#TenThingsYouMayNotKnow – About #GwenM.Plano

Today,  I’d like everyone to welcome one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet online to The Write Stuff:  my good friend and fellow author, Gwen M. Plano. Gwen,  the floor is all yours!


Thanks so much, Marcia. It’s a pleasure to be here today!

Ten Things You May Not Know About Me
by Gwen M. Plano

  1. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, I told my mom that I wanted to be a priest when I grew up. She explained that I couldn’t because I was a girl. This upset me, but decades later, through unexpected circumstances, I ended up studying with seminarians and earning a degree in theology and a degree in pastoral counseling – the same degrees that priests earn. 
  1. Dad taught me to drive when I was 11 years old. He thought I was mature enough and, on the farm, this was an important skill. As it turned out, the following year, I had to drive my mom to the emergency room (about 13 miles away). This action probably saved her life. 
  1. While a student at the University of San Francisco, I saw the Grateful Dead perform in Golden Gate Park. This was before they were famous. Attendees just sat on the grass or danced ecstatically. I did both, and the Dead remain my favorite band. 
  1. One evening my boyfriend and I walked through the Panhandle. We didn’t get far before flashing lights stopped us. Two police officers got out and questioned us about what we were doing. They concluded that we were clueless and harmless and told us to get in the cruiser. They drove us back to campus and instructed us not to walk at night in that area. This would be my only ride in a police car. 
  1. That same year, I enrolled in Speech. For the final exam, students were allowed to choose their topic to present to the class. I decided to do something different. I brought my Gibson to the classroom and sang an original song. To my surprise, everyone loved it – even the professor. She said this was a “first” for her. 
  1. In 1970, I attended grad school at Purdue University. I lived in a farmhouse about 15 minutes away from the campus. One night I saw two UFOs, as did the locals. Terrified, I called the police. They asked if I had been drinking, which I hadn’t, then they told me to call the airport. That responder told me to call the Air Force Base, which I did. The Airman said, “We haven’t seen anything unusual.” I still wonder about his response. 
  1. I lived in Japan for five years, and during that time, I became proficient in Chanoyu (Tea Ceremony) and Ikebana (flower arrangement). I also studied calligraphy. These ancient arts are a form of meditation, and their silence remains with me today. 
  1. In the 1990s I was an administrator at a Jesuit university in Connecticut. On weekends, I’d take groups of students into the inner city, where we worked in soup kitchens and other sites. When school was out, I led student volunteers into poverty stricken areas of Mexico. We lived with the people and helped as we could. One trip is particularly memorable. It was during an election and riots broke out in the area and guns were used. I huddled with the students, and thankfully, the next day was quiet. 
  1. On the yummy side of the world, I love dark chocolate and when I write, it is my constant friend. And…I never count these calories. 
  1. To conclude, nature is my greatest solace and I bring it into my home – with plants, crystal clusters, and images of beautiful settings. Being in nature calms my soul.

BLURB:

The Culmination, a new beginning is the third book in The Contract thriller series. After an assassination attempt on an Air Force base in northern California, tensions mount. Heads of state meet to craft a denuclearization agreement. The meetings between these nuclear powers take a murderous turn. A nefarious conspiracy re-emerges and leads the characters into the heart of the Middle East, where they encounter the unexpected and find a reason for hope.

A review by Mae Clair: 5 out of 5 stars
A Political Thriller with Strong Characters

Book three in a series, The Culmination reads easily as a standalone novel. A political thriller, that addresses denuclearization, tensions in the Middle East, and the fate of refugees, much of the story echoes current headlines. The plot is complex involving multiple heads of state, along with the strategical give and take of political maneuvering on a global level. The author clearly put an extensive amount of research into this book, and it shows. Adrenalin-fueled scenes alter with more cerebral moments, and even a few romantic interludes.

I especially loved the evolution of the relationship between the two central characters, Margaret Adler, VP of the United States and Ivan Smirnov, acting President of Russia. During the course of the novel those titles change, and we learn more about each, including richly developed backgrounds. I was thoroughly invested in the difficulties Margaret and Ivan faced, both on personal and political levels. Their scenes together were among my favorites of the book. There’s also a young refugee child who factors into the story and who stole my heart.

A unique combination of character-driven and plot-driven fiction, I recommend this compelling tale to readers who enjoy strong character development and complexly-plotted intrigue.

