Category Archives: News

AAW member releases Great Depression memoir

A writing project that spanned decades reached fruition today when Thomas P. Ramirez published That Wonderful Mexican Band: A Memoir of The Great Depression.

Book cover of "That Wonderful Mexican Band"Ramirez began the memoir in the late 1960s when he wrote a short story focusing primarily on his family’s short-lived musical career. He returned to the project in the 1980s, recording episode after fascinating episode and ultimately transforming them into a 388-page paperback.

This excerpt from the back cover sheds additional light on the subject and spirit of the memoir:

Welcome to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, a small Midwestern town struggling through the Great Depression. The misadventures of a poor minority family with big dreams, as told by oldest son Thomas, reveal a deep love in the face of serious struggles and a rich life in spite of poverty. The Ramirezes’ story is humorous, bittersweet, and—above all—honest.

That Wonderful Mexican Band is sure to strike a chord with anyone who grew up during the Great Depression or ever wondered what it was like to live “way back then.”

In addition to the memoir, Ramirez has written more than 150 paperbacks—spanning such genres as mystery, military, and erotica—though much of his writing has been published under pen names. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 1955.


AAW author publishes 3 books in 1 day

The Renegade Chronicles' covers

 

A story that started in 1997 reached a happy ending on March 29, 2016, when author David Michael Williams published The Renegade Chronicles.

Comprised of three full-length, sword-and-sorcery fantasy novels (Rebels and Fools, Heroes and Liars, and Martyrs and Monsters), The Renegade Chronicles tells the tale of a ragtag team of rebels whose rivalry with the ruling knights becomes overshadowed by a hidden threat to the realm.

The twists and turns of the trilogy’s narrative parallel those of the project itself, which began as an English assignment at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac when Williams was 17. He spent the next seven years writing and editing three books for the series—in between attending college classes, teaching English in China for a year, starting a family, and working as the entertainment writer/editor at The (Fond du Lac) Reporter newspaper.

Williams made a few attempts to find a traditional publisher for the series. However, he eventually moved on, working on other writing projects and honing his craft as time permitted. He always hoped to return to The Renegade Chronicles one day, but the manuscripts collected dust for ten years.

“I’m very fortunate to have been able earn a living with my writing,” Williams, a content specialist at BrownBoots Interactive Inc., said. “But while a career in journalism, public relations and marketing have allowed me to tap into my inner storyteller on occasion, I began to feel like I was neglecting my first love: fiction.”

Determined to put his dream of becoming a published author on the front burner, Williams spent the latter half of 2015 creating a business plan for his own independent publishing company and refining his early works. He formed One Million Words LLC in January 2016.

The Renegades returned to action in March when all three volumes of The Renegade Chronicles were simultaneously published in paperback and e-book editions. They are available at Amazon.com and the Kindle Store, respectively.

“Tackling all three books at once was maybe a little masochistic, but I wanted the entire series to be available on Day 1 so that people could ‘binge read’ one right after another,” he said. “Kind of like Netflix’s ‘House of Cards,’ only with magical swords.”

Whether the Fond du Lac author writes more novels set in the magical, medieval world of Altaerra will depend on the commercial success of the first three books.

“I have plenty of material to draw from, including a complete draft of a new Altaerra novel. Fantasy, as a genre, continues to be popular, so I’m hopeful my series will find the right readership,” said Williams, 37, who describes The Renegade Chronicles as being as epic in scope as the Harry Potter novels and George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” but with a PG-13 rating.

Even as he promotes The Renegade Chronicles, Williams is hard at work writing a science fiction series, The Soul Sleep Cycle, which is represented by the Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency.

Williams is a 1999 graduate of UW-Fond du Lac. In 2001, he received a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing from UW-Milwaukee. He joined the Allied Authors of Wisconsin in 2005.

His website, david-michael-williams.com, features a blog about his fiction and the craft of writing.


AAW bids farewell to Dorothy Austin

Dorothy Witte Austin, a longtime Milwaukee newspaper woman and member of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin, died Nov. 29, 2015, at age 97 in Portland, Tenn.

Dorothy AustinDorothy was born Aug. 22, 1918, in Necedah, Wis., daughter of Emil Alfred Witte and Marie (Wake) Witte. She earned a bachelor’s cum laude degree in journalism from Marquette University in 1940 and was a member of Theta Sigma Phi (later the Association of Women in Communications) and an honorary member of Gamma Pi Epsilon.

On Oct. 3, 1953, Dorothy married widower Harry Russell (Russ) Austin, who also worked at The Milwaukee Journal from 1944 to 1982, ending his career as reader-contact editor. He died March 3, 1994.

