Meet Mary Flodin

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Mary Flodin’s debut novel, Fruit of the Devil, was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Award for Socially Engaged Fiction and the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Competition. She was awarded a fellowship to the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and has participated in numerous writers’ conferences, including BreadLoaf Orion and ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment). Before settling into the writer’s life, Mary taught environmental education, English, and art in California public schools. A native Californian, she lives in a cottage on the Monterey Bay with her husband— a retired NASA climate scientist— and their dog, koi, chickens, and gopher herd. More at www.maryflodin.com.

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About the book:
Ms. Aurora Bourne would do anything to protect her students from harm … even if that means going up against the most powerful corporation on the planet.
While getting her classroom ready for Fall, Aurora feels sick, and it’s more than back-to-school-blues: strawberry fields nearby have just been fumigated and pesticides are drifting into the classrooms. A spate of serious health issues crop up in children and adults around the school, the teenage sister of a migrant student goes missing from the fields, and Aurora realizes why farmworkers call strawberries Fruta del Diablo — the Fruit of the Devil.
When she starts asking questions and gets caught in a web of gangs, trafficking, and high-level corporate crime, a Catholic priest comes to her aid. She has no idea he’s actually an ancient nature god from Pacific Coast indigenous legends.
Fruit of the Devil was published on October 1, 2019, by Paper Angel Press. It’s multi-genre; as Mary says, “take your pick!”:

  • contemporary fiction with elements of mystery, romance, and an edge of magical realism
  • eco-thriller
  • romantic suspense
  • paranormal romantic suspense
  • climate fiction
  • socially engaged fiction
  • environmental fiction

Now on to the interview….

What makes your book unique?
Fruit of the Devil is based on a true story.

Why did you write decide to this book?
One of my earliest memories is of a seven-year-old me explaining to my family that my purpose in life was to be the “secretary of the world” and “write down the things that happen to people.” I’ve written all my life —journals, poetry (some published in small presses and chap books), articles for magazines and e-zines—and I started several novels.
But when—as a teacher in a school surrounded by strawberries fumigated with deadly pesticides—I lived the story I knew I must write, it grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and would not let me go until I wrote it all down. Much had already been written in serious articles and scientific publications about the dangers of exposing children to pesticides, but I felt the story needed to be reframed as fiction—as a murder mystery—for people to truly feel the impact of this environmental and social injustice.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
When I was just getting started on my novel, I read that a suspenseful murder mystery should have a “ticking clock”, so I went to the office supply store and bought one of those big one-year calendars, and I plotted every scene as it had happened in real life on the calendar. The story wrote itself. There were surprises – sub-plots and plot twists emerged out of the ether, and new characters appeared to me in dreams and even waking visions, telling me they needed to be in the story. But overall, I simply followed the actual events that took place in a little school on California’s Central Coast at the turn of the century—events which turned the tide for organic agriculture in the region.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?
My first draft was almost entirely plot driven. But, as I edited, received feedback, and revised, the characters—their complexities and emotions—deepened, evolved, and became more important to the story. I learned a great deal about human nature and about myself watching my characters develop. See my blog about “Agency” for more on how I came to understand the character arc of my protagonist.

How did you decide on the setting?
Fruit of the Devil is a true story about a community’s struggle to protect their children and one of the most beautiful environments on the planet—the watersheds of the Monterey Bay. Setting is a key element in Fruit of the Devil: one could almost say that the setting stands as a character on its own.

How do you develop names for your characters?
I obviously had to fictionalize the names of actual people, corporations, and most locations—although readers familiar with the Monterey Bay will probably recognize many of their favorite hang outs in the book. The fictional names just came to me. I reached into the ether, and they were there. However, one real character—Destiny—had such a perfect name that, with her permission, I used her actual name in the novel.

