The Writing Process Blog Tour

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Whether it was songs about homeless people I’d see through the car window of my mother’s gold Windstar minivan, or stories on time travel I’d write sitting in the back of math class, as the rest of the students evaluated expressions and fractions.

On November 14th 2013 I published my first book, Tales of a Sevie, a story on the highs and lows of junior high school, told through a series of handwritten notes passed between friends. It is the first book in my series Life As We Note It. Through this publication, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and connect with dozens of authors and writers of every genre from all around the world. One of those lovely writers is Nancy Petralia, author of Not in a Tuscan Villa which she wrote with her husband John about their time spent in Italy. I’m so grateful to have worked with Nancy through social media and am thankful she invited me to join her in this blog tour on the writing process. Read more about Nancy and John on their blog http://notinatuscanvilla.com/blog-3/.

The Writing Process Blog Tour is similar to a chain letter in the fact that it creates a domino effect as it links and passes from writer to writer through their blogs. It’s a chance for writers to connect, support one another, and talk about how and what they write, all by answering FOUR basic questions about the writing process.

Here we go! :)

1.)   What am I currently working on?

I am actually trying to juggle 5 projects at this time and am in the beginning stages of all of them. I’m working on putting together 3 books of poetry (one geared towards teens, one for college students, and another for young adults). I’m also putting together an experimental art book that will be a collection of quotes, poetry, journal entries, and paintings, while also working on The Middle Class, the second book in the Life As We Note It series.

2.)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’d like to think my latest book, Tales of a Sevie, has a very unique and substantial voice of young teen girls. I also think the format differs from a lot of other middle grade books, being that it is told from the point of view of 4 best friends and their handwritten notes to one another.

3.)   Why do I write what I do?

I have a special attachment to the teenage years because I think it’s such a fascinating time of transition. While being pumped up on hormones and extreme emotion, we often have to deal with situations we probably aren’t mentally mature enough to handle at that time. I think teens have a lot to say, in a different way than adults do, and I’d like to keep those voices alive.

4.)   How does your writing process work?

Honestly it’s been different for every book I write. Often an idea of mine will be inspired by a dream. First thing the next morning I’ll began outlining. Other times I’ll outline and plan in my head for weeks, sometimes months, without writing a single word down. Then, when I’m ready to write, I’ll dive right in. The only real constant I’ve noticed in my writing process is all of my work is very character driven. I tend to develop and get to know my characters before anything else. Once I’m clear on who they are, what they do, and what they want, it’s easy for me to develop a plot from there.

As I mentioned earlier, The Writing Process Blog Tour is about connecting with other writers. I have asked Carol Cooper, Mark Weir, and Gertrude Martins to grab the baton from me to continue this tour. You can read more about them below.

Carol Cooper

Dr Carol Cooper gar crop smaller

Carol Cooper is a doctor, journalist and author in London. Her racy romantic novel One Night at the Jacaranda comes after a string of non-fiction books, including an award-winning medical textbook (2013), co-authored with colleagues.

Her blog Pills and Pillow-Talk  http://pillsandpillowtalk.com is about what she does when she’s not being a doctor. Carol enjoys living abroad and loves to travel. Other loves are her cat and her new husband, not necessarily in that order.

Mark Weir

DSC_0077

Even as a small boy Mark always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until he reached middle age that he took it seriously. Mark started to write and found that he couldn’t stop. He wrote for two hours a night and longer on the weekends. Soon, he had enough material for four books and began the publishing process. His new novel, Randall Crane and the Whitechapel Horror, is due out in the late spring in e-book format and paperback. You can read more about Mark and his books on his blog http://markweirauthor.moonfruit.com/blog/4583196172.

Gertrude Martins 

DSC00093

Gertrude Martins is an Indo-Canadian who’s resided in Canada for the past twenty-seven years. In Toronto, she’s worked as a vice principal and for the Toronto Catholic District School Board for twenty-one years. She’s since been retired for three years, giving her the time and discipline to fulfill her dream of writing. Gertrude often writes under the pen name Geetha Patel. You can find more information on Geetha and her first novel Song of the Koel on her blog http://www.geethapatel.com/news–blog.html.

 

Please look for Carol, Mark, and Gertrude’s posts next Monday May 5 on their blogs to read about their work and their routines when it comes to the writing process.

Interview with June Hyjek

This week’s guest is author June Hyjek.

As a MindBody Coach, Certified Hypnotherapist, Meditation Teacher and Reiki Master, June Hyjek offers extensive experience in pain and stress management, working with clients to help them move through life’s transitions with grace and peace. Her practice emphasizes techniques that work to create physical, emotional and spiritual fitness.

JuneH-4 2X3 72

June’s new book, Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender, has just recently been released. This motivational story shares her journey to find healing after life-changing medical challenges and the many losses that came from it. Struggling with career, identity, and self-worth – and more importantly, the loss of dreams and expectations – each phase of the journey brings new truths, lessons and perspectives. With ultimate surrender and a strong connection to a network of friends, June finds true acceptance, without resignation, and balance and center in the extremes of life. With love and support, she discovers the courage to be vulnerable. And at the end of the journey, she comes, quite unexpectedly, to a place of grace.

Unexpected_Grace_FullCov_Prf5.indd

 

Getting to know the author:

How long have you been a writer?

JH: I spent 25 years in corporate marketing, which included a lot of business writing.  Personally, I’ve always used journals as an expressive outlet.  I began writing as an author about 3 ½ years ago.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

JH: I’m a fairly contemplative person – sometimes to my detriment – and like writing about life observations, lessons and insights.  I was also told long ago to write about what you know.  So, since I am a holistic health practitioner, using mind/body techniques to help people with pain and stress, I write about these holistic methods.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

JH: I write narrative non-fiction, inspirational stories and I try to draw from my own experiences so that I can truly speak from the heart.  I enjoy writing and reading these books because they show us that we are not alone in our struggles, giving us a sense of shared humanity.  Quite simply, these books make us feel good!

Have you won any awards for your writing?

JH: Yes, for “Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender,” I’ve won the Bronze in the Global E-Book Contest and an Honorable Mention in the Global Book Contest.

What inspired you to write your first book?

JH: My first book actually came about by accident.  A few years ago, I went through some significant medical challenges.  The night before surgery, I sent out an email to my friends asking them to think of me the next day and to send out a prayer or energetic hug.  I got a lot of responses and encouragement to keep sending them updates.  Things didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and my updates became a year-long conversation with my friends about my experiences dealing with the pain and transition.  Along the way, my friends encouraged me to turn this “interactive journal” into a book.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

JH: My book is not “self-help” or preachy.  It doesn’t tell anyone what they have to fix, do better or do differently.  Contrary to many stories about a life challenge, I don’t tell them to “stay strong,” “fight through it,” “beat this thing.”  I never use the words battle or overcome.  I try to simply share my experiences, insights and lessons and hope that through my words, the reader will find their own path to peace.

Also, although my issue was a medical challenge, the lessons learned apply to any type of life transition and the story will resonate with readers on many levels.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

JH: I love the part when you get out of bed at 3 am because you can’t sleep since the words are just filling your brain and you just have to get them on paper.  It’s that time of inspired creativity that makes everything seem so clear and bright.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

JH: I find my inspiration from life observations, stories and experiences, both my own and those I hear from others.  I am motivated by the sense of a shared community of life, that we are all in this together and ultimately connected to one another.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

JH: I’d have to say I am inspired more by individuals versus authors.  Some are famous; some are authors; some are neither.  I am inspired by dignity and grace, caring, compassion and openness.  I am inspired by people who try to see, feel and connect.  To name one individual who is, in fact, an author as well as renowned holistic doctor, I am inspired by Dr. Bernie Siegel.  And I am extremely proud that he has endorsed my book.  Why does he inspire me?  Because he understands.  (You may ask, what does he understand?)  Because of his compassion and connection to others, he simply understands.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

JH: I am a full-time author, although I do also have a part-time holistic practice which corresponds to my writing.  I work with people, privately and in groups, to help them create physical and emotional healing using mind/body techniques that enable them to connect to their inner place of peace and grace.  I also conduct workshops and do motivational speaking.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

JH: I am an avid reader and also incorporate both exercise and meditation into my regular schedule.  But what I enjoy most is spending time with my husband.  It doesn’t matter what we do – watch a movie or a silly sit-com, go for a drive, or just sit outside and relax.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

JH: I have many, and my favorite probably changes daily!  Here are some of my favorites:

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.

-Abraham Lincoln

Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

-Pema Chodron

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, won or consumed.  Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.

-Author Unknown

Today we will live in the moment – unless it’s unpleasant, in which case me will eat a cookie.

-Cookie Monster

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

JH: The easy answer is anywhere my husband and I are together.  But I’m sure you were looking for more details. . .I’m not much of a beach person and I’m scared of being in the ocean, but I do like Hawaii and Aruba.  I do enjoy poolside reading, sunshine and a tropical breeze!  I also loved France and would like to see more of Europe.  It’s not the sightseeing I like; it’s experiencing different cultures and histories.

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

JH: I live in Willington, Connecticut, most of which is very rural but not farm-like.  Our house and land feels very private and secluded, and it’s very comforting.  I write in my home office, but I’ll get a flash of inspiration just about anywhere – sometimes while sleeping or during meditation, but it can also come when I’m doing laundry!

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

JH: My first book, “Unexpected Grace: A Discovery of Healing through Surrender,” is the only one published so far.  I am also working on a couple other projects.  One is a cook book about foods that reduce pain and inflammation.  The second one is about the tragic death of a young boy, and how the family handles the grief and destruction to the family as a unit.  This one has a working title of, “Quiet Tears.”

Do you have one or two specific spots or places where you write? If so, why do you choose to write there? If not, why do you write in multiple places?

JH: Because of neck and spine injuries and subsequent nerve damage, it’s difficult for me to write by hand.  So I always write at the computer in my home office.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

JH: If I’m writing from a flash of inspiration and creativity, it’s a matter of just getting the words down as quickly as possible.  So I just type, free-flow, no editing.  If I’m having a little difficulty figuring out what I want to write, I will meditate first to quiet the mind and let go.  Then I will outline what I want to say.  If I’m still having difficulty, I will write “Once upon a time. . .”  (I talked about this a little in the beginning of my book.)  Usually, from there, it’s easy to release and the words just come.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

JH: Yes.  I want readers to have hope and see that life and healing doesn’t have to be a struggle, and that the struggle itself uses the energy you need to heal.  When you look at it as a battle to be won, you make that pain, stress or challenge into an entity and give it power.  When you simply accept – not with resignation, but with peace – your reality of the moment, you can use that energy to move through whatever challenge you’re facing with ease and grace.  Life is about growth and connection, not about fighting and conquering.

Are experiences in your works often based on someone you know, or events you have personally experienced?

JH: Yes.  My work is always based on real life experiences, mine or others.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

JH: I struggled a little with the journal-type format.  But I’m not sure I would change it because I think it would lose some of the personal voice and sound more like a self-help book.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

JH: The hardest part was having the courage to put it out into the world.  The words and story are very personal, and it was difficult to be that open with strangers.  I felt a bit exposed, but I also felt that if someone didn’t like the story, they would not only be criticizing the book, they would be criticizing me.  I had to come to terms with that type of rejection before I could publish.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

JH: In addition to having the courage to publish a very honest story, actually creating the book and getting it into the market is a long, difficult process.  I was fortunate, though, to have a great team.  Between my publisher, my design company and my distributor, I was guided through the process every step of the way.

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

JH: I guess you could say the main character is me.  What did I do that was so special?  I let go.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

JH: When I am in active writing mode, I like to write early in the morning, which is when I feel most open and creative.  When I am in the early project phase or focused more on marketing versus writing, I usually start my day with exercise, then a little meditation, and then sit down to plan and tackle what needs to be done.

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

JH: I probably write something every day, whether it’s an article, blog, talk or workshop presentation.  As for book writing, I write best when I am struck by that lightening of creative inspiration.  I’ve found that you can’t rush the process and that writing this type of book is not done best in production mode.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

JH: I do both free-flow and outlines, depending on where I am in the project and how I am feeling.  If the words are there, I let them come.  I don’t hold them back because I haven’t outlined yet or because they don’t fit into the outline I’ve already done.  As I said in my book:  “Other than murder, telling a woman she looks fat, and wearing a fanny-pack in public, there aren’t a lot of things that can’t be undone, redone or fixed in life.  We can always go back and change the first line – change our thoughts, our words and our beliefs, and change our lives.”

I can always change what I’ve written.  That’s what the edit and delete keys are for.

JH: Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

I usually start with the concept and then outline the key messages or experiences I want to share.  As was the case with “Unexpected Grace,” I do not yet know how “Quiet Tears” will end.  Since my writing is experiential, I expect that will be the case in most books I write.

JH: How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

“Unexpected Grace” was written over the course of a year during the actual experience I was writing about.  It then took me about nine months to pull it together and create the manuscript.  I expect the cook book and “Quiet Tears” will take about a year.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

JH: I prefer to think of it as simply a time of less inspiration and creativity.  We all have good days and not-as-good days.  The word itself, “block,” carries an energy of hardness and impenetrability.  Thinking along those lines creates a barrier to the inspiration, while a gentle, compassionate acceptance of wherever you are and whatever is happening at the moment creates an opening for the creativity to flow through.

As an example, there have been times when I’m on a Spin bike during which my pain levels are high; I’m tired and I hurt.  I accept my reality at that moment and give myself compassion to be okay with however my workout turns out.  Inevitably, once I’ve let myself “off the hook,” I end up working just as hard as usual and have a great experience!

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

JH: I don’t think there is a straight answer for this.  It depends on my schedule and the work itself.  If possible, I will usually do an immediate review and edit and I always read it out loud.  Then you can really hear your words.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

JH: “Unexpected Grace” was edited initially by Rita Reali, who was recommended to me by my publisher.  My design company also had the book edited by their professional editors.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

JH: My design company, also recommended by my publisher, came up with the cover.  They gave me several concepts and I kept getting pulled toward this one, even though I initially had something completely different in mind.  With some color scheme and font changes, we came up with what I think is a spectacular cover.

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

JH: My book is published by an independent publisher here in Connecticut, and I think independent publishing is the way to go.  The big publishers won’t even look at your manuscript.  Self-publishing may seem easy, and yes, you can get a book up online pretty quickly and inexpensively.  But the designs are templates, not original, and there is no quality control.  Also, you have no guidance on process or recommendations for the right professional services.  And once the book is produced, no matter how good you are at marketing, you will not be able to get your book into libraries, special markets or national retailers.  They only deal with distributors and publishers.  And it would be very unlikely to get a national distributor when you self-publish, generally because of quality issues and lack of referral from a publisher.

From a market perspective, when the public buys a self-published book from an unknown author, and the book is filled with typos or poor writing, it looks bad for the rest of us.  This is happening way too often in the self-publishing market, and it has made readers leery of purchasing self-published books or books from smaller authors.

If an author knows the industry well, is connected to the right professional staff, and is willing to invest significant time and money, they can be successful in the self-publishing market.  But the vast majority have a “build it and they will come” belief, and typically sell less than 100 books over time.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

JH: Social networking is valuable because it allows you to broadcast events, such as book signings, workshops, etc.  But it is the group involvement that does more to help than simply putting out an author’s page on Facebook or LinkedIn.  Their value is in making connections to people you don’t know, not just in connecting to friends and family.

What other ways have you marketed your books?

JH: In addition to my distributor, workshops and speaking, I try to attend many author events and book signings.  I also send press releases when events or topics are related and network with people interested in holistic health and healing.

Where and how are your books sold?

JH: My book was just published in May 2013 and re-released about a month ago, so we are at the beginning of the sales process.  Although I actively sell through back-of-the-room or book events, the major sales effort for my book is being done by my distributor.  The book is up online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Shelfari, LibraryThing and a number of other online sites.

“Unexpected Grace” is also in the following mind/body retailers nationally:

Thistle Glass Crafts; Ellington, CT                        Eleventh Step Books; Westmont, NJ

Enchantments; Manchester, CT                        Genesis Books & Gifts; Las Vegas, NV

All in All Curiosity Shoppe; Willington, CT            Golden Braid Books; Salt Lake City, UT

Parkade Health Shoppe; Manchester, CT            Journeys of Life; Pittsburgh, PA

Mondazzi Books; Windsor, CT                        Squirreled Away Books; Armada, MI

The Quest Bookshop; Charlottesville, VA            Mostly Books; Tucson, AZ

Choices, The Recovery Bookshop; NY, NY

We are also currently in negotiations with Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million and a number of library systems nationwide.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

JH: Produce a quality book (whether independently or self published) and get a national distributor.  Recognize that unless you’re a famous author with a big publishing deal, making your book a success will cost money.  Make sure you have dollars budgeted for the marketing of the book, not just on the production.  Both are important, but if you spent all your money on the production, you’ll have lots of pretty books sitting in your garage.  Don’t skimp on production, but make sure your budget includes marketing, too.

Market through a national distributor, get quality promotional materials made up (poster, bookmarks, hand-out cards), attend every book event you can find and set up some of your own.  (Local libraries love to host authors. Local craft shows and fairs.)  Reviews and awards can be helpful, but also expensive and very competitive.  Look at special or non-retail markets related to your subject and book.  If applicable to your book, speak on your topic.  Children’s authors can do story time at schools or libraries.  Other authors can get their books into local book clubs.  Join a local authors’ association.  (Here it is the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.)  And network, network, network.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books?

JH: Right now, 80% of my time is spent on marketing efforts.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future?

JH: I would make a special version for review copies, one that could not be resold.  I gave out over 50 books for reviews and unfortunately, even though the books were clearly marked, “Not for Resale,” many of the reviewers resold the books on E-Bay and Amazon as third party sellers at heavily discounted prices.  This obviously hurt my sales, and there is no easy way to clamp down on this unethical activity.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

JH: In my opinion, readers are “word” people.  If you like to read books, where do you find out about books you might like to read?  I wouldn’t search You Tube for a book recommendation, and I’m not sure I would be convinced by a commercial, which is what a trailer is.  If you’ve got the cash to spend, go ahead and do a trailer.  But I think the money is better spent on distribution and publicity.  Blog, guest blog, get articles in magazines, related online sites, and newspapers.  People who buy books read.  Let them read about your book, not watch it.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

JH: Except for the issue with reviewers, strategically giving your book away can be helpful and it’s necessary to get reviews.  Donating to schools or toy drives (for children’s and young adults), shelters, hospitals, high-profile people in your area, can create publicity and word-of-mouth buzz.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

JH: 1) Learn the publishing industry.  You can’t be an accountant without understanding accounting.  How can you be an author without understanding the industry?

2) Get a mentor to help guide you through the process, act as a sounding board, and be your best critic.

3)  Do right by your writing and produce a quality book.

4)  Develop a realistic budget and make sure you have the resources you need before beginning.

5)  Get professional services.  In this age of self-publishing, we think we can do it all ourselves.  This isn’t a good industry for DIY.  Decide what it is you’re good at and get help with the rest.  I’m a writer, not a designer or sales person.  So I hired professionals for those services.

6) Be patient.  Don’t rush the process, and don’t give up hope when it all happens more slowly than you thought.  Believe in your work.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

JH: Thank you for giving me the honor of sharing my story with you.  I would like to hear yours.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

JH: At one point in my career, I was the editor for a corporate newsletter.  One day, as I plunked the latest edition on my boss’ desk, I asked him this question.  “Does anyone LIKE to write?”  He said to me, “No.  They just decide the end result is worth the effort.”

I understand what he means now, and that has helped me to relax with the process.  Although the process can be difficult, the end result is both humbling and uplifting.  It’s definitely worth the effort.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

JH: Taking your intellect out of the process and letting the creativity come through.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

JH: Typing.  Everything else is hard.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

JH: None, for two reasons.  One, I think we have to walk a certain path to learn our lessons.  And two, if I changed who I was then, I wouldn’t be the person I am now.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

JH: Readers can visit my website, http://aplaceofgrace.net, and find out more about my book, services, philosophies, blog and upcoming events.

Interview with Deanna K. Klingel

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Deanna K. Klingel Deanna

How long have you been a writer?

DK: I’ve been a compulsive writer all my life, but only writing for publication since 2009.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

DK: I love writing historical fiction for young readers. I enjoy learning from the research I do, amazing facts and stories that are stuck in the pages of old books. I like to put young people in the middle of the action without their cell phones or GPS systems. I like to show them how their imagination would work if it were the only tool available.

What do you write?  What draws you to this genre?

DK: I’ve written historical fiction, non fiction and biography, as well as pure fiction. I also like to write short stories. Historical fiction is my favorite, probably because it’s my favorite to read.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

DK: Yes, thanks for asking. I have two short stories that were award winners, then the two Civil War historical fictions for middle grade each won a nice book award. The biography was up for the Orbis Pictis, which it didn’t win, but was in great company; Cracks in the Ice, the fiction, was a Selah Finalist. Three of my books have received the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild.

What inspired you to write your first book?

DK: The first published book was Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of theTherapy Dog. This is the true story of my own two golden retrievers whose therapy dog ministry humbled me and left me in such awe, I had to share their stories.

What do you think your books offers that others in the same genre do not?

DK: I’m going to talk now about Cracks in the Ice, my latest book. I am passionate about getting it into the hands of young readers. This is a story of Gina, a young figure skater with dreams of Olympic gold. What happens to her when she can no longer compete is what happens to many of our sidelined athletes who lose grasp of their identity and purpose in life. They are often addicted to their pain medication, and despair leads them into alcoholism.  Two people who never give up on Gina are able, with the help of Al-anon and AA, to show her she is still a loveable person who can reinvent her life for a higher purpose. My passion comes from the fact that there is another YA book that deals with drinking. It’s written by a well-known, award-winning author. It’s received a prestigious award that has put it into libraries, and schools and is even required reading in some schools. This book is about four teens who are left alone over the holidays at a boarding school. Three guys, one girl. There are no adults, no accountability. They are breaking every rule, promiscuous, and drunk. Okay. Those are YA themes. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is this book betrays the readers. There are no consequences here. The drunken behavior is lively, life-of-the-party, funny. The word alcoholism isn’t used. As adults reading this book, we know: if you can’t start the day without ransacking your dorm room to find your vodka, you are an alcoholic. But do young people know that? Not necessarily. What kid reading this book wouldn’t go, “Whoa, this is the life!” No accountability. No consequences.Sleep eat, drink,break all the rules.Kids can buy into that. The subject matter isn’t the issue. These are important issues. We need to talk about them. Do you know there are eleven year olds binge drinking? We have to talk about this. But this book doesn’t address this. Even the ending where the girl dies after crashing her car into a barricade, doesn’t address the truths of the issue. Instead the police say her blood alcohol level was normal and drinking wasn’t a cause for her accident. I find that outrageous. The girl’s been drunk since Chapter 2. Of course alcohol had something to do with it. There are always consequences and there needs to be even if it’s fiction. Maybe especially in fiction. My book hits it right in the gut. Just as the readers learn to love this girl and share her dream, they watch her death spiral and know what’s happening to her even before she does. We call it what it is. It’s alcoholism. It’s addiction. It’s deadly. It has consequences. But we also see there is a way out. It’s not easy, but worth the struggle. The readers can still cheer for her. We see that life can offer us second chances, but we have to reach out for them. The end of my book has discussion questions. I hope parents will read this book, too. And I hope together with their young readers they can use those questions to start the discussion. Talk about the consequences of behaviors and the seriousness of addictions. There are way too many teenagers addicted to alcohol. I’m passionate about this. My book tells the truth.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

DK: I love the rewrite. Especially on the computer. I love to see how many different ways there are to say the same thing and decide which way says it best.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

DK: Well, I told you what inspired me to write Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog. You’ve just heard my motivation for Cracks in the Ice. Other stories are like gifts. Sometimes it’s something someone says that niggles away at me, wanting to know more about it, the history behind it. Other times ideas are kind of born within me. I’ve no idea about those.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

DK: I love how John Jakes in his Bicentennial Series recreated insignificant moments in history, showing us how those insignificant moments become the footprints of great moments as generations come and go. I loved that! Herman Wouk, I’m amazed how he can keep a story thread, a plot line going for 900 pages in Winds of War. An amazing story. Lalita Tademy wrote one of my favorite books, Cane River. I’m in awe of how she can make a place come alive with her rich details. I don’t know if she ever wrote another but if I could write one like that, one would be enough.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

DK: I write full time. Whatever that means. For most of my life I’ve been a full time mother and homemaking engineer. When our seven kids grew up and went off to save the world, then I turned to writing and started a new career. But, I’ve never been a part-time anything. Whatever I do, quilter, dog trainer, Girl Scouting, whatever it is, I’m in full time.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

DK: I’ve had lots of things I’ve enjoyed doing: quilting, sewing, crafting, dancing with dogs (called freestyle), animal rescue, dog training, golfing,aerobics, swimming, teaching faith formation, home decorating.  I guess I’m getting old. Now, when I’m not writing, I’m walking with the dog, marketing, and traveling with my books.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite?

DK: Naming a favorite book is like deciding which child I love the best. Probably my favorite is the one I’m working on at the moment; whichever one needs me the most at that time. I’ve written Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, Avery’s Battlefield, Avery’s Crossroad, Bread Upon the Water and Cracks in the Ice. I have a series of three or four Little Beth books, the first will be out this fall. I’ve written Waiting With Elmer, The Mysterious Life of Jim Limber, Walker Hound of Park Avenue, and Rock and a Hard Place, a Lithuanian Love Story. However, those last four haven’t been published yet. Patience. More patience.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

DK: I start writing. Writing and writing until I run dry. Then I let it sit for a day or two while I write something unrelated, and go back to it. I rewrite what I wrote, then I continue on, adding more. I repeat this over and over and over.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

DK: In Cracks in the Ice, yes.  Consequences, Alcoholism, Recovery, Resurrection, second chances.

Cracks in the Ice Cover FINAL FRONT

Do your books seem to revolve around the same morals and themes?

DK: My books are all Christian and Judeo-Christian in values. I can’t write any other way because that’s who I am.

Are experiences in your works often based on someone you know, or events you have personally experienced?

DK: Bread Upon the Water is the biography of a boy from South Vietnam who escaped as a “boat person” in order to follow his calling to the priesthood. I know him; he was our priest for a few years here in Sapphire. He told me his story in a series of interviews over a couple of years.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

DK: No. I’m happy with it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

DK: The hardest part of writing all my books has been knowing when to stop. Where does the story really end. When can I say this is it; this is the best I can make it?

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

DK: My biggest challenge with Cracks in the Ice has been the marketing. I struggle to find the teen market.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

DK: I like to write everyday, but life often gets in the way. I’m an early morning person, so I do a lot first thing. I usually know early on what the best time for writing that day will be. In the summer I know I won’t write from 1-3. The sun is above the ridge line in the middle of the summer and hits me smack in the face! So I plan to do errands and domestic chores in the afternoon in summer.

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

DK: I write something everyday. Sometimes it might be a synopsis or a guest blog, maybe work on my travel journal to create a blog for Selling  Books. Maybe it’s something for my writers group. I don’t always get to work on my work in progress, but I do write. Sometimes that’s deliberate because after writing a few chapters I like to let it rest a day or so before I read it. Then I rewrite where I see it needs it, then I move on with it.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

DK: No. No I don’t. I’m amazed when I see on Facebook how many writers know exactly how many words they wrote that day, or what their goal for the day is. I think my mind works differently. I’m less concerned with how many words there are, and more concerned with words I’m satisfied with. I might spend an afternoon picking and shining and fine tuning one chapter, but the next day write several more brand new chapters. I don’t start keeping track on words until late in the process when it begins to matter.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

DK: My first draft is totally unstructured. The structure happens when I have enough done to write (for my eyes only) the first synopsis. I pretend I’m submitting it. Make it the best I can. Ah Ha! Now I see what I have to work on. Now I can structure.

Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

DK: I usually have a character in mind, probably even named. I know some things about that person, what I think will happen to him, what events will be life altering. But usually those things unfold as I write. When other characters are introduced and I follow the conversation. I “hear” what my character has to say, and “see” how he feels about things. Sometimes understanding my character better changes what I thought might happen. My character often writes his own life.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

DK: Long time. From beginning, meaning the concept, to the end, which means publication…long time. But here’s the worst story you ever heard, I’ll bet. The Little Beth books that are coming out are picture books I wrote for my youngest daughter when she was four years old. They went to contract the week she turned 34! But, to be completely honest, that was the first time I’d submitted them.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

DK: No. I think there’s writer burnout, writer distraction, writer overload. But no writer’s block. Writers have to write. If you can’t write on your project, then write something else. If you aren’t writing it’s because you are doing something else.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

DK: I call it rising; like yeast dough. And I do it frequently. I work on something else while I’m letting it rise. I often have two projects going simultaneously for this reason. It lets me take my head completely out of the dough. Then when I read it I can read it like a reader instead of the writer. It’s not a certain amount of time; it’s whatever is needed. Like children, your work sometimes needs a lot of attention, and other times grows on its own.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

DK: My latest book, Cracks in the Ice, was edited by Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. I submitted my work to Tracy, she offered the contract.  She, and I think her staff, edited the book.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you?

DK:  I didn’t design the cover, Write Integrity Press did. I had a concept I thought I really loved and had an artist I wanted to do it, but Tracy didn’t agree and she came up with this one. And she was right. It’s stunning! I love it. Editors do know their business!

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

DK: My first book, Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, is self published. My dogs were getting older and I wanted them to be with me when the book was published and marketed. I couldn’t wait for the long process. I’d not been published before, didn’t have the requisite platform, didn’t even know much about one. But I knew the book would sell. The disadvantages of self publishing, in my opinion, is the hurried process. I, too, was in a hurry. But we took our time and researched the different companies. There’s actually a guide, like a Consumer’s Digest, for self publishing. We studied it before making our decision. We chose one who was choosey. One that only took edited work. When Dog Ear Publishing accepted my book I had it edited by Steven Manchester. I’m proud of the book. That was in 2010 and the book still sells well and I still get notes from readers who just discovered it and loved it.

If you self-publish do you use print-on-demand?

DK: I don’t self publish now because the kind of books I write are books for libraries, schools, museums, and book stores. With that market, you can’t have self-published books. Those markets have to have the books available through their distributors. Most places where my books are sold won’t stock print on demand books.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together?

DK: Avery’s Battlefield and Avery’s Crossroad are both available on kindle and on Kobo. These books are published by Bob Jones University Press, Journey Forth. Their catalog is used by foreign missions; missionaries use Kobo, thus the publisher’s choice. Bread Upon the Water is published by a small conservative Catholic press. It took them a few months’ of my complaints before it was available on kindle. The ebook market is new for them. Much of their reading audience is probably slower to move to e books. Cracks in the Ice is available on kindle and Nook. This publisher does a lot with e books and markets entirely on social media. Several places that stock my books have turned this one down because they are print-on-demand. Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog is now available on kindle as just this year I asked the publisher for that service, which I paid for.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

DK: Oh boy. How long do you want this to be? What I’ve discovered about social networking is that it is terribly addictive and time consuming. I’ve taken several seminars on this subject, on line and at conferences. I get the part about “being out there,” but I haven’t figured out how that translates into sales. I understand, finally, I think, how far-reaching it all is. But does it mean more sales? I don’t think for me it does.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website?

DK: Facebook is certainly the most entertaining.  And the most time consuming and the most disruptive. But the most success I’ve had with meeting people who were really interested in my books has been Linked In.

What other ways have you marketed your books?

DK: Almost every weekend I am somewhere attending a Civil War reenactment where I dress as a period bookseller and sell the Avery books. While I’m in that town I visit bookstores, libraries and schools with my other books.

Where and how are your books sold?

DK: All my books are available through independent booksellers. I have their badge on my webpage so you can find the one nearest you. They are available in libraries and schools and sold in museum gift shops and bookstores. All are available on Amazon, of course. The dog books are available at some dog boutiques and pet specialty stores, I’ve sold them at dog shows and events. Bread Upon the Water is available in Catholic gift shops and bookstores as well. Cracks in the Ice I’m trying to get placed in high school libraries and with teen book clubs.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

DK: Put your other “hobbies” on hold. No one will sell these for you.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books?

DK: Every bit of time I can. It’s time I create for myself.

What do you do to get book reviews?

DK: I ask people I hand my books to, if they enjoy it would they write a comment. Some do. At conferences people will volunteer to read a book for a review. I give them my books.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

DK: You should check my blog, Selling Books. I post on Monday and Thursday and the post usually includes the technique I learned at that place. The earliest posts are what I learned straight away. Be there. Make eye contact. Your customer is the most important thing to you.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

DK: BJU Press Journey Forth made the trailer for the Avery books. It’s wonderful. I show it in schools on big walls in their auditoriums where the kids hold their breath. This 48 second trailer sells books.  It works because it makes you want to read the book. I’ve seen some trailers that have nice music, pleasant relaxing tide coming in and out, very serene and lovely but tell me nothing about what the book is about. If the trailer doesn’t make you want to read the book, it probably isn’t very effective, beyond entertaining.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why? Not for me it doesn’t. I have downloaded free books when authors have asked everyone to do that at a special time to help them out. But, I don’t like to read on kindle. If it looks like a book I want to read I go to the bookstore and buy it. I give books away to charity causes, door prizes at speaking engagements, that sort of thing. But I don’t offer my work free to the world on Amazon. Friends who do this are making a lot more money than I am. They’ve learned the solutions to the amazon number puzzles. I’m happy for them.

Books Signings:

Have you had a book signing? What all did the signing entail? ( What are some of the “do’s and don’ts” at a signing?

DK: I’ve had signings for all my books. I’ve had them at bookstores, libraries, restaurants, dog events, schools, conferences, Barnes and Nobel, Borders, private parties, book clubs,Red hatters, and even an outdoor skating rink. At reenactments I’m there all day for two days. Book stores usually a 2-3 hour block; conferences 1 hour. Everyone has been different. To follow them all, go to my blog.www.booksbyDeanna.com  Selling Books. They are all very different experiences.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

DK: Be nice to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Follow your editor’s advice.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

DK: I hope you enjoy the book and will remember it when you are grown and will want to share it with your children.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

DK: Being alone so much of the time is hard. Not doing a lot of other things I also enjoy.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

DK: Writing it. Just letting it leak out all over the paper.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

DK: Get started. Don’t wait.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

DK: I have a web page, www.BooksByDeanna.com. Each book has a tab and I’m just in the process of adding a Discovery Page for each book. More than the sales info & synopsis, it will be a page for students to learn more about the subject  matter of the book, background information, recipes, websites, all that pertain to the book. I hope it will be fun and interesting. I plan to change it frequently. My webpage has a blog, Selling Books. There you’ll find the stories of the places I go, the readers I meet, and what I learn about marketing. I have a facebook, Deanna K. Klingel is a social page, BooksbyDeanna is my book’s fb for readers and writers. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment. I’d like to meet you.

Interview with Amy L. Peterson

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Author Amy L Peterson with Purrkins

Meet this week’s guest, Amy L. Peterson. Amy is a happily married wife, stepmother, author, amateur photographer, outdoorswoman, and keeper of numerous spoiled fuzzy animals. Her writing is diverse, her photography of animals and wildlife unique, and her pets have trained her how to get what they want.

How long have you been a writer?

ALP: If you count writing diaries to document important things like “Brent smiled at me” in 4th grade, I’ve been writing for a long time.  If you’re more likely to count an essay contest, well, I entered a Law Day contest in 7th grade and won a trip to meet a grumpy judge and witness two law students practicing the art of debating.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why? 

ALP:I love writing about my pets, the critters that show up in my backyard (most recently, a chubby groundhog), and funny things that happen to me. Gosh, I’ve never thought about why.  I guess I write about what I love.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre? 

ALP: I blog about nature, pets and life at amylpeterson.com, and wherever possible, try to include relevant (if not super cute) photos. For magazines, I’ve written a few articles about trips and other adventures my husband and I went on, one of which was called “The Old Men and the Me,” about marlin fishing in Mexico. When it comes to books, I’ve written two humorous, touching memoirs, one—From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds–about becoming a stepmother to four kids ages 3,5, 13 and 15, and the other—Something Furry Underfoot–about raising a whole bunch of pets my husband kept bringing home.  My memoirs include tips, which make them useful in addition to fun reads.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

ALP: Not since middle school. How sad is that?

What inspired you to write your first book?

ALP: When I became a stepmother, the books about stepmother hood were as uplifting as anvils, so I decided to document my experience, much of which was humorous since I hadn’t a clue what I was doing.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not? 

ALP: From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds is an honest reflection of what I experienced and the tips included are useful to stepmothers and women contemplating becoming stepmothers.  Many other books on the same topic are either depressing or written by self-help “professionals.” What Something Furry Underfoot offers is a useful, fun read with tips about all sorts of pets.  Anyone thinking about bringing a pet into their home will benefit from reading this book.

mouse

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? 

ALP: Probably the first draft.  The editing process can be sooo tedious.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you? 

ALP: My stepkids motivated me to complete the first book.  And my pets—well, one look at any of my pets and they  make me want to write about them and photograph them.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you? 

ALP: Erma Bombeck was my favorite author—I loved her sense of humor.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time? 

ALP: I work full-time for the state of Michigan, so writing and spoiling animals is only a part-time job.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing? 

ALP: Doing just about anything outside—running our 6-month-old puppies, hunkering down in the woods with my ghillie to see what wildlife walks by for a photograph, fishing, kayaking, pretty much anything outside.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase? 

ALP: Writing and marketing can feel overwhelming at times, and there are times I wonder if I should be spending the time and money I do marketing my book.  So not too long ago, I put the words “No doubt” on my laptop, so that when I open it up to work on something, I’m reminded not to doubt myself.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

ALP: Anywhere I can go tangle with a fish, especially ones that put up a good fight.  My favorite so far is fishing the Amazon River for peacock bass because they smack at a lure like no other fish.  And, of course, you can’t beat being on the Amazon.

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

ALP: I live in Mid-Michigan on a man-made impoundment that helps attract wildlife.  I write at the kitchen table where I am inspired—and also often distracted—by the critters outside my bay window, and by my husband and my pets.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite? Why? 

ALP: I have written From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, about blundering and falling into becoming a stepmom, and Something Furry Underfoot, about figuring out how to care for and spoil a bunch of different pets.  My first book is mostly for stepmothers and has a limited audience; my second book will really help anyone debating getting a pet.  So I’d give the “favorite” nod to Something Furry Underfoot.  Just don’t tell my stepkids!

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

ALP: Unfortunately, my routine is limited by my schedule: I work until 4 p.m. Monday – Friday, attend to pets and exercise needs, do dinner, and finally, at about 7 or so, I might get to sit down to write.  But soon, Winston, one of my puppies, walks by with an item in his mouth that isn’t supposed to be there—twigs being one thing he loves to sneak in from outdoors—so I have to tend to that. And after dealing with him, I need to make sure the other dog, Snickers, isn’t also into trouble. I’ll sit down for a while longer, before Purrkins, the cat, wanders by with a pitiful meooooww  to remind me I haven’t refilled her dinner plate.  My husband, meanwhile, will try to fill me in on the latest fishing lure he’s found online and what lake he thinks it’ll work best on.  And so it goes.  I call it my Interrupted-Often Routine.

dog

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

ALP: The message in Something Furry Underfoot is that every animal has a story and I think our job as pet owners is to make that story as good as possible.  I think my book helps people make good decisions before they buy a pet and also how to care for certain pets.  Hopefully,  readers will realize that even two similar looking critters—like two hamsters or two birds—have different personalities and needs.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

ALP: Figuring out how to deal with the fact that pets die.  I didn’t want to gloss over that and I didn’t want to bum people out.  As a result, my book is mostly humorous in nature, but there are some very touching moments.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

ALP: By the time I got done editing it, gave it to a professional editor, and gave it to some friends to edit, I had re-lived the touching moments (e.g. sad parts) quite a few times.  And of course, the more I had to revisit something, the more I worried I’d edit too much…or not enough.

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

ALP: In Something Furry Underfoot I try to describe what it’s like living in a house where the only thing my spouse had to do is bat his puppy-dog eyes and he got to bring another pet into the house. I also try to convey what it’s like from my perspective having to deal with all the critters he brought home, most of which I knew nothing about.  Yet the thing is, neither of us really do anything special except try to make the best possible life for our pets.

Pork

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

ALP: If marketing counts as writing, I write every day.  And if it doesn’t count, well, I personally think it should.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

ALP: I’ve never had that as a goal.  I’m more driven to complete the story I’m trying to tell. So, if it’s a blog posting, I try to get it done before the end of the weekend.  If it’s marketing, I try to get the interview finished so I’m higher up in the queue with the book blogger.  If it’s a book, I suppose it’s done when I’m exhausted with editing.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

ALP: Because I’ve written memoirs thus far, my books pretty much are told in chronological order.  The tips I include help break up the chapters so the book can be read in chunks, which I think adds to its appeal.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book? 

ALP: 2 years.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

ALP: Yes. While I haven’t run out of things to write about because I have been blessed with a great husband, great stepkids, great pets and great experiences in life, I have to say that when it comes to writing things like sympathy cards, I can get writer’s block pretty easily. I think because I’m a writer I feel some pressure to come up with something outstanding on sympathy cards and never come up with anything except “You’re in my thoughts.”  Which, granted, is probably better than, “Hang in there!”

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

ALP: Here are my tips:

  • Before writing, put the words “No Doubt” on your computer screen or keyboard. That will help remove any doubt that what you are writing will be important somewhere, sometime to somebody.  Hopefully, LOTS of somebodies.
  • Sit down, write down the first thing that comes to mind about your subject and don’t stop writing until three of your body parts are completely cramped up—your two hands and your back, perhaps.
  • Go for a brisk walk to un-cramp all your body parts.  Follow this by jumping into a cold shower or a pool of freezing cold water.  Doing that will definitely give you something to write about. (In fact, perhaps you’ll be so kind as to write me a note to let me know if it worked for you, as I’ve never tried it).
  • Don’t try to capture everything.  I’ve known several people working on Master’s theses and they think they need to “get it all down on paper” because it might be their last paper on the subject.  Narrow it down to something workable.  In its earliest draft, Something Furry Underfoot included a lot of wildlife interactions—those all came out of my book so now I remain focused on indoor pets.
  • Repeat steps 2-4 as needed.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

ALP: I usually do my own editing first, then I hire a professional editor for at least the first 60 pages or so, then pass it off to a friend editor who learns from the professional editor’s changes, then I have friends read my book, then I do one last edit.  Then I hope for the best.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

ALP: I hired G. Miki Hayden to edit the first 60 pages or so, then a secretary friend of mine, then I asked five friends to review an early draft.  Every single one found something that needed fixing.

Tell us about your book covers.

ALP:  I found my graphic designer, Patricia Adams, through a friend at work who hired her to work on a web site. For From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds, I sent Patricia a photo of my wedding cake and she recreated that for the cover of the book. It’s a great replication of my cake:  a bride and groom and four kids on top in a fishing boat, with the bride’s fishing pole connected to a bigger fish than the groom’s.  My web page graphic artist then put Patricia’s creation onto a nifty background.

From0to4kids

For Something Furry Underfoot, I wanted to include a bunch of my pets but I had no clue how to present them.  I sent Patricia photos of some of my pets and she created the bright, colorful cover of a woman looking a bit overwhelmed with her menagerie of critters, while her husband is all smiles.

Somethingfurryunderfoot

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each? 

ALP: I’d love to have an agent and for that agent to help me break in with a publishing company.  I tried that route about 10 years ago and was assigned a rookie agent whose query letter to publishers made it sound like she’d not read my book; the draft letter had typos.  When my contract with that literary agency came up for renewal, I didn’t renew.  The advantage of self-publishing is that anybody can get something published. The down-side is that the author has to spend a LOT of time marketing. Since August of 2013, I’ve spent every available hour in the evening doing social marketing to obtain contacts for reviews, interviews and guest blog postings. I’ve had a lot of good exposure, but I’ve also sent copies of my book to people who’ve not responded one way or another with a review, and not even a “Thanks, got your book, but not interested, so I’m going to donate to the library.”  So, it’s tough being a self-published author.  Which goes back to having the words “No doubt” on my laptop.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together? 

ALP: I hired the same person to do my e-book and paperback conversions because I have no patience for that type of nitty-gritty detail.  I had the book converter do the e-book version first, then the paperback.  The paperback also required paying my web page graphic artist to help with the back cover and spine so it matched the specifications and matched the front cover.

How did you decide to price your e-book relative to your hardcopy?

ALP: I priced the e-book at $2.99 which is a pretty good price for a helpful book, I think. I priced the paperback at 50 cents over cost.  I think I priced them at a reasonable price to sell.  But I guess we’ll all find out, huh?

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage?

ALP: Authors that self-publish need to take every advantage possible of social networking opportunities. Through networking sites I’ve found book reviewers, opportunities for written and speaking interviews, and bloggers who’ll post a guest spot.  Every Twitter lead I get, I check out the person’s web site to see if I can make any tie to my book.  I got a sci-fi writer to read my book because his Twitter photo has him posing with his dog.  I also just sent a book to a bunch of moms to review my book because my book will help moms decide what pet to get.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website? 

ALP: GoodReads and BookBlog.ning have been my go-to sites until about October 2013, when I discovered MARSocial site, which has opportunities for authors, too, including contests.

What other ways have you marketed your books? 

ALP: Since Something Furry Underfoot is about pets, I am marketing my book on professional sites like PetPav and BlogPaws.  I’ve also found some sites where people blog about their own pets and in some cases, they have some affordable advertising rates. If they review my book and like it—which they all have so far–I explore advertising on their site.

I’ve also developed a video about the domestic duck we raised, and am working on another video featuring all sorts of different pets, with the overall message similar to my book.  My hope is that one of the pet blogging sites will want to add their logo to the second video and also help get the word out.  It’ll be like a book trailer, with supporters.

duck in sink

Where and how are your books sold?

ALP: Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.  Amazon offers the Kindle e-book version and paperbacks; Smashwords has every other type of e-book format imaginable.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

ALP: If I wrote another book and had a relatively large budget to spend, I’d hire a publicist, because they know the ins and outs of social networking sites, and the good publicists have contacts that can really get the word out quickly.  If that’s not an option, then the author will be like me and need to look for every opportunity on their own.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books? 

ALP: Since I didn’t think my market for From Zero to Four Kids in Thirty Seconds would be very large, I only spent a few months marketing that book, primarily through a book blog tour.  Because I think Something Furry Underfoot has a broader audience, once I finished the print version in July, marketing is really all I’ve done.  I will continue Something Furry Underfoot until I have no more marketing thoughts, or until I get the bug to work on my next book. Or until my husband or pets say, “Pay more attention to me!”

What do you do to get book reviews?

ALP: I’m always on the look-out for more reviews and constantly track down new requests via social networking sites.  Most pan out, but some do not.  I also found participating in a book blog tour is a pretty good way to get book reviews.  Now, while I refuse to pay a lot of money for book reviews, people with big budgets should consider doing so because reviews do help sell books.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future? 

ALP: I spent money on two big-ticket items:  one, something called Review Direct, which gets your book included in a listing of books librarians can consider; and secondly, on a press release. Sales from libraries were minimal, so my next move is to make direct contacts with librarians in my area to see if they can “talk up” my book via their network of librarians. Sales from the press release were minimal because important people—the press and others you might want to reach–get too many press releases and many go unread.  Of the three press people that asked for my book after seeing the press release, one month later, none had contacted me for a follow-up story or interview.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

ALP: I would think trailers would be pretty effective if you’ve got the right distribution channel established and adequate resources to create one.  Marketing really comes down to where it’s best to spend your time and money, and thus far, I’m no expert on that.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

ALP: Unfortunately, I think self-published authors have to give away some books for free to get reviews from people, whether or not the person actually finishes the review they promised. As far as giving away e-books to a mass audience, that’s a tough one.  I did that for one day with my first book and gave away more copies than I’ve sold.  I did not do a give-away for Something Furry Underfoot because I think that any e-book that makes you laugh out loud and maybe also cry, is a bargain for $2.99.

In Conclusion:

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

ALP: I hope that people that read Something Furry Underfoot will laugh, and maybe cry, and that they come to agree that our job as pet owners is to make our pets’ lives as good as possible . . . even if it is a work in progress (says Purrkins, the cat, anyway).  Best of all, some proceeds from Something Furry Underfoot will benefit animal rescue organizations.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

ALP: For me, it’s waiting:  waiting for editors, waiting for book converter people, waiting for things to go live, waiting for people to discover my book, waiting for an interview to post, waiting to become a well-known author.  Other than that, there’s no waiting at all and I’m a very patient person.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

ALP: The easiest thing is the social marketing because I’m meeting a bunch of great people I’d otherwise never have met.  I’ve met a mom in the UK who went out of her way to tweet about my book, and a woman in Nigeria who was part of my book blog tour.  People all over the world are out there looking for books and willing to help authors out.  It’s been quite amazing.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

ALP:  Put the words “No Doubt” on my computer when I was 20.

How can readers discover more about you and your work? 

ALP: It’s best to go to amylpeterson.com and from there, you can click on the cover for Something Furry Underfoot to see a chapter-by-chapter summary and photos of some of my pets. On my web site you will also see an “About Me” page that is mostly truthful, my videos, and my blog, which is mostly about pets, including several 10 Ten Things You Should Know Before You Get a [fill in the pet] series.

Interview with John and Nancy Petralia

Happy Wednesday! Today my honorary guests are John and Nancy Petralia, authors of Not in a Tuscan Villa. The book is the story of two sixty-somethings who abandon a comfortable retirement to move to Italy for a year. The experience-good and bad-recaptured their youth, reinvigorated their romance, and gave them a new perspective on America and how they want to live the rest of their lives.

Personal: Getting to know the Authors:

How long have you been a writer? Best

J&NP: This is our first book. We aren’t writers by profession. It took us about 18 months to complete Not in a Tuscan Villa.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

J&NP: I guess we enjoy commenting on life around us. Living abroad, your perspective is quite different. You can’t help comparing the foreign place to what you know in America. And the insights it gives you–about culture, family, relationships, and yourself–are things we like to share.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

J&NP: We’re non-fiction writers. Nancy, because I’m no good at making up stuff, and John because it fits his commentary style.

What inspired you to write your first book?

J&NP: We figured out how to have our dream of living in Italy for a year, as ordinary citizens. When we came home, the experience had so changed the way we wanted to experience the rest of our lives that we wanted to share it. We NEEDED to share it.

What do you think your book offers that others in the same genre do not?

J&NP: It’s not a travelogue. It’s not like Under the Tuscan Sun or some other book about buying a run-down house in the country and fixing it up with funny workmen. It’s not about picking grapes and olives and eating out under the stars. It’s about real life in Italy, where you have to negotiate the everyday mysteries of train ticketing, public and private bureaucracy, getting the cable fixed and the internet installed, and you might end up in the hospital–twice. It’s about looking for ways to make friends and become part of a local community, and the rewards of rediscovering your romance.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

J&NP: We love and are inspired by Bill Bryson. What travel writer wouldn’t be. He’s adventuresome, insightful, irreverent, and hilarious. He’s also a VERY skilled writer who knows how to weave a complex story and deliver a punchline. We learned a lot about writing by reading and analyzing his work.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

J&NP: “You are what you read.” It’s the motto of our book club.

Where do you enjoy vacationing?

J&NP: Italy of course, but we still want to go to South America, spend more time in Spain and some of France. The Balkan cruise to St Petersburg is on the list. It’s actually a long list.

DSC01532_3_2_2

Books, Writings, and Routines:

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

J&NP: We found the discipline of the library writers’ group helped us finish the book. We had to show up each week with four pages each to read. Sometimes we wrote quite a bit more, but we always had to have at least four.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

J&NP: Whatever your dream is, to live abroad, to climb a mountain, to try your hand at sculpture, whatever. JUST DO IT. The experience will change your life in ways you never expected and energize the rest of your life.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

J&NP: Learning how to craft a story. We had lots of source material, but creating the story arc, within the chapters and throughout the book was the hardest part. We cut, rearranged, edited many times to get it where we wanted. Also, figuring how to start was difficult. The approach we finally took was suggested by a critique at a writers’ workshop.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

J&NP: Figuring out how to write it together. We settled on alternating chapters and forcing the styles to be different. Nancy’s style is more narrative, and John’s is more commentary, closer to that of an essayist. In both cases there’s an intentional attempt to emphasize our personality quirks so it’s obvious who’s speaking.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

J&NP: We could read four double-spaced pages each at our writers’ group. In the beginning we would write to the four pages each week. Eventually we learned that we needed to tell the STORY in whatever space it took and just read four of the pages. But the discipline of producing every week drove us to completion.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

J&NP: Since the book is a series of essays, we had to figure out the point of each chapter and then how they fit together to tell the overarching story. We find ourselves in situations and then develop the story around those situations.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

J&NP: For us it was just the opposite. The stuff was inside us and had to come out.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you? If you did not design the cover yourself who did and how and why did you select that designer?

J&NP: The publisher provided a designer who’s done over 600 books. She’s a fabulous artist and extremely creative. She used several of the photos Nancy took as the basis for a variety of different approaches. We fell in love with the one we chose.

Not in a Tuscan Villa cover

Marketing & Book Signings:

What ways have you marketed your books?

J&NP: Book signings, lectures about related topics. We’re also interested in reaching book clubs and Italian cultural groups.

Where and how are your books sold?

J&NP: Amazon, some B & N, independent bookstores. Amazon has recommended it on their Hot New Releases list and in their email marketing.

What do you do to get book reviews?

J&NP: ASK everyone we can reach who’s read the book, to post on Amazon and Goodreads. A few will actually do it. Sent copies to professional reviewers.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

J&NP: We have a personal email list of about 300 people. I’ve sent announcements to them about the initial publication, the Kindle release, and will send one about holiday purchases. That spiked the initial sales for both the print copy and Kindle version.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

J&NP: Don’t know yet. We’ve given some to reviewers and will try the Goodreads giveaway program. But other authors have told us this wasn’t particularly helpful in generating sales. We don’t fit the profile of authors who are promoting a series or plan to write many more books, so I don’t know how useful it would be.

Tell us a little about your latest book signing. What all did it entail? How long did it last?

J&NP: We spent a few minutes introducing ourselves and why we wrote the book, then each of us read a short section. Our library time spanned two hours so we repeated that process at the top of the second hour for those who came in later. We answered a lot of questions in both venues.

We coupled it with a reading or Q & A from book clubs so it lasted 1-2 hours.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

J&NP: Read. And not just the genre you want to write in. If you want to be a good writer, read people who are great. Invest in learning to write better. We started with our writers’ group, but also went to a writers’ conference, had two professional critiques, and had the manuscript critiqued by a carefully selected group of avid readers, including a former professional editor for a major publishing house. Use professionals for editing, cover, and your interior design.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

J&NP: Open your mind to another view of the world. Take the time to SEE, not just observe the world around you and consider what that means.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

J&NP: We’re much better writers than when we started. And much better readers. Writing makes you a more critical reader and vise versa.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

J&NP: We write non-fiction so it’s about turning what happened into a story.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

J&NP: Stream of consciousness–getting it down the first time.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

J&NP: Go for your dreams earlier. Don’t get hung up on all the reasons why you can’t do it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

J&NP: Visit the FB page for Not in a Tuscan Villa. Visit our website, NotinaTuscanVilla.com. And Nancy’s Goodreads author page. Send us an email or post something…we love to hear from readers.

Facebook

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

*Extra Credit Questions*

Is Not in a Tuscan Villa a memoir? DSC03549_2

J&NP: Not exactly, although it is our recollections of things we experienced during our year in Italy. We like to call it “adventure learning.” The adventure certainly changed us, and we take the reader on our journey of discovery. We take turns with the chapters which is something different.

How have you changed from the experience?

J&NP: We came home wanting to recreate the daily experience we had in Parma–and to relocate to a city. Both consciously and unconsciously we’ve applied the lessons we learned to our search for a new hometown. To our surprise, the place we chose has even more of them than we originally thought so we’ve certainly internalized a new perspective.

Interview with J. Conrad Guest

Happy Wednesday everyone! This week’s interviewee is the one and only, J. Conrad Guest. J.’s novels are about everyday people dealing with the universal ideals of love, loss, regret, and death, along with the emotions associated with those ideals. His work is “gritty, entertaining, and real.” He is said to write romance for the non-romantic.

Personal: Getting to know the Author: jconradguest022

What inspired you to write your first book?

JCG: My first novel, January’s Paradigm, written more than 20 years ago, was the result of a bloodied and bruised heart. What started as therapy turned into a labor of love: if I couldn’t find the proverbial happily ever after for myself, then I would write one for my alter ego.

When I reached the halfway point, I realized it was a project I likely would finish, so I shared with my dad that I was writing a novel. He loved reading, to the point where he named his only son for his favorite author—Joseph Conrad. Imagine my dismay when he asked me what I was doing wasting my time on such an endeavor. I was at that time unemployed, and he felt I should be spending every available waking hour looking for work. It was a stressful time in my life, and working on January’s Paradigm gave me a place of refuge, a world where I was in control of what happened. It taught me a lot about myself, and helped me to heal. It was also a wonderful distraction from the frustration of changing not only jobs, but careers as well. In the end, when Dad read the first draft, he was pleased.

What do you think your books offer that others in the same genre do not?

JCG: In a publishing world that likes everything to fit neatly into a box, my work defies genres. The Cobb Legacy is a mystery written around the shooting death of baseball legend Ty Cobb’s father by his mother. It takes place a century later and follows the life of a writer coming to terms with his adulterous affair and impending divorce, while trying to connect with his dying father, a World War II veteran.

500 Miles to Go, another sports-themed tale and due to launch later this year, is about the importance of, and the risks associated with, the pursuit of dreams.

One Hot January and January’s Thaw, successors to January’s Paradigm, compose a science fiction diptych in which Germany has won World War II. A time travel yarn, OHJ and JT are my tribute to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective genre. Joe January is described as an indignant Humphrey Bogart. The first book takes place in 1947 New York City; but by the end, January is transported a hundred years into the future, where he must survive on his outdated sagacity as he tries to return to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell.

A Retrospect in Death is a journey in self-discovery. The story starts with a man’s death, and the reader is taken to the other side of the Great Divide, where the narrator encounters his higher self, the part of him that is connected to the Creator. Much to his chagrin, the narrator learns he must return to the lifecycle, but not before being debriefed. So he and his higher self set about recounting his life, but in reverse chronological order, knowing the end and searching for the breadcrumbs along the way to account for his discontent.

Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings is a pseudo autobiography. I started with my youthful dream to play major league baseball; but where I allowed my parents to steer me down another path, Backstop goes against his parents’ wishes to make his dream come true.

I’m currently shopping my eighth novel, A World Without Music, about a veteran of the first Gulf War suffering PTSD seeking to find the music that will make his life worth living.

I mix and match genres, even if all of them deal with relationships—between men and women, and fathers and sons.

My fiction appeals to readers who seek something more than what traditional genre fiction offers: the bodice-ripper romance, hard science fiction, formula mysteries.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

JCG: I love the creative process. Early on in my literary career, I fretted over publication. Each rejection letter resulted in my questioning my resolve as well as my ability, and my writing suffered for it. It was easy to let days and weeks go by without setting down a single word. When I finally learned to enjoy the process and let go of the fear of rejection, I became a writer. Perhaps not so surprisingly, once I did, publication soon followed.

I find inspiration in writing about everyday people going about their everyday lives and dealing with everyday issues: love and loss, regret and redemption. A reader once said of my work, “Gritty, entertaining… real. Romance for the non-romantic.” I count that as one of the nicest comments about my work I’ve gotten. I find that writing about everyday people teaches me a lot about myself, and what could be more inspirational than that?

As for what motivates me… well, I’m motivated by a need to connect with readers as well as a love for language. I’ve found nothing more gratifying than arranging words on a blank monitor, knowing I’ve crafted a great sentence, an exchange of dialogue, or a scene. Of course, a cup of good coffee and a fine cigar go a long way to jump start me in the morning.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

Have you won any awards for your writing?

JCG: Backstop was nominated a 2010 Michigan Notable Book, while the Lewis Department of Humanities at the Illinois Institute of Technology adopted it as required reading for one of their spring 2011 courses—Baseball: America’s Literary Pastime.

A short story of mine that appears in a Second Wind anthology was nominated for a Pushcart.

Do your books seem to revolve around the same morals and themes?

JCG: That’s a definite yes! I’ve found many people averse to morals; many seem to think morals are those things others place on us—like the Bible telling us not to covet our neighbor’s wife. Who am I tell someone infidelity is wrong? I think we’ve gotten too attached to our personal rights, to the point of excluding the rights of others.

The January books in particular deal with the oppression of women. Fresh from 1947, Joe January notes that women of the twenty-first century are more oppressed than the women of his era. They allow themselves to be used sexually under the guise of freedom. In other words, freedom without accountability results in oppression of a different kind.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

JCG: For A Retrospect in Death I opened a vein and bled profusely, relying on certain autobiographical events in my life, fictionalized to protect the innocent. While it was difficult, especially recounting events from my youth, I found it wonderfully therapeutic, and found much closure and healing.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00021]

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

JCG: I’ve experienced writer’s block only once. It was while I was writing One Hot January, my second novel. My parents both took ill and eventually passed away, which left me orphaned and grieving; but I was struggling with the plot, too. When I got a chance to go to New York City, which is the setting of the story, I jumped at the chance. I visited a number of places that Joe January frequents, and I hoped to catch up with him, figuratively. When I got home I wrote a piece of flash fiction in which the character catches up with his author in Central Park. After that, I caught fire and finished both January books in fairly short order.

These days I never encounter writer’s block. That’s not to say I don’t experience days where I might flounder, but I’ve learned a few tricks to minimize those days. For one, I try to finish a writing session in the middle of a scene or an exchange of dialogue. That leaves me anxious to start my next session because I know exactly where I’m picking up.

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

JCG: All of my novels, save for January’s Paradigm, are published through independent presses. It’s nearly impossible for writers who aren’t household names to get published by one of the Big Six, perhaps more so for authors like me who don’t write to a formula.

Self-publishing is both a boon and bane. Yes, it allows many writers the chance to have their voice heard; but it also allows them to do an end around to learning craft. I recently learned that the new publishing model is simply to upload your book and let your readers tell you what’s wrong with it. Then you revise, upload, and repeat the process until a major publisher picks up your work. To me, that’s simply wrong. E.L. James proved it’s possible to win the lotto, but that just doesn’t happen very often. It gives new writers a false sense of hope. Actors learn their craft; athletes spend years playing their sport for a chance to make it as a pro. Writing is no different. There are no shortcuts to success. But in America, we’re all about instant gratification. Get more than three rejection letters, and self-publish. The end result is that there are a lot of poorly written books available, which only makes it more difficult for the cream to rise to the top.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

JCG: I keep reading of the importance of social networking. I understand that E.L. James parlayed her social network to become a bestseller. I sure would like to know how she did it, because I haven’t come close to the success she achieved.

Publishers are now asking upfront about a writer’s social network. I network on Facebook, where I have an author page, and have profiles on Goodreads and LinkedIn. At LinkedIn I participate in a number of author groups, but I don’t see that it’s helped much.

Every author is networking. Many of my Facebook friends are writers; I “like” them and they “like” me, but I haven’t noticed that it translates to sales, even though I’m told consumers tend to purchase based on number of “likes.” I don’t know if that can be proven, because I certainly don’t buy a book based on popularity. If I use Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature and don’t like what I see, a thousand “likes” won’t get me to buy. I don’t buy my Facebook writer friends’ work any more than they buy mine. I want to get my work in front of consumers, and I’m not sure how to accomplish that.

Marketing and self-promotion, for me, is the most difficult part of my writing life. I’m sure I could do more, but I’m not good at it. I’ve talked to writers who claim to spend more time marketing than writing. I’d rather spend my time writing than promoting. If I could afford it, I’d hire a publicist; but they’re very expensive and expect payment upfront, not results based. After spending hundreds of hours writing, revising and polishing a book, an investment of time with no monetary reward, I’m asked to outlay a thousand dollars or more for services for which there is no guarantee for results.

Where and how are your books sold?

JCG: My books are sold, in e-format and trade back, at Amazon, Second Wind Publishing, and Pulse Publishing.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

JCG: I understand the theory behind giving away books—give away something in hopes of enticing sales down the road. One of my publishers rotates giveaways for all his authors, and I receive notice of each download of my titles. They are copious; but whether it translates to sales of my other novels, I can’t say. Frankly, I’d rather my publisher give away a partial file, say half of the content, to get the consumer hooked, then make them purchase the remainder to find out what happens. Of course, this would mean more work creating another downloadable file, but I think it would be financially beneficial to both my publisher and me.

In Conclusion:

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively over the years as a writer?

JCG: I’m still learning my craft; each new project teaches me something new. As evolution goes, I think the process is much easier. Like an exercise routine, the more you work, the more you want to work, and the easier the work gets. I’ve streamlined the process. Early on I agonized for an hour over a single sentence, selecting the right words and making sure they were in the right place, moving punctuation. Now I trust myself, and it comes easier. That’s not to say I don’t give myself permission to make changes later; but it’s no longer the battle it once was.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

JCG: You can learn more about my literary world at my website and by simply Googling “J. Conrad Guest.” Please consider signing my guest book on my website. I write to connect with readers and find that’s a good way to measure with whom I connect. I promise I won’t spam!

Amazon Author page

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Publisher’s website

Interview with Author Renee Novelle

This Wednesday I warmly welcome my featured guest, Renee Novelle, who is best known for her psychological thrillers and paranormal fiction.

13

Formerly a freelance journalist, R.S. Novelle has found placement of 75 of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her effective writing style to many non-profit and profit organizations. She has launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.

In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. Writing under the names Renee Novelle and R.S. Novelle, she has a publication schedule that includes psychological thrillers, suspense, paranormal fiction, contemporary women’s fiction, chick lit, and new adult.

Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, Summa Cum Laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you’re meant to be.

Renee’s latest novel, REFLECTIONS, is a short paranormal suspense story, with just a touch of a romantic element.

ReflectionsNEW

Synopsis:

Graham had a simple life: A job he enjoyed, a wife that he loved, and a young son that kept each and every day full of surprises. But when his father passed away unexpectedly, he inherited a family heirloom that would begin to…complicate matters.

A mirror that had been in his family for generations, Graham quickly found that its reflections were out of the ordinary, and that it had prophetic powers beyond his comprehension. Giving him just a momentary glance at souls who were on the knife’s edge of life and death, it was up to him to try to save them as they were thrust unknowingly into his path.

Finding a way to balance his daily life with this newfound responsibility was proving arduous enough, but when the mirror begins showing him reflections of his own family, Graham finds his world irretrievably changed. Will he be able to save them, or will he be forced to live with the same regret that so many have suffered before him?

Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

RN: Technically, I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! But I never really took it too seriously until I hit my twenties, and I discovered that writing could be a career in addition to a hobby. I kind of detoured my path to do journalism for a couple years. And while it paid the bills, I always felt as though something was missing creatively for me. So, I’ve recently returned to fiction and haven’t looked back since. I think it’s the best decision I could’ve made for myself.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

RN: Oh, so many! I have so many stories that I want to tell, or issues that I believe in that I feel need to be brought to light. I’m constantly torn between wanting to write the light and happy and entertaining stories, and the dark and controversial ones. I think that’s why I’ve chosen to write across so many genres, to satisfy all those aspects. I really enjoy the challenge of writing a psychological or paranormal thriller with intricate plot twists. But then to balance it out, I feel like I need to write something lighter. So that becomes fun then too.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

RN: I LOVE anything that has to do with the arts – plays, dance performances, operas, gallery openings, art festivals, concerts – I’m completely addicted to attending those kinds of things. I’m a big yoga enthusiast and really enjoy time spent on the beach. If you can combine those two things together, even better! I also love shopping and fashion (who doesn’t!), I’m a pretty big foodie so I love trying new unique restaurants, and I’ll never turn down a good martini or quality glass of wine.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

RN: I’m a bit of a quote enthusiast, but one of my favorites is “You’ll never know how far you can fly, until you spread your wings and fly.” And it’s so true! If you want to succeed in something, you have to dare to jump into it. I think one of the biggest things that holds people back is themselves.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

RN: As of this October (2013), I’ve published two psychological thriller books and a paranormal suspense novella. In the coming months, I plan to release a new adult light romance, and I have a long publication schedule already set for 2014.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

RN: I think the overall message is to act with compassion towards all other people. We never know when our last moment may be, and if we can be open to helping others, instead of closed off and indifferent to strangers, we may make a huge difference in someone’s life.

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

RN: Ugh, the dreaded writer’s block! For me personally, I’ve found that just stepping away for a little while, or even a few days, usually does the trick. I explore another story all together, meditate, do something fun and out of my routine. And that seems to put writer’s block in check and get the creative juices flowing again.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

RN: I think that for authors today, social media is absolutely vital. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to spread the word quickly about your projects, and it’s a pretty effective way to stay in touch with readers. I’m on almost every site – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Shelfari, Pinterest, Instagram, etc and I always encourage my readers to connect with me everywhere. I think this goes a long way in building relationships with readers, and it gives different people avenues they can use to recommend you or your work to their friends.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

RN: Practice, practice, practice! Don’t wait for inspiration, just get started. And use absolutely every opportunity to write that you can – a journal, an article, a blog entry, a book. The more you write, even if just for fun, the more you’ll learn about your style. And when you’re ready to try releasing something into the world for others to read, make sure it’s the most polished it can possibly be.

Most importantly, if writing is your dream, don’t ever give up on that. Keep at it, and one day you’ll find success at it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

RN: All of my information about my books and publishing schedule is on my website – www.RSNovelle.com. Readers can also visit my Facebook or Goodreads page to find my books and interact, or can sign up for my newsletter to get all the latest information.

Website: www.RSNovelle.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/R.S.-Novelle/e/B00EWLOKIG

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RSNovelle

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReneeNovelle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RS_Novelle

Interview with Author Maryanne Raphael

This week’s guest interview is author Maryanne Raphael.
Screen shot 2013-11-27 at 3.28.45 PM

The oldest of ten children, Maryanne grew up in the small Appalachian village of Waverly, Ohio (named for Sir Walter Scott’s WAVERLY NOVELS.) She was constantly writing plays for all of her siblings to perform.

Her first rejection slip (from St. Anthony’s Messenger) arrived when she was five years old. Her grandfather typed and mailed her story, Pray for the Wanderer. He told her, “A rejection slip proves you are a writer. You wrote something and sent it out.” Twenty-five years later, she sold a revised version of that original short story to Catholic Digest.

At Ohio University she majored in Creative Writing and Romance Languages, was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and editor of Sphere, the literary magazine. She won a scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris. Her auto-biographical novel, UNE ANNEE A PARIS won first place from the Alliance Francaise.

After France, she went to the Caribbean where she met and married Lennox Raphael, a Trinidadian writer. They traveled together through four continents. Their son Raphael was born in New York City.

Maryanne taught at Ohio University, the New School for Social Research in New York City, and at the University of Hawaii. She was an editor at Prentice Hall and Woman’s Day Magazine.

Maryanne’s latest book Dorothy Day A Peassion For Peace was printed September 2013. Maryanne is also known for her works: Garden of Hope: Autobiography of a Marriage, Along came A Spider: A Personal Look At Madness, What Mother Teresa Taught Me, Mother Teresa: Called to Love, The Man Who Loved Funerals, Anais Nin: The Voyage Within, Dancing On Water, Alexandria, and Runaways: America’s Lost Youth.

Personal: Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

MR: I received my first rejection slip when I was five years old.  I made up a story and my grandfather typed it and mailed it to St. Anthony Messenger.  Granddad explained to me that a rejection slip proved I was a writer.  I wrote something and mailed it out.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

MR: I enjoy writing about people I admire, Mother Teresa, Anais Nin, Father Damien, Mother Marianne of Molokai, Dorothy Day and fictional characters like Charlie in The Man Who Loved Funerals.

What do you write?

MR: I write biographies, novels, poems, plays, essays and nonfiction articles.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

MR: I won an award of Excellence from San Diego Book Awards for Mother Teresa, Called to Love.  My former husband Lennox Raphael and I won first place for unpublished Memories, Autobiography of a Marriage. Patricia Walden and I won second prize at San Diego Book Awards for our romance novel, Alexandria.

What inspired you to write your first book?

MR: Grandmother Brown asked me to write her autobiography when I was fourteen years old.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

MR: I love writing the first draft when the characters seem to come alive and tell their own story.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

MR: Life motivates me.  I love people, places and things.  When I learn something new and exciting I want to share it.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

MR: I love the way Hemmingway uses his writing like an iceberg with the most important facts shared with the reader and all his secret knowledge underneath holding up the story.  I love Anais Nin’s journals and Thomas Wolf’s novels.  I have many favorite authors.  They love life and are excited about writing.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

MR: Writing is my life.  I write full time.  All my life I have wanted to retire from teaching or publishing and write full time.  Now I am doing what I have always wanted to do.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

MR: I like Mother Teresa’s saying, “Do little things with great love.”

Where are you currently living? Do you find inspiration in a certain room or space of your home or surrounding area?

MR: I live in an apartment a few blocks from the ocean in Carlsbad, California.  My desk is by the window and I do most of my writing there.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written?

MR: Mother Teresa, Called  to Love, What Mother Teresa Taught Me, The Man who loved Funerals, Along Came A Spider, A Personal Look at Madness,  Runaways, America’s Lost Youth (co-author Jenifer Wolf, preface Anais Nin), Alexandria (coauthor Patricia Walden), Anais Nin, The Voyage Within, Saints of Molokai, Dancing On Water, Garden of Hope, and Dorothy Day: A Passion for Peace.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

MR: I do my best writing at night, after midnight but sometimes I write all day depending on when I feel inspired.  But I do not wait for inspiration to write.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

MR: In Dorothy Day: A Passion for Peace, I want to encourage people to seek Peace and to be aware that we are all brothers and sisters and will be happier if we help the homeless, the hungry, the refugees, and the sick.

Screen shot 2013-11-27 at 3.29.02 PM

Give us an insight into your main character of your latest work. What does he/she do that is so special?

MR: Dorothy Day was one of the most interesting, exciting, intense people I ever wrote about.  She was a journalist in the Jazz age who loved to dance and spend time with artists, actors, and poets.  She always wanted to help the poor, especially the working poor.  She began to love the Bible and devoted the rest of her life to living God’s Love.  She is now being considered for sainthood by the Vatican.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

MR: There is no structure in my day.  I take walks whenever a friend invites me.  I spend time with friends.  But any day that I have not spent several hours writing I feel I have missed something important.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

MR: I have tried writing with an outline.  It does not work for me.  I just face the white page and jump in.

Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

MR: I usually have my character in my mind when I begin.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

MR: I spent ten years writing Mother Teresa, Called to Love.  I was a coworker and much of that time was spent in action.  I wrote The Man Who Loved Funerals in three days as part of the Pulp Writers Three Day Contest in Canada.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

MR: Writer’s Block is the name we give to needing a break from a certain project.

In Conclusion:

In your opinion, what is the hardest thing about writing?

MR: Selling books.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

MR: Sitting at the computer and letting your heart out.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

MR: Write.  Never stop; writing.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

MR: Go to authorsden.com/maryanneraphael  or Maryanne Raphael’s books at Amazon.com

My Interview with Author Ashleigh Galvin

In honor of the launch of Tales of a Sevie last week, I am starting a weekly segment of author interviews that will be updated each Wednesday right here on my blog. :) My first guest is Australian author Ashleigh Galvin of the Amethyst Series.

Ashleigh Galvin Author

 Getting to know the Author:

How long have you been a writer?

AG: I wrote my first novel in Primary school. That was roughly 15 years ago now. Amazing how time flies.

What do you write? What draws you to this genre?

AG: I mostly write YA Fantasy. The reason is simply because this is my favorite genre to read. I read to escape reality which is just a little too boring some times. Add some dragons and now it’s interesting.

What do you think your books offer that others in the same genre do not?

AG: Birth By Fire’s Embrace gives a new angle on a classic Fantasy plot. By introducing fresh and a little quirky characters, it’s been a fantastic experience to write.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

AG: Listening to music and going places I’ve never been before are two big ones. Earlier in the year I traveled to Japan and when I returned, I had a lot of inspiration for new stories.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

AG: JK Rowling is a big one. Not so much for the writing but for how she inspired reading in a generation that was losing that gift.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

AG: Much to my annoyance, it’s currently part time. There is nothing worse than being at work when a bolt of inspiration strikes.

Do you have a favorite motivational phrase?

AG: “JUST DO IT!!!!!!!!!” Kidding. Not really. I find motivation comes from within and I’ve learnt that even if you have 0 motivation to write, you still have to so it makes no difference.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite?

AG: I’ve written two books so far (Birth By Fire’s Embrace and its sequel) and am working on a third. They are all in the Amethyst Series. My fav would have to be the one I’m currently working on. It’s been so much fun to write I almost can’t stop.

Birth By Fire's Embrace Cover

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

AG: Nope. Just write write write. I like to keep track of word count to see if I can break my personal best for words written in a day. I think it’s currently at 6,000.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

AG: I don’t really write books to try and convey a lesson. My books are just good fun books that someone can come home after a hard day of work, sit down, relax and read a great story.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

AG: Coming to terms with the fact it was going to be out there in the public’s hands. Very scary.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about the series.

AG: Birth By Fire’s Embrace is the first book of the Amethyst Series. It follows Shar’s journey and it currently planned for roughly eight books.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

AG: I do plan out each book before I start writing it. Having said that, the plan changes so often, the first draft is very different from the finished product.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

AG: To me, writers block means you haven’t planned your story well enough. You don’t know how to get your characters from point A to point B.

Do you recommend any “tricks” or tips on how to get through writer’s block?

AG: Two tricks I use. One is to just keep writing even if it sounds horrible. That’s what editing is for. The second is to take a step back and ask your character what they want to do. You’ll find their answer is exactly what you need.

Publishing:

How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

AG: I was published through Spectacle Media Publishing Group and they have just been fantastic. The perk of a publishing company is that they do this every day. They know what they are doing when it comes to publishing a book. I don’t. I know how to write books. By combining strengths, we have the best chance of making the book as successful as possible. If I had self-published, I would have to worry about marketing and copyediting and design etc, instead of focusing on what I actually want to be doing, writing the next book.

In Conclusion:

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

AG: My website, facebook and twitter are below. I also write articles for the SPMG newsletter and link them to my website.

Official Website:          http://ashleighgalvin.wordpress.com/
Facebook:                      https://www.facebook.com/Ashleigh.Galvin.Author
Twitter:                           https://twitter.com/Ashleigh_Galvin

Author Interviews

Hello friends! In celebration of the November release of Tales of a Sevie, I will be posting an author interview once a week each Wednesday afternoon.

Over the past few months I have consulted with dozens of authors of diverse genres from all around the world to hear about their journey, writing regimen, and their latest events and books.

IT’S ONLY WEDNESDAY?!?!  

995232_600840476617706_1869743790_n

To rejoice getting half way through the week, have some fun each “hump day” and join us to discover:

-What inspires an authors first book

-The dos and don’ts of publishing

-Fiction vs nonfiction discussions

-Characters vs plots

-How to create your own book cover

-What some authors wish they would have known before marketing their work

-The fastest way to increase your book sales

-The cure for writer’s block

Writer-600x450

Check back each week to see just who I will be chatting with.

 The first few months will include visits from:

Ashleigh Galvin

Maryanne Raphel

Renee Novelle

J. Conrad 

Nancy Petralia

Amy Peterson

Deanna Klingel

Adrian Collins

June Hyjek

Mary E. Dawson

George Duncan