Author Interview with Janet Stafford -The Great Central Fair

I’d like to welcome back Janet Stafford to Layered Pages today! Janet has several books published including the historical fiction novels, “Saint Maggie Series”.  Hi, Janet! Please tell everyone a little about your Saint Maggie Series as a whole.

Hi, Stephanie! Thank you for talking the time to talk with me about my novels.

The Saint Maggie series is about love, hope, forgiveness, strength, and faith during difficult times. It is set in Civil War America and focuses on Maggie Blaine Smith and her unconventional family. Maggie learns the value of compassion and love after she is disowned by her family for marrying the son of a rival businessman. Fortunately, she and her husband are taken in by her husband’s Aunt Letty. After her husband and young son die, Maggie is encouraged by Aunt Letty to start a boarding house to make ends meet. Maggie does this and takes in people who need help, who need love, and who cannot pay her very much in the way of rent.

That’s her situation at the beginning of the first novel, Saint Maggie. The story is set in a fictional town called Blaineton in Warren County, New Jersey. Maggie has two teenage daughters (Lydia and Frances) and runs a rooming house with struggling boarders. She is best friends with her cook Emily Johnson and Emily’s husband Nate. The town’s folks look askance at Maggie and Emily’s friendship, since Maggie is white, and Emily is black. Eli Smith, owner and editor of the Gazette, a penny weekly newspaper, is sweet on Maggie. And Nate, Emily, Maggie, and Eli are station masters on an Underground Railroad stop, something the town may suspect, but cannot prove.

Maggie and her family of “blood relatives” and fictive kin take on the issues, dangers, and heartbreak of the American Civil War. They do it earnestly, compassionately and passionately, but also with humor. The series gives me an opportunity to look at the issues of their time through their eyes. Over the course of four full-length novels, I have been able to dig into the how the exposure to battle changed soldiers and civilians; slavery, race relations, and the work of the Underground Railroad; women’s rights; the treatment of mental illness; medicine’s first notice of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder; the first hints of the Gilded Age that will come. The fifth book, which is my current work-in-progress, deals with segregation in education, as well as the power of the press and attempts to suppress the it. Lest you think my stories are all issue-oriented, I assure you that my characters also fall in love, have children, try to understand each other, and have moments of silliness and fun.

Please tell me about your latest book in the series, “The Great Central Fair.”

The Great Central Fair

The Great Central Fair is a novella. It had its roots in A Time to Heal: Saint Maggie Series 3 but I removed it because I realized that I had enough side plots going. I tried inserting it into my current work-in-progress, but again it just got in the way. Finally, I said, “Enough! Why don’t I make it a short story or a novella?”

The story is a solidly a romance, and I got to leave most of the social and political issues of the time behind. The Great Central Fair is about being young and in love during a time of war (1864). One of the relationships is well-established and looking toward the future. The other relationship is new and evolving. The city of Philadelphia serves as the catalyst for some of the changes that occur for the couples and the interaction among the characters in the story.

I love the title and how it stands out to grab the reader’s attention. Will you please tell your audience about the Fair and an example how it ties into your story?

I’d love to do that! When I realized I was bringing my characters to Philadelphia, I did a little research about what was going on in the city at that time. I thought it would be fun if they could engage in something that also was rooted in history. Well, I ran across a comment about the city hosting a “sanitary fair” and that stopped me dead in my tracks. What on earth was a “sanitary fair?” A showcase of bathtubs? An exhibition of the latest in sanitized drinking water? A display of modern sewage systems?

The answer both surprised me and made me slap my head and shout, “Duh!” A “sanitary fair” was a fair held to raise money for the Sanitary Commission, a civilian-run organization approved by the U.S. government. The Commission provided medical help and sanitary assistance (regarding food and general health issues) to soldiers and, sometimes, civilians. It also sent nurses and cooks to regiments and helped set up field hospitals.

The Commission was a huge effort initiated by the people to make life bearable for their soldiers. To support the Commission’s work, Sanitary Fairs were held throughout the Union and raised, by the time of the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair, over two million dollars. All the donations seemed to come from the Union’s citizens. The Philadelphia Sanitary Fair also was known as “The Great Central Fair” because it reached beyond its city and state to include people living in New Jersey and Delaware.

The connection of the fair comes into the story after the two young couples ask Chester Carson to be their chaperone on a three-day, two-night trip to Philadelphia before their young men report for duty at Mower General U.S. Hospital. It is Carson who mentions the fair a place to visit during the trip. The fair then provides a new experience for the couples, as well as (I hope) for readers. It is an 1864 exhibit of past and present during wartime that contains the hope that the Union will win the conflict and become whole once again at some future date. Within that environment, the characters all look toward their own futures.

Who are the characters in your story?

The novella revolves around Maggie’s daughters, Lydia and Frankie. By 1864, they are young women aged 22 and 18 respectively. That they are leaving the childhood behind is not lost on Maggie, who is feeling the tug of “empty nest syndrome,” especially when Frankie’s beau, Patrick, arrives at the household for a week’s leave from the army before he reports for duty as a steward at Mower General Hospital. She sees their relationship and knows it will lead to marriage. Maggie’s husband Eli also finds his stepdaughters’ maturing to be difficult. As Frankie’s in loco father, he goes a wee bit overboard to guard her purity. In Eli’s eyes Lydia is older, a widow, and the sensible sister. So, he figures he does not have to worry about her. We find out whether that is true.

Lydia’s friend, Philip, an army doctor who had been serving at Harwood General Hospital in Washington D. C., has also been ordered to report to Mower. He, too, arrives at in Blaineton to spend a week’s leave with his friend and her family.

