November 11, 2014

Made It Moment: Bob Gillen

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:14 am


We talk a lot here on the blog about the self-publishing movement and the way it has opened doors for many writers. What we speak less often about is when one of those doors is in the writer’s own mind. Bob Gillen had to walk through such a door to realize his creative capacities…that he could become one of the creative types he had nurtured and taught during an already prolific career. Helped in his journey by a book we all probably know, Bob has now come out on the other side, and entered a whole new world.

Bob Gillen

My Made It Moment is now. Right now! After years writing non-fiction, interviewing writers and other creatives, I published a novel on Amazon Kindle. Three characters came to life. Cabe Wray, whose twin sister disappeared 40 years ago. Turo Fonseca, a filmmaker who creates a video to help Cabe search for his sister. And Kelsey Graf, a young actor who portrays the twin sister in the video.

I moved from writing about writers, to sharing my own fiction with them and with all the world. It feels good!

You see, all my life I have been a non-fiction writer. An effective one. Back in the mid 1980s, my wife Lynn and I had our interview with Eddie Rabbitt, a country music singer/songwriter, published in Goldmine magazine. We published more interviews, then transitioned to writing teacher study guides for the historically-accurate TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. While the guides never got published, the project allowed us to spend hours working on the set with the staff and crew.

That experience in turn gave us the background to team-teach a media production class for 11 years at the high school senior level. While we did that, we also wrote a five-year series of online discussion guides based on magazine articles for a national print magazine.

Five years ago we transitioned into working exclusively online, creating and publishing our own website,, aimed at young filmmakers. And then in 2013 I began a blog called Creating Story. Between the site and the blog, we have interviewed over 60 media professionals. And we turned the core of our media teaching program into two filmmaking how-to ebooks.

Through the years I told myself, you’re a non-fiction writer. Forget fiction. A few years ago, while reading Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightning, I finally let go of my resistance. I began writing stories. Bits and pieces at first. Months of doing Natalie’s “writing practice.” And it  grew into two short novels. I am presently re-writing the first, Lie by Lie, in play format. The second, Apart, is just now launching on Amazon Kindle.

I’m happy to be in the community of creative writers. Natalie Goldberg helped me find the courage to reach inside myself and create a story. And what keeps me going, looking for more made-it-moments, is a quote I saw recently: keep writing until you’re empty.

Bob Gillen is a writer based in Los Angeles for the last 27 years. He was born, raised, graduated college, and lived in New York City prior to his move to LA. With his wife and writing partner, Lynn, he publishes a website for young filmmakers and a blog on creating story. He has written articles and teacher study guides for national magazines, taught media production to high school seniors for 11 years, and published two ebooks on filmmaking and an article on journalists in combat zones for Amazon Kindle.

Now a full time writer, his second novel, Apart, tells the story of a businessman who quits his job and his career to intensify his search for his long-missing twin sister. As he makes a video to help with the search, he discovers his own unwitting role in her disappearance.


October 22, 2014

Made It Moment II: Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 2:13 pm

Cozy Food

Nancy Lynn Jarvis shared her first Moment back in 2012, but this year’s is a horse of a different color. Or a cookie of a different flavor. Lately I have been hearing from writers frustrated, downtrodden, and worried that their pursuit of this crazy passion of ours may never be truly fulfilled. Nancy reminds us that changing course, trying something different, is sometimes the best thing a writer can do. It can lead to all sorts of exciting places and people we may never have imagined getting to know. And sometimes it even tastes pretty good.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis

I’ve had made it moments before, but the one I had this past May was in many ways sweeter because it was shared with 128 other writers.

Those of us who love books, and especially those of us who write them, seem to find one another on social media. After a few years of writing real estate mysteries and a novel about octogenarian bank robbers, I had come to “know” several other writers. I’d even talked to a few of them on the phone and told them if they were ever visiting Santa Cruz, they had a bedroom waiting.

The day I found a perfect cozy cookbook graphic happened to coincide with when writer and social media friend Ellery Adams posted a recipe on Facebook. Although I wasn’t really considering doing a cookbook, on a whim I asked if I could include Ellery’s recipe in one. Honestly, I didn’t even expect her OK…until she responded, “Of course!”

Egged on by Ellery’s egg recipe, I composed a letter asking for recipes and biographies, and fired it off to my social media cozy mystery writer friends. I sort of hoped they’d tell me that a cozy cookbook was a dumb idea and then I could get back to writing book six in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series.

