The challenge of writing flawed and ethically questionable characters in war dramas and historical novels



By Michael Kenneth Smith

For many authors and certainly myself, the main character in a novel is the person you hope the reader will cheer for and want to succeed. Maybe that character will overcome certain obstacles and merge victorious or learn his/her future may not be as initially envisioned. But writing about wars, in my case the Civil War or World War 2, another dynamic comes into play. When a war is going on, the saying ‘all is fair in love and war’ applies to human behavior which means people may not feel bound by a sense of fair play.

As an example, in my Civil War novel, “In the Shadow of Gold”, a very young man makes a judgement that it would be permissible for him to purloin the Southern Confederacy of some of its gold. He rationalizes internally that the gold does not have an owner and is therefore permissible to steal it, but for all practical terms, he becomes a thief. The young man convinces himself he’s not a thief and gradually the reader probably agrees. Had this story not taken place during war time, there would be no doubt that he was guilty.

Another example is in my most recent novel about World War 2, “All Is Fair”, the female protagonist is a spy for the Germans. She has been enticed to do so by her father, but she justifies her actions not knowing the true ramifications of what she’s doing. She obviously had no sense of fair play. The fact was that she was an out and out spy.

So, my challenge in both of these cases is to give room for the reader to forgive these flaws or at least understand them. In the case of the young thief, he had other endearing qualities: generosity, perspicacity, and the absence of racial bias. In the case of the female spy, she became repentant and pregnant (by the main character of course).

Stories involving war have one more characteristic that is rare in other writing genre and that is what is now known as ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’. The experience of hard combat can cause soldiers severe emotional damage and, as it was not then recognized a medical issue, many soldiers came home unable to cope with normal life. In my Civil War novel, “Scarred”, a soldier haunted by the memory of another man whom he had shot, seeks the victim’s family to make amends and only many years later finds the peace he always deserved.

Whether it be the distortion of values or the traumatic effects of war, war is a compelling topic to write about. War brings out the best and the worst of people and peoples.

*Michael Kenneth Smith is the author of the new historical novel, All Is Fair.

A View to Kill By Allie Pleiter


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Allie Pleiter, “Author of It Came upon a Midnight Shear,” book 3 of 3 in “A Riverbank Knitting Mystery, wrote today’s guest blog post. I’m adding a summary of her new book so you’ll understand what she’s talking about.

A murder in her yarn shop’s backyard puts Libby Beckett’s holiday plans on thin ice.…

The holiday season looks merry and bright for Libby and her friends at Y.A.R.N. The store is expanding for a holiday boom, and she’s gathered Collinstown’s businesses to decorate a community Christmas tree. Dashing “Gallant Herdsman” Vincenzo Marani arrives to showcase the rare vicuña, whose coat produces the world’s most luxurious yarn. It’s a perfect yuletide—until Libby’s ex-husband, Sterling, turns up in town…and then turns up dead.

The murder unravels Libby’s life faster than a hand-knit Christmas stocking. The luxe yarn goes missing, Sterling’s domineering family comes to town, and the vicuña attempt an escape. If Libby can’t stitch up a solution to the case, she may be trading in her knitting needles for a set of handcuffs.


By Allie Pleiter

“You went there?”

So many people have asked me how I worked up the nerve to kill off Sterling, Libby’s wildly successful but insufferably arrogant ex-husband. Did I plan it from the beginning? Wasn’t I worried it would cut too close? After all, Libby did once love the man. I get responses from “Sterling? Really? You went there?” to “OMG Sterling! Now I have to read it!”

Taking the daring choice

While I admit I never set out to send Sterling to an early death when I started book one, the responses above were what drove me to tackle the idea when it came to me. It was a challenging choice. It meant high stakes for Libby, and that always makes for a good story. Even in a cozy mystery, the victim can’t be just any old John Doe. He ought to mean something—although not too much of something. We have to care just a little about who he was so that we share Libby’s urge to see justice done.

