An Interview with ChiWriMo Member, Bree M. Lewandowski, Author of Under Winter Lights, Part One

I had the opportunity to interview one of our ChiWriMo members on her recent release, (well, okay, I kind of pounced on her and wouldn’t let her get away until she agreed to be interviewed).  So here, without further ado, is what we’ve all been waiting for:

Bree M Lewandowski

The ChiWriMo Interview

2016-11-25 Book CoverCWM: Which came first, writing or dance? How do they inform each other for you?

BML:  Dance definitely came first for me. It was one of those things my mom put me in because she liked dance, the same as her mother. And whether it be nature or nurture, I liked it too. A lot. And specifically Ballet. In Ballet, the dancer takes a melody and brings it to life. The invisible becomes physical and tangible. If that’s not the closest thing to real magic in this world, then I don’t know what is. Perhaps that wonder extends into my love of writing. Like Ballet, it should be impossible. When I sit down to tell a story, I lack touch, sound, taste, color. All I have are words on a blank sheet of paper. But through those words, I can take the reader to new places, introduce them to new characters and make them feel in new ways. It’s amazing!

CWM:  Your new book is Under Winter Lights: Part One. What was the inspiration for it?

BML:  There is a wonderful film from 1948 called, The Red Shoes. It is an imaginative re-telling of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale and features my favorite ballerina, Moira Shearer. I can’t count how many times I have watched that movie and it made me want to take a world rarely portrayed in literature and bring it to life.

CWM: How many Parts can readers hope for?

BML:  Two. The story, as I originally conceived it, proved to be a bit too ponderous as a stand-alone novel.

CWM: How has participating in National Novel Writing Month changed your writing?

BML:  Oh my gosh, so much! Before I tried National Novel Writing Month a few years ago, my writing habits had capsized. I wanted to write, but I lacked the self-discipline to make myself sit down and flex those creative muscles. Then one day, while I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, I saw a friend mention she was doing NaNoWriMo. I asked what she was talking about. When she explained, I couldn’t shake the idea. Here was a chance to right a habit I wanted so much to reclaim. No excuses. I signed on and have not looked back. National Novel Writing Month gives writers a chance to flourish and fight for what they want most-to create. NaNoWriMo helped me take control of my sinking ship and steered me towards other writers trying to do exactly the same. And as if that wasn’t enough, I am now able to proclaim that I am a published author, a title I never once believed would be mine.

CWM: What are your plans for your dance and your writing in 2017?

BML:  Do both more and with increased creativity and efficacy. Hopefully.

CWM: Coffee or tea?


CWM: Dark or milk chocolate?

BML:  Milk chocolate. But the good stuff. Not some waxy $.99 chocolate bunny from 7-Eleven.

CWM: Deep dish or thin crust?

BML:  Deep dish, please. I like my gluten.

CWM: How ’bout them Cubs, man? How do you feel about the Cubs winning the World Series?

BML:  I can’t believe it actually happened. For as long as I can remember, my father has joked about what a hopeless mess the Cubs are. When I got married,even though my husband was a die-hard fan, he admitted what a disappointment the team was. But they did it! And it’s been really nifty seeing a city rally around the Cubs. Signs everywhere, people cheering in bars together. In such a social media world where people rarely look up from their devices, it felt wonderful to come together as a community, to feel that sense of camaraderie. Go Cubs, Go!

CWM: Your profile says, “furry baby mommy.” What’s your perfect furry baby?

BML:  All of them. If I had the space and disposable amounts of income, I would have sixteen cats and seven chow chows. My ideal snuggle fluff purrs, has a blue tongue, and holds my heart on a string.

Thank you to Bree for taking the time to share a little about her writing, and her new release, with us!  Guys, she’s even got a book trailer.  How cool is that?

Blurb: The world of Ballet had always been Martina’s world, made of music and magic. But the seasons are changing and like the snow tumbling over Chicago, Martina’s music-box world is swirling.  Director of The Bellus Ballet Company, Alan Jung, can offer her luxury and fame. But Russian rebel Maraav, “a wolf with gray eyes,” has everything Martina needs.  Three hearts made of hope, flesh, and stone…  With the curtain set to rise…

Under Winter Lights: Part One

Book Trailer


Writer Wednesday – Kickin’ It Old School

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 6.05.37 PM

An online friend of mine pointed me to the “A Month of Letters” site and I stopped by to give it a look-see.  It looks like a lot of fun!  In February, you commit to sending correspondence by snail mail for every day that the post office sends mail (so, not Sunday or U.S. federal holiday).  Since I love snail mail, I figured I’d point this out to my fellow Wrimos.