Not one of them did. Some friends they turned out to be, huh? Emboldened by their support but needing many more recipes to do a cookbook, I emailed dozens of writers I didn’t know and had no right to annoy. I asked them to send in recipes with introductions and a short biography…oh, and to do so promptly because there was a deadline.

The writing community is a wonderfully supportive group of people. Still, I never expected 128 authors to follow my instructions. Enthusiastic authors — some New York Times bestsellers, some representing big, medium, and small presses, and some first-book indie writers — sent in witty, thoughtful, charming, and entertaining recipes and bios. Their recipes appear to have been carefully chosen because those that I’ve tried are delicious. Based on buyer reviews, others have had similar experiences. People who use the cookbook are discovering new authors they’d like to read, and getting their books. Which was part of the plan: recipes are linked to the bios, and the bios link to buying information.

I read a post on Facebook from a writer who attended Bouchercon and shared an elevator with an accomplished mystery author. My Facebook friend recognized her and wanted to say she was a fan, but was afraid to speak to her elevator companion. That well known writer is a contributor to Cozy Food and because of it, I am lucky enough to know that she is a nice, approachable person.

Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes was published on May 21st. I’m not biased; the cookbook is terrific. And so are all the writers who gave me their time and recipes. Because of their support and kindness, we share this book, and this special made it moment.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis thinks you should try something new every few years. After writing five books in her Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, and Mags and the AARP Gang, a comedy about a group of renegade octogenarian bank robbers, she thought, “Why not contact a bunch of great writers I’ve never met and see if they want to be part of a cookbook?”

She is currently working on a sixth real estate mystery book and playing with a new series called Geezers With Tools about two senior men who solve mysteries while doing home repair.

October 16, 2014

Made It Moment: Andrea Adams

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 9:33 am

The Betrayal

You all may know that in five years of sharing Made It Moments, I always introduce them. I tease out a strand or forge a connection to this business we’re in, this passion of ours, that of writing. But today, for the first time, I won’t. It’s not because Andrea Adams didn’t touch me when I met her at the Mechanicsburg Mystery Conference–far from it; she actually impressed me greatly. It’s because any words I might provide would add nothing to the majesty of what Andrea says. You have to read it, and you’ll understand.

Andrea Adams

Two months ago, I received the biggest O-M-G moment of my life. There I was, standing before cameras at ABC 27’s Good Day PA talking to viewers about my two published novels. The feeling was, in a word, surreal. I kept wondering how I got there. Was I deserving of an “I made it” moment?

My story actually begins seventeen years ago on a warm, summer’s evening. There I was — fresh out of college and dating the most popular guy from high school. He was a blond-haired, blue-eyed Adonis. I had secretly had a crush on him during my younger years, so I was over the moon that he asked me out on a date. I thought that I was special. I thought that I was hip. We went to a party with his friends. I wish I could say that I enjoyed myself. I wish that I could say I fit in with everyone around me and that I made new friends. Instead, that night is one from which I am still recovering.

In the space of a few breaths, the guy whom I had put such faith in destroyed any hope that I ever had of finding a normal relationship for years to come. Instead of sharing stolen kisses by the pool, he raped me on a cold, basement floor. Instead of going to the police or to a hospital for help, I did what most victims do. I blamed myself.

For years to come, I shied away from the opposite sex — never letting them close enough to hear the truth. To add to all of this pain, a good friend of mine, on whom I had the beginnings of a mutual chemistry, passed away from complications of diabetes. Again, I blamed myself. I thought if I hadn’t pushed him away and that if I had only told him how I truly felt; then he would still be alive.

It wasn’t until years later after watching a romantic movie that I finally began to deal with all of these tragedies. I left the film in a daze. My heart was suddenly overflowing with emotion. I knew that I had to do something. That is when I picked up the pen.

The words suddenly came tumbling out of me in a deluge. I weaved painful truths among a fictional tale of intrigue, murder, and romance. I forced myself to finally deal with my inner demons. I suppose that you can say this was my made it moment. It was the point where I chose to reclaim myself.

People say to me all the time, “Why did you choose writing?” My response is always the same. Writing chose me. It is a gift to be able to share my story with others. And if this book can somehow help others who have gone through similar tragedies – well, then that is the most powerful blessing of all.

