New stories to share!

Eight years ago, in 2009, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I came out of it with a really crappy novel and a renewed love of fiction writing – it had been over a decade since I’d done any creative writing. Although my first novel will never see the light of day without massive rewrites, I’ve built up quite a collection of short stories that are ready to be released into the world. Some have been published in various online and print journals and anthologies, while others have been compiled into collections on their own.

But I still have a lot of stories that are just languishing in the cloud. While I intend to release them in collections some day, when I have enough to combine into a decent offering, I want to be able to get them out NOW. I’ve been too busy with grad school over the past few years to focus on submitting them to publications, so I was glad when I found out about Medium as a platform.

Medium is a website that delivers your work to potentially millions of readers. I’ve set up an account, where every week or two I plan to publish something new. I already have a handful of stories that you can read.

I also plan to publish articles and guides related to my career passions – trauma-informed care, education, and research. I’m hoping my fiction readers aren’t too turned off by this stuff, but I don’t feel like maintaining two accounts so you’ll just have to learn while being entertained.

Please, if you have a chance, follow me on Medium and read the new stories I have to offer!

Friday Five: Johan Thompson

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Johan Thompson, author of sci-fi, thriller, and mystery novels.

Johan Thompson is a writer by night and manages a law firm by day. He lives with his wife, two boys and two dogs in Johannesburg, South Africa. After studying creative writing, screenwriting and watching every science fiction film created, he decided to draw on his interest and imagination to create his first science fiction novelThe Clone is his third novel.

The Clone is set in modern-day Russia, spanning over a period of twenty years. Olivia Richards, a scientist specializing in reproductive cloning, is lured to Russia by the wealthy Petrov family to further her research. Everyone wants the clone created. The scientist, to advance her theories. The Russian gangster, for supposedly he is the one being cloned. The Russian gangster’s sons, for they know the real reason. The scientist’s husband, for he wants her to be happy.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Johan-Thompson1. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for your works or biggest/most out-of-the-ordinary thing you’ve done while researching?

Besides writing this interview on the toilet, just kidding. Some of the weirdest things I researched were, arsenic poisoning, heroin overdose and a marijuana cookie recipe. I think most writers would be in trouble if their internet history were to be discovered by the authorities. Especially those writing horror.

2. How much of your published writing is based on personal experiences?

When writing an emotional scene, I draw from my own experiences. You have to in order to create an authentic character. With regards to storyline and plot twists, not much… my life, luckily, is not that chaotic.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

To stop time… obviously, especially as a writer. I would also like to read minds, mainly my wife’s.

4. What literary character are you most like and why?

That’s a difficult one. I aspire to be like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. A perfect role model to my kids, unwavering in my beliefs and a true romantic.

5. What’s your current writing project and what are your writing plans for the near future?

I’ve recently completed a sci-fi novel that is set in the not too distant future. Scorched Earth confronts the burning issues of global warming and immigration which divides our nations. I’m also currently working on a time travel novel. The basic premise of the story is that if you could go back in time and prevent a bad experience, would you do it. Sometime from a bad experience, a good experience will flow. So if you prevent the bad experience…

I met my wife of twenty years, because my father died of cancer and my mom installed a new kitchen from his life insurance money. My wife was the kitchen designer. Life is truly stranger than fiction. So the question is, would you go back? I would, in a heartbeat, but I will also go back and give my parents the money for a new kitchen.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Clone is currently available through Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

Tuesday Tournament – Folklore-ish kids movies

When I watch a movie with my kid, I try to find ones with themes and lessons and cultural exploration. I don’t have a lot of time to watch movies, so I want something that teaches a lesson while entertaining us. Life lessons are the best, especially when it’s about how to accept who you are while growing as a person, or changing society rather than letting society change you. I love all the films in this week’s competition, even more so as they draw from cultures I’m not that familiar with.

Which movie is the best?

(Feel free to define best any way you want.)

We have four contenders this week:

  • Song of the Sea
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • The Book of Life
  • Moana

Song of the Sea:

When an Irish father’s grief over his wife’s death begins to impact his parenting, his mother takes her two grandchildren to live with her in the city. The brother blames the move on his little sister, but when she turns out to be the only selkie that can save Ireland’s fairies from a witch, it’s up to him to help her get back to the sea. Along the way, he learns the importance of family.