Write on!

Special Guest: ChiWriMo Member, Aly Grauer, and Her New NaNo Novel!

I’m so pleased to share with you, Dear Wrimo, the success of one of our very own ChiWrimo, Alyson Grauer. Her NaNo novel On the Isle of Sound and Wonder is available from Amazon.  Aly will be at Geek Bar Chicago this Saturday, November 7th; check it out and register to attend on the Facebook event page.  Aly answered some interview questions for me; read on!

CWM:  What was your inspiration for this book and the main characters?

AG:  As an actor, I often delve into the history and given circumstances of characters and stories within plays. I imagine the memories and the in between moments you don’t see onstage, and I wonderwhat would be different if the play was set in another place or time. When I started writing Sound & Wonder, I had just re-read The Tempest and found it complex and confusing; Shakespeare presented it as this commedia dell’arte influenced comedy but in the play itself you can see how dark the emotional lives of the characters can be and how dire the circumstances are that bring them all together this way. I wanted to explore those circumstances by giving the story and characters lives of their own beyond (but including) what Shakespeare wrote. I didn’t want to re-do it or overwrite it, I just wanted to explore a parallel trajectory. A world just slightly to one side of our own, with familiar things in it, but its own history and magic and scope.

CWG:  Where is your story set and why is this setting exciting/sexy?

AG: Sound & Wonder was challenging for setting. I knew exactly how it would need to be: their equivalent of Italy, and an island somewhere in the Mediterranean. But how do you do steampunk on a barely habitable uncivilized island? My solution was not to make the island itself steampunk, but allow the characters to interact with the environment in a steampunk sort of way. Mira is quite the engineer and architect, and although the island is something of a prison to her, she studies it, annotates it, manipulates it like a scholar or scientist would. My editor Jess and I half-jokingly called it “islandpunk”. The island is so cool – it has a variable landscape and even after living there for twelve years, Mira is still surprised by things that crop up… You may notice too that each set of characters experiences and describes slightly different views and terrains on the island – that was intentional.

CWG:  What’s the story behind your book’s title?

AG:  This title was the working title when I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo 2012. searched and searched for a line from the play that would work as a title but nothing satisfied me. When I sold the book to Xchyler Publishing we briefly tossed around the idea of changing it, but it just stuck. Sometimes titles just stick. To me, the title is about the island of course, which is in some ways a character as well as the setting, but it also unintentionally echoes “sound and fury,” which is not only Faulkner but Shakespeare as well (a line from Macbeth). Dante is sometimes more like Macbeth than Prospero, to me. So it’s a happy coincidence.

CWG:  What subgenres do you write in and who are you published with?

AG:  Steampunk, fantasy, spec fic, sci-fi, etc. I have two short stories and this novel through Xchyler Publishing, and two short stories through Imagine That Studios — the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences’ Tales From The Archives anthologies.

CWG:  Plotter or Pantser?

AG:  Both. I was a pantser for a loooong time (and happily so) but editing Sound and Wonder was a lot of work, and some of my other projects have taught me that Plotting/outlining/preparation can be super important depending on the story.

Author Bio:

Alyson Grauer is a storyteller in multiple mediums, her two primary canvases being the stage and the page. On stage, she is often seen in the Chicago area, primarily at Piccolo Theatre, Plan 9 Burlesque, and the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Her non-fiction work has been published in the “Journal for Perinatal Education” for Lamaze International. Her short fiction can be found in Tales from the Archives (Volume 2) for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences and in two anthologies from XchylerPublishing, Mechanized Masterpieces: A SteampunkAnthology, and Legends and Lore: an Anthology of Mythic Prorportions.

On The Isle of Sound and Wonder

Blurb: All but alone, wild but resourceful, Mira dreams of life beyond the shores of her mystical island. Isolated by her father, a dark sorcerer bent on vengeance, she has only his servants, an air spirit and a misshapen cast-off, to share her company. When Dante conjures a terrible storm to wash ashore his mortal enemies, Mira must chose between her loyalties to her father and what she knows is right.

Sail the skies and soar the seas surrounding this Isle of Sound and Wonder as Alyson Grauer masterfully retells William Shakespeare’s classic, The Tempest, bedecked in the trappings of Steampunk.

Are you the next Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author?