The fact that Sterling’s death has a pharmaceutical twist to it adds a touch of poetry—what made the man rich is the very thing that makes him dead. While most of us would never dance on the real-life grave of anyone, Sterling’s difficult personality makes it okay for us to indulge in a literary bit of “he had it coming.”

High stakes make for a high payoff

With a murder that strikes so close to home, we feel Libby’s emotional journey from initial exasperation to a touch of true mourning and through the tangled societal web of her ex-in-law’s. You never really cut someone completely out of your life, even when you’d like to. We can all relate to Libby’s cautious dealings with her former family, and we cheer her on to the resolution we know she’s strong enough to reach. We want her to get her shot at the happiness that awaits her on the other side.

So, did Sterling have to die? The short answer is “yes, probably.” I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I shied away from the story when it called to me. After all, I owed it to you, dear reader. And in truth, he really did “have it coming,” don’t you think?

The bestselling author of over sixty titles, Allie Pleiter’s twenty-year career has sold 1.6 million books.  Allie also coaches on writing productivity and speaks nationally on time management for creatives. Allie is an avid knitter, confirmed coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better.” She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and the world’s most adorable dog. Learn more online at

Writing a Book Series Filled with Gratitude By Dorothy St. James

“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.” ~ cozy mystery author Lilian Jackson Braun.

As Thanksgiving rushes upon us, I have taken a moment to pause and think about the parts of my life that I’m most grateful for. Topping that list is how libraries have helped me through the years.

I remember when the lockdown happened it was quite a shock to have my daughter’s school closed. Suddenly, I had a first grader at home with nothing open. But my local library, although they’d closed their doors, remained open to the community. Yes, I missed the art classes, the sewing classes, and the in-person tai chi classes. And while I couldn’t browse the shelves with the hope of stumbling across the perfect book for my current mood, I could order the books online and pick them up at the front door. This was not only a lifesaver for a mom who needed the books to keep her daughter entertained and practicing her reading, but it also reinforced how important the library is and has always been in my life.

My hometown didn’t always have a public library. But there was the book mobile. My mother would take my two sisters and me down the street to go climb the steep steps into the bus. I remember it being dimly lit and crowded with books. Books on the walls. Stacks of books on the floor. It was like entering a mad professor’s domain or Doctor Who’s Tardis. And the smell, the glorious smell of leather and adventure.

Several years later, a branch library opened in town, and I received my first library card. I felt like such an adult. After handing it to me, the librarian leaned down and explained what a responsibility it was to have my own card. This was my passport to anywhere.

“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up the windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.” ~ Actor, producer, and novelist Sidney Sheldon

I like to tell people that I was born wanting to write books. But perhaps that’s not quite right. I think these early experiences at the library, with learning the power of story, was what got me writing my own books even at a pre-school age. I wanted to be part of the magical feeling books gave me.

During my pre-teen years, I didn’t fit in well at school. I didn’t fit in well at home. But I could go to the library. There was no expectation at the library for who I needed to be or how I needed to dress or act. The library was that safe space for me, as I suspect it still is for many kids today. The same was true at college. And I still spent many hours in the library. Again, it was my safe place. No one cared if I was in a sorority. (I wasn’t.) Or how I dressed. (I usually wore sweats and a t-shirt.)

And after I married, I’d have date nights with my husband at the library. We’d check out movies and music CDs and books, always books.

Many years later when my daughter was born, I moved to reading ebooks. And wouldn’t you know it? There was the library again to my rescue with Libby and Hoopla.

And now I have moved to where I live within walking distance to a library. My daughter attends nature lab classes. We’ve listened to talks by astronomers and astronauts. And we always come with a tote bag to fill with books.

As you can see, I can mark the changes in my life by my use of the library. But at the same time you can see how the library systems have grown and changed to meet the changing needs of communities. It went from a book mobile that occasionally visited my area, to many branches. From having just printed books and periodicals, to offering electronic editions, and community programs for the entire family. Libraries are doing more and more while remaining that safe space for whoever enters those doors. But their budgets aren’t growing at the rate that the community is growing.

