When We Were Shadows, for middle-school students, is based on the true story of a Jewish boy and his family hiding from the Nazis in WWII in Holland. It traces his journey at the age of 5 from Germany to Holland in 1937, where the family thought they would be free of the persecution happening to Jews in their home country, only to have their haven invaded by the Nazis 3 years later. The story describes how the family fled from one hiding place to another, aided by people in the Dutch Resistance, until they found refuge in a hidden village in the Veluwe forest. For 18 months they lived in fear of discovery, and were assisted by local villagers and the Resistance, and trying to make the best of their situation. After the village was attacked, the boy and his family had to take on new identities and continued to hide until liberation in Zwolle by the Canadians in 1945. Continue reading
Read about THE ATOMIC CITY GIRLS, everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II
GENRE: Historical Fiction
In the bestselling tradition of Hidden Figures and The Wives of Los Alamos, comes this riveting novel of the everyday people who worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II.
“What you see here, what you hear here, what you do here, let it stay here.”
After being interviewed twice by Kate Raphael on KPFA Women’s Magazine program, I turned the tables and invited her to share her writing journey on my blog. Her second interview with me will be aired on 1/8/18.
Kate Raphael is a long-time feminist and queer activist, mystery novelist, and office worker. She is a founding member of Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!) and San Francisco Women In Black and a member of the editorial collective of the quarterly queer newspaper, UltraViolet. She is a former board member of San Francisco Women Against Rape and was a 2004 LGBT Pride Parade Community Grand Marshal. Kate’s interviews with Syrian and Honduran feminists have been broadcast nationally. Click here to read her blog. Continue reading
Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess, published, 12/1/2017
Genre: Middle Grade
Editions, ISBNs, and Pricing:
Paperback 978-0692920411 $9.99
Hardcover 978-0692938294 $24.99
Ebook 978-0692938300 $2.99
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Randy Ellefson has written fantasy fiction since his teens and is an avid world builder, having spent three decades creating Llurien, which has its own website. He has a Bachelor’s of Music in classical guitar but has always been more of a rocker, having released several albums and earned endorsements from music companies. He’s a professional software developer and runs a consulting firm in the Washington D.C. suburbs. He loves spending time with his son and daughter when not writing, making music, or playing golf. Continue reading
What college girl doesn’t dream of meeting Mr. Darcy? Lizzie was certainly no exception. But when Darcy Fitzwilliam comes into her life, he turns out to be every bit as aggravating as Elizabeth Bennett’s Fitzwilliam Darcy. So what’s a modern girl to do?
Jeanette Watts’ satire pokes loving fun at Jane and all of us who worship the characters who shall forever be our romantic ideals.
JEANETTE WATTS WILL BE GIVING AWAY a doll dressed in Regency clothing, handcrafted by the author (International Giveaway) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2418/.
For a better chance at winning this doll, be sure to follow the tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/08/vbt-jane-austen-lied-to-me-by-jeanette.html
INTERVIEW WITH JEANETTE WATTS:
- How do you come up with book titles?
It’s a fairly logical process for me. My first book, Wealth and Privilege, the title is inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I like the title, it just flows off the tongue. As to why I picked wealth and privilege? It’s two things that people want, right? The story itself is about how having both wealth and privilege does not necessarily guarantee happiness. So my second book, Brains and Beauty, is a sequel to my first novel. The title had to reflect the first one. As for my new novel, Jane Austen Lied to Me, I think the title came first. I was thinking about how much fun it is to be a Janeite, but what would happen if it didn’t go right?
- What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
Well, Jane Austen Lied to Me is brand-new, the only feedback I have is from editors who were giving me their recommendations. The heroine has gone through a lot of changes over the many, many rewrites. The first readers I showed it to loved the concept, and were amused by the ending, but because it was a satire, the heroine could be a little too difficult to like. I had to soften her, and show people more of her redeeming features. It amused me quite a bit, since I know that Jane Austen herself, when writing Emma, had said she wanted to write a heroine that only she could love. Hopefully my heroine succeeds in being equally lovable.
- Why do you write?
I am a storyteller. I have no choice in the matter. When I write pamphlets, I find a way to tell a story. I am a dance choreographer, I prefer choreographing for groups because it’s easier to tell stories. And my choreographies almost always tell a story.