Why I like this one: First off, there aren’t nearly enough stories about selkies, IMO. And second, the whole story can be viewed as either a literal battle between selkies and fey and witches, or it can be seen as a creative little boy’s imagination in overdrive as he too processes his unresolved grief over his mother’s death. Also, I’m a huge fan of Lisa Hannigan and love this song.

Kubo and the Two Strings:

A young boy in feudal Japan lives with his mother, earning a living telling songs with his lute and origami. But when he stays out too late, his sorcerer aunts find him and destroy his village. His mother sends him on a quest to find his father’s armor and stop her sisters and father, accompanied by a gruff talking monkey and a fun-loving samurai beetle. Along the way, he learns the importance of family and sacrifice.

Why I like this one: Monkey pushes the boy to reach his goals, managing to be supportive without sugarcoating anything. And Matthew McConaughey is a lot of fun as the beetle. The ending is good too, as the whole village comes together to help the boy and promote love over hate, with a nonviolent solution to their problem with the sorcerer. Also a great soundtrack.

The Book of Life:

Set in colonial Mexico, this is the story of a love triangle – a young woman must choose between a heroic bullfighter and a humble musician whose family push him into bullfighting as well. When he thinks the woman is dead from a snakebite, the musician follows her into death so they can be reunited. Turns out it’s all a ploy by La Muerte to win a bet against his rival. The musician must find a way to conquer his fears and meet his family’s expectations while staying true to himself. Along the way, he learns the importance of family.

Why I like this one: The animation is amazing. And the lesson is powerful – you don’t need to be the biggest and the strongest and the best to win, you just need to be the best YOU.

Moana:

A young woman in Polynesia thinks she has the key to ending the blight that threatens her people’s island, but no one believes her. So she embarks on a solo journey to save the people she’ll someday leave. Despite hardships and the “help” of a trickster god, she makes her way across the sea to restore balance to nature. Along the way, she finds a way to unite her people’s past, present, and future so that they can prosper.

Why I like this one: Although she’s a hereditary ruler, Moana isn’t a princess. She’s helped by her grandmother, who tells her it’s okay to give up if it becomes too hard – and although this may seem discouraging, it actually shows that Moana is human, and that as a human it’s okay to fail, regroup, and try again. (And yes, I know there’s a ton of cultural appropriation issues and inaccuracies with this film, but it still teaches a good lesson.)

So, readers, which movie is the best?

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 08-08-2017 22:22:29
End date 30-10-2017 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Which movie is the best?

In addition to voting in the poll, if you leave a comment below explaining your choice, I’ll randomly pick one reader to receive a free copy of my upcoming ebook, “Spice Pirates.”

Fall 2017 goal review

Mr. McNutterpants, from my short story “A Lesser Man” on Medium

Every 3 months or so, I take a look at the goals I’ve set for the year and then write about how little progress I’m making on them. Here’s the update for this fall.

1. Finish something every month – short story, novella, novel, anything.

I have several chapters done on a novel, and I’ve finished a couple shorts. I’m hoping NaNoWriMo will spur me into action next month.

2. Publish at least 4 things – again, short story, novella, novel, anything. Either with my publisher or self-published or in a magazine, doesn’t matter where.

I’ve started posting stuff on Medium. Three things are up so far – two are stories that have been published elsewhere, and one’s a new story, “A Lesser Man,” that’s pretty damn hilarious. You should read it.

3. Finish the draft of a nonfiction book that’s good for my career.

My academic timeline is about a semester behind where I want to be. But, most importantly, I passed my comprehensive exam and am now officially a PhD candidate! All I have left is my dissertation (and several classes for a master’s I just tacked on), which is my focus right now. My timeline right now is to have my proposal mostly done by Christmas break, so I can still theoretically crank out this nonfiction book over break.

4. Do more live events – readings, book fairs, etc. Again, it’s about getting my name out there.

As I mentioned last time, events are turning into a major waste of time. I’m doing a solo reading tonight, and then I’m done with live events for awhile unless they have a proven track record for women’s fiction book sales.

5. Travel more internationally – and Canada doesn’t count.

Sadly, this isn’t happening – this year. I’m headed to India for 2 weeks in January and Thailand with my kid for a month next summer – but for the rest of this year, it looks like I’ll be staying more domestic, with upcoming trips to Boston in November and hopefully Duluth in December (weather-dependent).

