Saturday, July 1, 2017

Writers4Higher features author and blog master Darrell Laurant

 Hi Darrell. Welcome to Writers4Higher.
Tell us about yourself.

I am something of a hybrid creature, geographically speaking. While I lived in Syracuse, NY from third grade through high school, I was born in Sanford, NC, and lived in Atlanta and New Orleans early on.  Later, I went to college just outside Charlotte (Belmont Abbey College) and worked for newspapers in Columbia, Charleston and Lynchburg, VA. Thus, I have most of the iconic southern cities checked off.  Moreover, I spent several childhood summers with my grandmother in Raleigh, NC. 

The result is, I have always been able to philosophically straddle the Mason-Dixon Line, with a keen sense of the peculiarities of both northerners and southerners.

Most of my writing career has been in the newspaper business, including 36 years with the News & Advance in Lynchburg, VA. By the time I retired in 2013, I had written over 6,000 columns and another 4,000 or so feature articles for that paper, and I still freelance for them on a regular basis although my wife, my 93-year-old mother and I now live in Lake George, NY.

Remaining in one place that long was highly unusual, since journalism is normally a nomadic profession.  I did have offers from larger papers, but by then I had become very much part of the Central Virginia community and didn't want to uproot our two children. Later, of course, they uprooted themselves, my son settling in Colorado and my daughter moving to Ohio.

It pains me greatly when I hear people lump together all the myriad and diverse newspapers, TV stations, radio programs and Websites into "The Media," as if we all take our marching orders from the same source. I, too, have issues with the way news is often presented, especially on television, but I can also say that in several decades with the News & Advance, I very rarely saw any political or social agenda lurking within a news story. Only twice in 30-plus years did I hear of one of our writers actually making up facts, and both of those people were fired.

As a columnist, my job was primarily to write stories that fit somewhere into that vague but rich  territory between "hard news" and editorials. Sometimes I expressed my personal opinion, other times I just stuck to the facts. I made it a point, whenever I could, to write about people just because they were interesting, not because they had necessarily done anything "newsworthy" in the usual sense.

Among the things I'm proudest of are starting a campaign to name a local expressway after Desmond Doss (a Lynchburg man who was the only conscientious objector ever given the Medal of Honor), pushing for funds to put an elevator in a three-story YWCA residence, and convincing a regional bank to forgive a debt owed by a man who had been in a coma for several months with a head injury (they were going to foreclose on his house).

Before I beat readers over the head with my opinion, though, I always made it a point to hear both sides of any issue. Sometimes, doing that changed my mind.

For the most part, my newspaper let me pick what I wanted to write about. Although I worked in a relatively small community, I was able to cover two national political conventions (including driving cross-country to San Francisco in 1984 and writing columns along the way), the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo, a lengthy and contentious coal strike, the Miss America pageant, the NCAA basketball Final Four, Pope John Paul II's visit to Columbia, SC, and any number of stories revolving around the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Lynchburg's best-known citizen. I covered Lynchburg-related stories in Guatemala and the Czech Republic.

Since retiring, I have started a blog called "Snowflakes in a Blizzard" ( which I describe as a "unique, author-friendly and absolutely free book marketing project." Go there, and you'll see what it's about.

While with the newspaper, I always tried to engage in at least one community-oriented program at a time. Over the years, I volunteered for a soup kitchen, a suicide hotline, a home for recovering alcoholics and a rural arts center.  "Snowflakes in a Blizzard" is a continuation of that. All of these activities have paid me back far more than the time I expended.

My writing career has been varied, if not necessarily wildly successful. I quit my Charleston newspaper job to start a statewide sports magazine that went broke after two years. I've published five books, and just finished my second novel, titled "The Last Supper League." Several more books are rattling around in my head, anxious to be released.

We moved to Lake George to take care of my Mom, who has dementia. This has taught us patience, never a bad thing.

