Off the time for holidays

'Tis the season for shopping, and for those on your list who enjoy nothing more than reading a book on a cold winter evening, there are several gift ideas from East Otter Tail authors.

'Tis the season for shopping, and for those on your list who enjoy nothing more than reading a book on a cold winter evening, there are several gift ideas from East Otter Tail authors.

Self-publishing has become more affordable, with advances in computer and printing technology, and local aspiring writers are among those taking advantage.

Three area authors have books available--in time for the holidays. Two of them are first-time publishers, and one is a veteran of a series of mystery novels.

Keith Alan Ross writes pet columns for several area publications--including the Contact shopper in this area. The Ottertail-area German Shepherd breeder has now compiled and edited many of his columns into "Tales From the Bark Side (The Book)."

Another "rookie" author, Eunice Ellstrom, Henning, has written a romance, "A First for Laurie."


Finally, well-known local writer Ernest Francis Schanilec has released his eighth book in the "Hastings Series" of mystery titles. "Gray Riders II," is the second of his series that propels the reader back to the Civil War.

Pet columnist Keith Alan Ross takes columns from newsprint to softcover book

Ross's passion for writing began in his younger years, through short stories, song lyrics and poetry. Ross was born and raised on the west coast; living his youngest years on a chicken ranch in Washington state.

The San Francisco Bay area continued to draw him back again and again; even after his military years and travels through the United States and Canada.

"I always had an interest in animals, but my experience in the armed services definitely cemented that interest," said Ross. He served two tours in Vietnam from 1967-68 in the "Canine Corps" as a dog-handler.

Pointing to a photograph of "Thunder," the U.S. Army German Shepherd he handled in Vietnam, Ross said, "that dog is the reason I'm alive today."

His idea for a weekly column on pets and critters was posed more than two years ago to Perham Enterprise Bulletin publisher-editor Louis Hoglund. Since then, the column has appeared in the Contact shopper weekly, and is now also published in the Fergus Falls and Detroit Lakes newspapers.

Ross married his wife Cindy in 2002 and they left the Bay area for her home state of Minnesota where they raise pure bred German Shepherds. When Keith is not spinning a yarn at his computer, he can be found either listening to smooth jazz, romping with the dogs, or grilling special meals for family and friends.


Printing the "Bark Side" books was North Dakota-based McCleery and Sons Publishing, the same company Ernest Schanilec works with on his book series.

The publishing company writes this in the book's liner notes: "Tales From the Bark Side is a collection of stories ... that warm the heart, satisfy the soul, and tickle the funny bone of the reader. Some of these tales are from Mr. Ross's newspaper columns, where his readers have shared their poignant stories about their lives with their pets. His tongue in cheek humor resonates throughout the book as he examines the relationship between man and beast. Sprinkled with a dash of poetry and a few favorite photos, Tales From the Bark Side takes you on a charming journey."

Ross has several book-signing appearances planned in the region. He was at the First National Bank in Ottertail earlier this week. He will be in Perham Dec. 15, at the Veterans Museum, from noon to 5 p.m. On December 20, 4-8 p.m. and Dec. 22 from noon to 6 p.m., Ross will be at Thumper Pond Resort.

His books are also available at the Perham Enterprise Bulletin office.

Henning area writer was avid reader with longstanding desire to publish

"I always wanted to be published, but never had the courage," said Eunice Ellstrom, Henning.

Her book, "A First for Laurie: Secrets, Lies and Love," was published in conjunction with "PublishAmerica." The book is available through the website, and soon at area retail locations.

"It's a twist on the traditional romance, you know, boy meets girl, boy screws up, boy and girl get back together again," said Ellstrom. "But this one has a twist to keep it interesting."


Fergus Falls and the lost village of Heinola, near New York Mills, are the inspiration for some of the locales in the book.

"Laurie Matheson walked away from a life of privilege, one that came with an overbearing father and a loveless marriage," states a press release from PublishAmerica. "Her new life brought her the everyday responsibilities of a home, the bills that go along with it, and employment. It also brought her Ron Flint, a friend, supporter and, in time, a true love."

Ellstrom is a mother of two and a personal care assistant as a "day job." An avid reader, it was inevitable that one day her creative side would take the form of writing.

She doesn't plan to stop with this first book. "I also have a collection of children's stories I'd like to publish," said Ellstrom, who also has an interest in mystery and short stories.

PublishAmerica claims some 20,000 writers; and describes itself as a company "whose primary goal is to encourage and promote the works of new, previously undiscovered writers."

Author Schanilec transports readers back to the Civil War in new book

The "Gray Riders are in the saddle again," states the cover notes on Schanilec's new "Gray Riders II," the second of his Hastings series that takes place during the Civil War.

Schanilec's eight books include six Hastings mysteries placed in modern times, with titles like "Night Out in Fargo" and "Purgatory Curve."


Born in the Red River Valley, Schanilec is retired in the Vergas area--where virtually all of his books have been written. Some of the locations in the books are inspired by local towns and places.

He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, and earned a doctoral degree at the University of Minnesota--though his field was not creative writing or literature.

"Gray Riders II is set in the colorful countryside of Missouri and brings back Grady, Justin Haggard and all of his saddle-mates," states the book's cover notes. "There is no shortage of new arrivals to spice up life in Tarrytown: Collin, the greenhorn Irish rancher haunted by a murder from across the sea; the beautiful Rosemary Pikes, whose passion for saloon life is only topped by her love for the infamous outlaw Bob Younger; and a cocky Pinkerton detective, J.P. Weatherby, who thinks he can take down the Jesse James-Younger gang single -handedly."

Schanilec's books are also published by McCleery and Sons, based in the small North Dakota town of Gwinner.

Schanilec is a regular bookseller at many art and craft fairs and book-signings in the area. But his books are also available online from

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