Friday, September 27, 2013

Tales from the Fountain Pen

By: E. Lynn Hooghiemstra
Maggie was ready to embrace life and enjoy attending vocational college when the war came to her village in the Netherlands and changed everything. In a series of interconnected stories Maggie struggles with fear, shortages, the resistance, the dangers of falling in love and who to trust. Nothing is as it had been and, as the holder of the fountain pen learns from her comfortable office in the present day, fear and uncertainty are ever-present companions. 
As the narrator fills and refills the inherited fountain pen from the 1940s, the pen takes on a life of its own as it relates the details of the events that shaped Maggie’s life, and strengthens the bond between Maggie and her future daughter.

A novella now available at your favorite E-Book seller.


I have avoided the siren’s call all day and only now on the cusp of twilight do I have the courage to go where the pen wishes to take me. It is, however, a fleeting courage. With some trepidation I unscrew the cap on the old pen.

Why I should feel this much fear I cannot say. Perhaps I feel every time I uncap the pen I am Pandora releasing a multitude of horrors, not necessarily upon the world, but upon myself. Will hope remain behind in the pen once I’ve set free all those memories, or will my life become overly burdened and perhaps irreparably harmed by my mother’s stories? Was that why she kept them secret; hidden in her pen?

Before I can lose myself in these contemplations the pen pulls me in, faster than before. I find myself in the dark, and disoriented.

Where am I—or rather, where is my mother?

* * *

Slowly my eyes adjust.

I am outside. The breeze is cold, but not unbearably so. Stars shine brightly overhead, but I see no sign of the moon. Perhaps that is why I am out this night. But what am I doing here on a deserted back road surrounded by farmland?

“Are you coming?” the familiar voice of my brother whispers. “We don’t want to get caught by a patrol.”

“Oh, right. I was just admiring the stars,” I say, and look at my brother. His face is almost hidden by the dark; I can barely make out his features.

He takes my arm and we walk along the empty road toward a structure in the distance. Of course: the Adema farm. I am taking my brother to the farm to hide him from the Germans. 

But, wait. This is not the way to the Adema farm. Are we going even further away?

Just then, Theo puts his arm around my shoulder and pulls me close.

“Patrol, act married,” he hisses in my ear. 

“Right.” I remember what our plan was now. 

I snuggle against his shoulder. My left hand is in my pocket and I can feel our mother’s wedding band on my ring finger. Everything has been set up to give the appearance of a married couple. 

“Halt,” a gruff voice behind us calls out.

We stop and slowly turn around to find a small German military vehicle with its headlights shuttered. 

Fear spreads from the pit of my stomach through my whole body. This is no ordinary patrol. These are people on a special mission, I’m sure of it. There are twice as many soldiers on the vehicle as normal and they have a Gestapo member with them. 

They are after somebody big and I only hope it’s not us. It can’t be us. There is no possible way they could be after us. 

“Who are you and why are you out after curfew?” the man in the long leather coat purrs malevolently. He’s a Dutch man who’s joined the enemy. How I hate those. 

“I’m Theo Hooghiemstra and this is my wife, Maggie. We received word that my mother is dying and we have traveled for most of the day and half the night to get to her,” Theo says smoothly.

The man purses his lips in thought while some of his soldiers openly leer at me. 

I realize how incredibly vulnerable I am here in the dark with just my brother for protection. My teeth start to chatter, perhaps from cold but more likely from fear. 

Why does this man not control his soldiers? I had heard they were under orders not to molest Dutch women. 

Two of the soldiers slowly circle us, like predators circling prey.

Theo’s hand is holding mine, tightly, and I am grateful he is there, though I’m wondering why I thought this “adventure” was a good idea. My courage seems to have deserted me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bernadette Pajer Interview

Bernadette Pajer courtesy Alexa Rae Photography.2 copy

On one of the last few days of an extraordinary Seattle summer I had the pleasure of interviewing Bernadette Pajer, author of the Professor Bradshaw series of mystery books. Book one was the book review for this month so this seems extra fun. Oh, and did I mention she lives in the Pacific Northwest as well. We do have many, many talented writers here.

Bernadette, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

My pleasure, and to be honest, I am happy to see the rain.

1. What, or who, was your inspiration for the Professor Bradshaw mysteries?

Well,  I've answered this question in several ways over the past couple years, and they're all true! Such is the genesis of characters. Professor Benjamin Bradshaw came to me rather fully formed, plodding through life with a wounded heart and a brilliant, although practical, mind. Featuring him in a series allows me to explore the fascinating people and social forces that took the world from candlestick telephones and Stanley Steamer cars to astronauts and computers—in just six decades.

