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MWN Author Spotlight with Eric B. Willis @EricBWillis

Today, the Motown Writers Network is putting author Eric B. Willis in the spotlight.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Detroit. I now live in Waterford, Michigan.

Tell us your latest news?

I’m currently involved with two family history writing book projects and a third one that’s waiting in the wings. My goal is to publish my second book towards the end of the year. Also in July, I will be attending a Willis family reunion in Hampton, Virginia and looking forward to sharing and receiving feedback about my current book.
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as a child. However, around 1997, it was reignited shortly after I began researching my family history. It was my desire to leave a legacy–to share the information that I’ve discovered about my family history–about their triumphs and tragedies, and how their survival in America continued to exist despite their tremendous odds as a black race of people with African, European, Indian and Asian ancestry.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After I began writing about my family history and black history.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I didn’t know much about my Mississippi paternal lineage–my heritage. Also, there was an oral family historical account that was passed down about two brothers from France who traveled to this country, but I wanted to know more.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I used all four writing styles in my book–primarily expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive to a smaller extent.
How did you come up with the title?

The first part of the name The Willis Handbook came about over twenty years ago during a non-related discussion at a Willis family function–which was before I became a genealogist and began writing the book. The second part of the name relates to intersecting related memoirs and historical events into a family’s genealogy or a person’s biography in order to assist with reconstructing their lives and to produce more of a connection with my readers. Also, adding photographs, historical records, pedigree charts, and maps helps me to achieve this goal as well.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want to encourage people of all ethnicities to become family historians and writers. Afterward, they would be able to reach out and teach their current and future generations that many of their ancestors and relatives–being aware or unaware of God’s presence and guidance–did experience many successes in the midst of their sacrifices and failures.

How much of the book is realistic?

The non-fiction book not only chronicles 168 years of my family history, but it also includes related and extensive information about African American and American History–covering such events as the American Civil War, early Black communities and educational institutions, medical histories and epidemics, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Its use is also a genealogical and scholarly reference source. It’s like a treasured heirloom meets an encyclopedia.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes to both. The work details many experiences in my life, my family and other black family lives, and the lives of those who have had major influences–directly or indirectly–and from a local, state or national perspective.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Besides the Bible which also includes an extensive genealogical record, books that are inspirational and history-related.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

It would be a challenge to just narrow it down to one writer. So, I would have to choose Alex Haley, John Hope Franklin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Darlene C. Dickson–my first writer’s group instructor.

What book are you reading now?

Grace of Silence: A Memoir by the National Public Radio (NPR) journalist Michelle Norris. It’s about her family’s complex legacy and understanding those who reared us.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m interested in reading Allyson Hobb’s book A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life as a part of my research for my current writing project.
What are your current projects?

I have two active writing projects– a book about my maternal cousin who was involved with racial passing–living his life as a white Jewish man and a family history about my maternal lineage. I’m also assisting a client with writing and publishing his family history.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

The Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection staff was very helpful to me early on in my research.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, I do–in addition to being a genealogist, an artist, and an occasional actor.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

That’s a good question, but I would not change anything.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

As a child in elementary school, around the forth grade, I was given an assignment to create a hardcover children’s story book with illustrations. It was about a boy’s involvement with various sports. I remembered the covers being made of cardboard and wrapped in a vinyl sheet material with a sport-like pattern.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

My second non-fiction book begins with my genealogical quest to uncover the truth behind my maternal great grandfather’s birth in the segregated town of Huntsville, Alabama during the late-19th century. His mother is black but his father is white. However, along the way, I discovered a cousin who was involved in racial passing. As a result, my goal is to take the reader on a journey through an array of notable jazz musicians, the religion of Judaism, American union leader Jimmy Hoffa, renowned entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., and a discussion of race.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I really love the research phase of the writing process, but it can be very time consuming–reviewing documentation and artifacts, reading, interviewing and traveling.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I actually have two favorite authors–John Hope Franklin and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Being a descendant from families with deep southern roots and my interest in history, I enjoy reading the works of these noted American historians, educators, and authors of southern history and racial politics.


Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

As a genealogist and writer, I have to travel to various locations to research and obtain non-digitized information that’s not available via the Internet. I enjoy pouring through old photo albums, records at court houses, libraries, etc. If possible, I prefer to travel and conduct face-to-face interviews for gathering information for the book.


Who designed the covers?

I’m an artist as well, so I designed my book’s covers.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

From a sentimental perspective, having to remove the last chapter because the size of the book had surpassed 900 pages. The chapter consists of information I’ve accumulated over the years during my genealogical research of my Willis family and during the time of the book’s completion, I was not able to establish to my satisfaction the people represented therein were related to my family. However, there is a possibility that there may be some Willis familial connections, but additional evidence is required.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Besides the wealth of information about my family history and my culture’s history, I’ve learned about the existence of so many other family members across the country–what a blessing.


Also, consistently dedicating some time each day towards the project kept me engaged which eventually led to its completion after ten years. Some of the days consisted of one to several hours of researching (which took on various forms), writing or both. A mixture of researching, writing and sharing contributed to my excitement level.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice is to devote at least a half an hour to the writing process even if it’s involving researching for material. Research other successful authors within your genre to determine what contributed to their success while also maintaining your own sense of writing style. Connect (in person or online) with informative writer workshops in your region. In reference to researching and writing your family history, begin with interviewing your older relatives first because once they make that transition–that valuable information may be forever lost.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? I truly appreciate your support. Also, I believe it’s important for us to know and share our family histories–to maintain that connection with our past, present, and future generations–and to learn from the past, live in the present, and build for the future. To know our heritage is like a tree with roots.


  • Name of Author: Eric B. Willis
  • Name of Book: The Willis Handbook: An Intersection of Genealogy, Memoirs and History of a Black American Family – 1835-2003


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MWN Author Spotlight ~ Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson @JFF0628

JenniferThis week’s MWN author spotlight is on Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson!

Jennifer Fisch- Ferguson has been writing and publishing fantasy stories since 2003. Publishing credits include short fiction, writing contests and novels.
She attended the Eastern Michigan University and graduated with a B.A in African American History and promptly went to work with AmeriCorps on a literary initiative.

She went to the University of Michigan and got her Master’s degree in Public Administration in 2008 and while she finished writing her thesis, also got a Masters in English – Composition and Rhetoric in 2009. She recently is working on her PhD at Michigan State University in the field of Writing and Rhetoric. She has been teaching collegiate and community writing classes since 2003 and loves the variety and inspiration her students bring.

She currently is finishing her trilogy and dutiful writes on her blog space about her journey.

She lives in the Midwest with two amazing sons, one coffee supplying mate and acts as staff-in-residence to one cranky cat.

Where are you from?

Born in Detroit, but currently just south of Flint, MI
Tell us your latest news?

Book 3 will launch in November of 2015 and complete the story.
When and why did you begin writing?

I have always loved writing.  In fact I used to sell short stories in high school to my friends- with them starring in romantic escapades.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I always been a writer- an author… the moment I hit publish in 2013.
What inspired you to write your first book?

I love werewolves but I think they have been misrepresented- so I strove to tell my view.
Do you have a specific writing style?

I think it depends on the project- my urban fantasy tends to be much more packed and cerebral. My paranormal romances tend to be lighter.
How did you come up with the title?

laboriously – I hate coming up with titles. However it is an urban fantasy about werewolves- so I figured something with moon would be good.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

There is no such thing as normal… life is what you make of it.
How much of the book is realistic?

The locations are very accurate and some of the situations have been formed from experiences.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not really and I certainly do not sing opera
What books have most influenced your life most?

Octavia Butler for sure.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Nisi Shawl- I had the fortune of speaking to her and interviewing her and she is just amazing.
What book are you reading now?

The Psychology of Batman :D
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I am a part of an indie group online, so I have read many of them.
What are your current projects?

