Tag: Friday Five

Friday Five: Edwin Peng #AtoZChallenge

A to Z challenge 2018 EToday’s Friday Five focus is Edwin Peng, author of YA science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels.

Edwin Peng lives in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska, with his beloved Pokémon buddy, Eevee. During the day, he indulges in super-villainy by performing high-power laser research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At night, his secret identity is that of a literary superhero fighting to make the Young Adult Science Fiction genre less clichéd and more inclusive. He is the author of the Star City series, which features bad-ass heroines and space aliens who love blueberry pies. The first novel was released by Evolved Publishing on December 4, 2017.

Star City is the first book in the Star City series. When space aliens make contact with Earth, 18-year old Emma Smith is ready to serve. She answers the call of the United States State Department for the college freshmen to serve as student ambassador to the visiting Ba’ren delegation. As political struggles intensify between feuding human and Ba’ren factions, anti-alien sentiment on Earth reaches a lethal pitch. Emma is determined not to be a pawn in this complicated game of life and death and must risk everything to help maintain the fragile peace between the two species.

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Edwin Peng1. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

If I’m stranded on a deserted island, it would have to be Robinson Crusoe.

2. What are some of your favorite words and why?

According to my editor, I use “very” a lot in my manuscript, so I guess that would be my favorite word.

3. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about YA/sci-fi, that you think they need to know?

YA is a lot more than – or at least, CAN be more than – novels about abusive, glittering vampires. There are so many aspiring and current authors who are writing quality YA novels. Ignore the disparaging stereotypes about YA and its readers – try some yourself!

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

There were many sources of inspiration for Star City. My dayjob as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln provides plenty of ideas about future scientific discoveries and technologies. History, economics, and linguistics provided many of the ideas found in the Star City series. For instance, the many attempts at constructing an universal language for all humans is what I had in mind when creating Ba’zek, the language of the Ba’ren.

5. 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?

Researching sounds for the Ba’ren language is fascinating – and can make you look weird when you’re straining your facial muscles to make weird sounds.

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Star City is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Stephanie Villegas

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Stephanie Villegas, author of young adult and thriller short stories.

Stephanie Villegas is an author and freelance writer living in sunny Southern California. She graduated with a degree in Religious Studies from UCSD, where she developed a deep interest in cultural beliefs and diversity in literature. Among many other obsessions, she can’t get enough of Film Noir, vigilante comic books, and mechanical typewriters.

In her latest short story, “The Secrets I Carry,” secrets are difficult for any eleven-year-old child to keep. But in Nazi Germany, Gertrude’s family secret is a matter of life and death. When she and her best friend stumble upon something unusual in the woods, their accidental involvement could mean danger for them both. Must she reveal one secret to keep another? Or is it one more secret for this young woman to carry?

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stephanie villegas1. What author has influenced your writing style/subject the most and why?

That’s a tough one. I’d much rather give a list than a single author, but if I had to choose, I’d probably say Gillian Flynn. She steps outside the box and has revitalized an interest in Noir (with the rise of so-called “Domestic Noir”). She took a male-dominated genre, dusted it off, and crafted something new out of it. All the while, her stories are full of micro-tension, a strong voice, complex characters, and plot twists. Too many writers are afraid to write a gritty woman and Flynn definitely delivers.

2. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?

So far, my favorite character is Roger from “Author of Death”, which I hope to release next year. He’s broody and cynical, but also a hopeless romantic. Writing in his voice has been a ton of fun, and it has taken me to darker places than I ever anticipated when I initially began the project.

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

The first thing anyone should take away from my works is that being different (whether that is mental illness, a physical disability, or being introverted) is not shameful.

Beyond that, my readers should probably take away that often there isn’t a happy ending for everyone because characters, like all humans, have hopes and interests that are often at odds with one another. Mercy in the eyes of one character may be considered a lack of justice in the eyes of another. I don’t mean to say that an ending like Hamlet or Othello should be normative, just that there is more than one way to end a story and not every one needs a scenic ride into the sunset.