To kick off the season, here is a guest blog post from the Chicago Public Libraries!

Dear Self-published Authors,
We think you’re awesome.


Illinois Librarians

No really, we do!

In fact, there’s a group of us here in Illinois who have made it our mission to seek out and promote the best self-published adult fiction written by Illinois authors; we call this the Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author Project.  We’re just beginning our third year and we can’t wait to see what the unsung self-published authors of Illinois have for us this year.

So how does this work?

Between October 12, 2015 and January 4, 2016 we will accept entries of self-published adult fiction from Illinois authors.  A rigorous judging process follows.  Librarian judges narrow the field down to 10-15 semifinalists in the first round.  A second round of judging brings us down to our three finalists, and our winner is announced at a media event held during National Library Week in April 2016.

And how do we “make you famous?”

Here’s how that happened for our 2014 award-winner, Joanne Zienty, author of The Things We Save.  The Soon to be Famous™ committee members, all library marketers, collaborated on a series of events to promote Joanne and her book that included appearances at twenty-six different libraries, visits to  five private book clubs, interviews on WGN and WDCB radio, and participation in three conference/literary fest events.  Print articles in the Chicago Tribune, ILA Reporter, Daily Herald, numerous local papers and School Library Journal as well as online publicity from Booklist Online, Forbes, various library/publishing related blogs and the “Soon to be Famous” website also contributed to the spotlight focused on Joanne, her novel, and the whole issue of the relationship between self-publishers and librarians.

And what did this do for her book sales?

The Things We Save was available on Amazon and through other channels for two years before Joanne won the contest. Nine months after the award, she had sold seven time more print versions of the book than were sold during the previous two years–a 600 % increase!  E-book sales through Amazon Kindle jumped almost 375% over the previous two years.  Finally, through Smashwords e-book channels, she sold 15 times as many e-books than she did before the recognition of Soon to Be Famous.

Oh, and libraries?

Straight from the author’s mouth: “Wallowing in self-absorption, I googled my book.  To my astonishment, I discovered my novel had been added to the collection of the public library in Bangor, Maine.  I don’t know a single soul in Bangor, Maine.  But somehow, some way, some librarian deemed my book shelf-worthy.” That Bangor librarian is not alone.  At this writing, Joanne Zienty’s novel is part of the collections of 126 libraries–108 in Illinois, and 18 libraries in 12 other states from Maine to California.

The 2015 Soon to be Famous™ winner Michael Alan Peck, author of The Commons  Book I: The Journeyman, is now in the midst of a full schedule of library appearances, and has also been interviewed on WGN radio.

This could be you!

Self-publishing is big, big business.  Take a look at these numbers compiled by

  • 33% of all paid ebook unit sales on are indie self-published ebooks.
  • 20% of all consumer dollars spent on ebooks on are being spent on indie self-published ebooks.
  • 40% of all dollars earned by authors from ebooks on are earned by indie self-published ebooks.
  • In mid-year 2014, indie-published authors as a cohort began taking home the lion’s share (40%) of all ebook author earnings generated on while authors published by all of the Big Five publishers combined slipped into second place at 35%.

No librarian would dream of ignoring 33% of titles sold on Amazon, but without a new way of discovering and evaluating all the new works not included in the traditional journals, librarians are in danger of doing just that.

Help us get the word out that there is a lot of unrecognized literary talent in the self-publishing world.  Enter the Soon to be Famous™ Illinois Author competition.  Librarians are waiting to read your story!

For complete information about the contest and the project, visit

How to Host a Write-In

1) Pick a date, time, and location. If you want to gauge interest first, feel free to post a thread on the regional forum to see if there are people in your area who’d want to meet up! Otherwise, if you just pick a time and spot that works for you, we can put it on the calendar and you can see who shows up. Worst case scenario, you spend a couple hours writing outside your house!

2) Put the details in the “Calendar” thread in the format we provided on the forum so we can add it to the Google Calendar.

3) Show up. This should go without saying but just to make sure… :-) Bring a little table tent or sign with you that says “NaNoWriMo” or mention that you’ll be wearing a bright t-shirt or hat, or something identifiable, so that people can find you! Have fun with your fellow WriMos – sprint, word war, banter, or make awkward conversation. All are acceptable.

Anything else is purely optional. If you want to bring snacks and are going somewhere that allows them, great! Extra outlets are also good – bring some power strips if you have them. But again, that’s optional!

You can host as many write-ins as you want – have it be a regular weekly event, or just one or two throughout November.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!