You can Buy The Culmination HERE


Author Gwen M. Plano

Gwen M. Plano, aka Gwendolyn M. Plano, grew up in Southern California and spent most of her professional life in higher education. She taught and served as an administrator in colleges in Japan, New York, Connecticut, and California. Gwen’s academic background is in theology and counseling. She is now retired and lives in Arizona with her husband.

Gwen’s first book is an acclaimed memoir, Letting Go into Perfect Love. Her next three books (The Contract co-authored by John W. Howell, The Choice, and The Culmination) are political/military thrillers. Action-packed, they span the globe and involve multiple Heads of State and the threat of World War III. Her conclusion – only love can change the fate of humanity.

When Gwen is not writing, she’s out and about in the beautiful northern Arizona mountains, where she finds inspiration.


You can find Gwen’s Books on Amazon here:

Author Page for Memoir
Letting Go Into Perfect Love
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Author Page for Thrillers
The Contract
The Choice
The Culmination

You can reach Gwen on Social Media here:

Blog
Twitter
Facebook

 

 

 

#This&That&TheOtherThing – #Update – #Excerpt – #TheEmissary2:ToLoveSomebody

THIS

Thought I’d take a break from physical labor and let you guys know that my new Time Management Plan is working great, so far. Both of my venues were amenable to having me visit every other month, so that alone cut my presentation workload in half. And I’ve scheduled my regular series posts as far in advance as possible, freeing me up a bit more each week. #GrannySays is now scheduled through the end of December! WooHoo! 

THAT

Speaking of scheduling, just want to let you all know that I’ve still got some dates open for both my #TenThings series, and my #GuestDayTuesday series. If any of you are interested in doing a guest post for either one, here are some upcoming dates you can choose from:

#TenThings: July 6, August 17 and 31, and September 14.
#GuestDayTuesday: July 12 & 26, August 9 & 23, and September 6 & 20

That’s as far ahead as I want to schedule for now. If any of these dates will work for you please email me so I can hold it for you. While I may not be running these quite as often as I was, I still want to keep them going when I can. I love having guests here on TWS, and hope you’ll take advantage of one more opportunity to get your books “out there.”

THE OTHER THING

Just for kicks, I thought maybe I’d share an excerpt with you today from one of my books. I may do this now and then going forward, but not on a strict schedule or anything. Just when the spirit moves me and I have time to do so. Hope you enjoy this one, which is from the second novella in my Emissary series. This scene features the Archangel Azrael putting the first two human Emissaries to the Angels to work with his idea of what rigorous physical training should be. Enjoy! 

The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody

Three Weeks Later, on the Same Swelteringly Hot Deserted Island,
Two Exhausted, Frustrated Emissaries Dreamed of Escape,
While One Ginormous, Cranky Angel Rethought His Entire Career. 

“TWENTY-FIVE MORE and you may take a brief swim break to cool down. Then we will focus on the ground exercises.”

“Push-ups!” Dodger snarled, sweat streaming down his face. “Just call them freakin’ damn push-ups, why don’tcha?”

Jake counted off the last of his jumping jacks then flopped down on the sand, too tired to argue much less walk down to the water’s edge. Dodger dropped right beside him, every bit as exhausted and frustrated. The boy’s chest heaved, and Jake knew exactly how he felt. Time to speak up, perhaps.

“Azrael, we’ve been at this all afternoon. It could be time to call it a day. There’s such a thing as heatstroke, you know.”

“Too late,” Dodger muttered. “Already there. My blood is boilin’, and my eyeballs are melting.”

The angel snorted in disgust.

But Dodger wasn’t done with Azrael. “This is crazy. Why do we have to exercise like this, anyway? Our job is mostly mental stuff, but you’ve got us on a workout schedule elite military units couldn’t keep up with. I don’t get it, man.”

“I find it difficult to believe we are about to have this same conversation, yet again, but fine. If that is how you wish to spend your break, instead of cooling off in the ocean, I shall do my part. A strong body and a strong mind go hand in hand. It is my belief that both mental and physical training will enhance and strengthen your ability to do your job as emissaries. Do I need to keep saying this?”

Jake sat up, raising his hands over his head in surrender. “Peace, Azrael. Come on, Dodge. Let’s go cool off before he changes his mind.”

They slogged across the wet shingle and waded out just far enough to be able to sit shoulder-deep in the calm, green water.

“We’re gonna die here on this island, you know,” Dodger muttered.

