Celebrating a Life through Books (post by Anna, In Memory of Walt Shiel, 1947-2016)
I don’t normally talk about my personal life in public, but I’m breaking that rule today. Two weeks ago, my father died. It was sudden and completely unexpected. Just days before his death, his oncologist had given him the great news his prostate cancer was still in complete remission. Then one night, he fell asleep and never woke up again.
For those of you who don’t know, Anna Durand is my pen name. My real name is Lisa Shiel and my dad was Walt Shiel. He’d been a writer for as long as I can remember, crafting short stories, magazine articles, and books (both fiction and nonfiction). He also helped many other writers fulfill their dreams by guiding them through the self-publishing process, through the company we ran together, Five Rainbows Services. We stopped offering publishing-related services last year, but my dad’s legacy of helping others will live on.
My mother is an artist, so combined with dad’s writing genes, I was bound to become a writer. Both my parents supported me every step of the way along my writing journey, and my dad was always there to advise me on publishing contracts and other business matters. Today, however, I’d like to introduce you to Walt Shiel the writer.
Last week, when I sent out my newsletter, I talked about his books and gave away some free copies to my subscribers as a way of honoring my dad’s memory. The responses I received from my fans touched and amazed me. They know me as a writer, but we’re not personally acquainted, so the outpouring of support from them was unexpected. After discussing the idea of a blog post with my mom, I decided to do it. My newsletter fans showed me there are still legions of good, caring people out there. So this week, I share a piece of my father’s life with you — my fans, my fellow writers, and anyone else who’ll read this.
My dad loved writing. Though he wasn’t a romance novelist, his stories often involved a love story and always had plenty of heart. A few of his books made it into audio with fantastic narrators bringing his stories to life in a new way. His novel Devil in the North Woods is based on a true story about the worst wildfire in Michigan’s history and the experiences of my great-grandfather, Henry Hardies (my mother’s grandfather). The story involves great tragedy, my dad wrote it as a tale of survival. The book also tells the somewhat-fictionalized love story of how Henry met his wife-to-be. At the time of my dad’s death, he’d been working on a screenplay version of the book.
Another favorite of mine is Rather Shorts, my dad’s collection of short stories about a sheriff in a small Texas town. The stories are often humorous and filled with mystery and wonderful characters. My dad was also a former Air Force pilot and his love of aviation shines through in his novel Once a Knight, about a World War I flyer and the French girl he loves. My dad also wrote nonfiction books and magazine articles about aviation history, scouring archives for every tidbit of information he could dig up.
After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2013, my father became an advocate for other men who are diagnosed but receive little to no information about treatment options. He blogged about his cancer odyssey and even spearheaded a website, Blue Brigade, where men could share their experiences. Walt Shiel leaves behind a legacy of helping others, but also a wealth of writing — some of it still unpublished — to entertain and touch the hearts of the world.
Please help me celebrate his life through his books by visiting his Amazon Author page to learn more about the man who helped me become the author I am today. I also invite you to read his blog, Walt Shiel: Writing from the Woods.