Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Voyagers Author Beth Anderson Schuck and a Labor of Love

Today our blog showcases 
Beth Anderson Schuck, 
the author of "The Orchard" 
published in the
2020 IWSG anthology
Voyagers:  The Third Ghost

Beth is sharing her current WIP,
a middle grade historical novel 
with the working title 
Alma’s Recipes for Life.

A Labor of Love
by Beth Anderson Shuck

     I have been working on a middle-grade historical fiction manuscript since I retired a few years ago. The story is based on my Norwegian grandmother’s teen-age years, which occurred in the early years of the 20th century. I have combined her life events with my research on the setting and time period in Marshalltown, Iowa where the story takes place. It has been a labor of love to bring her story to light. 

     I have always loved historical fiction especially stories set long ago and those involving women taking on new roles in society for their time period. I suppose I believe in the adage that if you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it. Thus, it seems reading about history even via fictional works, is a great idea for young people.
     The setting for the story allows me to showcase some topics that still challenge our society today and so I hope this personal story will resonate with readers. Child labor and the accompanying lack of formal education and the challenge for new immigrants to assimilate while retaining their ethnic identities are some of the issues I raise in the manuscript. It includes some adult themes such as death and a bit of romance so I would call it upper middle grade appropriate, for ages twelve to fourteen. 

     The story focuses on Alma, my paternal grandmother as she experiences working as a cook for a wealthy family. At age 13, she quits school to work full time, as her family needs money. Her employers, the Sowers live a life very different from hers and she compares their experiences with her own.  Alma begins to realize her parent’s preferences for her differ from her own goals especially as her world expands via her work. Through the story, Alma determines how to balance her family’s beliefs with her own and what she wants to carry forward into her adult life.

Beth's Grandparents, Frank and Alma, in their Easter Finery
Photo Courtesy of Beth Anderson Shuck

     There is a tragic element to the story as Alma’s younger sister dies from tuberculosis, (TB). During this time period, TB was endemic in some urban areas often affecting the poor. Treatment prior to antibiotics was isolation often at a sanitarium. To avoid sending their young child away and to avoid the stigma associated with the illness, the family hides the diagnosis. This, of course creates issues for Alma. 

     My grandmother’s sorrow from these events wasn’t evident or even known to me, her youngest grandchild. I appreciated her love, of course, and her baking, sewing and sense of humor. My grandfather grew up just a few blocks from her and was friends with her brothers. He was a ‘railroad man’ from an early age. He won Alma over after a long courtship and they were married for 74 years! He plays a role in the story, as does a ruby ring they gave me when I turned thirteen. It was a special ring my grandfather gave to Alma’s sister as a birthday gift. Since she died young, it was returned to Alma and she chose me to have it.  I treasure the ring and the story behind it. 

     I’m in final editing mode with the help of my critique group and hope to shop the manuscript in 2021.  The current title is Alma’s Recipes for Life as her recipes play a role in the storyline and I’ve included them as part of the manuscript.

Alma's Recipes, Ring and Spices
Photo Courtesy of Beth Anderson Shuck

Beth Anderson Schuck is a retired librarian who believes reading can take you anywhere.  She writes historical fiction featuring willful female characters. Being in nature whether hiking, birdwatching or gardening makes her whole.

Visit Beth at Instagram | Twitter 

* * * * * * * * * *

Coming on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 . . .
Would you like a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents?  Well, you're in luck, because on January 20, 2021 the Insecure Writer's Support Group will be hosting its next Twitter Pitch.  Come back next Wednesday, IWSG Day, to get some great information on twitter pitching from IWSG founder and science fiction author Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Beth's short story "The Orchard" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

"The Orchard" ~ A mystical story with young protagonist Nels, 
whose magical powers connect her to nature in rugged, remote Utah.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Yvonne Ventresca's Compelling Young Adult Novel "Pandemic," a Great Read for This Trying Time

Today our blog showcases Yvonne Ventresca, the author whose short story 
"The Third Ghost" won the top honor in the Voyagers anthology, giving the book its title and cover.  Yvonne is sharing the backstory to her award-winning young adult novel Pandemic.

Winner of the Crystal Kite Award
given by The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators


Behind the Scenes:  Researching Pandemic Before the Current Pandemic

My young adult novel, Pandemic, is a contemporary story about a teenager struggling to survive a deadly flu outbreak. Although it was set in present-day New Jersey (before the current pandemic), I spent time researching the Spanish Flu of 1918 and used that disease as a model for the fictional one in my book.