Author Andrea Adams is a 1997 graduate of Shippensburg University. She is a full-time office employee who currently resides in Carlisle, PA. In 2012, she was named Ahold USA’s Associate of the Year. She has received a competent communicator award from Toastmaster’s International. In addition to her full time employment and promoting her work, Andrea enjoys her part time job as a retail employee at the local Cracker Barrel. In her spare time, her passions include hiking, reading, and most of all writing. She is delighted to have the opportunity to share her newfound gift with others.

September 22, 2014

Made It Moment II: Liz Zelvin

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:18 am

Voyage Of Strangers

A lot of people are going to relate to Liz Zelvin’s Made It Moment. Or should I call it a Made It Miracle, as Liz does? For everyone who has been through the wringer during these tumultuous publishing times…for every reader who has wondered what life is really like for those who pen their favorite stories…for every human being who has felt caught up and swept about in a wind over which they had no control…well, thank goodness for one thing. Miracles do happen. Don’t quit before it does. Just listen to Liz (whose first moment can be read after this one).

Liz Zelvin

I Call Them Miracles
Jenny Milchman is well known in the mystery community for asking fellow writers what they consider their made-it moment. Jenny, I have two things to say to you about that: “One???” And “I call them miracles.”

Use of the word miracles is not religiosity on my part, but a reference to a mantra without which I could not have survived as a writer: “Don’t quit five minutes before the miracle.” It was a loooong five minutes until my first made-it moment.

I first said, “I want to be a writer” at the age of seven, and I completed the first draft of my first mystery, Death Will Get You Sober, more than fifty years later. Four years, many revisions, and many rejections later, in November 2006, legendary editor Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s Press said, “I like it.” Having spent most of my adult life embarrassed to say, “I’m a writer,” when I’d never succeeded in publishing a novel (or anything else until my late thirties), I suddenly had not only validation but total credibility as a writer in the world.

“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“What have you published?”
“A novel.”
“Who’s your publisher?”
“St. Martin’s.”
“That’s great! Who’s your editor?”
“Ruth Cavin.”

My second made-it moment came two years later, on the day Death Will Get You Sober was launched. It was my sixty-fourth birthday. I had a launch party at the formidable Otto Penzler’s Mysterious Bookshop in New York. (It would only be stretching it a bit to call getting Otto to talk to me another made-it moment.) His staff had selected my book as the monthly selection of its First Mystery Book Club, so I had fifty copies to sign even without purchases by those who attended the party. I invited everyone I knew, and more than sixty people not only showed up, but bought the book. What an evening–I was flying!

Fast forward to February 2014, past the crash of the economy, past getting dumped by Minotaur (the St. Martin’s mystery imprint), past the enormous paradigm shift in the publishing industry and indeed the whole tech-addled world. In December 2013, after racking up 150 agent and editor rejections, I had bitten the bullet and self-published my latest manuscript, Voyage of Strangers, a historical novel about what really happened when Columbus discovered America from the point of view of a young marrano sailor, as an e-book on Amazon. I did everything I could to promote it, including paying for the opportunity to give away 26,000 copies for free, so peculiar has the publishing biz become. I hadn’t quite completed the last five minutes or turned the very last stone, but I thought my career as a fiction writer was probably over.

On February 17, 2014, out of the blue, I received an email from a senior acquisitions editor at Lake Union, Amazon Publishing’s imprint for literary and commercial fiction. It said, in part: “I wanted to tell you how moved – and impressed – I was with Voyage of Strangers. I was very taken with your unflinching look at the Inquisition and the devastation wrought by the Spanish Conquest. It was heartbreaking and eye-opening, as I think the best historical fiction tends to be. Your reviews are fantastic – and I’d like to see the sales match the levels of the reviews.” Now, that was a made-it moment and a solid gold miracle.

To paraphrase Jane Eyre: Reader, I married them. Amazon is my new fairy godmother. Voyage of Strangers will appear on September 30 in a new e-edition and in trade paperback and audio editions. I’m working on the sequel. And am I a writer? Hell, yes!

Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist and mystery writer. Her latest novel, VOYAGE OF STRANGERS, is about what really happened when Columbus discovered America and is the sequel to the Agatha-nominated short mystery story, “The Green Cross.” Liz’s mystery series featuring recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler started with DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER and includes the novels DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM and DEATH WILL EXTEND YOUR VACATION as well as a novella and several short stories. Liz is a three time Agatha Award nominee and a Derringer Award nominee for Best Short Story. Liz’s author website is at

As Liz Zelvin, she is also a singer-songwriter with an album of original songs, OUTRAGEOUS OLDER WOMAN, available on Amazon. Liz’s music website is at For more than a decade, she has worked with clients all over the world as an online therapist at Liz is also a poet with two books of poetry published, a former Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, and a doting grandma.

