Thursday, July 20, 2017


~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis: The time was 1968. The place was Montgomery, Alabama. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated. War was raging in Vietnam. And war was raging on the playground of the all-white Wyatt Elementary School. 
Schoolyard bullies teased sixth grader Lisa Parker because of the way her nose looked. Lisa would often develop a stomachache and check out of school to escape the bullies. Until sixth grade teacher Miss Annie Loomis came to Wyatt. Miss Loomis just happened to be the first African American at Wyatt, and Lisa loved her English class. Now, when the bullies teased Lisa, she would stay in school so that she could be in Miss Loomis’ class. Yet something terrible happened that would change Lisa and Miss Loomis forever.  
Racism reared its ugly head at Wyatt, and now Lisa was not the only victim of the bullies’ teasing. Would Miss Loomis endure the bullies’ racist taunts?

Interview With The Author: 
1.     Colorblind is based off your sixth grade experience when your school became integrated. How much of this novel depicts your actual experience? 
This novel depicts half of my actual experience and half of fictionalization for dramatic effect.  For example, there was an actual spelling bee at my school, but Miss Loomis’ reaction thereto was exaggerated for dramatic effect.

2.     You were inspired by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. How did this novel influence your writing?  
This novel inspired me to write about racism from the point of view of a Caucasian Southern girl.

3.     How much research, if any, did you dedicate to the novel?
I researched the dates of Dr. King and Sen. Kennedy’s assassinations as well as the date of the Apollo moon launch.

4.     How would you describe the characters Ms. Loomis and Lisa Parker apart from their physical appearances? 
Miss Loomis and Lisa Parker were both scared individuals who were bullied by two boys at school.  Lisa was also browbeat by her mother while Miss Loomis was browbeat by Rev. Reed.  Both characters had yet to realize their inner strengths.  Lisa would grow to recognize her inner strength while Miss Loomis would fall prey to the bullying and quit teaching at Lisa’s school.

5.     What role do you think skin color and birth defects play in society today? 
Skin color and birth defects both define our individuality and discriminate based upon these genetic differences.  Are they as relevant as they were back in 1968?  Yes.  Unfortunately, people still discriminate against others based upon skin color and birth defects.  I prefer the phrase “physically challenged” to that of “birth defects.”  The latter phrase implies that the person is somehow less than a complete human being. 

6.     How did you develop the characterization for the bullies? 
I used the physical descriptions of my actual schoolyard bullies for the two bullies in Colorblind.

7.     How did you develop the resolution for the novel? 
I took what actually happened after my spelling bee—my African American teacher quit teaching school—and changed it by having her teach HeadStart children to demonstrate her resilience in the face of discrimination.  Yet her resilience is short-lived because she dies at the end of the book, an aspect of the book which I fictionalized for dramatic effect.

8.     What was the most rewarding moment you experienced in writing Colorblind
My most rewarding moment was re-living my bicycle ride with my brother to Katie’s candy store—this happy event actually happened many times during my childhood.

9.     What was the biggest challenge you faced writing Colorblind
My biggest challenge was being a Caucasian Southern woman writing about an African American Southern woman.  I developed a “second skin” which enabled me to write as Miss Loomis, Lisa’s African American sixth grade teacher.

10.   What do you hope readers will gain from Colorblind
I hope that my readers will gain insight into the evils of discrimination based upon skin color or physical challenge.  I hope my readers will also realize that discrimination is an ongoing problem which requires vigilance not only in 1968 but also today.

11.  What did you gain from writing Colorblind
I gained cathartic healing from writing Colorblind as I relived my childhood bullying.

12.  Do you have anything else in the works? 
Yes, I am writing a nonfiction book on a code which permeates the writings of James Joyce.

Leah Harper Bowron is a lawyer and James Joyce scholar from Birmingham, Alabama. Her article “Coming of Age in Alabama: Ex parte Devine Abolishes the Tender Years Presumption” was published in the Alabama Law Review. She recently lectured on Joyce’s novel Ulysses at the University of London and the Universite de Reims. She lives in Texas and has a daughter named Sarah and a cat named Jamie.