The story follows the young couples as they become reacquainted. For Frankie and Patrick, that means making plans. For Lydia and Philip, it means a shift in their relationship from friends to something more. Both couples decide to have a holiday in Philadelphia before the men must report and, since it is 1864, they choose Chester Carson, Eli’s senior editor and one of the boarding house family, to accompany them.

For the readers who are not familiar with Eli Smith, can you talk a little about him?

Eli Smith – dark hair and eyes, short, portly, rumpled, and bespectacled. An incident in the first novel has left him with an unsteady left leg and his needs to use a cane to help him get around.

By 1864, Eli has been married to Maggie for nearly four years. He and Maggie are the parents of Bob, whom they adopted, and infant Faith, who was a surprise.

When we first meet Eli in Saint Maggie, he is a newspaperman who owns and prints the Gazette. He was raised as a Quaker but abandoned his faith and has become a free-thinker. I wanted him to be a free-thinker because Maggie’s strong Methodism needed some balance on her mate’s side. However, throughout the series, God clearly is not interested in abandoning Eli, and the newspaperman experiences the occasional bewildering supernatural intrusion. Eli also retains some of his early training as a Friend: he is anti-violence, anti-war, and a strong abolitionist. He’s an intriguing mix of a free-thinking agnostic, a man being shaped by his wife, and a man being chased by Something Else.

If Maggie is, as one of my beta readers puts it, someone who experiences ten different emotions at once, Eli generally tends to have one at a time and they’re usually strong: angry, remorseful, sorrowful, tender, thoughtful, questioning, and… funny. He’s good comic relief.

Over the course of the Saint Maggie series, Eli loses his precious Gazette weekly newspaper to an arson fire. He tries to continue to make a go as a war correspondent for the New York Times but loses the job when he writes something other than what the editors demanded. The experience demoralizes him and feels like a failure, professionally and personally. Fortunately, Tryphena Moore (Blaineton’s richest and most intimidating citizen) decides to start a paper of her own called The Blaineton Register. She invites Eli to be her editor-in-chief because she hopes he will create “controversy of the best kind.” So, in The Great Central Fair, Eli now oversees a growing newspaper and is living his dream. He may be in a smallish western New Jersey town but now he is a miniature version of his hero Horace Greeley.

I use Eli in the first chapter to introduce the characters and the setting in The Great Central Fair.

Were there any particular scenes you found challenging to write?

Good question! The chapter at the fair was quite challenging for me. Research-wise, I was lucky to find copies of the fair’s visitor guide online and in paperback form. I also found a great many black and white photos of the Philadelphia fair at the Library of Congress. But when I tried to bring the fair to life, that was rather tough. Sometimes it was difficult to imagine the black and white photos in color and teeming with the people. Also, the way people in the 1800s mounted exhibits is quite different than way we do today. From what I could observe, fair’s displays simply were hung on walls and set up on tables. I saw none of the installation methodologies we are familiar with today. My head kept thinking, “wow, all this stuff was just sitting around and hanging on walls. Boring!” And I had to remind myself that this was all new for my characters and therefore exciting. I think the easiest thing to imagine was the Floral Department because the guide book was bubbling over with nineteenth-century enthusiasm about all the flowers and displays.

Imagining the physical scope of the building was tough, too. It took up all of Logan Square! Trying to get the feeling of the walking in the space was next to impossible, but I gave it my best shot. Again, the pictures with some of the descriptions from the guide books helped.

What is some of the research that goes into writing an historical fiction novel?

I generally start with secondary sources – people who are writing about an era, its events, and people from a distance. That gives me context and a general understanding. But I love to get hold of primary sources – things written at the time the event or person lived. Frankly, I would love to be able to go and hang out in an archival library for a week, but I have another form of employment other than writing, so taking the time off to do that is not possible. That means I need to rely on books and the articles on the internet. However, I am fortunate to have a solid background in the 19th century, thanks to a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. So, that background plus the research starts me on my way. And yet research also occurs while I’m writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped to look something up because I’m not sure what I’m doing is true to the era. That goes for everything from language to laundry to the type of press Eli’s newspapers have and what they look like.

Some friends have been encouraging me to write a YA (Young Adult) fantasy and I tried to put them off by saying that means I’d have to create a coherent world of my own. They immediately responded by saying that wasn’t a problem, it was a benefit. All I had to do would be make stuff up and make sure it makes sense. I wouldn’t have to research every little thing. Really? I don’t know about that. One of the authors I know has written a fantasy series and it looks like hard work to imagine a coherent, detailed world. I’ll probably take a stab at writing a book like that but I believe it will be every bit as difficult as historical fiction.

Reading your novels, it is apparent how much the 19th Century interest you. What are some of the misconceptions people might have about the time period?

We’ve talked about this on the phone, Stephanie, so you know what I’m going to say! The big misconception about the time period is that we see it as so much simpler than it was. An extreme example of this is the Civil War: North=good, South=bad. Wrong! The politics before, during, and after the war were complex, the emotions were complex, the beliefs were complex, the situations were complex. People did not march in lock-step physically, nor did they march in lock-step emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually.

A good example of this is my home state of New Jersey. It was part of the Union during the Civil War, but it was not overwhelmingly pro-war or anti-slavery. In fact, my state was the last to outlaw slavery in the Union and even then, we did it gradually. We also had many “Copperheads,” people who were anti-war and anti-Lincoln. In my series, I try to point out the conflicts that are peculiar to New Jersey.

We also like to think that 19th century Americans were basically the same in their ethnicity and religious beliefs. But even in the 1860s United States was a varied place. Living in the nation were Native peoples, people enslaved and free whose background was African, people from Ireland, England, France, Germany, and other European nations. Religions were diverse, too: Judaism, Islam (10-15% of African slaves were Muslim when they arrived & struggled to practice their faith in secret), native religions from Africa, Native American religions, Christianity (in all its diverse forms), and Mormonism. And I’m sure I missed more examples.

