Author Spotlight #6: David Tatum

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on proudly self-published author David Tatum. You know I’m not really a fan of long introductions, so let’s jump right in.

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Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

The cover of The Merrimack EventI’m hoping my next book will be The Merrimack Event, my first novel-length foray into the military science fiction\space opera genre and the first book in the Shieldclads series. The series focuses on a hand-picked crew of students from the Earth Alliance Naval Academy who, when a real war breaks out during a war game, are the only people capable of striking back.  As you might guess from the title, this book draws parallels with the Battle of the Monitor and the CSS Virginia (aka the Monitor vs. the Merrimack), though the series is nothing even close to an allegory of the U.S. Civil War.

I’m just waiting on cover art for its release, at this point, which SHOULD be delivered either later this month or early next.  It could easily have been my first book, but it’s been in the literary equivalent of development hell for the past two and a half years.  First my intended editor vanished on me, then I couldn’t find a cover artist, then an old draft got saved over the edited copy while attempting to make a back-up (I’ve lost more manuscripts to problems making back-ups than manuscripts I’ve saved WITH back-ups), and finally — right before my intended launch at a sci-fi convention I was attending as a guest — I had to reject a piece of cover art I’d spent months working with a cover artist to get right.

Hopefully the new cover art will work out — the artist just sent me a mock-up and it looks good, so far.  I managed to find a guy who may not regularly be a cover artist, but does have a pedigree to suggest he’s capable of it; I mean, he’s worked on things like concept art for Heroes of Might and Magic, background art for Starship Troopers: Roughnecks, and this tiny little sci-fi franchise called Star Wars.  With luck, I’ll have the book out before this interview is posted.

As far as where to find information about it?  Well, I have a website just for my books, but that’s about to go through a complete overhaul and isn’t being updated at the moment (I’m overhauling it, in part, because I’ve lost the ABILITY to update it).  For the next few months, you’ll have better luck finding info about this and my other writing projects from my blog, which I update (irregularly) on Sundays.

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

My best-sellers are the two books in my Law of Swords series. They’ve had reasonably good success, and I’m working on the third book now; they’re my money-makers.  My favorite book, and the one I personally feel is my best to date, is The Kitsune Stratagem, the first book of what should become the Inari’s Children series.

Cover of In Treachery ForgedWhen I had completed In Treachery Forged (the first Law of Swords book), and was getting it ready to send to publishers, I went to a convention with a publisher and several editors I was interested in submitting to.  One of those editors, in a panel discussing cliché in fiction, said that if he ever saw another manuscript with Elves and Dwarves and Dragons, he felt like he would pick it up and throw it across the room.  In Treachery Forged was filled with Elves and Dwarves and Dragons, so I knew submitting it to that publisher was a no-go.  If I wanted to go with this publisher (which, in the end, I didn’t, but I didn’t know that at the time), I would have to write something else… something which had no Elves, Dwarves, or Dragons anywhere in sight.

So I started looking for substitutes for these fantasy staples, pulling mythological creatures from around the world to take their place.  I researched Kitsune from Japanese mythology, Wulvers from Shetland Island folklore, and Bunyips from aboriginal Australian folk tales…and several other creatures in less prominent roles from those and other mythologies and folklores.  I tried to make all of these creatures relatable to an audience used to Western-style fantasies while keeping them as true to those mythologies as I could.

Cover of The Kitsune StratagemI love the world that I built for The Kitsune Stratagem.  I love the history I’ve developed, the characters, the bestiary, the social structure, etc.  The plot is pretty good, too, in my humble opinion.  It hasn’t sold as well as my other books, but I am still going to be revisiting this world at some point in the future, both to write novel-length sequels and short fiction set in its history.

What genre do you wish you could write?

I have designs on writing more fantasy and science fiction, a YA Spy Thriller, and even some non-fiction, but curiously I don’t think I can write in my favorite genre to read: Historical fiction.  I love the sea-faring novels of Patrick O’Brian and C.S. Forester.  I can get wholly immersed in the world of the American Revolution with the collected works of Kenneth Roberts.  I have a lot of favorites from this genre…but I worry that, to write those books RIGHT, I would need to invest far more time in research than I have.

Cover of Worlds Enough Fantastic DefendersNot that I haven’t been considering it.  Heck, I’ve been researching for an “age of fighting sail” historical novel off and on since…well…before I began my first serious attempt at a novel.  For a novella I wrote that appeared in a recent anthology (A Gun for Shalla, from Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders, published by Tannhauser Press), I built a world that might allow me to use some of that research…but, it turns out, not much.  Maybe I’ll be able to revisit that world, some day, or I could even do a full-fledged historical novel if I’m ever satisfied with my research, but I have a lot of other projects which must be completed, first.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in researching your book(s)?

Honestly, it’s mostly the mundane things that surprise me the most, which don’t usually make interesting discussions. I mean, I know that you can do just about anything in a fantasy novel, but having lemonade appear in certain types of fantasy settings can still be anachronistic if it APPEARS out of place.  Especially if the climate is such that lemons just wouldn’t exist in that area…but I was surprised to learn that lemons COULD have existed in that climate.  I didn’t wind up using it, because it would throw my readers, but they could have.

