AuThursday – Elaine Sveet

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m Elaine Sveet, a pastor, life coach, speaker and author. I’m the founder of Chasing Abundant Life, which is an outreach supporting an online faith community, and offering mental health and stress support in schools through professional development and coaching services for school staff and private clients. I live in Minot ND, and am a married mother to three middle school children. I have a BA in psychology, an Masters of Divinity, and I am a trained ICF Coach (International Coaching Federation).
How do you make time to write?
I set aside certain times in the week. Deadlines are a very helpful motivator for writing. My writing is mainly focused these days on weekly blog articles, Bible studies, and book proposals.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I’ve never had it seriously. I believe in ebbs and flows in writing motivation and energy. I usually have multiple writing projects going at the same time. I find switching between projects very helpful.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
I write about faith and life. My aim is to support people in growing spiritually and personally so that there is greater joy in the everyday.
How are you publishing your recent projects and why? 
My Bible Studies and published prayers have been through traditional publishers. They were publications I was familiar with and my submissions were accepted. I’m looking forward to expanding my writing and pitching to other publishers both traditional and Indie.
Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
I’m borderline. I love interactions with others, the learning and stimulation this brings. I also love quiet and work most productively this way.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Christ came that we might have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Find a writing group for collegiality, motivation, and support.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
The Farmer Next Door – The Art of Writing Show touring galleries in ND
When I look out on my neighbor’s field, I see their tilled rows looking smooth and deep. I see their grain bins standing tall. It all looks perfect. Does the moon shine a little brighter on their field? I know I should be happy for my neighbor, and content with my own field. But I struggle. It feels some nights as if the dew is heavier for them, the drought lighter, sun more merciful, and winds less harsh.
Lord God, I’m stuck. I feel myself averting my eyes from the view. Yet surely, their blessing should be hope for me.

New Writer – Orville Evjen

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up in South Dakota on my family ranch. I am half native Lakota and Norwegian. My ranch was homesteaded 100 years ago. I learned to draw when i was real little. I would watch Saturday morning cartoons and try to draw what i saw. When i 18 my folks passed away and i moved up here after wandering around for two years. I created a native Lakota comic book in 1999 called Myth and Lore, but it didn’t sell. Later i wrote and Illustrated a graphic novel about Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea. In 2007 i enrolled in to Bismarck State college for graphic design, or commercial art. In 2012 i started researching for my last graphic novel on Abe Lincoln. In 2018 i self published Lincoln. In 2018 i also relaunched my line of comic books called Myth and Lore. 

How do you make time to write?

I am big believer in staying busy but also in keeping my nerves calm. I had a rocky childhood so now i work much better when I’m totally at ease. I exercise, try to get my sleep, and watch inspirational shows and books along with comic books. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes this happens when I’m stressed and tired. I try to avoid working when i am both of those.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I love fantasy art, but after working on Lewis and Clark and Lincoln, I have found that I love working on history based books.

How are you publishing your recent book and why?

Independent or self published. I tried for a year looking for a publisher but because my book was history the comic book publishers would not get back to me and a big publisher said its not the right book for them. So I went to Xlibris out of Indiana. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I think I’m an introvert. It actually works well. I stay home and work. I do like to socialize some, but I’ve learned to stay away from alcohol and i do not date much. Not that i don’t want to date but with out bars its more difficult.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Off the top of my head I like the phrase

“You can crap in hand and wish in the other, guess which one fills up?” ~Grandpa off of Grumpy old men.

Also, I thought of a couple of my favorite quotes from authors other than myself

“Life is the greatest fairy-tale!” ~Hans Christian Anderson. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you find an author  you really love then read everything they have done. I do more research than leisurely reading.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Under Amazon and Lincoln by Orville Evjen. Also at my website www.bravecrowcomics.com  I’m also on Barnes and noble.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

I am assuming you mean from my book, So on page 161, I didn’t write this, but its my favorite quote from my book, Abe at the first Republican convention:

“In my opinion it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand, I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the union to dissolve. I do not expect the house to fall, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.’” ~Abe Lincoln

AuThursday – J.M. Stebbins

Please welcome my fellow North Dakota author, J.M. Stebbins.   Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up on a small farm, outside of Bowman, North Dakota. I began reading John Grisham books in 5th grade, and decided I wanted to become a lawyer. I was a political science major in college, and became very active in the Democratic Party. After law school, I began working at a small law firm in Bismarck, North Dakota, and later started my own law firm with a partner. I predominantly practiced in the areas of family law, criminal defense, and civil litigation, for almost ten years. Admittedly, I was a workaholic, but I loved what I did. In 2018, after a grueling and prolonged onset, including a 48-hour stint in the psychiatric ward where I was misdiagnosed, I was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis (AE). AE is a rare and can be fatal brain illness wherein the patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells. I recovered from the disease in near isolation for over a year. It blew my life to smithereens, and it took away my career as a lawyer. But, it also opened up some doors for me as a writer and motivational speaker. I am proudly in remission from AE, and am excited about where life takes me next. I am a mother of three. I have an 8-year old girl, a 9-month old girl, and a 5-year old boy, who is a middle child, just like me. My husband of twelve years, Sean, is my love, friend, and supporter. My mom is my confidant. 

How do you make time to write?

It is my preference to write in the morning, but my preference isn’t always conducive to my reality. I began writing my first (and probably only) book, the day after my one-year anniversary date of having a grand mal seizure, which was the grand finale of my AE diagnosis. When I began, I woke up early, and peacefully wrote in my home office in the morning. Months later, when my kids went to school, I wrote a lot during the day. My book was mostly finished by March, 2020, when the world went into lock-down for Covid-19. Which was great, because Covid forced my family to be in our home 24/7, and I had a miracle baby in April. Since March, 2020, I write on the weekends, or during any hour or two I can muster with all the chaos in the house!

