The Last Frontier

Today’s guest is Deborah Dee Harper, a writer from TennesseeHarper (2) who graduated from Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild where Misstep was a finalist in the 2009 Operation First Novel competition.  Recently, she moved to Eagle River, Alaska.  Read her post here and I’m sure you’ll want to grab one of her books.

Moving to the Last Frontier

My oldest daughter, her five-year-old daughter, and I recently made the 4,061 mile move from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Eagle River, Alaska, which was viewed as ridiculous by most of our family members (and probably a few of the neighbors). Can’t say as I blame them. Yes, it was a drastic move, but also one we did not take lightly. We’d lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage (ten miles south of Eagle River) from 2008 through 2012, so we were familiar with the vicinity, the weather, geography, and cost of living of the Last Frontier (not to be confused with William Shatner’s Final Frontier). It wasn’t unplanned by any stretch of the imagination. We thought long and hard about it, and in the end, decided to take the plunge.

Our reasons were many and varied. We love the wild, pristine, natural setting of Alaska. We look forward to watching bears, moose, eagles, foxes, wolves, beavers, and porcupines cross our paths (some of those more dangerous ones would be from the safety of our car), and love the magnificence of the scenery up here. The mountains, ocean, waterfalls, rivers, glaciers, lakes, streams, and unending forests are awe-inspiring. Yes, there are towns and cities like any other state, and to be honest, it’s getting harder every day to distinguish Anchorage (which, in my opinion, was once about fifty years behind the rest of the U.S. when it came to shopping, restaurants, etc.) from any city of the same size in the lower 48. But once you leave those towns and cities, you enter a wild paradise of natural wonders.

One of the reasons I was open to moving here was that it no longer matters where in the world a writer lives. The internet has made writing from anywhere possible. In the pre-internet years (remember those?), a writer’s proximity to the publishing meccas of the country was important. Snail mail made submitting an arduous process of writing, editing, finalizing, compiling the submissions packet, targeting your publishers, putting it in the mail, and then … waiting. And waiting. It could take a month, six months, a year. And even after waiting all that time, there was absolutely no guarantee 1.) they even got it, 2.) the person to whom it was addressed hadn’t left or died, 3.) it hadn’t been inadvertently tossed away, or 4.) it would be an acceptance. The internet and relatively instant submission process has certainly made a difference in that regard. But just as importantly, now that most of the civilized world is connected in one way or another to the internet, a writer can work from anywhere as long as he/she can reach that internet connection.

That’s important to me and to other writers who want to write from places that inspire them. Alaska does that for me. Whether or not we choose to stay in Alaska for a year, ten years, or longer, it’s important to me to know I can live where I want and still do what I enjoy—writing humorous and inspirational books.

If you’ve had any “adventurous” moves, tell us about them in a comment.  Thanks.

An Inrewrview with Eula Moore

Today I’m interviewing Eula Moore, the grandmother of Crystal Moore, heroine of A Ton of Gold and A Silver Medallion. Hello, Eula. How are you today?

EULA: I’m upright, and I’m talking, so I guess I’m doing pretty good.

JIM: Tell me about The Park, since it seems to play a big part in Crystal’s adventures.

EULA: The Park, that’s where I live, is where Crystal grew up. Her parents were both killed in a freak auto accident when Crystal was a little tyke. So she came to live with us at The Park. It’s 320- acres in the piney woods of east Texas. Dan and I bought it when we was first married. That was might near sixty years ago. Couldn’t afford it. But you know kids. We got it and made it work. It’s a beautiful places with a great lake, good fishing, nice hills, and lots a trees. Very peaceful. We named it The Park right after we move on it. Anyways, Crystal roamed around The Park from the time she was seven until she went off to college at S.M.U. and then Stanford. Course, now she lives in Dallas. Too much traffic and noise there for me.

JIM: You mentioned Dan. That’s Crystal’s granddad?

EULA: Was. He went to meet his maker a dozen years ago. My first and only true love. And a great Dad and Granddad for Crystal.

JIM: That must have been about the time Crystal left for S.M.U..

EULA: Right. S.M.U. and then rode off to Californi. Entered some kind a Ph.D. program or other.

JIM: Did she earn her doctorate?

