Path to Publication: Jennifer Froelich

Today’s Path to Publication post is by fellow Clean Reads author, Jennifer Froelich. Without further ado, here’s Jennifer…

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First TypewriterMy mom bought me a blue typewriter for my tenth birthday, not too long after I had hand-written a story about a group of kids who solved a mystery involving a rich old lady, a spooky manor, and a priceless diamond. With my new typewriter, I went on to write another story about a little girl who found a magical rainbow bridge outside her bedroom window, which she crossed to a secret island in the sky.

You might think I knew then that I wanted to be a novelist. I didn’t. I wanted to be a nurse, then a doctor, then, briefly, an NFL cheerleader. As I grew, my career goals constantly changed. I wanted to teach, I wanted to be an interior designer, then an architect. When I joined choir in high school I was good enough to imagine a career on the stage, but not good enough for those aspirations to last. After that, my love of sewing inspired an interest in fashion design, and I dreamed of an exclusive boutique with rich clients who wore my one-of-a-kind designs.

But when I graduated from high school, none of those fantastic ideas stuck. Instead, I decided I would be practical and chose a major that would lead to good money: accounting. It took me a couple of years to admit (out loud) that balancing spreadsheets was not for me. The idea of writing novels was starting to break free from my subconscious at that point, but I was still too practical to pursue it head on. Instead, I changed my major to journalism, reasoning that I could find solid work by writing, even if I wasn’t writing fiction.

I’m happy with the degree I earned. Because of my degree in journalism, I have been able to take on editorial jobs to augment my creative writing through the years. I also learned a lot of valuable research and interview skills, along with the rules of newsworthiness, which are great to consider, even when writing a novel.

After graduating from college, I immediately became a mother, which prompted me to take on those freelance writing jobs while I raised my kids. For years, I subcontracted for a Writer’s Digest book doctor: editing, proofreading, critiquing and ghostwriting for other aspiring writers. Seeing what worked (and what didn’t) for those writers was a great learning experience for me while I worked on my own fiction.

My debut novel, Dream of Me, is about two strangers who meet in shared dreams, which motivates them to try and find each other in the real world. The concept came to me after I had an odd dream myself and wondered if the person I dreamed about was somewhere else in the world, sharing that same dream. When I finished writing it, I shared it with my book doctor client and he loved it, so I started sending query letters to literary agents. I gave up somewhere after 100. Some of the agents were encouraging (great concept, keep trying, etc.) others just sent a form rejection letter without so much as a private address. (A letter beginning with “Dear author” is never something you want to pull out of your mailbox). So I put Dream of Me in a box and began to write another book.

I can’t remember why I decided to set my second novel in Mexico. But when I started researching the Copper Canyon and the legends of the Aztec people, I knew that’s where my story should take place. Eventually, I wrote Sacrifices, a story about two former lovers who are reunited as FBI and Mexican Federal agents, working together to find a serial killer who believes he is a reincarnated Aztec god. Ultimately, I changed my title to A Place Between Breaths, based on a marksmanship term that echoed themes in the story.

Right about that time, I was approached by a small publishing house looking for new titles. I was excited about the prospect, but wary of their inexperience. I decided to show them Dream of Me and see what they thought. They offered me a contract. Unfortunately, my wariness ended up being justified. I spent several months rewriting and editing my manuscript, only to have the owners close shop just as I was finished. I was devastated, but after crying and moping for a while, I thought: The book is done and edited. Why don’t I just self-publish it? So that’s what I did. I remember getting my first review, in which the reader wrote: “I was completely mesmerized by this book!” That’s still one of my favorite memories – reading a perfect stranger’s words, praising mine. I had readers! My book had fans!

After that, I tried to find an agent for A Place Between Breaths, but found that the publishing world had only gotten more difficult to navigate. Most respected agents had full client lists, and those who were seeking new talent were not interested in my suspense novel. After a few almost-but-not-quite-perfect connections, I decided to self-publish again. I had learned a lot from my experience with Dream of Me and the process went much more smoothly. Once again, I was getting great reviews and building a small, but loyal readership.