September 18, 2014

Made It Moment: Joe Chiba

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:05 am

Summer In Italy

It’s been a while since we’ve had a love story on the blog, and this is an unusual sort of one. In this age of genealogical research, and long lost relatives being found, author Joe Chiba weaves a family love story, of falling in love with one’s heritage and homeland. But his Made It Moment expands even beyond that…all the way to the world wide web, where Joe realized just how large the tapestry he is now part of as a writer can be.

Joe Chiba

I began my journey on the road to becoming an author in 2008, when something wonderful happened that changed everything for me as a writer. But to understand it all, we need to go back to 1976. It was the summer, and thirteen-year-old, twin Italian cousins, John Mastrogiulio and Joseph Mastrogiulio, made their first visit to my family’s home in Queens, New York. Before that blistering July day, I had never heard of them. The next day, they were gone, back to Italy, and out of our lives forever. Or so we had thought.. The truth was, the brothers did not return to Italy, but remained in Brooklyn, New York, secretly hidden from us for reasons unclear even to this day. But that did not stop Destiny from allowing us to find each other once again. It was thirty-two years later, in 2008, that Cousin John located my family in Queens. This was approximately one year after my father’s death, when John had found a forgotten letter written to him and his brother many years earlier by my father. The family reunion that followed sounded a chord in me, the writer in me, and it was enough to get me going on an idea for a story. I wrote the factual bits of the reunion with my cousins in a letter to a good friend of mine in California. That friend suggested I turn the story into a book, and I agreed. But much more had to be done before that could happen.

I had to travel to Italy. Being reunited with my Italian cousins motivated me to do just that, and to embrace my Italian heritage. I fell in love with Italy during my first visit in the spring of 2009. And I began a writer’s journey, eating and drinking and writing my way through the country, writing about everything and anything that I was absorbing, about this rich and wonderful culture I had been missing out on for so many years. I knew I had to write and publish my story after seeing Italy with my own eyes, hearing it with my own ears, and tasting it with my own lips. I turned the true-to-life reunion and my experience in Italy into a fictional story about a man in search of a long-lost cousin, whom he believes is in Italy. That is how Summer in Italy was born.

And although I knew the story needed to be published for readers to share in my joy, it still took about five years before I saw the dream turn into a reality. In the months of putting the book together with Oak Tree Press, I worried about this and worried about that. Probably not unlike many other writers being published for the first time. I knew it was happening, that I would soon see my book’s cover, with the animated version of that lemon tree tunnel my wife and I marveled at in a garden in Sorrento, Italy. Now it was on the internet where others would see it, too. And yet, still I did not realize the impact it was having on me. Not until my wife and I sat down in front of the computer screen, went to our account, and ordered Summer in Italy along with an Andrea Bocelli CD.

Andrea Bocelli! Doesn’t everyone in the world know him? My silly, little book of an adventure romance about Destiny was for sale in the same venue where millions of people shop for Andrea Bocelli’s music. Me and Andrea Bocelli! How could this be? That’s when it hit me. That was my moment. I immediately realized that my silly, little book wasn’t all that silly after all. It was something, a real something out there for the world to see. And if I could be in the same circle as Andrea Bocelli (well, not exactly in his circle, but you know what I mean), then I had made it! I didn’t care if my book would sell one copy (the one to me and my wife) or a million copies. I never cared. I wrote my book from my heart, because I believed it was a story that needed to be told. And now it was out there. I had made it into a moment. Maybe a small one, to get crazy excited about my book being on along with music from super celebrities like Andrea Bocelli. But it was still a moment. And when the package from Amazon arrived and my wife opened it, a feeling of utter elation swept over me. I saw my book sitting on top of that Andrea Bocelli CD. I am no super celebrity, but my book is out there. And that’s all that counts.

Joe Chiba was born in Queens, New York, into a large and loving Italian family. He spent his youth playing stickball in the street and soprano horn in his neighborhood drum & bugle corps. After Joe received a B.A. from Albright College in Pennsylvania, he moved to Japan to teach English and explore the exotic Orient. Summer in Italy is Joe’s first novel, which has won the 2013 Oak Tree Press Romance/Timeless Love Award. Joe lives in Honolulu with his Japanese wife, Sakura.