EULA: Nope. Something happened just before she was to finish. Don’t know what, and she never would say. Didn’t want to talk about it. Never did. But, she thought she was just a few months from ending and she ups and leaves and comes home. Moped around The Park for months. Finally got a job at that info retrieval company where she works now. That has perked her up. She getting back to her old self.

JIM: This past year, she went down to Mexico to rescue some young girls. What did you think about that? I mean, she doesn’t seem like the adventure-seeking type to me.

EULA: She ain’t. And I thought it was a dumb thing to do. Could a got herself killed. But she’s got a soft spot for things that can’t help themselves. So, off she went.

JIM: Didn’t you try to stop her?

EULA: She a grown woman. And she’s got a strong head and, except for that fool thing, a good head on her shoulders. I told her it was a dumb idea. But she thought those kids would never be free unless she did something.

JIM: And she did rescue the girls and reunite them with their mother.

EULA: Yes sir. She did. Course then she had two crooks trying to kill here. Good thing she had her old Nana to help her take care of them skunks.

JIM: I’d love to hear the details of how you two captured two assassins.

EULA: And I’d love to tell you. But not today. I got a game of Mexican Train waiting for me. Don’t want to keep my friends waiting. You come on back another day and I’ll tell you how I captured those two bums. Well, actually it was Crystal and me. But right now, I gotta go. Bye.

JIM: And folks, she just took off. I never had an interview end so abruptly. We’ll get back with her on another day. Knowing what I’m finding out about Eula, I’m sure it will be an interesting story. That’s all for today.

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction Needs Facts!

Today’s guest is a retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth.  He lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill Cody. He has published 16 novels, including six in his Sticks Hetrick crime series, plus a non-fiction regional history. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and is a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He currently serves as librarian of his county historical society, where he assists patrons with genealogy and research

If you write fiction, you have to pay attention to facts.

That may sound like a contradiction, but it isn’t meant to. Fiction offers a simulation of reality and if you wrongly portray something your reader knows as ‘fact’ you may be called out on it.

Suppose you’re writing a story set in Arizona in the 1870s (as I did with Geronimo Must Die). You can rely on imagination and create a world to suit your purpose. That’s called fantasy and, if your reader is informed that’s the intent, it’ll probably be accepted without question.

On the other hand, if you want your reader to believe the story is set in this place and time, it becomes important to express things as they actually were. You can twist things a little to suit your purpose (that’s called fiction), so long as your reader is willing to accept them. For instance, your reader will accept your character riding a horse or mule but may frown if you seat them on a dragon (that would be fantasy).

There are two methods. One is called empathy. The other is research.

Empathy is vicariously experiencing the emotion, thought or action of another person. This is a useful tool for a writer in many circumstances. However it has its limits. Some characteristics are timeless. But you live in the 21st century and attitudes today differ to a certain degree from those of the 19th century. How can you know what’s true today was also true then?

The answer is through research. You don’t have a time machine, but we do have a good substitute to give us some idea of what life was like in those days. Reading biographies, histories and fiction of the period provides some insight. These sources were important to me in accurately depicting the Apache and life on the San Carlos reservation. An even better choice for general historical fiction is newspapers of the period. Newspapers reflect the character of the times in which they’re created–they show us what was important to people, what they did with their time, their morals, their prejudices. Everything you need to create a believable character of the period.

These newspapers are available in collections at historical societies, in many libraries and even on line. Librarians are good at telling us where to find newspapers to suit our needs. Reading them is fun and sure to stimulate your imagination.

Here’s a blurb for Geronimo Must Die:

Geronimo and rascally half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free have never been friends.

Yet, Mickey has already saved Geronimo’s life twice (without acknowledgement) and is the only one who can keep the great Apache leader out of the sniper’s sights now. The sniper has already murdered several tribal leaders and Mickey believes it’s all a plot to prompt a great runaway from the hated San Carlos reservation.

Mickey’s efforts are stymied by Al Sieber, head of scouts, and John Clum, reservation agent, as well as suspicion of other Indians. Adding to his problems, Mickey is in love with a girl whose name he keeps forgetting to ask and who may be allied to the plot.

Only perseverance, risk to his life and, eventually, Geronimo’s help will enable Mickey to resolve this dangerous situation.

