This week, Kelly Brakenhoff, an author with a background in teaching American Sign Language joins the podcast.
Check out Kelly’s website to find all her books.
Get Origin of Storms for just 99 cents if you’re in the United States (Only until April 24th, 2020). This is a six-hundred-page space opera novel, on sale for quarantine.
EDIT: Kelly generously wrote up a transcript of this episode herself! You can read it below.
Thanks for listening!
After Reading #144
and welcome to Alive After Reading. I’m Tim Niederriter and with me
today is a new guest, one of these people we love to have on the
podcast. A great writer, Kelly Brakenhoff, welcome to the podcast.
Tim. Thank you.
it’s great to have you on. Tell the listeners a little bit about
yourself and what sort of stuff you write.
I’m super excited to talk to someone other than my dogs today,
because I’ve been home all day in quarantine. Normally when I’m not
at home with my dogs, I’m an American Sign language Interpreter.
Living the dream in Lincoln, Nebraska.
husband and I are empty nesters and we have two dogs. I write two
series. One is a children’s picture book series, which features Duke,
the deaf dog. And I have a cozy mystery series called the Cassandra
Sato mysteries. The first one is Death
and the second is Dead
the mysteries, the main character is Cassandra Sato who trades her
life in Hawai’i where she was born and raised for a dream job in
Nebraska. No one does that, right? She thinks working at a small
liberal arts college will help her get experience to someday become a
university president. But two months in, a student dies and she has
to help with the investigation. Mayhem ensues, and her job rapidly
becomes a nightmare.
that’s a good pitch. Been practicing that one, have you?
I have been, yes.
good, you delivered it very well.
No one moves from Hawai’i to Nebraska, but I actually moved at one
point from Nebraska to Hawai’i. I reversed it for my book.
a good way to go. Honestly, a funny way. I mean, it’s a good way to
get a story. Like that what if question. Actually, I think it kinda
does segue nicely. You’ve got the picture book. I mean, obviously it
ties into closely with your job because the dog is a deaf dog. It’s
right there in the title it fits in very well with the American Sign
Language stuff. What inspired you to write a write a children’s book?
it’s funny. Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be a
writer. I have a younger sister who’s an amazing artist. When we
were little, we used to make homemade comic books about a dog and a
cat. I would do the words and she would draw the pictures. It was
like Snoopy meets Garfield, except it was really, really bad. That
was the beginning. I mean, I always wanted to be a writer. My sister
always wanted to be an artist. She actually grew up and became an
I grew up and became an American Sign Language interpreter. I took
the very long detour through four children and a long career. But
it’s something I never gave up on. It’s funny because I actually
started writing the mysteries first.
spent about five years working on my first book Death
I had to decide at a certain point if I was going to get an agent and
a publisher, or if I was going to self-publish. It took me about, I
don’t know, over a year to figure that out. During that process, I
formed my own publishing company. I woke up one morning thinking that
I was queen of the world. And I said, okay, if I have my own
publishing company, that means I can do whatever I want. I can
publish any book I want.
sat there thinking, what does the world need? What do I know about
that I could give? What could I do? I swear this is the truth. I
thought one day, I need to write a book for deaf kids because I’ve
spent my whole life working with deaf people. I know lots of cool
deaf people, and I wanted kids who are deaf to be able to see
themselves in books. There are very few children’s picture books that
have deaf characters in them, or that deaf kids can relate to. That
was how I got the idea to do that book. It actually came very
that’s cool. I mean, it’s interesting because it has both American
Sign Language and a book for deaf kids. It’s one of those synergistic
things. It’s cool.
the years that I put off writing, put off the dream of becoming an
author, I used to feel that I wasn’t living my dream and everything.
But of course, I always have been living, know what I mean? The path
is the dream, right. It’s the journey, not the end. It took me a
while to figure that out.
this is cool because I took the thing that I love. I love
interpreting. I’ve met many cool deaf people doing that, and I love
writing. To be able to put those two together has been such a
pleasure. It’s only been, gosh, a little over a year since I started
working on the first children’s book. It’s become a passion. I mean,
it’s super cool.
wonderful. It’s funny, I mean it’s one of those things that I have
been trying to do recently because obviously I write fiction as well.