But it’s even more surprising when researching the fantastic and discovering a very mundane real-life cause.  For a short story I wrote, I wanted to touch on hard science a little (I wouldn’t call the story hard science fiction, overall, but I researched it as if it was).  I was fascinated to find that, for example, a type of engine commonly found in science fiction (ion drives) exists and has been tried in working models for over fifty years.  It’s practical for use in small, unmanned probes, providing a constant if very low rate of acceleration… but to be made practical for human flight, it would need a relatively low- mass to high-yield energy source.  Similarly, the technology exists for an “Iron Man”-like power armor suit…if sufficient man-portable power supplies existed. Etc., etc. Many sci-fi technologies I wanted to employ, that had been employed in science fiction for decades, all already existed!  But they were impractical, because we still need a relatively low-mass, scalable reactor that could provide sufficient power for them.  Or, well, we could get by with something even more mundane:  Better batteries.

Do you support the Oxford comma?

I’m a supporter of the Oxford comma, two spaces after a period, and the abolition of the Chicago Manual of Style (favoring Webster’s, Words Into Type, or even a house style over CMoS). I cite CJ Cherryh, Heraclitean River, and common sense to support my views.  I’ve been working on a “house style guide” for myself for a while, now, so that I can favor all of my favorite quirky opinions on grammatical style, but it’ll be a while before it’s done.  In software parlance, my style guide is in an “alpha” version, and I don’t have much time to spend on it, but one day I’ll get it done.

Did you have a security blanket as a child?


What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

“Hey, would you like me to send you a million dollars?” would be nice.   Actually, I’m not sure if there IS one specific question I’ve always wanted to be asked.  If you avoid questions that delve too deeply into politics, religion, and other topics that tend to end friendships, that’s really all I ask.

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And there you have it. All you sci-fi readers, if you want to know more about David Tatum, make sure to check out his website. You can learn about his various books hereThe Merrimack Event, mentioned above, is now on sale.  It is currently exclusive to Amazon, and is only available as an eBook, but a print edition is forthcoming.

Have you read any of his books before? What do you think of them? Leave a comment below. If you’d like the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Author Spotlight #5: Subhan Mohammad

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on emerging author Subhan Mohammad. You know I’m not really a fan of long introductions, so let’s jump right in.

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Subhan MohammedLet’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

I have recently posted a few short horror stories on my Facebook account. You may get the idea about me on my profile, not so sure about it though. I’m also working on a fictional horror/thriller story nowadays.

Would you rather your book(s) be filmed for a movie, or a tv series?

My intentions are to write screenplays for movies and TV series.

What genre do you wish you could write?

Horror, thriller.

Do you write in a linear or non-linear fashion?

I write in a linear fashion.

If you could have an accent from anywhere in the world, what would it be, and why?

I would prefer Arabic accent, since it has the access to French, German, Spanish and many other European accents.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

What is your education level? Don’t ask really!

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There we have it. Subhan is straight to the point, no extra fluff.  It will be interesting to see what kinds of books he writes in the future.

If you’d like to have the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Just Ask

We all need help at some point. No one can do everything entirely on their own, no matter what they may think or say. But sometimes it’s hard finding help. You don’t want to bug your friends. Or you’re worried about looking silly/stupid. So you plod along on your own, hoping Google will magically reveal the answer.l

Here’s my advice: just ask. Post something on Facebook, either on your feed, or in a group dedicated to the thing you need help with. Or try Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. Call a family member (family can be blood relations, or super close friends). Talk to your neighbor. Ask a professor, or a coworker. Just ask.

You’d be surprised how often people are more than willing to help. It seems like they’re just waiting for a chance to pass on knowledge. As an added bonus, anyone who makes you feel bad, in any way, about asking questions, lets you know that they aren’t someone you really want to associate with.

And once your question is answered, return the favor. Answer questions for other people. Take time to respond to posts. Let your friends and family know that they can ask questions without feeling bad. The more you put good out into the world, the more good you’ll get back.

Now, I’m not saying there won’t be jerks, but if you practice a bit of due diligence to make sure you’re asking in the right places, they will be few and far between. And, for the most part, you’ll get a lot of great help and advice.

So set aside your nervousness, your fear, your worry, and reach out to someone, or multiple someones. We live in an age where you can connect with anyone in the world. Make use of that ability.

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Author Spotlight #4: Christopher Kokoski

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Christopher Kokoski, author, speaker, and national trainer. You know I’m not really a fan of long introductions, so let’s jump right in.

Book banner for Christopher Kokoski

Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

First, thank you for inviting me for an author spotlight. I write both fiction and nonfiction but my newest project is a how-to book for writers called Query Letter Swipe File: Exact Words, Phrases and Templates to Write Query Letters, Get Literary Agents and Publish Books for Life.

I think the title does a pretty good job of describing the book, though I’d add that the book is the result of 20+ years of intense study to excavate the forces, tactics and language that drives literary agent acceptance. It’s been described as “Mad Libs for agented authors”.