When my brain spawns another character, or another story, that character or story gives me no peace until it is out on paper. I’ve heard so many people say they don’t like writing, writing is hard. Writing for me is a joy. I love words. But more immediately, it feels good to get the characters and stories written down. Once I do, I get to sleep at night. Until the next character or story starts banging at the inside of my brain…
- Where do your characters come from?
They are all me. Every single character, even bit players, even the villains, are all part of me. The villains tend to reflect the things that irritate me. I do not like whining or complaining, my villains tend to be whiners and complainers, like Josie. (You’ll see, she’s awful!) A peripheral character, like the girl in the coffee shop with the blue and purple hair, or Michael’s friend Matt, are portraits of my friends. Most of the characters in Jane Austen Lied to Me are members of my dance troupes. Sometimes I scramble the names and the characteristics – Jen isn’t really bossy like that. The real-life Ken’s last name is not Garvin. But I have another friend (also a dancer) whose last name is Garvin…
- What does your writing space look like? Like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post-its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?
I can write almost anywhere. Most of it is done at my desk, surrounded by post-it notes. There’s a portrait of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke watching over me. She was essentially a writing teacher in Queen Elizabeth I’s day. I like going on writing retreats in pretty places – a week at a cottage in Canada, or a cabin in a national forest, or a little BnB on the beach does wonders for my ability to get in some quality time with my current project. I’ve written while sitting at my sewing machine; I will write until I need to think, then I sew and think, then go back to writing.
- What genres do you work in?
Thank you for asking that question in the plural! There is all kinds of advice for writers out there saying we should only write in one genre, to build a brand, and a loyal readership. But my brain doesn’t work that way. I admire Philippa Gregory’s ability to concentrate on only one narrow time period in history. But I can’t do that. My first historic fiction novels are set in the Industrial Revolution in America. I have a half-finished novel set 200 years earlier in England. The next book I want to do is set just after the turn of the 20th century. Meanwhile, I have published a textbook on waltzing, and I have a couple of children’s books I’d like to write.
- If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?
Like I said earlier, I have no choice. I have to be a writer, or those stories would be pounding around inside my brain with no way out. I still manage to be a dance instructor, and a costumer, and a Renaissance Festival actress, and a museum theatre assistant at the local history museum, and run several dance companies. It’s just a matter of making sure everything gets a turn. Sometimes I have to dictate chapters in the car while I’m driving, but things do get done.
- What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
The marketing! Once the story is written, and polished over and over until it shines and it’s ready for readers to see it, now the real work begins. You can have the most engaging story in the world, but readers have to find out that it’s there. Marketing needs to be constant. I have had more face to face encounters with people who bought my book because we had a conversation in a grocery store line, and it turned out we were both from Pittsburgh. I will be on a spree where I’m very good about my webpage, and Twitter, and Facebook, and then I stop posting for months at a time. Which is NOT a good thing. Getting momentum when you start from zero is hard.
- Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
Lon the Floor Nerd. There really was one, by the way. Freshman year in the dorms. The real life one wasn’t as sweet as the character in my book, but if I recall correctly he had very nice shoulders. My fictional Lon is the cognate of Captain Wentworth from Persuasion; he is one of my favorite Jane Austen characters. So I can’t help but love him.
- Do you neglect personal hygiene or housekeeping to write? Or vice versa?
Absolutely! A writer has a choice. Either the writing gets done, or the laundry. For years, I was making the wrong choice. The laundry was getting done, and the writing wasn’t. I made a New Year’s pact with a good friend of mine, and she helped me adjust my priorities. She would call me up EVERY single day, with one question: “Have you worked on your book yet?” If I answered no, I had to listen to myself explain WHY I hadn’t done any writing in the 24 hours since she called me with that same question. It helped me focus – if it was 2:00 in the afternoon and I hadn’t done any writing, I would let the lawn mowing go for another day, so that when she called and asked her question, I could say yes, instead of no.
- What’s the underlying message of your writing? The non-fiction description.
Something along the lines of Shakespeare’s “What a piece of work is man” speech. I love people. I know people, and I can be a cynical observer of human nature, but at the end of the day, I adore people.
- What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?