Book 3 in the series and my new paranormal romance series – oh yea finishing this dissertation too.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

My editor Artie is amazing! Despite the middle of the night texts when we are working on a project questioning why I do such things to my characters – he is more supportive than I could have hoped for.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes! Between teaching and writing and book coaching- writing is my life.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No, but in the first book I had a two week time frame right in the beginning that I would shorten.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I always had stories to tell. They just all happened to be fantasy in nature.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

In Follow the Moon (book 3) Kama has some choices to make.  She learns new truths about herself and the people she knows.  And as she finally feels secure with herself- an old encounter comes back to haunt her.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Finding the time to get it all down. I have so many stories in my head that I want to tell.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Octavia Butler, not only did she buck convention and wrote in a genre that didn’t really want her. Her stories sucked me in at age 8 and even still I find new and great things when I reread them.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I try to do book signings and shows when possible. I would love to do more, but what I have now is good.
Who designed the covers?

I did the layout. Bryan Syme did the art.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Not so much in the writing- I brainstorm all my works with my husband exhaustively.  The hard part is introducing people to urban fantasy that have no idea what is it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Get on a schedule! I write every day for good or bad, but knowing that I have to write each day gets the work done.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t worry about word count- get into the habit of writing daily for a specific amount of time. Also- treat it like a job not a hobby. And invest in a good editor- a good developmental editor.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Authors love feedback and interaction.  I am active with my blog and facebook/twitter and yes- I do answer.

Howl at the MoonEnter The Moon







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MWN Author Spotlight ~ Linda Anger @TWCinMI

This week’s MWN Spotlight is on Linda C. Anger!

Linda C. Anger has lived and worked in metro Detroit, Michigan all her life. Her poetry and fiction has been published nationally in venues such as “Mused: The Bella Online Journal,” “Still Crazy Literary Magazine,” and “Almost Touching: A reader for women and men.”

Linda is the president and owner of The Write Concept, Inc., a marketing communications company founded in 2000. Her corporate clients have included DaimlerChrysler Corporation, HAVEN, The Royal Park Hotel, The Community Foundation of Greater Rochester, and Demp Coaching. Business articles have been published in Black Engineer Magazine, Profiles in Diversity Journal, and MultiCultural Law Journal. Visit

Learn more about her creative work and publications at

Where are you from?

I was born at Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital in Detroit, grew up in Orchard Lake, and have lived in the Rochester area most of my adult life.


Tell us your latest news?

My book “Sweeping the Floors in the Full Crumb Cafe,” which is a collection of poems, stories, and essays, has a modest following. I am working on a self-help book based on a blog I kept over the course of a year of chemotherapy. I am just completing two years as president of Detroit Working Writers, and will step into the presidency of Toastmasters Walsh College Troy in July.


When and why did you begin writing?

I was nine years old, was taunted by the other kids because of a physical issue, withdrew, and turned to books and notebooks as an escape.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

When I was nine, I realized how much I loved to read and tell stories. That’s when I decided to be a writer, and once I made that decision, I was one.


What inspired you to write your first book?

Poetry was my initial genre, and was my focus until about five years ago, when I began to write short fiction pieces. Poetry came from daily existence. Stories came when I was mature enough to understand different aspects of life.


Do you have a specific writing style?

People tell me I have a strong voice. I only know that I speak / write my mind.


How did you come up with the title?

“Sweeping the Floors in the Full Crumb Cafe” – in what became the introduction to this volume, I wrote about the “teeter-totter” of life, and fulcrum on which it totters or rests. This brain of mine turned it into a metaphorical place, which became the Full Crumb Cafe.  “Sweeping the Floors” is the first in what I intend to be a series of Full Crumb Cafe books.


Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Every poem or story I write has a message.


How much of the book is realistic?

The poems are based on my life or my realizations about life. The stories sometimes are based on a real person or experience.


Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

See question above.


What books have most influenced your life most?

Too many to list here!  Anything by Anaȉs Nin, Hermann Hesse, Napoleon Hill


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Hermann Hesse and Anaȉs Nin


What book are you reading now?

“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern – for the 4th time

“White House Ghosts” – about the relationships between the US Presidents and their speech writers

“Mrs. Poe” – a novel based on the story of Edgar Allen Poe & his mistress


What are your current projects?

The self-help book is my focus as I wish it to be completed and published by spring 2016, but I continue to write poetry and personal essays.


Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Detroit Working Writers


Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. I have made a living as a copy writer for over 15 years.


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?



Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

See question #3


Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I can, yes.


Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Time is always an issue. Because I spend my workdays writing for other people, it is sometimes difficult to switch off my business brain and give my creative brain free rein.


Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I have many favorites, as noted in the earlier question. What I love about Nin is the sensuality of her work. The woman can describe a leaf in such a way that it becomes erotic.  Hesse’s work is heavily spiritual, and Hill’s work is serious and practical. Morgenstern (The Night Circus) has an ebb and flow that is remarkable – this is the book I wish I had written!
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?



Who designed the covers?

I did. My business is marketing communications; I am trained as a book compositor (layout and typography), and graphic design.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

See the question above about challenges


Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

In addition to producing my own book, I have ghostwritten or edited quite a few others. I learn something about content development, layout, and production from each project.


Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up, and don’t ever think your first draft is your finished draft. Write each scene from at least three different perspectives and find the one that drives the story forward.


Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

One of my writing champions, Margo Lagatutta, used to say, “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?”  I write, partially, to understand what goes on at the depths of me. If the things I learn or struggle with have meaning to you, I am honored.

Full Crumb Cake

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Author Feature ~Ericka Stafford

Where are you from?

I was born and raised right here  in Detroit Michigan and still glad to call Detroit my home.
ericka Stafford II
Tell us your latest news?
My latest news would be my second novel which is part of trilogy which just dropped on amazon last week of February it’s available on ebook and the title is Looks Like Love Feels Like Hate.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing about ten years ago but have been published since September of last year. To be truthfully honest I started writing on a whim I mean I have always been in love with the written word even at a very young age so I guess writing was the next natural step one day instead of reading I just decided I  was going to write a book.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
This is still all new to me I am just soaking in the fact that I am a writer but I guess it really hit me when I seen that my book with my name on it and the royalty check helped a lot too. (lol)  
 What inspired you to write your first book?
Drama! It seemed like me and everyone I knew was going through it so I just added a little more excitement to it and turned it into a story.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I would say my style is raw and uncut I don’t sugarcoat my writing.
How did you come up with the title?
Actually I didn’t when I first submitted my story to my publisher I was told that they loved the story and didn’t like the title  my original title for the book was Betty-B who is the main character of the book but they said when they just hear that name they think gangsta which the character was not. We threw a couple of names  around he came up with that one and I loved it.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, the message would be that even though you grow up in bad circumstances you don’t have to become a victim to it unless you want there’s also the message of kids really watch there parents and can sometimes pick up on there bad habits so it’s up to parents to set good examples.
How much of the book is realistic?
I would say about 40%
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I would say about 40% I really do have a friend whose mother was addicted drugs and she really did have to raise her sibling but in her case it was her brother.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Wow that’s a tough one because I read so many different types of books so I would have to say that I walk away with something from every book I read.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
If I had to choose a mentor I would have to say my publisher Raymond Francis who is not only a publisher but also a writer and I say that because during this writing process he has totally taken me under his wind he has taught me a lot about writing he takes time to answer all my questions and he’s not stingy with his knowledge and he’s humble.
What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m reading Kwan’s book Road Dawgz.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
LOL ! That sounds so funny because i still consider myself a new author but i would like to give shouts to D.L Collins, Larry Ellison, Kenya Rivers to name a few. Actually D.L Collins and Kenya Rivers are both authors from Detroit.
What are your current projects?
Right now I am back and fourth with writing three books but I am focusing more on pt. 3 of Looks Like Love Feels Like Hate which I hope to have done by April.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
At the time i was writing this book the person I was with was a total motivation to he helped me visualize my dreams and step out on faith although we are not together anymore I would still like to thank him for that.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes I could see that.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think I would I am very satisfied with the outcome.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I would say about ten years ago.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes! writing a three book series is very challenging because you don’t want the story to get stale and with each book the readers expect the book to get better and better and being a writer you have to deliver that every time or risk losing a reader.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I wouldn’t really say I have a favorite writer because I read so many books and all of them are great.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I haven’t yet put I plan too.
Who designed the covers?
Brittani Williams who I might say did a awesome job.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
All of it ! No just kidding the hardest was the ending because I had to set it up in a way that would lure my readers into reading pt.2 so the set-up at the end had to be perfect.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that not everyone will like your book which I knew anyway but you can’t let it get to you all you can do is try to go extra harder the next time.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes do your research on these publishing companies the first publisher I was with (I won’t say any names) really did a hack job on me and it was hard to get out of that is why I am so glad that I found an honest family with Pleasure Principle Publications.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To my readers I just want to thank each and every last one of you for giving this new author a chance keep reading my books and I promise to bring you more in the future. Without you there is know me.
ericka stafford


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Book Feature ~ @sonyavisor


Love For Who I Am


Available on B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, GooglePlay, Lulu

Synopsis 1:

Today, I want to know…


Have you ever wanted someone to simply love you for WHO you are? Have you ever made a mistake that the “church folks” trampled you under the pew for? Have you ever loved the wrong person for the right reasons? If so, I invite you to take a short ride in the pages of, Love Me for Who I Am, my new novella.