2. The technical descriptions of early electricity are wonderful. Electricity is something we take for granted, but it does have a long history before it came to power our laptops and iPods. How did you tackle the research and pick the time period?

While it's true the history of electrical exploration goes back hundreds of years, it was in the early 1900's, the time of Edison and Tesla and the Professor Bradshaw Mysteries, that the accumulated discoveries and inventions built to this sort of critical mass that allowed ideas to leap forward at a crazy pace and practical electrical inventions to begin to become part of the average person's life. Research is my favorite part of writing, and thanks to technology, fairly easy to get my hands on. While I do some research in person at the University of Washington Libraries and MOHAI (the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle), and I have some fabulous historical electrical engineering texts, most of the primary materials I use and peruse are online. Historical newspapers, scientific journals, magazines, books, photographs, maps. Nearly all I need is available online through the digital archive resources of libraries, schools, museums, and more.
3. How do you set about writing a Professor Bradshaw book? Do you map it out before writing or do you listen to the professor to find out where the story will take you? Describe your process.

Every book evolves differently, but my basic approach is to begin with the whodunit or howdunit. As I look for an electrical invention to feature, I also consider motives for murder, a possible victim, a villain. I also think about Professor Bradshaw's personal story, what personal conflicts will develop or be overcome and how I can tie those in with his investigation. I give some thought to other recurrent characters, Bradshaw's son, his friends Detective O'Brien and Henry Pratt, his housekeeper Mrs. Prouty. Then I begin to research both for science and history, and often I will get more ideas from what I learn as to how the story will develop. When I feel I know the skeleton of the story and the major scenes, I begin to write, often pausing to do more research. In the first draft, I figure out the story at the scene level with dialogue and major action and a bit of setting. In the second draft, I flesh out those scenes more, adding more detail and layers to the narrative and emotional reactions. In the third draft, I continue to add detail, refine the language, find more eloquent ways of describing things. In the fourth draft . . . well, you see how it goes. It's not really as tidy as I describe it. Some chapters get to the final draft stage months before others, but eventually it's all done, and that is a wonderful feeling!

4.You’re published through Poisoned Pen Press, an independent publisher specializing in mysteries, how has that experience been and did you need an agent to get read by them?

Poisoned Pen Press is a medium-sized award-winning traditional publisher so authors have the benefits of national distribution and reviews while also enjoying a comfortable, almost casual relationship with the publisher and editors and others that keep the Press running. I do have an agent who's awesome (Jill Grosjean) but PPP accepts unagented submissions and gives all authors equal consideration.

5. eBook vs Print?

I like both, actually. They fill different needs for me. I love that I can always have an ebook or an audio book on my smart phone to sneak in a bit of reading whenever I have a few spare minutes. I love that I can inexpensively buy or freely borrow books 24 hours a day, download them to my phone or Nook in seconds, and read immediately. I also love the feel of a print book in my hand, the heft of it, the sound of the turning pages, the smell of books both new and old. Especially old. When both are available choices for me, I'll always choose the print book to curl up with.

6. Pen & Paper or a computer?

Oh, I'm a computer writer. I'm not one of those writers for whom lyrical prose drips from my pen. I build a story one layer at a time, and a computer serves my process well. See answer #3!

7. What do you think is the most important thing a writer can do, aside from write well, to increase their odds of a successful career?

Goodness, I wish I knew! You're right that the most important thing is to tell our stories as best we can and to just keep writing. Beyond that, success is an elusive thing, and not always bestowed fairly.  Perhaps the most important thing beside writing well is to keep writing. Keep learning, keep challenging yourself, keep completing books and sending them out into the world. Most writers aren't overnight successes. Some of the biggest authors were published for years with very modest sales before a book suddenly took off and launched them into bestsellerdom. Or over the years, a readership built up to bestselling levels. I'm kinda hoping that happens to me and the Professor.

8. What secret talent do you have, which everyone reading this blog will keep secret? Or, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of research?

Ha! I have no secret talents, but what a fun question. Makes me wish I had something to share. And I'm afraid I'll disappoint you with my crazy research answer. I built a homemade Leyden jar, but that's not crazy, and only takes a glass and a bit of foil. My go-to science guy, electrical engineer Bill Beaty, once burned sulfur in his basement for me. That's not crazy either, just smelly.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, and I look forward to more Professor Bradshaw Mysteries.

