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Book Review: The Immortals

The back of the dust jacket has the following text:

In 1943, German U-boats lurked in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, anxious to bring down allied ships.

On board the Dorchester, at 3:30 in the afternoon, signals flashed from the Tampa up ahead. Through the snow, the bright flashing code was clear: “We are being followed. Submarines estimated in our vicinity. Inform all ships to close up tightly and stay closed for the night.” . . .

All four chaplains descended into the lower holds. By then, the troops knew something was going on; the announcement had blared over the loudspeakers. It was vague. The ship was entering into troubled waters, where U-boats were known to prowl; they were to put on their life jackets and clothes just to be safe. Tensions were rising

Okay, got it. The chaplains are the immortals. And the book is about how they handled the sinking of the Dorchester. The book is based on a true story. And to emphasize the message the front of the book includes the text,

The World War II story of five fearless heroes, the singing of the Dorchester, and an awe-inspiring rescue

Okay. I think I’ve got the picture.

This book was a Christmas present from a friend of the family. It was a good choice. I love historical stories. And I was very much looking forward to finding out more about the Dorchester and why it’s sinking made news.

So, half way through the book why was I frustrated with the book? Disappointed, even.

Because the promise on the dust jacket wasn’t being delivered on. Half-way through the 265 page book the four chaplains weren’t even on the ship yet. That didn’t happen until page 142. So, what were those dozens of pages about? During them we met the four chaplains. We learned about their upbringing. We learned why each of them became a chaplain. We also learned about the fifth hero in our (still future) story, Charles Walter David Jr, a young black man who was a big part of the rescue effort. We also met the captain of the German U-boat who would (again) EVENTUALLY sink the Dorchester.

The sinking of the Dorchester was the worst loss of life during a ship sinking. Over 900 men were on the Dorchester when it was sunk by a single torpedo. Six hundred and seventy-four died, either during the initial attack, or by being exposed to the harsh North Atlantic weather. The rescue was hampered by a lack of quick response from the support ships. They were hunting the U-boat.

The story of the attack and the sinking of the Dorchester occupies only a few dozen pages. The before and after make up the bulk of the story. And it’s a good story.

So, why the disappointment?

Because the author, or the editor, made a promise and then failed to fulfill it.

Once I figured out that I was reading a different book than was advertised on the cover, I actually enjoyed it. The story is meticulously researched and well told. The author, Steven T. Collis, avoids the temptation of exaggeration. He cites the dialogue he has support for and leaves it to the reader to fill in the blanks, only helping them along with, “The person might have been thinking. . .”

And not being familiar with the story, I was able to enjoy learning a piece of history from the war and reading the story of five true heroes.

What I liked

We each should be inspired when we learn about men and women who literally gave their lives for others. And the five men in this story all had multiple opportunities to save themselves. Instead they put their fellow men first. The author not only describes the actions that we remember these men for, but what led them to that fateful day. He also describes their families, their friends and their circumstances. He truly paints an inspiring story. Although one built upon tragedy.

What I Didn’t

As I said, the book was a different book than described on the cover. Would I have read it without a cover that hyped the actual sinking and instead did a more accurate job of explaining the contents? Absolutely. It was a really good book.

What It Means To You

You can go to Google or Wikipedia and find the details of the story of the Dorchester. But, you will not get the whole story. You won’t get to know the chaplains. You won’t get to know Charles Walter David Jr, the way you will by reading this excellent book. If you enjoy true stories of World War II, you’ll absolutely enjoy this book.

My Rating

Three out of four stars

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

296,000 Latest Stop With Marcus Aurelius

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength
– Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius is what I decided to name my car. No special reason except that I was going to be writing out it. . .him.

On December 7, 2021 Marcus Aurelius rolled past 295,000 miles. Today, January 14, 2022, at 4:51 pm he hit 296,000. That’s 1000 miles in 38 days, or a little more than 26 miles per day.

In the week from December 2 through December 7 I drove about 1200 miles. A trip to Boise and back. An average of 170 miles per day. It’s been an eventful 38 days. Not only did the holidays fall in that period. But, so did a 10 day quarantine for a COVID positive test.

Today, as I watched Marcus Aurelius roll to 296,000, I was driving on Bluffdale Blvd, past the Utah State prison and actually only two miles from where we rolled through 295,000 a month earlier.

During the past month, prior to the COVID lockdown, we had a day where we got over 8″ of snow. My neighborhood was snowy, but the plows had been through. I made it to the freeway and eventually on to work. . .where our parking lot was not plowed. I followed the tracks of a truck and managed to drift into a parking spot.

My boss was surprised to see me. Well, me and Marcus Aurelius, a 1994 Toyota Corolla. The plow came through about 2:00pm. Not sure where I would have gone if they hadn’t decided to do our parking lot that day.

Marcus Aurelius is headed for 300,000 miles. He’s old and lacks most modern features (manual transmission, manual windows, locks, seats.)

I expect we’ll roll past the 300,000 sometime in April or May.