Marketing books while trying to write another one has always been the most difficult thing about this business, and that was no exception as I continued to try and sell Dream of Me and A Place Between Breaths while writing my third novel, Stealing Liberty. It didn’t help that this novel, in multiple ways, was going to be more challenging than the other two.

In the first place, I was breaking the rule of sticking with one genre: Stealing Liberty was going to be a young adult novel. It was also a dystopian story, which had already peaked in popularity with The Hunger Games and the Divergent series. Stealing Liberty needed to be a series as well, so what were the chances readers would care about three books, let alone one, if dystopian fiction was already on the way out? Add to that the fact that Stealing Liberty would feature a Christian character (which never, ever happens in popular mainstream fiction) and once again, I faced the possibility of writing a book that no one was interested in publishing.

But I had to write it. I loved the story, I thought it was important and relevant, and ultimately decided that even if I was faced with only self-publication again, it was something I had to see through. As I feared, when I finished writing it and began to query literary agents, I received multiple rejections.

Then one day, I got a call from Cyle Young at Hartline Literary. He was interested in the story, but wanted to make sure I was as serious about the work in front of me as I had been about writing the novel in the first place. We went through several rounds of edits together, focused entirely on the first three chapters (some of which I am almost convinced were designed to see how thick-skinned I was.) Keeping my cool and working hard paid off, though, and Hartline offered me a contract. After I signed, Cyle and his intern, Tessa Hall, worked with me to create a solid book proposal, which they sent out to every young adult publisher in the business.

Then came another round of rejections. Again, I learned how fluid the publishing world can be. Contracts are often offered because a story hits some specific niche that is hot right at that moment, be it pirates or princesses, androids, or shepherds (I made that last one up – the last book I read about shepherds was Far from the Madding Crowd – not exactly recent.) But regardless, the writing has to be impeccable and the subject, plot and characters exactly what those publishers are looking for at exactly the right time. As it turned out, I was right to be concerned about how my Christian character would be received. She was the only sticking point for every major publisher we approached – even the “Christian” ones, curiously, who are more and more pushing away from any mention of Jesus in favor of a simple clean-reading model.

But then Cyle received an offer from a small press called Clean Reads. The publisher said her intake reader called Stealing Liberty one of the best she had read. And since they were not scared away by my Christian character, we negotiated a publishing contract.

Stealing Liberty was released in June and the response has been fantastic. Readers love it, it’s getting great reviews, and I am in the process of writing the sequel. Along the way I’ve learned these truths about the publishing industry: First, writing is paramount. It has to be good in every way, just to get your foot in the door. Second, everything takes more work than you imagine it will: writing, editing, marketing, social media management – all of it. Third, there are millions of books out there to read – too many for any one person to read in one lifetime, which means yours – as amazing as it may be – will get buried under a pile of distraction. There’s no magic way to gain readers. You do it day by day, word by word, reader by reader.

But the payoff? Having readers respond so positively to your characters and story. Readersfavorite.com recently gave Stealing Liberty a five-star review. The reviewer wrote: “When I finished the novel, I wanted to give it a round of applause…”

That’s why I do what I do.

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When Reed Paine is sent to a secret detention school for teens whose parents are branded enemies of the state, he doesn’t expect to find friendship – especially after coming face to face with Riley Paca, a girl who has every reason to hate him.

But when Reed, Riley and a few others start reading the old books they find in tunnels under the school, they begin to question what they are taught about the last days of America and the gov-ernment that has risen in its place.

Then the government decides to sell the Liberty Bell and Reed and his friends risk everything to steal it – to take back their history and the liberty that has been stolen from them.

Buy Links:

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About the Author

Jennifer Froelich’s new novel, STEALING LIBERTY, is now available from Clean Reads books. Readers praised her debut novel, Dream of Me, as well-orchestrated with outstanding imagery. Her second novel, A Place Between Breaths, was called a roller-coaster ride with enough twists and turns to keep everyone interested and awarded an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 23rd Annual Self Published Book competition. Jennifer worked for many years as a freelance editor and ghost writer before publishing her own work. She lives in Idaho with her husband, two children and a cat named Katniss.