September 16, 2014

Made It Moment II: Stacy Green

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:34 pm

All Good Deeds

Stacy Green’s Moment is going to surprise you. Because it isn’t about writing at all. Or rather, it is, but with the most indirect of links. Stacy’s Moment has to do with fear. Of braving the unknown…in this case, a lifelong phobia that latched on stronger with the advent of parenthood. Fully aware of the preciousness of life, it became hard for Stacy to live as fully as she wanted to. Then came her Moment.

What is writing but a leap into the unknown? Stacy’s leap was physical. And it allowed her writing to fly.

(For those who wish to read more Stacy Green, here’s her 2012 Made It Moment.)

Stacy Green

In my latest thriller, ALL GOOD DEEDS (Lucy Kendall #1), my heroine has an immense fear of death. It’s this fear that causes her to risk her life for justice. She dances around the torment that keeps her up at night. Lucy’s fear of dying is my most personal contribution to her. I still have nights where I wake up with the blinding realization that one day, I will die. The End. Fade to Black. But that’s not the entire story.

All my life, I’ve had a terrible fear of flying. Statistics didn’t matter. The countless number of flights my friends took didn’t matter. I still believed I would be on the plane that crashed, and the fear worsened when I became a parent. What if I left my daughter without a mother?

This fear has kept me from writing conferences since I began seriously writing in 2011. I learned my craft from books, online classes, webinars, social media groups, etc. All of my interaction with other writers has been limited to online or within driving distance. And when you’ve got a kid who spends half her life swimming, Saturdays are taken up with meets instead of monthly Sisters in Crime meetings.

Until now, I’ve done all right. Releasing my fourth book and finishing my Delta Crossroads Trilogy has resulted in many new readers, and I’m ambling down the path to success. But I really wanted to take the next step. In my heart I knew I wouldn’t have a chance at the next level of writing if I didn’t.

I’d missed the deadline for Writer’s Police Academy in January because it was in North Carolina, and I was a chicken. Two months ago, as I sat reading the itinerary for the umpteenth time, I knew this was the one conference I needed to go to. Three days with law enforcement and EMS telling writers how their jobs and lives really work, helping us to get things right! Three days with other mystery and thriller writers! Most of my publishing friends were romance authors, with the exception of a few, and I really wanted to talk shop. Plus, Lisa Gardner, one of my all-time favorite authors, was giving a presentation.

I can’t really say what made me do it But I emailed Lee Lofland, the man behind WPA, and sure enough, there was a cancellation. I had a spot if I wanted it. I didn’t stop to think. I paid the dues and booked my airfare. I was going.

And I felt okay. Surreal, but okay. As the September 4th flight approached, I grew more worried about navigating the airports on my own or making some technical error that would cause me to miss part of the conference. I was excited to go, and I mostly believed I’d survive the flight.

That didn’t stop my blood pressure from rising. Even thought I felt pretty good, a doctor’s visit on another matter revealed my blood pressure to be 142/90. Way too high for me. I hoped it was simply stress, but how could it be since I felt okay? Could I really be that physiologically affected when I wasn’t pacing the halls in anticipation?

At 6:30 in the morning on September 4th, I took my very first flight. Alone. I wasn’t scared. Nervous, but as I walked through the gate, there was no rising panic. That came when I stepped onto the American Airlines jet and realized exactly how narrow they are. A brief moment of claustrophobia nearly overwhelmed me, but I powered on. With the help of a very kind couple, I found my seat and chatted until take off. Conversation kept me out of my very imaginative head, and then it was done.

By noon, I was in Greensboro and looking at an entirely new phase of my career. I felt professional, in control, and most of all, brave. I faced my very greatest fear on my own (and don’t misunderstand, my husband was amazingly supportive. He just couldn’t go with me) and came out so much better for it. I found that aside from the occasional queasiness, I really loved flying. And more importantly, the experience at Writer’s Police Academy truly changed my life. I learned so much and made so many contacts with law enforcement officials who really do want to help. Even better, I met Lisa Gardner and Alafair Burke and both were extremely sweet and happy to talk to fans. And the networking with other writers! There were so many, writing all different types of mystery. Arriving in Greensboro, I only knew a handful of attendees via social media, but once I conquered flying, I had no problem diving in and chatting to anyone and everyone. I even introduced myself to Lisa Gardner in the restroom! We’ll call that a fangirl moment. Thank God I’d washed my hands.