Stay tuned.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Author C.R. Truitt

Miscellany Volume II shipped yesterday. I had a chance to talk to C.R. Truitt, one of the authors.

[Rodney M. Bliss] Your bio on the Word Addicts web site lists twelve different jobs; janitor, typewriter repairman, radio announcer, security guard, private patrol driver, police officer, electronic circuit designer, computer programmer, newspaper correspondent, an editor of a statewide Lion’s Tale newspaper and a small business owner. Were there any jobs that influenced your writing more than others? And what do you think the future holds for you?

[C.R. Truitt] I know this isn’t part of the question, but I actually did all those jobs. I started working at a job after school when I was fourteen in 1964. Just about everything in my life influenced my writing, including the jobs I’ve held. Let me answer the question this way; in my stories, there is usually a computer lurking around and police or security people making my character’s life difficult, if they aren’t one. Any of those jobs that involved electronics, writing or officer of some type would, of course, be the answer. However, being born in a small country town in Texas and growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area in very interesting times such as the hippie movement, the Black Panthers and school riots, did put me in contact with many different kinds of people from all walks of life. In the Bay Area, I met people from around the world.

What do I think the future hold for me? Probably, not a lot. I’m nearing step two of seven decades of life. I’ve retired from all the push and shoving of a professional working life and I just don’t care to do it anymore. I have plans to self-publish two more novels, maybe four and my collection of short stories. After losing my “first editor” (The editor that edits my terrible first drafts), I think I’ve found a new person to keep me from doing what I’m best at, making a fool of myself. (Note–Shakespeare: It is better to appear a fool then open ones mouth and remove all doubt.) Unfortunately, I’m a compulsive writer. My stories will most likely float around out there largely unread after going to my small group of readers.

[RMB] Your stories feature strong female characters. Was this a conscious decision? How have readers responded to your choice of protagonists?

[C.R.]Yes, but not without some trepidation. My most favorite stories to read are first person. Why female? A very intelligent and strong person raised me. She also raised three intelligent and strong daughters. I have been married to a girl of the same caliber for a lot of years. Although I’ve had few girlfriends in my life, I’ve had lots of female friends—if you can catch my drift. Outside of some really close male friends, I prefer female company, mostly my wife. With many males, I have to work around that male ego that thinks they are logical. (The human race is not logical!) Most women use words like “I feel that…” or “I think that…” Those that become my friends don’t deal in absolutes.

Of my female readers that have supplied feedback, most (certainly not all) seem to enjoy my stores, where about half of my male readers do. Most of the reasons I get for not enjoying my stories are a strong belief it is impossible for people of different sex to understand the opposite sex.

[RMB] You grew up on San Francisco during a very different time. How has your writing changed, as you’ve gotten older?

[C.R.] I feel like I’ve been around the block enough times to know that really the generations haven’t changed since Adam and Eve. The only differences are our toys, our ability to make other people miserable, our ability to destroy the earth, and where our attitudes and bias are most popular. In the sixties there was a song with a line something like “a pendulum swings like pendulums do.” Certainly, since I was a teen in those years it had a profound effect on me.

The change from my early writing until now is that there is usually an “old guy” hanging around saying things that my young heroes and heroines haven’t a clue of what he is talking about. Since I write science fiction the “toys” are advanced, but living as long as I have it is hard to guess in what form they will take. To be a science fiction writer is to be dated.

[RMB] How did you end up in Central Utah coming from such a different early life?

[C.R.] That is certainly a long story. The Reader’s Digest version is that I was born in south Texas. My grandfather was a cotton farmer. When my parents got a divorce, I was ten and we moved to California where my mother’s parents had moved from the mid-west to the Bay Area.

The seed to moving to Fountain Green, Utah was planted when I was a baby. My mother became friends with a lady from Nephi, Utah who married a Fountain Green boy. My father and her husband were in different naval services and both were stationed in San Francisco, next door to each other. The ladies kept in touch for many years and finally my mother moved to Utah. I was twenty. The two ladies lived across the street from each other. Both have recently passed. The house I bought fifty years ago went to my son and now I live across the street from our family friends.

[RMB] Without giving too much away, what can we expect from your story in Miscellany Volume II?

[C.R.] For the two stories in the other anthology editions, that would have been an easy question. Not with this one. This one was a 24,000-word short story I made an error in trying to cut down to 10,000 words. It was a gritty period story mixed with fantasy elements. I tried to cut out all of the grittiness but my story elements are entwined. After six rewrites and the patience of my editors there is a Reader’s Digest version of story I can say, I hope people will enjoy it. That’s why I share what I write. After all is said and done, we are entertainers.

One thing I can say, there is point to the story. Look for it.

[RMB] Where can readers find out more about your writing?