Do you have a writing mentor?
I taught English literature and writing in grades third through twelve for decades, and have always been an avid reader, so you’d think I’d know how to write a novel, right? But when I was given the task by the Universe to write the true story of Fruit of the Devil in a murder mystery genre, I realized I had no idea how to even begin writing a novel, much less a mystery.
After finishing my English literature degree, long ago, I went on a decades-long sci-fi binge. Then I discovered fantasy (Robert Jordan!), and wanted to read nothing else. One of my favorite novels of all time, which influenced the evolution of Fruit of the Devil, is Outlander by Diane Galbadon. Barbara Kingsolver, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley and many more authors have influenced me. But ten years ago, when I realized I needed to write a mystery and I had no idea where to start, I began reading mysteries voraciously, and watching cop shows and mysteries on TV. (Love the BBC mysteries and Tom Selleck in the Jesse Stone series!) I devoured all of Tony Hillerman, Nevada Barr, Margaret Coel, C.J.Box, and Laurie King.
I bought lots of books on writing, and on crafting mysteries, including Steven King’s On Writing, Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird, many books by Orson Scott Card including Characters and Viewpoint, James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, Jack Bickham’s Scene & Structure, Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel & The Fire in Fiction, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Writing Yourself Home by Kimberley Snow, Writing Mysteries an anthology edited by Sue Grafton, Manuscript Makeover & A Writer’s Guide to Fiction by Elizabeth Lyon, If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland, Don’t Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden, The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Publilshed by Eckstut & Sterry, and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
I also joined the local chapters and attended meetings of Mystery Writers of America and Romance Writers of America, joined Sisters in Crime and Guppies (offshoots of Mystery Writers). I took many writing workshops and attended at least one big writing conference a year, including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conferences, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Algonquin Write to Market, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, BreadLoaf Orion, and more. I met other writers, and agents and publishers. I found talented editors, a wonderful critique group, and Beta readers, and I learned and learned!
In my writing space I have photos of some of the writers, artists, and crusaders for social and environmental justice I most admire— Mentors Jack London, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Annie Dillard, Cesar Chavez, Mark Twain. But my most precious writing mentor and muse is my foundling husky, Sarah Bella, who mysteriously appeared in my life just as I started writing Fruit of the Devil, and has been sitting at my side, day after day, for all the years I’ve been on this writing journey.

Do you have a writing schedule and a favorite place to write?
As soon as I retired and returned from my celebratory trip to Hawaii, I started working on my novel with the same daily discipline I’d developed over nearly thirty years of teaching.
Now and then, something will wake me before dawn and I’ll feel compelled to rush to my writing space with a new scene, a character who has spoken to me in my sleep, or a revision. But most mornings, I’m up at 7:30. While I grind beans and wait for water to boil, I stretch, review my dreams, and watch for hummingbirds to show up at the feeder outside the kitchen window. Then Sarah, my Siberian Husky, follows me—my coffee cup in hand—into the little back room of our house, which I co-opted years ago for my writing space.
After taking a few moments to greet and honor the spirits who visit me there, and occasionally to smudge with sage, I review lists and notes I left for myself the previous afternoon, open my current manuscript, and begin. About 11, I take a short break for a bowl of oatmeal with my husband and a walk around the garden and pond, listening to my characters and whatever muses show up. Then I’m back at my writing space, usually until 2. Most afternoons, I walk to the beach with Sarah. Sometimes while walking, I get “messages” about the story I’m working on and I have to return to my writing space. I usually don’t look at email, answer phone calls, or schedule appointments until after 1 pm.
It took me three years to write the first draft of my manuscript. Since I had the story all plotted out on a calendar, I knew the end I was writing toward. I believed that when I wrote that final scene and finished my first draft, I would be done, and finally free to clean my garage and get on with my retirement.
Alas, I soon discovered that “Writing is re-writing.” Thus, I embarked upon five more years of daily work with editors, attending workshops, revising and editing with my critique group and Beta Readers, and sending queries to agents. I’ve revised my entire manuscript—with a poet’s attention to every word—countless times. At the Breadloaf Orion Writers’ Workshop last summer, a mentor advised me to forget about the Big Five New York publishers and look for an independent small press.
By the time I met my wonderful publisher, Steven Radecki of Paper Angel Press, all that revising and editing proved worthwhile. Digital, paperback, and hardcover editions of my debut novel, Fruit of the Devil, were released for pre-order on all digital marketplaces and on the Paper Angel Press website on September 15!
Soon, maybe I’ll finally get around to clearing out my garage.

Anything else you’d like to add?
You probably have a story inside you, bothering you, asking to be written. Do it! But realize your story (or poem or play) won’t get written without dogged perseverance. Carve out a private writing space; establish a routine. Show up every day, as faithfully as if it’s a job you’re getting paid for. Believe in your story and in yourself. Good Luck!

Where can readers find you?

Meet David W. Thompson

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Today I welcome Solstice author David W. Thompson. David is an award-winning author, a native of Southern Maryland, and a graduate of University of Maryland, University College. Prior to retirement from a position with a major Aerospace Corporation, he tried his hand at a variety of occupations – from grocery store clerk to warehousing, shoveling coal to construction. During his four-year stint with the U.S. Army, he was awarded the prestigious Army Commendation Medal (Arcom). When he isn’t writing, he enjoys time with his family and grandchildren, kayaking (mostly flat water please), fishing, hiking, hunting, wine-making, and pursuing his other “creative passion”- woodcarving.

He feels his characters carved little niches in his mind- showing their worlds, and their possibilities. He hopes to honestly convey the stories they whisper in his ears.