It’s the word “just.” It’s a great little modifier that says almost nothing…and I use it to death in my first drafts. “She just picked up the book and…” “I’m just looking…” “Don’t beat around the bush, just tell me the truth.” I will find it multiple times in a single paragraph, much less on a single page. It irritates the hell out of me. I don’t edit while I write: I learned from my college professors to simply write everything down, and go back to edit later, after it’s all on paper. Rewriting is easier than writing. So I don’t even try to be aware of the 22 “justs” on a single page. It’s absolutely horrifying. Fortunately, they’re easy to delete when I start the editing process.
- Do you travel to research your book(s)?
Whenever I can! I love to travel. Sadly, Jane Austen Lied to Me could be set on any college campus in America, so I didn’t have to do any traveling. I should really think about setting my next book someplace exotic. I’ve always wanted to go to Machu Picchu.
Excerpt from Jane Austen Lied to Me by Jeanette Watts
I’ve been thinking about my conversation with Professor Jacobson over and over. The thing about formulas and people. It makes a certain kind of sense, but does it lack a romantic sensibility?
Ha! Sense and Sensibility!
This is the second time that Professor Jacobson has me thinking about S&S. Well, if I’m no Lizzie Bennett, there are worse things in life than being a Marianne Dashwood. She had youth and beauty and high spirits. She wasn’t good at the dating thing, either, and overlooked the better man at first. Why was that? Did Colonel Brandon seem unromantic at first impression?
Even though I’ve got an assignment due in Spanish, as well as the inevitable calc and chem homework, I grabbed Sense and Sensibility to take with me to read while I went to dinner. I wanted to read everything in the book about Colonel Brandon.
Anne spotted me in the dining hall while I was halfway through a tuna sandwich and a really big pile of potato chips. “Hey, Roomie.” She slid her cafeteria tray onto the table across from me and plopped her book bag down beside it. “You having a really bad day?”
“Um, no I don’t think so, why?” I asked.
“Usually, if you’re having a bad day, you pick up Jane Austen and read a little something before you start to study. Since instead of sitting here doing your homework, you’re sitting here reading Jane Austen, I take it you had an exceptionally bad day today.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Jeanette Watts had been writing historic fiction when the inspiration for Jane Austen Lied to Me hit her on the drive home from the Jane Austen Festival. The idea was simply irresistible, and she put aside other writing projects in order to focus on writing a satire, thinking it would be a “mental vacation.” It turned out to take every bit as much research to write a modern story as it does to write a historical one.
She has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing. When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.
The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson
Genre: Fiction, Climate Fiction, Eco-Lit, Women’s Fiction
Along the windswept coast of Ireland, a woman discovers the landscape of her own heart
When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.
Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.
Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice–a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.
Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people.
Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.
About the Author
Julie’s short stories and essays have appeared in several journals, including Emerge Literary Journal; Mud Season Review; Cirque: A Literary Journal of the North Pacific Rim; Cobalt; River Poets Journal, in the print anthologies Stories for Sendai; Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers; and Three Minus One: Stories of Love and Loss; and featured on the flash fiction podcast No Extra Words. She holds undergraduate degrees in French and Psychology and a Master’s in International Affairs. Julie leads writing workshops and seminars and offers story/developmental editing and writer coaching services.
Named a “standout debut” by the Library Journal, “Very highly recommended” by Historical Novels Review and declared “Delicate and haunting, romantic and mystical” by bestselling author Greer Macallister, Julie’s debut novel In Another Life went into a second printing three days after its February 2, 2016 release.
A finalist for The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, judged by PEN/Faulkner author and Man Booker Award nominee Karen Joy Fowler, Julie’s second novel The Crows of Beara was acquired by Ashland Creek Press and will take flight on September 15, 2017.
A hiker, yogi, and wine geek, Julie makes her home on the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington state.
It took him longer than he anticipated to find a space near the gallery’s back loading door and to bring the last of his pieces inside, but when Daniel walked into the gallery, Annie was standing transfixed in front of the sculpture he’d titled Grian/Gealach—Sunrise/Sunset—her hand reaching for the delicate spheres of metal. She withdrew her hand before touching the piece, though her body leaned in still.
“Go on. It’s all right,” he said over her shoulder, removing a pair of stained and torn leather work gloves.
She seemed not to register him. Then she turned and nodded at the gloves he clutched in one hand. “Do you work here?”