My Made It Moment – one of what I hope will be many – isn’t really about professional success. It’s about realizing that I’m a lot stronger and braver than I gave myself credit for, and (forgive the cliché), I really can do anything I put my mind to. My imagination has come alive with the idea for a new police procedural series featuring one my most loved characters, Cage Foster, and I’ve been pounding away on the second book in the Lucy Kendall series. I want to write all the time! It’s been a while since I’ve felt that way, and I know it’s because I faced that nasty fear.

Taking that trip has taken my dedication to a whole new level, and I am so excited for the next year.

What are your greatest fears? Do have a fear you’ve conquered?

PS. I had a blood pressure check this week. 117/78. Guess the unknown is truly scary after all.

Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.

September 9, 2014

Made It Moment: Brandon Daily

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 10:06 am

A Murder Country

Ack!! We’ve all been here on this writing road, right…? In a position of frustration and uncertainty? The release date of Brandon’s hardcover has been postponed. He will share with us going forward how this leg of his journey goes as he waits for the release. In this age of tumult in publishing, I think we all understand the vagaries of this industry. Or we don’t understand them–but we understand that lack of understanding. What I can promise you is that Brandon’s ongoing story will probably turn out to have more to offer emerging writers out there, while established authors can nod and reflect with him, than if it’d been perfectly smooth. While everyone can also discover a great book the moment it’s available! Good luck, Brandon. Suspense Your Disbelief is rooting for you.


There’s little more exciting than a release day, and I am so happy to help Brandon Daily celebrate his right here on the blog. Especially because Brandon’s Moment has to do with the same links to the past that his debut novel does. What inspires us to sit down and craft a tale? What keeps us sitting before a computer, hour after hour alone, with the end uncertain at best? Brandon remembers the moment the writing bug bit him, and it led in winding, wandering ways to his Moment today.

Brandon Daily

When I was young, maybe eleven or twelve, I was riding home in the backseat of my parents’ car. We were coming home from a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My nose was close to the window and I remember staring out at the darkening sky, looking out to the silhouette of hills and trees. In my mind, I could see a lonely man out there making a campfire—in the light of the fire, he was burying a body. That fictional man was so real to me—I felt I could actually see him, that I knew him somehow. Until then, stories were what other people made up. Not me. But that vision kept playing itself again and again in my mind, and I always wanted to find out who he really was.

I kept that character stored away in my mind, a secret. But it wasn’t until college that I started creatively writing. The more I wrote, the more comfortable I felt with narrative structure, and I began playing around with different forms, different genres. When my first story was accepted for publication in a literary journal, I remember the excitement, the pride . . . and the fear—other people would read my thoughts, know my mind—judge me. But it was such an amazing feeling, and I kept writing and kept submitting my work.

After more of my short stories were accepted for publication, I looked back on the beginnings of a novel I had started years before; it was a story about three men within the Appalachian wilderness, violent men forced to confront themselves and their beliefs. One of the characters in that novel, The Rider, was patterned off the man I’d seen all those years ago in my mind. It had been a big idea, complex and deep—one that had scared me off. But there was something personal there, and I felt like I needed to finish it, not for others, not to be published; instead, I did it for me. I needed to release that shadow man out into the world.

Now, looking over the final edited copy of the book (A Murder Country), which is set to release September 9, I stop and read a paragraph, then another. I am so proud of the story; it is the amalgamation of all my thoughts and dreams and work. I look at The Rider in the book and see in him that shadow man from years ago, but now he is full and he is flesh: the product of my imagination from when I was that young boy driving in a car with his parents, imaging the world in a strange and new way.

Brandon Daily was born and raised in southern California. In 2012, he and his wife moved to central Georgia, where he now teaches high school English and Literature. He holds an M.A. in American Literature and has worked as an adjunct professor and freelance editor.

Brandon’s short fiction has been published in several online and print magazines, and his one act play “South of Salvation” was performed and won first prize in the CAST Players One Act Play Festival in 2012.

A Murder Country (Knox Robinson, 2014) is his first novel, and tells the story of three violent men living in the late nineteenth century; each man is seeking an understanding of his life and his place within the larger realm of the world. The novel is inspired by Brandon’s fascination with the tension between nature and man as well as the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans.