I’d long thought about writing a book series set at a library as a thank you to libraries and what they’ve done for me and my life. But the idea for writing the series remained just that, an idea, until I read an article about a few library branches in the country that had decided to do away with the print book and move to all electronic.

What? No! Are you serious?

That was my knee-jerk reaction the first time I read about what are being called bookless libraries. Will libraries one day become cyber cafés? Will the sweet scent of books be replaced with a metallic smell? Yes, I do enjoy reading ebooks. But losing print books? No…just no!

But the truth is public libraries are being asked to do more with tighter budgets. Libraries are becoming community centers providing a wide range of programs to its patrons. New materials can be costly, especially if they need to be purchased in multiple formats (hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.) Many libraries don’t have the budgets to cover the cost of doing, well, everything. Hard decisions must be made.

The Beloved Bookroom Mystery series was born when I started to ask myself, “what would a librarian who has an emotional attachment to printed books do if her library was converted to a bookless library?”

The answer was simple. She’d save the books!

“There is no problem that a library card can’t solve.” ~ American novelist Eleanor Brown

My heroine, Trudell Becket is an assistant librarian in the small town of Cypress, South Carolina working tirelessly to save her beloved books.

As TS Elliot once wrote “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.” My wish is that you feel that hope in every book I write in the Beloved Bookroom Mystery series.

I hope you’ll join me in the pages of Tru’s latest adventure in A BOOK CLUB TO DIE FOR. It might be her most challenging one yet. What looks like an open and shut case to the police will put her boyfriend’s mother in jail for murder. Tru has promised to try and find another answer. The more she looks into the murder of the president of the local book club, the more she worries that she won’t like the answer she’s going to find.

About the Author:

Dorothy St. James is the author of several cozy mystery series. She lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her family and neurotic pets. She often can be found at the local library, searching for her next favorite read. You can also find Dorothy on social media at:



Twitter: @dorothywrites

Instagram: @dorothymcfalls

TikTok: @dorothywrites

Book Review – The True Love Bookshop by Annie Rains

Title: the True Love Bookshop

Author: Annie Rains

Publisher: Forever

Format: Trade paperback

Published On: July 5, 2022

Set In: Somerset Lake, North Carolina

Series: Somerset Lake, #3

Tess Lane knew that real life heroes died all the time. Since Jared died, she had to push herself forward. She had to keep her bookstore, Lakeside Books, going.

Then ex-Marine River Harrison stumbles into her bookstore wounded. River was her late husband’s best friend until he tried to stop their wedding. Tess immediately has her employee call 911. But River only agrees to go the hospital if Tess takes care of his dog, Buddy. Apparently, River got hurt while on a camping trip in the wilderness. Instead of focusing on sharpening the tip of a stick for his shelter, his knife stabbed him on the left side. He’d been thinking of why Jared had been in Morrisville on the night of his car accident. The week before, a Marine Corp buddy let it slip that was where Ashley Hensley, another former Marine and friend, was living. River also recalled seeing Jared and Ashley being intimate three days before Tess and Jared’s wedding.

Tess agrees to care for Buddy. She drives to River’s home to pick up a few things for his dog. That’s when she sees a photograph on his bedside table of River, Jared and a woman she didn’t know. There was also a letter from a security company where Jared had worked.

River is a private investigator and his current case has him searching for a woman’s birth parents. It has him thinking that he should search for his birth parents, as well.

Tess picks River up at the hospital as no one else was available. The next day she asks him who the woman is in the photograph. He tells her that she’s a Marine buddy, but doesn’t dig deeper into the truth. This leads Tess into hiring him to investigate why her husband was in Morrisville on the night of his accident. Could they have had an affair?