Here are a few things I learned while researching Pandemic:

The influenza pandemic of 1918 is commonly called the Spanish Flu, but it didn’t originate in Spain. In March of that year, known cases occurred among soldiers in Kansas. But in June, Spain informed the world of a new disease in Madrid, and the Spanish Flu was belatedly named as it spread worldwide. It killed more Americans than all of World War I. 

The Spanish flu had a different mortality pattern than previous flu outbreaks, with the highest death rates occurring in adults between the ages of twenty and fifty. The reasons for that pattern are still not entirely understood, but according to the US, the 1918 virus “evolved directly from a bird flu into a human flu.”

In 1918, sanitation measures included wearing face masks, blow-torching water fountains, hosing down streets, and locking public phone booths. 

In a time before technology, colored ribbons were placed on doorways to indicate a flu death in the household. The color of the ribbon indicated the age range of the dead. White, for example, was used for children.

Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel, Pale Horse, Pale Rideris set during the 1918 Influenza. It’s a work of fiction (published in 1939), but was no doubt influenced by Porter’s memories of the pandemic and her own illness. The tragic story provides a sense of the war, the disease, and the desperation of that time.

Beds with patients in an emergency hospital in Camp Funston, Kansas.
The flu struck while America was at war, 
and was transported across the Atlantic on troop ships. 
Date: circa 1918 

Excerpt from PANDEMIC:

At this point in Pandemic, there have been local cases of the Blue Flu, including one death. Lil visits her best friend, Megs, who is getting dressed to meet a boy she has only corresponded with online. This scene is a snapshot of both the mundane aspects and the very deepness of their friendship.

I found Megs surrounded by a dozen shirts heaped on her bedroom floor.

“What should I wear?” she asked. “I need something to go with my favorite jeans.” She plopped on her bed, face flushed.

I hesitated, torn between worrying about her safety and wanting to support her romantic longings. “You’re sure you want to go through with this?”

She nodded.

“Then don’t worry, we’ll find something. You have great clothes.” I glanced at her alarm clock. It was 6:15.

She followed my eyes. “I’ll be fashionably late.”

I pulled out a turquoise blouse that had fabric cutouts in the back.

“I need to look good from the front, not when I leave,” she said.

“Right.” I told her about Ethan while I searched her closet for something better.

“Are you sure you want to start with him again?” she asked.

“I don’t know. He made it sound like, how could I not give us one more chance?” My phone pinged. “Ugh.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Ethan’s already texting me.” I sighed. “He’s looking forward to tonight.”

“Ah, it’s nice to see he hasn’t lost that stalker-ish quality.”

I glared at her.

“Lil, you know I’m right. If your heart’s not in it, don’t go.”

“I miss my old life before . . . everything.” I kept flipping through her closet.

“But dating Ethan again won’t magically turn back time. It won’t make the other stuff vanish.”

“I guess you’re right,” I said.

“Hmm . . . at least we both have dates tonight.”

“It’s not a date. I’m going over to his house.”

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about tomorrow,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m finally meeting him.”

Near the back of the closet, a black top with three-quarter sleeves was lodged between two camis. I didn’t even take it all the way out before Megs shook her head. Her face was shiny and I realized she was sweating. “Are you nervous?”

“A little. I’m not feeling great. I think it’s all the excitement.”

“You shouldn’t go if you don’t feel well.”

She scowled at me. “I have to go. I can’t explain it. It feels like part of something bigger, like destiny.”

I pursed my lips together to keep from spouting my opinion. After pulling out a pale blue shirt, I held it against her. “This will look good with— ”

My fingers brushed against her arm. She was burning hot. I put the back of my hand against her forehead the way Mom always did to me. “You feel feverish.”

“I’m fine.” She swayed as she tried to stand.

“Megs, you’re sick.” Fear made my voice quiver.

“You can’t go. This is crazy.”

“It’s too late to cancel.” She sank onto her bed, coughing. “Can you get me a glass of water while I change?”

“Sure.” I hurried to the kitchen. Mrs. Salerno sat at the counter, a newspaper spread in front of her.

I had to tell her about Megs. She’d forgive me for missing her date, eventually. “Mrs. Salerno, I . . .”

She looked at me, waiting.

Then we both heard it: the crashing sound from Megs’s room.

We raced up the stairs. Megs lay sprawled on the floor next to her toppled bedside table.

“I felt dizzy, and then . . .”

Mrs. Salerno scooped her up and laid her on the bed. “Let me get the thermometer.”

After her mom left the room, Megs looked at me, pleading. “I need you to do me a favor.”

I knew what she was about to ask. “No way.”

“Please? You don’t have to talk to him. It’ll be crowded, so he won’t notice you. Look for the guy carrying a book, something that would have meaning to me. Then I’ll tell him later how sick I was, that I couldn’t make it.”