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Brett Armstrong’s Path to Publication story

Today I welcome fellow Clean Reads author, Brett Armstrong, to share his Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Brett…

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Path to Publication

My journey to being published really started when I was nine years old.  That was when, after years of reading books in the library, particularly history books, I decided to write a story of my own.  The result was an original story set in the last years of the Aztec Empire.  A slave from a rival people group was supposed to have been sacrificed, but escapes and blends into Aztec society, determined to get revenge.  Which he eventually did and overthrew the Aztec Emperor.  It was all handwritten and led me to write two “sequels” which followed the characters all the way to Hernan Cortes’ arrival and subsequent devastation of the Aztecs.  I say it was my first step to publishing, because after I finished part III in Aztec, I got a special folder, bound the handwritten pages in it, drew some cover art and even made up my own press name and put it on the back.  To nine year old me, I had written my first book and was pretty proud.

Over the next decade I kept writing stories as they came to me.  Some set in space, some horror stories, a western, whatever caught my imagination.  My English teachers and high school creative writing teacher were very positive about my writing and encouraged me to pursue it in college.  During my senior year, however, I was pretty much convinced there was no way I could be a writer professionally, and thought I should pursue a career in biomechanical engineering (I also did well in anatomy, art, and math). I found out West Virginia University, my college of choice, was going to have a program in biomechanical engineering through a newspaper article on it.  I went to Morgantown intent on following that path only to discover the biomechanical engineering program wasn’t a degree program yet and wouldn’t be for years.  It was only a modified mechanical engineering program with a certificate saying I had worked on biomedical topics while at WVU.  Seeing I was at a loss, a friend talked me into moving into computer engineering.  So for three years I prepared to be a computer engineer, even though I realized pretty quickly it wasn’t going to be my life’s passion. I don’t think I really contemplated that full on though until I had a blank space in my schedule for my first semester junior year and decided to take a creative writing class for fun.  Which it was. A lot of fun actually.  So much fun I took the next level course a semester later.

While in the second creative writing course I had a couple breakthrough moments writing-wise. The first came when I wrote a short story titled Destitutio Quod Remissio and had it critiqued by the class.  My professor called it “beautiful” and my classmates said it was “cinematic”, “epic”, and most importantly enthusiastically volunteered to help me turn the story into a novel.  That was the first and only time in any creative writing course I’ve been privy to that kind of sentiment.  Later in the semester I remember walking to my car after class, which was a fair distance, and just stopping in midstride.  My thoughts from the moment I’d left the classroom to that point had been fixated on writing.  I knew that with the semester ending soon, my writing would be as well and the thought was painful.  It caught me by surprise, though in retrospect it seems like I had always been building to it, but I realized I did not want to give up writing.  Writing felt different, far different from any other task I’d ever undertaken. Even subjects I enjoyed: history, math, and art, never made me feel the way delving deep into the fictional realm of story could. I often tell people, standing there I understood the statement attributed to 1924 Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell, “God made me fast.  When I run, I feel His pleasure.”  I haven’t been able to shake the feeling since.

My then fiancée graciously indulged and encouraged my newfound determination to pursue writing.  She read my first adult novel (still unpublished and a work-in-progress) and has supported me every step of my journey, even when the proverbial stack of rejection e-mails began piling up.  I read up on agents, publishers, query letters, and just about any and every of the myriad of topics related to getting a book into print to refine my pitches and queries.  Meanwhile, I graduated from WVU with my computer engineering and computer science degrees, and had a minor in creative writing along with the first thirty pages of the novelization of Destitutio Quod Remissio in hand. Within a year I had the completed manuscript and submitted it in the 2014 CrossBooks Writing Contest.  While I waited on the outcome of that contest I really started thinking about what life as a writer should look like for me and I decided that rather than going into writing full time, I wanted to be able to give back.  If God blessed me with the privilege to write for others I wanted to also be able to give from what I’d received.  So I decided I would keep working full-time at my new job as programmer analyst for the WV Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and write in my free time.  In that way I could donate my book royalties to charity and mission work.