Today he’s talking about Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer. It’s Book 1 in the Legends of the Family Dyer series. Click here to view the book on Amazon. (Note the publication date!)

Late breaking news:

Sister Witch: The Life of Moll Dyer has won the prestigious Golden Quill award for the best paranormal novel of the year! See why!!
https://www.goldenboxbooks.com/award-winners.html
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076KR626G

About the book: 

Moll Dyer wants to leave her troubles behind when she immigrates to the New World… but even an ocean cannot keep the Dyer family curse from following her! Wanting only to find peace, she fights injustice in a new land founded on tolerance, but ruled by bigotry. In 1607, the ancient enemy returns, and Moll takes a stand. 300 years later, is the world finally ready for Moll’s story?

Life in the British colonies is tough on man and woman. Hunger, disease, Indian attacks, and drought test the resolve of the settlers daily. But troubles for the Dyers include another threat. In this land of religious fervor, devastating sickness, and persistent greed, can Moll turn back the evil alliance formed against her and her bloodline? Or will hell’s bloody wrath extinguish her dream of a new life in the New World? How far will she go to protect her family and their world?

Faith despite Betrayal. Courage in the face of Injustice. The triumph of love.

The legend of Moll Dyer originated in earliest colonial Maryland. Despite 300 years of civilization, and the advent of scientific reason, Moll’s name is still often heard there, especially around campfires late at night, or as a warning to misbehaving little people. Her spirit is often seen as a wisp of unnatural fog in the swampy woodlands near her homestead, with her half-wolf companion at her side.

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E-book: click here

263 pages

Published October 31, 21017 by Solstice Publishing

 

 

Why did you decide to write this book?

Moll Dyer’s story has intrigued me since I was a child. I’ve heard snippets of her tale for as long as I remember. It seems every local family has their own version of Moll’s life and tragedy. I felt she was maligned for too long. As if her horrid death wasn’t enough, she was cast in legend as a villain. She was a pariah in life and I hoped to give her some semblance of peace and acceptance in death. As it has been suggested to me that my ancestors may have been involved in the tragedy, perhaps I owed her that on a personal level. I hope I succeeded.

What genre is your book?

The way I categorize it is paranormal historical fiction. Magical Realism is a more recent term and Sister Witch won the Editors-Preditors poll as best in that category for 2017.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

Character driven. I love stories with well developed characters whose actions propel the narrative. Characters that make things happen, and not just have things happen to them—that creates a more relatable story to me.

What makes your book unique?

Several things: It is a paranormal story with a strong social conscience. It aligns three distinct cultures- Old World, New World and Native American. It has a strong female protagonist which—although not undone—I still find rare in paranormal stories. I felt my grand-girls needed better examples than that! Although male characters play important parts, there are no fawning damsels in need of a male hero here.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I guess I ‘m weird, as I do both. I start out with a vague idea, then write my main characters intro. By now I know him/her/them a bit better and jot down a very loose outline with plot points I anticipate. These change, and the outline gets fleshed out as the story progresses and my new friends tell me their tale. Moll Dyer became so real to me that I conversed with her in my dreams.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

I switch up my routine depending on the story. With Sister Witch, I was limited with surnames as Maryland was a very small colony at the time. Some I choose from “Baby Names” books that give the meaning behind them. Other names just seem to fit the person I’m writing about and I’ve been known to change the name at the mid-point of the novel when I learn more about them.

How do you decide on the setting?

Thus far, my settings have been areas I am very familiar with or have lived in. I don’t always name them as such but setting is too important to me to rely on descriptive snippets from Google or recollections from a weekend trip.

Do you have a writing mentor?

No, I am a terrible introvert and I think that is pretty common for writers. There’s a bunch of writers who’ve influenced me however: Emerson, Poe, Camus, Thoreau and Tolkien. Don’t think I’m putting myself in the same category and I don’t try to emulate them but I can see their influence in my own writing.

What’s your writing schedule?

I don’t set a schedule in stone and I often take breaks when I hit a snag or a spot in my plot where “I can’t get there from here.” I do set goals (that I sometimes reach)- not for word count but to reach a certain point in the story. I get very single-minded with any project and need to be reminded when the mundane needs of life need to be addressed.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

I keep a pad with me usually and write down thoughts or corrections that pop into my head (at mostly inappropriate moments). I bring it all together on my couch looking out over a massive field with my laptop on my…lap.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for this interview, Nancy! Getting exposure is very important for new writers and your efforts are most appreciated!

Where can readers find you?

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-Thompson/e/B076L9CF3W

Website: https://www.dthompsonwrites.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thompson_DavidW

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorOfParanormal/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15425511.David_W_Thompson

Bonus review!