“You do remember he can hear us, don’t you?”

“Let him listen. I don’t really care anymore.” He paused, then yelled out, “You hear that, Azrael. I don’t care! I’m two steps away from dead, here, thanks to you.”

Jake thought about reminding Dodger he couldn’t die, but then figured the boy might decide continuing to live in these conditions would be even worse—and he might be right.

“Okay, kid. I’ll talk to him. Even with the extra strength we’ve been given as emissaries, we have limits, and it’s probably time to ease back a little.”

He spent a few minutes going over how to approach Azrael, then they headed back across the sand. The angel was nowhere to be seen.

Shocked, they stood under the palms looking this way and that. Surely, they hadn’t made the angel angry enough for him to abandon them in this remote spot? Had they? The only food and shelter they had was what Azrael had been providing. Hell, they could be in another dimension, for all they knew! Alone, they really might die here.

Dodger was visibly shaken, chewing on his bottom lip as he studied the shoreline in each direction, and Jake could offer no reassurances. He hadn’t a clue what they should do, other than wait. Just when he began to think maybe Azrael really had abandoned them to their fate, a voice behind him said, “Looking for me?”

Fighting mad, Jake whirled around, only to see the angel standing beside an elegant dining table set for three. A white and gold tablecloth, china, sparkling stemware, and silver serving dishes from which mouth-watering aromas rose, awaited them. He gaped in complete silence, and amazingly, so did Dodger.

“If you two are ready to cease hostilities, I am ready to admit I may have been pushing you somewhat harder than necessary. My intention was to enable you to become the best you could be, but it is possible I overdid it a bit. I am aware that at least one of you has a very high regard for food and hope this meal will prove I have not been trying to kill you. Please accept this as my peace offering.”

He paused, waiting for their reactions, and Dodger rewarded him with half a smile. “Well, it’s a good start, anyway.”

“Smells like a delicious start to me,” Jake added.

Azrael pulled out their chairs. “Come. Let us enjoy our food. We have much to discuss about what you’ll be doing next.”

Dodger stopped. “Next as in what kind of torture you’re plannin’ to put us through tomorrow?”

“Next as in I think it is possible your first round of training might be complete.”

Jake grinned and punched Dodger in the arm. “Hear that, kid? We made it through this grueling process and have survived to tell the tale.”

Dodger balked. “I heard the words ‘possible’ and ‘might’ in that sentence. Did we finish, or didn’t we?”

Azrael’s face grew serious. “You have completed this portion of your training, though there may be more to come at a later date, if needed. And you surpassed all of my expectations, by the way, which were quite high. I am proud of you both, and I am also amazed it took you until today to mount a serious rebellion. Now, I hope you will join me in a celebratory dinner. You have earned it.”

They ate a meal 5-star restaurants could only dream about serving, then toasted the sun as it slid down behind the emerald waves. For the first time in nearly two weeks, their conversation was peaceful and relaxed. It consisted of things that didn’t involve sweaty workouts under the hot sun, nor laborious mental exercises focused on helping them control their ever-expanding powers. And it was exactly what they needed.

The meal ended with a dessert so chocolatey and decadent, it nearly made Dodger swoon, then Azrael waved his hand, and voila! Dishes, glassware, leftover food, tablecloth, table, and even the chairs disappeared in a blink.

“Handy trick,” Dodger observed.

Azrael simply smiled, and Jake marveled once again at the healing power behind that gentle, pleased expression. They were, indeed, blessed—even before Azrael whisked them back to where they’d left their truck, delivered a quiet benediction over them, then rose into the starry heavens.

They stared into the night sky for some time after the angel’s departure, silent, until Dodger’s soft comment. “Sometimes I forget what a wonderful and holy miracle he is.”

The night breeze carried the gentlest whisper of a reply. “I love you, too, Dodger.”

Jake put his arm around his boy’s shoulder and they climbed into the back of their big semi, crawled into their bunks, then drifted off to sleep. In the morning, they’d be ready to hit the road again, better prepared than ever to help those who needed them.


You can download The Emissary series here:
The Emissary 1
The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody
The Emissary 3: Love Hurts


And that’s it for today’s update. Hope you enjoyed the excerpt,
and please email me if you want to set up a guest visit between now and September.
Have a great afternoon!