Her sins traveled well beyond the sheets. Rainey Thomas wasn’t looking for a soul mate to avoid triggering her “sexual appetite” as she walked before the Lord. She is what one would call a good, hardworking church girl who always did the right thing. Rainey and her two sisters live life drowning in the desires and practices of their strict mother, commonly known as “Mother Thomas”, a recognized walking Bible—even from the grave. That was until she found herself caught up in the web triangle of Malik Johnson, a high ranking, hands-off trafficking drug dealer. He not only pushed Rainey’s sex button, he enraptured her mind and soul. Malik made her come alive where she then was able to see herself for who she really was well beyond the bed. For Rainey, will finding herself cause her to lose her God as she fans another flame?

Always Be Your TruU!

Sonya Visor

Author of Who I’ve Become  

Available at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

New Release!  Love Me for Who I Am 

Available at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Social Media Links:

To purchase:


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Heal Your Heart ~ Dr. Eddie Connor Jr.

Eddie Connor JrEmpowering people to overcome obstacles and walk in their unique purpose is the real life message shared by Dr. Eddie M. Connor, Jr. who is a survivor of stage 4 cancer.

Dr. Connor is a resident of Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. As a product of a divorced family, Dr. Connor realizes that he was not born with a silver spoon, but discovered strength in the midst of struggle.

Dr. Connor empowers people as an Author, International Speaker, College Professor, Mentor, Political Advisor, Teacher, and Radio/TV Correspondent on CBS/CW 50. He shares his story of overcoming cancer in his 5 books:Purposefully Prepared to Persevere, Collections of Reflections: Symphonies of Strength – Volumes 1-3, E.CON the ICON: from Pop Culture to President Barack Obama, Unwrap The Gift In YOU, and Heal Your Heart.



Heal Your Heart

Author: Dr. Eddie Connor Jr.

Facebook Page: EddieConnorJr

Twitter: @EddieConnorJr

Amazon: Heal Your Heart

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Motown Writers Network Author Spotlight ~ Rebecka Vigus


Rebecka VigusWhere are you from?

West Branch, Michigan
Tell us your latest news?

The third book in the Macy McVannel series, Sanctuary, is being released Aug.22, 2014
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at age ten. A teacher told me with my imaginations I would end up in books. I believed him.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In high school, some of my poems were in the school paper, but one of my poems was used by a minister in a sermon.
What inspired you to write your first book?

I had always wanted to write a novel. I became involved with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wrote my first novel in 21 days.
Do you have a specific writing style?

I write easy to read books. Something you can pick up and knock out in about four hours. But, I have no name for my style other than they are mysteries.
How did you come up with the title?

For my first novel, it was set in a small town and in order to arrest the right person, you had to dig through all the secrets in a small town so Secrets was it. For the novel releasing in August, I had to really think about what the book was offering. Sanctuary is ultimately the goal, so hence, the title.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In the current novel I am dealing with spousal abuse and how to escape it. There is always a way out, you have to be willing to go for it.
How much of the book is realistic?

I write realistic fiction with a twist. So, this book could happen any place, in any town, in any neighborhood.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Not it this book.
What books have most influenced your life most?

Mysteries. I love trying to figure out who did it before the author reveals it. Agatha Christie, Patricia Cornwell, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Higgins Clark, Lee Child, David Baldacci, there are many who keep me fascinated.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

William Kent Krueger, I had a chance to do a one day intensive writing session with him.
What book are you reading now?

Stolen, by Daniel Palmer
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

C Hope Clark. I have read her book The Shy Writer Reborn and her mystery Palmetto Poison. I just received her first novel, Low Country Bribe to read.
What are your current projects?

I am working on a children’s anthology titled Of Moonbeams and Fairy Dust due out the end of November, 2014. I’m also working on the fourth Macy book, Something Borrowed, Something Blue due out in early 2015.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Blue Harvest Creative are my design team for my books.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. It has been my goal for fifty years. I am finding I am growing a fan base.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Absolutely not.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I remember writing non-sense poetry to start, but I have no one defining moment.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Macy McVannel is a police detective who teams up with her college roommate to rescue abused women from their spouses and set them on the path to a new life. This is the third book in the series. The first two were written from Macy’s point-of-view. This one was not written first person, so you get other’s views of Macy.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Making each new book as exciting as or better than the last.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

My current favorite is William Kent Krueger. I love his Corcoran O’Connor character. I love how he submerges you in the landscape of his stories.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Not as much as I’d like to. I prefer to do live signings and book talks. I like getting questions from those who want to write or those who’ve read my books. I want to share my love of writing.
Who designed the covers?

Blue Harvest Creative are my design team. They do internal and external design and set up.
What was the hardest part of writing your book? For me the hardest part is knowing how and where to end it.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned even in law the lines are blurred.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep writing. Read all you can about writing, attend a writer’s workshop or conference, but keep writing.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Please when you’ve read my books, write a review. Reviews sell books. If you didn’t like it, others want to know. If you did they want to know why.


Author name: Rebecka Vigus
Book Title: Sanctuary
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MWN Spotlight ~ Nancy Barr

Nancy BarrWhere are you from?

I was born in Illinois, lived in Southern California for several years as a child, and have lived in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula since 1981.
Tell us your latest news?

I switched careers from journalism to higher education about seven years ago and since then have earned a master’s degree in rhetoric and technical communication and started teaching communication to engineering students at Michigan Technological University.  I’m now working on a PhD, but I’ve started a new fiction project as well.  I have no idea when it will be ready for publication, but it’s great to be writing fiction again.
When and why did you begin writing?

I discovered I loved writing when I was still in elementary school.  I started keeping a journal of sorts to help me deal with life.  I never thought of being a professional writer until college and then an internship led me to a job at the local newspaper.  I began my first novel in 2000 because I felt I had a story to tell.  The characters had been developing for a few years and it just seemed time to put them on paper.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first felt like a “real” writer when my second book, “Page One: Vanished,” was released, even though I had been a “professional” for many years by then.  The first book felt like a fluke, a dream, but the second book made me feel like a legitimate author.
What inspired you to write your first book?

There was no single thing that inspired me.  The “Page One” trilogy’s protagonist, Robin Hamilton, was VERY loosely based on my experience as a small-town newspaper reporter.  She’s just prettier, smarter, and scrappier.  None of the other characters have any association with anything real and neither does the plot, except the opening scene in Ludington Park, where the first murder takes place.  I used to walk through the park quite regularly and that’s what started the creative process for that book.
Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes, my journalism experience taught me the value of concise writing.  I love words, I just use them strategically.
How did you come up with the title?

The publisher, Susan Bays of Arbutus Press, wanted to develop a brand for the books, thus the “Page One” tag, indicating a news story worthy of page one.  Then each book has a teaser about the plot.  The first one revolves around a hit and a run death, the second book deals with the disappearance of several young women, and the third one deals with the drug trade (the U.P.’s notorious winter is also a character).
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Resilience.  Life deals my characters a lot of heartbreak but they come through it stronger.



How much of the book is realistic?

These situations certainly could happen, but they are pure fiction.  Unfortunately, “Page One: Whiteout” is the most true-to-life as U.P. communities struggle to deal with the influx of drugs like heroin and home-grown crystal meth.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Robin’s mother died when she was 10, while mine died when I was 9.  I wanted to explore a strong father-daughter relationship, like the one I had with my own father.
What books have most influenced your life most?

Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books and Judy Blume’s books about adolescence got me hooked on reading as a child.  By the time I was 10, I was reading everything mystery or paranormal-related in the school library.  When I read my first Stephen King book, though, I remember thinking, “I could do this, I could see myself writing someday.”  Of course, it was another 15 years before my first book was published, but that’s where it started.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Stephen King.  I must have read his book “On Writing” at least a half dozen times now.  I use his advice about eliminating clutter from your writing when I teach my engineering students.  It’s true regardless of genre.
What book are you reading now?

I’m never reading just one book at a time.  I’m reading a history of the Vikings, a scholarly work by Nancy Hartsock called “Money, Sex, and Power”, and the fifth book in the Harry Potter series (I never had time to read them when they were released!). Next will be “In the Sanctuary of Outcasts:  A Memoir” by Neil White.  It’s Michigan Tech’s Summer Reading Program for our incoming first-year students.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m sure there are lots of great ones out there, but I’ve been so focused on my graduate work that I don’t get much time to explore new fiction authors.
What are your current projects?

I’m working on something very different from my first three books.  It’s a mystery of sorts that takes place in the Copper Country in the early 1970s (a period which has really captured my imagination), just after the last copper mine shut down.  It will be darker, edgier, and more along the lines of an early Stephen King work than the “Page One” trilogy.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Teachers!  I was lucky to have some great teachers along the way who pushed me to do my best and challenge myself, never allowing me to settle for “good enough.”
Do you see writing as a career?

Absolutely! I write novels for entertainment, academic articles for my day job, and I teach writing.  It’s the only thing I know how to do to pay the bills!


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not at all.  What finally made it into print is the third complete rewrite.  My writing has matured over the years so I’m not as enamored with the first one, but many reviewers thought it was a good first effort so I don’t beat myself up about it too much.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My mother was an avid reader and I caught the bug from her.  From there, it was just a natural progression to writing.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

It has a strong female protagonist (naturally), a newcomer to the Keweenaw who is a product of the Sixties, unafraid to challenge the status quo.  I haven’t quite figured out the trajectory of the plot because it’s early in the creative process, but I’ve sketched out some unique characters.  I’m very big on strong characters in my novels!
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Plotting is always the toughest for me.  There’s a balance between simplicity and complexity.  I want the story arc to be simple enough to connect with readers, but to have enough complexity to keep them engaged to the last word.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Other than Stephen King, I have favorite books of certain authors.  I’ve read Daphne Du Maurier’s “Rebecca” countless times (Mrs. Danvers is one of my favorite characters ever!). I love Anne Rice’s first two books in her vampire series.  William Kent Krueger’s mystery series set in and around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is beautifully written. And I could go on and on.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Not so much now since it’s been a while since I’ve released a new book, but I still periodically give library talks, which I love!
Who designed the covers?

The publisher, Susan Bays, designed each cover.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Again, it’s always the plotting.  I have the most fun with characterizations.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

With each books I become a better writer and I have learned to appreciate a great editor!
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Focus on developing your craft any way you can.  Write blogs, be a columnist for the local newspaper.  Put together a family history.  Enter short story contests.   Just keep writing and putting your work out there.  Develop a thick skin.  No matter how great your writing, someone will always find fault with it so develop and nurture your own writing style.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I appreciate your loyalty.  I know many people would like to see another “Page One” book, but it’s time we all moved on. I like to think Robin is enjoying her new life.  I look forward to

meeting more of you when the next book is released!

  • Name of Author– Nancy Barr
  • Name of Book(s)– “Page One: Hit and Run” “Page One: Vanished” “Page One: Whiteout”

Excerpt: Page One Vanished excerpt

Page One VanishedPage One WhiteOutPage One Hit & Run


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A-Z Guide: How both my books reached #1 on Amazon @Nicholas_Rossis

Pearseus, Rise of the Prince (book 2 in the series) book cover

Pearseus, Rise of the Prince (book 2 in the series) book coverA-Z Guide: How both my books reached #1 on Amazon.

via A-Z Guide: How both my books reached #1 on Amazon.


This was an amazing article I read in my research hour on Nicolas Rossis’ website that I must share with you!

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Motown Writers Network Author Feature~Victor ‘Billione’ Walker

Billione This week’s featured author is no stranger to the limelight, so shining a light on him is something he’s used to! A singer, poet and author, Billione (pronounced bil-LEE-yon) is one of Detroit’s most up and coming people to keep an eye on. He is the author of several books, including his most recent poetic play the Birth of Mars, and No Tea. No Shade, a novel set in Detroit. His thought provoking work touches on various subjects related to being a Detroit native, LGBT experiences and examining masculinity.

Come and experience the gifted one, Billione, as we talk to him about his work!

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Detroit. Most of my writing is pulled from my experiences as a Detroiter.
Tell us your latest news?

I recently released my first work of fiction entitled No Tea. No Shade. Set in Detroit, it is a story about the dapper, charismatic Chauncey King, a successful Editor-in-chief of the Detroit Daily News. Chauncey goes from reporting the news to being the center of his own scandal after coming face-to-face with his turbulent past. His life seems to unravel until he meets Malcolm Dandridge at a local bathhouse and realizes that in order to be happy he must first face his biggest fear.
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing song lyrics as a child. My mother kept a journal and I would read the words she wrote and sing them. What she wrote sounded like love songs, full of joy and pain.
Other forms of my writing emerged out of my love for reading. As I child, I read books about a number of things but struggled to find characters that were similar to me. After writing song lyrics, I eventually wrote poetry and eventually fiction.


When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer when I began writing news in the Mumford High School newspaper. I didn’t particularly like writing news; my Journalism teacher convinced me that I was good at it. So, I stuck with it. When I went home, though, I secretly wrote song lyrics and poems.
What inspired you to write your first book?

After meeting one of my favorite authors, the late E. Lynn Harris, I mentioned to him how his characters resonated with me, and his writing inspired me to write my own novel. He told me to be sure to send it to him when I did. After getting news of his passing in 2009, I remembered how I never started working on my novel. Remembering that meeting, I began taking notes on ‘No Tea. No Shade,” and dedicated it to Lynn.
Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t know if I have a defined writing style, but I simply write about what I know: Detroit, being Black and gay. It is important to me to stay in my lane and offer my readers an authentic experience.
How did you come up with the title?

The title No Tea. No Shade. is a common phrase in the gay community said when you want to tell someone the truth without offending them. I heard RuPaul say it frequently on RuPaul’s Drag Race and knew it reflected the circumstances of the book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Our lives are best spent coming to terms with who we are, building authentic relationships and getting our own truths. Life is too short to be spent trying to please others. When we face our darkest fears, it will be then that we can truly deserve to live in the light.
How much of the book is realistic?

Every character in No Tea. No Shade. has elements pulled directly from my life. Of course, there are some elements that are made more dramatic to enhance the reader’s experience, but it’s all realistic and quite autobiographical.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I pulled from everything I know: Personal experiences, things I’ve heard about and things I never read about but wanted to. No Tea. No Shade. is the type of book I would read.
What books have most influenced your life most?

Books like Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Their Eyes Were Watching Godare among my favorite books and have helped shape my personal philosophy.  I have also been influenced by authors like George Orwell, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, and Toni Morrison.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I consider Sylvia Hubbard a mentor. She has helped me go from a poet with a desire to self-publish to an author with multiple titles under my belt. I learned almost everything I know about independent publishing from her and the Motown Writers Network. I am sincerely grateful for the guidance and support I’ve received.
What book are you reading now?

I am currently reading an anthology of coming out stories entitled Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, edited by Derrick Tennial out of Atlanta. I contributed a story entitled Thirty-Eight, about my coming out as gay and how the messages I received through television as a child of the 80’s shaped my identity as a man.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I am inspired by a number of new authors, especially those writing poetry. Poets like Joel Fluent Greene of Detroit’s Café Mahogany days is releasing his first book of poetry this month. I am excited to celebrate him and read his new work. Also, Detroit poet T. Miller released a book called Coming Out Of Nowhere that took conversations that happened on social media to a different level.
What are your current projects?