Do you believe in writer’s block?

If you write novels, I’m sure writer’s block is a true thing. My book is a memoir. It’s a reflection on my life leading up to AE, the horror story of the onset, and the daunting challenges I faced after. It’s the no holds barred story of who I was when the disease hit and who I became after. I’m a humorous storyteller by nature, and I’m really long winded. I have a gift to make short stories long. Thus, writer’s block hasn’t been a challenge for me. I struggled a bit with how I would end the book, but as my surprise pregnancy unfolded, the ending just came to me. It was at about the same time that I met my friend, Clay, for lunch and began to ask him questions about writing a book (I started my venture completely in the dark). He asked me about word count and we realized that the beginning of my book alone, was about three books. The problem for me in my writing is always cutting, and never adding.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

My rare and devastating illness prompted me to write a book. I hadn’t given much thought to it before. I don’t have the imagination to write fiction, as I know anything I would attempt would sound an awful lot like Harry Potter. And, I never believed I had enough of a story to write some type of biography, until I woke up from amnesia and learned about my illness. I loved writing this memoir, because it allowed me to put my life down on paper. It was therapy for me when I needed it the most. It gave me time to self-reflect and heal. I want this book to help spread awareness about AE, so others don’t suffer my same fate. I want to share my interesting story with a wide audience. I want to be proud of this book, and make it something that my children are proud of when they grow up and read it. My friend, Tony, told me that writing a book is a college education in and of itself, and I believe he’s correct. I loved this project, but it also frustrated me. Writing about my life in this way made me very emotional. Every time I read or edit it, I go back through hell. It’s also a challenge to literally, write a book! Putting together a story that’s sensical, enjoyable, informative, emotional, scary, true, and (hopefully) a page turner, is one thing, but recalling (looking up) rules of grammar and punctuation, is a real challenge. And then figuring out what to do with it when you’re done writing …

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I’m goal oriented, and I always have big dreams. Thus, when I began writing, I did set one goal for myself: I wanted the book to be traditionally published. I’d like to stick to that goal as long as I can. But, the world seems to live and die by Amazon, so I could always self-publish through there, and would still be proud of my accomplishment. I’m currently working on finding a publisher.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I am a very extroverted introvert. I’m a people person, and I’m very outgoing. I love to be in the center of groups, I love having a vast network of friends, and I love to tell stories. However, I’m also very introspective, especially since my illness. I like to have time to myself to contemplate my life and the world around me. I like time to write, whether it’s a blog or in my various journals. And, I love quiet time to read books. Being introspective helped me pen my story, but I had to exercise a lot of self-restraint to not show anyone the project until it was “complete.”

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

The “old” me would have said:Do it one way, the right way, and do it that way every single time.  The “new” me would say Julian of Norwich’s: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Writing this book has forced me to reconcile my achievements with my past mistakes. My intense and driven personality has served me well, but it has also been destructive. I’m learning to temper myself by putting these two quotes together, which will be a lifelong process.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The same advice that I often heard from my old senior partner, David, who wrote a great novel. If you want to write, you must write. Just start writing! He also recommended Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” which I read during my recovery and really enjoyed. Overall, I took on this book in my own way, and then asked for advice and help later. I don’t regret that.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

In October, 2019, I founded JM Stebbins, LLC, as a place to share my story through my speaking and writing. My website – jmstebbins.com – has all of my contact information, stories about me, news and events, my blog, and my AE podcast, Brain Fever. You can download Brain Fever where you subscribe to podcasts.

You can also follow me on Facebook @JM Stebbins; on Twitter @jmstebbs; on Insta @jmstebbs84, and on LinkedIn @Jackie Stebbins.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

May 15, 2018. Psychiatric Ward, Sanford Hospital, Bismarck, North Dakota. ~ I called Sean. Sean said he would call him and ask him to come and visit me. I need a priest. 

He’s on his way now. I’m sitting here waiting for him. I feel like I’m in a closet. There are shelves and clutter around me. Everything before me is dim, and everything swirls around me. I keep getting confused. I never really know where I am at.

He’s here. I meet him at the door. I know that I look like a mess. I’m in shorts and a t-shirt. Or wait, I’m in t-shirts and leggings. I don’t even know what I’m wearing. I’m bawling all over him. He’s frightened of me. I can see it in his face. Is he afraid of me because I’m in here? Maybe he’s embarrassed of me. I hoped he would understand.

We talk for a while and then he asks me if I want him to hear my confession. I don’t even believe in confession. Yes, yes, I desperately want to confess my sins. I cannot say the prayers with him, I can hardly even follow along, but I can tell him what I’ve done wrong. I can tell him that it’s all my fault. I did this to myself. I’m here because of me. I finally did it. I overdid it so much that I harmed my mind. It was being a lawyer. I let go of all my priorities. I look like this and sound like this, because of what I have done.  

I cannot say the final prayer after I confess my sins, but that’s okay, he can do it while I sit here and cry.

~The Lawyer Who Wasn’t Crazy, by Jackie M. Stebbins. Copyright © Jackie M. Stebbins 2020.

Happy Birthday to Me

Since today is my birthday, I decided to let a few of my friends from Facebook interview me.  Here are their questions.