Sadly, now that I’m working again I have money to travel but no time for it.

6. Read 100 books.

I’m at 52 right now – 25 behind schedule. I don’t think I’ll be able to make this goal this year, but I should be able to get closer once a couple approaching academic deadlines pass and I have time to read again.

Overall

I think I’m in denial about achieving my goals. I’m going to keep trying, but it seems there’s a lot popping up that’s taking up my time (unexpected overtime at work due to kiddos in crisis, opportunities for academic projects that I don’t want to pass up, etc). Things are settling down, I hope, so I should be able to focus on writing more.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, how’re they going so far this year?

Tuesday Tournament – Portland vs Portland

I travel a lot, all over the country. This past summer I wandered out to Portland, Oregon, and I was in Portland, Maine, the year before. So, today’s topic –

Which Portland is the best?

(Feel free to define best any way you want.)

We have two contenders this week:

  • Portland, Maine
  • Portland, Oregon

Portland, Maine:

Lobster and amazing fresh seafood. Lighthouses and the ocean. Tons of breweries and restaurants. Hipsters. A weird museum of fake conspiracy creatures, including a giant beaver.

museumsmall

Portland, Oregon:

Amazing fresh seafood. Mount Hood and hiking. Tons of breweries and food trucks. Hipsters. Tree octopuses.

Oregon

So, readers, which Portland is the best?

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 03-10-2017 22:22:29
End date 09-10-2017 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Which is the best Portland?

In addition to voting in the poll, if you leave a comment below explaining your choice, I’ll randomly pick one reader to receive a free copy of my upcoming ebook, “Spice Pirates.”

Friday Five: Michael Saad @MSaad_Writer

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Michael Saad, author of crime and sci-fi short stories, novellas, novels, and history articles.

Michael Saad is a full time teacher who, when not lesson planning or marking, squeezes in fictional writing to keep him from hounding government officials on education, the economy, and the environment. He is happily married to his wife Jodi, and together they have two wonderful children. They reside in Alberta, Canada where Mike escapes to the Provincial Parks for seclusion from his frequent disillusionment with international politics. Mike’s works have appeared in several magazines. His novel, All the Devils Are Here, is on sale now and his newest novella, Let There Be Night, has just been released.

All the Devils Are Here is about two brothers who grew up in a household rife with drugs and violence. One brother escapes the cycle, the other doesn’t, but both are brought together later in life when each realizes their parents’ drug legacies don’t just end with time.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Michael Saad1. What author has influenced your writing style/subject the most and why?

I would say Stephen King. I was reading Stephen King novels far younger than I perhaps should have. It didn’t warp me too much, but his work resonated with me, and still does to this day. If anything, I relate more to him today than I ever did. He was a former teacher, I am a current teacher, so I understood his struggles early in his career trying to be a full time teacher and a full time writer. Fortunately for him, and for us, his fans, he was able to be successful enough as a writer to write full time.

2. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Tough question. Christopher Lee said he read Lord of the Rings every year, and picked up something new from it every time he read it. It took me two decades (and more importantly three movies) to finally get through those books, but I suspect, like Saruman himself, I would probably find something new in them every time I re-read them. That or A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, which I never, ever get sick of…

3. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why? What was the best thing about that job and why?

Picking garbage in a city-garbage dump (I know it sounds like an oxymoron). The worst part of it was cleaning out the mass bins, where people throw everything from diapers, to compostable materials, to – well – everything under the sun. The worst material to clean up was old, wet, decaying grass – the smell of that was worse than any diaper. The best thing about that job was that it taught me almost instantaneously that that was not a career I wanted to have any time soon.

4. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

My writing is grounded in the larger, societal issues of today. My target audience is myself first and foremost, and that is who I write for. If I don’t like what I’m doing, and no longer see any value in it, then I stop, because I wouldn’t expect anyone else to see meaning in it either. That is what I would tell anyone pursuing a craft, hobby, or vocation, regardless of what it is – do it for yourself first (you’re the one who has to live with yourself until the end of your days, after all), and then decide if you want to share it with the rest of the world. If you do, awesome and thank-you for doing so! If not, well, that’s fine too. It’s your life, and your contentment meter that you’re ultimately gauging, so if you’re happy with your decision, more power to you.

5. Where do your inspiration and ideas for your stories come from?

As the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes my stories come right out of the news, usually those stories where I think, “how on earth could that have possibly have happened?!”