I am currently preparing to bring my poetic play entitled The Birth of Mars to the stage. It was inspired by For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange and the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. Mars took 6 years to write and examines masculinity in America.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Being a poet and having the opportunity to perform in Detroit has connected me to so many people. The artist community has been so supportive and encouraging. People like Dimonique Boyd, Crystal Campbell, jessica Care moore, Legacy Leonard, LaShaun Phoenix Moore, Omari King Wise, Kalimah Johnson and so many more have supported me as a poet and fiction writer.
Do you see writing as a career?

From the response No Tea. No Shade. has gotten, I could definitely see that happening. I love writing and enjoy the process of bringing characters to life. It isn’t easy crafting a story that makes sense, but when it’s all over, I feel accomplished and successful.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not one thing! I love my characters and the story. Well, maybe one thing… I would make it longer. The story is short, but gripping.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest for writing grew out of reading. My grandmother was an avid reader and it rubbed off on me.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently finishing up my sixth book of poetry entitled Grand Boulevard. It is mainly about my experiences as a Detroiter. I dedicated it to the late, great Detroit poet Blair.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I am the king of the comma! For some reason, commas end up randomly in my writing, in places I am not so sure they belong. That’s what good editors are for!
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

E. Lynn Harris and Alice Walker are among my favorite authors. Their books resonate with me because they require me to face my fears related to being Black, gay and an artist. They also have the best characters!
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I travel frequently for my books, whether to perform poetry or to discuss some of the themes in them. Sometimes other people make connections in my writing that never even occurred to me.
Who designed the covers?

I designed all of the covers for my books. I am interested in having someone else design the covers for my future publications.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The most difficult part of writing books has been keeping track of the storylines and making sure they don’t conflict with each other.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that the process of writing novels takes time and cannot be rushed. Creativity in any form should not be rushed.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Observe people in their environments. Find out how people move, speak and interact. I did a lot of people watching in public places for No Tea. No Shade. The descriptions in the book are real. If you go to where my characters are and do the things they do, you will see exactly what they see.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes. Thank you for joining me on this journey and for supporting all of the stories and words that emerge from my mind.

No Tea No Shade


No Tea. No Shade.


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MotownWriters Author Interview-Eddie Connor Jr

EDDIE CONNOR is an author and international speaker from Detroit, Michigan. He empowers purpose, by sharing his testimony as a survivor of stage 4 cancer. Connor is the founder of Boys 2 Books, which provides mentorship to young males via literacy, leadership, and life skill enrichment. Eddie Connor and the was nationally featured in the BET Documentary, “It Takes A Village to Raise Detroit.” He speaks extensively on the subjects of leadership, overcoming obstacles, and maximizing your purpose. Much of his work extends throughout Jamaica and South Africa. His other books include: Purposefully Prepared to Persevere, Collections of Reflections, Volumes 1-3: Symphonies of Strength, and E.CON the ICON: from Pop Culture to President Barack Obama. 



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First Chapter Friday with Author Angil Tarach-Ritchey

Behind the Old Face: Aging in America and the Coming Elder Boom

Please support this very important senior advocacy project The Elder Boom Foundation

Angil TarachBooks by Angil Tarach-Ritchey

Behind the Old Face: Aging in America and the Coming Elder BoomSee a book preview

Quick Guide to Understanding Medicare, Medicaid and other payer sources 2011

You Tube-

Educational information and resources can be found on my blog “Aging in America”

 By Angil Tarach- Ritchey RN, GCM


Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM is an author, speaker, consultant and national expert in senior care.  With over 30 years experience in senior care and advocacy Angil is very passionate about eldercare and is well respected in her field.

Angil has written for several websites including NurseTogether, the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, Wellsphere, the National Senior Living Provider’s Network, Ann Arbor News, and her own blog, Aging in America.  Her passion and expertise have led to being published in the Chicago Sun Times, Maturity Matters, Medpedia, Vitamins Health, Medworm, Alzheimer’s New Zealand and several other publications.  She has been featured on Nurse Talk, WE Magazine for Women; Women on a Mission, Life Goes Strong, Living, The Caregiver Partnership, You and Me Health Magazine, His Is Mine, and Abec’s Small Business Review and quoted in several publications, such as Reuters, CNBC, Consumer Affairs, PTO Today, Women Entrepreneur and more.

Chapter 1

The Nursing Home Love Letters

My story in the nursing home

What would you title a defining moment in your life, the moment that

changed everything? My earliest defining moment came in a box of love

letters. No, not letters to me. It all happened with a box of love letters I

found in a nursing home.

My love for the elderly began when I started working as an aide in a nursing

home in 1977, when I was seventeen years old. My girlfriend’s mother,

Mrs. Berry, was a registered nurse and the nursing home administrator.

She was a tall, fairly thin woman with blonde hair. Although Mrs. Berry

was “cool” most of the time, it was apparent when she was angry or had

enough with teenagers in her home. She would make it clear she’d had

enough just by the look on her face. I liked Mrs. Berry and respected her,

but I also feared her. I never knew if she really liked me or not. Her daughter,

my friend Marcy, worked for her mom at the nursing home as a nurse’s

aide. She would tell us stories about the residents at her job, and most of

the stories were amusing. I needed a job, so I thought I could do what

Marcy was doing. I approached Mrs. Berry several times asking for a job.

I think she was passively ignoring me, but I was persistent . . . when Mrs.

Berry was in a good mood, that is. After a month or two of asking her

repeatedly to hire me and give me a chance, she finally agreed with the

comment, “I’ll give you a chance, but I don’t think you can do it.” What

Mrs. Berry didn’t know was that I am highly motivated by disbelief. I have

accomplished more in my lifetime because people told me I couldn’t do

something than because people told me I could.

It was a warm, humid day in June 1977, and I was about to begin my first

job as a nurse’s aide. When I arrived at the nursing home at 7:00 a.m.,

never having cared for an elderly person before, I assumed there would

be some sort of formal training. My training was to follow another aide

around, and basically do what she did. I wanted to follow Marcy, because

we were friends and her mom ran the place, but Mrs. Berry wouldn’t allow

that. I know she expected we would be goofing off or doing some kind

of foolishness if we worked together, so she had me follow a nurse’s aide I

had never met. I have to say, I was a little intimidated by the ninety or so

residents, some walking through the halls with canes and walkers, some

being wheeled down the hall in wheelchairs, and others yelling or talking

to themselves. But I had to prove to Mrs. Berry I could do it, so I just took

it minute by minute. There was no way I would confirm her notion that I

couldn’t do the work.

My first day seemed to be a test of my physical and emotional endurance.

I worked sixteen hours that day, and within a few hours on the job I

was involved in a medical emergency. We were passing lunch trays when

the whole room turned chaotic in response to a resident choking on her

lunch. The whole situation seemed to be happening in slow motion,

even though it only lasted a few short minutes. I realized the resident was

choking, because her table mates were yelling and I saw her gripping her

throat. Since it was my first day and I was not ready for a situation like

this, I looked around the room to make sure an employee knew what was

going on and would react. I had never expected to see something like this,

especially on my first day of work. As my eyes quickly scanned the room,

I saw my supervisor frozen in position, fear evident on her face. The experienced

nurse’s aides were either screaming for someone to do something

or trying to ignore the urgency of the situation.

Residents began yelling and getting out of their seats, waiting and watching

for someone to help her. It seemed everyone was waiting for someone

else to react, and no one was moving towards her. As seconds passed, her

face started turning blue. I just knew if no one helped her, she would die.

