How a Book Was Born: Author Gerri Almand on Writing The Reluctant RV Wife

How a Book Was Born: Author Gerri Almand on Writing The Reluctant RV Wife

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the hilarious Gerri Almand, author of The Reluctant RV Wife.


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"How a Book Was Born"

by Gerri Almand

The Reluctant RV Wife was a fluke. I never planned to write a book, just as I never planned to bounce up and down the road in a tin-can house. I cringed when my husband announced his dream of buying an RV and seeing the country. Not once had I EVER wanted to be one of those old coots tootling around in an obnoxious motorhome.  But I eventually agreed to try it, and off we went.

It didn’t take long to realize my husband’s RV enthusiasm was unlimited and his wanderlust insatiable. I threw hissy fits that each road trip lasted longer than the one before. My hysterical complaining failed to faze my husband. By our second year of RVing, I knew I had to reconcile being torn from a sticks-‘n-bricks, stay-at-home lifestyle to living part time as a gypsy. I started writing to manage my angst. Words erupted like projectile vomit, and it felt like I was leaving deposits on the keyboard as I struggled to get it all out.

As I wrote, the conflict between a reluctant wife and her excited husband traveling in an RV metamorphosed into a story arc. I realized my emotional meltdowns went beyond resistance to RV travel. The story became a growing old temper tantrum, a final attempt at figuring out the meaning of life and how to spend the rest of mine. Our RV had turned my life upside down and changed me in profound ways. I wanted to share the struggle and the ultimate triumph of achieving a new kind of freedom through a minimalistic lifestyle. My manifesto, The Reluctant RV Wife, was thus born.

My first public appearance as an author took place in a Sunbury Press booth at the 2019 Decatur Book Festival, outside of Atlanta, Georgia. A stranger approached me at the festival. My cardboard poster of the cover of The Reluctant RV Wife had caught her eye.

“Is that a true story?” she asked me, looking at the title of my book.

I laughed. “Yes, it is. I never wanted an RV—my husband did.”

“And he dragged you off in that thing?”

“Well . . . I did agree to it, though I hadn’t wanted to.”

The woman continued. “Back when my husband asked me to marry him over forty years ago, I looked him straight in the eye and told him there were three things I absolutely would never abide: cheating, beating, and RVing.”

I burst into a deep belly laugh. Other women who overheard the conversation laughed as well.  “I’m going to steal those words,” I said. “I love that story.”

That conversation followed me home. I had met many women and a handful of men who reported wanting no part of RVing but had spouses who did. How could those folks oppose RV travel so adamantly if they had never tried it? Then came the epiphany: I’d been just as reluctant as they professed to be. Maybe my story would help change some minds.

Both RVing and writing a book challenged and changed me. While I had never considered becoming a nomad, I had dreamed of being a writer since childhood. Instead, I became a social worker and spent forty years writing Psychosocial Evaluations, Social/Developmental Histories, and Child Custody Investigation Reports. The RV proved a vehicle for finding my voice and fulfilling that childhood fantasy of becoming a ‘real writer.’

My husband argues that The Reluctant RV Wife is his book. He jokes, “You had nothing to say until I bought you an RV.” While I disagree with his summation, writing a book about RV travel now feels like the most satisfying accomplishment of my life. It’s also been a hell of a fun literal and literary journey.


About the Author

Author photo of gerri almand author of the reluctant rv wife

Gerri Almand is a retired social worker turned writer, storyteller, and speaker. Her husband’s retirement crisis, which included buying an RV and declaring they should see the world, has given her untold ammunition for writing material. With a permanent home address in Tampa, Florida, Gerri and her husband Michael Hamlin now switch off their reluctancies. She continues to feel quasi-reluctant on the road and he feels acutely-reluctant during their periods at home. Learn more at her website.


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The First Decade of Terror: How Author Thomas M. Malafarina Wrote and Contributed to 15 Books of Horror Fiction

The First Decade of Terror: How Author Thomas M. Malafarina Wrote and Contributed to 15 Books of Horror Fiction

Welcome to the third installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the inspirational Thomas M. Malafarina, horror author of The Ridge of Death and many more.


Now presenting...

The First Decade of Terror

"The First Decade of Terror"

by Thomas M. Malafarina

This year marks my 10th year writing horror for Sunbury Press/Hellbender Books. That’s right, I’m an author of horror fiction. Yep, the dreaded genre. In the eyes of many publishers that makes me the ugly three-headed stepchild. Regardless, I’ve written in various forms all of my life from newspaper reporting at the age of 19 to having created thousands of pages of technical documentation during my 43-year career (and still going strong) as a manufacturing engineer. But one thing I always wanted to do was to write and publish horror fiction.