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

I am currently trying to finish my Thriller novel “Author of Death” about Roger, a 1950’s pulp-fiction writer turned stalker. Things get all kinds of tangled for him when an unstable ex-lover, the police, and an organized crime syndicate become involved. Suddenly, he’s the primary suspect for a crime he didn’t commit and his only alibi is the crime he did.

In addition to that, I’m working on a Science Fiction Young Adult novella (possibly a short series), which so far I’ve only referred to as “Vatos Versus Robots”. As you may have guessed, this one is very different than anything else I’ve ever written so its been a really fun challenge and learning experience. The part I’ve been working on is about Diego, former robotics engineer, who has returned to his home planet (Nuevo Juarez) following his father’s death. When his little brother is murdered by the local cartel’s robots, life for Diego’s family changes drastically.

5. What do you want your tombstone to say?

I’m quite sarcastic so, if I could have my say, I’d want something memorable like “It’s dark in here.” Of course, I’d always be open to something along the lines of “Feel free to sit and read with me.”

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The Secrets I Carry” is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Vila Gingerich

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Vila Gingerich, author of children’s short stories, novels, and creative nonfiction/personal essays.

Vila Gingerich grew up in Mennonite communities across the Midwest. She spent seven years doing volunteer work in Romania and now lives on fifty acres in Missouri with her husband, cats, and an overgrown veggie garden. She was a winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children fiction contest and her work has been published in Highlights for Children and Purpose magazines. Vila teaches sixth through eighth grades in a private Mennonite school. She tells her students that everyone has a special talent, good books take you places, and sometimes it’s okay to add on your fingers.

Growing Toward the Sun follows Celeste, a ten-year-old wannabe detective whose giant imagination often gets her in trouble. When a thief targets her Mennonite community, her desire to solve the case clashes with the beliefs of her peace-loving people and with her promise to behave more responsibly.

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growing toward the sun cover1. Why do you write in the genre you listed above?

Growing up, I seldom got to read books about Plain kids like me. As an adult, I determined to do my part to change that for young Amish and Mennonite readers. Today I write for my old self, as well as for my nephews, nieces, and students. I know my audience but I also know their parents, and the guidelines they set for their child’s reading material. Somewhere along the way I realized I also want to reach readers outside my target audience, and I hope my coming-of-age tale will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

2. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?

Celeste is me so I love her, faults and all. I also love the real people I write about in my personal essays, especially the Romanians I learned to know during my time in their wonderful country.

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

I’m awful at starting scenes much too early, meandering into the action at a snail’s speed. Since I am incapable of realizing this myself, I enlist the aid of honest, smart people to point it out to me.

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

Time travel. Duh. Victorian England. America before Europeans arrived. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Biblical Jerusalem. Incan civilizations.

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

I always wanted to be Jo March, but I’ve given up on that one. I’m not nearly tomboyish enough. So I’ll go with Emily of New Moon. Teacher, writer, reader, lover of cats, holder of grudges, lover of sunshine and shadows.

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Growing Toward the Sun is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: CJ Anderson

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is CJ Anderson, author of young adult sci-fi/fantasy novels.

CJ Anderson is a teacher and author who has a slightly obsessed curiosity for the fantastical. When she isn’t assiduously performing these roles, switching back-and-forth whilst balanced precariously on the back of a Nimbus 2000, you can find her on alien worlds stalking hot demigods, nephilim, and elves from the cockpit of an X-wing. CJ and her husband, Superman, live northwest of District 12 with their superhero children and their cat-dragons.

Awakened, book 1 of her Gods and Guardians series, is non-stop action and romance with a syfy twist! Hair raising, skin prickling, and explainable is the only way to describe the connection Alaya and Dru experience when they first see each other. As Alayna is drawn into Dru’s world, she learns of the Guardians—others like her who have special abilities, whose genetics can be traced back to the Gods. . .except both the Gods and the Guardians are actually extraterrestrials, and . . . THEY AREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE FOUND THEIR WAY TO EARTH. “Aliens? Yep, they exist. LOTS of them. Bad ones, good ones … I’ve now seen two bad ones up-close-and-personal; and as for the good ones, well, I’ve met three. No, wait – FOUR, if you count me, because I.AM.PART.FRAKKING.ALIEN!”