I had never received training for the Heimlich maneuver, or any other formal

training, but when she began turning blue and no one acted or seemed

to know what to do, I knew I had to do something. I could not watch this

woman die in front of me without doing something! I remembered seeing

the Heimlich maneuver done on TV and figured I had to try it. I ran to

the table and grabbed her now lifeless, thin body and pulled her against my

chest. I clenched my fists around her tiny waist and forcefully pulled her upper

abdomen toward me. I pulled once, twice, and finally the third time she

coughed out the food that was lodged in her throat. Her body then regained

life, and her blue skin began changing back to a light pink pigment. She was

going to be okay. I was flooded with emotions: disbelief, shock, fear, relief,

gratitude, anger, and pride. Of course, I was relieved and grateful, but I was

angry that my supervisor had no idea what to do and didn’t even attempt to

help this lady. I wondered how she could be the person in charge. I wondered

what would have happened to this lady if I hadn’t at least tried the Heimlich

maneuver or if it hadn’t worked. The truth is, I was not sure I could do anything

to help. I was in shock and petrified that I was going to see someone die

right in front of my eyes. This was a lot more than I had bargained for when

I asked Mrs. Berry to give me a chance. After the adrenalin dissipated, I felt

very proud for having saved the resident’s life and that I had lost the intimidation

I felt just minutes earlier. I also lost respect for a supervisor I barely

knew. This was my initiation into senior care and advocacy.

The facility was supposed to support independent to semi-independent

living, which today we refer to as assisted living. There were three floors:

the first floor residents were independent; the second floor residents were

mostly semi-independent with a few dependent residents; and the third

floor housed all the residents who shouldn’t have been living there. I believe

it was set up that way so when visitors or potential new residents’

families came, they would see the very best in independent living. There

were no tours beyond the first floor to my recollection. I continued working

as a nurse’s aide on the afternoon shift. I was responsible for all of the

residents on the third floor.

My residents were either totally physically dependent, or had Alzheimer’s

or some other form of dementia. Back then we described a person with

dementia as being senile. My responsibilities were to keep my incontinent

residents clean, to get everyone to the dining room for their dinner

and medications, to pass dinner trays, and to feed those who could not

feed themselves. I was also responsible for entertaining the residents after

dinner, which meant sitting them in the day room to watch TV while

I cleaned up dinner trays and tables, changed residents, gave baths, and

started getting residents ready for bed.

The day shift was responsible for half of the residents’ baths and grooming

each week, and I was responsible for the other half. I was the only aide on

the third floor afternoon shift. I don’t recall how many residents I had to

care for; I just remember it was a lot of work. I had responsibilities and experiences

on this job I never would have imagined: shaving a man with a nonelectric

razor; being with a person with dementia; cleaning an incontinent

person; tying people to their beds to keep them safe from falling; feeding an

adult; and, convincing someone to take a bath when they refused.

There was no training to teach me how to do these tasks or to deal with

dementia patients. Nurse’s aides were just hired and put to work, until

1987 when Congress passed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, commonly

referred to as OBRA. Safety concerns and the lack of quality care

in our nation’s nursing homes inspired OBRA, which required training

nursing home staff. Talk about old school; I was doing this work for ten

years before the U.S. required training.

One night, a few months into my job, I started my shift looking through

the bath book to see who was scheduled for a bath. I also looked through

the documentation from the day shift. There were residents on the dayshift

schedule who hadn’t had a bath in a month or more. I was outraged

and saddened. I gave thirty-two baths in one night. I worked a couple of

hours of overtime to get it all done, but all the residents on the third floor

were now clean and cared for. Was this the first night of a lifetime of senior

advocacy? Looking back over thirty years, I think it was. I couldn’t understand

how anyone could let this happen. The residents were people, and

they needed help. What if these lazy nurse’s aides were deprived a bath for

a month? What would they want?

I had no idea at the time how significant the bath night and another experience

I had would become in how I have spent my life caring and advocating

for seniors. The experiences clearly had their own purposes. One

began my life as a senior advocate; the other was the major contributing

factor to the empathetic care I have provided all of my life. Thirty years

later, there are many patients I still remember, think about, and hold dear

to my heart. I remember a retired teacher who had dementia and filed

things in her bra. She said they were her files, as if she were still teaching.

I remember a couple who walked the halls holding hands; the husband

wore the layers of men’s and women’s clothing his wife dressed him in. I

remember a tall thin lady with dementia, who was either glowingly joyful

while singing in her high-pitched, out-of-tune voice or so angry she hit

and scratched anyone who came near her. I can still picture these residents

clearly, and I hold fond memories of them in my heart.

One evening, our assignment was to clean our residents’ closets and

drawers. One of my residents was a lady named Ann, who couldn’t

speak or do anything for herself. She quietly lay in bed day after day.

Ann never had a visitor, so I knew nothing about her. While I was working

in Ann’s room, I found a box in her closet. In it were no less than

thirty letters and cards. I sat on the floor and started to read them, one

after another, as tears fell from my eyes. They were love letters from

a husband to his wife. Never had I known, or even heard about, such

profound and amazing love. This woman, lying there alone seemingly

unloved, had actually shared a fairy-tale love, rare and amazing, with

an adoring spouse. I can still vividly recall sitting on the floor with her

box in my lap, tears dripping from my face, reading the letters while frequently

pausing to look at Ann lying in that bed, almost lifeless, wishing

I had known her sooner.

I wished I knew about her life when I started caring for her. For many

months, I had looked at her as just some old woman lying in the bed who

needed help. Truthfully, until that day I didn’t give her much thought other

than the duties of keeping her clean, dry, and physically comfortable. Not

that I didn’t occasionally think how sad it was she never had a visitor or

any indication that someone cared about her, but that was the extent of

my thoughts and involvement with her. Before I left my shift that night, I

acknowledged Ann. She was no longer just some old woman. I went to her,

and while gently stroking her cheek and forehead I said, “Your husband

sure did love you.” I said goodnight and went home. That was all I could

say, given the emotional state I was in after reading all those letters. I’m

not sure if I was more sad about Ann’s loss and being alone in that nursing

home or guilty for not seeing her as a real person with a real life.

It was through her letters that I got to know Ann, who couldn’t tell me anything

about herself. As far as I knew, her deceased husband was all she had,

and now I felt more responsibility to take care of her for him. That was when

the meaning of care changed for me. Previous to this night, I felt that I provided

pretty good care given the number of residents I had and the duties

that needed to be done. I kept Ann clean and dry, but I didn’t know how to

communicate with someone who couldn’t acknowledge me or speak back.

Although I gave good physical care, there was no emotion involved, no human

connection; I was very quiet when I provided care for Ann.

I now had something to talk to Ann about. Caring for Ann changed into

something much more meaningful. I felt a special bond with her. Those

love letters gave me much deeper empathy for my residents. I started looking

at all of the residents, wondering what lives they previously had before

they ended up in that nursing home. That revelation inspired me to find

out as much as I could about them. I read their charts, asked questions,

listened to their conversations more intently, and observed their actions.

From time to time, I would read Ann’s husband’s letters to her. I don’t know

whether Ann could understand or even hear anything I said, but I felt that

her spirit heard and understood. I also felt as if her husband was looking

down from heaven, grateful for someone who was telling Ann about his

love in a comforting and caring way and taking care of her physically.

Ann’s inability to speak was due to aphasia, a speech and language disorder

that impairs a person’s ability to communicate It is most commonly the result

of a stroke but can occur from any severe head injury and affects over

one million people in the U.S. Aphasia can be expressive, meaning the person

can fully comprehend language but cannot verbally express thoughts,

feelings, or preferences. Aphasia can also be receptive, meaning patients

can’t understand verbal or written language. People often assume that a person

with expressive aphasia cannot understand or comprehend, but that is

far from the truth. Not knowing whether Ann had receptive aphasia, I truly

don’t know if she understood me when I talked to her and read her love

letters to her. But, I think there is something in our souls that allows us to

connect even when the typical means of communication are not possible.

My three-decade passion has been based on empathy. Can you imagine

being in Ann’s shoes? Can you understand what it must be like to have

lived a fairy-tale life with a best friend, experience a love like no other,

only to lose that person and decline to the point where you are alone and

unable to care for yourself? I don’t know if it was true or not, but I heard

Ann’s decline was a result of losing her husband. We often hear about

couples who have been married for many years dying close in time, so her

decline following the loss of her husband wouldn’t surprise me.