“I’m delivering pieces for the installation.” He waved around the exhibit space. “We’ve set up just a few so far, but they give you an idea.”
“Is the artist a friend of yours?”
“Some days, yes. Some days I really can’t stand the sight of the bastard. But mostly we get along.” He winked and motioned her toward the sculpture. “Really, it’s meant for all the senses, not just visual. Go on.”
She drew the tip of her finger down one large round of metal. It blazed like firelight, catching the dipping sun, but the metal was cool. “It’s beautiful.”
“I like for people to handle these pieces—I want them to feel the texture and temperature of the materials.” Annie turned in surprise, but Daniel pretended not to notice. “Fingerprints leave marks and oil—that’s a good thing, at least for my work. People change my art as much as I hope it changes them.”
“I didn’t know you were an artist.”
“I do the guiding to keep a steady income coming in, but this is meant to be my day job.”
Giant parcels wrapped in quilted moving blankets leaned against the walls; only one other piece had been unwrapped, a protective cover draped over the corners. It was a tall, narrow triptych of patinated metal with a background of aquamarine. Gracing the foreground was a long hawthorn stem of leaves and berries that shimmered and waved in a silhouette of red and gold.
“This is copper,” she said in wonder. “You work with copper.”
“Copper mostly. Some bronze, chrome. I’m just starting in with glass—studying with an artist out of a cooperative here in Kenmare.”
“But, Daniel. Copper.”
“Recycled copper. I use discarded materials, from building sites mostly. Ironic, right? I don’t want the mine in my backyard, but I’m willing to exploit it nonetheless—is that what you’re thinking? I’m not so naive as to think we shouldn’t have mining.”
He pulled the cover away from the sculpture’s sharp edges and let it drop to the floor. The hawthorn was in a cow pasture where he often sat, watching for the Red-billed Chough that foraged for seeds in the manure. “But in my own way, maybe I can show that the earth’s resources aren’t ours for the taking wherever, whenever we want. Art is a way to connect people with their environment without polarizing, without politicizing. It can be used to that purpose, but it belongs to everyone. I want my art to show nature as a cultural artifact. I made a very deliberate decision to use what’s already been taken from the earth—what had been stripped from Beara’s earth more than a century ago. Maybe that is my political statement.”
At that moment, hearing the words in his own voice, speaking his heart out loud, Daniel made his decision. But it was something he needed to sit with, to form more fully on his own. And he couldn’t forget, no matter how enchanting this woman was, who she was, why their paths had crossed.
Interview with Julie:
As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?
JCJ: This is something that happened after my first novel launched in early 2016. My tenth grade boyfriend, who broke my heart in the most Molly Ringwald way possible, heard about my novel, read it, and then found me on Facebook. I hadn’t seen him since he graduated from high school in 1985. We talked one night for hours. I was dismayed and delighted to learn that I’d broken his heart, too. We had a great laugh recalling the same set of circumstances and events in completely different ways. And we remain friends.
Who are your literary influences or inspiration?
JCJ: As a child, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh lit the fire of my determination to be a writer, and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia filled me with the wonder and joy of storytelling. As an adult, every word written by Jane Austen, for her sense of humor, the sheer beauty of her sentences, the way she can tell the most delicious and satisfying of stories; Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, for its strong, sensual women and breathtaking world-building; and Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety. This novel made me crave to put words on paper. I read it years before I began writing, but it nudged open the door of my writer’s heart.
Why do you write?
JCJ: It feeds my soul. It’s a necessary to me as breathing. I’d go mad if I couldn’t.
As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
JCJ: My entire life fell apart after the publication of my first novel. I don’t know how else to say it. My husband and I divorced after twenty-five years of marriage; I fell into a series of deep depressions. Writing changed ME, publishing changed the course of my life.
Last October, I returned to a full-time job after four years of writing full-time; the need for a stable income and health insurance compelled me back into punching a timecard. I’m grateful to have found something I love (I work in the wine industry), but it’s meant putting the brakes on publishing goals.
