Today’s guest suffered a bout with Covid and couldn’t make it. So, I decided to share one of my flash fiction stories.
The award-winning poem Sand Creek will be posted on Thursday, August 4, 2022.
Coming Home will be posted on Thursday, August 18, 2022.
Fifty years ago, Agent Orange covered the young lieutenant from head to foot. Not yet known as a killer, his platoon cursed the mess left by the defoliant. Later, Peter laughed at their ghost-like photo images. Now in his seventies, he mused, I’m just another casualty of the Vietnam War. The doctors gave him six weeks.
I have one last shot at Joe. The best time, late afternoon.
Pete needed an experience he could savor. Only a mile to Joe’s, the old man took his time wandering through the forest of changing colors. He first came here on a spring day before he left for Vietnam. The trees had been shielded by leaves in brilliant shades of green—young and strong, much as he had been. The approaching winter turned the landscape into a strange rainbow of orange, yellow, red, and brown. Pete saw his cold and bleak future reflected in nature’s cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Only I won’t be reborn.
He arrived early, perfect timing for an afternoon nap. Joe would be doing the same. A rock shelf provided enough warmth for Pete to enjoy a brief respite from the pain that came with the cancer.
Pete assembled his gear when he awoke.
Joe had been his elusive quarry for many years. Today might be the day.
Standing in the shallow current, Pete made his first cast. The fly dropped with a loud plop. This won’t do. Joe will never come up for something so clumsy.
Pete’s fourth cast drifted as if on a cloud. His hand-tied mayfly floated to the water’s surface. Joe struck—stronger than Pete ever imagined—much stronger.
Be careful. Work slowly. Joe can break the three-pound test. He has before.
With a skill honed over decades, Pete worked his quarry back and forth, ever closer. Until he slid his net under a still combative Joe, the fish everything Pete could have hoped for in a native Brown Trout—a real trophy—at least eight pounds.
With the compassion of a true sportsman, Pete removed the small barbless hook. He held Joe up to the sky, an offering to the gods. He knelt, and with tenderness bordering on love, Pete gently returned Joe to the swiftly moving water.
This is the best day of my life!
In a few months, it will have been fifty years since the end of the Vietnam War. American Warriors who survived the armed conflict are still dying from the effects of Agent Orange.
My latest thriller, The Unseen, was published in June 2019 by 9mm Press and was a Distinguished Favorite for the 2018 IPPY Awards in the Thriller category and was the winner of the Crime Fiction category of the 2019 NYC Big Book Award.
“Lisa Towles weaves an exquisite tale of deception, ancient scrolls, and kidnapping that spans continents and lifetimes. Beautifully rendered, The Unseen is a must-read for thriller lovers!” (Cat Connor, Author of The Byte Series)
My standalone thriller Choke was published in 2017 by Rebel, and it’s about a bioengineer who develops a cigarette that cures lung cancer. That book was a Distinguished Favorite in the 2017 IPPY Awards and the 2018 NYC Big Book Award in the category of Thriller.
My four previous books were published under my previous name, Lisa Polisar, including Escape: Dark Mystery Tales (2010, Nukeworks Publishing), The Ghost of Mary Prairie (2007, University of New Mexico Press), Blackwater Tango (2002, Hilliard & Harris), and Knee Deep (2001, Port Town Publishing).
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Trusting my writing voice enough to allow it to lead the way. Learning to let go of the reins and not try to control everything is a hard lesson. But I’ve discovered that my best writing comes out when I get out of the way, listen, and let my characters take over.
Plotter or Pantser? My outlining style is like driving with my low beams on. I don’t really plan chapter-by-chapter, but I keep a list of upcoming scenes, so I typically know what to do for the next 3-4 chapters. I often get glimpses of how a book is supposed to end and have no idea how I’m going to get there. And that’s the whole fun! -?
What are you currently working on? I’m writing my first series right now – a California-based thriller series, and I’m about 80% done with Book 3. I’m also writing a new standalone thriller.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Oh my goodness, yes. The Mystery Writers of America NorCal community means so much to me and was an important anchor to help me get through 2020. More recently, I re-joined Sisters in Crime NorCal and have been enjoying their frequent write-ins, including a small group that writes from 10-11 pm weeknights. Both organizations have some really wonderful programming that keeps me connected to the how and why of crime writing.
Favorite books/authors: I have so many favorites it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’ll list four:
• Montana, 1948 by Larry Watson is one of my early favorites. I love that book because it’s about what I care about the most in my books – secrets.