Ann’s is just one story in a countless numbers of stories. There are thousands

of elders living in nursing homes, alone and unable to care for

themselves. What kind of care do they get when their healthcare workers

know nothing about them and don’t even think about what their lives

were like before they ended up helpless and in a nursing home? Just like I

did. I’ve worked in long-term care for decades and never saw any training

programs that focused on communicating with persons with aphasia, or

even explained what it is. I also have never seen any training programs

that elicited empathy—other than The Virtual Dementia Tour®, which

provides a great learning experience. I know from my own experience that

patients like Ann are not spoken to or treated with the compassion that is

essential to providing good care. Instead, they’re regarded as work to be

done rather than a person to whom care is given. It is up to us as a society

to understand that there is a person and a life Behind the Old Face.

In over three decades of spending time caring and advocating for seniors,

many experiences brought me to write this book, but a single experience

at a funeral home inspired the idea and title; I share that experience with

you later in this chapter. Throughout this book, I will share my experiences

and the stories of a few of the seniors I have spent time with, but

my experiences and their stories provide only a small glimpse of what is

Behind the Old Face. This book is intended to tug at your heart strings, to

make anyone interacting with or caring for an elderly person think differently,

and to subsequently improve the way we treat seniors and the care

we provide. Care should never be just a physical-care task. Anyone can

provide physical care, but great care providers offer an emotional component

to their care that makes it great. There are unpaid caregivers, such as

family, friends, and volunteers, as well as a wide range of paid caregivers,

including nurse’s aides, therapists, nurses, social workers, and physicians.

No paid care giving job is more important than another. No care recipient

is more important than another. Whatever your care giving role, you need

to provide care with respect, compassion, empathy, and kindness. All care

recipients should always—without exception—be treated with dignity,

respect, and from an empathetic point of view.

Every single one of us has heard, “Treat people as you want to be treated,”

but how many of us really do? How many nurse’s aides, nurses, physicians,

and family caregivers provide the treatment they would want to receive?

Do you treat every single person you come in contact with, have a

relationship with, work with, or care for as you would want to be treated?

As you read this book and the stories of the people in it, you will and

should experience a myriad of emotions. I will tell you some of the most

amazing stories I have ever heard, from the lives of seniors I have been

privileged to know and spend time with. These aren’t famous people with

amazing newsworthy stories; these are everyday stories. These are the life

stories of your parents, grandparents, neighbors, aunts and uncles, the old

man driving too slow, the grey-haired old woman that you have to wait

on in the store, the patient you have to feed or change, the Alzheimer’s

patient who is difficult, and the dementia patient who asks the same questions

over and over. These people are us. They are us, with many more

years of life behind them. You will hear about their challenges, their

dreams achieved or not achieved, their contributions and accomplishments,

their service to our country or to a cause, their devastations and

joys, their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and their points of view about

what it’s like to be a senior today.

Even after my decades of spending time with seniors, I still hear things

that are surprising to me, and things I have never thought of. While interviewing

one lady for the book, she told me a secret. At her request, I

will not use her name or feature her story in the book, but she told me

something that gave me another perspective into things that seniors think

about. She was a lovely ninety-one-year old woman I’ll call Susan. Susan

grew up in England, and even years after being in America, she still

had a lovely English accent. I cared for her while her husband was in the

hospital. She was happily married for over seventy years, and she adored

her husband. During interviews, I ask specific questions to initiate further

conversation and to better understand what it’s like to be old. One question

I ask is, “Who is your hero?” When I asked Susan this question, she

said it was her husband, but as we continued to talk about her life from

childhood on, she asked, “Can I tell you a secret?”

Susan started talking about her first love when she was nineteen. Her blue

eyes sparkled as she told me about their weekends spent dancing at a local

hangout. He was a
very handsome man, a man of honor and values, who

could dance “as gracefully as Fred Astaire,” she said in a giddy, schoolgirl-

crush way. They were together a few months when he went into the

military. While he was away, she met her husband. You may think the rest

is history, but it wasn’t. Her entire life, she had thought about her first

love and how things may have been different if she had waited for him.

Imagine spending seventy-two years thinking about a lost love and the

what-if ’s.

Susan described times they would run into each other after he returned

from the military and she was already another man’s wife. They had an unspoken

bond they both recognized and possibly even longed for. She described

the small bits of conversation they had and said he would always

ask, “Are you okay, Susan? Really? He never married, and Susan wondered

if it was because he wanted to marry her. She thought his “Really?”

carried an undertone of a deeper question. Susan thought he wanted to

know if she was truly happy with another man as her husband. He was

too much of a gentleman to get between Susan and her husband, so she

felt there were words that were never spoken. They eventually lost track of

each other because of her move to the U.S.

Her secret revealed that she never let the memories or the what-if ’s go.

She kept them quietly stored away in her heart for over seventy years. It

was a heartwarming story. I felt a bit sad hearing it. I was sitting with a

wonderful woman of ninety-one who had never gotten over her first love.

I was honored that I was the first one she had ever told this to. I was also

surprised by what I had been told. Susan went on to tell me how wonderful

her husband had always been to her and how she never regretted marrying

him. She kept her thoughts secret her whole life so as not to hurt her

husband, who was her hero.

We talked about her life over the course of a couple days. She shared her

experiences as an elderly woman in the hospital. Susan described an experience

during one of her hospital admissions. A couple of nurses mimicked

her accent. This had happened years before we met, yet had stayed

in her thoughts and feelings. Susan described feeling disrespected, belittled, and treated as if she had no feelings. The mimicking nurses made her

feel like they thought she was stupid because she had an accent. I would

guess there was no mal intent on the part of the nurses, but they didn’t

think about Susan’s dignity or feelings either.

As you progress through this book and read about the lives of the people

described in it, you will read about situations that will warm your heart

and others that are disturbing. Both are intended to cause you to think,

put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and move you to a more compassionate

perspective when it comes to our elders. It is my hope that the

stories will be heartwarming enough to cause you to be kinder and more

thoughtful, and disturbing enough to inspire you to become an advocate

for better treatment of one of our most vulnerable populations.

Funerals reveal who we have been

In my work and life, I have been to countless funerals, home viewings, and

memorial ceremonies. Funerals can be as unique as the individual who

died, but in the last ten to fifteen years, I have noticed increasing numbers


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This Week’s MWN Feature~Laura Lee


Metro Detroit native Laura Lee divides her time equally between writing and producing ballet educational tours with her partner, the artistic director of the Russian National Ballet Foundation.  She is the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books with such publishers as Harper Collins, Reader’s Digest, Running Press, Broadway Books, Lyons Press and Black Dog and Leventhal.  Her Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation has sold more than 85,000 copies.  She has also written one collection of poetry (Invited to Sound), and a children’s book (A Child’s Introduction to Ballet).  She brings to her writing a unique background as a radio announcer, improvisational comic and one-time professional mime.

The San Francisco Chronicle has said of her work, “Lee’s dry, humorous tone makes her a charming companion… She has a penchant for wordplay that is irresistible.”

Angel is her first novel.














Questions with Laura:

Where are you from?

I live in Rochester Hills.

Tell us your latest news?

I am promoting my debut novel, Angel. I have a non-fiction book with Reader’s Digest coming out in the near future.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing as a child and published my first article at the age of 12. It was called “My first day of junior high school.” My
father was a writer and insisted I was a “born writer” but it didn’t occur to me until much later that writing was a special skill.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

There was a series of little things. My father pushed me in that direction– he suggested I write about junior high and submit the
article, for example. I wanted to be an actress and majored in theater in college. I never got cast in anything, and in my senior year, when I auditioned my last time and failed to be cast, I took my anger and frustration and turned it into a one act comedy, which a
group of students performed and I got great feedback for it. Realizing acting was not going to be my calling, I went to broadcast
school to become a radio announcer. As the other students struggled to write ads and news copy, I whipped them off and got praise. I
started to get the idea that I could do something maybe everyone else didn’t find easy. I started writing articles for local papers in a
half-hearted way when I worked in radio, encouraged by my father. It wasn’t until I burnt out on radio that I started taking the writing
seriously. I got a job at the Times Union in Albany, NY as a reporter and feature writer beginning as a temp, filling in for someone on
maternity leave. I had no formal training in journalism or writing and was hired on the strength of my clips. It was great training in
writing quickly and not waiting for the muse or to get your artistic thing together. I published my first book while working at the paper,
and I didn’t look back from that point on. Now I’ve written 14 books, both non-fiction and fiction.
What inspired you to write your first book?