[C.R.] I may be a technical person, but I don’t live on the Internet or care to know how to delve into the “social” aspects. The Internet to me is what I was to most companies I worked for—a necessary evil, but if you Google “The Super Mall C. R. Truitt” or “Messengers of the West Mountain C. R. Truitt” everything I’ve been involved in will pop up. My two novels you’ll find in a variety of online bookstores with a price ranging from $6.00 to $20.00. I even saw one for a $1.75 a long time ago. They are available at Barnes and Noble help desk. Our writers group books that I have had the privilege to be part of will also show up under books by the author.

Excerpts from the novels are usually with the book descriptions.

Thank you writers group and thank you Mr. Bliss.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany Volume II: It’s Finally Here!

One lady can have a baby in nine months, but nine ladies can’t have a baby in one month.

– Mythical Man Month

It look us longer than a month. And I’m not sure if there are only nine of us. But, our latest baby, the anthology called Miscellany II is finally here. It’s available for order today on Amazon.

Writing a book and having a baby are nothing alike. Although I have 13 children, I was there for the pregnancy and birth of three of them. And after the birth of my first one, I realized that if it was up to men, we’d have one child and then adopt.

Having babies is hard work.

But, one thing writing a book and having a baby have in common is that both are anticipated with great expectation. And today is the day our little collection of stories is officially available.

I’ve written things before. I’ve even published books in the past. They were tech books. Tech books typically don’t have a lot of vulnerability in them. You write about the product. Fiction is completely different.

And a tech book has a useful life of about 18 months. Technologies change and books go out of date. For better or worse, the story I put into Miscellany II will still be just as entertaining or boring 18 months or 18 years from now.

You can buy Miscellany II here.

I’ve also interviewed several of the authors and the editor for Miscellany II.

Interview with editor James Elliott (also one of the authors)

Interview with author Amanda Luzzader

Interview with author Amy Jorgensen

Interview with author Kevin A Davis

Interview with author A. Shepherd

So, if you’ve ever wanted to support a woefully insecure struggling writer. Now’s your change. Order Miscellany II here.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Author Amanda Luzzader

Miscellany Volume II ships tomorrow. I had a chance to talk to one of the authors, Amanda Luzzader.

[RMB] Your work, both the adult series Among These Bones and your series for younger readers, A Mermaid In Middle Grade, Hannah Save the World, A Magic School for Girls, and the Princess series all focus on female protagonists. What led you to choose to tell your stories from a female point of view? What kind of feedback have you gotten from readers who see themselves in your stories?

[Amanda Luzzader] I didn’t set out to only write books with female protagonists. Those are just the characters and stories that came to me at the time. I’m currently working on several new stories that feature male protagonists. But I do relate to female protagonists, because I’m one myself. In my A Mermaid in Middle Grade series, for example, the main character, a mermaid named Brynn, falls behind in her schoolwork. That happened to me when I was a kid, and readers have reached out to me to say they related to that experience, too. We are all alike in some ways, so when I write, I’m hoping others will say, “Hey, I’ve felt that way, too.” And other things that readers may not relate to themselves, but perhaps, through the story, can develop empathy.

[RMB] New writers might look at your publishing history of over 20 novels and numerous short stories and think, “Amanda is a writer who has ‘made it.’” Can you describe a little about what got you to this point and also address the idea that at some point a writer has “made it”?

[AL] What new writers should be told is that every single writer who has “made it” was once a writer who had not made it. Every writer is a beginner at some point. Every writer has things to learn and improve. What making it means can be different for different people as well. Maybe that means selling a certain number of books or being able to retire or pay for a car or just simply publishing your novel. For me, I wanted to be able to write for a living and to make enough to cover my living expenses. I am fortunate to now be working as a full-time writer and to be making a living at it, but it took a while to get here. I’m certainly not rich or famous, but I get to do what I love, and it pays the bills. I know many other talented individuals who pursued writing and have now given up. To me, the primary difference between those who “make it” and those who don’t is that those who make it do not give up. These writers finish one book and then they start another. They may get poor reviews or have a failed launch or sell fewer copies than they expected, but they keep moving forward.

[RMB] Your adult fiction is much different than your children’s books. Other than publishing under different spellings of your name (Amanda Luzzader for post-apocalyptic fiction, A.M. Luzzader for children’s book) do you find it difficult to write in two genres that are so different? Have you ever had someone who knows you from one genre “discover” your work in the other genre and what was their reaction?

[AL] I do write on two opposite ends of the spectrum. My books for adults have focused on post-apocalyptic and short horror. Many of my books for children have been about mermaids and princesses. I don’t find it too difficult at all to write in different genres because everything I write comes from a part of me. There is a side of me that is fun and whimsical, which I tap into when I write my children’s books. Then there is another part of me that loves exploring darker themes, which is perfect for the adult books. There is some cross-over, however. I just released the first installment in a new series called, Arthur Blackwood’s Scary Stories for Kids Who Like Scary Stories, which is short horror stories appropriate for ages 8–12. I loved reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when I was a child, and this is my homage to that. I wrote my adult books first, and there were some readers who were disappointed when I began writing children’s books instead of more post-apocalyptic books, but we all have to write what interests us. I’m really enjoying writing middle-grade books and chapter books right now, so I’ll stick with that for a while, but I could easily go back to writing for adults in the future.