I firmly believe that the roots of who we are today and the issues with which we struggle today have their roots in the 19th century. Why? Simply because we haven’t dealt with them.

Will you continue to write more books in this series?

I’m thinking of ending the series in 1865, shortly after the war. However, Maggie and Eli may let me know that their story goes on beyond that. So, all I can say is that my plan is to end it in 1865, but I may get out-voted by my characters.

In the meantime, I am “spinning off” a series for Frankie and probably one for Lydia. The Great Central Fair and The Enlistment are my first attempts at focusing more closely on Maggie’s daughters.

Where can readers buy your book?

Once it is published, you may buy The Great Central Fair (or any of the other books or short stories related to the Saint Maggie series) at the following places:

Squeaking Pips Press, Inc. This is my micro publishing house. The website is Squeaking Pips  and I have a convenient Store page on it. I sell only the paperbacks there.

Amazon carries the books in paperback and on Kindle. You’ll also find the books at Barnes & Noble, and other online distributors.

You might find them in a bookstore or a library. If you don’t see them, please request them!

The one store that I know you can find two of the series in is the Lahaska Bookshop, Peddler’s Village Store, 162 Carousel Ln & Rte 263 A, Lahaska, PA 18931. Dolyestown & Lahaska Book Shop

Thank you for the interview, Stephanie. I really enjoyed the questions!

About Janet Stafford:

Janet R Stafford

Janet Stafford is a Jersey girl, book lover and lifelong scribbler. She readily confesses to being overly-educated, having received a B.A. in Asian Studies from Seton Hall University, as well as a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture from Drew University. Having answered a call to vocational, but non-ordained ministry, Janet has served six United Methodist Churches, working in spiritual formation, communications, and ministries with children, youth, and families. She also was an adjunct professor for six years, teaching college classes in interdisciplinary studies and world history.
Writing, history, and religion came together for Janet when she authored Saint Maggie, an historical novel set in 1860-61 and based on a research paper written during her Ph.D. studies. She thought the book would be a single novel, but kept hearing readers ask, “What happens next?” In response, Janet created a series that follows the unconventional family from the first book through three other novels and three short stories, all set in the traumatic years of the American Civil War. Janet also ventured into the contemporary romance genre, going closer to home (the church) for her source material. Heart Soul & Rock ’n’ Roll tells the story of 40-year-old Lindsay Mitchell, who led a rock band in college but for the past fifteen years has worked as an assistant minister. Besieged by mid-life crisis, Lins wonders if perhaps she isn’t called to something new. But could that “something new” be a relationship with Neil, a man with a messy life and a bar band called the Grim Reapers?

Links:

Website

Amazon

Twitter: @JanetRStafford

Instagram

Facebook

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Q&A with Melika Dannese Lux

I’d like to welcome Melika Dannese Lux, the author of Deadmarsh Few, to Layered Pages today!  Melika, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk with me today about our upcoming book release, Deadmarsh Fey. Please tell me about your story and the period the story is set in.

fey_promo

The story takes place in England at the tail end of the 19th century. I should explain that Deadmarsh is not only the name of a family, but also the manor on the English moors which they call home. The main protagonist of this novel is Roger Knightley, a ten year old boy, who is the cousin of Havelock (Lockie) Deadmarsh, the heir. For nearly every summer of his young life, Roger has gone to Deadmarsh to while away the days with Lockie. He doesn’t expect anything to be different this year, but as soon as he crosses the threshold, he realizes that everyone has changed, especially Kip, the family cat, who has inexplicably grown and altered in other alarming ways. After several terrifying encounters with creatures from a death-haunted world called Everl’aria, Roger begins to understand that something evil has been awakened within the halls of Deadmarsh, something that is not only after Lockie and his older sister, Travers, but Roger, as well. A tapestry of secrets and lies has woven itself around the Deadmarshes, and Roger now finds himself in the position of having to unravel the mystery of why a being called the Dark Wreaker has bedeviled his family for 700 years, just what exactly the Deadmarsh connection to Everl’aria really is…and how his ancestress with the unpronounceable name, whom Roger has always called Bloody Granny B, fits into the grand scheme of things. All this, he must unravel before Lockie’s 11th birthday, two days hence. If he doesn’t, blood will drown the earth. And that’s not an understatement.

Your book cover is amazing! Who is your cover designer and age group this story geared to?

Thank you so much, Stephanie! The designer is Ravven (ravven.com), and she is brilliant! I had a very specific vision for the cover, and she was able to bring every single element of it to life in ways that still astound me.

Even though the main protagonist is a young boy, Deadmarsh Fey is not a children’s book. It is geared to anyone who enjoys an intense and detailed genre-bending story with a supernatural twist—a tale that entwines elements of dark fantasy, mystery, horror, and the inexplicable. As for an age group, I think those 14 and older would be able to appreciate and enjoy this story the most.

What is the research that went into for the setting and period of your story?

My last two novels were also set in the late 19th century, so I was already very familiar with the mores, history, vernacular, etc., of this era. For Deadmarsh Fey, my main research centered on folklore, specifically that of Wales and Norway, which are the two branches of myth that flavor the events of this and the subsequent books in my Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light series. I love exploring mythology, then coming up with my own legends and histories for my characters. Names and their meanings have also always played a huge role in my novels, but never more so than in Deadmarsh Fey.    Returning to myths…the backstories of Everl’aria and the beings who populate it, especially the Guardians, were my favorite parts of the novel to write.

Please tell me a little about the Deadmarsh name and how you came up with it. 