#GuestDayTuesday – Featuring #Children’sAuthor #Mike Allegra

Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing an author new to The Write Stuff, Mike Allegra. Mike writes charming children’s books, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy getting to know him better. In fact, I recommend checking out Mike’s webpage later from the links below, and from there, his blog. Trust me –it’s wonderfully funny! And on that note, let’s get right to today’s post. Take away, Mike!


Thanks, for having me today, Marcia!

The Dusting Distraction

I am a children’s book writer. I am also a house husband. As a house husband, I have to do House Things like the shopping and the cooking and the bills and the cleaning and the laundry.

Lots of laundry, actually.

I’m still not certain how all that laundry materializes every day. Sometimes my son goes through two sets of pajamas in one night. Sheesh, kid, if the long sleeve jammies are too warm in the spring, just put them back in the drawer and put on the short sleeve jammies! That’s all you have to do. What you don’t do is throw the long sleeve jammies in the hamper. Wearing long sleeves for 20 minutes doesn’t make them dirty!

But I digress.

My point is, even if your house is small, the chores add up. Just when you think everything’s under control, there’s another shower to scrub or lunch to make or a whatever-it-is that needs a bit of whatevering.

In some ways, this is good for me. I’m kept busy. Idle hands are the devil’s blah blah blah. More importantly, my wife and son appreciate what I do for them.

On the other hand, chores give me a pretty dang good excuse to not write children’s books.

Writing is hard. When I’m between projects or I’ve hit a rocky patch in a story or I just can bear the thought of doing my jillionth rewrite, my attention drifts to my toilet and I soon discover a newfound sense of purpose.

How can I be expected to write, I ask myself, when that porcelain isn’t glittering?

This is a problem I think a lot of writers have who work out of the house instead of, say, in an office environment. At home there is no cleaning crew to whisk that cobweb off the ceiling. If you don’t go for the Swiffer, the web is stayin’ there. That nasty microwave in the breakroom is not someone else’s responsibility, it’s yours, because it’s your microwave and that breakroom is actually your kitchen. Home is where the heart is; it’s also where the distractions are. And that is how procrastination happens.

I think I know what you might be thinking right about now. I think it, too, sometimes: Is it really procrastination if you’re not farting around on YouTube watching baby goat videos? Is it really procrastination if you’re replacing one task with a different task? Is it really procrastination if what you’re doing instead of writing is something that really, really, really needs to get done?

Yeah, it kind of is.

Running a house is an important job. Crazy important. But writing is a job, too. And if you make a living at it like I do (or wish to make a living at it), writing also needs to be deemed very important. Time needs to be set aside for it. This isn’t easy. I’ve been writing children’s books since 2012 and I still need to remind myself that my Dyson vacuum (The best vacuum in the history of ever!) can, under specific circumstances, be just as insidious a timewaster as posting photos of toaster waffles on Instagram. 

It’s about balance. Emptying the dishwasher (or, fiiine, watching a couple of YouTube videos if you must) in the middle of your regularly scheduled writing time can be a nice palate cleanser. Breaks go a long way toward relieving some of the mental anguish of a Bad Writing Day. Just don’t let those breaks pull you away from the writing for too long. Set an alarm and jump back into the world of letters. Because if you don’t find the time to write your story, your story will never get written.

And don’t worry, a dirty toilet is patient; it’ll wait for you to finish that draft.

As for me, the last chapter of my middle grade novel is taking a lot longer than I had hoped. I need to devote more time to my writing. In other words, my boy is gonna have to learn the simple joys of going to sleep in sweatpants. That’ll teach him.


Author Mike Allegra

Mike Allegra is the author of 17 books for children including the picture books Scampers Thinks like a Scientist (Dawn, 2019), Everybody’s Favorite Book (Macmillan, 2018), and Sarah Gives Thanks (Albert Whitman and Company, 2012). He also wrote the chapter book series Kimmie Tuttle (Abdo Books, 2021) and Prince Not-So Charming (Macmillan, 2018-19; pen name: Roy L. Hinuss). Scampers was the winner of Learning Magazine’s 2020 Teacher’s Choice Award and was selected for inclusion in the Literati Kids subscription box. His story, “Harold’s Hat,” was the winner of the 2014 Highlights fiction contest and was published in the July 2015 issue.

His new picture book, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles (Page Street Kids) will hit store shelves in October 2022. You can preorder it now!