One might wonder why I would choose a genre that most "serious" authors and publishers tend to frown upon. Most of those publishers are often happy to remind would-be authors that Stephen King, Clive Barker and Dean Koontz already do it better than anyone else, so why bother? I’ve had a life-long love of horror from my childhood days of watching the Universal Monster movies and reading Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines. My bedroom was decorated with posters of monsters and my dresser was covered with Aurora monster models, which I built and customized.

Thank goodness Sunbury Press saw past all the prejudice against horror and started me on a journey that has resulted in ten years of publishing with over thirteen books currently in print, close to two hundred short stories to my name, with much more terror on the horizon.

But let’s turn the clock back a decade or so. It was spring of 2010 and I was coming up on my fifty-fifth birthday in July. Having completed my first novel, 99 Souls as well as more than a dozen short stories, I was close to completing my second novel, Burn Phone. I had not yet found a publisher but was nonetheless having a blast writing blood-curdling prose.

After a few failed attempts to find a publisher, I had actually considered contracting with one of the vanity press companies (I was unaware of self-publishing websites, if in fact they existed at that time). The bottom line was, I wanted to know if the work I was doing was any good. Vanity press or self-publishing would not answer that question. Only acceptance by a traditional publisher would do that for me. I had works ready to publish but nowhere to publish them. I was like an atheist at his own funeral, all dressed up and no place to go.

Then one day while cruising Craigslist looking for potential gigs for my part-time blues band, I saw an ad for a publisher from Camp Hill called Sunbury Press that was in the process of growing its business and looking for new authors. I did some research and learned at that time, Sunbury was best known for non-fiction and historical types of books.

Never one to be afraid of having yet another door slammed in my face, I contacted Sunbury publisher Lawrence Knorr to see if he would have any interest in looking at my work, even though it was fiction and horror fiction to boot. To my surprise, he agreed. I prepared myself for yet another rejection letter to add to my growing stack. To my astonishment, he offered to publish three books; my novels 99 Souls and Burn Phone as well as a collection of short stories, which he decided to call 13 Nasty Endings.

I was blown away! I went from thinking I might never be published to becoming a published author with a three-book deal. Unfortunately, like all naive and uninformed writers new to publishing, I was mostly concerned about how I would spend all the money that came pouring in. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Now I can look back and laugh. Writing has not and likely will never make me financially rich (or even comfortable), but it has succeeded in filling my life with the sort of wealth you can only receive from the experience of creating something from nothing and seeing it in print with your name on it. For the record, the tenth or thirteenth book is no less exciting to hold in your hands than the first.

If you total all the books I've published through Sunbury and their imprint Hellbender Books, the number is actually much higher. Some of my earlier works are out of print. I reworked several of them over the years, which we retitled and re-released. 99 Souls is now available as What Waits Beneath. Burn Phone is now Burner. My large novel Fallen Stones has been re-written, streamlined and re-released as Circle Of Blood. 13 Nasty Endings is now available as 13 Deadly Endings and my dark and some say frustrating Eye Contact is now available under the title From The Dark. Three short story collections, Malafarina Malefacarum Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 as well as Gallery Of Horror have been discontinued. Their stories have been sprinkled in with new stories for my current series called Malaformed Realities.

Oh, and another thing, we published a collection of my bizarre cartoons called Yes, I Smelled It Too.

Hellbender has published my series of three zombie apocalypse novels called the Dead Kill series. Will there be a Book 4? Time will tell.

So, what does the future hold for me? What does my next decade of terror look like? Shortly, Hellbender will be releasing a short story collection I co-curated with Catherine Jordon (she did an excellent job of editing—thanks, Cathy!) called Hellbent, which consists of stories from many Hellbender authors. As I mentioned earlier, Malaformed Realities 4 and 5 are slated for 2020 release, unless COVID-19 screws that up. Also, scheduled to be released will be a new novel, which might become a series called, Death Bringer Jones, Zombie Slayer. He is a spinoff character from my Dead Kill Series.

I'm also working on a new novel (which has the potential to become yet another series), a novella or two and a ton of short stories so new, this is the first I’ve mentioned them. I'm always writing something. I love to write. I never tire of writing and never seem to run out of ideas. Professional writers take vacations to get away from writing; I look forward to writing while on vacation. Writing is actually a sort of vacation for me.

So now you know why the past ten years with Sunbury Press have been so rewarding to me. It's not about the money. Publishing my books allows me to share my crazy ideas with many readers. It permits me to proudly call myself a published author. Most importantly, it offers me a platform from which I can launch many, many more stories for as long as I can keep coming up with fresh new ideas. Be ready, folks. The next decade of terror is right around the corner.


