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Meet your Author: LaBrie and McLaughlin co-author military biograpy

Leo Aime LaBrie of Grass Valley and The Union columnist Theresa McLaughlin of Nevada City have co-authored a new military biography.

The book, “A Double Dose of Hard Luck,” was written following a chance meeting between McLaughlin, LaBrie and the book’s subject, Charlie Harrison, at Paulette’s restaurant in Grass Valley.

At the restaurant, Harrison was wearing a ball cap that said he was a veteran. LaBrie and McLaughlin were interested and started a conversation, wherein they learned about Harrison’s history.

Harrison told them he is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and a prisoner of war in two different conflicts. He is one of two Marines to ever endure that hardship. He gave LaBrie access to 10 hours of interviews. The book is based on those interviews.

Harrison was a POW for 45 months in World War II and again in the Korean War for six months.

He was captured by the Japanese after the attack on Wake Island, spending nearly the whole war as a prisoner. He was later captured by the Chinese during the Korean War.

LaBrie enlisted McLaughlin’s assistance to write and research the biography. McLaughlin says her research included the book “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand, along with many other influential titles.

“A Double Dose of Hard Luck” is available on Amazon, Apple iTunes, Google Play and Barnes and Noble. It is also available locally at the SPD Market in Nevada City.

As being an author is a first experience for LaBrie, he says it is still an education for him.

McLaughlin advises that those who want to be writers should write, “preferably every day,” she said.

“[Potential writers] also need to be passionate about [their] subject in order to remain motivated,” says McLaughlin.

McLaughlin says her family includes three generations of military veterans and active duty members, including her son, she said the writing process really showed her and LaBrie the “experiences of our soldiers, sailors and Marines and given us a much greater appreciation of the hardships both they and their families deal with everyday.”

Email student intern Bjorn Johnson at NCPCintern@theunion.com.

Meet Your Author: ‘Losing Johanna,’ by Zella Smoak

Zella Smoak, a Nevada County local since 1991, is the author of a new medical fiction novel, “Losing Johanna.”

The book incorporates Smoak’s knowledge as a registered nurse specializing in Alzheimer’s care and her experience working as a licensed attorney.

The story is Smoak’s attempt to show “how it feels to the person diagnosed with the debilitating (Alzheimer’s) disease, as well as how family members and friends are affected,” she says.

In addition to Smoak’s professional experience as a nurse and attorney, her book was also informed by her personal life.

Smoak’s husband was diagnosed with a long-term illness — pulmonary fibrosis — which eventually took his life. Her husband, who had advanced education in English, would encourage her to write for him, and she did.

Her husband made her promise to finish the story prior to his passing in September 2015 — and to publish it as a book.

“This book is my promise fulfilled” says Smoak.

She does not have any immediate plans to publish more books; however, she says she has the “bones of another book” on her computer and doesn’t think she can stop herself from writing.

Her advice to new authors is to “sit down and write. Don’t be a critic and don’t doubt.” She recommends people write about what they know, and listen to editors and readers without being defensive.

“This has been an amazing journey, writing a book” says Smoak. “The revisions were agonizing, but the world of publishing is a revelation. Navigating a book through the publishing process has been an education.”

Email student intern Bjorn Johnson at NCPCintern@theunion.com.

Meet Your Author: Mary Volmer writes Wild West historic fiction

Local writer Mary Volmer has published a historical novel, Reliance, Illinois.

The story is set in a small town on the Mississippi River just barely a decade after the Civil War. The novel is a coming of age tale, while also portraying the divided town just after the war.

The story came to Volmer during research for a previous novel, Crown of Dust. She wanted to learn more about the suffragettes who pursued woman’s rights in the wake of the Civil War.

She discovered several links to modern issues and felt the story was “urgent and necessary,” even though she was already working on a different project.

Many authors inspired Volmer’s book, she said. Some of her crucial influences were JoAnn Levy, Chris Enns and Susan Lee Johnson. She read a diverse range of content in order to influence her book including plays, poetry, fiction and non-fiction and graphic novels.