What do you feel is the hardest part of the publishing process? (From Vania Rheault)

Rejection – The hardest part for me is finding a home for finished work.   I haven’t been brave enough to enter into the Self-Publishing world because that all seems hard to me.   So finding a home for whatever completed project I have is hard in the sense a certain amount of prediction for agents and editors on what readers may want a year or more out makes it difficult.  I’ll send out a query and then get a rejection and if I’m lucky they will tell me why.  Sometimes I get a form letter or even worse that they liked the writing but it wasn’t a good fit.   

How are you just so damn adorable all the time? Inquiring minds want to know. (From Lyn Armstrong)

Lyn is biased, her and maybe my husband.  I love and miss you, lady. 

Do you work plots out with writing buddies or plot all by yourself? (From Marie Johnston)

Normally, I plot by myself.  But recently I asked for some input on a finished Regency I just finished and my local critique group helped me come up with a plot (it involves murder) that I will weave back in through the story.  This isn’t uncommon for me to finish a manuscript and then change one, maybe two, things, and then have to layer those elements back in. 

When you write so many books, what’s your strategy for keeping plots, characters, and settings fresh? (from Natalie Pierce)

It helps that I write in a few different sub-genres of romance.  Once you change the setting everything else can be fresh or new based on a new place or time.  I have started keeping series bibles so I can remember how old someone is at story X so I make sure to age them by story Y. I usually keep these in either Pinterest, Google Keep, or in a Notebook. 

Happy birthday! Let’s see. I’d love to know more about how you got started writing stories. How much of real life is included in your books? Do you have other business ideas you might work on in the future? (from A. Catherine Noon)

Figures A. Catherine Noon would have the most questions.   Here we go.  

I have been writing since childhood, before my grandmother passed she gave me a collection of stories I wrote for her about the various mythical holiday creatures, like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, A Leprechaun trying to find Baby New Year.   Unfortunately, they didn’t find him because I had only gotten as far as writing their origin stories.  I loved info dumps even as a child. 

I include much of real life in my contemporaries, including some of my friends (you know who you are).  Of course, I changed their names to protect the not so innocent.  I’ve used their professional knowledge among which include a pilot, an architect, a nurse, firemen, and of course a writer.   Most of my paranormal, sci-fi, and fantasy stories are entirely fiction.  

Future Business Projects – Writing Wise I’m working on my Brave the Elements Series – Wind Resistant is my Nano project.  I will be querying my Regency this month and maybe a bit in November.   I take December off because I find I need the break for the holidays.  Non-writing wise – I’ve thrown my hat in on a contest in ND pairing artists and writers.  Long Term I’m hoping to get a North Dakota Writers Conference so if you are thinking about something like that my fellow writers, let me know.   There are far more of us than the world knows about. 

I’m wondering what percent of your writing is actually non-fiction, in a fictional book. (Brian Daly)

It depends on the fiction.  In my Steampunk Series, I’d say 50%.  I altered parts of the timeline significantly.  

My Regency is fairly historically accurate but I did change a few things – my hero knows cane fighting which isn’t really a thing until closer to the Victorian period and was invented in France, not England.  So those are pretty liberal. My Contemporaries including my paranormal books are about 25% fiction accounting for characters and the mythology of fairies.   But the career choices are based on people I know. 

And I would say my Post-Apocalyptic books are 75% fiction the only real elements being geography and locations in the future. 🙂 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Q&A.  If I missed your question here leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer it.  ~Tina

AuThursday – Marie Johnston

Please welcome my fellow North Dakotan and Romance Writer, Marie Johnston, to The Clog Blog!  Marie, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I started out as a science geek, and I guess I’m still one. I left full-time lab work ten years ago when we had our third kid (we now have four), worked for almost five years part-time, and then wrote full-time in the last few years. But COVID has drawn me back to the lab and I’m really enjoying it. Now that my kids are older, I’m determined to juggle both my writing gig and my med tech career. It won’t be easy, but I’m too social to work at home during another North Dakota winter. 

What are your current projects?

I’m usually working on more than one book at a time. I have a paranormal romance that releases in July that I’m finishing edits on. It’s the last one planned in that series, which spawned from my first series ever. I’m in the middle of writing a contemporary romance that will be published by K. Bromberg in her Everyday Heroes World in December. It’s been a bit harder (a whole lot harder) to find the time to write while I’m working. I miss those long stretches where I can really sink into the story.  

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I’m fortunate to be a versatile writer. If needed, I’ll write on anything, anywhere. I prefer to sit for long, uninterrupted stretches, usually before noon. Some of my best writing has been done while waiting in the car with my computer propped on the steering wheel outside of one of my kids’ practices. No one’s called the cops on me yet for sitting in a dark, almost empty, parking lot of a school for over an hour. 

When I don’t have my computer or space is limited, I’ll type out an email to myself on the phone. If I’m really time-crunched, I’ll dictate, but I don’t prefer it. I like physically typing. If I only have a pen and paper, then I’ll plot even though I’m typically a linear pantser. I like to write from beginning to end and let the story unfold, which works better for me since I don’t care for the editing stages, which I have a lot of if I jump around to write different scenes and then seam them all together. 

You’ve written over forty books, where do your ideas come from?

Anywhere and everywhere. I’ll hear a song, a phrase, anything that evokes emotion and puts a scene in my head. From there, I’ll ask questions and more of the story will be revealed. Sometimes, all I have is that scene or idea and I’ve incorporated those in my stories. One of them was the idea of the heroine sitting in a coffee shop, eavesdropping from a booth on a lovey-dovey couple who are ordering. When they leave, the barista makes a comment to her about how she loves seeing a guy dote on his girlfriend like that. The heroine thinks to herself She isn’t his girlfriend. I am. I used that as an opening scene. I even paired it with a what-if idea I had. What if the scorned heroine had to move out of her place and one of the guys helping her move is the new love interest? That became the second scene and I felt like I got two hooks for one. 