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CJ Anderson1. What genre do you currently read most and why?

I mostly read YA science fiction and fantasy. I love the not-everyday-life situations in this genre and the thought provoking concepts and possibilities that pop-up in these books. The books I read usually have a strong character as well and the plot is character driven. I’ve always found it easier to relate to characters in books than to real people. So, I suppose that in a way, I like reading these books because I get to hang out with my “best friends.”

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

I’ll just be going about my day and all of the sudden a “what if” question or idea will pop into my head. I also teach at the elementary level and often times my students will share their “what if” ideas. I don’t remember exactly when this particular insight occurred, but it was a merger of “what if instead of ‘science fiction becomes reality’, it is ‘reality becomes science fiction?’” I was teaching Greek Mythology at the time and I shared this idea with one of my 5th grade classes. This led to a whole conversation about the TV show “Ancient Aliens” currently on H2, which I had not yet seen. I started watching the series and my plot grew from there.

3. What are some of your favorite words and why?

nyctophilia – (n.) love of darkness or night. Finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness.

I’ve always been a night owl and when I discovered the word nyctophilia I though, wow, that’s totally me!

collywobbles – (n.) butterflies in stomach.

I mean, this one is just fun to say!

4. 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?

Well … I do write SciFi so I’ve researched some very bizarre things. To me, they are ordinary because I think about these types of things all the time, but I did feel a bit awkward researching Zero Point Energy (ZPE) and weapons. I mean, you never know who is out there watching your Google searches, and if they don’t know I’m an author …

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

Years and years ago I worked in a warehouse where returns were delivered from all the Walmart locations across the U.S. Being a creative, this was torture for me. Not to mention, much of the stuff was just thrown out. Not recycled, not repurposed, not sent back to the vendor. Because it was cheaper than any other option, perfectly good merchandise, trashed! if you were like 5 seconds late or had to leave for an emergency it was treated as like the worst thing in the world by management. One night, a lady who had been working in my department was having chest pains and was made to believe if she left for the hospital she would be fired. So, she stayed. When I came in to work the next afternoon, we all found out she had died! That was the absolute worst. The best thing about this job was the bull shit, (and I’ve had other similar jobs – but this was the worst). In all cases, the bull shit is what motivated me to keep trudging through life until I met my goals, first becoming a teacher and later a writer. Without all the BS I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I want to encourage my students and readers to think for themselves, to question everything, and above all things, always do the right thing EVEN if it breaks a rule!

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Awakened is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: Bartenn Mills

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Bartenn Mills, author of cozy thriller and mystery short stories and novels.

Bartenn Mills was born and raised in the upper Mid-west but after moving north, south, east and west she settled in a small Iowa town where she raised a family without bloodshed and currently works full-time at a respectable job, certainly nothing that would suggest a life of fictional crime. Along the way she gathered a few contest awards and published several short stories and poems. Her debut novel, Bishop to Queen’s Knight, was closely followed by Bishop Bewitched. Her most recent novel, Vanilla Lies, is set in 1985 when computers were young and murder wasn’t so innocent. In the wee hours of the morning you can find her solving imaginary murders.

There are too many men in Jane Vanilla’s life —
One wants her love.
One wants her money.
One wants her dead.

Jane unwittingly has the only copy of a tell-all memoir. Everyone who’s read the book has died. As the circle of corpses close in on her, Jane needs to get her head out of the clouds before her feet get planted six feet underground.

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BartennMills1. What literary character are you most like and why?

Probably Pollyanna, as I always see a silver lining.

2. What are three things on your bucket list?

My bucket list is pretty complete. I try not to let the things I want to do get pushed into a tomorrow that may never come. But if my family was to pick three things I would like to do they would be go to Disney, go to Disney, go to Disney, even though I’ve been several times.