My wife Gail is an artist. We've been married for 45 years and we complement each other beautifully.

Where to find Darrell Laurant:

Best to you, Darrell!

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author and blog master

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Writers4Higher features author Bob Ieva

Hi, Bob Ieva. Welcome to Writers4Higher.

Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. I grew up in the '40s and '50s in the Bay Ridge Area of Brooklyn. There are four sections in that area, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, and Bensonhurst. Most of the big families came from those areas.

I moved to Long Island, with my family, when I was 17.
My father and my Godfather introduced me to the teamsters and I started driving semis, and also became an automotive technician.

I didn’t start writing until I was 71 when a friend asked me to write a story about myself. She told me she would put it in book form.

I wrote the first three books in five months and loved it. These are works of fiction and in the organized crime family genre. Those first three books are, The Hitman, The Franchise and The Final Offer. Not long after I was introduced, by another friend of mine, to a great publishing company, DocUmeant Publishing in New York City. Ginger Marks, my publisher, is the owner. I asked her to put these three stories into one book and it is titled, The Other Brooklyn, and we named the series, The Joey Toranetti Series. The Other Brooklyn became an award winning number one best seller and also won the national 2015 FAPA Presidents Award. Book four is The New Breed, and my newest, book five in this series, is The Italian Vendetta.

Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I firmly believe that my series will eventually end up as a TV series. I have a lot of confidence in my tales and believe they are action filled enough to warrant that commercialization.

How do you use your talents/time to help others?

All my life I have helped people build their business and met great people and learned how to understand what people want. They just want to be treated fairly. When I am asked about my writing and what my best piece of advice is for others who want to become published authors my answer is simply, “Everybody has a story to tell, so don’t sell yourself short. Just write it!”
I also own a travel agency where I am known as “The Godfather of Travel” and my goal for my clients is to help them create a great memory. I make their vacation easy to book, pay, and enjoy. That is my sole purpose in life, Make everything as easy as possible for everyone that I meet.

Would you like to find about more about Bob Ieva?
Check out these links:

Author website: Bob Ieva's Website
Twitter: @bieva

Thank you, Bob. I wish you continued success!

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author and blog master

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Happy Summer from Writers4Higher

Golly. It’s Summer. Already.

I know many of the Writers4Higher family of authors keep plugging away, even if they, like me, live in a steam-sauna state. My muses despise the heat and humidity. They’ve packed up and headed to their retreat in Canada. Meanwhile, I settle into my editor’s role and work on endless, mind-numbing but necessary revisions. Hey, it can’t all be first-draft play, right?

I have no worries; those misfit muses of mine will bounce back into town in late October, full of characters and plot lines, ready for me to sit down and follow their lead.

Recently, after I birthed my latest novel Parade of Horribles, I took a moment to check in with my author family. A few jotted emails to catch me up on their projects.

Jeff Weddle has a new book, Comes to This, a poetry collection.

Angela Yolanda Hodge’s latest book was released in March: Daybreak: 100 Powerful Breakthrough Moments for Women.

Scott Archer Jones has been busy, with two books released since he was a feature on the blog: The Big Wheel and A Rising Tide of People Swept Away.

Diane Sawyer has been promoting her book The Tell-TaleTreasure, and she had the honor of speaking at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, in April.

Malcolm R. Campbell has released two books in his Florida Folk Magic Stories series, Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos released her latest children’s book, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving.

I find it comforting, knowing the rest of the gang is out there writing in spite of work, family obligations, births, deaths, the zoo of news, and the other countless blips circling the radar screen.

As for me, it’s a good thing air conditioning was invented. I shall dash from one cool cubicle to the next as fast as my feet will carry me. Mama always said “women don’t sweat, they glow.” If so, you might be able to see me from wherever you are, some clear evening.

I wish you a healthy, fun-filled summer and the best to your continued success.
Love to you!

Rhett DeVane,
Author and blogmaster

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Writers4Higher family member Marina Brown releases new novel!