Lindermuth’s  latest novel, Geronimo Must Die, a classic Western, was released on March 28 by Sundown Press.

 https://www.amazon.com/Geronimo-Must-Die-J-Lindermuth-ebook/dp/B06XFZJG5H/ref=la_B002BLJIQ8_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1490444850&sr=1-20&refinements=p_82%3AB002BLJIQ8

 

 

The King and I

Today, Steve Sabatka, talks about growing up watching the early animated movies when each scene would require twenty-four graphic panels for a single second of a movie.  Steve lives in Newport, Oregon and teaches at Newport High School.  Steve writes short stories (has won the NETWO short story contest one year) and in 2016, published a young adult novel about teenagers finding a … well, I’d better let Steve tell you.

  1. I was five years old, watching that classic old flick, King Kong, and losing my little boy mind. Drum-beating natives. Hungry dinosaurs. Wild, throbbing orchestral music. And a giant gorilla with rolling eyes and great, fearsome teeth – fighting biplanes from atop the highest building in the world. It was better than any three ring circus or screaming carnival ride. But when Kong, shaggy, bleeding, and defeated, let go and fell one hundred and two stories to the Manhattan pavement, I lost it, son, flipped out, crying and screaming so loudly that my dad thought a police car, old-style siren blaring, had pulled up in our front yard. The King was dead and I was not happy about it. Dad consoled my by explaining that Kong wasn’t dead – because he’d never really been alive. It had all been a trick. A special effect.

In time, I learned that Kong was a puppet, basically, just eighteen inches tall, with metal joints under layers of rubber and trimmed rabbit fur, and that an ex-boxer and newspaper cartoonist named Willis O’Brien brought the mighty ape, to life, one frame of movie film at a time, just like Bugs Bunny or Donald Duck, and that one fleeting second of snarling, chest-beating action required twenty four separate poses, twenty four clicks of the camera shutter. I could imagine Mister O’Brien going off to work every morning – with a briefcase full of toy monsters and dinosaurs – and being paid to play with them all day.

I wanted to be a monster tamer, too. Just like O’Brien and Harryhausen and all the other movie magicians, the names you see at the end of movies like Mighty Joe Young and Jason and the Argonauts and When Dinosaurs Rules the Earth. So I started making my own monsters out of dime store modeling clay – with toothpick points for teeth and eyes that were sucked-down lemon drops – posing them, a millimeter or two at a time, and then snapping off frame after frame of eight millimeter, Kodachrome film.

When the finished film came back from the pharmacy, I would thread up the projector, hit the lights, and then stare, awestruck, as my homemade creatures prowled across the white wall of my bedroom – on their own, as if they had been resurrected from their fossil tombs to growl and shake the earth once more. It was truly magic – and the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

But then, as I got older, something very sad happened – just like in the folk song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Clay monsters and dinosaurs made room for other toys. I grew up, went to school, got a job as a school teacher, and pretty much gave up on making monster movies. I also started writing. A lot of short stories. Two bad novels. Strangely, monsters kept cropping up in my stories. Aliens. Dinosaurs, too. I even wrote a very short sequel to King Kong, entitled Fall Guy.

Jurassic Park all but killed the art of stop motion. Made it extinct. And so gone are the days when folks would walk out of a theater after seeing The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, say, or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, asking. “How did they do that?” Everybody knows the three letter answer: CGI. Computer Generated Imagery. Monsters have become nothing more than a file on an ILM desktop.

I miss the old days. And I want younger folks to know about my heroes and all their frame-by-frame voodoo. So I wrote a young adult novel about a teenage monster nerd (me, basically), and his two oddball buddies – a Vietnamese refugee, and a 250 pound wrestler – trying to explain the scaly, hairy, multi-toothed horror that has just washed up dead on the Oregon Coast.

My book, Mister Fishback’s Monster, was recently unleashed on an unsuspecting world by Black Bed Sheet Books, and, from what I’m told, it was their bestselling young adult title for 2016.

The back cover of my book reads like a B-movie poster:

“Ravenous beasts from the dawn of time! Gun packin’ roller derby queens! Chattering freaks, belched up from the ocean floor! Bug-eyed Martian bullies! Political intrigue! Corporate corruption! Bigfoot! Blood! Guts! Pam Grier!”

Mister Fishback’s Monster is funny. A little creepy. And the special effects are amazing.