In April 2014, Destitutio Quod Remissio was announced as the winner of the CrossBooks Writing Contest.  I literally jumped up and down when I got the phone call. It was a national contest from an imprint of B&H Publishing Group/LifeWay (the publisher for Southern Baptist churches) and meant Destitutio Quod Remissio would be in print, receive a marketing and publicity campaign, and next year I’d get to be a judge on the next contest’s panel.  By October 31st, Destitutio Quod Remissio was on Amazon.  In spite of everything I’d read up that point on getting a book published, I had neglected to read up on what to do after you had a book in hand as an author.  Which for the record, I do not recommend.  I knew nothing of marketing, blog tours, street teams, book signings and festivals, any of that side of publishing. I was leaning pretty heavily on the publisher to market the book for me.  That was a mistake and a rather large one.  I did have a few helpful things happen, though even those I didn’t actively pursue, like getting a book signing at a local LifeWay store and having an article about me in my state’s biggest newspaper.  I’m still trying to find my way to where I should have been three years ago. Or a more positive way of looking at it is that I’m learning and making progress.

My road to being a published author also hit a major road bump when I found out just shy of a year after winning the contest that LifeWay had decided to close CrossBooks permanently.  In May my publisher was gone and had handed my book over to Thomas Nelson’s self-publishing imprint West Bow Press. Thankfully I didn’t have to pay to have it re-published through them, but all of the marketing from CrossBooks I had been depending on was gone.  DQR was back in print by my birthday in August, though a lot of my pride that came with it had been leveled. Which was a good thing.  Because instead of fixate on what I had done, I focused on other things.  A major portion of my focus went to my wife and our infant son.  He was born just after I found out about CrossBooks, so I really appreciated being distracted by waiting for a first smile, giggle, and figuring out this thing called tummy-time.

I also kept writing, which I think is really imperative.  I might be jaded, but I feel like a lot of the aspects of publishing (marketing, brand-building, etc.) are useful and necessary for an author to make it in the publishing world of today, but they also take a lot of a writer’s attention away from writing itself.  From the time CrossBooks disappeared to August 2015, I did a lot of writing. Over 100,000 words worth actually.  And most of it late at night and during nap times. It was during that period of defeat that I finished the bulk of a new novel which I called Day Moon. I had the idea for it about the same time I was finishing up school at WVU and working on Destitutio Quod Remissio, but had held off on writing Day Moon until late 2014.  That was when I decided to start writing it for my creative writing master’s thesis work.  I graduated in March 2015 with close to 40,000 words written and from March to August I wrote three quarters of the book and started on its sequel.  The whole thing was a huge shift for me, because I had quickly come to fancy myself a historical fiction writer and while history has its hand on the book, Day Moon pretty clearly is sci-fi and dystopian.

Breaking my genre bias has really took me back to my roots storytelling-wise. Day Moon was a strong reminder that telling a good story in the setting and style it needs to be told is the important thing, regardless of what genre it falls in.  Right now I’m at varying stages of completion on an epic fantasy, a speculative history, a historical, and a horror novel. My brief bout of being unpublished again helped me get some priorities straight, correct a bad direction I was going as a writer, and treat me to some humble pie, which really tastes better than one would think.

Round two in seeking publication I researched one-on-one meetings with agents and editors and some less conventional methods of proposing a book. I’m wretched at writing query letters.  Whatever development I’ve had in that regard is negligible and probably all in my head.  What I can do is speak about things I’m passionate about. When I can strip away a lot of the peripheral issues and just talk about writing or a particular story, I do much better.  So I decided to go to the West Virginia Writers Conference and the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in 2016 (the latter happened during my birthday that year so it seemed all the more appropriate). I also started looking into Twitter pitch parties, found four or so that seemed to work well for me and started writing pitches for Day Moon and my two other nearly finished novels.