* * * * * * * * * * *

All the Devils Are Here is currently available through Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

Media Monday: When the love dies

DesolationThe book: Desolation (Mythical Madness Book 1) by A.R. DeClerck

The music: “Dying” by Hole

What happens when you’re the goddess of love, but you just ain’t feelin’ it? Why, send a half-god werewolf to save you!

Desolation is more than that, though. It’s a paranormal romance (fantasy romance?) about Vinnie, the goddess of love whose job it is to help mortals fall in love. But years on the job have taken their toll, and she’s come down with desolation – a terminal illness that causes gods and goddesses to wither away. The catch here, however, is that if she dies, love dies too.

Her sister calls on the Fates’ assassin, Gage, to save her. But in doing so, he has to face an enemy and past he’d rather forget about – the king who made him the half-werewolf he is today.

Although DeClerck says she writes “adventure romance,” there’s more to this story than just sexy people falling for each other and fighting bad guys. She addresses sacrifice (for family, for duty, for love) as well as the fundamental nature of love – is it purely chemical/biological, and even if that’s just a component, what does that mean for a relationship? Is there even a relationship?

Overall, it’s a good story (although I personally would’ve cut out the last few pages to play up the themes I mention above, but I guess that’s why I don’t write romance!)

The accompanying song, “Dying,” fits with the scene I would’ve ended the book with – the idea that love (personified, in this case) is dying. And it’s gonna fight, but sometimes that’s not enough.

As a bonus, Desolation is currently free on Amazon this week! Make sure to grab a copy, and then let me know in the comments whether you agree with my song choice.

Tuesday Tournament – Which Shia LaBeouf video is the best/weirdest?

I like to do a lot of “this vs that” with my clients, and so I thought maybe I’d extend it here to my blog too.

I’ll admit – Shia LaBeouf is not my favorite actor. The Transformer movies are stupid, and I haven’t been impressed by anything I’ve seen him in. Also, his last name sounds like “the beef” in French (le boeuf).

But when it comes to amusement on the internet, few people can surpass Shia. And with that in mind, today I’m introducing a segment I’m calling Tournament Tuesday, where my readers can vote on which thing is the best/worst/weirdest/whateverest.

Today’s topic:

Which Shia TheBeef video is the best?

(Feel free to define best any way you want.)

We have three contenders this week:

  • Songified JUST DO IT!!!!!
  • The cannibal song by Rob Cantor
  • Sia’s “Electric Heart”

Song 1: “JUST DO IT!!!” ft. Shia LaBeouf – Songify This

So, a few years back, Shia went off on a motivational rant as part of a film student project, resulting in such useful (?) videos of this one below, which was turned into a song by the talented folks at Songify This.

Song 2: “Shia LaBeouf” by Rob Cantor

Based entirely on no facts or context whatsoever, singer/comedian Rob Cantor wrote a song about Shia LaBeouf the cannibal. And then he got a bunch of choirs and dance troupes to help him perform it live.

Song #3: “Elastic Heart” by Sia

We know by now that Sia is kinda weird, but this video is out there, even for her.

So, readers, which video is the best?

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
Start date 08-08-2017 22:22:29
End date 28-08-2017 23:59:59
Poll Results:
Which Shia LaBeouf video is the best?

In addition to voting in the poll, if you leave a comment below explaining your choice, I’ll randomly pick one reader to receive a free copy of my upcoming ebook, “Spice Pirates.”

How to use writing to process your experiences

sad faceLast month, I was invited to give a short presentation at a writing conference for social workers. I’d previously done a panel on using writing as therapy, and my research interest is the effects of trauma on students, so this was my topic this time:

Writing can be a form of self-care for human service workers working with clients who have experienced trauma. Explore ways to process secondary trauma through writing, as well as how to balance accurately telling clients’ story while respecting their confidentiality and dignity.

Because participants said they found my presentation helpful, I thought I’d share it here too.

Therapeutic Sentences: Processing Through Writing

“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”
– Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

This quote strongly reflects the approach I take to writing. Many of my stories are based on composites of people I’ve worked with across my various education, criminal justice, and social work jobs, and while they’re not exactly true, their themes and messages seem to resonate with readers who’ve experienced similar situations. At the same time, however, as I write about the trauma my clients have experienced, I need to be careful to protect their identities as well as minimize the secondary trauma I might experience while writing about what they’ve gone through.