I hope you’ll check it out. And I hope to hear from my fellow stop motion maniacs. I’ll send a free copy to the person that can tell me (via Facebook) the name of the unsung hero, the amazingly talented man that actually made Kong (and all the other denizens of Skull Island) out of so much rubber and cotton and metal before handing them, lifeless, over to Willis O’Brien.

 Postscript:

I was fortunate enough to meet Fay Wray in person several years before she passed. I told her about freaking out when I was a kid and how I had hoped she and Kong would’ve lived happily ever after. Ms. Wray gave me the kind of expression usually reserved for the hopelessly delusional and said, “Surely, now that you’re older, you understand that the relationship was not very practical.”

Or something like that.

I guess she was right.

But still.

 

 

JIM:  We love for you to leave a comment.  Thanks.

Mixing History with A Fiction Novel

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Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inspire Christian Writers, and Cat Writers Association. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three housecats. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Elk Grove, CA. … Continue reading

Beam me up, Scotty

As I write this, it is the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek being on television.   So why is it that I still cannot beam myself to … wherever, maybe to visit one of my kids or grandkids?enterprise

In that epic series, Gene Roddenberry gave us everything we needed to accomplish the task. James T. Kirk and the rest of the crew of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) demonstrated the process each week – often more than once in a show.

This production gave us the chamber sometimes used, and even the command to make it work: “Beam me up, Scotty.” (In today’s spirit of full disclosure, Captain Kirk never said those exact words in the original series. But the spirit was there. He actually said, “Beam me up,” and “Scotty, beam us up.” And who can forget Captain Kirk giving the command, “Beam them out of there, Scotty.”)

But all of that aside, Roddenberry gave us the blueprint – and more – to develop a transporter, a beam machine, if you wish, that could move people from one place to another, more or less instantaneously. Having worked in research for many years, I can tell you that the most valuable part of the process is the idea. Those are golden.

In the case of Star Trek, we – that is, the scientific community – have been given not only the idea, but plans. Well, at least part of them. And most researchers will tell you that they don’t want to be given every last detail. If that were the case, what would they have to research? If all the work has been done and given to them, what are they supposed to do – just write up the experiment?

Fifty years. And the scientific community has not been able to reproduce, or create, the beam machine clearly outlined in 1966. And these episodes are still available. If today’s scientist needs to be refreshed, pull up as many episodes as needed to get the facts down. Of course, the members of today’s science community are too young to remember those wonder years when the Enterprise ruled the universe. Or at least that portion which could be filmed.

So, what’s the story? Are we spending too much time inventing child-proof caps for bottles? Or Velcro? (Actually, Velcro was invented well before Star Trek.) Probably the new generation of scientists will have to discover the idea for themselves. They will take credit and even give it a different name, maybe something like teleporting. Of course, Edward Mitchell, an American author, wrote about matter transmission in 1877. That was before my time, barely. But I remember The Fly, a 1957 story, and 1958 movie, which had a transporter, although it did not always reassemble things perfectly. But it moved them from one place to another. Fast.

spock-handScientists, get busy. Authors have pointed the way. All you have to do is build it. Simple engineering. As the security lines at the airports get longer and longer, there will certainly be a market for a teleporter. We’re ready to say, “Beam me home, Scotty.”

James R. Callan

A Silver Medallion, A Crystal Moore Suspense, Book #2Cover - A Silver Medallion

 

The Joy of Historical Fiction

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Today’s guest is Tamera Lynn Kraft.  She writes historical fiction set in the United States because, she says, there are so many stories in American history.  She has received a second place in the NOCW contest and a third place … Continue reading

Should She Risk All?

An Interview with Crystal Moore, the heroine in A Silver Medallion

JIM: Well, let’s just jump right into it. Why on earth did you decide to go to Mexico when you knew how ruthless Jose Rodriquez de Allende was? First, are you an adventurer, a thrill seeker?

CRYSTAL: You didn’t waste any time getting to that. To answer your question, no I am not a thrill seeker, or an adventurer. The most dangerous thing I’ve ever done was say “No” to a man who had never heard that word. As to why I went, that’s a question I’ve heard a lot- sometimes even from myself. Do you want the long answer or the short answer?

JIM: Let’s start with the short.Cover - A Silver Medallion

CRYSTAL: Because of the threat to kill her two little girls if she tried to escape, or even told anybody of her situation, Lucita would never escape. She would spend her entire life a slave. But, if I could rescue her two children from Jose, she would be happy to try to escape.