The Query Letter Swipe File will go on preorder on September 23, 2017 with a ton of limited time bonuses (Synopsis Swipe File, Author Bio Swipe File, Online Marketing Swipe File, Nonfiction Query Letter Swipe File, Author Website Swipe File, Book Review Request Swipe File and more! See all the bonuses here). If you don’t care about all the bonuses, the book will also be on free promotion in early October. You can learn more about me, my books and get a free chapter of the Query Letter Swipe File at

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

Since I write both fiction and nonfiction, I’m going to cheat. While I love all my novels, Wicker Hollow is probably my current favorite. I love the rich story world and unusual cast of characters (including the fallen angel who changes significantly over the course of the story).

The Query Letter Swipe File is my favorite nonfiction since I believe it has the capacity to be a game changer for so many writers who struggle with query letters. I love helping other writers fulfill their dreams. That’s why I’ve written over a hundred query letters for other authors in the last six months using the book. The book works and I can’t wait to share it with others when it releases in September.

It’s actually the first in a nonfiction trilogy (if those exist) about getting agented. The second, Agent Magnets: 7 Psychological Forces that Drive Rapid Agent Acceptance, should be out by year’s end and the third, Pitch Craft: How To Get An Agent With Your Very First Query Letter, in early 2018. Signing up for my newsletter – Writing Secrets – via my website is by far the best way to keep up to date on when these books will be available.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in researching your book(s)?

Query Letter Swipe File CoverAwesome question. I’m going to “cheat” again by sharing the most surprising thing I learned from while researching my trilogy of nonfiction books (since I researched them all at the same time).

  • Query Letter Swipe File: I learned that there are patterns of words, phrases and templates for the most successful letters (success = more requests for partials, full manuscripts and offers of representation). The book is 121 pages of every word, phrase and template for fiction that I found in 20 years.
  • Agent Magnets: What surprised me most is how much these drives impact agent decisions behind the scenes – nearly all of them without the agent’s awareness. It’s mindboggling!
  • Pitch Craft: I was shocked when I learned that there were 6 different structures to successful query letters (instead of only one that I kept hearing from all the “experts” and over 40 techniques to write the perfect pitch. Again, I’ve studied queries forever and hadn’t heard of most of them. I have no idea why this information isn’t already out there (I sure could have used it years ago – so I’m finally going to even the playing field for all authors). For example, I discovered what I call the First 50 technique. In short, it means that a great pitch usually only covers the first 50 pages of your novel. Why? Because that’s when the inciting event happens, the main goals and conflicts are set up and the main characters are introduced. Most information beyond the first 50 pages is overkill in a query. There are no hard-and-fast “rules” but this is a helpful guideline. So when writing your query letter, focus on describing ONLY what happens in those first 50 pages. That’s just ONE of the techniques and patterns I found. There are so many more.

Would you rather be invisible, or able to read minds?

Read minds for sure! I want to meet the person who would rather be invisible. Although invisibility would be cool, I think reading minds has much more potential. Why? I think I could make a boatload of money while also doing a whole lot of good in the world.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

I love this question. Ok, here we go: What’s the biggest thing you have ever lost? Things, actually, as in plural. I once lost two full-sized cars. I drove both of them, parked both of them and subsequently lost BOTH of them. The story behind it is long and embarrassing, so here’s the conclusion: whatever you do, DON’T lend me your cars – but definitely DO read my books! 🙂

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If you want to know more about Christopher Kokoski, make sure to check out his website. If you’re interested in his upcoming book, make sure to sign up for his newsletter.

Have you read any of his books before? What do you think of them? Are you looking forward for his nonfiction trilogy? Leave a comment below. If you’d like the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Friday Reads #5: Pride and Prejudice

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on Indian Captive.

Pride and PrejudiceJaneites are nothing new. Worldwide, there are innumerable fans of Jane Austen and her works. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m a true Janeite. I haven’t been to bath; don’t know everything about Jane Austen’s life; and haven’t even read all of her works — I know, bad author. But I have read a couple, including Pride and Prejudice, and I’m certainly a fan of them.

I discovered Pride and Prejudice fairly late, in my opinion. Austen wasn’t required reading at my schools, and no one I knew was a Janeite, so I kind of always assumed her books were just romance novels. Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.

I no longer recall why I decided to read Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps I was on one of my “I need to read the classics” phases. But, I finally did so after moving to Virginia. And, what do you know, I loved it.

Pride and Prejudice 1995In the handful of years since then, I’ve only read the original book one more time. However, I’ve watched every filmed version I could get my hands on (the Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth version is the best), and I’ve read a metric butt-ton of “alternate versions”, “re-writes”, and “sequels” (I’ll just call them published fanfiction) ranging from fantastic to horrendous.

Clearly, Pride and Prejudice left its mark on me. But why?

The love story sucked me in. Let’s be honest. At first read, I’m sure there are many of us who would love to have a relationship like the one Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam have at the end of the book. Of course, on further contemplation, it completely falls apart, because us modern women would not do well with the expectations of females in the Regency era. But why consider things like facts in our fantasies?

Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth BennetThen there’s the lovely, feisty, Elizabeth Bennet who defies convention to forge her own path and follow her heart. She’s learned, self-confident, and possessed of an inner beauty that shines forth so as to make her outwardly beautiful as well. She’s that girl you either love or loathe, and I love her.

And, of course, you have Jane’s — wow, that’s weird to write, better call her Miss Austen — writing style. Many people have explained it far better than I ever could, but, suffice to say, it’s amazing.

Since reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I’ve learned more about Miss Austen’s writing and life. It’s what comes from reading published fanfiction and various articles and books about her. I’ve learned about the “secret messages” hidden in her writing, and I hope to learn more when I get to Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.

It’s all given me a better appreciation for Miss Austen’s works. They’ve become that much more powerful. And, Pride and Prejudice has become that much better. It’s not ‘just a romance novel’. It’s so very much more.

Have you read Pride and Prejudice? What about the “published fanfiction”? Have you watched any of the video versions of it? Can you quote the opening line of the novel? Leave a comment and let me know. And come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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Author Spotlight #3: Amy M. Ward

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Amy M. Ward, the mother of mother/daughter young adult writing team, Amy M. Ward and Olivia Cayenne. You know I’m not really a fan of long introductions, so let’s jump right in.

Amy M Ward & Olivia Cayenne

Photo of Amy M. Ward and Olivia CayenneLet’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

My teenage daughter and I have written two Young Adult Novels, Secrets Above and Secrets Below. They are the first two in a series of four. We have a FB page, Amy M. Ward & Olivia Cayenne, and we also have a website,

Would you rather your book(s) be filmed for a movie, or a TV series?

I would like to think that our books are good enough to be made into a movie. It would be nice if they were made into a movie because I know there are so many people that lack the ability to comprehend. My son has high functioning autism. He can read but cannot comprehend. All of his schoolwork is from videos because that is the only way he can comprehend. I would like for our books to become movies so he can enjoy them. However, I fear what Hollywood would do to our characters and plot.

Can you read other things when you’re working on a book, or do you have to stick with writing?

I read while I write. What’s more, I read multiple books while I write. I like to read at bedtime but I don’t want the lamp to disturb my husband so I have a book on my Kindle that I read at bedtime. I always have a paperback in my purse so that I can read whenever I am waiting for my kids to finish whatever practice or rehearsal they are at. Then, I have a hardback in my reading nook that I like to sneak into whenever the chores are done and the kids are doing their schoolwork.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?

If I won the lottery, I would pay for my dad to get new knees. We haven’t gotten to do nearly enough hiking together because his knees are failing him. He would get new knees and then he and I would go on a backpacking trip.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

If I was to interview a successful author, I would want to know where their stories come from. So, I think that is what I would want to be asked. Mainly because I would like to compare answers. Maybe my stories don’t come from the same place as theirs or in the same way…

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There’s a quick spotlight on Ms. Ward. I don’t usually post additional comments to theses spotlights, as I don’t want to take any light away from the author, but I want to mention, in response to her final answer, that simply by having published stories, you’re already a successful author.

Cover of Secrets Above     Cover of Secrets Below

If you want to know more about Amy M. Ward and Olivia Cayenne, make sure to check out their website and Facebook page. If you’re interested in their books, Secrets Above and Secrets Below, maybe you’d like a signed copy?

Have you read either of their books before?What do you think of them? Are you looking forward to the next installment of the Secrets series? Leave a comment below. If you’d like the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Author Spotlight #2: Sonya Jesus

It’s Author Spotlight time! If you want to know more about how the series got started, go check out the introduction post.

Today the spotlight is on Sonya Jesus, fledgling author of romance/suspense. Let’s jump right in.

Photo of Sonya Jesus

Let’s start with the most important. What’s your most recent/next book, and where can we go to learn more about it and you?

Cover of Knights After My Heart

Well, I only have one so far, but I have a bunch of different ideas brewing. Knights After My Heart is the first book in the Knights Series. It’s a new adult romance/suspense novel told from two points of views. Amelia is a regular college student who is trying to follow her heart and failing miserably at it, while Hawk dedicates his life to following Amelia. For two years, he has strategically planned and maneuvered every aspect of her life as if it were a game of chess and he’s starting to lose control of the board.

Throughout the series, the more determined Amelia gets, the more Hawk unravels. He will do anything to protect her, even if it means protecting her from herself. You can find out more about it (and me) on Facebook by following @authorsonyajesus  or on my website (should be up by mid-August)

Do you have a favorite book/story among the one’s you’ve written? Why is it so special to you?

Technically, I’ve written most of it, but I haven’t finished it yet. Getting into this particular character’s mindset is emotionally challenging and draining at times. It’s definitely not a feel good novel or a little bit of light reading. It’s a rip into my heart, search the deepest darkest part of my soul kind of story. I have to be in a certain emotional space to be able to write for this book and a lot of times I end up in tears because I’m emotionally attached to the characters. Of course, it’s not all dark. I honestly believe there is light even in the darkest places. If you know where to look, there are a few streaks of hope between the chapters.