[RMB] As a fulltime writer, what advice would you offer new authors who are balancing part-time writing vs non-writing responsibilities?

[AL] This is a tough question. Trying to launch a full-time writing career while working a day job is a big challenge. I took some financial risks and quit my full-time job to write full-time. But it’s still a struggle. The advice I would give is to realize even small efforts will pay off in the long-run. Fifteen minutes a day of writing is better than zero minutes. Sometimes we get stuck thinking that unless we have hours of time to set aside for writing, it’s not worth bothering, but that’s not true. I wrote and published twelve novels last year. They were all chapter or middle grade books, so these are much shorter than novels for adults, but it would be the equivalent of three or four novels for an adult market. Even as a full-time writer, I usually only spend an hour a day writing. The rest of my time is spent on business tasks—book-keeping, social media, appearances, inventory management, etc. It is possible to write books in five-minute bursts. Consistency and moving forward are critical. If you can only write a little bit in one day, that’s fine, maybe the next day you have a little bit more time. But use the time you have. Make time if you must. But get words down every day.

[RMB] Without giving too much away can you tell us a little about the story you have in Miscellany II?

[AL]My contribution to Miscellany II is a short story for adults called “Of Crayons and Angels.” It’s about a mother experiencing a faith crisis while her son is battling cancer. It’s the only thing I’ve ever written that has made myself cry (and it made my husband cry, too, which is no easy task). I got the idea for the story when I was going through some difficulties in my own life, and the son in the story is based loosely on my own youngest son. The story is sad. I submitted it to a different anthology before I submitted it to Miscellany II and it was rejected for being too sad. I personally think it can be good to read sad stories sometimes. Feeling sorrow helps us to know we are alive and to appreciate the people and circumstances of our own lives without having to actually experience sad things firsthand. I hope that people who read it will think of their own families and cherish being alive.

[RMB] Where can people find out more information about your upcoming books and possible appearances?

[AL] I mainly post about appearances on my Facebook page (facebook.com/a.m.luzzader). You can also check my website at www.amluzzader.com and sign up for my newsletter there. If you’d like to inquire about having me do a school visit or presentation, please contact me through my website.

Amanda Luzzader

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Author Interview: Amy Jorgensen

Miscellany Volume II drops this week on Wednesday. I recently go to talk to Amy Jorgensen, one of the authors.

[Rodney M. Bliss] In your blog you are very open about your challenges with depression and mental health. How has writing helped your journey to recovery, and do you ever worry about how people might react to your story?

[Amy Jorgensen] Writing was and is essential to my recovery. Without writing I wouldn’t have been able to see and comprehend that I needed help in the first place. In addition to it pushing me to get help and be self-aware about my mental health status, writing in my journal was my lifeline in processing emotions and implementing the new tools I was learning at therapy. Unfortunately, my progress was stalled by a crushing shame I felt about being diagnosed with depression. I didn’t want anyone to know. I was embarrassed about every facet of what I was going through and without ridding myself of that shame I would have never progressed in my healing process.

Shame loves to hide, so I started a blog and used a mix of creative writing and blogging to tell the world about what I was going through all mixed with a bit of hope for change and peace. Simply writing finished blog posts helped me process and look for lessons and opportunities to practice peaceful living, knowing people would read it helped me rid myself of shame, and most surprisingly to me: I found out I wasn’t alone in how I felt or what I was facing.

I do worry about how people will react to my story, not because I’m ashamed of it, I am very proud of not only the story itself but what it represents. I think I worry mostly because it is the most personal piece I’ve ever shared, cracking yourself open and showing your soul is hard, vulnerability is hard. But as I’ve found through blogging, vulnerability also brings the best rewards.

[RMB] What types of writing do you prefer? If you had a chance to spend a weekend on a personal writer’s retreat, what genre or format do you think you’d create?

[AJ] I love fiction that has lots of symbolism in it and I love memoirs. If I had a chance to spend a weekend on a writing retreat I think I would create a work of fiction with a little romance and a lot of self-discovery all drizzled with symbolism.

[RMB] Many of your blog entries center around your family. Personal stories don’t always follow a literary flow. Do you find it’s easier to write about the sometimes random goings on of family, or do you prefer a more structured format?

[AJ] I definitely find it easier to write about life’s random events while trying to find purpose and lessons in them. I have been journaling since I was a little girl, so I think writing about life is just a natural thing for me now. Although blogging is easier, I actually prefer a more structured format because I like the challenge and take more pride in the outcome.

[RMB] Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about the story you have in Miscellany Volume II?

[AJ] Of Wind and Waves is a story about a woman in her darkest hour, but what she finds there is more beautiful than anything she could have ever imagined, she finds herself.

[RMB] What does the future have in store for your writing?

[AJ] In the future I hope to continue to blog and share life and empathy with incredible people. I also hope to publish a novel or two and a memoir in addition to growing my writing abilities with short stories and creative essays.