Volmer’s advice for new authors: “Read and study good writing. Then get your keister in the chair and write. Do both of these things every day (or as often as life allows), and you’ll be on your way. And remember, you don’t need to publish a book to call yourself a writer, any more than you need to finish marathon to call yourself a runner. If you write, you are a writer.”

She also urged prospective writers to look into The Community of Writers, which hosts a writing conference in Tahoe every summer. “There’s so much literary goodness right here in our backyard,” she said.

Volmer’s books are available at Harmony Books in Nevada City and The Book Seller in Grass Valley, from amazon.com or her own website www.maryvolmer.com. An audio version is also for sale at audible.com.

Email student intern Bjorn Johnson at NCPCintern@theunion.com.

Meet Your Author: Post apocalypse in Nevada County

Bob Jenkins has released the first in a series of novels based in an apocalyptic setting right here in Northern California.

His book, Azriel Dancer, is the first book in its series, The Daughters of the Kali Yuga, which gives a look into the future after an apocalypse.

The series will follow along a generation every book, the main character Azriel of “Azriel Dancer” is the mother of Janabai the female protagonist of the second book. Azriel ends up being the grandmother of the final books main character.

A portion of the book takes place in our own area. The journey starts off near the Yuba River, before heading north and crossing through Downieville, Graeagle, Greenville and eventually ending up in the Klamath Lake area of Southern Oregon.

The story of this book, and series, follows a group of Nevada County farmers as they learn to survive and thrive in their new world.

It does contain an “unfathomable evil,” says Jenkins, that one must read the book to discover. It also contains an antagonist who has been described as “a worthy adversary, a mashup of Hannibal Lecter, Loki, and Robin Williams” says Jenkins.

The series has taken heavy influence from several works. Notably Jenkins says he was inspired by Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, which he says made him think what it would be like if there were a few humans still alive.

Some other inspirations listed were Stephen King, Mark Forsyth and Anne Lamont.

The book is aimed at adults. A few weeks ago however, Jenkins released a short novel called Three Paws, which is aimed at children ages 6-12. Both Three Paws and Azriel Dancer are available on Amazon.com. Jenkins advises new writers to “put your butt in the chair and keep it there,” also suggesting aspiring writers read great writers and make “lots of crappy first drafts.”

Email student intern Bjorn Johnson at NCPCintern@theunion.com.

Meet Your Author: ‘Secret Service Saint’ tells Santa Claus story

(Ed. Note: This is the first of a regular series of columns on local authors. To apply for consideration in “Meet Your Author,” email Bjorn Johnson at NCPCintern@theunion.com).

Grass Valley writer Janet Ann Collins is the author of “Secret Service Saint,” a children’s Christian fiction story that tells the tale of the good deeds of Santa Claus.

The book portrays the story of Saint Nicholas — the man we now call Santa Claus.

The book, aimed at children aged 3 to 8. dates back to Collins’ use of American Sign Language to tell the story of Saint Nicholas to three deaf foster children.

Later, she wrote out the story, and it was published in a children’s magazine — her first professionally published work.

A different version was taken up by a children’s book publisher, and released as “Secret Service Saint.”

The most recent book from Collins is “A Shadow of Fear.” She has published a total of four children’s books, along with dozens of newspaper articles.

“I can’t stop writing, and I hope to have a lot more things published in the future.” Collins said.

She said she reads many books each week — including young adult books and other publications for children and youth.

Her advice for new authors is to do extensive research and “read a lot,” she said.

“Do the best work you can, and take the risk of submitting it to publishers,” she said. “Of course, all writers sometimes get rejections, but that’s part of the learning process. It also helps a lot to join writers’ groups, especially with members who write things in the same genre as you do, and to attend conferences.” (Collins is participating in the upcoming Sierra Writers conference Jan. 20-21 at Sierra College in Grass Valley. See http://www.sierrawritersconference.com/)

Collins’ books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and her website, www.janetcollins.com. Local bookstores can also special order the books.

Bjorn Johnson is a student intern at The Union.