Do your characters talk to you?

Even though this will probably make me sound crazy, I will confess—All the freaking time! I swear, it’s like a hotel in my head sometimes. They don’t stop talking until I put their words on paper and if they do stop that’s usually when I have writer’s block.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

 This is a really creepy question, but since I often write about death in my books, I have thought about this. I would love for it to say, “Here lies a keeper of dreams.” However, I would prefer a family mausoleum.

What is one question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

 “If you were a fruit, what kind of fruit would you be?” It’s a random question, but I’ve only been asked it one time, and I will never forget it. My answer then was “Pomegranate.” I think my interviewer had a hard time keeping a straight face since it was an atypical answer, but he threw me for a loop when he asked, “Why?” Somewhere in the middle of all my nervousness and anxiety, I managed to give him a logical answer (albeit with a shaky voice). “Because, like my heart, it’s composed of hundreds of pieces.” In all honesty, I still believe the answer, and to this day, I still call my interviewer and friend, Pomegranate.  Funny how a random question, with a stressed response, spurred a lifelong friendship.

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There’s a quick spotlight on Sonya Jesus. I’m happy she took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for me. If you want to know more, make sure to check out her website and and Facebook page.

Are you looking forward to reading her upcoming book, Knights After My Heart? Leave a comment below. If you’d like the spotlight turned on you, send me a message on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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Friday Reads #4: Indian Captive

Welcome back to another installment of my Friday Reads series, setting you up for a great weekend of reading. If you haven’t already, take a look at last week’s installment on The Creation of Anne Boleyn.

As a child, my mom preferred to buy me award winning books. I suppose it was so she could be certain I was reading decent, and appropriate, material. Newbery Honor book, Indian Captive, by Lois Lenski was one of them.

Paperback cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

If I had to guess, I’d say I read it somewhere around 15-20 times. Surprisingly, the simple paperback survived all those reads and was still in fairly decent shape when it got left behind upon my move to Virginia. I wish I’d brought it with me, as it got lost when my parents moved to a new house.

For a while after that, I contemplated buying a new physical version (and I still might if I can find a one of the earlier hardback editions), but I never got around to it. Luckily, to my everlasting joy, it was released as an ebook.

eBook cover of Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

I quite happily purchased it from Barnes and Noble and have read it another 4 or 5 times since. So what keeps drawing me to a children’s book?

First and foremost, it is, quite simply, a fabulously written story. Molly is a very strong female character, but with a vulnerability that makes her believable and relatable. She has moments of intense strength, and moments where she breaks down almost completely.

As a child with major health issues, my life often followed that pattern. I’d be great one day, then back in the hospital for who knows how long the next. But if Molly, who was suffering so much greater things than I was, could keep going, then so could I. She survived, and thrived, and I would too.

Perhaps it’s silly that I found such inspiration in a story so completely different than my own, but I didn’t really think of that. I focused on the fact that Indian Captive was based on a true story. Someone had really gone through what I was reading, and had come out a stronger person because of it.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

In addition to the fabulous writing, the illustrations are just beautiful. There is a softness to the style that I loved then, and still love now. I still take the time to look at each image as I come to it. I just wish the pictures were bigger in ebooks.

Illustration from Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate as an adult is that Lois Lenski made the Seneca characters likable and relatable as well. It would have been so easy for her to portray them all as monsters, but Molly’s friends and adoptive family were kind, understanding, and complex. You can’t help but like Little Turtle/Turkey Feather, Grandfather Shagbark, Shining Star, Earth Woman, Beaver Girl, and Molly/Corn Tassel’s other friends. There are, of course, less likeable characters, but, that’s true of life in general.

The way Lois Lenski wrote made me want to learn new languages, experience other cultures, and make new friends. I understood that it was horrible how Molly ended up as Corn Tassel, but once she was adopted into her Seneca family, her experiences, her life lessons, were beautiful. She learned so much, she understood that the average Seneca person was not very different from the average white settler, and that was a very important lesson that has stuck with me over the years.

Have you ever read Indian Captive or a book like it? Is there a book that taught you a lesson that has stuck with you through the years? Do you still read children’s books? Leave a comment and let me know. Come back for next week’s installment of Friday Reads for another book that has had a strong impact on me.

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2017 DC Pen Show #4

Alright, this is it, the final installment in my 2017 DC Pen Show series. I can’t believe that when I set out to write my overview, I thought it was all going to fit in one post. Silly me.

Allow me a moment to geek out over Brian Goulet commenting on and tweeting about yesterday’s post (W-O-W!) and Brian Gray commenting on — and Edison Pen Co retweeting — my post about getting a pen from them. That felt pretty awesome.

Ok, enough fangirling. Yesterday’s post ended with heading off to check out the rest of the large room after my epic meeting with Brian Goulet.