• The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins
• The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte
• The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I think about six months. I wrote my first book when I was 20 after I finished reading the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I wrote that book, called Real Horizons, longhand on legal pads. I wouldn’t allow myself to buy a new legal pad until I’d filled in every inch of the current one because I didn’t want to jinx it, so to speak. That book was never published, but it was one of my most important accomplishments because when I finished it, I could finally say that I’d started a creative project that I actually finished.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I think characterization, in general, can be very challenging. My book The Ghost of Mary Prairie is a heartland suspense that takes place in Grady, Oklahoma, in 1960. The main character is Jake Leeds, a 15-year-old boy. I don’t have any brothers, so I’m still a bit bewildered by that book, and I don’t really know why Jake Leeds’ voice and presence was so strong in my head.
What kind of research do you do? Exhaustive research. Internet research, but that’s top down, so I also try to link up with someone in the field I’m writing about to consult with an actual expert who has more foundational (professional training) knowledge in the field I’m writing about. And before the internet was so widely used, I used to connect with someone from the Chamber of Commerce in whatever area I was researching to ask for maps, feedback, local resources, and people in a community who could answer questions. To me, the most important thing about research is to get a hands-on experience of what I’m writing about.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I feel like I wasted a lot of time, in my early 20’s, trying to be good instead of trying to be me. I read constantly, I still do, focusing on the classics and the masters. In my desire to be taken seriously as a writer, I think I was trying too hard to emulate those masters. In so doing, I think I hindered my authentic writing voice from coming out. So my advice to novice writers is to read a lot, write, and just keep writing to cultivate your unique voice. That’s the voice of your creative passion, the voice that will sustain you.
How do our readers contact you?
My writing website: http://lisatowles.com/
Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Towles/e/B001JS7KWI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1618725756&sr=8-1
My writing blog: https://digitalraconteur.wordpress.com/
Facebook Author Page: Lisa Towles | Facebook
Linkedin Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/lisatowles/
Teacher, Author, and Story Coach
Julaina, please tell us about yourself and your writing.
For the last twelve years, I’ve taught creative writing classes. My attendees have published several books during that time, and I’m always delighted to hold their finished products in my hands. Many of their short stories, memoir-essays, and poetry are in three anthologies that I published on Amazon.
Genre/genres you write in: My stories are in the creative non-fiction, science fiction, and women’s fiction genres. Two of my novels are in the editing stage: Hada’s Fog and Norman in the Painting. The book I’m planning to publish by the end of this year, 2020, is My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t.
I understand you were interviewed by Dona Kozik earlier this week. Please tells us about that. The interview is about me and the first chapter of my book, My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t which will be published in January 2021. This chapter is published in an eBook called Rising Stars, A Kindle Sampler by Donna Kozik. There are 4 other featured authors’ chapters in the book. https://amzn.to/33HjqRk. It was fun being interviewed by Dona. The interview is on YouTube at https://youtu.be/7LRK59ISU7s.
Most people know someone who has cancer. In 2020, the estimated number of new cancer cases is 1.8 million. I am writing my mom’s experience with this rampant disease to tell about the effects of crucial delays in diagnosis and treatment decisions. I also share how we dealt with it physically and emotionally. Our story could help other people who have a loved one and feel alone in the struggles to keep that person alive.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels? In 6th grade, I wrote a story that my teacher took away from me because I was writing during his lessons. He wanted to check out what I was writing. He returned it without any comment.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? It took about four years before any of my stories were accepted for publication. Then I won awards for stories in a few contests.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? My stories and essays are traditionally, and hybrid published depending on where I submitted them.
I indie published three anthologies that are on Amazon. The first one is Written Across the Genres for readers to experience a variety of genre examples. The second anthology is Captivate Audiences to Create Loyal Fans. I accepted some stories the members of my writing class wrote to illustrate techniques that improve writing skills.
The third one, published in 2019, is called The Choice Matters about how some choices we make change our lives.
Where do you write? I like to write in my home office. Many of my writer friends write at a café, but I find it too distracting.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? Silence is golden for me to concentrate on my writing.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? Probably 50% of my characters are based on people I know, but I change how they look, their backstory, etc. so they aren’t identified. I’m a pantser, so my plots write themselves.
Describe your process for naming your characters? My process for naming my characters is that I listen, and the name comes into my mind quickly.
Real settings or fictional towns? Usually, my settings are real places I’ve been to, but I fictionalize the names. The sci-fi novel I’m writing takes place in the small town where I live, but it goes way beyond as the story progresses.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read? The best book I’ve read is Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ve read all of her books, and I was delighted when she came to a local book shop to promote her newest book, and I had my picture taken with her.
What’s on the horizon for you? I will be publishing my latest non-fiction book, My Mother’s Cancer ~ What Worked and What Didn’t by the end of the year. I was chosen as one of five authors who had a chapter published in an anthology, Rising Stars, by Donna Kozik, available on Amazon now. My first chapter about my mother’s cancer, was accepted.
Also, I’m launching my online writing course: “Tell Your Irresistible Story” in a couple of months.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I enjoy teaching writing classes and supporting the members in their writing goals.
Contact Information: You can find me at https://www.timetowritenow.com