Dorothy is survived by three children, Steve Austin of Portland, Tenn.; Richard Kirk (Sage) Austin of Rio Frio, Texas; and Christopher Austin of Milwaukee, Wis., as well as grandson Matthew Russell Austin.

In her 33 years as a journalist, she worked at the Catholic Herald Citizen (1940-’43), The Milwaukee Journal (1950-’67) and The Milwaukee Sentinel (1970-’83). Dorothy’s career included Red Cross staff assistant in South Africa and Italy during World War II (1943-’45); advertising copy chief at Gimbels department store (1945-’50); and assistant and associate director of Milwaukee’s popular Summerfest music festival (1967-’69).

She was a member of the Unitarian Universalist church in Milwaukee, Washington (D.C.) Press Clubs, Wisconsin Press Women, Allied Authors of Wisconsin (AAW), and the Women’s Overseas Service League. She was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club’s Media Hall of Fame in 1985, the club’s centennial year — eight years before her husband received the same honor.

“Dorothy was a pioneer for women in journalism. She tackled many obstacles and even won the right to return to work after having a child — probably the first woman in the history of The Milwaukee Journal to do so,” said retired journalist Paula Brookmire, who covered the feminist movement in the 1970s for The Milwaukee Journal when Dorothy was writing about the same for The Milwaukee Sentinel.

“Dorothy was one of the most interesting, hard-working, wonderful women I’ve ever met,” said Maureen Mertens, fellow AAW member and freelance reporter for The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Dorothy got the job done. No excuses. No complaints.”

“She was a warm and loving person with a zest for life that remained until her last illness,” said friend Rose Daitsman, a retired chemical engineer and minority-student recruiter who taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The family is planning a memorial service in Milwaukee sometime later this year.


Haefele will appear on Lovecraft panel at PulpFest

John D. Haefele, a longtime member of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin, will share his insights on the origins of the Cthulhu Mythos this month at PulpFest.

Poster for PulpFest 2015In celebration of the 125th anniversary of the birth of H.P. Lovecraft, PulpFest 2015 will present a variety of programming to honor one of the best known contributors to the weird tale genre. Haefele will appear on a panel titled “The Call of Cthulhu: The Development of Lovecraft’s Mythos” on Friday, Aug. 14. The program promises a lively discussion that explores the inspirations of the Cthulhu Mythos, the important contributions of Lovecraft’s contemporaries, as well as the various controversies and personalities surrounding the Cthulhu Mythos premise throughout the years.

Haefele will be joined by editor and scholar Don Herron; popular culture scholar Rick Lai; Professor Tom Krabacher of California State University, Sacramento; and Nathan Vernon Madison, an author and researcher for The Pulp Magazines Project.

Signed copies of Haefele’s Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos: A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos will be available at PulpFest. The book tackles numerous questions about the Lovecraft/Derleth controversy with fresh evidence and profound revelations. Unsigned copies can be purchased at Amazon.com.

PulpFest will be held Aug. 13 to 16 at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus, Ohio.


First edition of AAW member’s litcrit book already a rarity

If you want the hardcover copy of John D. Haefele’s book about Wisconsin’s legendary author August Derleth, it’ll cost you.

“Collectors who didn’t get in fast may simply have to get in large,” cautions literary critic Don Herron, who examined the book’s Amazon.com ranking — as well as the going price for the first edition — on his popular blog, Up and Down These Mean Streets.

Derleth Mythos by John D. HaefeleOne copy of the book was listed at well over $1,000…

(Hopefully Herron’s warning does not apply to friends of Allied Authors of Wisconsin, who learned about Haefele’s A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos back in August of 2012.)

While the quality of Haefele’s work is certainly first-rate, the higher-than-expected prices are apparently due to a pricing algorithm used by a network that connects sellers of out-of-print books (such as AbeBooks) to industry giant Amazon, which automatically kicks in to maximize asking prices based on diminishing availability.

Amazon lists both new and used books for sale, so the real fun began when the combined total of Derleth Mythos available dropped below ten copies.

As available copies became fewer, the asking-prices for those still remaining continued to double — like the stock market’s buying frenzy and pricing feedback loop — until the last copy either was sold or pulled from the listings, all within a few days. Presumably, sellers outside the network then made changes to the pricing manually, and copies from sites such as eBay.com disappeared too.

Probably the extreme prices that popped up at the end did not represent the actual worth of the hard-to-find book. But since most of these books have either been traded or are archived in collections, a first-edition Derleth Mythos is undoubtedly worth more now than anyone paid for it new.

And the price is likely to climb further. Since the aforementioned frenzy, only one single copy has turned up for sale online, listed at nearly $700.

Fortunately, plenty of copies of the more affordable and improved second-edition of the book are available, issued by LMG Press, a newcomer that bears watching.