River’s investigation leads to other heartbreaking news which causes a conflict because River loves Tess. If anything, this book leads to the fact that perhaps we truly don’t know the people we love. Secrets tend to surface and they can either tear you apart or make you stronger. It was difficult enough that she was a widow at a young age. So the question is can Tess accept the truth and move on with her life? Can she experience love again? Several other side stories keep you interested. I care what happened to both Tess and River, so that tells me it was a good book. Loved the nosy blogger.

three nightstand photos out of five

Denise Fleischer

Nov. 5, 2022


Jenn McKinlay Tells Us Why Autumn Has Her Reaching For Spooky and Spine-Tingling Mysteries

Whenever the end of summer arrives and the mornings have that apple crisp autumn chill, I reach for all the spooky and spine-tingling mysteries I can find. Something about witnessing the leaves changing color, drinking hot cocoa, watching the children go back to school, and the arrival of everything pumpkin (don’t be a hater) puts me in the mood for creepy stories ranked high on the suspense factor.

My first run at reading these sorts of scary stories was Edgar Allan Poe, naturally, which were assigned to us in middle school. I can’t remember which story stayed with me longer – The Cask of Amontillado or The Monkey’s Paw. Of course, the The Pit and the Pendulum was gloriously grisly as well. When it came time to write The Plot and the Pendulum—see what we did there? my agent came up with that brilliant title—I knew I wanted the story to be set around Halloween, and I wanted one of the clues to the murder mystery to be a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe is credited with being the inventor of the modern day mystery as he was the first author to introduce a character, C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, who put together the clues to solve the mystery. Of course, forty-five years later Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced his detective Sherlock Holmes, but he credited Poe as being “the model for all time.”

Inspired by my love of Poe and detective fiction, when I was plotting my latest Library Lover’s mystery, I knew I wanted to make it as spooky as possible. This is why our amateur sleuth, librarian Lindsey Norris, finds herself solving the murder of a cold case when a secret room in a creepy old estate, reveals a skeleton clutching a copy of The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe! (Insert creepy mwah ha ha ha cackler here).

Poe also began what readers of mysteries consider the “rules of the game.” One, is that the detective story must play fair and, two, the detective story must be readable. Now you’ll just have to check out a copy of The Plot and the Pendulum and let me know if I followed the rules of the game.

Happy and spooky reading!

Jenn McKinlay

About the Author:

Jenn is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. She is also the winner of the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for romantic comedy and the Fresh Fiction award for best cozy mystery. A TEDx speaker, she is always happy to talk books, writing, reading, and the creative process to anyone who cares to listen. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars.

Visit her website at:





Excerpt from Cleo Coyle’s “The Ghost and the Stolen Tears”


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The Ghost and the Stolen Tears

Haunted Bookshop Mystery

Mass Market Paperback  Oct. 4, 2022

Geez, Jack cracked. I can see why your panties are bunched.

“My panties are just fine! Not that my unmentionables are any of your business.”

Okay then, if it’s not these creepy trees that have you rattled, what is it? You got ants in your pants about something.

“Stop talking about my underthings.”

The ghost did. Then he stopped talking altogether.

With resignation, I sighed and admitted the truth. “All right, Jack, you’re not wrong. I mean, I am-for lack of a better word-antsy.”

What’s the headache?

“I hate doing things I don’t want to do, and right now I have to ask someone to do me a huge favor.”

Okey-doke. Who do you want sprawled on a cold marble slab and how do you want it done?

“Stop teasing. Nobody’s getting whacked. I’m heading to the Finch Inn to offer a woman a job, that’s all.”

And she’s doing you a “huge favor” by accepting? The world sure has flipped its wig. In my day, a job offer was followed by a tip of the fedora and a hearty thank-you.

“Under normal circumstances that would be true, but not in this case.”

What makes this dame so special?

“She’s not a dame. She’s a nomad.”

A what?

“Norma has no permanent address. She lives in a van and travels around the country for most of the year.”

She’s a hobo, then? A bum?

“We don’t use those words anymore. Norma is a vagabond. They call it living the van life. It’s a cultural trend. They’ve even got a hashtag for it.”