“I’m supposed to meet Ethan soon. And a crowded shop mean germs.”

“Could you tell him you’re running late? It wouldn’t take much time. If you walked in and out, it’s like two minutes of exposure.” She widened her eyes, pleading.

This was important to her, no matter how much I disapproved. I considered it. For my best friend, I could probably handle a few moments in a public place.

More about Pandemic:
In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder's sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With friends and neighbors dying around her, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

To connect with Yvonne: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter 
To buy Pandemic: Indiebound | Amazon 

More about Yvonne:
Yvonne Ventresca is an award-winning author dedicated to writing suspenseful stories that readers can’t put down. Her Crystal-Kite-winning YA debut, Pandemic, continues to be a timely read about surviving a widespread deadly virus. Her second novel, Black Flowers, White Lies, explores toxic relationships and won a Gold “IPPY” for best YA fiction. Her latest short story, “The Third Ghost,” is now featured in the latest IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, a collection for nine to twelve-year-old readers. For more information, and for free resources for writers, visit her website at

A 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Winner!

A Last Word:
Over the past two nights I was up very late devouring Yvonne's book Pandemic.  
It was a strange feeling to be reading about a pandemic while in a pandemic.  
What I kept thinking over and over was how eerily prescient the novel is.  
Yvonne's portrayal of an epidemic is vividly real, and I liked the juxtaposition 
of Lilianna's story with the objective quotes of officials on the Blue Flu 
pandemic at the beginning of each chapter.  Lil's voice is authentic.  Her 
experiences put me right back into the angst of being in high school, the 
rollercoaster ride of young love, and the drama of close friendships.  I'll join 
Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews in recommending this 
fast-paced apocalyptic novel.  It touched me deeply, and I will not forget it.      

I'll be back on October 28th with another post.   

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Yvonne's short story "The Third Ghost" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Voyagers Author Roland Clarke and His Thriller "Spiral of Hooves"

Currently the IWSG Anthologies blog is featuring posts from the winning authors in Voyagers:  The Third Ghost, and today you are in for a treat!  Today Roland Clarke shares his novel Spiral of Hooves and his WIPs.

Roland Clarke at His Writing Desk

Why a treat?
Because Roland introduces us to an equestrian world that many of us never get to experience firsthand.  This is a world Roland knows intimately and writes about vividly.  Before I read Spiral of Hooves, I knew zilch about equestrian eventing. Heck, I'm terrified of horses.  They are magnificent creatures, but I admire them from a safe distance.  Roland's memorable novel captivated me and makes me want to connect with a gentle horse.

Borde Hill Horse Trials Publicity Shot: 
Penny Sangster jumping Greenbank Harlequin
in front of Borde Hill, Roland's family home – 
Photo by Roland Clarke


Spirals and Beginnings
by Roland Clarke

No viable corpses just dead ends to convoluted plots. Not a great start for my first novel, which was to take another forty years to finish and share with readers.

The seeds for ‘Spiral of Hooves’ were sown when I was living in Canada during the 1970’s, so it was inevitable that the tale opens in Canada and one of the main characters is a Quebecois rider.

However, Quebec was just a seed. IWSG Anthology fellow author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour recently asked, “I think it would be awesome for you to share how ‘Spiral Hooves’ came about and your work as an equestrian reporter.  This is, well was, an unknown world for me.”

Roland Interviewing riders for Eventing Magazine
with Jane Perry of Horse & Hound
at Tweseldown Horse Trials
 Photo by Nick Perry
(Nick is Jane's husband and a H&H photographer, 
who took the photo adapted for the cover of Spiral of Hooves.)

The plot did evolve through my experiences as an equestrian journalist, initially from my early years in the media. First though, I grew up in a privileged hunting-shooting-fishing family and from a young age was encouraged to ride. But as the family groom said, “You’re like a sack of potatoes on that pony” – a sack who fell off too often.

So, I gave up riding as soon as I was permitted. My grandfather, a Master of Foxhounds, wisely told my mother not to worry as one day I’d meet a girl who would persuade me to get back on a horse. In brief, I did and took a summer job putting up fences in the main arena at the All England Jumping Course, Hickstead – owned by her father, Douglas Bunn. A few years later, in my first regular job as a sub-editor on The Field magazine, I wrote an article about Hickstead.

During my brief time at The Field, I was also introduced to the equestrian sport of eventing aka horse trials – made up of three phases: dressage, cross-country, and showjumping. I was hooked for various reasons, and within a few years, I was travelling all over England to photograph events. And the rough plot of a novel appeared, involving the tragic romance between a Canadian cross-country course designer and an English rider.