Thankfully, I don’t lack in ideas. Just the time to write them all. 

How are you publishing your most recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I’ve always been indie. I started that way because I needed a shot at an income now and not maybe years from now. Little did I know how fickle both routes can be. Shortly after I started, I wrote a couple of manuscripts and pitched agents and nothing came of it. I self-published those books and I love the flexibility of that route. I can change prices and covers and blurbs within minutes, or days depending on the retailer. I’m changing a three-book series I have—new covers, new blurbs, new titles, and I’m even switching a series from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV. 

This year, I’ll be writing two books in other authors’ worlds. I have one releasing in September in the Cocky Heroes World and one in December in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes World. It’s not quite like traditional publishing. I used my own editors and my own cover artist, but they publish it under their brand. Their audiences are huge so I’m hopeful I’ll find new readers. It’s been a good experience, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. I’d rather put that effort into the worlds I built. (Unless they sell like kettle corn and make a lot of money. Then I’ll totally do more!)

I wouldn’t mind being hybrid but I think I’d try that again with a non-romance book. I have too many romance books I want to get out in the next year and a half, so I’ve tabled those plans for a while. 

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I mentioned the flexibility with pricing and advertising, but I think the speed is a huge benefit. I’m a fast writer and I’ve built up a sizeable backlist. While I’m working heavier hours at the lab, I can ease off the keyboard a little and play with what I have. I can repackage different boxsets, run them for a limited time, and take them down. I can change covers and do special edition sales. For me, the biggest benefit is that if I’m not earning royalties, I can do something about it.  

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I love any review I can get. Somehow, my book resonated enough with someone for them to go through the time and effort of a review. As long as the book’s average stays above 4.0, I don’t worry about it. But I never read them. They are by the readers, for the readers, and even the good reviews stifle my muse. The bad ones echo in my head for months. Some authors read reviews and gather information about how to improve their writing, but it’s not good for me and I leave it at that.  

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

There’s so much, but the best advice I got was Just Write. Even after 45 books, it still comes down to that. It’s what I have the most control over. It’s what drives my business. Just write.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website mariejohnstonwriter.com/

Twitter twitter.com/mjohnstonwriter

Facebook facebook.com/mjohnstonwriter/

Instagram Instagram.com/mariejohnstonwriter

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11248716.Marie_Johnston?from_search=true

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

This is from my upcoming release A Shifter’s Salvation. It (was released)… on July 20th. Enjoy!

A lumpy bundle in the ditch captured her attention. Patience was past it before she braked. Frowning, she peered in the rearview mirror and waited for the dust cloud to settle. 

Still there. 

What was it? Too large to be a dog. Maybe a bear? A garbage bag? It wouldn’t be the first time some idiot tried getting rid of their trash on the side of a rural road. 

Squinting, she couldn’t make out what it was, but she swore part of the blue appeared to be denim material. 

No. It couldn’t be a person. 

Looking around, she couldn’t see a motorcycle or anything that suggested an automobile wreckage of any sort. 

She ran her tongue along her teeth. Good thing she fueled up. Someone had to check this lump out.

She stepped out of her car and blinked in the sunlight. It was a cool day, typical for late spring. Dirty snow was still piled in the ditches, but it’d been a mild winter, and whatever the bundle was hadn’t landed in more than dried grasses. 

“Hello?” She inched closer to the edge of the road. If it was garbage, please be old rags. Something that didn’t ooze. Picking up other people’s trash was full of icky surprises.

The lump didn’t move. 

“Garbage dumpers,” she muttered and crept closer. A mop of rich brown hair caught her gaze. 

The pile wasn’t small. And it had hair. 

Her heart rate kicked up. A person. But there was no vehicle around. Was he dumped?

She knew it was a he because of the size. Not that women couldn’t be that big. But this was definitely a guy. Because the more she studied him, the better able she could make out that he was on his side and had incredibly broad shoulders. 

“Excuse me?” she said, sounding more timid than she cared to.

No movement.

“Sir?” She took a step closer. 

No response. 

She closed the distance between them and stood over him. His shoulders moved in time with his steady breathing. Good, he was alive at least. Before she could wonder about her personal safety, she crouched as far away as possible but close enough to reach out and nudge one heavily muscled arm. “Hey?”

Nothing. 

Circling him, she had a dying need to know what he looked like. If she was getting taken down by a stranger, she wanted to see his face. 

Admittedly, this stranger didn’t seem like he’d attack anyone any time soon. 

A leather coat flap obscured his face. Since he was breathing, she pushed him to his back. A normal person would call an ambulance, but there was no way she’d risk that. With her luck, Damian would be on duty, and she couldn’t risk running across him. The restraining order had expired and he hadn’t bothered her—yet. 

The man groaned as he settled on his back. 

Her lips parted. He was a mess. But he was a hot mess. Bits of grass mixed with rich brown strands. A neatly trimmed beard framed his chiseled face. Everything about him screamed strength and power. Quite a feat for an unconscious man. She didn’t have to move his jacket and shirt around to know that he had a great body. 

But she had no wish to touch his shirt. Blood was spattered across it. She couldn’t see any open wounds. Not his blood? Her gaze swept his long body. No major injuries other than bloody knuckles. 

Her jaw tightened. He was in a fight before he ended up here. Self-defense? Or was he a mean bastard? 

“What’s your story?”