Hash what? Oh, you mean they’re hopheads? Hooked on hashish?

“No, not hashish! Hashtag. It’s a social media category, a trend so popular, thousands use its label to brand their lifestyle. Norma lives the #vanlife.”

I don’t follow.

“I’ll break it down for you. Norma moves around the country, taking different jobs during different seasons. For the last two years, she’s spent her autumns in New England, doing housekeeping work at the Finch Inn. In exchange for her help from Labor Day to the New Year, Fiona pays Norma a weekly wage and provides a room for her, too.”

So, you’re trying to snatch her away from the competition?

“Not at all. Norma works part-time at a few places, including Buy the Book. Aunt Sadie hired her six weeks ago to work in the store on Sundays, so I could spend more time with my son-and help him with his big science fair project.”

You mean the one that’s got your little tyke fingerprinting everyone in sight and leaving ink stains in the sink?

“Yes. Spencer has decided to be a forensic investigator when he grows up. Of course, in a few months he’ll likely change his mind, but I’ll always encourage his interests, and one day he’ll find his true calling. Anyway, that’s not the point.”

Then what is?

“The numbers. I added them up, and there is no disputing them.”

I never played the numbers. That’s penny ante stuff. I bet the house on the nags, though, hundreds of times.

“I’m not talking about gambling, Jack. The numbers that concern me are the unit sales in my ledger. You see, not long ago, Sadie and I debated whether to close Buy the Book on Sundays because business slowed considerably that day. But since Norma started working, sales have increased, week over week. This past Sunday we made double what we grossed on that same weekend a year ago, and it’s all because of Norma.”

She must be a natural pusher, then, a real huckster-

“No, Norma doesn’t hard sell anyone.”

Horse pellets. Trust me, Penny. Good hustlers are so slick at the fast hand, you never see that three-card monte swindle coming.

“Goodness, Jack, this is Quindicott, Rhode Island, not the New York Bowery! And Norma isn’t a hustler.”

Call me skeptical.

“You shouldn’t be. You inhabit my shop, don’t you? Haven’t you noticed what’s been going on there?”

Piles of paper, small-town small talk, and the dull daily comings and goings of mortals don’t interest me, baby. You do. And you haven’t needed me lately-till now. Which makes sense. I can see you’re in trouble. You been taken in by a lady hobo running some kind of confidence game.

“You’re way off the mark.”

Really? Convince me, then. Tell me why I shouldn’t scare your Norma into next week.

“Don’t you dare. I like her. And the store needs her.”

I’ll be the judge of that.

“Look, the best way to explain Norma’s selling ability is . . . well, she’s got a special kind of empathy. She’s brilliant at understanding customers. She reads them like a book page. Aunt Sadie calls her ‘the Book Whisperer.'”

Whispering to books? Sounds like a looney tune.

“And what do you think the general public would call me for talking to you?”

Hmm. Point taken.

“I’ll put it another way. Norma loves books and takes great joy in connecting every customer with just the right author or title. She seems able to sense which souls are especially sad or lonely or troubled. She’ll go right up to them, even in a crowd, and draw them out. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s like . . . book medicine and she’s the doctor.”

I need more, doll. Gimme a concrete-as-brick example.

“All right. Then listen to what happened one Sunday after Norma came to work for us. I was about to drive Spencer to Newport to get him registered for the regional science fair. I went downstairs to grab my jacket from behind the counter when I heard a raucous uproar coming from the main floor.”

A drunken brawl?

“In a family bookshop? No, Jack, the uproar came from a group of women laughing-”

Like cackling hens?

“Don’t embellish. Just listen . . .”


Excerpted from The Ghost and the Stolen Tears by Cleo Coyle Copyright © 2022 by Cleo Coyle. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Book Review – When the Rope Breaks by Glen Ebisch


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Title: When the Rope Breaks 

Author: Glen Ebisch

Series: A Madison Revere Mystery

Publisher: Cozy Cat Press

Format: Trade paperback, 173 pages

Madison Revere’s recent promotion at the law firm, Baker and Kerr, has mainly been assisting Mr. Kerr during the reading of wills.