And yet. My second novel has launched. I have a third on submission and I am working on a fourth project. I spent two blissful weeks at a writers’ retreat in France last September. The writing I did on retreat has been the thing that I’ve held onto this past year as proof that my writing fire still burns deeply inside and I will return to those embers when I am able. I’ve kept up my physical health through yoga, swimming and hiking, as I know this is the key to strong mental health. I’ve also recently fallen in love and embarked upon a new relationship with a visual artist who is so supportive of what I do and gets it. Gets the calling to create that is impossible to ignore if the soul is to survive. It’s so beautiful, this crazy life. And yes, I’m still writing. The stories are piling up in my heart and I believe that the space and time to release them will come my way again.
Where do your characters come from?
JCJ: I just went through the Rolodex of my characters and I can think of only one short story—a work-in-progress—in which the characters are based on real people. Very present in my writing, however, are deeply personal themes. For example, Lia in IN ANOTHER LIFE is acutely claustrophobic. So is this author! I haven’t been in an elevator in years. The character in my third novel, UPSIDE-DOWN GIRL, is coping with child loss and has immigrated to New Zealand, both of which I have experienced. And I often write about how place changes and shapes us. My characters undergo major life upheavals and sortings-out once they leave the United States, when they are forced to confront themselves away from familiar social and cultural norms.
Annie, the protagonist in THE CROWS OF BEARA, and I don’t seem to share many similarities, but I adore her. By the novel’s end she’s just starting to come into her own, to realize her own emotional and artistic strength. I’m a few years older than Annie—forty-eight to her late thirties—but I see in her the same sense of purpose, a reinvigoration of character and self and determination that arrives with turning forty. You look around and say, “Right. This is who I am at this moment. I am beautiful, strong, I have so much yet to give, to discover. Let’s do this. Let’s live.”
What genres do you work in?
JCJ: Truly, I have no genre in mind when I begin writing a new novel; I just want to tell a good story. Authors like Deborah Harkness, Mary Doria Russell, and David Mitchell, who take genre conventions and toss them out the window, are my inspiration!
Interesting, and beautifully encouraging, are the reactions from industry professionals, including my agents, editors and booksellers. They love that my work can’t be pigeonholed in any category or genre, that it sprawls its limbs across the multitude!
I consider myself a storyteller. Genre doesn’t factor in when I think about my characters or themes. The joy is in challenging myself to do things I didn’t know I had in me, like historical fiction for my first novel IN ANOTHER LIFE; to play with convention, as I did with the paranormal element IN ANOTHER LIFE and magical realism in THE CROWS OF BEARA; to look for the best stories in my soul.
What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
JCJ: I write on the sofa, at the dining room table, in bed, in favorite cafes, on the beach, in the library… wherever, whenever I can.
Early morning is the best time for me- my head and heart are clearest- but when I’m in the groove with a project, setting word count goals and writing during scheduled times are my strongest tools. I need a bit of noise- ambient music, café chatter. I also do a lot of problem-solving and planning while hiking, swimming, riding my bike. Moving my body in active meditation helps me fill in plot holes and find inspiration. Journaling helps me get out the personal gunk so I’m free to pay attention to my characters.
What’s the underlying message of your writing? The non-fiction description.
JCJ: There’s a scene about midway through The Crows of Beara when Annie sees Daniel’s art for the first time. And in observing his own work through her eyes, he realizes the power of what he does, how his art can change minds, perspectives, lives. It’s very much how I feel about what I do as an artist. Words are my voice, my sword, my hand out to the universe. Art, whether it’s visual, literary, musical, or of the body, is what connects us to ourselves, to each other, to the greater world. It’s what keeps us all truly alive. This is one of the major themes of the book, and I love showing Daniel coming alive through the power of art. I love feeling connected to the world, to creation, by what I bring to the page.
When did you first write a story? What was it about?
JCJ: I wrote my first short story in January 2011 and it was published in the anthology STORIES FOR SENDAI in June 2011; all sales of the book were donated to an agency providing relief to the Sendai area after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. The story was set at a temple just outside Tokyo, where there is shrine that honors unborn children: fetuses who died in utero as miscarriages or abortions or stillborn children. My protagonist was recovering from a miscarriage.
I’ve been writing and publishing steadily since. My first novel, IN ANOTHER LIFE, was published by Sourcebooks in February 2016. I have a third novel currently on submission, and a fourth project underway. In between I’ve published short stories, essays, poems, blog posts, book reviews.