About the Author

Thomas Malafarina

Thomas M. Malafarina is a horror author from Berks County, Pennsylvania. He has been featured in over 15 books, including seven novels and even one book of often-strange single panel cartoons called Yes I Smelled It Too. Learn more on his website.

Get 15% OFF these books by Malafarina below. Click on the cover photo and use SPRING15S at checkout.


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Thanks for checking out this author journey blog post by author Thomas M. Malafarina! Sunbury Press has over 700 titles to choose from--the best in fiction and nonfiction through various imprints--and we love helping readers find their next favorite book.

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FREE EBOOK: After the Pandemic: Visions of Life Post COVID-19

FREE EBOOK: After the Pandemic: Visions of Life Post COVID-19

From May 15 to May 17, 2020, After the Pandemic: Visions of Life Post COVID-19 is free to download on Amazon!

About the Book

Twenty-five Sunbury Press authors contributed twenty-seven chapters about the possible impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society. Based on their experiences in a variety of fields, they provide their projections about the changes facing us, many of which have already been underway for some time.

Included in this volume: 

 

  • "Change and Embracing It" by Tory Gates
  • "The Role of Plagues in Human Enlightenment" by Mark Carlson
  • "The Pandemic of 1918" by Wylie McLallen
  • "How Are Future Pandemics Likely to Be Different?" by Thomas Malafarina
  • "COVID-19: Through the Eyes of a Grandmother" by Barbara Matthews
  • "Fighting Solo: Covid-19 and the Single Parent" by H.A. Callum
  • "An Essential Optimist" by Joseph Mazerac
  • "Medicine in the Post-Coronapocalypse Era" by Scott Zuckerman
  • "The Looming Health Insurance Problem" by Will Delavan
  • "Politics Makes No Bedfellows" by Pat LaMarche
  • "COVID-19 Effects on Higher Education" by Virginia Brackett
  • "The Coronavirus and Homeschooling" by Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks
  • "The New ACEs: At-home COVID-19 Effects on Youth" by Wynne Kinder
  • "Coronavirus, Instrument of Change: How the Arts Will Usher in a New Era" by Marianne Bickett
  • "The Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Sports" by Merrill Shaffer
  • "Tourism in the Post-Pandemic World" by Maia Williamson
  • "The Various Economic Impacts of COVID-19" by Lawrence Knorr
  • "Materialism vs. Spirituality" by Penny Fletcher
  • "Creativity—Necessity is a Mother" by Chris Fenwick
  • and 10 more!

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It Started with a Dream: How Oxana Lapchuk Wrote The Journalist, a Holocaust Story

It Started with a Dream: How Oxana Lapchuk Wrote The Journalist, a Holocaust Story

Welcome to the second installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to continue this new author-centric series with the inspirational Oxana Lapchuk, author of The Journalist: A Holocaust Story.


"It Started with a Dream"

by Oxana Lapchuk

Oxana Lapchuk author journey

My book journey started ten years ago on May 5, 2010 when I dreamed that I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby. The baby was chunky and laughed profusely. While I knew I wouldn’t be having a baby, I did know that God was speaking to me in a different way; instead, he was telling me that I'd bring something new into the world. To me, that meant it was finally time to write a book about the story that meant the most to me: my father’s holocaust experiences.

Now, this happened right around the time that I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Thanks to the dream, I had newfound confidence that I would beat it and that my book-baby would become a reality. I needed to focus on it, not the cancer. I had surgery shortly after the dream, cutting out the need for chemo or radiation and giving me inspiration to get to work.

But when I focused my attention toward the book, I found that there were many challenges to getting it written.

First and foremost, my father had died 20 years earlier. I had to recall my conversations with him about his experiences and dig through his records and documents (he was a journalist) to try to piece it all together. I found some old photos that shed some light on his timeline and was able to get a clearer picture. However, I knew it wasn’t enough; I needed to go to the actual concentration camps to get further clarification.

In 2018, a friend of mine connected me to a German teacher who focused on the Holocaust. I spoke to her about my father’s history in Buchenwald and working in the underground tunnels of the Dora-Mittlebau complex. She helped me locate someone at the Buchenwald Memorial who was able to gather even more documents about his personal information while he was at the camps.

I made arrangements with her to pick us up at the train station in Nordhausen, Germany and to take us to the underground tunnels in Dora-Mittlebau. They only opened the tunnels in 2006 so we were able to take a tour and see for ourselves the horrible working conditions that the prisoners had to endure.