What is trauma?

SAMHSA (the national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) defines trauma by the three E’s:

Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.

This is similar to a story arc – a character experiences an event, and how that character deals with the effects of that event (either short-term or long-term) makes up the rest of the story.

That said, there are six types of trauma, and which type is used can lead to different types of stories:

  • Acute trauma results from exposure to a single traumatic event (eg, a hurricane, an armed robbery by a stranger)
  • Chronic trauma results from extended exposure to traumatic situations (eg, growing up in chronic poverty, experiencing chronic hunger, the whole plot of Room)
  • Complex trauma is “the experience of multiple, chronic and prolonged, developmentally adverse traumatic events, most often of an interpersonal nature…and early life onset” (eg, abuse by a parent)
  • Identity trauma (historic or collective trauma) which is the result of traumatic events that affect an entire group (eg, the Holocaust for Jewish people, pretty much the entire history of Native Americans since Columbus)
  • Continuous or ongoing traumatic stress (CST) occurs “in contexts in which danger and threat are largely faceless and unpredictable, yet pervasive and substantive” (eg, the abuse or trauma right now, with no possible end in sight)
  • Secondary traumatic stress is due to vicariously experiencing trauma through the primary victim’s descriptions of the traumatic event or experience (eg, hearing a client describe his or her traumatic experiences)

Writing as a means of processing trauma

For me (ie, someone who hasn’t experienced much trauma but works with clients who have), writing is a way for me to put into words what my clients have experienced, when they don’t have that chance themselves. It’s about making these “salt of the earth people,” as a reader once described them, real so that people can understand them as people and not caricatures. It’s about highlighting a problem so that others can identify with it.

But this is just me, as a social worker/teacher/advocate. I surveyed a writers’ group about how they use writing to process trauma, and here’s what they said:

Roleplay what could have happened

  • “I’ve taken real events and environments that happened to me as a child, placed a character in those events, and tried to make it so that she doesn’t come out completely screwed up.  I’ve tried to give her the allies she needs, the character traits she needs, and the merciful intervention she needs so as not to end up homeless and in a mental institution by age 21.  I’m finding the experience extremely satisfying.  It’s like going back in time and giving my young self a second chance.”
  • “I turned to writing as a means of trying to process some of the actions and reactions of people, creating truly fictitious characters with created reasons that would lead to the same kind of outcomes as I experienced as sort of a roleplay on what might have caused what I experienced.”
  • “To sort those feelings, I wrote a very short fictional story about a character in my situation magnified. I gave her a back story worse than my own, raised the stakes, and put her though hell…. But writing about it in a fictional setting gave me the freedom to untangle those emotions from a safe distance.”
  • “Fictionalizing real events gave me control over how I see them, how they play out, and what the result is going to be. I don’t have control over what happened, but I can change the what-happened-next.”
  • “Sometimes, I get a kind of fictional revenge on people and situations that have been less than helpful to me, when I would never seek revenge in real life.”

Coping with death

  • “I turned back to writing after a family friend died from cancer last November. I found it was a way to process my emotions after I had to be ‘the strong one’/ referee at the hospital the night he died.”
  • “A close friend committed suicide a few years ago, and he keeps finding his way into my short stories/flash fiction. Often they’re not directly about him, but more about grief/coping with loss, and I keep finding myself writing his personality, looks and characteristics into my characters. I think it’s an unconscious attempt to both to process his death and to keep his memory alive.”

Coping with general emotions

  • “When I experience something traumatic or emotionally draining, I find it much less overwhelming if I am writing.”
  • “A lot of writers have personal issues – Stephen King, to name but one, was a long-term alcoholic. If you read The Shining, you’ll see the story of a man tormented by his demons and slowly falling apart. But what makes a writer good, and readable, is the ability to harness personal emotions and turn them into something bigger, more creative and more ‘universal.'”
  • “I came to realize the whole book was about mourning my childhood.  Each of the characters who deal with emotional wounds could be me, but especially the main character whose story arcs across the book.”
  • “The feelings attached to my problems, some of the thoughts and very few aspects flow in my WIPs.”

Broader social issues

  • “I have at times used fiction to process my personal issues with things like cultural identity and patriotism. But these are broad concepts, not specific incidents or people in my life. I could explore these issues easily enough while writing fantasy.”