Marina Brown

A member of our Writers4Higher family releases her new novel Lisbeth.

Congratulations, Marina!
Here's what Marina has to share:

Can the quest for revenge remain alive after death?

On Buena Vista, a small Mississippi property, Claire Elliston finds herself compelled to rebuild the house her mother inhabited 40 years before. But the past and its evils come alive as the ruins are disturbed--laying bare the sins of a time when Jim Crow ruled the South, when depravity took place behind lace curtains, and when cross-race love could get you killed.

The unexplained arrival of a German doctor in the small community breaks open the past's layered secrets as Claire is torn between two allegiances —and perhaps two personalities. Dotted with colorfully naughty Southern humor, this strange saga leaps time and place as a black and a white family discover their shared need for retribution and their capacity for fidelity and love.

There is something about the South, isn’t there. Something that through its charm, its languid days and soft nights, the cadence of its drawls which are more like forgotten songs… that is… let’s be honest, a little scary.

Maybe it’s what used to happen there in oak groves where dark shadows played against white cloth. Where manners were the fabric covering naked cruelty. Where the tilt of the head or a fingertips’ graze could have somebody readying a rope. Yes, the possibility of something scary was always there.

At least that’s how I’d perceived the South. And I think much of that mystery, the unsettling part you sense when you pass cotton fields rimmed by rows of abandoned cabins or an unpainted building with a listing steeple….is still there. But there’s so much more.

In my stays in Mississippi I met women, lots of them, young, old, middle-life women who were hilariously funny, intensely generous, and utterly sincere. I heard their worries and their fears and the ways in which they supported one another— doing it within some sisterhood of the South they may be unknowable to the Northern-born. They did it with gentility and class, no matter their strata, and perhaps no matter how they really felt. These were Southern women who knew how to keep on ‘keepin’ on.’

Even though my last book, Land Without Mirrors, takes place on a mysterious Caribbean island, a land of lepers, the Mississippi of Lisbeth is no less exotic. And that is how I’ve attempted to chronicle the people and the place, the depravity and the decorum, the secrets of two generations that have come to life again.

So proud of you, Marina Brown. Godspeed on your writing!

Rhett DeVane 

webmaster/southern fiction

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Writers: Write like you are dying.

Write like you are dying? What?

Recently, I attended a beautiful, uplifting memorial service for a friend close to my age. Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying accompanied one poignant video celebrating his life: his true love, his children, and his passion for adventure.

Each time I am present to wish a person safe passage to wherever they go when they leave here, reality taps my shoulder—is it the left one, where the Grim Reaper hangs out? I forget.

Someday, I will die. Worse, my “people” will die.

Taking Tim McGraw’s words a step further, which I tend to do, shouldn’t I also write as if I were dying? Meaning, write as if that story, novel, paragraph, or blog post could be the last time I represent myself on this planet, in this particular universe.

Seems I am in a rush, like most folks, bunching experiences without pausing to feel, to absorb.

My generation never particularly warmed to “selfie”-satisfaction. If you spend every pivotal moment grinning into the smartphone screen with a scene behind you, I urge you to put the dang device down. Turn around. See, feel, smell, and immerse yourself in the place and time. Later, you won’t need that selfie to recall what you saw. Better, you will add to a wealth of sensations to juice up your art, and your life. For once, you will be smarter than that phone.

Hold up a sec. I need to stop and listen to some Motown. Lift myself from the sadness that drapes me each time I ponder mortality.

There. Better. Fast-paced music does that for me.

Now, where was I headed with this dissertation?

Writing as if I were dying.
·         Producing a chunk of work to be proud of, to leave behind if it is indeed the final snippet.
·         Necessary revisions after the new-love blush of the first draft.
·         Proofing and polishing until the result glows.
·         Finding experts for information when your personal experience is lacking. Don’t rely on Google exclusively.
·         Producing the best work possible. Not perfect—even the top books have an occasional typo. Those pests are eventually routed to the door. But sound—something worthy of being the last great work.