One will is clearly going to go beyond financial distribution. Thirty-five year old Samuel Contois died from a fall when rock climbing with his wife near Mt. Blanc. His wife, Alexandra stated that his climbing rope “suddenly snapped” and he fell on the rocks below. Samuel was the founder of a software company in Philadelphia. He had only married Alexandra a year and a half ago. In his will, Sam left a statue to his sister and the remainder of his assets to his wife. This included a controlling interest in his software company.

After her sister-in-law leaves the conference room, Rachel states she hopes to contest the will, but not for financial reasons. She believes Alexandra killed her brother and she shouldn’t be allowed to gain from her crime. He was serious about his work and rock climbing, always carefully examining the rope. She believed his equipment was damaged by someone. Madison joins Rachel in her investigation, which puts both their lives in danger. She also wonders why Sam didn’t have a pre-nup.

Madison also consults client Doris Walker who wanted to remove her daughter from her will as she refuses to marry and have children. Her son is pressuring her for various reasons. Mostly for his own personal gain.

Then there’s Lester Hitchens, a senior lawyer who just happened to fall down his office building’s stairs. One has to question if his death was an accident. Madison is asked by her boss to inform Hitchens’ clients of his death.

As you can see, Madison is juggling a lot of cases, putting herself in a lot of danger and through it all trying to determine if she and Parker should take the next step and move in together.

I’ll tell you one thing about Glen’s books, he keeps you interested on multiple levels. It’s far from intense, but it keeps you thinking, “well, he or she could have done it.” I was disappointed in Parker’s issue with commitments, how he really didn’t think of what Madison wants, only his career. And her neighbor who has a lot of nerve to suggest she move so her boyfriend can move in next door. I respect Madison’s intelligence and determination, but she needs to focus on her life. As for the situations she dealt with, pressure during will writing is real and how Samuel died could happen. I’ll be reading “When Push Comes to Shove” soon. Another book in the series.

three and a half rock climbing ropes out of five

Denise Fleischer

Oct. 18, 2022

Music for Writing by Laurie Cass



My life has always been filled with music. My mother was a professional harpist and my dad was a huge classical music fan (he was particularly fond of the pipe organ). My older brother, in his youth, spent the majority of his disposable income on stereo equipment so expensive that the stereo store sent him birthday cards, and I’ve lost track of the number of instruments my younger brother—also a fine tenor—plays.

Though not a musician himself, my husband has a knowledge of rock and heavy metal music so deep that it 1) regularly astounds me, and 2) makes it hard for him to give me helpful clues when I’m trying to guess who’s singing. [Here’s a memorable hint: “the lead singer for this group speaks fluent Japanese.” He really thought that would help? Really?]  I play an average violin, sing alto, and will happily while away an afternoon at the piano as long as no one is listening.

When I started writing seriously, it was a given that music would be part of my creative process. But there was a problem. I quickly discovered that if I played any music that included singing, my unruly mind drifted away from what it was supposed to be doing, and would instead start singing along with the music. Instrumental it would have to be. No problem, right?

But I ran into a similar but different problem. Though I love the complexity of classical orchestral pieces, the very nature of its complexity distracts me from writing. If you’re sitting there, trying to come up with a solid plot point that will advance the story but not seem contrived, having the boom! of the 1812 Overture going off in the background is not necessarily helpful.

What I eventually settled on was classical piano music. Bach. Handel. Those guys. Clean and precise. Mathematical. In retrospect, it’s an obvious choice and I try not to feel too stupid about how long it took me to get there.

As the years roll on, I tweaked my writing music preferences. And I’ve discovered that, for me, the different phases of novel writing pair best with different types of music. Shocking, yes? Here’s what I work with now, starting at the beginning.