I write science fiction fantasy mostly. There’s this weird issue I’ve
run into. It doesn’t sound like you have it. It’s a me problem where
I’ve lost track of sometimes–actually, every–morning I wake up and
I forgot why I wanted to be a writer. It’s not a good place to be.
Let me tell you that. I am working on hard on remembering every
morning and making it a habit. It doesn’t go away. Anyway, but it
sounds like you obviously you didn’t have that problem. It was always
something you had in the back of your mind.
was always something on my bucket list. A couple of years before I
turned 50, I was like, dude, if you don’t start, you’re never going
to do this. At a certain point, you have to say, are you doing it or
my first book, the first thing that got me finally going was
NaNoWriMo. The first one I did was in 2014. I’ve done this for many
different topics or challenges. I can do anything for 30 days. Like I
can not eat bread. I can not eat meat. I can run, I can do anything
for 30 days, right?
can be quarantined in my house and not go anywhere for 30 days. I’m
past that now. I finished week five as I pause to drink my wine. But
you can do anything for 30 days. That was the challenge to me of
NaNoWriMo. That’s why I liked it. If I couldn’t even do this for 30
days, how do I think I’m going to write a whole book?
have to ask you, you said that you wake up every morning thinking,
okay, why am I doing this? Do you have to write every day? Is that
your thing? Is that your goal to write every day?
because now that I’m dictating, I can go fast. It’s faster. I mean,
my listeners are probably tired of hearing about this, but I used to
be a slow typist. I wrote like 30 words a minute at best and that was
pretty rare. Now I can dictate a hundred words a minute if I put my
mind to it, and I can do that pretty consistently for an hour.
Usually to get a clean draft it’s more like 80, but that’s still
pretty good. I’ve been doing it since last summer.
hundred words a minute! Wow, that’s very good! I read, shoot, what’s
his name? How
to Write 5,000 words an hour.
Oh. Chris Fox. Yes. I read that book a few weeks ago. During the
first week of quarantine, I stared at the cursor for three days. I
thought if I’m stuck home all day long, I should be able to write
this book in two weeks. This is awesome! Then I stared at my laptop
for hours at a time. I procrastinated in every way possible. I got
that book and again, I love a challenge, but it was inspiring. I’ve
been trying to put into practice some of the things in that book and
it’s helped me a lot.
very much a fitness thing. He has a bunch of his books on sale for
quarantine. I guess I could do a brief plug for Chris Fox’s books,
his non nonfiction books to writers are good.
to Super Fans?
think that’s actually Dave Gaughran. There’s Plot
Gardening, Six Figure Author,
there’s a bunch of them. I have them because weren’t they 99 cents
to Market, Write to
I think I dropped like $3 or $4. They’re all 99 cents during
quarantine. They probably still are, folks.
I would recommend, Lifelong
The one, I forgot the title before that one. That is good. If you’re
starting out as a writer, that’s an amazing book. It also works for
me and I’ve been writing for 17 years. That’s over half my life. I’ve
been writing for longer than I have not been writing.
always wanted to be a writer, but I was busy with my family and my
life. For years my Christmas letter was my one thing that I would
spend a lot of time on and get a lot of praise for it. I didn’t
want to be known for my Christmas letter.
nice, but you can do both. Could do that and have books. Y’all don’t
want the Christmas letter to be the top of what you do.
that 50-year-old birthday date started coming on the horizon, I had
to do something else.