But I failed to make photography pay, although my rivals flourished – one for decades. A few careers and many decades later, I was researching a TV documentary on equestrian sports, and the Press Officer for the British Horse Trials Association rekindled my career as an equestrian journalist.

Roland's Most Profitable Photo:
 Zara Phillips (Princess Anne's daughter) falling 
during the Windsor Three Day Event in 2004
Photo by Roland Clarke

From short news items for the sports pages of a local paper on their local Olympic equestrienne, I found various newspapers wanting reports on their local riders. So, I attended horse trials in the South East of England, interviewed winners from the SE and wrote about them in my columns.
The coverage boosted eventing in the region, and one event organiser, Ian Bareham helped me devise an innovative ranking competition – the South East Eventers League – which has become a major fixture. My involvement with the SE events culminated in me co-organising an event at my family home – Borde Hill Horse Trials is another ongoing fixture.
I also began contributing reports to Eventing Magazine, the sport’s premier monthly, as well as other media, including one of the first online equestrian websites, Equest – the first to cover Badminton Three-day-event live.

Roland with his mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials 
Photo by Tony Warr

I wrote a few articles on other equestrian disciplines, including profiles of leading competitors and reports on Horse Driving Trials – modelled on horse trials using carriages. I attended many driving events and even rode in the passenger seat – ‘suicide seat’ – of a four-in-hand [carriage pulled by four horses] driven by GB Team member, Pippa Bassett in the marathon [cross-country] phase at two major national events.

Although all this material sparked ideas for my novel, my mind was on my press work. Until I was covering a show-jumping class at the winter indoor international show, Olympia in London. Then the ideas took shape and the revised plot was born. Of course, there were more dead ends and discarded chapters, characters, and threads, especially as I started with a volatile plot.

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials
This was the team Roland rode in the suicide seat with previous owner, Pippa Bassett. 
Photo by Roland Clarke

The Tunbridge Wells & District Writing Circle helped me hone the novel, but it wasn’t until multiple sclerosis had forced me to retire that the novel was published by a small US press, SPMG on Kindle. When SPMG was bought out and the rights reverted to me, I self-published in 2017 as a paperback as well as Kindle.

Cover design by Jonathan Temples. Cover photo by Nick Perry

Unfortunately, sales have been disappointing for both editions, despite some good five-star reviews from colleagues involved in the sport. However, many who kept clamouring for me to release the novel didn’t respond. I wonder if any competitive riders have read the book – just critics who question my equestrian knowledge.

Hopeful for expectant readers, I have written the first draft of a sequel – ‘Tortuous Terrain’ – set in the US. Although the new novel has some eventing, the focus is on endurance – long-distance – events, with some rodeo. But there are two main characters and a secondary character from ‘Spiral of Hooves’ involved.

So, that’s the end of the road? No more horses?

Well, Louise Barbour also asked, “…I’d like to include your current work in progress with your characters Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai.  Such cool characters!” 

Sparkle and Kama are the central female protagonists in my proposed series, ‘Snowdon Shadows’. Their tale originated with a draft novel, ‘Fates Maelstrom’ set in South West England in which neither appeared. But then I relocated the story when my wife and I moved to Snowdonia, and Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police got involved. Then her sexuality evolved when an American male flirted with her.

Making her a lesbian has been challenging. Her differences emerged at school, but her relationship with Kama Pillai is at the heart of the novel and its sequels. Her Welsh family is important to her, whether her mother’s farming ancestors or her police sergeant father.

Kama and Sparkle
Graphics by Jonathan Temples

The backstory developed into a novel, ‘Fevered Fuse’ – set before ‘Fates Maelstrom’. Yes, there are horses and a link to my debut novel via that secondary character mentioned above. The clue is Zoo – for those like Louise who have read ‘Spiral of Hooves’.

And if you are wondering, there will always be horses – if there isn’t a phoenix. 

After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing - mainly mysteries and alternative history. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers - now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK).

For a preview of Roland's Spiral of Hooves, Amazon and Goodreads links, interviews with characters, plus more go to
For a deeper look at Roland's life go to

       After Roland retired, his company Seahorse Equestrian Agents presented
       him with The Seahorse Achievement Award for outstanding behind-the-
       scenes contribution to SE England eventing. 

Coming on Wednesday, October 14, 2020: 
Next up is Yvonne Ventresca whose short story "The Third Ghost" won the coveted top honor in the Voyagers anthology.  We'll learn the backstory to her young adult novel Pandemic.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Roland's short story "Feathered Fire" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Roland's Story

The Second Sun
by llifi-kei