You can Pre-Order a Hard Copy of Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles HERE

A Few More of Mike’s Books to be Found on His Author Page

You can reach Mike on Social Media here:

Website
Facebook
Amazon Author Page

 

#TenThingsYouMayNotKnow – About #JanSikes

Good Morning, Everybody. Today, I’d like you to welcome author Jan Sikes to The Write Stuff. Jan is part of the wonderful team of writers over on the Story Empire blog, and she’s going to share a very interesting #TenThings list with us today. I know you’ll enjoy learning all these goodies about her! Jan, the floor is yours!

***

Thanks for having me here  today, Marcia! 


Ten Things You May Not Know About Me
by Jan Sikes

  1. My maiden name is Smith. Growing up my sister and I were always referred to as those Smith girls. Smith is ranked as #1 when it comes to common last names. 
  1. I was born in Hobbs, New Mexico, just five miles from the Texas border. I like to consider myself a Texan since I’ve lived most of my adult life here. 
  1. I followed an Indian Guru for many years in the seventies. I embraced the entire way of communal living and was even the house mother for a while. Every night I would make four quarts of yogurt and bake homemade granola. I slept on a two-inch foam mat on the floor and shared a room with five other women. It was an experience I’ll never forget. 
  1. I was a total vegetarian for over ten years. 
  1. My biggest pet peeve in life are people who don’t pick up after their animals. I live in an apartment complex and there is nothing I hate worse than having to avoid stepping in it. My second biggest pet peeve is the way the electric company trims trees along the power lines. They take big chunks out of the middle leaving an unsightly gap in the tree. It makes me feel sorry for the tree. 
  1. I lived in Austin, Texas during the hippie era, and rode on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. 
  1. The farthest I’ve ever traveled is to Rome, Italy. I went there in the seventies to see the Guru. My oldest daughter was two. She got her head stuck between the bars that lined the steps at the Coliseum. They had to rub butter on her head to get her unstuck. 
  1. I was fifty when I started learning to play guitar. You are never too old to learn something new! 
  1. I have lived in five different States – New, Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Colorado. 
  1. My paternal grandparents were part of the big exodus to California in the thirties. They lived the Grapes of Wrath story. My sister and I plan to write that story someday.

You Can Buy Jagged Feathers HERE

BLURB:

Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.  

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive, but find an unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?


Jagged Feathers REVIEW QUOTES:

“One of the top books I’ve read in a while. I’d give it more sparklers if I could. The author had me from page one and didn’t let me go until the end. She starts off hard and fast, then things kind of work out and the book goes into a “safe” lull, which is where most romantic suspense stories would end. But no. She doesn’t let you rest as the danger ramps up again before our hero and heroine are really safe and have a satisfying ending that leaves you happy for them.”  V. Burkholder

“This was a perfect blend of PTSD, guilt, bad guys, friendship, acceptance, and embracing the spiritual realm. I absolutely loved this story and can’t wait for the next rune couple”.  D.L. Finn

“What an amazing and phenomenal book. Jagged Feather’s has become my favorite suspense book I’ve read in 2022. Jan Sikes has a talent that mirrors the authors, that’s on top of the Best Sellers List.”  T. Lucas

“Jagged Feathers is a riveting romantic suspense I couldn’t stop reading. From the very first page, my heart went out to Vann. He’s been through so much and deserves someone to love. Nakina is a woman on the run and her plight tugged at my heartstrings. The POV and descriptive narration are deep, emotional, and immersive which make for an incredible reading experience. The more I read, the more invested I became in the characters and storyline. The plot is well-conceived with equal parts action, romance, and suspense. Jan Sikes writes a riveting story with lots of pulse-pounding moments.”  N.N. Light


Author Jan Sikes

Jan Sikes is an award-winning Texas author who has been called a wordsmith by her peers. She openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author. But she had a story to tell. Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation. You simply can’t make this stuff up. It all happened. She chose to create fictitious characters to tell the story through, and they bring the intricately woven tale to life in an entertaining way. She released a series of music CDs to accompany the four biographical fiction books and then published a book of poetry and art to complete the story circle.

And now that the story is told, this author can’t find a way to put down the pen. She continues to write fiction and has published many short stories with a series of novels waiting in the wings. She is a member of The Author’s Marketing Guild, Writer’s League of Texas, RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB (RRBC), RAVE WRITER’S INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHOR (RWISA), and sits on the RWISA Executive Council.


Jan’s SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

WEBSITE
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