First stop was the Modern Chocolatier booth. Because chocolate. They had little sample pieces cut for people to try (unfortunately, without signs, so you didn’t know what you were tasting). The piece I tried was really tasty, with an intense chocolate flavor. If they were local, I’d probably check them out. But my money for the day was earmarked for pens and ink, so I gave them a pass.

My friend, Anthony’s, purchase more than made up for it, though. He bought two, maybe three, boxes of four, and very much enjoyed them all.

Right next to the chocolates was Ryan Krusac’s booth. I was still in awe over meeting Brian Goulet, so I didn’t think to take a picture, unfortunately.

Once Anthony was done buying his chocolates, we went back out to the hallway and finish seeing the tables there. There were several woodworking tables with pens, boxes, etc. Then there were several ink tables, including Vanness Pen Shop and their “wall of ink”.

From there we went back into the large room and just started walking up and down the aisles, seeing what there was to see. Once again, we ended up losing each other and seeing things at our own pace. It was probably a good thing that what money I had left of my pen show budget wouldn’t have covered another pen.

Photo of John M. Russell pens

John M Russell had these amazing pens made from circuit boards. At the Anderson Pens table, I managed to pick up a bottle of Tudor Blue. I’d gotten a sample from Goulet Pens and fell in love. As if the name isn’t awesome enough (you know I love me some Tudor goodness), the color is beautiful, and a great fit for my Prisma 88.

Jim and Anthony caught up to me around this time, and we visited the Visconti Table. Their pens are beautiful, and I’ve sort of had my eye on the Homo Sapiens for a while. I did a lot of research, and the varied reviews, plus the lack of an ink window, made me decide against getting one. But I picked it up while I was at their table, just to know how it would feel in my hands.

I really shouldn’t have done that. It was SO SOFT, like a kitten. I just had to pet it. I understand, now, what people mean when they say it feels warm. Most pens feel cool, even if just slightly, when you pick them up. The Homo Sapiens doesn’t. It’s like it’s the exact temperature of your hand. If they ever add an ink window to it, I’m sold, but until then, I’m on the fence.

Down another aisle, I came across some interesting wooden pens with watch faces by MikesPenTurningZ. Crazy Alan’s Emporium had several tables full of notebooks and various types of paper. I came close to getting a couple, but reminded myself that I already have four notebooks waiting to be used. Jim snagged a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Ama-iro, though.

He tried to get a good look at the Franklin-Christoph table on the last row, but it was so crowded, he decided to try again later. A bit further down that last row, I was entranced by Barry Gross’ table. His recycled watch parts pens were so cool, especially with the bright blue showing through all of the gears. He explained that the watch faces are real, but the gears and other parts come from much less expensive pens in order to keep the prices from becoming astronomical.

Photo of Barry Gross watch pens   photo of Barry Gross shark vertebra pens   Photo of Barry Gross shark vertebra pens

He also had some fossilized shark vertebrae pens. Those were beyond cool. I wish, so much, that I’d had some more money left, because I want one of those pens. He gets certified, fossilized shark vertebrae from dealers and incorporates them into acrylic before turning the pen parts. He also had beetle wing and cigar label pens. Just some really unique stuff I hadn’t seen done ever before. Kudos to Mr. Gross.

Just past Barry Gross’ table were a couple of tables with REALLY fancy/expensive pens. You know, the kind that come in big display boxes. Those ones where if you have to ask how much they are, you probably can’t afford them. I really liked the Visconti Jacques de Molay that comes with a mini Templar sword and signet ring. Out of curiosity, I looked it up later, and, I could pay my mortgage for a couple of months for the price of it.

We finished up the last bit of the large room and exited to check out the tables in the small hallway in front of it.There was a table with notebooks, and a guy selling pen cases advertising the idea of a pen room instead of a wine cellar. Just across from him was the Yafa table. At the time, I didn’t realize it was Yafa. I just saw a bunch of Stipula boxes and decided to talk to the nice man that was sitting there.

I explained the problem I’m having with my Stipula, and Jim chimed in with the problems he’s having with his Stipula Etruria Rainbow Demonstrator. Jim’s pen was a showman’s model he got on sale at Bertram’s Inkwell, so it’s been well-loved. It’s really no surprise that it has a couple of issues.

The lovely gentleman, whose name I can’t recall now, asked to see the pen and carefully scrutinized it. He said the feed was a bit crooked. With permission from Jim, he adjusted it. As I understand, the adjustment helped, but it still gets a little cranky when flexing.

He also took a look at my pen. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it, technically. He separated the tines, just a tiny bit, and it seems to have helped a lot. I still get a very occasional skip on the downstrokes, but nowhere near as much as before. I won’t lie, for writing, my new Edison Pearl is smoother, but the Prisma 88 is just so pretty!!!

The man at Yafa reminded me that Stipula pens have lifetime warranties and that if I have any further problems, I can send it to them for servicing. We’ll see how Prisma’s writing improves/holds up over the next few months.

After Yafa, we decided to head up to the ink testing room. It’s not really what I was expecting. It was very quiet, like a library with about 6 tables were set up in a U shape. The inks were grouped by brand. The concept is fabulous, but the execution was a bit lacking. Very few ink bottles have the color listed on them, so most of what was available to test had no indication of the color name.