makes perfect sense to me. Not to get too deep into my past, but like
I always knew I wanted to be a writer as well, but when I was a
teenager, eventually you gotta start. I did and I wrote terrible
books back then. Because teenagers don’t know enough to write a book
that’s quality most of the time. I mean, they can write a book that’s
good. But they won’t know enough to fix it. It’s the first-time
thing. I actually, one of the books I did write as a teenager is good
enough and it was out there for a while. I’m repackaging and
rebranding it. But I wrote when I was 19 not when I was 13, to put
things in perspective. It took a while to get there. Anyway, the
point about feeling called to do it. When I was a teenager, I thought
about the book all day during school. I’d go back home and write,
or I’d write during class. If I had a computer class, I would type in
the computer class and bring a jump drive. This is going to date me
because I couldn’t email it to myself. But there you go.
you save it on a floppy drive? No. Then you’re not old. You’re a
not dated right now, but maybe in 10 years. Yes, I’m a wee baby. As
they say, my six-foot four self is a wee baby. The issue I have now
though is that of course that I took on this life. This relates back
to you, because people who live a more complete life, maybe you might
say, have a lot more to do than a guy who has only ever been a
writer. I literally gave up most of the other things I could have
been doing to write. And now over the years, he’s turned into– I’m
sorry, this is going to be a little personal, but it turned into this
grim thing that I have to do. I’m here to write. That’s my thing.
it’s completely missing the point. I remember now, I wrote a few
lines when I was in a creative writing class in college where I
realized I’m more about entertainment than working hard. I think
that’s still true and I think I need to work. I need to get back to
those roots. To enjoying the story. It’s like I’m reading a book, but
I’m writing it. Does that make sense to you?
part especially. I don’t write this way, but I admire writers who
talk about how they follow their characters around and write down
what they do. I don’t think of it that way when I do it. I think of
it as like this stage production that I’m orchestrating. I love the
idea I’ve heard other authors say where they follow their characters
around and write down what happens. That seems like less pressure.
I feel pressure, I basically can’t write. It’s one of those weird,
because I’m the most I am, I react very badly to pressure when it
comes to creativity.
well, that’s why I think this virus and the quarantine has been
difficult. It took me a couple of weeks to stop whining basically,
and suck it up and be like, alright six, eight weeks, however long is
going to go by. At the end of it, what did you do? I mean, not that I
have to do anything super amazing, but do I want to say that I spent
all this time doing nothing.
mean, it makes sense to me. What is your current project, if you
don’t mind me asking?
have a couple. I wrote a second children’s book and I don’t think I
mentioned yet, but my sister is the illustrator. We came full circle
from our horrible Garfield and Snoopy comic books. She did the
illustrations for Duke, the deaf dog. She’s amazing. I love the
illustrations. I wrote the second book and she’s working on the
illustrations right now. We hope to have that out this summer. It
might be a little faster, because she’s off work too. That’s one
thing I’m working on. Right now, I’m working on the third Cassandra
Sato book, and it takes place during winter break in between the
semesters. Of course, it’s in Nebraska and there’s going to be a
large snowstorm. All kinds of mayhem and problems happening around
the winter break.
When you write a cozy mystery and you see your books like a stage
production. Do you have to know who the killer is to begin with? The
classic question. Because I know Agatha Christie didn’t always know.
would think. I went to Bouchercon last fall in Dallas, and that was
the first conference I’d ever been to. It’s the world crime fiction
conference, not only cozy mysteries. I loved listening to those
authors because it varies. Like you said, Agatha Christie didn’t
necessarily know who did it until the end. Some people have it all
mapped out, down to the section and the scene and everything is
interesting how people can get there in such different ways.
There’s all kinds of approaches to writing. I’ve tried many
approaches over the years, because I never settled on one that I
think is for me. I’m pretty sure I discovery write. That’s my most
effective way to write. It depends on the book. That’s the only
thing. A lot of writers will say that different books want different
and I noticed too, I like to read a lot of thrillers and mysteries.
That’s probably the two things I read the most, and I didn’t know at
the time when I started writing my first book that I picked one of
the hardest things to do. Like I wish someone, I probably wouldn’t
have listened if they told me because I’m stubborn, but mysteries are
hard. You can write your story from point A to point B to point C,
but then you have to go back and check all the clues and make sure
the red herrings fit and all that other stuff. You gotta have extra
people to blame it on. It’s not a straightforward story between a few
people. I think probably the fun part of it is the challenge of it,
but it’s also what makes it pretty difficult to do well. When I see a
mystery now and the people that I like to read. If it’s good, it
makes me respect them so much because I can see how hard it is.