I wouldn’t call my first book particularly “inspired.” I mentioned in passing to my father that I thought it would be interesting to
write a book about the real people behind familiar names like Sears, shrapnel, Chef Boyardee and so on. He didn’t let it go until I’d
produced a proposal and some sample chapters and sent them off to everybody using Writer’s Market. I was surprised when I got a call
from a publisher that wanted me to write it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I am focused on fiction now, and would like that to be my future direction. What works for me in fiction is to start with some sort of archetypal image and to relate it to the specifics of a character in a certain setting and situation. I have a recognizable voice, I think,
in my humorous non-fiction. Now I’ve only published one novel, but I have two more that I’ve written that I’d like to put out and I hope
that I can develop a fiction voice that people recognize and appreciate.

How did you come up with the title?

My novel is the story of a minister who sees a young man and initially confuses him for an angel, although society would view him
as anything but. His relationship with the young man changes everything in his life. So Angel seemed like the best title.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I hope that it presents more questions than answers. I would like people to read it, think about the story, and let it speak to them in
a personal way. The message will depend a great deal on the reader, as it should be.

How much of the book is realistic?

It is all realistic. It’s a story about two men and their relationship. It is set in a church community. No aliens or vampires

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I drew on my experience working in a church to make the setting realistic, but it is not autobiographical in any way.

What books have most influenced your life most?

When I was in high school I had to read everything by Douglas Adams. In my early twenties I had to read everything by Milan Kundera. Now
I’m reading a lot of poetry and theology.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I didn’t have to choose. It was my father.

What book are you reading now?
The Big Red Book by Rumi.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I have been reading a lot of really old stuff. If I haven’t read it yet, it’s new to me.

What are your current projects?

I’m seeking a new fiction agent for a novel which I actually wrote before Angel and which I recently updated and revised. I’ve finished
a sequel to Angel, but that book really has to sell a bit more to make it worth publishing. I’m waiting for the non-fiction book I finished
this summer with Reader’s Digest to come out and there are a couple of follow up projects that might spring from that. I am also working on
a more theological project. So there are a lot of directions. I have a lot of literary egg baskets.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Not surprising for a writer, but I am a solitary character by nature. One time I did have a strong community in which I was highly active
was when I lived in New York and volunteered for the Guthrie Center. (Folksinger Arlo Guthrie’s non-profit.) Since I came back to Michigan
in 2004, I’ve become much more focused on writing, and much more of a loner.

Do you see writing as a career?

It is a calling, which is a bit different from a career, but it can be a career. Don’t get me wrong, I use “calling” in a matter-of-fact
way. I don’t think there is anything special about having one. Every career has a certain aspect of that. When someone gets laid off from
any job, he has a bit of an existential crisis. There are some fields of endeavor which are skewed much more that way. A person would do
them whether he got paid or not because not doing it would be unimaginable. If you would not feel that you were you if you didn’t
write, that’s what I mean by calling. This is an area where Angel has a touch of autobiography because one aspect of the story is this issue
of having one’s calling threatened. Writers face that all the time. Is it a career if I’m not being paid? If I can’t make a living doing
what I love am I a failure? Am I not who I think I am? Paul, the protagonist of Angel, talks about the downside of having a calling.
If you believe you know what you are supposed to do, you question your ability to do it well enough. He wonders whether people are so
imperfect that they are doomed to fail God either by failing to know what their calling is or by thinking they know and not doing it as
well as they would like. So that is what I mean by calling. My sense of self and my career are tied to each other in a way that might be
unhealthy, but what can I do? If it is unhealthy, I hope I do not get well, because I like who I am. Doing writing as my career was always
important to me. Some people are happy to make their money another way. That’s probably smart. It’s a choice.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

No. I wrote it over the course of a decade and revised and revised and revised. I am happy with the final version. If it had not been
published, I would probably still be fiddling with it, but there is a point when you’re done and you have to stop re-thinking it.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?


Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his
religious duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind,
breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so moved by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees
and pray.

Even after he regains his focus and realizes he simply met a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and
wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction for the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his
feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through this vision, and Paul must determine what God is calling him to do.

Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul’s ministry but put him at odds with his church as he is forced to examine his deeply held
beliefs and assumptions about himself, his community, and the nature of love.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

One of the challenges is to resist the urge to make characters more articulate than they would be in life. As a writer you can find just
the right words to express an emotion, but your characters are not professional writers. So sometimes you have to “ugly up” the perfect
expression of something because it just wouldn’t be realistic for, say, a 24- year old recovering alcoholic to speak in poetry.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I am an eclectic reader. There is not one writer that I am focused on at the moment.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No, but I am on tour five months out of the year with my ballet project.

Who designed the covers?

The cover artist of Angel was Anne Cain based on a concept I proposed.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The novel evolved out of a trip I took in 2000 to Mount Rainier in Seattle. I took a bus tour and the driver was entertaining and kept
talking about burning out on his old job. Toward the end of the tour, someone asked what his old job had been and he said “a minister.”
There were a number of things that stayed with me about that, which I thought would make a great novel. The fact that Mount Rainier was
beautiful and a dormant volcano, and the idea of someone who burned out on the ministry to become a mountain guide. I was reading a lot
of Eastern thought at the time, and it seemed to me that there could be a great story about someone having some kind of life change, maybe
a crisis of faith, or a new direction, that put him on a course that would separate him from his congregation. It would “breathe” the
beauty of the mountain, show how he was called to both. I didn’t know what the “thing” would be though, that separated the minister from the
church and brought him to the mountain. I had a feel for what itwould be, but no specifics. I spent the better part of a decade
meditating on it and trying different things. When the “thing” came to me– that he would fall in love with a man– everything fell into
place and I wrote it quickly as if a tap had been turned on. I just had to catch the water.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I became quite interested in the Bible as a result of imagining the inner life of a Christian minister.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The main thing is not to rush it. When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I felt pressed to write a novel and I rushed to get one
on paper and it was terrible. You have to do a lot of bad writing, and you need the patience to let an idea lay fallow for a while, maybe
for years. A professional photographer once told me that the key to taking memorable photos was just to take tons of pictures and most of
them won’t be good and a few will be brilliant. I write like mad. I don’t throw anything away. Eventually some of the stuff that I thought was trash turns out to have gems in it. The longer I work at it, the more automatic the process becomes and the better the
gem-to-trash ratio gets. So the advice is that everything takes much longer than you wold like it to. You need the patience of Job.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Angel gets slapped with a lot of genre labels, and some of them scare off certain readers. Don’t be put off by the idea of a “gay Christian
romance.” It is something other than that, and I hope you will give the book a try and decide what animal it is for yourself.

Name of Author: Laura Lee
Name of Book: Angel
Author Website:
Amazon Link
Twitter Link: @LauraLeeAuthor

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Which one would be best for a writer? The New @amazonkindle or the iPad Mini

A year ago when I bought my Amazon Kindle, I immediately fell in love with the device. I wrote an article on my blog about how wonderful the features were for a writer, including what apps to use.

CLICK HERE to read my review of the Amazon Kindle and why it’s nice for writers. Also read the comments as well!

This year the fight for devices is all about giving the user a TKO experience and from what I’ve seen, the new Kindle Fire is still coming up number one in my book.

Now Amazon has a Kindle Fire HD.

It’s like The regular Kindle on crack! Including a camera, better pixels, faster WiFi.

Recently I’ve gotten asked a lot of times by writers should they go ahead and buy an iPad Mini. Most times these are people who wanted to get an iPad anyways but couldn’t afford the price tag.

I’ve seen and handled one and for the price, I would say if you really wanted an iPad, I’d still wouldn’t invest in one. Just get the Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8 inch LTE for $499, which has a bigger screen and all the comforts of a regular fire plus a little bit more. Click here for more information about this device.

But if you want to save $400 of the 699 you would  pay if you bought an iPad plus get a tablet you can utilize as a writer, without breaking your bank, get the Amazon Kindle HD.

To help you really see the potential and comparison, see the picture Amazon put together.

If you’re ready to get yours or give a writer a great gift for Christmas, CLICK HERE to buy yours today.

(I would sure love one too, so I don’t mind a gift, hint, hint, HINT!) 

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