Synopsis development is nature sounds. Kind of weird, but for this type of thinking, rain and frog and water and bird sounds help me focus. I sit at the dining room table with my laptop, earbuds securely in places, and shut out reality.

For first drafts, I’m still with Bach and Handel, the Well-Tempered Clavier and Keyboard Suites, respectively. As long as I have my laptop, earbuds, and Mr. Bach and Mr. Handel, I can write first drafts anywhere.

Editorial revisions? That’s when I shift to relaxation music, the calming stuff you hear in a day spa while getting a nice soothing massage.

Copyedits are the exception. I don’t listen to any music for this phase. Not sure why, but it just doesn’t work. For proofreading, however, I can listen to pretty much anything as long as it’s not too loud.

Of course, all of the above could change at any given moment. The one thing about my writing process that never changes is that it’s always changing. Now, if I could only figure out the perfect music for paying bills…

About the Author:

Laurie Cass is the national bestselling author of the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.

Mother-Daughter Endeavor Results In Published Book


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Jennifer and Sage.

Jennifer Drew-Steiner and her daughter, Sage, are proud of a dog named Buddy. Now, this isn’t your average golden retriever. He’s a fictional character based on a friend’s dog who was allergic to grass. The title of their book is “Buddy and the Green Galoshes.”

Drew-Steiner was inspired by this true story and knew it would make a great children’s book. She began adding details of the dog’s experience, expanded the concept, fictionalized it a bit and Buddy was born. Sage’s contribution was illustrating the book.

Focusing on the storyline, Drew-Steiner said that Buddy and his family become informed about what it means to have an allergy, the different kinds of allergies, and what the effects can be.

“Then Buddy’s mom discovers a set of green dog booties in the pet store window, and even though it takes some getting used to, Buddy finally learns to appreciate the freedom they give him,” said Drew-Steiner.  “Along the way, Buddy learns that sometimes when others don’t understand things, they may react out of unkind places, but that with a little patience and education, people (and dogs) can grow and evolve. Buddy also learns to accept the support and knowledge of those who love and care for him.”

Drew-Steiner and her daughter are showing children that they can adapt to change and gain confidence being different.

“Buddy discovers learning to embrace change can be hard, but also empowering,” said Drew-Steiner. “And when we own and celebrate our unique selves, we gain confidence and help others do the same by being a leader by example. While we all have things that set us apart and make us unique, we really all want and need the same things. And at the end of the day, despite our differences, we’re more alike than not.”

She began writing the book several years ago. Not having industry experience or knowledge kept her from submitting it.

“Since writing Buddy, I have gained a lot of experience and I happened to be ‘in the right place at the right time,’ as far as publishing,” said Drew-Steiner. “My daughter was asked to work on a project illustrating for an author and new publisher. I decided to reach out to the new publisher at Bow’s Bookshelf to see if they’d like to read my manuscript. It turned out to be a great fit.”

Drew-Steiner said that writing and publishing is thrilling, but also a little scary. That’s because you’re putting your work out there.

“My goal is always to create characters and content that is relatable. So, I hold myself to high standards because I want my readers to have an immersive experience. It’s been a pleasure to work with Bow’s Bookshelf. We’ve got at least two more books in the Buddy series coming next year, as well as the March 2023 release of my YA novel, ‘Wreckleaf.’ ”

She added, “Like most artists, Sage is always growing and will always want to level up her art, but we are both extremely pleased with the final version of this mother-daughter endeavor. Sage is currently an apprentice at Space Cat Tattoo in Arlington Heights and continues to create amazing art every day. You can view her art on Instagram @sagums.”

Drew-Steiner and her spouse have lived in Des Plaines, IL since 1995. Since the age of 12, Sage has been illustrating. This is her fourth illustrating project. Sage and her older brother both attended Cumberland Elementary, Chippewa Middle School and Maine West High School. The book is available through the publisher, Amazon and on Barnes and Noble websites.