AAW’s Dorothy Tofte made many ripples

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Dorothy doesn’t need me to tell them how kind and gentle and generous and compassionate she was.

She also made ripples.

As people, we all change the world around us, at least a little.

We create ripples.

Dorothy Tofte

Dorothy Tofte

Some of us are Earth-shakers, and our ripples spread out and around and through history. And those ripples may be good or ill.

Most of us create more modest ripples. We have an impact on family and perhaps a few friends, possibly a co-worker or even a stranger now and then. Please understand, these modest, everyday, just-plain-folk ripples are an integral part of the societal oceans we inhabit, and without them we’re just isolated islands or bits of aimless driftwood. They’re essential, but modest.

And then…

…then there are a special few. Those whose ripples appear quiet and unassuming. They may come from people pleasant enough, kind even, but we may believe those ripples are certain to be short-lived and absolutely will not travel far.

Don’t be fooled. When created by those special few, those deceptively quiet ripples can go on and on and on.

I first met Dorothy in 1981 or ’82 when I was asked to take over an adult writing class she attended semester after semester. We hit it off—of course, she hit it off with everyone!—and she eventually invited me to be her guest at a writers group (ripples).

This wonderful group (two groups, in fact: Allied Authors and Fictioneers) included literary agent Larry Sternig as well as a host of other local literary luminaries. Larry offered to represent my fiction and garnered me my first appearance in a hard cover book (ripples). A few years later, health issues prompted him to offer me a partnership in the agency (ripples), and I took over the agency when Larry passed away in 1999 (ripples).

As an agent, I have had the pleasure of “starting” the publishing careers of nearly a dozen brand-new writers, and while they may have found an agent elsewhere and that agent may have sold their initial books and those sales may have been to the same publishers and may have entertained the same readers, Dorothy played a very real part in launching those writers’ careers (ripples).

Years ago, I invited a lifelong friend to join the Allied Authors of Wisconsin (the two groups had merged into one), and he has become a pivotal member. (Needless to say, he and Dorothy hit it off too).  He took upon himself the task of chronicling the group’s history, members past and present, publishing accomplishments and the group’s place in Wisconsin’s rich literary legacy.

He recently collected and collated the papers and history of Wisconsin’s renowned children’s book writer, Betty Ren Wright, and presented it to the state historical society, and he is doing similar work for other writers. If Dorothy had not invited me, I could not have invited him, and this treasury of information may well have been lost.

Ripples…

I have absolutely no doubt that Dorothy’s life above and beyond the narrow confines of my contact with her created other ripples. Ripples in the lives of her fellow nurses and healthcare professionals. Ripples in her patients’ lives, the lives of staff and her fellow residents at the Congregational Home, and doubtless uncounted ripples in the lives of complete strangers…anyone seeing her kind, always-smiling face could not help but smile in return and have a better day for it.

We are all the richer for having known her.

Dorothy Tofte passed away Nov. 19, 2014. Read the obituary here.

Jack Byrne contributed this article. 


AAW will miss beloved member Filomena Lea

Filomena Lea

Filomena Lea

Filomena Lea, a wife, mother, news reporter, published writer of fiction and personal experiences, a teacher of writing, has passed away, and we members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin will miss her tremendously.

Filomena was a focused, hard-working woman who got the job done. She was also kind and considerate and helped those less fortunate. She passed away on July 25, 2014, at the age of 84.

I miss you, Filomena. I miss so very much, my dear friend.

Maureen Mertens contributed this article.


Allied Authors mourn the loss of Betty Ren Wright

Betty Ren Wright, a longtime member and very dear friend of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin, passed away Dec. 31, 2013, at the age of 86. The full obituary is available in The Journal Times of Racine.

Betty Ren Wright (seated in the middle) surrounded by fellow members of Allied Authors at a recent meeting she hosted.

Betty Ren Wright (seated in the middle) surrounded by fellow members of the Allied Authors of Wisconsin.

Friends and family members have left their sentiments in the newspaper’s online guestbook, which includes this message by AAW member Jack Byrne:

“I was doubly blessed in that I enjoyed both a business relationship and personal friendship with Betty Ren. From our first meeting in the mid ’80s right through our last telephone call in mid-December, she was one of the kindest, warmest and most giving people I’ve ever met.

“Dedicated to writing and writers, she hosted a recent meeting of the Wisconsin Allied Authors, generously sharing both her home and her creative and professional acumen with other members. A Writer even then, as health issues quietly loomed for her, she shared her ideas and plans for a new book. While that book shall remain unfinished, Betty Ren’s life was a masterpiece filled with life, love, family, lasting friendships, personal losses, professional successes and the adoration of the countless children worldwide who devoured her many books.