Then she drove us to Buchenwald—about an hour away. We met with the head of the Memorial Archives and she had all the documents ready for me. We spent an hour going over everything, and I realized that some of my information was not accurate.

So I had to make some revisions as to my father’s timeline while in the different camps. The most amazing experience for me was when they took me to the actual spot where my father slept in the barracks in the “Little Camp.” It was block 63. I stood on that grassy spot where there was once a building. It was as if I was walking in his footsteps and reliving some of his experiences.  I couldn’t believe it.

When I went back to the states, I immediately started rewriting to make it as accurate as possible. At the time I was thinking I might self-publish it, but I wasn’t young anymore and didn’t have the time or the finances to go through that whole process. I had been a member of the Florida Writers Association and found out they were having a conference in October 2018 near my city.  So, I went.

At the conference, I made an appointment to meet with Lawrence Knorr of Sunbury Press, Inc. To my surprise, he was actually interested in publishing it! And one year later, my book (and my father's story) was published.

Some amazing things have happened since it got published. I was able to reconnect with friends that I hadn’t been in touch with for 45 years. I was able to reconnect with an old roommate. But the most amazing connection was with a woman whose father is in several chapters of the book. His name was Stefan, and he was arrested along with my father and spent some time with him in two of the camps. They were in Buchenwald together and my father’s prisoner number was 25362 (adds up to 18) which in the Hebrew means “life” and her father’s number was 25363.

She lives in Idaho and had done a lot of research about her father and had also been trying to locate my father as well.  When she found my book on the internet, she was amazed and told me the book filled in a lot of gaps for her. Her father had died in 1998, and before the war was studying to be a priest in Lviv, Ukraine. Our fathers never reconnected after the war once they moved to the states.

Writing and researching this book has been an amazing journey and has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’ll even be doing an event at the local holocaust center here in my town in the fall, and the local paper has written an article about me and the book. My old alma mater even has two of my books in their libraries!

I’m excited about where else the wind will take this book, especially if it can get out to those who need it. One of the reasons for writing it was to give hope to many people out there who are facing challenging situations. I believe they’ll find help in the principles my father practiced that enabled him to overcome and triumph in the midst of his adverse circumstances.


About the Author

This is an author photo of Oxana Lapchuk, author of the journalist a holocaust story

Oxana Lapchuk was born in New York, New York the same year her father emigrated to the United States. A lifelong student of Ukrainian history and culture, she has worked as an interpreter in Ukraine and Israel and now lives in Florida. This is her first book.


Praise for The Journalist: A Holocaust Story

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FREE EBOOK: What to Do About Mama?

FREE EBOOK: What to Do About Mama?

From May 8 to May 10, 2020, What to Do About Mama? is free to download on Amazon

About the Book

Everyone is a potential caregiver—sometimes caring for multiple generations of family members at once. This is a role many of us are ill-prepared for, and can overwhelm us. So where do we turn for advice and assistance?

What to Do about Mama offers guidance to present and future caregivers—based on the pragmatic and emotional “real-life” experiences of the co-authors and other caregivers who have openly and honestly shared their challenges, their heartaches, and their joys in caregiving.

It is by regular people in the trenches—people like you. It will help you develop realistic goals, expectations, and strategies to keep your sanity through all the trials and tribulations of caregiving. A new chapter added to this second edition, “The Aftermath of Caregiving,” examines ideas for how to meet the future caregiving needs of those in our care, while lightening avoidable burdens.

Your experiences may be similar to or different from those of the caregivers featured here, but their stories are likely to resonate with anyone who has cared for a loved one—or will in the future.


About the Authors

Barbara Matthews author

Barbara G. Matthews has lived a life of care. After her time as a care manager for the Area Agency on Aging of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, she “retired” to become a full-time caregiver to her mother-in-law, inspiring her to write this book.

Barbara Trainin Blank

Barbara Trainin Blank is a writer and editor now based in Maryland. In addition to What It Do About Mama?, she also wrote and published Mary Sachs: Merchant Princess, a biography of a successful entrepreneur in Harrisburg, PA.

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The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

The Story of a Memoir: How Virginia Brackett Wrote In the Company of Patriots

Welcome to the first installment of the Sunbury Press author journey series!

In every book, there's a story. And not just the one between its pages.

Every author has a different journey for how they ended up with the incredible book that landed in our inbox. Sure, we loved the book that they sent to us--enough to publish it and share with you all--but we wanted to know what it took for them to write that book, what drove them toward publication, and to get to know them better as artists.

And instead of keeping those answers to ourselves, we thought--to hell with it, let's share it with YOU.