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

Currently I am working on Bishop’s Ghost, the third book in the Garfield Falls series, where Detective Bishop solves his first case. I’ve had several short stories accepted into anthologies and I would like to make them available as a single collection.

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

If you like a fast thrilling story that doesn’t forget to develop the characters I think that you’ll enjoy my books. If you know who Cannon, Kojak and Magnum PI are you are my target audience.

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

Everything and nothing. I’ve never killed anyone, I don’t know any police officers. I have met a witch. But I can relate to many of the emotions that my characters go through — love, hate, fear, longing.

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Vanilla Lies is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: Shakyra Dunn

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Shakyra Dunn, author of fantasy and young adult short stories, novellas, and novels.

Shakyra Dunn can’t stray away from the impression that there is always an adventure around every corner! When she isn’t playing the role of the Creator, she is marching through the worlds of her favorite video game characters or taking drives around her city to see the sights. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, striving to experience more than the little town.

In her latest, First Words: Final Lesson, a recently-crowned princess with a thirst for magic accidentally destroys her home. A simple youthful rebellion grows into a lifelong friendship. A young woman meets reliable allies. And a young boy is dealt a harsh hand when he sets out to make his own path. Four tales, four parties, all intertwined to set the stage for a bigger event. The sense of adventure builds as lessons prepare to be learned, building the bridge for their first words to be spoken.

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ShakyraDunn1. Why do you write in the genres you listed above?

Fantasy has been my own personal reality for as long as I can remember. I grew up playing a lot of story-driven video games as well as reading many books in the genre, and it weaseled its own way into my life from the moment I held a controller.

Fantasy opens so many different opportunities for crafting your own private world, and it unleashes so many possibilities. I couldn’t see myself becoming ensnared in any other genre as wholesomely as I stuck myself into this one. As for young adult, I like to show the darker side of growing up, discovering yourself, your potentials, and it blends well into different universes from the one that we know!

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

Just one? Oh wow, um, I may have to say right now, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Can’t go wrong with Hunter S. Thompson.

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

I want them to be inspired to follow their dreams. I’ve had a rather troubling past myself, and stepping into the field of writing was one of the most stressful and amazing things that I could have ever done for myself. My characters share their experiences with others, and they continue pushing forward to reach their goals.

It’s never bad to keep reaching.

4. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Ooh! This is a REALLY good one!

“Beyond the grave, magic will always flow. Keep your eyes open for pixie dust and wisps of wonder.”

5. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that you think they need to know?

Just because it’s fantasy doesn’t meant that you need to go insane with the possibilities. Have rules in your world. Know your limitations. Make sure that your CHARACTERS have limitations, or they’re going to be perfect, and perfect is boring.

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First Words: Final Lesson is currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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Friday Five: Karen Carr

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Karen Carr, author of children’s and mystery short stories, novellas, novels, poetry.

She’s a retired grandmother from North Iowa. Her grandchildren have provided lots of ideas for her children’s books. Now that she is retired, she likes to spend her time traveling to visit her children and grandchildren, and hopefully to go to author events while she is doing it. She is currently working on an 1860 historical novel centered in the Wild West.

Her recent book is Mystery at Burr Oak: A Dog Named Wang. Wang is a hero when he solves the mystery in the story. She wrote this story to honor her mother, as she had a dog named Wang.

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Karen Carr1. What was your attitude towards reading when you were a kid?

I read all the time. I couldn’t get enough of reading.

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

I read Mysteries, because I like to see if I can solve them before the end of the book.

3.What are some of your favorite words and why?

Exacerbate. I just like to use it but have not found a place in any of my writing for it, yet.

4. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why?

Nurses Aide. I worked the 11 to 7 shift and when I came home then I worked in the field on our family farm. I was always tired.

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

Janette Oke. I like the style of the Old West and that is what I am patterning my current book on.

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Mystery at Burr Oak: A Dog Named Wang is currently available through Amazon.

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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.

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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.

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The Clone is currently available through Amazon.

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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.

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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?!”

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All the Devils Are Here is currently available through Amazon.

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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.

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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.

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The Last Bordello is currently available through Amazon.

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