You can read Amy Jorgensen’s Blog My Peace Project here.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Author Kevin A. Davis

The anthology, Miscellany Volume II will be available on January 12. I recently got a chance to sit down with one of the authors, Kevin A. Davis.

[Rodney M. Bliss] Shattered Blood, the origin story for your AngleSong Series just released last month. And you have five more volumes in the series set to release in the coming months. What made you decide to self-publish? And considering your rapid-release schedule, did you write the books sequentially, or did you write multiple books at the same time?

[Kevin A. Davis] The purpose of a publisher is to expose your writing to their audience, which for decades meant one of the big five getting you in bookstores, libraries, or book fairs. As physical stores declined and supermarket racks disappeared in the 1990s, it left midlist writers making less income than some self-published authors. The big five’s pushback (overpricing) from ebooks exacerbated the situation as Kindle took the stage. In the past two decades, there is an expectation from publishers of self-promotion and dwindling benefits in contracts. I’m willing to take on the extra work, though my aim is hybrid with both trade and self-publish series.

In the case of the AngelSong Series, I wrote the six novels sequentially in 2021 with the express intent of a rapid (monthly) release in 2022. Editing and plotting swirled around the works in progress as they became needed or available. I am still waiting on edits and proofs for the later books.

[RMB] What advice would you give to other authors who want to self-publish?

[KAD]Take my advice with a grain of salt, until I make more money than I spend. Join self-publishing groups and conferences while you write. Please don’t write one book and try editing it to death. Hire an editor while you write the next book. New books and new stories will only make you a better writer.

[RMB] Many authors simply want to write. As your own publisher, you have to do so much more than just put words on paper. Did you find the publishing process a distraction from your writing? Or did it allow you to simple stay in your universe, just in a different role?

[KAD]It is a completely different mindset, but I own multiple businesses so it fits my personality to manage processes. I created Inkd Publishing and before I published Shattered Blood, began managing an anthology project. Hidden Villains will be available in February of 2022.. Yes, it distracts. I’m writing these words instead of my WIP.

[RMB] This is your first story with Word Addicts. What is the biggest challenge writing a short story after tackling a six volume series?

[KAD] Shorts are great to explore voice, genre, and style. The only challenges I personally go through are finding editors that do a good job and keep your voice. I’ve written over a dozen shorts and a couple novellas in 2021 with four of them accepted in the same year. My primary editor I’ve kept busy on the AngelSong series and the Hidden Villains anthology.

[RMB] Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about your entry in Miscellany Volume II? Is it anything like your previous stories?

[KAD] Over the course of four days, I wrote two stories with a theme that hinted or embraced cycles. One Victorian era London, and Wheel is Turning in a fantasy otherworld setting. I tend toward Urban Fantasy, but short stories give a quick opportunity to explore voice, genre, and style. The short had been edited, but James made Wheel is Turning into a story I can be proud of, hopefully I learned from the experience.

[RMB] Where can readers get more information about the AngelSong series and where they might see you in person in 2022?

[KAD] I’ll have books for sale at Superstars in Colorado Springs this February, and later in the month I’ll have a booth at SyFy Bartow.

My website http://www.KevinArthurDavis.com or http://www.InkdPub.com will have the most up to date information on releases and presales. Hit up BookFunnel for a free ebook of Shattered Blood: The Origin Story https://dl.bookfunnel.com/lasx0yv2sr if you’d like to get started in Haddie’s adventures.

Author – Kevin A. Davis

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Author A. Shepherd

(Edit: When this was posted the author misspelled A. Shepherd’s name. . .multiple times. I cannot express how sorry I am.)

A. Shepherd has a story coming out in Miscellany II this month. I recently had the chance to interview her.

[Rodney M Bliss] First thing I have to ask about is your name “A. Shepherd”? Is it simply to highlight the clever wordplay on your initial and name? Or, is there more to the story, like J. K. Rowling choosing to use initials to avoid people making prejudgments on her writing based on her name? In promoting “To Wake A Sleeping Child” has your gender as an author been a help or hindrance or had no effect?

[A. Shepherd] I always relished the idea of a seriously clever pen name but then I found myself irritated at other people’s attempts at clever pen names. I tossed some things around before accepting A. Shepherd as my author name because, as you stated, the prejudgments on the name Amy are about as thick as the prejudgments on the name Britney – most involve blonde hair and the inability to function as an adult woman. I felt that in keeping my very common, feminine name most men would never bother to pick up my book. At the very least, I hoped the assumptions about the A. in A. Shepherd would be Aaron or Amos or Arnie or some blather like that. ‘It could be a dude? Maybe? Maybe it’s worth reading if it’s by a dude.’

It’s no secret nor conspiracy that female authors have to work overtime to be taken seriously if they aren’t doling out the eighteen-thousandth rendition of Jane Austin’s work or worse, trying to dig themselves out from underneath the factory produced Hallmark-esque vomit novels cluttering up the shelves of Barnes and Noble where they got a start simply because they have names like Samantha or Karen or Britney or Amy. To answer that last question – yes, I do believe gender has had an effect.