We are thrilled to jumpstart this new author-centric series with the uber-talented Virginia Brackett, author of the Korean War memoir In the Company of Patriots.


"The Story of a Memoir"

by Virginia Brackett

_The Story of a Memoir_

I didn’t exactly decide to write a memoir. As with most book-length works, this one grew as part of a process. It was born in an article about my parents titled "Uncommon Heroes" that won a contest and was published in the 1990s in a periodical now defunct.

I thought about doing more with that story from time to time, but life’s more practical demands interfered. I experienced a divorce, two career pivots, remarriage, and loss of a younger sister and my mother to cancer. Still, the desire to know my father, who was killed in military service in Korea when I was eight months old, stayed with me. You might expect this emotion to be blunted by the passage of time, especially since I was blessed by a wonderful stepfather, but circumstances did not allow that.

In my final professional transformation, I entered graduate school to earn a degree in English, ostensibly to support my constant (albeit feeble) writing attempts. I learned a great deal about writing in grad school, and it eventually drove me toward finally moving forward on a project that would focus on my father, almost 20 years after that original article.

But by then, my mother, aunt, and uncle—all of the people who best knew him—had died. Had I waited too late to begin this journey?

By the time I started, I had published many books and articles, most research-based that gave me confidence, but being an academic, I spent far too much time in anguish before I even started.

Would this book be a war history account? Maybe, but only in part; WWII and the Korean conflict could only frame the narrative. Would this book be for my family or for a broader readership? I did not know. Would I write it using history and journalistic resources, or my mother’s many artifacts, letters, and photos? I could use everything.

While I could begin by asking such questions, I knew I had to do as I admonished my students for years—just put some words on the page.

I organized my mother’s resources and compared articles she saved from the 1940s and 1950s to historical accounts, perused my father’s military records, mined his personal war correspondence, and had long conversations with siblings. I had what appeared to be interesting information, but I lacked that organizational “hook,” that nugget of appeal that all writers know any project requires.

And somehow, I found it sooner rather than later, or, instead, it found me.

When I got involved in helping veterans to write and tell their own stories, I found the truth that veterans’ voices would supply the true bedrock for this account.

I found men who had served with my father on the internet. Not only did they respond, but they invited me into their ranks through reunions and interactions that I’d never have imagined. Their energy became my energy. I realized that we would best remember such men through personal stories—that my account would best be served by my telling it as my own.

I adopted first-person point of view and decided to move back and forth in time, connecting moments from my parents’ lives to my own, weaving in voices from literature that I heard, layering in comments from the veterans I spoke with.

The intense research and writing during breaks from teaching stretched over ten years, then eleven, then twelve. My writing experience was neither predictable nor systematic. Stunning events served to change the course of my structure or add to its dimension.

This is a photograph of the actual letter that fell out of one of my father's books during my research

For example, in a moment that I describe as worthy of a B-grade movie, a letter fell from a book I had pulled from our records. I eventually discerned it had been written to my father by the author of that same book, Dark December, an account of the Battle of the Bulge from WWII.  I could tell that the author wrote the letter to respond to my father’s protests regarding the representation of his Company during the Battle of the Bulge in Dark December.

Soon after, I discovered the book’s author had been a war correspondent, a Chicago alderman, and eventually an undersecretary to President Eisenhower. That discovery led to me to tracking down my father’s original letter and being able to hold it in my hands during a visit to the University of Chicago’s special collections. I even managed to locate the lieutenant who had been among the last people to speak to my father before his death by sniper in Korea.

In the process, I also discovered something about myself as a memoir writer. With such a personal topic, I was becoming too emotional to be able to work on the book, and days and weeks might pass before I could return to it.

When I finally had an advanced draft of the book in hand, I realized how difficult finding a publisher would be because the book could not be easily categorized. Was it history? Biography? Creative nonfiction? A University Press expressed interest but, in the end, declined publication, the editor telling me he greatly enjoyed my writing style but that the book was too eclectic for his readers. I had my fair share of agent rejections too.

Then, I discovered Sunbury Press, a publisher not overly concerned about pigeon-holing the book, and In the Company of Patriots became real.

Virginia Brackett holds her own copy of IN THE COMPANY OF PATRIOTS

About the Author

Virginia Brackett - author photo

Virginia Brackett is a retired professor of English who has written 17 books, including In the Company of Patriots, The Facts on File: Companion to 16th and 17th-Century British Poetry which was named a Booklist Editor’s Choice in 2008 and A Home in the Heart: The Story of Sandra Cisneros. You can learn more about her at VirginiaBrackett.com.


Praise for In the Company of Patriots

In the Company of Patriots (Pull-Quote)

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