Brandon is currently working on his second novel and several more short stories.

August 11, 2014

Made It Moment 2: Richard Brawer

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 11:49 am

Love's Sweet Sorrow

This October, I will be teaching at a retreat in bucolic, pastoral Vermont along with two other faculty members of New York Writers Workshop. The topic? When Life Becomes a Story. Today’s Momenter, who shared an earlier Moment exactly three years ago, could be a case in point. Richard Brawer’s first novel was triggered when he heard an historical anecdote and recalled a connection to his own family. But his Moment as an author? I’ll leave that for you to read.

Richard Brawer

First let me say if one’s main consideration as having “made it” as a writer is money received, I have not yet made it. However, money was not my primary criteria. To me, getting rave reviews from both reviewers and readers is when I considered myself as having arrived as a writer.

I have always been an avid reader of mysteries, suspense novels and historical fiction. In 1994 I tried my hand at writing. By 2004 I had written four mysteries. Two were published by small presses and two remained unpublished. I was not setting the world on fire, but I was not ready to give up yet.

In 2004 I read an article in the newspaper that The Passaic County Historical Society was giving lectures and tours of the historic silk district of Paterson, NJ. My grandparents immigrated to Paterson, NJ in the late nineteenth century. Paterson was America’s first industrial city inspired by Alexander Hamilton and became the center of the silk industry in the United States until the depression.

I was born in Paterson but my family moved away when I was eleven. I had heard many stories about my grandparents but knew nothing about the history of Paterson’s silk industry. I decided to attend the lectures to see what it was like during the period when my grandparents came to America.

The lecturer talked about how the silk bosses treated their immigrant laborers as a commodity to be used up and thrown away; about how the laborers fought back with strikes; and the women of the period who fought for suffrage, child welfare and reproductive freedom.

The tours were of old mills that had been preserved as a museum and The American Labor Museum which is a house in Haledon, the town next to Paterson that was used as a gathering for unionists.

Those lectures and the tour were so fascinating a plot developed in my mind. A domineering silk industrialist clashes with his progressive suffragist wife and his radical unionist brother.

After a lot more research in The Paterson Evening News on microfilm in the Paterson library, and reading autobiographies of some of people in the era I began writing.

The result was “Silk Legacy.”

I tried to get an agent interested, but couldn’t land one. Nor could I find a publisher that was interested in publishing historical fiction. So I self published the book in 2006.

Reviewers labeled this book a “Tumultuous Love Story”, “A Slice of American History” “An Epic Family Saga.”, “A Tribulation of Yesteryear” “Vivid Enticing Characters” “An Absorbing Page Turner of a Novel” “Realistic Dialogue” “The fictional family is made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laugh, love, argue, fight, and have adulterous affairs.” “Remarkable storytelling” “Brawer is a deft storyteller with a knack for plot twists”.
However the following are my favorite:

I was a volunteer docent at the American Labor Museum for 5 years. Everyone there always bragged that you wrote such a great book about the strike. It was always recommended for students of American history as a “must read” because it was a good way to engage and absorb them into the nitty gritty of the silk strike of 1913 without it being in the usual text book format.” –Dorothy D. G.

“I loved this book. The characters are so real. It is by far the best novel I have read on the Silk Strike of 1913.” –Angelica Santomauro. (Ms. Santomauro is the director of The American Labor Museum in Haledon, NJ and is an authority on the labor movement in Paterson during the silk era.)

What more could a writer ask for than positive reviews from the experts especially one that recommends your book to students?

That was the point I felt I had made it as a writer. I went back to writing crime stories and my next book was The Nano Experiment.

With Silk Legacy as an example of my writing I was able to find a good mid-sized publisher for The Nano Experiment. But the writer’s road is never a smooth one. Just as the book came out I received bad news from the publisher. Sadly one of the partners died and the other was not able to go on without her life-long friend. All the rights were returned to me and I posted the book on Amazon KDP.

And what happened after that? We might have to leave that for another Moment.


Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.

July 29, 2014

Made It Moment: Wendy Tyson

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:53 am

Deadly Assets

I can’t imagine a writer out there who won’t relate to Wendy Tyson’s Made It Moment. Readers, too. For that matter…humans.