Agatha Christie is amazing because she pulled that stuff off, man. I
mean it’s hard.
of the time by at least, if I remember correctly, she even says she
didn’t know who the killer was going to be any of them could have
done it. That’s one maybe a slightly easier way to go is like any of
these people could have done it. Honestly, the Christie book I read
Then There Were None.
I mean, that one’s almost a cop out though at the end. It’s a good
book. How did that guy do it anyway? No spoilers and stuff. Anyway,
but that, that one’s obviously, she wrote herself into a corner,
which I totally understand.
just had to throw out 80,000 words of an epic fantasy novel, because
that’s how it went. I was like, God, this isn’t going anywhere. I’m
already back to 20,000. I was halfway through the book. It was a
tough decision because I mean, for a lot of people, that is a whole
book. That’s 80,000 words I’ve written all the way to the end of a
story I’d read. But then I realized that wasn’t the story. I wanted a
towel. That’s the problem with being a discovery writer. So as much
fun as it is to follow the characters around it, sometimes they go
the wrong way and you gotta start, keep filming forever.
you chuck those 80,000 words or will you take a different direction?
already moved those 80,000 words into a separate part of the
document, I’m not deleting them. I was writing the story for a
couple months, actually, like four or five months. It took way too
long, and then I realized that the reason none of this is working is
this is not what I envisioned in the first place. This isn’t the kind
of story I wanted to tell. The book is a fantasy murder mystery was
the original idea. Maybe that’s why it’s a hard time with it because
I’d never written a murder mystery before. As you mentioned, it’s
give yourself credit for that because I’ve studied mysteries and
crime fiction in particular and it’s hard to come up with a good one.
I forget who said it, but the famous line is “every story is a
mystery.” If you think about it, it’s true. A romance, whatever,
there’s always a mystery, you’re searching for something, trying to
solve. They’re complicated if you do it well.
started over, now that I know the characters better. I don’t think
it’s a big deal. I only probably throw out 75,000 words. I’m over it.
Don’t worry about me. There were the wrong words. The time is the
only thing I miss now. Writing those words is useful, but it wasn’t
what I needed to do for this.
buddy you got all the time in the world because literally nothing
else is going on except what you are doing.
of time, we are now running low on time. I want to ask you, what have
you been reading lately?
started a new to me author. She’s actually very well known. She’s a
bestselling author. Gina Lamanna and she has a cozy series starting
Kindle Unlimited is having a two-month free trial. My books are in
Kindle Unlimited. I signed up for my free two months and then I’ve
been loading up my Kindle. I’m excited to read it because I know that
she’s a good author. I already mentioned, I went to Bouchercon in
Dallas. I left with a suitcase full of books. The one good thing
about the quarantine is I’ve been working my way through the books. I
just finished another debut author named is August Norman. Come
and Get Me.
It’s a thriller and a little dark. Got the whole serial killer
thing going on. I enjoyed that.
is embarrassing. It’s kinda funny though. Our TV provider added all
the Hallmark channels for free because of the quarantine. I never had
them before. They have a mystery channel. At night I watch my mystery
channel and they’ve got all these different series in movies. I’m
calling it research, right? I’m not being a lazy slug on the couch.
I’m doing research.
I think you were asking me about non-fiction. My son suggested this
at the beginning of the year, the book 12
Rules for Life
by Jordan Peterson. I think you would like it. It’s a little dense. I
tend to read about three to five pages a day, and then I think about
it. I just finished “Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.”