“We will miss her.”

More information about Betty Ren is available in this announcement. A bibliography of her many books is available here.


Exciting debut of new children’s adventure hero

A novel little book with the odd title The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers popped into my procurement window on the Amazon.com website (of all places).

An intriguing little goodie, I thought, and here is its synopsis:

“V.V. never gets any good presents from her grandma. And the ugly FOOTY pajamas that arrive for her seventh birthday are the worst! So imagine V.V.’s surprise when the PJs turn out to be magical… But will her new superpowers be enough to stop a couple of troublemakers whose fun and games go too far? As the Pajamazon Amazon, V.V. must find a way to rid her neighborhood of the Goofers Twofers — and do it without getting herself into trouble too.”

The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers by David and Stephanie Williams

The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers by David and Stephanie Williams

The cover art by Alyssa Riegert (BrownBoots Interactive) was equally compelling, so I sent the reasonable $6 plus postage into the ether and within days received a handsome trade-sized paperback written for second- and third-grade readers as well as their parents.

But, of course, Stephanie and David Williams belong to Allied Authors of Wisconsin. Moreover, all AAW members have been following their progress since the project officially kicked off in March of 2012 — “officially” because in a singular fashion, the Pajamazon Amazon concept had its inception years earlier, when the authors would get their infant daughter, Gwendolyn, ready for bed by putting on her onesie pajamas and joking about her super-hero alter ego.

Gwen, who is now eight, drew the book’s delightful set of black-and-white interiors, which fans can also see in full color at www.pajamazonamazon.com.

The Pajamazon Amazon is Stephanie and David’s first attempt at co-authoring a piece of fiction and their first foray into print-on-demand/self-publishing. The couple developed the story’s plot and characters together but alternated writing the chapters — each picking the story up where the other left off.

Allied Authors members (and children’s literature experts) Fern Ramirez and Betty Ren Wright served as “beta readers.”

The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers is a children’s chapter book about a girl with magical pajamas. Not unlike many iconic costumed heroes in their earliest adventures — e.g., the teenaged Spider-Man — the Pajamazon Amazon must learn an important lesson (to use her magical powers selflessly rather than selfishly) before confronting a truly squirrely threat.

The book was published through CreateSpace in December 2013 and is available at Amazon.com.

John D. Haefele contributed this article.

Editor’s note: The Pajamazon Amazon vs The Goofers Twofers is no longer available for purchase. Here’s why.


‘Look Behind the Derleth Mythos’ makes waves

Book cover

A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos by John D. Haefele

Allied Authors of Wisconsin member John D. Haefele’s first foray into book-length literary criticism has made quite an impact.

In the months following the release of A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos: Origins of the Cthulhu Mythos — Haefele’s study of August Derleth’s contributions to H.P. Lovecraft’s shared system of lore — the book has received a number of positive and balanced reviews, including some early praise from literary critic Don Herron.

According to Herron, “(Haefele) is taking on the almost thankless task of defending Derleth, whipping post for recent generations of Lovecraft scholars, and does a great job of it…”

“Thankless” might be putting it mildly, in light of one scathing review written by leading Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi. “Lovecraft Literary Feud: S.T. Joshi Rebuts John D. Haefele,” an article by Peter Cannon in Publishers Weekly’s news blog, sums up Joshi’s reaction and links to his critique.

After several invitations from Lovecraft scholars, Haefele presented his response to Joshi’s rebuttal on Herron’s website.

However, the vast majority of feedback has been very encouraging, including these excerpts:

“Haefele cites abundant secondary sources to support his arguments, and in many cases turns the words of Derleth’s sharpest critics back against them. This book does not resolve the controversy over Derleth and his handling of the mythos, but it does present its key issues from a different and often enlightening perspective.” — Publishers Weekly

“I appreciate authors that do their research, and Haefele certainly has done that; I also appreciate writers who know how to write, and Haefele fulfills that function handily.” — Brian Leno, REHtwogunraconteur.com

“I don’t expect this book to rehabilitate Derleth in the current Lovecraftian community. It is a shot fired by a fan and full of much forgiveness, but it is well researched and well thought out. It is an ‘untimely meditation’ in Lovecraftian studies. But it gives a great intellectual history of Arkham House and the dedicated work of an individual who made sure certain cultural artifacts survived. The book is a solid contribution to scholarship about the evolution of the weird tale in America — covering not only literary efforts, but commercial ones as well. As writers our fate is bound up in the presses that publish us.” — Don Webb, New York Review of Science Fiction

A Look Behind the Derleth Mythos, published by H. Harksen Productions, can be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and Lulu.com.

Haefele is currently working on his next book.


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