Jim and I ended up staying for about 20 minutes to create Col-O-Ring cards for the Pilot Iroshizuku and Kobe inks, as well as a few of the Organics Studio inks (the ones I was sure of the names of) before leaving. Of course, I realized about a day later that the Organics Studio Emily ink was Emily Dickinson, not Emily Brontë. Oops.

A post shared by James Crawford (@pensloth) on

Jim wanted to try the Franklin-Christoph table again, and this time it wasn’t quite so crowded. It took him a while to decide between pen bodies. He was stuck between a pearlescent purple and marble-esque black and white. The guy standing next to him explained to us that the guy who poured the acrylic for the black and white pen also does the acrylics for the Kanilea Pen company. Having a back story made the decision. Jim likes having stuff that has a story. He ended up getting the black and white Omnis with a 1.5 stub calligraphy steel nib.

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While he finalized the purchase, and waited to have the nib fitted, I headed over to the Sailor table to get a bottle of ink. It took me a while to decide between Fuji-Musume and Pȇche. The Sailor table was pretty busy, so I scooted around to the side to try to catch someone. One of the guys working the Sailor booth was having a hard time understanding the question a customer was asking. Language barriers are a bitch.

Once they worked things out, I was able to catch his attention and get a bottle of Jentle Pȇche. While he got my change, I decided to give my (very minimal) Japanese a try. I’ve only just started the lessons on Duolingo. I had a furious mental battle over whether it would be appropriate to go with ありがとございます (Arigatōgozaimasu) or if I should stick with ありがとう (Arigatō). I couldn’t remember if the longer version was specific to a situation, and I know Japanese can be a very formal language, so I went with the safe (in my mind) shorter version.

It was nice watching his eyes light up and as he answered with a very sincere “You’re quite welcome.” It can be easy to forget how much it means to people to make a little effort. I asked Jim about it later, and he told me the longer version is a more formal thank you that is ALWAYS appropriate, whereas the shorter version is very informal, more like a “thanks”. Live and learn, I suppose.

I went back to the Franklin-Christoph table where Jim was still waiting to get his nib fitted. Thankfully he wasn’t having it tuned, as that line was a 4+ hour wait! So I searched out our friends to see about lunch options.

A couple of them were going to stay and continue going through the show, but Anthony was ready to head out for lunch. I collected everyone up so that we could say bye to those who were staying, and show off our purchases. Jim joined us once his nib was fitted.

We made our way along an aisle toward the exit, and got distracted by the Anderson Pens table. Jim ended up finding the Blackstone Daintree ink he’s been wanting. I found lots of interestingly named Noodler’s and De Atramentis inks (Mata Hari’s Cordial, Widow Maker, Jeanne d’Arc, Madame de Pompadour, etc.), but without really knowing the colors, I wasn’t willing to commit to a whole bottle.

With some quick good-byes to our friends and a last look at the large room, I left the DC Pen Show feeling as though we’d not allotted enough time or money to the experience. Next year, hopefully, we can go both days. Maybe when I’m not so amazed and overwhelmed by the show, I’ll remember to take more (and better) photos to share. That said, here’s my haul from the pen show, and our combined ink haul.

Photo of my 2017 DC Pen Show haul     Photo of my 2017 DC Pen Show combined ink haul

I had a blast at the 2017 DC Pen Show and look forward to repeating the experience many times in the future. Did you stick around for my entire overview? Leave me a comment to let me know what you thought. Were you there this year? If not, did my overview convince you to go next year? Am I infecting you with the fountain pen virus? I hope so! And come back tomorrow to read the next installment of my Friday Reads series!

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2017 DC Pen Show #3

Welcome back for the third installment of my experience at the 2017 DC Pen Show. I finished yesterday with spotting Brian Goulet of The Goulet Pen Company. Allow me a few moments for some backstory here.

I was really getting into fountain pens, mostly because you have such a rainbow of inks to choose from. Hooray for color! If I recall correctly (it’s been a VERY busy year), I discovered Goulet Pens when I was looking for pen subscription boxes. I found some posts about their Ink Drop ink subscription box. Unfortunately, it had been a few months prior, but there was a silver lining. Goulet Pens sells ink samples! So I could test out any ink I wanted for a couple bucks. Needless to say, I quickly placed an order.

It was soon after that I discovered their YouTube channel. If you have any interest whatsoever in fountain pens and haven’t seen their channel, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you have seen their videos, I’m sure you can understand why I was hoping to meet Mr. Goulet. He’s so personable. But it goes beyond that.

On June 21, I ordered the super limited edition Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88 from Goulet Pens. It was an impulse buy, but after seeing the photo of it on Instagram, I just fell in love. And I have no regrets. After I placed my order, it occurred to me to ask for pen #19. After all, I’d spent so much money, I might as well ask for my favorite number. Not only did I get a quick reply assuring me that it wasn’t a silly request, a few days later, I got pen #19!