[RMB] In the Introduction to Miscellany Volume I, the editor states that the only connecting theme was humor. Yet, your story Two For One was dark. Can you explain how you balanced those two themes humor/horror in writing?

[AS] Horror is humorous to me. What do you do after you are frightened? You laugh, right? Heart thumping, skin flushed, pupils dilated – you’ve either jolted or squealed or peed a little – and then you giggle uncontrollably because you just don’t know what else to do with all that adrenaline. Right? It’s not just me, right? To sort of explain, I just don’t ever really believe in horror. It doesn’t really ever scare me and it’s always been kind of goofy, to be honest. Supposed-horror movies are just ridiculous. Trying to write something truly horror is almost as pointless. Unless a person is there experiencing someone removing their bowels and feeling the tug from the inside, it is never that scary. So why not jest about cannibalism? It’s hilarious. Come on.

[RMB] What attracted you to writing? Do you find you like to write the same type of stories you like to read?

[AS] Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’? Other than the fact that Danny Kaye was my icon as a child, the daydreaming and fantasizing pretty much sums up my youth. (Honorable Mention to Ben Stiller’s 2013 remake – I very rarely ADORE or even like, for that matter, remakes. His vision of Walter Mitty is beautiful and remains in my top 5 movies of all time) It would not be far from either movie to be a decent description of my inner-workings. It’s maybe a little sad or ridiculous how often I am caught up in daydreams and what if’s. But it led me to writing, starting at a young age, and it hasn’t let up since. I never aspired to story-telling because it has always been part of me, whether I want it or not. I’ll read just about anything and my writing goes about the same – one day humor, the next misery, the next inspiring, the next goofy as hell, the next depressive and moody, the next comedic. And on and on. I’ll never be great at one genre because I dabble in too many puddles.

[RMB] Without giving away anything around the enjoyment of the story, what can you tell us about your entry in Miscellany Volume II? What should readers expect, especially if they’ve read Miscellany Volume I?

[AS] Much of my story for Miscellany Vol. II comes from rage. I was furious at just about everything while writing it. It probably doesn’t read as fury, thankfully, but the intent and the not-so-subtle parallels were borne out of sheer disappointment at the sickening froth of selfishness, greed, and stupidity current humanity seems to lovingly display in newer and ever-stupider ways. So all that to say, I guess, is to expect aliens. Yep.

[RMB] You’ve published both short stories and a novel. Is there one format that you enjoy writing more than the other? Do you find it difficult to switch between the long and short form?

[AS] I don’t like the yolk of one format. Being tethered to something like novel-only or short story-only is akin to giving a painter one color of green. I believe the magic happens when you get into a little of everything. Throw some prose or literary fiction into science fiction, smear assonance and iambic pentameter into a horror plot, play in every color and sentence structure. Get it on your face and feet and in your mouth, if you have to. Then find your favorite discoveries, clean them up, and market the suckers.

[RMB] Tell us a little about your upcoming book, the sequel for “To Wake A Sleeping Child.”

[AS] Oi vey.

The sequel.

It doesn’t even have a title, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve gotten about half the plot maneuvered into place and some chapters banged out but I find myself years-buried in a concrete problem called ‘my brain’. It’s like writer’s block but it ain’t a cube, it’s an ocean. And there are sharks and pirates and an island somewhere with really great fruit but all the sea turtles have microplastics in their guts and the bluefin tuna isn’t on sale anymore and my son needs braces so there’s another five grand down the shitter and oh my gosh, that stupid gold plated toilet that brainless idiot ordered from China who’s going to blow up the planet because someone mispronounced the emperor’s name in an interview with Butch McDumb and the whole world was watching so now the garbage that used to float on the ocean is sinking and the otters that eat the fish are eating all the plastic Walmart bags SO MANY people use and refuse to recycle and *sobbing uncontrollably* and there’s still not enough coconut flavored lip balm in the aisle where I used to find the good mouth wash.

That’s why.

Book 2 coming soon. Soon-ish. Maybe.

Thanks for your time.

from the desk of A. Shepherd

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Editor James Elliott

I sat down and talked with James Elliott, the editor of the upcoming anthology Miscellany II.

[Rodney M. Bliss]Your bio says that in addition to a day job, you’re a writer, a publisher, an editor and run two small bookstores. That sounds exhausting. How do you manage to keep that many irons in the fire? Is there one you find more enjoyable?

[James Elliott] The tiny book corners are pretty easy. It takes a few hours a month between inventory and ordering.

With publishing, I love editing when the writer and I are clicking and we find our groove. I consider editing an extremely intimate team effort, because I’m digging into this creation from the writer’s mind. It’s my job to capture their vision before I can make any suggestions. Writers put themselves in a vulnerable position when they ask for help from an editor, and so many creative people are already very sensitive beings. The fact that I’m sitting here reading a manuscript is more or less a miracle. I take this trust seriously. What I love most, but the thing I do least, is my own writing. I just don’t have the time. This is frustrating for me, and I hope to get more time to simply write in 2022.