 

AuThursday – Jennifer Lemming

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am a writer mostly of poetry, but of other things as well. I always wanted to be a writer of novels, but the poetry came first, the novels have yet to completely emerge. I’ve had poetry published for many years. My husband and I moved to Bismarck, North Dakota from Indianapolis, Indiana because my husband accepted a new job as a psychiatric nurse. We hike, camp, and read. We enjoy learning and seeing this part of the country, it is very new to us. 

What genre do you write in and what draws you to this genre?

I write mostly poetry, some flash fiction, and finally some essays speaking about culture (music, books, and tv. shows) 

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

No, but I am working on a visual/poetry collaborative project with a fellow poet/friend. 

What excites you most about your current WIP (Work In Progress)?

I’ll talk in general terms about the visual/poetry project that I am working on with my poet friend. I’m just excited how each of our visual creations are sent to the other for writing inspiration. This is creating a cross-artistic energy since visual art and writing for me happen at two separate energy levels.

Almost everything, about any WIP, excites me. Where the flow of the writing is going, what the rough draft will revel, and what direction then it points to for revision. I realize that if I lose a certain level of excitement, then it is time to set that particular work aside until later. 

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

Mostly free form, just go with the flow of a general idea, or I have a visual and write down what I “see” as the action. I also will write mini-bios of characters – so that I may get to know them better away from what I write. I get a deeper “feel” of who they are, what their motivations are, the bios aren’t long or complicated. Sometimes that is just a fun exercise, getting to know the character outside of the writing somehow deepens my relationship with that character. 

How do you relax?

I read, watch shows and movies, listen to many different genres of music – my musical taste is very eclectic. I also hike and have an active interest in historical preservation, 

I have a series of journals that I work with, that are mostly visual, this is very relaxing. The journals are free-form, rarely when I sit down in front of an open journal do I have even a plan or thought how I will visually express myself. I may have a phrase or quote that I want to record in the journal, but then the visual work just emerges around that brief written passage. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A couple of thoughts and I believe these thoughts about beginning the writing journey are related. I am concerned that aspiring writers are overly anxious for success, for finding their “voice” more quickly, with more self-confidence. I know I was eager and sometimes anxious about this as well. What I would like to say to aspiring writers, (and to my back in the day writer self) is that the writing will come, your “voice” will be found if you follow your instincts and try not to push it forcefully.
I’ve learned from the advice “write what you know”  that when you are beginning, the frustration can be overwhelming because sometimes it is, for example,  I want to write about dragons, or such and such author writes brilliantly about dragons, but how can anyone really “know” about dragons that makes writing about them unique and special? I understand now that, that phrase, that advice really means “write what you are passionate about, what you have deep, authentic feeling about”. If you have that sincere interest in a topic you will acquire the knowledge that will naturally fit into your writing, your world-building (whatever genre you write in, you are world building), and you will find your specific “voice” for your writing. That said,…

Also, learn your craft for skill, and practice that skill with care. 

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Just random facts, my family is from the south, West Virginia specifically. I have the experience of a different culture to draw on, for example, the family stories about our family’s participation in the Civil War. Two of my patriarchal lines were Confederates (gg -grandfathers), one great grandfather was Union, yes my grandmother’s father was a Union veteran, and one I confirmed recently was neutral. So I have this rich, sometimes odd emotional history to at least fuel the feeling of my writing. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

My work that I would classify as weird Fiction and edgier poetry can be found on Yellow Mama/Black Petalspublishing site. Amazon has both my most recent chapbook “Star Slough”  by Dark Heart Press, and my dark, gothic (fairytale?) published in the anthology Indiana Horror Review 2015

I’ve recently had poetry published in Redshift#4, AlienBuddaPress, The Shrew (ezine), and more, just google Jennifer Lemming poet. Oh, and KDAK 102.5 has frequently played my song Thunder Song (vocals Peter Kobal,  CD The Only Star)

I am a contributor with reviews of movies and Streaming shows at a great cultural site, Drunk Monkey’s

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

This is the first poem I wrote after moving to North Dakota in 2014, (following my husband’s job relocation). It was published by Hobo Camp review in January 2016.

Plains Song

Avoiding gopher dugs and digs,

I rub sandalwood oil

mixed with buffalo grease

on my bare arms. Opening

my mouth to bite at the cold,

I finally see the moon

after the membrane of clouds pass

and I try to hold on

until your love reaches shore break

inside my heart,

and shatters all geography.

 

AuThursday – Joshua Knels

Please welcome Josh Knels, a fellow member of the BisMan Writer’s Guild!  Joshua, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Joshua Knels. I grew up in Fairview, MT, and moved to Bismarck after I graduated high school and attended Bottineau for a little while. I didn’t get into writing until I was fifteen. I suffered a back injury during a football game that took me out of sports for the remainder of my time in school. That’s when I started reading books and grew a passion for reading and writing. I started writing my first project when I was a sophomore in high school, but later dropped the project when I went to college.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your writing? 

Introvert. It gives me plenty of time to write since I don’t go out much (even less so since Covid-19). The only time I go out nowadays is for work or D&D nights with friends during the weekend

How do you make time to write? 

I usually write between shifts when I get home from work or on my days off. 

What genre are your stories and what draws you to this genre?

I usually write fantasy adventures since I enjoy world-building and creating new worlds. I often mix it with other elements, such as romance and horror. 

Do you ever get writer’s block? 

Not as much as I thought I would get. I am always thinking about character development and story elements and rarely get burned out from it. When I do, I just relax for a day or two and I am back at it. Listening to music while writing a scene also helps me out a lot.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Depression for sure. When I feel overwhelmed and depressed from work and personal matters, it has an impact on my writing. Whenever I am in these funks, I either write scenes where characters feel the same as I do, or I just take a personal day to myself and try to get over whatever is stressing me out or depressed at the time.