Thank you for the opportunity to introduce my series to your readers, Lynn.

A book trailer can be found here:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Fish Out Of Water


One of the ways to boost learning, imagination, and to kick-start slow moving braincells is to do something completely outside of your comfort zone. Or maybe that’s just my way, since I’ve found myself in a ‘sink or swim’ situation often enough that it’s become an accepted occurrence.

My latest ‘situation’ occurred when I signed on as a mentor for a local high school robotics team. No, not as a technical mentor, but to help out with fundraising and communications. Learning to write a good press release or grant application are useful skills for budding roboticists/scientists. And certainly among the encouraged skills to learn by the world wide organization that supports the robotics teams: FIRST.

I’ll admit, at my first meeting I felt like a fish out of water, but by the second meeting I started to get a feel for the team; a group of about 30 students with near boundless enthusiasm and a desire to be part of this group and participate in the competitions.

A first cursory glance at the various documents that will need to be created over the next few months, showed me that I will have more than enough to do at weekly meetings. A little coaching, proofreading and offering helpful suggestions are just a few of the things I’ll be doing.

Though I’m there as a mentor, I suspect I’ll learn at least as much as the kids, which will enrich my writing in countless ways, especially my stories for teens. I may even pick up some technical knowledge that I can use for future sci-fi stories.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fall coupon for e-books and stories

I just received word from my editor that Kobo ( is offering a coupon code that is good for the entire month that will give readers 50% off their purchase. That means that every single title by Untreed Reads and all of its distribution clients can be purchased at 50% off with the code, and there is no limit to the number of titles that can be purchased. See below. This is too good not to share!

This would be a great time to try out some short stories for around 50 cents each. A great way to try a new author, or to get my short story "The Fountain Pen" as this may be your last chance to get it. It will get rolled into my novella "Tales from the Fountain Pen" in a few weeks time.  

This special Kobo sale is great for a number of reasons:
1. All books purchased through Kobo are EPUBs, meaning they can be read on every single device or computer in the world except for a Kindle or the Kindle app.

2. Kobo has its own free app for all reading devices and computers. My editor has it installed on his Mac,  iPad, Galaxy S3 and  Barnes and Noble Nook!

3. Readers from around the world can buy from Kobo! 

4. Kobo has a program that supports your local bookstores and enables your local brick-and-mortar to sell ebooks and stay open.

Please consider purchasing through the link below so Untreed Reads can track sales of items they publish (for a complete listing of their books and stories, go to Untreed Reads). 
Please use the following URL for the sale:
and use coupon code Sept50

Thank you and happy September reading!
(next posts won't use the word 'great' quite so much, I promise, but the idea of selling one of my stories and having it read by someone is still very cool!)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September Book Review

                                                     A SPARK OF DEATH

September book review

A Spark of Death
By: Bernadette Pajer

The first Professor Bradshaw mystery.
(Seattle in the time of Tesla)

A treasure of a read picked up by chance at Sparks; Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, which by the way, is a hidden gem of a museum.

A murder mystery set in 1901 Seattle using electricity (no, that’s not a spoiler, trust me) and the mere mention of maverick inventor Nikola Tesla, were enough for me to buy this book.

The author has done her research and the story is liberally populated with historical details without crowding out the characters and the actual story. The details are just there to give you a sense of the place and time.

Professor Bradshaw (teacher of engineering at what is now the University of Washington) is a very human protagonist; a widower with a young son, and feeling himself withdrawn from the world, meticulously keeping track of what he has to do each day in an effort to give order and meaning to his life. The professor is drawn in fine detail and his knowledge of electricity and its uses at the time appears very accurate, which for me, adds an extra layer of interest to the story.

When he is falsely accused of the murder of his colleague he stops at nothing to find the real killer, and to figure out how it was done, in the process rediscovering himself as well.

Ms. Pajer writes as if she stepped back in time and lived the events described. Not just by including the right details for Seattle at the time, a city on the cusp of explosive growth, but by placing events in a greater historical context. In particular America’s first, failed, experiment in colonialism; the war in the Philippines which had a tremendous impact on many of the young men who came back from the conflict and returned to university (such as the University of Washington).

Also included is mention of Tesla’s alternating current power plant as demonstrated at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 which changed the field of electricity.

I look forward to reading more in the Professor Bradshaw series.