How to write about trauma (yours or others’) ethically

When telling a story that’s based in truth, whether it’s your story or one that you’re telling on behalf of others, there are ethical considerations to take into account. First off, how will others react if they’re portrayed as the villain, or if you change the story to make it “better” but make them come across worse? What about potential legal ramifications?

The authors I surveyed also shared their tips for writing a story based on trauma, without causing problems for others.

Change names or traits

  • “All you have to do is change gender, race, and/or age. writing about your female cousin? turn it into an octogenarian black man…. Funny side note: after my first steamy novel came out, several men from my past came forward to claim the MMC was based on them. no one has yet claimed to be the overbearing sister, the philandering ex, the pervy boss, etc…”
  • “I keep getting so much feedback about how “one note” one of my “villain” characters is, and so I’ve had to really stretch my empathy to find ways to make her more human. So…maybe my mother WON’T recognize herself by the times it’s through lol. Or she’ll be a more likable character and it won’t matter.”
  • “The people and the events get scrambled in my fiction. What happened to someone unrelated and younger than me happens to an older family member of my main character.”

Use bits and pieces of real people

  • “Use real people but swap their stories, or spread theirs out to others, a piece here a piece there, the real barista gets a part of the real bartender gets a part of construction worker.”

Focus on emotions and themes

  • “The core of the story is real but the specific events were fictionalized. It focuses on how I processed my own feelings at the time, that was the important part I needed to get out. Specific events didn’t matter, only that they engendered the same emotions I felt.”
  • “But there in that imaginary world, there are many of the issues that plague us today. Racism, sexism, religious extremism and bigotry, even some environmentalism and conservation issues are there. It isn’t ‘in your face’ but it is there. I don’t preach, nor do I really provide much in the way of ‘answers’ for all those ills. I just plant the questions and hope readers are prompted to think for themselves. I hope they recognize the issues and come to their own conclusions of what should/could be done about them.”
  • “The underlying themes seem to reflect what I’m feeling about real world events, but the events themselves bear no resemblance to reality.”

Change the genre

  • “It helps that it’s a bit of magical realism. Taking a sideways approach to reality put some distance between what happened and what I wrote.”

Use a pen name

  • “What would I do to maintain anonymity? . . . well this is where me not telling friends and family (who most likely would surface in my stories in some way, if i did that sort of thing) what I write or anything about my pen names.”

Conclusion

Everyone experiences and reacts to trauma, and writers are no exception. We write about our trauma and that of others, as a way to process what we’ve experienced and share experiences with others.

If you’re a writer, how do you use writing to process trauma? What techniques do you use to write about it ethically? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Friday Five: Carolyn Dennis-Willingham

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Carolyn Dennis-Willingham, author of historical fiction novels.

Ms. Dennis-Willingham writes poetry, memoirs, and children’s books and historical novels. Her first book, No Hill for a Stepper, was published in 2011, and The Last Bordello was published in August 2016. A native Texan, Ms. Dennis-Willingham lives in Austin with her husband and a miniature Aussie. She enjoys oil painting, boxing, and spending time with her grown children and two grandchildren.

When one of Madam Fannie Porter’s soiled doves is accused of murdering a woman of the Temperance Union, nothing will stop her from learning the truth. Set in 1901, The Last Bordello is not only a who-dun-it. It is a reminder that ladies of the night struggled for survival while the suffragettes fought for a better life for all women –Two opposing sides of the same female coin.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Carolyn1. What genre do you currently read most and why?

I read most any genre but mostly enjoy a good historical fiction. I love picturing myself and the characters in a world from the past.

2. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?

Emotional engagement with the characters and an appreciation of how they change during the course of the novel.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

To travel back in any time period I feel like visiting.

4. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

So I don’t have to beg. I’m not good at begging. Seriously, I like to think my characters are strong enough to either like or hate and the stories themselves will take you to places you’ve never been before. While No Hill for a Stepper appealed equally to both genders, I envision more women reading The Last Bordello. The Moonshine Thicket will appeal to young adults, the young at hearts, and anyone who likes coming-of-age stories.

5. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?

Writing descriptions of places set in the past can be difficult since, obviously, I was never there. To combat this, I rely on old postcards and descriptions in old newspapers.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Last Bordello is currently available through Amazon.

Become a Friday Five author or read previous author interviews.

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