So, what have you written? 

Nothing complete right now, I’m afraid, except two books that I self-published in 2011 and 2012.

41xd2DMgXuLThese books, The Seattle Massacre & Trails of Blood were two books of a series of murder mystery & horror books that I was writing a long time ago under the pen name J.J. Knight. I stopped writing them when I lost progress on the third book several times and a lot of my other projects when my computer went out and I didn’t have them saved on any other source. I had lost the passion for writing this series and in general when I hit a very deep depression that lasted for over three years and didn’t write anything during that time. It wasn’t until 2016 when I started writing some Pokemon fanfiction to get back into the groove of writing until 2018 when I started my D&D project. In 2019, I fell in love with one of my favorite D&D characters, Victoria “The Scarlet Rose” Valentine, and decided to write a book series based on her and in a modern setting. 

Where can we buy or see them? 

I think you can see the two books on Amazon. I don’t intend to continue that series unfortunately since there’s no passion left for that project and all energy will be devoted to my next project. 

What are your current projects?

My current project is The Scarlet Rose, a planned multi-part series. It is a modern fantasy story that was inspired by my favorite D&D character, Victoria “Scarlet Rose” Valentine. The story follows the main character Victoria, a girl born with the appearance of a devil (horns, tail, and red tail). I was inspired to write this project from elements of Hellboy, Supernatural, and Men in Black.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Never give up your dream and always practice. Write what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to ask others for help and opinions.

AuThursday – Stephanie Patel

Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota author, Stephanie Patel. 

Stephanie, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born in a little village in Alaska, the ninth of fifteen children, and moved to North Dakota with my mother and remaining siblings when I was nine, after my father and brother died while fishing. I lived in Jamestown, Kathryn and Valley City in North Dakota, graduating from VCHS.  I went to college at the University of Missouri, Columbia and at Moorhead State (now University of Minnesota at Moorhead). I graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law and practiced law in Alaska for 35 years, minus about seven years creating an alternate junior/senior high school for youth falling through the cracks. I have been writing for many years; however it was only after I retired that I could focus full-time upon it.  My book, Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest, was released in eBook form on November 1, 2019 and is now available in print, on Amazon.  

How do you make time to write? 

 I am currently retired and can work 8-12 hours per day if I am motivated. I tend to be obsessive when I am on a project and everything else will fall away. Although I had been working on this book off and on for years, I spent about six months working 6-12 hours per day to get it completed and in final edited form. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?  

Well, I have no reason not to, although I don’t really experience it myself.  I write when I feel the compulsion to do so, and if I don’t feel it, I don’t write.  It’s as simple as that. If I am not writing, it is because I have other things on my plate to which I am giving attention. I have a number of books and other works in progress.  

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.  

My current book would fit into the “coming of age” genre.  I consider it Literary Fiction. I try to hit all the notes when I write—the entire scale of physical dimension, emotional expression, psychological patterns, intellectual ideas and spiritual context. I love to make people laugh, and so if I can bring humor into what I write, all the better. I like to stimulate thought, assist my reader in getting different perspectives on issues, and most of all give them something that will be interesting and satisfying.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I decided to publish my current book myself because I’m a bit of a control freak. Also, it is a long book (almost 225,000 words) and I realized it would be difficult to find a publisher who would take on such a long book, since most traditional publisher’s like to stay in the 150,000 word realm. Finally, although I’d had professional interest in the book while working on it, I did not want to take the time to shop it around.  I did submit the book to Beta readers to test reactions and had such enthusiasm from them that I decided to plow ahead and self-publish, which I did through Kindle Direct Publishing, a branch of Amazon. It’s a pretty simple way to go, involving no expense except for the author copies. 

My current book is  

Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your work? 

I don’t know that I am either. I like my alone time very much. However, I am not too shy to take the floor when there are issues that are important to me.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

You will know which path is yours because nobody else is on it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read and write. Write about what you know. Yes, you can use your imagination and should—however, bring alive your own experience and perspective. Learn the rules of good writing, absorb style from your favorite authors, and then go beyond them. Create your own unique style. As I say, average writers know the rules; good writers know them and when to break them. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I am on Facebook under Stephanie Patel.

My book can be found at Amazon under the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Born-20th-Century-Stephanie-Patel/dp/1698865740/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia?keywords=born+in+the+20th+century&pd_rd_i=1698865740&pd_rd_r=f80c4a4f-b53a-4949-b906-05f57c085dc8&pd_rd_w=ymPaK&pd_rd_wg=uzz6A&pf_rd_p=1cb3f32a-ccfd-479b-8a13-b22f56c942c6&pf_rd_r=06K081K9DES9ZC45NDV3&psc=1&qid=1574191303

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Cover half of full 11-9-19-page-0By the time we reached Fargo the predicted snow flurries had arrived, along with a good wind. North Dakota highways had a Midwestern personality like their human counterparts: they were straight as arrows, not so bad, and open to the next kingdom. These characteristics did not combine well with wind and snow. Even when there was little of the latter falling, the wind could kick up what was already on the ground, so that often in winter we seemed to be driving through continuous streams and rivulets that ran across our path. It was not a big step from there to whiteout conditions. In fact, visibility was very poor for the last ten miles or so into Fargo, not an unusual occurrence in that part of the country, and Mother kept both hands on the wheel, her eyes focused in front of her. She hated interruptions when driving through difficult weather events. When Yippee tried to get her to take his side on some dispute with me, she barked, “Play nice. I can’t be distracted right now.”