About 16 years ago, I was watching a sporting event on TV, only half paying attention to what was going on, when I heard the announcer call out the name Deadmarsh. My first thought was, “Wow! What a fantastically creepy and portentous name that is!” And so it stuck in my head all those years until I finally found a story to build around the family which bore that name.

Will you tell me about the Jagged Ones?

Yes, of course! Their identity is rather sensitive, but I can tell you that Carver, the blue menace on the book’s cover, is their leader. There are many reasons why they are called Jagged Ones, and the main one is not revealed till a few chapters from the end of the novel. Basically, these creatures are the servants of the Dark Wreaker, and use their power and mesmeric qualities to trick their victims into doing their bidding, which opens the door for these creatures to have a rather horrifying rite of access to said victims. I really can’t say more without revealing the entire rationale behind the Jagged Ones’ existence!

How did you get into writing Dark Fantasy?

I’ve always been fascinated by writing fantasy. It was my original love, actually, since my first (as yet uncompleted) novel, which I began writing at 14, was a fantasy novel with a decidedly dystopian flair. You won’t be surprised to hear that sharks played a large role in this book. I revisited the novel in 2012, and wrote a prologue and three chapters before realizing it still wasn’t the right time to be working on this project.

About a year later, I began work on what would be the fourth novel in Dwellers of Darkness, Children of Light. At the time, I thought it would be the first. I’m glad I wrote that novel, though, because the myths that were explored in it helped me tremendously when writing Deadmarsh Fey, which I quickly realized had to be the inaugural book in the series. So, in 2014, I began working on it in earnest. Deadmarsh has actually been with me for a very long while, albeit unknowingly. It turned out to be the prequel to a fantasy trilogy I started writing in 2003, in which Roger was a grandfather! Life and other projects intervened, and I put that story on hold, but the idea of exploring why Roger’s life had turned out the way it had done became too insistent to ignore, and I decided to go back and create an entire foundation for why the events in that trilogy even happened. Needless to say, it’s been a tremendous amount of work, but great fun, as well, because there were story arcs and strands of legend that I’d only scratched the surface of that I got to reveal in Deadmarsh Fey in all their (sometimes hellish) glory.

And that’s where the dark part of dark fantasy came in. The seeds for writing horror were sown in my last novel, Corcitura, which is dark Gothic horror, along classical lines. Think Dracula instead of Twilight. I’m not a person who enjoys writing “sweetness and light” books, although there are always elements of comedy and sarcasm in my novels. Authorial confession: I can’t separate that from my own personality, so it finds its way into my characters! I have to be engaged when writing, and how this happens for me, I’ve noticed, is placing characters into situations, often dire ones, in which life and death are at stake, then having them battle their way out by using their wits, engaging the help of allies, and sometimes, through a confluence of events that saves them from imminent destruction through no doing of their own. They also don’t always find happy ways out of these situations, just to be clear. It depends on where the story tells me to go.

Who is your antagonist and what is a redeeming quality he or she has?

I have several antagonists in the book, but there are five main ones who wreak the most havoc on Roger and his allies. Two I can mention by name, because the identities of the others are revealed gradually. The first is Trahaearn Coffyn, who we meet in the opening chapter. His redeeming quality, though twisted, is his intense loyalty to the evil powers he serves, specifically to a woman he’s been faithful to for, well…for a good long while.

The other is Carver, the blue fiend on the cover. As I mentioned before, he is the leader of the Jagged Ones, and not someone you’d want to run across in real life. And yet, although I despise him…I also like him quite a lot! I think it’s because he’s so comfortable in his own evilness that he oftentimes came out with lines that cracked me up, even though he was being his despicable self! For quite a while, I was mystified by my being able to laugh at them, until I understood that the reason I could was because Carver knew he was irredeemable, and had no qualms about being so. And, yes, you’ve probably noticed that I’m talking about him as if he is a flesh and blood entity. Well, that’s how he, and all the characters in this book, feel to me. I was just the facilitator who was writing down what they wanted me to say. It sounds crazy, I know, but that’s how it was throughout this entire novel!

On a personal level, how does this story resonate with you?

Writing Deadmarsh Fey was a very intense experience for me. Corcitura was an incredibly complex novel, yet I think that because Deadmarsh Fey is not only its own complete story, but also lays the groundwork for the other novels in the series—it required me to plumb depths I never had before as a writer. I also became very attached to these characters, even growing fond of the villains in some strange way, which surprised me!

But the main thing for me when writing this novel was the gamut of emotions I experienced, especially in regards to Roger. The entire book is told from his perspective (third person), and because of that, I felt like I became Roger in this story. I discovered things as he did, saw things through his eyes, which meant that everything he endured, everything he felt—pain, fear, excitement, terror, disappointment, panic, elation—I felt  intensely, too. It was exhausting and rewarding at the same time. And made it very hard to put him through the ordeals I had him undergo. Very hard, but not impossible, and I did feel terrible afterward, but what the story called for, the story got.

Story wise, the events in Deadmarsh Fey resonated with me because they are about fighting for the ones you love. That is the main impetus that propels Roger’s actions, and the actions of his allies. It’s not just about survival, or stopping the evil of the Dark Wreaker and his servants from  being unleashed upon this earth, but about saving the very souls of those who are most important to you, those you’d give your life for. And that is something that has always appealed to me, not only in storyweaving, but in reality.

Please share with me your writing process and your favorite spot to write in your home.

After writing Deadmarsh Fey in chronological order from beginning to end without deviating, I have become addicted to this process, so that is how I now work. I cannot see myself going back to writing novels piecemeal after this experience.