[RMB] As a publisher, especially, an Indie publisher, what advice would you give to new authors? If someone came and said, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’m not sure where to start.” What would your advice be?

[JE] I would ask them if they like reading, how much they read, and how often. I would tell them they should read their primary genre—the one they want to write—and various other genres. They should also read works from genres they dislike. They should figure out what makes a story tick. They should read literary works of fiction that have stood the test of time, and research why people like them. This doesn’t mean they have to like these stories, but they have to understand the reasons many people do. I would say to the writer: Meanwhile, start drafting your own writing. Never think your current draft is your final draft while you’re in the throes of this deep learning stage. The learning curve is steep, and you’ll find that something you thought was near-perfect just two months ago is actually really poorly written in hindsight.

That’s where I’d start. I earned a degree in literature, but nothing taught me more about writing than when I earnestly began to read every single day and to really figure out what elements of style and storytelling make readers love or hate a work.

[RMB] Obviously not every submission is ready to be published. If you have to reject a manuscript or a story, what approach do you use?

[JE] I generally try to give the manuscript a good read as well as give the submitter some solid feedback on how to improve the work. This takes a lot of time. I could probably get paid on some site like Fiverr for the level of work I put into my manuscript rejections. I don’t want any writer to give up, but I do want them to have a successful book, however they end up publishing it.

[RMB] Most published authors have been asked, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” And while I know you are also a talented writer (Link to this blog’s review of Dead On The Corridor) when did you decide you wanted to take on the task of editor/publisher?

[JE] I wrote the stories in Dead On The Corridor as I underwent the insane deep dive into literature that I described in the second question. Those were some intense days of study. Once the stories were finished and edited, I put them out there. I have since drafted some novels. But I’ve veered headlong into the publishing world. I got into publishing like anyone with attention deficit disorder gets into a majority of their shenanigans: pretty much on a whim. Allison Brown’s first book had been accepted by an agent. The agent had an in-house editor who was going to sell the publisher a finished product. But just before her book was ready for publication the agent closed her business and released publishing rights back to her authors, including Allison. I’ve been friends with Allison for years, and I said, “I’ll help you publish your book.” She agreed. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Since then I’ve worked hard for several years to hone my editing skills, and I’ve done freelance work for self-published authors and taken on publishing projects from other authors where we take the book from manuscript to press.

[RMB] Obviously, Word Addicts, the writing group that you and I are both members of, has Miscellany Volume II coming out January 12. What part of the process of putting this book together was the most challenging? Was there anything that came up that you didn’t expect to have to deal with but came up anyway?

[JE] This is my second year publishing the anthology. (NOTE: I don’t take publisher fees from this anthology. I consider my Word Addicts time kind of sacred, and also voluntary. Each contributor to the anthology receives an equal share of proceeds). The first two anthologies were published by a different press. I felt like the first anthology, which was written and published in the middle of the pandemic, went smoothly. This one though…I’ll just say this one went the opposite of smoothly. The most challenging aspect of this project was certain participants failing to meet deadlines, and who went on failing to meet deadlines or responding to requests until months later, and then seemed blissfully unaware of any deadlines or requests. This was our first time experiencing this kind of lolly-gaggery with a group anthology; consequently, we didn’t have mechanisms in place for firing a Word Addict from participation. We were stuck begging writers to meet deadlines, and then extended deadlines, and then double-extended deadlines (just being honest and open here). Eventually, these writers dropped out of the book voluntarily.

I chalk this up to growing pains, as our group only became an extended community in the last couple of years, opening up to people outside our geographical area (We were founded in the Central Utah region in 2015). Things were simpler when we saw every participant every month at group meetings and could hold each other accountable in person. We just need a few more ground rules and we’re good to go. The next anthology, planned for release in September 2022 will have these more solid ground rules and mechanisms for corrective action.

btw, we have some cool things in our pipeline that involve our extended online community. Stay tuned.

[RMB] What can you tell readers about ordering Miscellany II?

[JE] I would say, you can pre-order the ebook NOW on Amazon at a reduced price of 99 cents. Go and grab it. Make sure to check out Rodney’s story. His work is very high quality and will give you a great payoff. I feel like a fanboy to most of the authors who ended up contributing stories. Amanda Luzzader wrote a tear-jerker. A. Shepherd wrote a sci-fi story—if you read Rodney’s, please also read A. Shepherd’s sci-fi story too (their stories could be part of the same anthology series on a premium streaming service). Natalie Gate gives a humorous first performance, and I’m so proud of what she accomplished. Amy Jorgensen digs deep and writes something I can only describe as “autobiographical mysticism,” and it’s a rare gem. There are others I love too. Grab the book and give it a try!