To my friend, I wish you joy wherever your spirit travels. Thank you for the reminder to live, and write, as if I am dying.

Rhett DeVane, southern fiction author and blog master

Friday, March 24, 2017

Time to let another book go...

The breathless part of releasing a book—hitting “place order.”

It’s a bit like holiday shopping, this book creation deal. I never really feel as if I finish; there’s a point when I just have to stop.

Oh there will be a typo or two or three. No matter that I have gone through the copy a gazillion times, or that I have a jam-up editor, or that I have proofed the advanced copy to find a few last-minute things to tweak.

They lurk, those minor glitches, all na-na-na-boo-boo. Keeping me human. And humble. And imperfect.

In the end, I know I have to release it to the world or never have time to write yet another piece of fiction, to revise and revise and edit and edit.

But my mama speaks up: the expert on everything and anything; the little, kind voice I hear in my head when self-doubt keeps me awake at night; the leader of my cheering section no matter that she’s not on this side of reality now.
“Do the very best you can do, honey. Then rest easy.”

To that end, I nudge my latest novel, Parade of Horribles, into the world. It’s not perfect but it’s mine.

Good travels, little book. Go forth and touch the people you need to touch. I will remain behind, ready to let the muses take over once more.

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Writers4Higher features author Pat Stanford

Welcome to Writers4Higher

The purpose of the Writers4Higher blog: to feature authors in a new light, a fresh look at the way writers use their talents and life energies to uplift humankind. Writers4Higher doesn’t promote religious or political views. Authors are asked to answer three simple questions: simple, yet complex.

This issue, Writers4Higher features

Pat Stanford

Hi, Pat. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.   Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

While I was born in Philadelphia, my farming family moved to Delray Beach, Florida when I was one, looking for year-round growing seasons. I lived there until a brief stint in the Air Force took me to California.

I graduated Florida State University with a Secondary Education, which was never used for its intended purpose. I have been writing poetry for as long as I could hold a pencil, and have poems published in several anthologies. I won second place in the 2004 Seven Hills Contest with my short story, Divorce Sale, and am working on other short stories for publication this year.

Fixing Boo Boo, is my first novel length work, and is a creative non-fiction account of what happens when a brain-injured sibling comes to live with a sister who doesn’t know what that means.

After being introduced to growing roses by my father, I created my own rose garden and frequently photograph them to share in social media. I served as President of the Tallahassee Area Rose Society and am a bronze medal recipient with the national organization, the American Rose Society.

I live in Tallahassee, Florida with my husband and two cats and am currently working on an adventure novel set in Mongolia, as well as ghostwriting a book of non-fiction.

2.   Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I began the book I am working on now over ten years ago, but got bogged down in research, so I put it in a drawer. After publishing one book, I think I have better tools to complete it. The characters began talking to me again and I hope it will see its own publishing date in the near future.

The things I learned in the research were interesting enough, but the real challenge is making the story I want to tell seem real and the characters living, breathing people you care about. Of course, having a critique group who are unafraid of ripping the story to shreds and having to look at what you are doing a second and third time, also helps!

3.   How do you use your talents/time to help others?

With the publishing of Fixing Boo Boo, I begin a whole new chapter of helping people who are not disabled understand what they don’t understand. I have partnered with the Brain Injury Association of Florida and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association in order to help them in their annual public awareness events and have information at my signing events to help people with questions on disability.  

In my role as Tallahassee Writers Association Critique Group Coordinator, I try to find a group for members needing one. This will help them take their writing further than would be possible on their own.

I volunteer at the Goodwood Museum Gardens, propagating new roses for use both on their grounds as well as making roses available to the public. Although lately I have only been chief weed-puller.

Would you like to find Pat Stanford?

Check out the links to this talented author:

Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

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