Facebook: Leah Harper Bowron

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Searching For Irene

~ I received no compensation and opinions are 100% my own or my family. ~

Synopsis: What happened to Irene?

When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920’s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before.  Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion to begin working, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one—

After Anna sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance, a series of frightening incidents ensnare her in a maze of intrigue. Anna is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart.

But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets in a troubled household, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. When her life is threatened, Anna is left to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene—

Excerpt; Searching for Irene

The tallest parts of the mansion—fanciful turrets and a circular tower—were visible only in glimpses Anna caught between lofty oaks and towering pines as her cab wound through the knolls and hills of eastern Virginia.

When the cab turned up the long driveway lined with dogwood trees in full bloom, Anna Coughlin reached for her handbag, gripping it with a tension that had knotted her muscles ever since getting on the train.
The vast estate stood on a hilltop, like a castle—and she craned her neck to better view the starkly impressive gray-stone mansion of Ashton Hall—where she hoped to be hired. With its arched, leaded windows and slate roof with numerous chimneys, the house rivaled pictures she’d seen of castles in Europe.
Instructing the driver to wait, she climbed out, patted her hat in case it was askew, then smoothed her gray suit with gloved hands in hopes of presenting a professional appearance. Anna had no confidence she was clever enough or bold enough to pull this off, but she had to try.
Her eye was drawn by a tall man—more than six feet—who came from the side of the house. Since the man was striding toward her so purposefully, Anna stopped and waited. As he drew near, Anna noted his deep-set eyes were as black as his hair. His skin was tanned, his thin, long-fingered hands brown and strong.
“Miss Coughlin?” He stretched out a hand and shook hers, but there was no warmth for her in his eyes. “I’m Tyler Richardson. Unfortunately, your services are not needed after all.” A touch of arrogance marked his manner, as though he was long accustomed to command those around him.
“Your father called only last week to have someone come out,” Anna blurted in dismay. “May I ask what caused him to change his mind?”
A fleeting glimpse of discomfiture crossed Mr. Richardson’s face. “I wasn’t consulted about his hiring another secretary to replace the one who left so suddenly. My father isn’t in good health, and the last thing we need is someone coming in and upsetting him by making a muddle of things.”
His words kindled a fire that glinted in Anna’s eyes. How dare he make such an assumption? It was difficult to hang on to her temper, but there was too much at stake to let his boorishness sidetrack her. “Since I’m here, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep my appointment. After all, your father is the one who requested my services. I’m sure he’s expecting me.”

Her words hit home.It took a few bitter seconds, but he finally acquiesced. “Come in, then,” he muttered ungraciously before leading the way up the steps and opening the door.

Following his rigid back down the narrow hall, Anna’s brows furrowed as doubts crept in. How wise had she been to come to this remote place? Especially when the previous secretary had disappeared so mysteriously? Even her employer thought it odd that no one in this mansion seemed to know where Irene had gone or where she was now. It was as if Irene had vanished into thin air.

Blurb for; For Sale by Owner  (Published Oct. 2016)
For Sale by Owner;  Stressed by a difficult year, McKenzie Forsberg quits her high-powered job to move back to her hometown. Desperate and determined to rebuild her life, Kenzie seeks to buy the home she grew up in. The only problem is that a handsome widower, Jared Rawlins, also wants the house. As a battle of wits ensue, sparks of attraction grow into something more. Then, Kenzie makes a stunning discovery about her past that changes everything. Will the power of love be enough to allow Jared and Kenzie to find their happily ever after?

If you are like me, and would love to write a book, here are some tips from Marlene!

Five Practical Tips for the Beginning Fiction Writer
by Marlene Bateman, Author of; Searching for Irene

1.    Great Characters Will Make Your Novel
Character, not action, pulls readers into your story. If you can’t create characters that are vivid in the reader’s imagination, you can’t create a great novel. Characters are to a novelist what lumber is to a carpenter. However, fictional characters are not the same as flesh and blood human beings. Readers want to read about the exceptional, not the mundane. Readers demand characters be more handsome, ugly, ruthless, noble, vengeful, or forgiving than real people.  There are three dimensions to every character.