I’m a rover when it comes to my favorite spot to write in at home. I do have a designated office/study/library, with a lovely writing desk, but I don’t like to stay in one place for too long. I feel like I become stagnant if I don’t have a change of writing scene every now and then. So, since I work on a laptop, I take it all over the house, and settle where I’m most comfortable.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Kindle edition of Deadmarsh Fey is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com  (HERE). The paperback edition will also be available for purchase (through Amazon) on May 2nd, the book’s official release date.

About the Author:

Melika

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write novels that incorporate a variety of different genres, including historical fiction, suspense, thrillers with a supernatural twist, and dark fantasy. I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

Website: Books In My Belfry

Twitter  @BooksInMyBelfry

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Interview with Mike Torreano

I’d like to welcome Mike Torreano to Layered Pages to talk about is upcoming book, The Renewal, a story that takes place in western America. 

Hello, Mike! Thank you for chatting with me and congrats on your latest book, The Renewal. Please tell me a little about your story.

The Renewal By Mike Torreano

The Renewal is the sequel to The Reckoning, and is set in South Park, Colorado, in 1872.

Ike McAlister has finally put the ghosts of his past to rest. He’s found new joy with a spirited wife, a young daughter, and a mountain valley ranch where a man can make something of himself. But a coming railroad through the South Park valley threatens to take his land and tear his hard-won peace apart.

Describe the setting for your story.

South Park is a high mountain basin with rolling grasslands and flowing rivers, and is surrounded by 14,000-foot snowcapped peaks. Wide-open spaces perfect for cattle ranching. There’s a little town of Cottonwood near Ike and Lorraine’s ranch and a railroad is planned to come from Denver through the Park soon.

What are Ike’s strengths?

Ike’s character has been shaped by a hard life. He’s seen plenty of sorrow but hasn’t let it get in the way of what he wants-a wife and children, and enough land for a working cattle ranch. He’s a bit stoic, but very loyal. Sometimes his temper gets in the way of his better judgment, but that’s usually when Lorraine, his wife, sets him straight again. He’s the guy you’d want your daughter to marry. Solid, stable.

What is your personal opinion of him?

I like Ike, he knows what he wants and just goes about his business. He keeps his focus and pushes through whatever obstacles with no complaint. He’s an embodiment of The Code Of The West. Would that there were more Ikes, men and women, in our country today.

Did he ever do anything that surprises you?

Ike can be a blustery sort, but I was surprised when he backed off at a critical point in The Renewal and relied on friendship instead of being a bull in a china shop to convince a friend he needed to stay behind. Apparently, he’s not always full speed ahead.

What was your writing process for this story?

I’m a pantser but this is a sequel so I had some idea of where it might be going before I started. I’m also an undisciplined pantser, though, so I usually spend time percolating in between scenes and in between writing. I have a daughter who does research for me so she saves me a lot of time that I’d otherwise spend looking things up.

Tell me about how you started writing Westerners and what you think the importance of writing in this genre is?

I was originally inspired by Zane Grey’s works way back in the fifth grade and that simmered over time. When I retired from business, I took the opportunity to see if I could write a novel, and westerns were where I wanted to start. It also seems like westerns are making a comeback lately.

As for the importance, I’d point out The Code Of The West, which embodies timeless values that our country would do well to re-embrace. All westerns reflect The Code Of The West in some form or fashion and that’s why they’ll never die.

Is there a message in your story you want your readers to grasp?

A message? It would be that there are timeless values embodied by the Old West that still ring true in our ever-shifting culture today. The Old West was a no whining zone where you played the hand you were dealt and made the best of things as they were.

What is up next for you?

Next? I’m working on a new western set on a cattle drive going north out of New Mexico. My hero is being chased by bad guys but doesn’t even know it. There’s a backstory that draws the story forward into surprising twists and turns.

Where can readers purchase your book?

The Renewal is available, along with the first book, The Reckoning, on Amazon and other e-outlets, in print, Kindle and will be available in audio soon. Readers can also visit The Wild Rose Press website. And come visit me on miketorreano.com.

About the Author:

Mike T

Mike Torreano has a military background and is a student of history and the American West.

His western mystery, The Reckoning, was released September 2016 by The Wild Rose Press and the sequel, The Renewal, is due to be released soon. He’s working on the next western now and he also has a coming-of-age Civil War novel looking for a publisher.

Mike’s written for magazines and newspapers. An experienced editor, he’s taught University English and Journalism. He’s a member of the Historical Novel Society, Pikes Peak Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Western Writers of America and several other western writing groups. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates life in 19th century America.

Author Website

The Renewal is available on Amazon for Pre-Order.

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Q&A With Photographer Scott Moore

Scott Moore with Sally

I’d like to welcome Scott Moore today to talk with me about his photography business and how he got into photography.

Scott, what is the name of your Photography business?

The name of my business in WSM Photography. It’s an often-used formula, but the WSM stands for my initials “Walker Scott Moore”. I also have a variation of my initials I use online, as an online id, which is “Wizum”. Kind of how you would say my initials as a word… I use that identity quite a bit with social media and photo sharing sites.

How long have you been in photography?

I started shooting with a Minolta film camera back in the late 90’s. It was something very casual and I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing. After finishing up my degree in architecture in the early 2000’s, I picked up my first digital camera, a Coolpix 3200, and used it quite a bit on travels, especially when I visited famous buildings designed by architects I had studied in school. Two “point and shoot” cameras later I decided to buy my first SLR camera, a Canon XTi. From there, things really took off and around the start of 2009 I excepted my first architectural paid shoot, which just so happened to be a new high rise I could see from my work desk looking out the window. It must have been fate, right?

Professionally I’ve been photographing architecture for 8 years. I’ve also sold a number of prints and canvases over the years as well or Landscapes and Cityscapes, as well as having done some professional portraits and a wedding or two as a second shooter. This last year I shot the Tom Glavine Spring Training Georgia Transplant Foundation fundraiser event. I shot that for 5 years straight and it was always a rewarding and fun event to shoot.