Despite a bit of rocky terrain to get here, I’m pleased with so much of the work in this book.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: Miscellany (Volume I)

No, this is NOT the collection I have a short story in. I have a story in Miscellany Volume II. This is Miscellany Volume I, although the “Volume I’ is implied. The book is just called Miscellany.

I enjoy short stories and Miscellany doesn’t disappoint. It’s a collection of seven stories by seven writers, who collectively identify with the writer’s group “Word Addicts.” Technically two of the stories are actually memoirs. Why the name Miscellany? Because, as the editor (and writer) James Elliot explains in the Foreword,

This is our third anthology and the first under the title Miscellany. This year rather than choosing a genre, we chose humor. You’ll find several genres here, and we hope you’ll smile, giggle or laugh, regardless of whether you’re reading a comical, scary, or dramatic story.

Author Amy Jorgensen sets the opening tale, “The Jewel of The Desert” in a small southern Utah town during the WWII interment. There was an interment camp in Delta, Utah. But, the story is less about the setting and the time. It’s about a young girl trying to find out what truly matters and helps her understand how to look beyond the superficial labels that society puts on us. I liked it. I’ve been to Delta and I felt the dust, the heat and the seemingly endlessness of Utah’s deserts.

The second story, Clueless attempts to put a story around the classic game Clue. Cortney Winn, gives us the story of a murder through the eyes of Professor Plum. And just as you stop paying attention to the story, instead trying to remember how the clue board was laid out, she offers you a twist that makes it all seem trivial. Followed quickly after by the feeling that maybe it was as trivial as a board game after all. I credit Cortney with keeping all the pieces of her universe and the boardgame of my youth in sync. Ultimately, the story didn’t work as well for me as I think it might have without the well known cast of characters. Like A Muppet Christmas Carol, it’s hard to see Kermit the Frog as anything except. . .Kermit the Frog, even if he’s playing a role.

The first memoir, Laugh So You Don’t Have to Cry-A Glimpse Into The Life Of Allison Brown, is, not surprisingly, written by Allison Brown. She takes us to a small town in Utah and then commits a horrendous offense. She starts to remodel a house while living in it. I’ve done that, not to the level she describes. With kids it’s chaos. It actually gave me some unpleasant flashbacks to our kitchen remodel over 25 years ago. We follow the struggles of the Brown family and their construction until it was interrupted by COVID. I don’t know why I assumed it was “long ago.” Probably because that’s was my experience was. The author also gives us some insight into the judgmental types that exist in many small Utah towns and their churches.

Space City, by C.R. Truitt couldn’t be further removed from Brown’s story. Space city is set in outer space. Truitt has clearly thought through many of the issues of living in space. We are introduced to three cousins. Who, despite, living in space, are typical young 20 year olds. They shop. They go to movies. They talk about boys. It’s just in Truitt’s story, they do all this in a space city. The story could have been set anywhere. The interactions between characters are genuine and engaging.

The story I found most out of sync with the rest was Two For One by A. Shepherd. The story starts normally enough. We are immediately introduced to a ghost. A kind of obnoxious ghost and the protagonist seems to revel in telling him so. They need to find his body. Only then will he stop haunting her. So, we started with ghost stories, and moved to detective story. The story then takes a very dark turn. At a svelte 11 pages, Two For One is the shortest story by far. And yet, in those eleven pages A. Shepherd takes the reader on a wide range of emotions, locals and the aforementioned genres. I’m not sure if I liked this story. And that’s a wonderful response to a story.

The penultimate story is Courtship And Marriage A True Story by Jenna Madsen. Although Madsen never mentions the school, I recognized my alma mater. I’ve been in the classes she so accurately and humorlessly describes. And I ALSO missed the movie in health class that has such a dramatic effect in the story. But, like her boyfriend, I’ve also not been able to handle witnessing one of life’s greatest miracles. Madsen’s memoir brought back a lot of memories, many happy, some I’d just as soon stay buried.

The final entry is by the editor that told us what to expect in the Foreword. James Elliott gives us Lacquered. The story of small people, in small trailers, making small lives. Elliott paints a bleak picture, but keeps just back of the edge of melancholy by making his protagonist a child. Someone too young to have been jaded by life, despite his circumstances. Elliott takes us through the story and the failure of characters in his depressing trailer park. And then, in only a few paragraphs almost added as a postscript, reminds us of the hope that children hold that we should strive to keep.

What I liked

Nearly all of it. The writers each have a different style and the stories range all over, but each was well written and gave us a chance to step outside ourselves and into another’s shoes, and world.

What I Didn’t

While entertaining, I felt some of the stories fell short of humor. And none made me laugh out loud. That’s not a requirement, but it would have been nice in a collection that was tied together by humor.

What It Means To You

If you are a fan of the short story format, you’ll enjoy Miscellany. Even the two memories are well written enough that they could just as easily be fiction. And while I don’t think they hit the “humor” mark. They absolutley hit the “enjoyable” mark.

My Rating

3.5 out of 4 stars

Volume II of Miscellany will be available on January 12, 2022. You can pre-order it here.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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