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DeedsofaColoredSoldier_medF.W. Abel was born in the city of New York, long ago enough to have not even been a teenager at the beginning of the Civil War Centennial.  He escaped from Fordham University with a degree in psychology into the U.S. Army.  The army had him function as a psychologist for a while, until he escaped from that into “the real army” that is, the infantry.  After postings in Berlin, Tokyo and the southern United States, he left and became a junior executive in the insurance industry.  He now labors diligently for the American taxpayer as a federal bureaucrat.  He currently resides in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.  As many of the most important battles of the Civil war was fought within a relatively short distance, he has taken advantage and visited most of them, as well as several in the so-called “Western Theater.”
Purchase the book on Amazon / Twilight Times Books / B&N

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Deeds of a Colored Soldier during the Rebellion, Volume 1: From the Beginning to Chickamagua. How does it feel to be published for the first time?

A: I’m ecstatic, and apprehensive at the same time.  I think just about anyone who writes something, anything, that took scores of hours and pounds (if not tons) of effort, wants to share their creation with the wider world.  Of course, in doing so, said author leaves themselves open to criticism, and possibly, some of it is deserved.  A work that made you a literary legend in your own mind just might not be perceived that way by readers.  Hence, the ecstasy and the apprehension.

Q: What compelled you to write this Civil War story?

A: I recall a reviewer of the motion picture “Glory” as having stated it would have been interesting to know more about the African-American soldiers portrayed in the film, as it revolved around the story of their commanding officer.  “Glory” was an outstanding movie, but it gave the impression that the 54th Massachusetts Regiment was the first colored regiment to fight.  My novel kind of sets the record straight, and from the viewpoint of the enlisted men, the African-American soldiers who did the fighting.  Also, I was a pre-teen during the Civil War Centennial, and I read a number of young adult novels with that theme.  I essentially combined the two.

Q: Tell us something about your protagonist that my readers won’t be able to resist.

A:  The novel tells the story of Jedediah as a young man, told by himself more than 30 years later.  So a reader can see the enthusiasm and cock-suredness of a youth contrasted with rueful regret of his older, and perhaps wiser, self.

Q: Did your characters surprise you with their own ideas? Did you listen to them?

A:  I remember reading long ago the novel, The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas.  It included a scene where Marcus asked a young man who had sculpted two gladiators what their names were.  The young man thought he was being mocked, until Marcus explained that to really animate his two figures, they had to have names, past lives; they had to be real to him, or their sculpted selves would be lifeless.  So, I created lives for them, before the action taking place in the novel.  Of course, the great thing with dealing with fictional characters is the author’s ability to make any amendments needed to fit the narrative.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it?

A:  I wrote it linearly, without a formal outline, although I always knew where I was going.  Historical fiction is great in that way, as it provides your general plot.  The surprises came from filling in the details.

My book is about the rigors of war, and how life-changing, but a story with nothing but battles would bore even the most devoted reader of military fiction.

Q: How did you conduct your research?

A:  I had an fairly extensive reading background in the Civil war from the time I was a pre-teen (I won’t tell you how long ago that was).  But to insert a character into the major events portrayed in the novel required a considerable amount of research to get the minor details, in one case, weather conditions on a particular night, correct.  Readers who read history fiction are also usually avid readers of history, and would be cognizant, and unappreciative, of dramatic license that did too much violence to the facts.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel without letting the historical details drag the pace?

A:  You have to be judicious.  You have to strike the delicate balance between verisimilitude and throwing in details to show how much research you did.  And ideally, the minor historical details should have some bearing on the story.  In one case, I made a big deal of the difference in the bullet sizes of two rifles, because (as really happened) during a battle, the soldiers ran out of one size of ammunition and were in dire straits because the only ammunition available was an unusable size.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A:  I have a full-time job, so I have to fit writing in, but other things usually have priority.  I look forward to the (now somewhat few) totally free days.  I can write for 5-8 hours, but I can’t write anything good in one hour.

Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.

A:  After acquiring a fairly impressive collection of rejection letters, a friend going back to my college days introduced me to his publisher.  The intro only got me so far, as like any good publisher, Lida Quillen wanted to judge the work for herself.  Thankfully, she greeted it with enthusiasm and encouragement.  I’m grateful to Lida, and my friend, Scott.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

A:  First, don’t get divorced.  The number of aspiring authors is probably exceeded only by the number of aspiring actors, currently waiting tables, or the number of aspiring general currently serving as lieutenants.  My wife has a business writing background, so I lured her in by having her do copy editing.  Even so, although she liked my novel, she was still very skeptical that I had produced a saleable work.  Sometimes, the person you have to convince is yourself.

On the other hand, writing is a less expensive hobby than golf or deep-sea fishing, so an aspiring author can approach it on that basis until the magic moment when he surprises even himself by having produced something good (good = publishable + saleable).

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

A:  There’s an old adage for writers, which is write what you know.  To that, I would add, read, and extensively, because at some point, a reader could get the spark from something read to transition into a writer.

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FireSong is the fifth instalment in the Gus LeGarde mystery series and talented author Aaron Paul Lazar doesn’t disappoint, hooking readers right from the beginning and keeping them turning pages with a series of unexpected twists and turns.

Our amateur sleuth, Gus LeGarde, lives in the small town of East Goodland in the heart of the beautiful Genesee Valley, and works as a music professor at the local college. Except for the occasional mystery, he lives a quiet, happy life, surrounding himself with the things he loves most: his family and friends, his dogs, classical music, and cooking and gardening. If you’re expecting Gus to be a former alcoholic, embittered man who chain smokes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Instead, he is a true family man with a kind heart. This quality sets him apart from other sleuths in mystery series.