What is your motivation in photography?

Place.

While studying architecture in school- a lot of time is spent studying other architects work and also their writings. This invariably led to other writings from non-architects, but still discussing related subjects, or subjects that could influence the world of architecture. One of the more influential writings led to the realization of how we interact with the world and how when we create architecture, it is something that does not sit in an open field of grass, it sits in a place. Buildings have context. and it is this context which can have a major influence on the design of a building.

So, context is such a key for me when I look at a place. Whether that place is in the city or in a natural setting. I love capturing places and subjects within these places.

What do you specialize in and what is your process?

For pay, my photography work is primarily shooting architecture. I obviously understand the subject well, as I have been trained to be an architect and have been practicing it for 20 plus years.

My process for shooting sometimes depends on the building I’m shooting, and also the client I am shooting for, but primarily I like to do a survey of the project and take sample shots before doing the final shooting. This allows me to get a feel for the project and how light, depending on the time of day, interacts with it. After that I’ll have a good understanding of the shots I will take, which are usually derived from a client request and ideas I see while shooting and reviewing the sample shots I took.

I also shoot multiple exposures when shooting. I sometimes will use these exposures in a blending process, but sometimes I am able to capture the right shot in one exposure. You might ask why I do this? Well, the camera does not have the same exposure adjustment that the human eye has. When dealing with multiple light levels, sometimes very drastic from each other, you shoot for these extremes so you can balance them out in post processing, so that the final image reflects more closely to what the eye can see of the scene you captured.

Who are a few of the businesses you have shot images for?

I have had the opportunity to shoot a number of buildings I have actually designed, while working for various architecture firms in Atlanta. These firms are DAG Architects, CDH partners and AE Perspective (formally AE Design). I’ve also shot for 2 firms in Chattanooga, TN as well as having the opportunity to shoot for an architect in Cape Town South Africa. The 2 homes I photographed in Cape Town were simply amazing, one having an open view of the Atlantic Ocean from the living room, overlooking an infinity edge pool, and the other on the beach, with a view of Table Mountain in the distance and across the bay.

I have also photographed for an architectural lighting company as well several General Contractors who constructed several of the projects I have photographed.

What gear do you prefer to use the most?

For my architectural work I shoot a lot with my 17mm Tilt Shift lens. It is very wide and it allows for me to correct perspective within the lens real-time. It is a really great lens and gives me some of my sharpest images.

When shooting landscapes or cityscapes I also tend to shoot with a wide angle, but generally I shoot with my L17-40 4.0 Lens.

My current camera body is the Canon 6D. I used to shoot with the 5D mark ii, but had a mishap with it in the ocean. 😦

What settings do you use when at a shooting site?

Not to give away too many secrets 😉 but when shooting architectural work, I keep my aperture around f11-f16. I shoot with a tripod 90% of the time, which allows for the multiple exposures I mentioned before. The ISO is usually at 100, for as little pixel noise (grain), and the exposures will vary drastically, but I do like to shoot with longish exposures.

Please share your favorite image you have taken.

I don’t know if I have just 1 favorite. So many of my shots remind me of those times I shot them and are also kind of a photographic journal of my journey, and development as a photographer. The one I will share with you though is from early on in my shooting career of a waterfall in Alabama. It is called, Caney Creek Falls. What is so cool about the shot is that visiting the place was really amazing. Call it a good day or the location itself, but a lot of things photographically really came to me when doing this shoot.

CaineyCreekFalls002 Scott's Picture

Who are your influences in the industry?

It is kind of funny, but I cannot really name one established or famous photographer that has been an influence on me. What I can name is the massive amount of talent that is out there, who share their work on sites like Flickr and 500px. Also, there is a local photography group in Atlanta called the Atlanta Photography Guild. They started out as a meet-up group from Flickr and met at a small local pub in Castleberry Hill. Every 2 weeks models would be there to photograph and the organizer, Mark Turnley, would setup different lighting. Everyone would pay 5 bucks to shoot and it was a really fun social, and engaging group. Though I don’t do a whole lot of portrait work the knowledge about lighting was important to my development as a photographer. The group is still around, though I’m not 100% where they meet these days.

How can people get in contact with you?

I can be reached easily online through my website or shoot me an email at wizum2003@yahoo.com.

Also, if you find an image on my website or while exploring my work on Flickr or 500px, that you like, I can do custom prints. Contact me on those for a quote. These days I’ve sent photographs to be printed on metal sheets, canvas and even carpet. The options are abundant, so reach out to me.

About Scott Moore:

Scott Moore started his photography venture in 2008. His work is rooted in his love and practice of architecture. He has been practicing architecture for nearly 20 years, while shooting architecture, throughout the Southeast U.S. and abroad in South Africa, for 9 years.

What allows Scott’s work to stand apart from others is his background in architecture and design. By practice and training Scott understands the architect’s vision. He has had the opportunity to shoot a number of projects he also designed and managed through construction. It is this comprehensive understanding of place, design and architectural vision that influences his eye through the lens.

Scott also enjoys shooting landscapes and cityscapes from various continents. This love of architecture and photography comes from his understanding and appreciation of the context all of us live around and within. Capturing places and things, while an extension of his education and practice in architecture, is an extension of his passion for the beautiful world we all live in.

Other Social Media Links:

WSM Photography Facebook Page

Twitter

Instagram

WSM Photography Blog

L.A.P. it Marketing LLC

What is L.A.P. it Marketing?