Photo of my Stipula Etruria Rainbow Prisma 88

I realized, after seeing it in person, that pen #19 was doubly special. Not only was it my favorite number, but the text marking it pen 19/88 meant my birth year was basically on the pen. How cool! I was floored by the customer service (and my luck) and wanted to personally thank Brian for running such a wonderful company.

Which brings me back to the pen show. I’d been keeping an eye out for the Goulet Pens shirts. I saw a few people wearing them, but when I finally spotted Brian, I tapped Jim on his shoulder and we made a beeline for his location.

He’s popular, people. Like REALLY popular. And he’s so personable that when you start talking to him, you don’t want to stop. Which is how we ended up waiting to talk to him. And waiting.

His wife, another Rachel, was standing with him, and I spoke to her for a while. She is equally lovely, which makes perfect sense, really. I told her about my Stipula experience, and thanked her for her part in running such a great company. We traded a few pleasantries before lapsing into silence as I waited, mostly patiently, for Brian to finish speaking to the two guys he was conversing with.

I listened in on their conversation here and there and was amazed when Brian mentioned that their new warehouse is probably about the size of the ballroom we were standing in, because that place was enormous. I seriously contemplated interrupting simply to say thank you, as there was no sign of their conversation slowing down anytime soon.

Jim was determined to wait out the conversation, but I decided to take a stroll down one of the aisles to break up all the standing I was doing. Jim was still waiting there when I got back. And Brian was still speaking to the same two guys. They’d started discussing business.

Even Jim was ready to admit defeat, so we wandered off together down a different aisle. Inevitably, I suppose, we made our way back to Brian. Rachel was no longer there. She was probably enjoying the pen show while he talked shop.

I was determined, this time, to wait for my turn to speak to him. His crowd had grown to include another lady who was listening in, and occasionally contributing to, the discussion.

Brian acknowledged that we’d been standing there for some time, which was rather nice. After a few minutes, the lady started dominating the conversation, and the two guys left to take in the show.

An older man walked up at one point and interrupted so he could thank Brian. But he just took over the conversation completely. It was masterfully done, really. I took mental notes. Thankfully, he didn’t stay long, and the lady had left, so Brian turned his attention to us.

We got to thank him, for the customer service at Goulet Pens, for the YouTube videos and what they’ve taught us, for being a genuine person, for just about everything we could think of. We let him know we’ve sent every person we’ve infected with the Fountain Pen Virus to his channel to learn more. And he was absolutely lovely, letting us get the hero worship out.

With the general thank yous out of the way, I made sure to thank him for Goulet Pens getting me pen #19. That is when I saw him really come alive. I could tell he was really happy to hear such a personal story of how his company did well. He seemed to share my joy in receiving a pen that seemed almost destined for me.

He wanted to know how I liked the pen and how it was working for me. It was the perfect opening to take care of my other reason for coming to the show. My Stipula is cranky, and I told him so. I explained how it skips on the downstrokes sometimes, and how I had such a hard time getting it started when I first bought it.

Photo of my Bag of HoldingHe explained to me that his own Stipula got cracked because he over flexed it. He was trying to describe how to check for, so I decided to just hand him my pen. When I unzipped my bag of holding to get my pen, the handful of people around us went nuts. They all wanted to know what brand it is and where I got it. It’s TopFox, and I got it from Amazon, if you’re wondering. Even Brian seemed intrigued by the number of pens it can hold.

Brian carefully scrutinized my pen and determined I hadn’t cracked anything. He asked if he could write with it (like I’d say no), and pulled out his Traveler’s Notebook to jot down a few scribbles. Of course it worked perfectly for him.

I mentioned I’d found its sweet spot recently, so he handed me the pen and asked to see how I write with it. I wrote in Brian Goulet’s notebook! I really should have done something silly like “Rachel was here” so that 10 years down the line, he and his wife would have been trying to remember why she wrote in his notebook. But, I always get my best ideas after the fact.

photo collage showing how my Stipula pen skips as I write

I did pull my notebook out to show him examples of how my Stipula skipped, and he told me to let him know how it does in the next few months. He promised that if it kept having problems, Goulet Pens would make sure everything got sorted so that it was the perfect writing machine it should be.

And he meant it. It wasn’t just lip service. And I can’t quite tell you how much that meant. If he didn’t already have a customer for life, he’d have a customer for life. I carefully put my pen and notebook away, and I knew I just had to ask.

Photo of my and Brian Goulet at the 2017 DC Pen Show

“Could I get a photo with you?” With a grin, he agreed, and I asked my friend to take the picture. My proof of meeting a “celebrity”. And I’ll always have the story of writing in his notebook to go with it.

With a final thanks for everything, we left Brian to the people waiting to talk to him and went to investigate the table that had chocolate.

Have you ever met someone you consider a celebrity? How about one of your heroes? Leave a comment below and let me know. Come back tomorrow to read the last installment of my 2017 DC Pen Show experience. And check out my Instagram feed for some sexy pen porn of my Edison Pearl and Stipula Prisma 88.

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