivated you to start writing at that point?

Clu: I needed to find something that I could do that would prove to me that my life was not over, but just beginning a new phase—a Plan B.

Betty: Where did the idea for this particular plot come from?

Clu: I don’t know. One day, when I had bottomed out to the point of no return, feeling as if my life was over, my character, Sofia came to me and told me a story...which I promised I would tell to the world and that it would have a meaningful effect on its readers.

Betty: You must have done a great deal of research for this novel. How long did it take altogether, research and writing?

Clu: I worked for over four years on this novel. I had to do hours and weeks, even months, of research. I did interviews with anyone I knew who might have lived during that time; or had relatives still alive who could share; or stories that they remembered being told. I also did Internet searches on events and times for the background information. In addition, I wanted to make sure that the events of the times were historically correct...I remember feeling as if the story was almost writing itself. Sofia became as real to me as if she was in my living room telling me her own story.

For example, I am not a quilter. I have no idea where the idea for the quilt originated...and I realized that the story of the quilt is the common denominator, which would unite the three women—(the main characters of the story.)

(Betty: I don’t want to give away too much of the story so I’m leaving out some of the interview here. You’ll have to read the book to find out what Clu means about the quilt.)

Betty: Like many of us, you entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards first contest in 2008. Was that helpful to you?

Clu: It was not only helpful, but I believe was part of the “grand plan of the universe” for me. I wrote this manuscript just a few months before the first contest...and I will be grateful forever for entering ABNA. I met the most amazing people. People who love the arts, and are creators, gifted and talented artists, who are also warm and caring human beings. My first mentor was a writer named Allie Lo. She took me under her wing and helped me to develop my work, not according to her stands, or the publishing business but according to my own standards as an artist. I’m a perfectionist and probably my own worst critic. Allie taught me to listen to my inner voice and let it guide me. Besides Allie, during the course of the next four years, I also entered “Shattered Seeds” in the competition of ABNA II, III, and IV. I met others, like you, and Jeff Fielder, David Smullen, Megan Bostic, Erica Olson, Shye Mendelsohn, Gae Polisner, Sofia Samatar, etc. Too many to list actually, but they know who they are and more importantly—so do I. A group of the most kind, and generous people, willing to give of their time to share ideas, thoughts, and expertise, with a perfect stranger.

Betty: Yes, I can definitely echo those sentiments. I’ve learned so much about writing from the ABNA association. So, in the end, you decided to ‘self-publish.’ Why was that?

Clu: Beginning in 2010, after “Shattered Seeds” had received a review in the Quarterfinals from Publisher’s Weekly, I began to rewrite, edit, and restructure the novel to make it worthy of publication. I did an online search for quilts made at the time of my novel, and to my amazement, I found the exact quilt I had written about in the novel. I bought that quilt, and once I had it in hand, I realized that my destiny was to have my first novel had to be shared and read by others, and it was up to me to make that happen. Once I was out of the contest, I tried the traditional methods of sending out queries, etc., but only found they led to rejection.

Betty: Ahh, yes, the all too familiar rejections! Every writer can relate to that.

Clu: Undaunted, I forged on trying to learn how to create an E-Book. I started to prepare the manuscripts for self-publication, when another writer came to my aid. J.D. Hall, I call him my “knight in shining armor.” He guided me through the task of publishing on Kindle. From there, I moved to CreateSpace to publish it as a paperback. As you know, it is not easy to write a novel; and it is even harder to act as your own editor, publisher, and marketer. However, with Plan B in place and a “little help from my friends,” “Shattered Seeds: Sofia’s Story” was launched on February 20, 2011.

Betty: That’s a very encouraging story, Clue. Are you writing anything else now?

Clu: Yes, I have my second novel, “The Road to Righteousness,” almost ready to launch. I’m looking to late summer or early fall, 2011. I also have a third novel, “Forgotten,” drafted, and I am outlining a sequel to “Shattered Seeds,” which I have tentatively titled “Gathering Seed.”

Betty: You are a busy lady, and an inspiration to all seniors who have always had the desire to write, but have had to put it on the back burner until now. Thank you for spending this time with me and giving me the opportunity to share with others, your fascinating journey to publication.

Here is my Amazon Review of “Shattered Seeds: Sophia’s Story.”
Janene McDeenon has had a wonderful life with her adoptive parents; but after the death of her mother, she is determined to find her birth family. She hits the jackpot when she discovers her real grandmother, a famous writer of children's books. She is able to provide Janene's family tree back five generations.

At this first meeting, the grandmother, Sophia Anderson, tells Janene the story of her life. Beginning in Germany, where we get a fascinating account of life for German people under Hitler's regime; she shows how World War II shattered her entire family. Then goes on to explain how, against all odds, many of them were able to reunite.

The story Sophia tells, is a delightful and tender tale that tugs at the heartstrings. Sophia is such a lovable and empathetic character that you are rooting for her every step of her journey. The author of this debut novel is a master of beautiful descriptive writing. So many scenes contain word picture that the delight the senses and place you directly in the setting. Sometimes the descriptions tend to slow down the plot, but the themes are so fascinating, it never stalls.

`Shattered Seeds: Sophia's Story' is a heart-warming novel that will make you smile and make you cry.