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliechristinejohnson/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieChristineJ
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2o4RnJs
On Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2pD6lDz
On Powell’s: http://bit.ly/2grs41i
On B&N: http://bit.ly/2pDlbda
Russia is much in the news these days and a Russian was the first governor of Alaska: Learn more in MASTER OF ALASKA!
About Master of Alaska
The detail and research that author Roger Seiler used—from biographies to actual letters and reports by the Governor Baranov himself—creates a riveting story.
Master of Alaska – a compelling Historical Fiction about the first governor of Alaska sent to the colony by Russia in 1790 – George Washington was President at the time. Master of Alaska starts in October 1790 when Aleksandr Baranov left his family in Russia and sails across the North Pacific to Kodiak to become the chief manager for Tsarina Catherine the Great’s colony in the far Northwest of North America. Baranov is shipwrecked, saved and adopted by the Aleut natives. Later he is forced to marry Anooka the daughter of the tribal chief, despite still having a wife back in Russia to save his men from starvation. Only slated to serve five years, Baranov spends the next 28 years in Alaska, surviving natural disasters, a massacre of his people at Sitka, meddling competing Russian authorities, a British attempt to undermine his colony and an assassination attempt. Interestingly, Baranov’s native wife and teenage daughter play an intricate role and contribute much to his success and survival in Alaska. Baranov built an empire and sought peace with the warring Tlingit, and thanks largely to his efforts Alaska is part of the U.S. today.
Baranov Meets Anooka (p. 82)
INTRO: After Aleksandr Baranov had reached the Russian settlement at Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, he took command of the colony. The Aleut village chief, named Grigor by the Russians, had learned to speak Russian and invited Baranov into his longhouse to confer. As they sat in front of the central fire, Baranov took from his pocket a bright copper plate engraved with Tsarina Catherine’s coat of arms and gave it to Chief Grigor as a gift.
Chief Grigor’s eyes widened in amazement as he examined the copper plate closely. “This is important,” he said.
It was exactly the reaction Baranov wanted. He continued, “I look for a long future of friendship between us. We can help each other in many ways. I must explore Montague Island, over here, and need some of your men as guides.”
“Great Nanuq, do you have a woman?”
Baranov was taken aback. “I have a wife in Russia.”
“In Russia? What good is that? Take my daughter for wife. Then I be your father, and we work together as one. This way we make powerful alliance.”
Before Baranov could react, Chief Grigor turned and called out to his daughter in his Native tongue, “Anooka, come here!”
From a dim recess of the lodge, a slender seventeen-year-old in deerskins approached with unusual youthful dignity. She had glistening long, black hair flowing over her shoulders, and set in an oval face were the high cheek bones common to many Natives. Her big, warm, brown eyes looked out from under lovely arched eyebrows. Clear, tan skin, a straight, pretty nose, and a mouth with soft lips completed her. To Baranov, Anooka was strikingly beautiful. Though reserved, the self-confidence of her rank allowed her to glance at the strange Russian in front of her, and then she faced her father.
In the Kenaitze dialect of the Alutiiq language, the chief told her, “Turn around and face the great Russian Nanuq.” She did so. With no hint of shyness, she looked Baranov right in his eyes. Her intelligent dark eyes held his stare as an equal for a long moment, until she yielded a slight smile, revealing perfect white teeth, and looked down.
Nanuq quickly collected himself and, wanting to get back to the negotiations for guides, replied, “Chief Grigor, your offer is most generous. But as I said, I already have a wife in Russia.”
Grigor insisted, “But not here. How long has it been, great Nanuq, since you’ve had a wife at your side?”
Baranov stared at him in silence. He didn’t want to offend the man, but the proposal was absurd.
The chief tried once more. Certainly an alliance with this Russian Nanuq would greatly benefit his own stature in the eyes of his people—and especially their southern enemies, the hated Tlingit.
“I see. Well, you need a wife here! And we need a strong alliance.”
“A Russian can only have one wife.”
“Poor man! Poor man!” said Grigor in mild disappointment. He knew that making such alliances, especially with one as strong as Nanuq, could take time and much negotiation. But just how strong was Nanuq, anyway? Maybe he should be tested. There was more than one way to impress the Tlingit with Kenaitze power. Grigor motioned to Anooka to return to her work.
“Well, then, the least I can do for you is give you the guides you need.”