LAPit Logo

L.A.P. it is a social media platform that applies to a variety of professions-such as-Literature, Art and Photography. The practicalities of Internet life can be tricky for many, not everyone is computer savvy and would prefer to solely focus on their craft or they have a tight budget but need help in this arena. How does one market their own work if they have little money or they don’t understand how the market works or both? There are so many entities out there charging fees that are not doable for most or they promise what they cannot deliver. L.A.P. it has created a new concept of social media marketing and provides a unique service to showcase writers, artists and photographers work. L.A.P. it will also work with publishers, independent presses, artist/photographer galleries and other entities that involve the three areas mentioned.

L.A.P. it Marketing Website

Twitter: @lapitmarketing

Facebook Page

 

Interview with BookDoggy!

BookDoggy 1

Today I would like to welcome BookDoggy to Layered Pages!

Please share your website link.

BookDoggy  Free and Almost-Free eBooks!

What sets BookDoggy apart from other sites that advertise book deals and freebies?

For our readers, we not only feature bestselling authors but we also delight in uncovering hidden gems. That’s our specialty. We want to find the book that no one has discovered and bring it to a wider audience. Plus, we highlight classic novels that are available for free. We’re proud to have featured Dickens, the complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen and several others – all for free.

For our authors, we strive to be more than just a place to promote books. We have several programs in the works that we believe will help authors and readers connect. We began very simply by listing the author’s personal website information beside their featured book, plus we keep the book listed on our website for at least four weeks after the promotion. This has worked incredibly well. Authors are finding that BookDoggy’s readers are downloading their books, connecting with them, subscribing to their mailing lists, and asking for more, even after the promotion has ended. And, that’s just the beginning. We’re excited to unveil a couple of new programs in the coming months that we believe will break down barriers and continue helping our authors and readers to connect.

Additionally, we respond to submissions within 72 hours so that authors can plan an effective promotion, and our rates are set at a level to ensure the author receives a healthy return on their investment. We believe that the creator of the work should receive the greatest return from a promotion, not the promotion company.

Do you stick to a particular genre or are they all welcomed?

We cater to our reader’s needs, and our readers read in different genres. We offer every fiction genre you can think of plus we’ve found some really remarkable non-fiction books that we don’t believe anyone else is highlighting. Again, we’re proud to have uncovered those hidden gems.

Do authors have to inform you of their deals or do you do the searching of book sites?

We have a submission form here. Our rates start at no-charge and max out at $10.

What are some of the titles BookDoggy has listed?

We’ve had several USA Today bestselling authors list with us as well as brand new writers. We had a newsletter this week that featured three books that were listed in Amazon’s top twenty overall books. We’re very proud to have helped a little bit with that.

Free books are popular with our readers of course but we’re also finding that they love New Releases. The New Release section of our website consistently has strong traffic so we’ve been fortunate enough to help with the launch of several books that quickly became bestsellers.

What are people saying about BookDoggy?

I just happen to have some testimonials from a couple of our recently featured authors right here:

“I’m very happy with the results from Book Doggy. The first day of my free run for Yucatan Dead put the book at #54 free in the Kindle store. Book Doggy delivered!” Dv Berkom, USA Today bestselling author.

 “This is the best value I’ve had on a promotion for a long time. I’m off to book another for next week. Thank you for an excellent result.” Lucinda E Clarke, award-winning writer.

 “Thanks for your Book Doggy promotion for “Zoysana’s Choice.” I got my biggest bump yet on the day you put it up and the day after. I got increased action on my other books as well. I’ll be back to you for the next book in the series for sure.” Gordon A. Long, multi-published author.

And, the one comment I keep hearing over and over from our readers is quite simply “I love your books!” The contest winners have been a little more excited than that of course. They tend to use lots of exclamation marks when we tell them they’ve won a prize. Those are fun emails to receive.

What are the prizes you have offered in giveaways so far?

BD Kindle Fire Draw

Free print books, $100 Amazon Gift Cards, lots of $20 Amazon Gift Cards, and our September prize is for a Kindle Fire eReader. You can enter that draw right here: here

The draws are free to enter and will continue increasing the value of the prizes as our subscription list grows. In fact, we’re planning our Christmas giveaway now and we’ll be giving away multiple prizes. I even made BookDoggy wear her Santa hat as I was planning the giveaway. She did not look impressed.

Will you add new promotional projects on your site in the future?

Yes, absolutely! Even though we’ve exceeded our expectations (we’ve already had to increase coverage with our host provider two times), we want to continue growing. Late September we’re introducing a top secret program. I can’t tell you much about it right now, but we feel it will be a fun way for authors and readers to interact, and that’s one of our goals. We’ll try almost anything to bring authors and readers together.

Do you have a message you want to convey to your audience?

BookDoggy is reader-driven. We go where our readers want us to go. We’ve already made several changes on the fly to make sure our readers receive exactly what they want in the format they prefer. That’s our priority.

And, we know that if our readers are happy, and downloading books, and signing up for author’s mailing lists then our featured authors will be happy too. I receive thank you emails every single day from readers thanking BookDoggy for providing the content that we send out. And, I can’t keep track of all the tweets, Facebook posts and messages I’ve received from satisfied authors. We’re very happy to be able to help readers and authors connect. Even BookDoggy is smiling. She seems to have lost the Santa hat somewhere though. Maybe that’s why she’s smiling.

Thanks for inviting us to Layered Pages Stephanie, we really appreciate your support!

You’re welcome! A pleasure. 

Readers can find out more about BookDoggy and subscribe here

And, authors can check out what we offer here

Interview with Award Winning Author R.D. Vallier

R.D. Vallier BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree R.D. Vallier today. The highlight of R.D. Vallier’s award-winning career was when her 6th grade teacher threatened to call CPS over a story about a runaway and a magic wolf. She avoided government capture, but continued creating dark tales in secret. Now she’s living the cliché as a storyteller in the remote wilderness, handcrafting an off-grid homestead with straw and mud and whatever she scrounges from the landfill. She holds degrees in wildlife management and hard knocks, only feels at home on the road, and believes humanity illuminates the most brilliantly during darkness.

Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed books which had done well in the various writing contests I was researching had earned indieBRAG Medallions. I looked into indieBRAG, and was happy with what I discovered—an organization which seemed to honestly care about both authors and readers. I liked the concept and agreed with their vision, so I submitted Darkshine!

How did you get into writing in the Paranormal genre?

I adore both paranormal and reality, and my brain tends to naturally mesh the two. I find myself questioning and making up stories about what I see around me. What really goes on inside that storage unit building? Is that graffiti just graffiti, or is it some sort of code? What’s hidden in plain sight? I love bringing an element of magic to the mundane, and believe the fantasy genres in general have tremendous capability to explore humanity.

Please tell me about your award winning book, Darkshine?

Darkshine BRAG

Darkshine is a dark urban fantasy/paranormal. The main character, Miriam, has a mundane, adult life, and no social or family connections outside of her emotionally abusive husband. Her whole life she has been treated differently, but it isn’t until a chickadee speaks to her that she begins to understand she is a lost changeling. Two fae–who are complete opposites of each other–try to convince her where her true home is, and each insists the other is lying to destroy her. Miriam goes on a whirlwind adventure, both physically and emotionally, to discover who she is and where she belongs, while staying ahead of her enraged husband who is desperate to keep her silent about truths which can damage his political campaign. Along the way, Miriam needs to confront the preconceptions of dark and light, good and evil, and hopefully choose the answer which will deliver the home she’s always yearned for, instead of her demise.

Will this be part of a series?

Yes. Dark Ember, book 2 in the series, is currently in the editing and beta reader stage. It should be released soon, but I don’t have a date yet.

Tell me a little about Miriam. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Miriam is a changeling and an intentionally mixed bag, especially early in the story. I often see stories where changelings learn what they are at a young age. I wanted to see what would happen to a changeling discovering who they were after having a spouse, a job, a mortgage, an adult life (and what type of life that would be).

Miriam never excelled in anything, has low self-esteem due to emotional abuse, and is someone who people treat as a chore to deal with. I wanted to write an “average” character who suffered social ostracism, and who had never experienced much good in life. But I also wanted a character where the reader had to question whether her background was a weakness which hindered her (as she always believed), or a strength to build upon and draw conviction. Thus, her weaknesses are also her strengths, melded together, which I feel is closer to reality. As people, our failings and shortcomings, while they do hold us back in some ways, often drive us forward in others. I often see books where the characters have specific weaknesses or strengths, and those aspects are written throughout the book as solely weaknesses or strengths. I sought to break that concept of static attributes, and instead strove to create an amalgam where each was both simultaneously. Where a beaten down woman can stand up, fight back, falter and still strive to overcome where others would give up, all drawing upon the myriad of experiences which brought her to this point. Thus, her strengths are found in accepting her weaknesses, fighting the internal voices of those who insist she could never amount to anything and that she is an unlovable failure. Her strengths are found in discovering that her shortcomings do not need to hold her down, she can move forward despite pain and fear, and her weaknesses only overpower her while she allows it.

Did you face any challenges writing this story?

Darkshine is what I called “my throw away novel.” I went into it giving myself permission to break a lot of rules (well, what I then considered rules, anyway), to explore ideas and themes I had, and to see what would develop. As Darkshine started morphing into a novel instead of a writing exercise, I had to keep preventing myself from writing the story I thought I should tell, and keep on telling the story I wanted to know. I fought a lot of internal programming, and in doing so found my style and voice and a story I love. It is a challenge I will forever be grateful for.

In addition, I explored a lot of my own past suffering to capture the tone I wanted for various scenes, making myself relive the memories over and over. To this day I have trouble reading some scenes in Darkshine because it calls up those personal memories I used. But in the end, I love the result, which makes me feel gratitude for those past grievances. This is as uncomfortable as it is freeing, and a continuous emotional challenge.

Where can readers buy your book?

Currently, Darkshine is available as an e-book at all major retailers. I just took it off Kindle Unlimited, and I’m unsure when or if it will return in the future. As a paperback, Darkshine is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Most private bookstores will order it in as well.

What is your current writing project?

I’m currently working on Dark Cinders, book 3 in the Darkshine series. I’ve always seen the story as a trilogy, so I hope this will be the final book, but there is a possibility it will be split into two books.

I’m also working on a series of free Darkshine short stories, going more into the background and hidden drives of the various characters. I will be releasing these only to people who have joined my email subscription. http://www.tinyurl.com/darkshineemail

How did you get into writing?

I’ve always considered myself a storyteller in various forms. My early focus was on comic book story and illustration, but I eventually discovered my ideas were too in-depth for this medium, and I couldn’t explore the inner journey as much as I wanted. I then shifted my focus, learning how to write novels instead. And here I am!

Is there a message you would like to give your readers?

Darkshine can be read as a fun adventure, but can also be dissected as a fictitious analogy of cultural and sociopolitical viewpoints, and life under different governing bodies throughout history, through which the main characters gain their own independence and honesty. This is all crafted into the background to remain unobtrusive and out of sight for the reader who simply wants to be whisked away to a dark fairytale, and who doesn’t want to think about politics or governments or whatnot. (Books where such details are in-your-face have always turned me off.) Foremost, I wrote the book to be an entertaining fantasy. Yet it is also written to have deeper substance, and for those who want more, it is there. I’ve had numerous readers tell me they were surprised with what they initially missed, and that they enjoyed a “different” story the second time through.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview R.D. Vallier who is the author of, DARKSHONE, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, DARKSHINE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member