The story begins when, one warm Sunday evening, as Gus is attending the local parish with his family, a tornado sweeps by and unearths a dead body that had been secretly buried in the grounds of the church years ago. On closer inspection, the body turns out to be that of Gus’ friend, a man who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

Thus starts this winning mystery, one that takes Gus on a journey of danger, action and adventure. From historical Indian grounds, to stolen money, to the Underground Railroad, to a thunderous fire that nearly takes his life and that of his beloved grandson, Gus takes us on an exciting ride that will be enjoyed by most fans of the genre.

Though the story has a lot of action at times, this isn’t what you’d call a fast-paced book. In skilful detail, Lazar uses description and narration to bring to life the setting, characters, and Gus’ way of life. The dialogue is natural and engaging. The novel has a ‘quiet’ tone at times which contrasts with the faster, action segments, creating a relaxed balance for those readers who don’t like to rush it and prefer to take their time when reading a mystery. The climax is exciting and Lazar does a good job at tying all the loose ends in the conclusion. FireSong is a stand-alone book, so it doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the earlier novels in the series. This will make a fun addition to your summer reading list, so be sure to add it.

Firesong
by Aaron Paul Lazar
Twilight Times Books
ISBN: 1-60619-164-4
July 15, 2011
Trade paperback, 230 pages, $16.95
FireSong is the fifth installment in the Gus LeGarde Mystery series
Chapter excerpt:
http://twilighttimesbooks.com/FireSong_ch1.htm
Author web site: http://www.legardemysteries.com/

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Donna McDine is an award-winning children’s author whose stories have been featured in multiple print and online publications. Her first book, The Golden Pathway, is about a boy who befriends a slave during the civil war. It is an illustrated story book for older readers (ages 9-12). Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Musing Our Children, and The National Writing for Children Center. You can learn more about Donna on her website. If you sign the guestbook, you’ll receive a free ebook, Write What Inspires You: Author Interviews. Donna also keeps two blogs, www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com and www.thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com.

Thanks for the interview, Donna! When did you start writing for children?

In 2006 I came across an ad for The Institute of Children’s Literature and completed their aptitude test and application and mailed it back for consideration. This came at the perfect time for me since I was longing to find something more fulfilling outside the scope of administrative and website work. About a month afterwards I received an acceptance to ICL and haven’t looked back since.

Tell us about your historical children’s book, The Golden Pathway. What inspired you to write it?

History has always fascinated me and when I had the chance to outline a book idea for my last ICL assignment the Underground Railroad immediately came to mind. While I did get positive feedback on my outline my ICL instructor did not feel there was enough appeal with a market flooded with the Underground Railroad books. I reluctantly put my outline away and tried to forget about it, but it kept calling to me to write it. And again perfect timing aligned and I discovered Suzanne Lieurance at the Children’s Writers’ Coaching Club and I dusted off my outline and eagerly began writing. This manuscript was critiqued in the early stages by Suzanne Lieurance (CWCC) and my online critique groups and placed as Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest 78th Writing Competition, then edited after the competition by Lea Schizas to assist in expanding the story since it was no longer under a word constraint from the contest.

I understand The Golden Pathway is an illustrated story book and not a picture book. Could you please explain the difference between the two?

A standard picture book is 32-pages with illustrations on every page and geared towards 2-8 years old. While a story book has roughly half the amount of illustrations the text is written with the 9-12 age range in mind and (in the case of The Golden Pathway) almost 2,000 words. Each publisher has their specific guidelines they follow. Over the course of the years many teachers have realized a vast majority of students respond better to their curriculum with visuals. Hence the story book format.

Did you have to do a lot of research for this book?

Initially online, then visiting the Tappan Library and thoroughly researching the Underground Railroad.

What is the main message children will learn from this book?

Overcoming adversity against immeasurable odds and that with determination success in achieving your dreams is possible.

The illustrations in the book were done by fine Oregonian artist K.C. Snider. How was your experience working with an illustrator? Did you have input in the artwork? Do you think she captured the mood and tone of the story?

My excitement over the quality of illustrations K.C. Snider designed blew me away from the onset of the book cover design. K.C. captured the true essence of The Golden Pathway from the get go. Since The Golden Pathway is my first book I honestly did not know what to expect from the collaboration process and I was pleasantly surprised. I have read time and time again that the author and illustrator never meet, but not in the case of Guardian Angel Publishing. As long as an author tries not to micro-manage the illustrator and puts full trust in the publisher and illustrator a win-win outcome is sure to be had.

You also offer press release services to authors. Tell us all about it!

My press release service is called Dynamic Media Release Services and with the overwhelming responsibilities an author has to promote their books I thought what better way to take the pressure off a bit is to offer this service at reasonable prices. For rates and testimonials readers should check this page.

What next for Donna McDine?

I’m thrilled to announce my manuscripts entitled, The Hockey Agony and Powder Monkey or Boy have been accepted by Guardian Angel Publishing. These will be my second and third story books with this publisher.

Any last words to our readers?

My road to publication has had the typical rejections (which I can wallpaper my office with) and doubts of my abilities to make a go as a published writer. I have found every writer experiences these feelings, but learn to push through the “doubting Thomas” thoughts to reach publication success. Don’t give up! Learn your craft, continued to network, and success will come your way.

Thank you, Donna, and best of luck with your book!

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