1.     Physiological. This refers to height, weight, age, sex, face, health, etc. Choose physical traits that will affect the way readers view a character. 
2.     Sociological. Sociological refers to the character’s social class, what kind of neighborhood he grew up in, his politics, religion, the discipline he received. Human character is forged by the sociological climate in which an individual is raised.
3.     Psychological.  You must understand the dynamics of the character’s physiological development because that produces the conflicts and generates the narrative tension that your novel must have if it is to succeed.

2.     There Must Be Conflict
William Knott said, “The most elaborate plot in the world is useless without the tension and excitement that conflict imports to it.” There must be conflict between characters and this means insistence versus resistance. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the main character, McMurphy, wants to liberate the ward. Big Nurse does not, and does her best to maintain the status quo. That is conflict.

To strengthen conflict, you must equalize the forces of opposition. No one would pay to see Muhammad Ali fight a crippled midget.  There can be no contest, no struggle, no story without evenly matched contestants. Good opposition requires that the antagonist counter each of the protagonist’s attempts to solve the problems with as much force and cunning as the protagonist exhibits.

Inner conflicts not only make characters more interesting, but truly memorable. When a reader feels empathy with a character, it is because the character is in the throes of intense inner conflict. If a character has no inner conflict, the reader will only feel pity, not empathy. Inner conflict confirms that the characters are involved, that something is at risk for them.

3.     Great Dialogue.
Great dialogue expresses the will of the character indirectly. Characters who use indirect dialogue come across as more unique and interesting. Avoid direct dialogue, which expresses exactly what is on the character’s mind with no attempt by the character to demur, use subterfuge, lie, be witty, etc. Don’t answer questions directly.

Take time to brainstorm to try to come up with a line that is more clever and colorful. Most dialogue must be worked through to make it fresher, indirect, and witty. Check every line of dialogue. Is it in conflict? Does it further the characterizations?  When looking over your dialogue, ask yourself:
1.     Does it provide conflict?
2.     Is it trite?
3.     Can it be said better indirectly?
4.     Is the line as clever and colorful as it can be?

4.    Satisfy Your Reader with a Great Ending
The point of a novel is the climax-resolution. To have a vibrant, gripping novel, the characters must change as a result of conflict. No matter how well told a novel, it is nothing without a good ending. The following tips will help.

1.     Have a twist or a surprise. As a reader nears the end of a book, he knows things are coming to a head. Have a surprise, such as a protagonist stuck in a swamp. He is doomed, but in a burst of determination, uses his belt to reach a tree branch and saves himself.
2.     Exploit powerful emotions. Reading is primarily an emotional experience. The author’s object is to move the reader. At the climax, knock the reader over. When Scrooge becomes giddy, so does the reader.
3.     Have justice prevail.  Justice is vindicating the innocent and punishing the guilty. It is poetic justice when a man drowns his aunt in a bathtub, buys a boat with the insurance money, and drowns when the boat sinks. Readers crave to see justice done.
4.     The climax should make the novel whole.  After you resolve the core conflict, you must also answer secondary questions. Will the daughter continue to hate her father? Will the wife be reconciled to her cheating husband? You don’t have to answer fully, but most should be answered at least in part. A good climax leaves the reader feeling the story is finished. Scrooge has been transformed and will never be a miser again.

5. Don’t Go Overboard on Description
Description is a slave, not a master and is only there to enhance the actions of the actions.  Without the actors and the story, it is worthless.  Novices often go overboard on description and describe things in voluminous detail, but without a fast-moving story, nobody cares about the scenery. Keep description short.  Aim for density by using a few carefully chosen words.

Description that moves is description that works.  There are two ways to set description in motion.  First, put the description itself into action by using active verbs.  Second, sprinkle the description through the action of the story.  Make the described things do something, or put a character into the scene and reveal the objects through his actions.

Passive description; There are two tall oak trees in the yard.
Active description; Two oak trees tower over the house.
Interactive; When Joanne was a kid, she used to climb the two tall oak trees in front of the house.

Marlene Bateman Sullivan grew up in Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other cozy mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House, as well as the romance, For Sale by Owner.

Marlene has also written a number of non-fiction, LDS books:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die.   

Buy links for Searching For Irene