JIM: But Jose was a powerful and vengeful man.

CRYSTAL: Now we’re into the long answer. First, I was naive. I wasn’t prepared for just how evil the man was. And living in a society where one can depend on the police to help, I naturally thought I’d have some good local or state police help. That turned out to be foolish on my part.

JIM: Okay. I understand part of it. But this was such a risky business, I know you had other reasons. Come on, tell us.

CRYSTAL: I guess the biggest one came from my own life. My parents were killed in a car accident when I was seven. It was such a difficult time for me, for a long time. But, nothing could be done about that. They were gone, dead. No one could help me. Of course, I had loving grandparents who took me in and gave me a secure, loving home. Still, it was very difficult. Twenty years later, I could still feel the pain. Now, I’m not saying anything against my grandparents. They were the best. Grand Dad has passed, but Nana and I are still really close. She’s my best friend. I love her a lot, and she thinks I’m pretty special.

But these two little girls didn’t have grandparents. They were virtual slaves themselves, living under a brutal man. They had no one to look after them, to try to give them a happy childhood. Yet, there was something that could be done to help them. Rescue them from Jose.

Of course, there was another powerful reason. Once I talked with the mother, had pictures of the girls, I couldn’t sleep. I would have nightmares about their treatment. I became a prisoner of their large brown eyes. I swear, I would wake up thinking I heard them crying. If I wanted to have a normal life again, I had to, at least, try to rescue them.

JIM: I’m beginning to understand why you went. But did you really think you would succeed? I mean, this was a powerful man, with many henchmen, in a foreign country.

iguana 5SCRYSTAL: You understand the dangers. Well, actually, I didn’t until I met Juan Grande. He made the dangers quite clear to me. But, you fix your mind on what you want to achieve. You don’t think about failure. You say, whatever the worse case is, I will figure out a way to make it through.

JIM: Okay. You’ve convinced me. You should have gone. But one last question. Did anyone else think you should go? Maybe Lucita.

CRYSTAL: No. No one. Nana, who can face down the devil, said I shouldn’t go. Brandi, as brash as they come, said it was a dumb idea. And Mark, a former bull rider, didn’t want me to go. Even Lucita had her doubts. She feared if I tried and failed, her children might suffer the consequences. Her fears almost stopped me.

JIM: That’s all we have time for today, I’m afraid. Another time, I want to know how your boyfriend took the news you were off to fight the devil himself. But we’ll need more time for that. Thanks for being so open and honest in your answers. I look forward to reading the full account in A Silver Medallion.

Readers, what do you think?  Should she have gone into Mexico?  Leave a comment and tell us whether you think she should have gone.  Thanks.  You can get all the details in A Silver Medallion, on Amazon at:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/1WxoEaF

Paperback:     http://amzn.to/28LIdWs

A Silver Medallion is a gripping, action-packed adventure from talented author James Callan.  Crystal Moore is a tough and savvy heroine …

 New York Times Bestselling Author Bobbi Smith

 

James Callan’s A Silver Medallion is a fine blend of colorful characters, action, suspense, and serious.  Crystal Moore and her grandmother, Eula, are a great team as they take on modern-day slavery and academic fraud in this nonstop novel.  Check it out!

 Bill Crider, best-selling author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series

 This book by Mr. Callan kept me hooked from the very beginning. Drawing a plot that seemed to leap from the headlines, he writes with a page turning intensity that will leave the reader satisfied. Crystal Moore is a heroine you can fall in love with. A woman willing to stand by her convictions of right and wrong, even if it means putting herself in danger, to accomplish her goal of righting the wrongs in the world.

Amazon Customer – Abookanight

Once I began reading it, putting it down became the challenge.

Amazon Review – Mary Turner

Trusting the Stars

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John M. Daniel is a freelance editor and writer. He has published dozens of stories in literary magazines and is the author of fifteen published books, including four mystery novels, two of which (The Poet’s Funeral and Hooperman) earned starred … Continue reading

I Am My Words

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Today’s guest is Grady Jane Woodfin, who just finished her BFA in Creative Writing for Entertainment. She’s been published in several literary magazines such as Crab Fat and ThickJam, and her short story “Twizzlers,” was a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee.  Today, … Continue reading