Who doesn’t understand what a hair-raising drive, family antsy, through the snow is like when you’re late? The work/life tightrope, our best attempts not seeming good enough, then finally realizing the reason we’re doing all of this…In other words, life. Wendy’s Moment is a mini novel, with a triumphant arc, on its own. And her debut novel, named one of 10 Best Mysteries of 2014 for Book Clubs, is well worth checking out as well.

Wendy Tyson

My “Made It Moment” happened on a dreary February night in New Jersey.  It was a Friday, and I had a panel signing scheduled at a North Jersey bookstore that evening.  I’d rushed home from the day job, grabbed two of my boys (ten-years-old twins) and my husband, and we all set off for Sparta.  I thought I’d left enough travel time.  I was wrong.  The sky was overcast, and while it wasn’t snowing (like almost every other night last winter), Mother Nature provided a steady, icy drizzle—just enough rain to make driving in the congested northeast a treat.  What should have been a two-hour trip took nearly four hours.

Somewhere along I-15, with traffic at a standstill and police and ambulance lights flashing in the distance, I called the bookstore in a panic.  “I’m still coming,” I said, and apologized profusely.  They were gracious.  I know things happen, but I was a fledgling author and the last thing I wanted to do was make a bad first impression on a bookstore owner.  Nevertheless, we could only be Zen about the situation.  So with two antsy boys in the back and an annoyed husband next to me, I waited.

We finally arrived at the bookstore about forty minutes after the panel had started signing.  The events coordinator showed me to my spot between two other (much more local) authors.  I noticed a lone woman standing in front of the table, a copy of KILLER IMAGE in her hand.  “She waited for you,” the coordinator whispered.  “She’s been here the whole time.”  Indeed, as soon as I sat, the woman put the book in front of me.  I signed it and a few minutes later, she left.

Every day since getting the news that Henery Press wanted to buy the Campbell series has been a Made It Moment of sorts.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak at conferences and festivals, do a theater talkback alongside a famous cast for the play DEATHTRAP, and meet established authors.  I feel very blessed.  But that moment in Sparta, New Jersey, when one reader waited for me was the most memorable.  Like many authors, perhaps, I write in part to connect with people.  It’s a way to share this human condition.  I’m grateful to that woman—to all my readers—for providing the chance to connect and for the reminder that writing is about so much more than sales figures.

Wendy Tyson is a corporate lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. She’s the author of three crime novels. Her latest, DEADLY ASSETS, the second Allison Campbell mystery, was released on July 22. The first Campbell novel, KILLER IMAGE, was named by as one of the ten best mysteries for book clubs in 2014. Wendy lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs.

July 16, 2014

Made It Moment: Andra Watkins

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 6:11 pm

To Live Forever

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that Andra Watkins had her Moment in a place no one else ever has. She also gets the crown for strangest-place-to-hold-a-signing. Through it all, Andra’s prose tells us something about how a story can reach readers, one at a time. And maybe even something about why we write at all.

Andra Watkins

The Natchez Trace. Northwestern Alabama. I forced my bloody feet to carry me through Tasmanian-devil-like dustbowls. When I licked my lips, I tasted grit from the dawn of the universe. For the twentieth time, I dragged my body from whence the wind battered it, back to the grassy shoulder.

And I kept walking. I still had five miles to cover in my 26th consecutive fifteen-mile day.

A minivan swerved toward me. A victim of the whimsy of the wind. Like me.

Or so I thought.

Until it stopped, plowed through the shoulder and skidded to a halt two feet from me.

The window scrolled from tinted to open in slow motion, while I leaned into the gale and waited to see whether the inhabitants of the minivan were friend or foe.

I waited to stare down the muzzle of a gun. Instead, I greeted a different weapon. A green book. White letters. My name.

Will you sign our copy of your book? We’re descendants of William Clark, and we believe Meriwether Lewis was murdered, and we came all the way out here in this windstorm to get your autograph, because we heard you were out here walking the Trace.

My Made It Moment blew in on the coattails of a windstorm, the instant after I wondered whether I could go on. Because sometimes, Life has a perverse sense of humor. It goes out of its way to buffet and batter our dreams, only to show us why they matter.

Andra Watkins is the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did prior to the rise of steam power in the 1820’s. From March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014, she walked fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. She spent each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809. In addition to celebrating the release of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, the walk inspired her upcoming memoir of the adventure, Not Without My Father, coming in Fall 2014. Andra lives in Charleston, South Carolina with her husband.

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