Even if you never get the courage or opportunity to try face-to-face pitches or Twitter pitch parties, I would encourage every writer to go through the work of preparing for each.  It really helps you hone in on what the most basic elements of your story are and express them in a concise and poignant format. I never had to do that for Destitutio Quod Remissio and I regret that now, because I can see I’ve been much more effective at telling people about Day Moon in casual conversation, querying for reviews, interviews, etc. Before submitting a manuscript to an editor or agent, go through the work of making each kind of pitch and then see how big a difference it makes on the more conventional forms of queries.

I had some likes on most of my pitches for each book at all of the Twitter parties I participated in and submitted my manuscripts to a couple of publishers that were reputable (which is something to watch for in Twitter parties and in general, because not all of publishers are trustworthy; research is crucial).  While attending the conferences I got some really positive reactions to Day Moon’s premise from an agent and a couple editors but no firm commitments.  A couple weeks after the ACFW conference, I found an e-mail from Stephanie Taylor at CleanReads saying she wanted to publish Day MoonI had been interested in CleanReads for some time because I thought their covers were fantastic and knew they had a large selection of young adult books.  CleanReads just seemed like it would be a good fit for Day Moon. After looking into what other authors were saying about CleanReads on AbsoluteWrite and anywhere else I could find information, I decided to accept the offer.

It’s been almost two months since Day Moon was released and it still feels surreal sometimes.  It’s easy to get caught up in promoting, marketing, what is said in reviews, and comparing how my books are doing to books from other authors.  That can all be maddening to deal with, but at the same time, there are incredible moments.  I got to speak at the library I grew up attending as an author and just talk about writing in very pure terms. A man who taught creative writing for decades told me it was “brilliant”.  On another occasion, a woman let me know that after reading Destitutio Quod Remissio she had bought a copy for a loved one because he was going through hard passages in life and she thought the story might help him.

I don’t necessarily feel intrinsically special to be an author, but I do feel privileged to be a part of something special.  Fiction stories have a marvelous potential to get down deep inside someone and make a difference in how he or she faces reality.  To have started out as a nine year old boy with a homemade book and to now be able to really share stories with the world is truly a blessing. The road hasn’t been and still isn’t always smooth, but it is one I’m thankful to be traveling.

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In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global software initiative his deceased grandfather helped found.  Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge.  All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure:  a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather.  Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria.  The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”.

When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for.  There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose.  Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him.  Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria.  All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brett Armstrong, author of the award-winning novel, Destitutio Quod Remissio, started writing stories at age nine, penning a tale of revenge and ambition set in the last days of the Aztec Empire.  Twenty years later, he is still telling stories though admittedly his philosophy has deepened with his Christian faith and a master’s degree in creative writing.  His goal with every work is to be like a brush in the Master artist’s hand and his hope is the finished composition always reflects the design God had in mind.  He feels writing should be engaging, immersive, entertaining, and always purposeful.  Continually busy at work with one or more new novels to come, he also enjoys drawing, gardening, and playing with his beautiful wife and son.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/brettarmstrongwv

Twitter:        https://www.twitter.com/BArmstrongWV

Pinterest:      http://www.pinterest.com/ChristianKid044

Website:       www.BrettArmstrong.net

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8281587.Brett_Armstrong

 

BOOK TRAILER:

 

BUY LINKS:

Amazon

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Bob Morris Shares his Path to Publication Story

Let’s give Bob Morris a warm welcome to the blog! He’s a fellow Clean Reads author, and has generously agreed to share his Path to Publication story. Without further ado, here’s Bob…

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I’ve been writing for small-town newspapers for nearly 24 years, but always had a creative side in me. I guess I didn’t realize it until later in life, though. I had done other creative writing projects but thought of them as hobbies more than anything. After I self-published a non-fiction book about my days of newspaper writing in Raton, N.M., a thought crossed my mind about trying my hand at fiction writing.