Once we were in the city proper, driving up South University Avenue, visibility improved along with her attitude. She pulled into the K-Mart parking lot to get some aspirin, and gave us some dimes to ride the mechanical horse in the lobby. Then we all had to use the restroom.

When we emerged, the snow was thicker, the flakes bigger. The temperature was still in the high twenties, which meant that the main roads, where there was heavier traffic, were slushy more than slick. We drove up University Avenue to King Leo’s Drive-In, where Mother purchased us each a fifteen-cent hamburger and a ten-cent fries, which was always a treat when we were in Fargo, and always a condiment fiasco. Two hamburgers had to be sent back to be rectified.

Then it was a stop at a gas station to fill up.

The attendant cleaned all our windows and when the tank was full came around to collect payment. “I hope you’re not going far,” he said when he brought back the change. “They say they’re closing down I-94 past Jamestown.”

“We’re going north,” Mother said. “Only about forty-five minutes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t delay then. You can probably still make it.”

“We’re leaving right now.”

“Drive careful.”

Mother put the Bonneville in gear and headed for US 81, which paralleled the Red River north into Canada.

“Maybe we should turn around,” Myra said worriedly. “I don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard.”

“What good would that do?” Mother asked pointedly. “If it’s coming from the west, it’s going to be as bad going back as it is going forward. We’re more than half-way. We should be able to outrun it.”

As soon as we got out of town, however, the visibility dropped precipitously. Approaching cars materialized a hundred feet in front of us; buildings and sign posts alongside the highway appeared ghostly. I was, however, not worried. It was North Dakota in the winter. Snow and fog were part of the season. In fact, I was too busy eating to pay much attention until I heard Mother exclaim in frustration, “Darn it! I can’t hardly see the road!” My attention captured, I looked out the window at the passing scenery, only to discover that it had disappeared. We were floating in a sea of white.

The wipers were going slip-slap, and with each swipe they cleared snow from the windshield and left rivulets draining down the glass. I could see that the snow was falling even heavier now, the flakes clumping together on the glass so that everything but the half-moon scraped by the wipers was opaque. Mother was hunched over the steering wheel, which she held tightly in both hands, her knuckles white. I could see that the speedometer needle was hovering between twenty and thirty miles-per-hour. It was impossible to judge our speed or location by landmarks, which had disappeared. We were flying on instruments.

“How do you know where you’re going?” I asked Mother curiously.

“Blind faith,” she hissed from between clenched teeth. And then she added more kindly, “I look over to the side of the road. I can just see the ditch. However, I have no idea what’s twenty feet in front of me. Or behind.” She opened her window and stuck her head out to the side to see if she could get more visibility without the slapping wipers, the scudding snow and water on the windshield.

The good part about North Dakota roads was that if we went into the ditch, we went into the ditch, not over a sixty foot cliff or into a close encounter with a tree. The not-so-good part was that we might be covered in the ditch by a snowdrift twice our own height and they might not find us until spring—or until the next strong wind blew us clear. Drifts were forming even as we drove—Mother swerved suddenly to skirt the high point of a snow bank that stretched across our lane, like a white seal basking on the road. Our progress slowed slightly as she churned through the tail of it, and then for the length of two Middleton blocks the highway was swept clear as if by a giant broom. The wind was so strong that it rocked our car, unprotected by anything except the wind’s own caprice as it created and swept away drifts.

Occasional cars approached, going south, their headlamps appearing dully out of the maelstrom, passing us with a swish! Once a car overtook us from behind, trailing in our wake until Mother pulled over toward the shoulder and slowed even more, allowing it to pass on our left, throwing snow. “Arggh. Some people,” she muttered. 

At Mother’s suggestion, Myra dug out one of Nonie’s bottles. Sitting on her lap, alternately sucking and chewing on the nipple, he stared fixedly out the window, stunned into stillness by the whiteness, whether through fascination or disorientation.

Yippee curled up in his corner with a couple of his little men, occasionally talking quietly for them as they hiked up his bent leg or over the driveshaft hump in the floor. “I’s berry steep. Keep goin’, you ken do it.” His plastic people were very encouraging to each other, at least until they encountered the enemy in battle—then they slaughtered each other with joy and abandon, rarely leaving more than one or two survivors, and sometimes none at all. He did not bother to look up at the maelstrom outside the car, as secure in his personal safety as his three-inch plastic alter-egos might have been devoid of hope in theirs. 

Myra and I both kept our eyes on what was happening around us. Perhaps nothing so much represented the differences between us as our individual reactions. Myra was clearly troubled by the possibilities and kept glancing nervously at Mother. I, on the other hand, was pumped up with excitement. In fairness, she was two years older and therefore more aware of the downside of death, mayhem and suffering in general. I fell somewhere between her and Yippee, who acted out death, mayhem and suffering with such glee. I wasn’t playing war, but I was drawn to imagining adventure. Whether it was encountering space aliens with ray guns, alligators in the creek behind Gramma’s house, or a tornado on the horizon, it relieved the monotony of 9:30 bedtimes, waking up in the same bed every day and passing the same houses on the way to school, every one of which I could have described in detail, along with the names of the dogs who lived in them. I had, in fact, no experience with being on the losing end of space aliens, alligators or tornadoes. No one close to me had died, the only maiming with which I was familiar was the mangling of Yippee’s hand in the fan—which he didn’t even remember—and suffering was a stubbed toe or being sent to my room when Saturday cartoons were on. My interest in such matters as the orphaning of the Monsen children was more curiosity than compassion.