Anooka sat on a blanket in the back of the longhouse, where she had been making a bear claw necklace for her father. Why did Father want to give her to this man? Though short, he looked strong and intelligent, but strange. Could she ever want him? She knew what she wanted would count for nothing. Her father would decide, and she had to trust him to choose well for her. She would ask one thing: that her father wait until he really knew a man before he made his choice. As his daughter, she deserved at least that, and the chief had only just met this Nanuq.
Baranov looked into the shadows for Anooka, straining for another glimpse of her youthful beauty. Grigor noticed.
About the Author Roger Seiler
Award-winning filmmaker and author Roger Seiler grew up in Alaska from age three. His love of adventure comes from both his parents. His father Edwin was a civil engineer eventually becoming an Alaskan bush pilot. His mother Josefina was born in Puerto Rico and was a writer and Alaskan sport-fishing lodge manager with the hobby of Flamenco dancing. In his late teens, Roger was a king salmon sport fishing guide on Alaska’s Naknek River, and also a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay.
He attended Deep Springs College and graduated With Honors from UCLA with a BA in Theater Arts – Film. His first film work was for UCLA’s Automotive Collision Research project, including a film for TV, “Safety on the Road,” which he wrote, produced and directed. While attending UCLA, Roger also worked with actor Karl Malden and famed director Francis Ford Coppola.
Roger worked for IBM for several years as an in-house filmmaker involved largely in producing and directing motivational films for employee conventions. He has made over 30 documentary films. His IBM film, The Inner Eye of Alexander Rutsch had a special screening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and won the CINE Golden Eagle Award, as did three of his other films, Frontiers, Challenge Over the Atlantic, and Strategy of the Achiever.
Roger currently lives in South Nyack, NY with his wife Sally. Roger is a devoted reader and supporter of libraries. In 1977 he was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Nyack Library (Carnegie funded in 1879) and has continued to serve for 40 years, 16 as Board President. Master of Alaska, a historical novel, is his second book and whose publisher North Face Publishing is a subsidiary of Motivational Press Publishing.
Interview with Roger Seiler
How do you come up with book titles?
A title must grab attention and be easy to remember. The subtitle should suggest what the book is about, with a bit of a hook – intriguing but not giving away too much.
What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
They love the dialog and the way they hear what is going on inside the characters’ heads. Then they say they were gripped by the adventure, the conflicts, and how the confilcts are resolved.
Why do you write?
I love making characters come to life on paper. Seeing them, hearing them, thinking how they think, feeling what they feel, and putting it all down on paper in words that make it all seem real gives me a thrill.
Where do your characters come from?
I focus on the historical novel genre, so my characters come from history. Mostly they are people who actually existed or could have existed at the time of my story. My fictional people help to draw out and support the character exposition of the true-to-life protagonist and antagonist. The protagonist has to be someone we can identify with and admire in some way – maybe not all the time, but most of the time. The antagonist and bad people are bad because they have no empathy for anyone. I try to show that the greatest conflicts between people can be negotiated with empathy.
At what moment did you decide you were a writer?
When I won an American Legion writing contest in the 8th grade. I still have the silver medal I won, but the essay I wrote on some patriotic subject is misplaced somewhere. It led me to historical fiction, usually focused on some time of conflict in American history. I love telling stories about real people who were unique, fascinating, conflicted, and who tell us something about the human condition that is useful in our own lives. My first story came in 1987 — a sci-fi story about a scientist who discovered the origin of Dark Energy and the ordinary composition of Dark Matter.
How do you start a novel/story?
I do historical research about a subject that interests me, first online and then in books and letters. Then I sketch the story by hand on paper as scenes based on history in a rough outline, using the guidelines of the three act structure, the inciting incident, and the ups and downs within the story arc. I leave a lot of space between scene headings for me to add notes later. I look over the sketch and then start filling in details, though not in any particular order – just as ideas and visions of characters, events, and things come to me. Once the sketch is fairly fleshed out, I key it into my laptop. Then I start writing – a little bit here, a little bit there, as ideas come to me. At first, writing is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. As for the start of the story, I come back to do that last after I really know my characters and what the heart of the story is about. I can almost never know this at the beginning of my process. I’ll typically do at least 100 rewrites of the first page to get it right – which I could never do at the beginning of the process because I don’t really know enough then about my characters and story which have had to evolve throughout my writing process. Sometimes a rewrite of the first page can involve a change of just one word or a punctuation mark, which can make a remarkably significant difference. Just like panning for gold – a constant flushing out of the sand to reveal what has value.