Then I watched a TV show called Young Justice and loved its premise, how the characters were developed and how the storyline overall progressed. I read up more about one of the creators, Greg Weisman, and studied how he developed his characters. I had ideas bouncing around in my head about doing my own superhero team-up, but in book form. I jotted down notes but nothing ever came of it. Soon after, though, I lost my job in Raton and my enthusiasm for promoting my non-fiction book – I did find another job soon enough but the idea of fiction writing fell by the wayside.

Then I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and loved it. I read the other books in the series and that’s when I revisited my superhero tale, putting it in a futuristic, dystopian environment and focusing it toward a young adult market. However, things weren’t working out with the new job as I had hoped, so I first focused on finding a new job.

I found that job in Kingman, Kan., in the summer of 2014. After a few months, once I had settled in, I wrote a rough draft of my tale early in 2015 and sent it to a friend of mine for feedback. From there, I read up on the world of publishing, researched agents, joined the Kansas Writers Association, got feedback from other people, advice and tips about fiction writing – all the while, I was rewriting drafts, going through six until I got the book where I wanted it to be. Took me the whole year to get it to the point that I could send it out.

I started sending out queries to agents early in 2016. I sent about 25 inquiries, rewrote my query letter along the way, trying to find the right pitch. Those who did respond to queries said they weren’t interested. I weathered the storm, knowing that rejection comes with the territory. Then I learned about the Twitter pitch party, Pit2Pub, and though that might be worth trying. I even got to practice pitches with the folks with the Kansas Writers Association – of course, these were spoken pitches, rather than written. But it helped me understand how to tweak a pitch, keep it brief and get people wanting to know more.

So I put out several pitches on Pit2Pub in June of 2016 and had five publishers who indicated interest. I sent manuscripts to four of them. After two rejections, that’s when I heard back from Clean Reads on Sept. 20, 2016 – Stephanie Taylor liked my manuscript and offered me a contract.

And so, the publication of Six Pack: Emergence, became reality. It’s the first in a planned trilogy, though I have a spinoff book in mind, too.

It’s been quite a journey – again, I’ve been writing for many years, but when I got into the newspaper world, the thought of publishing a book never crossed my mind, and certainly not in  fiction. It took me a while to embrace my inner geek and my creative self, put it to use in something that wasn’t strictly a hobby and see where it all took me.

The book is dedicated to Kurt Campbell, the former president of the Kansas Writers Association, who took a lot of interest in my book and was so helpful in giving me advice and feedback. Sadly, he passed away Sept. 30, 2016, just a couple days after I had signed my contract with Clean Reads. I never did get a chance to tell him the good news and I wish he was here today. The book is dedicated to him. I’m getting a little emotional just writing this now.

The biggest piece of advice I’d give to anybody is to not give up on your writing. The process to getting published takes time. You will be told by somebody “this doesn’t work for me.” You will have somebody point out an issue with your writing. And you will have to deal with rejection – never take it personally, because agents and publishers have so many aspiring writers to consider and can only take so many clients. With persistence, you’ll find the right path to take your creation and get it out to the world.

B.W. Morris

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Back cover: Just weeks before Tyler Ward is to graduate from secondary school, he learns the truth about Novusordo and how a drink controls the population. After sharing this information with his five friends, they visit a professor’s house, take another drink and gain strange powers. It leads to them learning more about how the government controls people and the discovery of a movement against the government. Calling themselves the Six Pack, Tyler and his friends must learn how their powers can change society. But they first must learn to trust this movement… and even each other.

 

Buy the book:

Six Pack Emergence is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and many other online retailers.

 

Author Bio:

Bio: B.W. Morris, a longtime writer for small-town newspapers, is a comic book geek who put his overactive imagination to work through novel writing. Born in Texas but grew up in Colorado, Morris has also lived in New Mexico and Oklahoma and currently resides in Kingman, Kan. He is a member of the Kansas Writers Association.
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