There’s another one about “Don’t make your children do something
that you’re ashamed of” or “Stand up and put your shoulders
lobster rule. That’s the one I’ve heard about the most.
think people write them off as glib, but they’re actually really
good. They make you think, I highly recommend that book and he has a
podcast and lectures on YouTube. If you don’t want to read the book,
you can watch the YouTube videos. Very thought provoking.
me, I watched the final episode of the first season, The
this week. I think I watched a few other episodes this week. The
is pretty good. It’s a pretty cool show far, very nice. It’s on
Netflix. I think the sixth season recently finished. They wrapped up
the whole show on TV, but I’m way behind. I only finished these ones
because I haven’t even watched season one.
bit of a content warning on the magicians. It’s pretty violent and
maybe oversexed even full disclosure. There’s cursing and stuff. I
don’t know what channel was originally on, but there’s definitely
full, full cursing and there’s no censorship. I liked it because it
reminded me of another show I liked, even though The
is a fantasy show. Basically, people would become magicians and then
they visited a Narnia-style world, but it’s very adult. It’s
definitely a Narnia take off because there were books written about
this world before in the setting of the show.
main character basically grew up reading these books about this other
world. He always thought, it was real, in the back of his mind, but
he didn’t even think magic was real until he becomes a magician. He’s
chosen to go to a magic school that’s a cross between an adult
Harry Potter and Narnia. That’s a pretty cool, that’s a pretty cool
mash up there. This is almost a spoiler, but the end of the first
season has a very Farscape twist to it. Wherein the formula for
Farscape is that things get as worse as you can think possible
happens at the end of the final episode of each season.
how that show works too. In a season. I don’t know if it’s gonna be
consistent, but I’m eager to see if it does, because I like Farscape
as well. That’s a fun show for similar reasons, but that was space
opera. I’m picking up The
again in honor of another guest.
number of guests on the show have talked about Stephen King, and I
think, I’m pretty sure it was Kathryn Hudson, who is a huge Dark
Tower fan. I’ve never finished the series before. I’m only on book
two. I’m gonna dive in. I’ve dug out all six books for this
quarantine time. This time I’m going to go all the way to the dark
tower. That’s right. Cause like you have to have something to show
for this time. you can say, I got through, there you go see the dark
tower. It’s going to happen.
only Stephen King I’ve done is The
which I loved because if someone didn’t tell you it was a Stephen
King novel, you wouldn’t know.
haven’t read either of those, but I like King’s writing style. I
think he’s a cool writer, but one thing I think is odd about him. I
haven’t finished my many of his books because they’re, frankly,
strong horror books. Way too scary for me. And like 2,000 pages long.
He’d be a great writer regardless of what genre he was in, although
he happens to write horror mostly.
we are way out of time, and it’s been fun. Kelly, tell people where
they can find you and your work online.
the easiest place is my website, which is my name,
kellybrakenhoff.com. I’m also on Facebook @KellyBrakenhoffauthor.
Either one of those places will take you to all of my social media
and where to get my books, which of course are on Amazon and
everywhere. Like I said, my mysteries are in Kindle Unlimited. That’s
a good place to read me for free.
As for this podcast, you can find us at mentalsellerpublications.com.
I’m still working on Tim Niederriter.com which spelled phonetically,
sounds like Tim Need a Writer. The actual words I haven’t got, I have
the URL. Website’s not there yet. Go to mentalsellerpublications.com
and you can find all my books on Amazon. They’re all in Kindle
of April 19th, when this show comes out until April 24th, 2020 you
can get my longest, most Epic novel potentially for 99 cents. That’s
Origin of Storms,
the first book of the Forces of Empire series, and that’s epic
science fiction. It’s about a thousand pages long. You can buy it or
read it on Kindle Unlimited, however you want to read it works for
we don’t care where you buy our books. Do you read them on Kindle
unlimited? We don’t care. Just read her book. That’s the moral of the
story. Pick an author, read them. Review them. Give them a nice
review. That’s what we like to see. Thanks for listening everybody.
Thanks for being on the show, Kelly.
been tons of fun. Thanks for having me.
have a good week and I’ll talk to you again. That ends it.
transcription has been edited for clarity and to remove filler words.