I didn’t read this book, but read the second in the series, His Father’s Blood, the story of John Dyer, Moll’s great-great-grandson. Loved it! I enjoyed how David W. Thompson took a local legend and has made an engaging series out of it.

The great-great-grandson of Moll Dyer, John Dyer, only yearns for a place to call home. He sets out to homestead on lonely Devils Peak, and when he meets Ada Hartman, the daughter of travelling preacher Earnest Hartman, he has hopes that his dreams might come true. But life is not simple for John; his personal history and family history don’t allow it. He faces is needs invite tragedy. He’s betrayed by Sally Ann, a local woman who manipulates him into helping her. Using John’s teachings and magic, she opens herself to truly evil forces, who are determined to obliterate John and his heritage from the earth.

David W. Thompson has a very natural way of writing and of shifting viewpoints not only between men and women, but also between old and young, friend and foe, and good and evil. He also explored the true meaning of friendship. In addition, by creating Ada as the daughter of a travelling preacher, the author was able to bring up serious theological questions, examining the idea of a ‘Creator’ vs the ‘creations.’

For me, the book flowed naturally from any angle I looked at it: historical fiction, paranormal, horror, romantic suspense, magical realism. It was paced well, and I wasn’t really sure how it was going to end. In fact, I read the last few chapters two times! The first time, because I wanted to see what happened, and the second, to go back and savor the details.

I highly recommend this book.

Guest Interview: Cassondra Windwalker

IMG_0363Cassondra was born in Oklahoma, lived about a decade each in Indiana and Colorado, and is now happily ensconced on the coast of Alaska. She earned a BA of Letters from the University of Oklahoma and pursued careers in both bookselling and law enforcement before settling in to write full-time. She’s a poet first, and her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals and art books. Her first novel, Parable of Pronouns, was published by Solstice Publishing in January 2018, and her second novel, Bury The Lead, will be released by Black Spot Books in September 2018. She loves to hear from readers, so please feel free to reach out to her over her social media accounts!

About the book:

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Two women is a lot for any man to handle, but when one of them is a child-devouring demon and the other is Eve, Mother Of All Living, Harry Adams really has his hands full. An erotic contemporary fairy tale that follows the reincarnations of Adam and Eve and, of course, the ever-hungry Lilith, throughout time, Parable of Pronouns finds the first dysfunctional family in what may be their final time. Harry Adams and Riann Haava don’t remember who they are, but that doesn’t deter destiny from catching up with them as they struggle to overcome their own demons and save Harry’s son from a fate worse than death.

Parable of Pronouns is available on Amazon as an ebook or a paperback.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I’m fascinated by how the broken places in people meet in others and find in those falling-apart spaces a bridge of spirit. I wanted to write about impossible redemption.

What genre is your book?

Amazon requires it to be classified as erotic romance, but magical realism is much more apt fit.

Do you consider your book character-driven or plot-driven?

What a tough question! It’s plot driven in that there is a specific dilemma that must be answered, but the root cause of that dilemma is the characters themselves, so…

What makes your book unique?

It’s the only modern Adam and Eve reincarnation story I know.

Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?

I’m a pantster, all the way. If I get stuck, I take a minute to chat with my characters and see what’s up.

How do you develop the names for your characters?

Normally, that’s a very different question for me, but in Parable of Pronouns, it was easy. Harry Adams and Riann Haava are the thoroughly modern reincarnations of Adam and Eve – Harry’s last name is an obvious clue, and Riann is Irish for king, Haava is Romanian for Eve. Apt since not only do they reincarnate, they sometimes trade places through time as well.

How do you decide on the setting?

I chose ancient stories that may feel reminiscent to the reader and retold them through the perspectives of doomed characters.

Do you have a writing mentor?

No, but I would have to mention Carol Hamilton, my fourth grade gifted & talented teacher who always encouraged me to write and who entered my poetry in my first-ever writing contest. She never betrayed a moment’s doubt that mine was the artist’s path and that it was entirely doable.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?

I write almost every day. Prose I almost always write at my desk, though occasionally I’ll head to Alice’s Champagne Palace and scrawl off a chapter or two alongside a glass of cider. Poetry I prefer to write in coffeeshops and taverns, but I’ll write anywhere.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Readers are the writer’s other soul. What a reader brings to the page, the way they form the words on their tongue, is what completes the art. Every other soul who meets my words honors them, whether they love the work or hate it. I’m a voracious reader myself, and I’m grateful for every person who offers that little piece of their life to share with mine.

What’s the best way to connect with you?

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CassondraWindwalkerWrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WindwalkerWrite

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078RSGM2Y