Climate Vampires by Sandy Lender


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Late August 2005, I turned the key in my car’s ignition to hear the radio announcer’s voice speaking in grateful yet somber tones from the early morning darkness. He told his listening audience that the storm had wobbled during its trek across the peninsula overnight and would bypass Southwest Florida. We were in the clear.

Of course, anyone who’d lived through hurricane season 2004 knew what that meant. Katrina was headed for the warm Gulf waters where it would gain strength and target our countrymen in another state. I bowed my head, along with the radio announcer, in prayer for whoever would be in Katrina’s path. History tells us how that storm track unfolded. A few days later, on the uber-Catholic campus where I worked, I asked a co-worker, “Where will all the vampires go?”

Side Note: That’s not the reason the uber-Catholic university fired this Suhthe’n Baptist.

I share the story to let you know I’m not insensitive to the devastation a serious hurricane brings to an area. But I am a fantasy author with horror tendencies. When “write what you know” blends with natural disasters, you get Fantasy Author Sandy Lender sending a down-to-earth heroine to Southwest Florida to fall reluctantly for a vampire during hurricane season.

My original question for my co-worker still needed an answer. Where do all the vampires go? Sure, you have the almost-sparkly dudes and dudettes who can hunker down with the rest of us behind metal shutters because, dang, those things really do block sunlight like you wouldn’t believe.

But my “Faerie Holidays” series features non-sparkly vampires. I’ve got big bads who aren’t getting invited in for a hurricane party with games of “Take a Shot Each Time Debris Hits Jim Cantore.” Before you say those monsters can go underground, consider Florida’s water table. It’s the same problem I envisioned back in 2005 when New Orleans was in Katrina’s cross hairs. Vampires evacuating in the dark.

Of course, vampires are resilient, whether mad from centuries of evil intent or merely bloodthirsty with a lack of sparkle. They can move faster than Cat 5 winds…just gotta go around that sun-shiny center eye…

For the third novel in my “Faerie Holidays” paranormal romance series, “I Know What Your Vampire Did Last Summer,” I took the reader away from the familiar Rose Chateau. The debonair and decadent Nathaniel Tearnshaw deserved better than playing wingman to the gentlemen in Colorado. That introduced the problem of climate change’s effects on vampirism. Funny how no one thinks of the vampires when we’re talking about sea level rise, raging wildfires, and strengthening hurricanes. It’s up to us speculative fiction/fantasy writers to do the heavy lifting.

About the Book:

Welcome to standalone book three of the “Faerie Holidays” series from Author Sandy Lender, where friends of the Rose Chateau fight the forces of evil and pursue forces of paranormal sweet romance with humor and horror.

Katie prefers her chosen path be strewn with zero surprises. That’s why she and her BFF planned out their summer vacay down to the last detail for calm Florida Gulf Coast relaxation while her cheating boyfriend gets his act together back home. She never dreamed the summer would involve recovering from all the trauma of all the things with a side of paranormal love interest. What are the chances sea turtle rescue and hurricane survival would be mixed up with an honest-to-God vampire trying to evade an ancient evil? And aren’t vampires supposed to be horrifying and scary? Not sex-on-a-stick gorgeous and a gentlemanly juxtaposition to all Katie’s experienced at the hands of a manipulative jerk for fifteen years.

Her best laid plans might need a revamp.

About Sandy Lender:

Sandy Lender is a magazine editor by day and author of girl-power fantasy novels by night. With a four-year degree in English and 30-year career in publishing, Sandy’s successes include traditionally and self-published novels, hundreds of magazine articles, multiple short stories in competitive anthologies, a handful of technical writing awards, and a handful of creative writing awards and nominations. Sandy’s been writing stories since she was knee-high to a grasshopper when her great-grandmother shared her odd little tales of squeaky ghost-spiders around an apartment complex in Southern Illinois. The stories have developed to include strong young ladies working with dragons to save worlds from terrible fates, but those pesky spiders still show up from time to time. There’s always something brewing at Sandy Lender Ink headquarters where some days, you just want the dragon to win.