In order to reach Sheverak we had to turn off US 81 and head west into the maze of dirt and gravel roads that ran like dikes between rippling seas of wheat and corn in the summer and frozen snow clogged stubble in the winter. Mother was searching through the flying snow for the turnoff, certain it was near—if indeed we had not passed it. The wind let up for a moment, enough for her to see one of the mile markers. “Dang nab it!” she exclaimed. “We’ve come too far. I’m going to have to turn around.”

The problem was that there was no obvious place to do that, other than right in the middle of the two-lane highway in the middle of a blind snowstorm, with the potential of getting t-boned by oncoming traffic. 

“Is that a side road?” Mother asked suddenly, peering through the windshield. The defrost was running full blast, siphoning the heat from the spacious car interior, so that I had to curl my feet up on the seat so they didn’t get cold. “Myra! Look! Isn’t that a road?”

At that moment Mother jerked on the steering wheel, determined not to miss the turnoff. The car spun in a semi-circle and came to a stop with a dull thud. We all sat still for a moment. Then Mother pressed on the gas pedal. The back tires spun. The car remained where it was. 

Mother thumped the steering wheel. Yippee stuck his head up over the front seat back. “Are we der?”

“No, Stupid, we’re stuck,” I informed him. I put my face up against my window to try to see.

 

AuThursday – Danielle Teigen

Please join me in welcoming fellow North Dakota author Danielle Teigen.  Danielle, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m originally from South Dakota, but came to North Dakota to attend college at North Dakota State University, where I earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and management communication and a master’s degree in mass communication. While in college, I fell in love with the rich history of Fargo. 

How do you make time to write? 

I have two young children and am expecting another, so I write after they go to bed, in the morning before they’re awake or during my lunch hour in the daylight hours. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I do believe we get stuck sometimes when we’re trying to get to the next part of our story or move on to another facet of the storyline. I think we often get so excited about moving on or making progress that we forget we have to finish telling the part of the story we’re on. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

As a journalist, I enjoy researching and telling intriguing, true stories and that’s what nonfiction writing is. The biggest challenge with nonfiction writing is being able to weave together the facts while still telling a story people want to read, a story that comes alive not only because it’s true but because of how it is recounted. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both) 

Traditional. Arcadia Publishing/The History Press reached out to me to publish a hyper-local history book about Fargo, and then I pitched the second book about the Fargo Fire of 1893. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work? 

I’m actually both. I would say this serves me very well because I am completely content holing up somewhere to research or write for as long as I am able to, but I also really enjoy giving presentations about my book or talking with people about the research. Both are satisfying in different ways. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Done is better than perfect!

I actually do use that phrase when I’m trying to get words on the paper or the facts all in the right order and then I go back in during the editing phase to polish and refine the story. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Make time to write whenever or wherever you can. When I was writing my first book, I thought I’d block off huge chunks of time to write and make monumental progress every time I sat down. In reality, I had to make time throughout the day or week to make what felt like small steps toward completion, but they all did add up to one finished manuscript. I also encourage writers who believe they have a good story to tell to sit down and actually outline their work. Yes, things may change, but I think having a general framework for where you want to go and what you want to cover in your story can be extremely beneficial, especially when it comes to staying focused and having good direction. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

You can read more about me and my work at https://danielleteigen.wordpress.com/

Do you have a blurb you’d like to share with us? 

Fueled by ambition and pipe dreams, Fargo’s earliest residents created an entire city out of the dust of a flat, desolate prairie. Roberts Street might not exist if it weren’t for Matilda Roberts, a resourceful pioneer wife who encouraged her husband’s cousin to set up his law firm on that important downtown thoroughfare. O.J. deLendrecie generated so much success through his retail store that he was able to buy President Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch in western North Dakota. Oliver Dalrymple may have been the bonanza farm king, but the better manager was his rival, Herbert Chaffee of the Amenia and Sharon Land Company. Author Danielle Teigen reveals the intriguing true stories behind many of the most engaging characters and what continues to make the “Gateway to the West” unique. 

AuThursday – Justin Cancilliere

FB_IMG_1573480310475Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota Author, Justin Cancelliere, whom I met at October’s ND Library Association Meeting.  Justin, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved writing and had a passion for the arts. In 2017 I took the plunge and self-published my first book, “The Legendary Creature Project: The Gryphon.” In Feb. of 2019, I decided to create the BisMan Writer’s Guild in an attempt to bring together local writers to uplift them and be helpful to them and their work.unnamed (2)

How do you make time to write?

In between working full time, helping my wife with her business, and podcasting it can be difficult to make time for writing. But I try my best to make at least an hour in the day, it usually ends up being an hour a week but… 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I do, especially when you can’t get behind a story. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write in science fiction, for the most part. But I love science fiction because it delves into the horror that can come from the advances in science and technology.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

As of now, Indie. I love Indie publishing because there are no deadlines except for the ones you set for yourself.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your work? 

Believe it or not I’m kind of a combination, but for the most part introvert. I’m not quite sure how it has affected my work.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I really don’t have one.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Whatever you do, never stop writing. It’s very easy to fall into the mentality of “my writing isn’t going to go anywhere, so why bother.” But I beg to differ, if you’ve reached one person with your writing, then that’s one more person that has read your work.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.justincancilliere.com

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

From “The Legendary Creature Project: The Wyrm”:

It had been a week since he had injected Steven with a new DNA sequence. It wasn’t too soon after that Steven began to develop scales and large, razor-sharp claws which now protruded out of his fingers. His face had also begun to transform, taking on reptilian-like traits. All of his hair, nails, and teeth had fallen off and laid at the bottom of the tank.