What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
I rarely listen to music as I write because its mood can distract me from the mood of my story, as I concentrate on thinking, imagining, and writing. I start writing right after breakfast and just keep going until I run out of steam that day – sometimes that’s not until 11 at night. But I do have other things to do, so sometimes I’ll stop writing after 2 or 3 hours in the morning, then come back to it in the evening. Mostly, once I have an idea about how some characters are going to interact in a scene, I write continuously until it feels like I’ve got something meaningful happening between them, or a particular character has been more fully revealed.
What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?
I tend to overwrite, especially in “showing” the story. I’ve learned that it’s often best to “show” just the high points and low points of the story, but to “tell” what happens in between so as not to bog down the reader in unnecessary minutia, and to move the story along in a way that keeps the reader engaged. Too much “showing” can be boring. “Telling” has its place, like stepping on the accelerator to get in the fast lane. There needs to be a rhythm between show and tell, and once you find the right rhythm, you keep up its proper tempo.
Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
In Master of Alaska, my favorite character is Baranov’s wife Anna with their daughter Irina a close second, because of their success in showing empathy for others. Baranov is fascinating, but he has had to learn from Anna how to succeed in dealing with adversaries. She showed him how to develop a different kind of inner strength than ever had before. Without her he would have failed.
If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?
Daniel Craig or Jeremy Renner would be Baranov; Ariel Tweto (1/2 Alaskan Native) as Irina, Baranov’s part Native daughter, unknown Alaskan Native as Anooka/Anna; James Franko as Kuskov. The film director should be Ali Selim.
Roger reading from his book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBgh3nraTrY&feature=youtu.be
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/MasterAlaska
On Amazon: http://amzn.to/2qrLNQQ
Keith R. Fentonmiller will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Please click here to enter to win $50 Amazon/BN GC: “http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f2276.
You can follow the tour and comment by clicking on this URL: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/04/blurb-blitz-kasper-mutzenmachers-cursed.html. The more you comment, the better your chances are of winning.
Kasper Mützenmacher’s Cursed Hat, by Keith R. Fentonmiller
Berlin hatmakers threatened by a veil-wearing Nazi known as the “stealer of faces” must use the god Hermes’ “wishing hat” to teleport out of Germany during Kristallnacht. They won’t be safer in America, however, unless they break the curse that has trapped them in the hat business for sixteen centuries. Set in the Jazz Age, Nazi Germany, and World War II Detroit, Book One of the Life Indigo series is a family saga about the fluidity of tradition, faith, and identity. It will appeal to fans of Everything is Illuminated and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
Kasper plunged his hand into the safe’s darkness and retrieved the hat. When he put it on, the warm scaly leather conformed to his skull like a blanket of heated wax. He closed his eyes and recalled his father’s instructions: First, think of the place. Then make the wish. Not the other way around. Kasper breathed deeply and then exhaled as much air as he could, a precaution to stave off the overwhelming nausea that surely would follow. Before the next inhalation, he thought, Take me there. In an instant, he was compressed to a point, drained of all material substance. The world went dark and silent. He felt only a sensation of impossible acceleration and then nothing at all.
Kasper wished himself from cabarets to booze cellars, concert halls, and boxing venues all over Europe and North America. Although hat travel made him queasy and headachy, whiskey took the edge off. Then, after a week of around-the-clock hat travel, the nausea and head pain receded, and he began to enjoy the rush of compression, expansion, and acceleration.
Well, labeling the experience “enjoyable” would’ve been a vast understatement. The nascent drug addict doesn’t merely “enjoy” a shot of heroin or a puff of opium; he relishes it, embraces it, becomes one with it. Using feels like an act of self-creation—conception, gestation, and birth wrapped into a singular, lightning-strike moment.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Keith is a consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. Before graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, he toured with a professional comedy troupe, writing and performing sketch comedy at colleges in the Mid-Atlantic States. His short story, Non Compos Mentis, was recently published in The Stonecoast Review and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His short story Exodus was just published in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories.
Find Keith Online: