interview

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran is the author of 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness!the Gold winner in the Young Adult Self-Help category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

Thank you so much! It is truly an honor to be recognized by such a reputable company as Children Literary Classics. I started writing professionally in 2014.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Although the content in my book applies to anyone, whether young or old, I wrote this book specifically for readers aged from 12 to their early 20’s. While writing, I imagine my readers reading the book in hope of discovering ways to let go of their emotional burdens, feel good about themselves, and trying to create better, more connected relationships. I wanted readers to be able to apply the content they are learning immediately so I wrote it in an easy to understand style, and included exercises through out the book to help readers work out some of their own concerns. I hope my books help readers gain insights, feel more in control of their feelings, and have the courage to let go of their pain and choose happiness instead.

What inspired your award-winning book?

I never entertained the idea of being an author until my clients kept requesting that I share my work in writing. I am blessed to have a private practice helping people take control of their lives by taking control of their thoughts and feelings.  I believe in helping people overcome their problems and giving them the tools to be their own source of strength and power. So with each client, I would teach them about their mind and how to take control of it to create the happiness and successes they deserve.  I provide a lot of new information to digest so my clients would ask for a written summary.  After repeatedly hearing this request, the most logical thing to do was write a book.  As the book evolved, I became more excited. I realized how important books were to me when I was a teen in need of help, and here was my chance to pay it forward.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

This is not about one of the characters in my book, but about the book itself.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Buddha

I know it’s a bit dramatic, but when you think about it that way, it becomes silly to hang onto anger or other toxic emotions, when you can choose happiness instead.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness! is the first of three books in the “Words of Wisdom for Teens” series. It is not available as an audio book yet, but that is in the works.  The second book in the series, I would, but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! won Literary Classics’ Top Honor Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction as well as a Gold Medal in 2016.  This book is available in eBook, paperback, and audio.

Who would you cast as the voice actor to narrate your book? 

If I could cast anyone to narrate my book, I would choose Emma Watson.  She is a beautiful, strong, and talented young woman with a lovely voice.  I admire her acting, and her activism for gender equality.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I have to write my books by hand.  I discovered early in my writing attempts that if I typed my book, I would spend too much time editing as I wrote, instead of just allowing the concept to flow freely into form. By writing it out by hand, my ideas are able to flow freely and the process is much more enjoyable.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is a must if you want to have success as a writer.  I schedule time for interviews, workshops, and other book promotion activities just as I would schedule time to see clients or work on other aspects of my business.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To my readers, even though it might not feel like it at times, the struggles you’re currently going through will pass.  You are stronger than you know and you have everything within you to overcome your challenges and become an even stronger person.  Believe in yourself.  Be true to yourself.  You deserve a happy, successful life.

To my fellow award-winning authors, it is such an honor to be among a group of truly talented writers.

Author Bio

Jacqui Letran is a Multi-Award Winning Author, International Speaker, Nurse Practitioner, and Founder of Teen Confidence Academy and Healing Minds. She is passionate about her commitment to guiding her clients to achieve remarkable success in their academic, personal, and professional lives. Through private sessions, group workshops, and keynote engagements, Jacqui teaches that success and happiness are achievable by all, regardless of current struggles and circumstances. A gifted and energetic leader, Jacqui dedicates her life’s work to helping her clients and students transform into happy, confident, and successful people.

She is also the winner of the:
2017 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Young Adult Self-Help Books
2016 Literary Classics’ Lumen Award for Literary Excellence
2016 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Youth Adult Non-Fiction
2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction

When not working with clients or writing, you can find her traveling in her RV, hiking with her dog or spoiling her three cats. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Connect with her on Facebook and on Instagram at Instagram.com/WOW4Teens and Instagram.com/MsLetran.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 Literary Classics’ International Book Award’s Gold Medal for Best Young-Adult Self-Help book.

Are you tired of endless fights and misunderstandings between you and the people you care about? Do you feel like no matter what you say or do, you just can’t get anyone to understand you? Do you feel powerless, or as though it is easier hanging on to grudges and negativity than to continue struggling?

In this powerful book, Award-Winning Author and Teen Confidence Expert, Jacqui Letran, teaches you how to use five simple questions to transform your relationships from those filled with tension and frustration to those complete with trust and acceptance.

In this book, you will discover:

• How to identify your feelings
• How to understand why you feel as you do
• How to let go of your unwanted emotion
• How to create win-win situations, enhance and rebuild your relationships, and much more!

If you want to be in control of your feelings, and to let go of things easily, this book is for you. This compact guide is filled with simple tips and easy-to-follow techniques.

Get your copy today and get ready to reclaim your happiness and create amazing relationships for life!

“Valuable insight and unique perspectives allow readers to approach their concerns from a profound new angle in an effort to resolve issues and pave the way for a happier and more fulfilling life.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have!

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Danielle A. Vann

Two of Vann’s novels won awards in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! The Whizbang Machine, Book 1, won Silver in Preteen (11+), and Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, won Gold, also in Preteen.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child—seriously! I was the kid that stayed up all night reading and writing. I started writing intensely in high school. I had an English teacher that pushed me to write more, be better, focus. She submitted one of my pieces to a contest called Wings of Freedom. It won and was displayed in the White House and then the later in the halls of Congress. It inspired me to keep writing. I selected journalism in college so that I could write daily. I knew that being an author was ultimately where I would finish my professional career. Roughly ten years ago I shifted my focus and started to write for the commercial market. Since then, I have five traditionally published books to my credit.

What’s the target age group for your books?

I’ve been very fortunate to not be stuck in a genre. I have two children’s picture books series, a non-fiction Christian book with friend and celebrity carpenter, Brandon Russell, and then the Young Adult series, The Whizbang Machine, book 1 and The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, that placed silver and gold in the CLC awards. I’m the mother of three children ranging in ages from 12 ½ to 5. I began to notice that my older daughters were struggling to find engaging, clean series for their age groups. I wrote The Whizbang series free of sexual content, extreme violence, etc. I wanted to give them a book they could read without being exposed to questionable behaviors. I too wanted it to be a series that children from ages 10 to college level could read as a part of classroom materials.

What inspired your award-winning books?

This is an easy one, and honestly something I like to refer to as serendipity.

One month before I was given the pleasure of signing my contract with the Waldorf Publishing team, my dear friend Erin snapped a photograph of an old Royal typewriter, seated in a beautiful tan and maroon case, which her family had been gifted. Knowing my affinity for antiques, especially those that deal with writing and literary works, she sent me a text one early Sunday morning with the words, “Look at what David’s father gave us.”

I hadn’t yet made my way out of bed as it was still very early. Hearing the familiar chime of my phone, I wondered who was texting me at that time. As the photo came through, with it came the idea for the first book. I sprang from bed and began outlining. Unbeknownst to Erin, that single photo became my muse. In honor of this gift, her oldest daughter became the basis for the character of Elizabeth Yale. The rest of the series has honestly taken on a life of its own. I write as it comes and once I start, it’s impossible to get the characters to stop finding their through my fingertips.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Oh, I’m cringing but it’s true: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” HA!

Elizabeth Yale tries to get out of the drama, but well, sadly, she’s a drama magnet.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your book(s)?

I’m very lucky to have had Audible buy into the rights for Book 1 and Book 2 very early in the game. In fact, they were sold before book 2 was nothing more than a single chapter. The Whizbang Machine is available on Audible.com and it is also can be purchased in physical copy through Audible, Barnes and Noble, Target, and other select retailers. We are hopeful that Audible will continue supporting the Whizbang series and buy into book 3 and 4 soon.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Bailey Carr is my voice actor for book 1 and book 2. She is an INCREDIBLE! She has many award-winning books to her credit. Working with her is easy and pleasurable. The exciting part is both Whizbang books are full of Dutch words as they are set in Leiden, the Netherlands. She has been amazing to make sure she brings to the table all she can in the way of correct pronunciation and inflection. Truly, Bailey is a star in her own right.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

One of my favorite writers is Garth Stein. He is amazing. He brings a simplicity to the page that I would be so lucky to employ. I can’t help but marvel at his talent. My favorite book of his is called, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I loved the fact that they moved it over into YA and republished it. The minute they did I purchased a copy for my oldest daughter and forced her to read it. I’m happy to say she loved it as much I do and did.

Clearly, there are so many other masters of the craft such as J.K. Rowling. I love that she refuses to back down from long, somewhat complicated text and gives it her all. Readers, whether reluctant or not, are pulled into her spell. That, to me, is her true gift of magic.

Lastly, I’m a fan of Ridley Pearson. His Kingdom Keepers series is something I’ve read with my children. They eat up everything he writes. He, too, works to keep the scenes clean and accessible to the young and old. That is something we need more these days. I’m no prude, mind you, but I do believe in the magical time of childhood. There is plenty of time to muck it up later, both in life and in fiction.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Actually no. I don’t think so. I am a straight from the book kind of girl. I work from a detailed outline. I stick to deadlines. I love quiet and no music while writing. If I am not feeling it, I walk away and come back. End of story. Kind of boring if you ask me. The scene is all the noise I need. Oh, I guess I do bounce my legs like I’m running a timed marathon when the action is happening. That’s quirky, I guess.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Oh boy, this is the million dollar questions, isn’t it?! Well, since I’m traditionally published the weight of promotion doesn’t fall directly on my shoulders. I have a wonderful team that backs what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of my own. I write in the morning between 5 a.m. and roughly 10 a.m. every single day except for Sunday. I work for a publisher as the marketing specialist so I do my day job after that, and make sure I’m available to my family when and where they need me. That is, if I’m not traveling. However, they have been very lucky to travel with me as well.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Absolutely! To the readers, thank you! I truly know that without someone to read my work what I do is meaningless. Truly, it is. I am always thrilled to hear from readers. I love it when they attend my events and speak about different scenes or even about the impact one of my books had on them. That truly is amazing to me. Oftentimes I feel that they know my work better than I know it! And for that, I’m so grateful. I welcome anyone to reach out through my social media sites and open a productive and positive conversation.

To my fellow award-winning authors, CONGRATS! Congrats! I recently was in Paris at another awards ceremony and while I was speaking I was able to say something that I truly believe in. And that is, writing is the intersection of determination and passion. I didn’t say talent and luck. I said determination and passion. Because, you see, I believe that once you have placed your intention and goals on what you love, passion sparks talent and luck is nothing but hard work in the making.

Author Bio and Award-Winning Books

Danielle A. Vann started her career as a television news writer at the tender age of 18. With a passion for writing Vann committed to learning every aspect of the newsroom as she worked her way up to reporter and anchor within two short years. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma she took an anchor position in Louisiana. Her career as a reporter and anchor earned her an Associate Press Award. Her book genres span a wide-range from children’s books with two highly reviewed series, award-winning YA fiction, and five star non-fiction title. Danielle lives in Texas with her husband and three children.

Connect with Vann on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

After years of running from his tragic past, Jack Yale books a flight home. With him is a typewriter that is intended to be a gift for his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The minute Elizabeth’s fingers cradle the large black and cream keys the machine responses: popping, sizzling, and roaring to life with a Whiz-Whiz-BANG!

Elizabeth quickly discovers the typewriter has powers beyond anything she has ever seen. The more she types, the more the machine spells out guarded secrets. Each secret leads them deeper into a haunted past. Each secret must be revealed in order to set history straight and remove a curse that has been on their family for centuries.

To solve the mystery, Elizabeth Yale, alongside Jack, will have to crack the code of the Whizbang Machine. What they find challenges their most basic assumptions of their family, the history of the typewriter, and even Elizabeth’s father’s death. The ultimate goal is to remove the curse. The question is: will Jack and Elizabeth be able to carry out their mission?

“The Whizbang Machine is an incredibly suspenseful book which will have readers of all ages eagerly turning pages with enthusiasm as they wait to see what will become of Elizabeth and her eccentric grandfather, Jack.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

“The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse” finds Elizabeth Yale clinging to life. Her plan to save the Whizbang machine has backfired. As her grandfather, Jack, feverishly works to save her, the Whizbang factory begins to topple down around them. Narrowly escaping, the pair realizes the Whizbang machine is missing. Jack and Elizabeth must follow the clues Elizabeth’s deceased father, Jesse, left behind to unravel the secrets of Tunney’s Curse and stop it once and for all. This must be done before Elizabeth’s mother’s 40th birthday—which is mere days away. As they dig, they are sent on a wild chase into the dark underbelly of the Netherlands, into the city’s canals looking for a sunken ship, and through the private chambers of a Queen. Each new secret exposed only deepens the mystery of Jack and Elizabeth’s family’s past. The ultimate questions remain: will they gather the clues and stop the curse in time? Or will someone fall to the curse once and for all?

“Recommended for home and school libraries, The Whizbang Machine: Tunney’s Curse is a dynamic fantasy adventure with mystery, action, suspense and intrigue.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW WITH BETTY AUCHARD

What are people saying about Betty Auchard’s Dancing in My Nightgown?

“Auchard simplifies and normalizes the process of a new life transition.” ~ Jewel Sample, award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses

 “The quality is excellent; her (audio) delivery is soothing. The story of transformation is exciting and compelling.” ~ David LaRoche, former South Bay Writers President

This April, both TalkBooks and Betty had a lot more to say about her book, Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, and writing in general. Read on to learn how this author’s “talking on paper” became awarding-winning reading material.

IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) Finalist!

Married when she was barely 19, Betty Auchard went straight from her parent’s home to her husband’s bed. She raised four children, returned to college, taught art in public school, and became a grandmother, published artist, a retiree and then a widow.

When she loses her husband of 49 years, widowhood forces Betty to find out what she can do on her own. She has a lot to learn. Facing her new responsibilities she makes all kinds of mistakes. These short, upbeat, inspiring stories tell how this spunky woman got through widowhood—she decides to dance instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Betty laughs and cries her way through grief and, ultimately, comes to see her situation as normal. Through it all, Betty lands on her feet ready for whatever comes next. The last page doesn’t feel like and ending, because really, it’s just the beginning.

Q&A FROM BETTY’S LIVE INTERVIEW

How did you choose which tales to include in the memoir?

I started writing short notes to myself on scraps of paper the day after Denny died. Nothing seemed real and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. The notes became paragraphs and then turned into stories about my new life as a widow. I was so addicted to writing about every experience that I had to create an ongoing list for new stories that would one day be a reminder of how far I had come. Not until I joined a grief support group sponsored by Hospice did I find out that writing had become my tool for healing. I used to be afraid of widows—I didn’t know what to say to them. Now I know they need someone to listen as they repeat everything that happened over and over again. Only then does it feel real. I’ve learned a lot about grief recovery, and my heart aches for others who have lost a partner. (more…)

TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW WITH DAVID F. SNIDER

A warm welcome to SBW TalkBooks’ author of the month for March 2016, David F. Snider. The group read and interviewed him about his sci-fi novel, Stars in the Deep: Destiny, at its live author event. Continue reading to learn more about David and his writing, as well as what he thinks makes for a good story.

David Snider Stars in the Deep DestinyBook Description

When the NAVCOM Computer takes the ECS Destiny irretrievably off course, the crew and colonists on board must find an alternative world to colonize. In order to save the one way mission from catastrophic failure they must overcome various obstacles from within and without. Woven into the story are themes of love, hope, forgiveness and restoration, human spirituality and its potential parallels.

What inspired you to write a story about colonizing humans in space?

As a kid I was a crazy sci-fi nut. I remember taking a road trip in Christmas of 2009 and thinking about all different kinds of ideas. This one caught me. I’d tried several times to write and couldn’t get it off the ground; this one I couldn’t put down.

Space colonization has always been an area of interest for me. It is something we, as a race, must accomplish, if for no other reason than to ‘see what’s out there.’ I have another possible story arc which I may revive that explores colonization from different angles.

The beginnings of the idea for Stars in the Deep: Destiny started with the question: what if we had a society that developed under the ocean—a colonization of a water city? But the story took on a life of its own, with a ship the size of a cruise liner with 2,500 on board, including the crew.

Who are your favorite sci-fi authors and influences?

To name a few: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Andre (Alice) Norton, Piers Anthony, and Frank Herbert. I like books that are very much about world-building. Personally, I like to write larger works rather than shorts.

How did you go about producing and publishing Stars in the Deep? Was the MS submitted to agents?

The production process was long and arduous. I started writing the book in 2009. I finished the long process of writing and rewriting in 2012, but I never thought I’d have so much trouble getting it looked at. After a year of trite replies of “sorry, we aren’t looking for this kind of thing right now…” from countless agents (claiming to do science fiction), I decided to try self-publishing.

In 2013, I released the first edition through CreateSpace under my own label, Starhome Books. It wasn’t a bad first try, but it lacked a good copy edit. Xlibris, a member of the Author Solutions organization, released the second edition. The book benefited from a reasonably decent copy edit, and the original cover art was tweaked a little. The new edition also includes a glossary, which I felt was quite necessary.

How did you invent a language based upon Sanskrit for your group of native inhabitants in your book?

Sanskrit is an ancient language that used to be a common, everyday language back in India, and which was used for early religious writings. I wanted to create something that seemed alien with an element of believability taken from history, which I believe gives a sense of familiarity. Sanskrit is mostly academic at this point. Online, I found a Sanskrit and Tamil to English dictionary, and I took the words I wanted for names that reflected the characters’ occupations, as well as ordinals and months.

Was it difficult for you to create a bad character?

It was hard putting myself in that role. I feel like I need to identify with the characters, and I feel sorry for my villains—like I’ve treated them badly. I even turned one of my villains around. The philosophical stuff that crept into the story wasn’t predetermined; but I found it sort of worked and figured out how it fit into the story.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I first started reading seriously in the fourth grade. Science fiction caught me, and I didn’t stop reading from then on. I’ve wanted to write since I was married. I’m a musician who plays piano and organ (anything with keyboard attached), and I went to school, graduating with a BA in music and a BA in ministry. My college professors suggested that I write, but I didn’t feel I had the time.

When do you write?

I’m a VTA driver, and back in the day I could type during breaks. But they’ve changed the rules since then. So, I find time when I’m not working. The writing’s been on pause for a few months.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Writing is kind of new for me. I also enjoy music and woodwork.

What does your family think of your writing?

I had a habit of reading to my five children, who got to hear the book in progress. My wife also heard the whole thing and thought it would make a good graphic novel.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I was surprised that sitting down and writing a story could absorb you so much. I created characters as I went along, and they grew on me.

This is the first book of a series. When will the next one come out?

I’m writing book 2 now, and there’s no anticipated release date. The characters decided the book should be different. I’m also looking for more beta readers. I hope to have Shining One out by year’s end.

What’s your writing process?

I have another story that I tried to write using the traditional outlining process. But I found that, for me it flows better and I have more fun freewriting to create all the characters.

What do you think makes a good story?

I need to like the characters; and I like a blend of action and thought provoking talk. I don’t like books where there’s action and nothing else. The story needs to feel like it could be real.

Author Bio

I am, after all, somewhat the normal average kind of person, though a few might beg to differ.  I was born and raised in San Jose, California, USA.  For those unfamiliar with California geography, San Jose is situated in Santa Clara County at the very bottom end of the San Francisco Bay. I attended Elementary, Middle and High school, all within moderately lengthy walking distance of each other. After High school, I moved to Santa Cruz, California for a couple of years to attend College.  There, I made a number of very good friends. One of those friendships became so close it became a strong union which has lasted 35 years and counting.  She and I are the proud parents of 5 children, all adults now.  We are also proud grandparents of one young lad of 2.

The greatest love in my life, next to my God and my Wife, ​​is Music.  I began piano at about 5 years old, switched to the accordion at the age of 6.  I mastered the accordion by late High School and studied music in college, where I earned a Bachelors for my troubles. So, I play, sing, read, write, arrange, and conduct music.  It has been the air I breathe for nearly my whole life.

Recently, I finally owned up to the fact that it is possible to be passionate about more than one gift.  I avoided the writing side of my skill set because of my full concentration on my music.  ​All the advice and urging of friends, family and professors I’ve had over the years went in one ear and ‘mostly’ out the other.  Then one day, with the echoes of all that urging rolling around in my head, I just decided.  Why not?  So, my computer and numerous spiral bound writing pads have become full of numerous story ideas in various stages of development.

Connect with David on:

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7157769.David_F_Snider

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.snider.528     

His website: HTTP://WWW.STARSINTHEDEEP-DESTINY.COM

Interview of Patty Fletcher

I have not yet read the work of today’s interviewee, but I’m inspired by her story. Patty Fletcher is the author of Campbell’s Rambles, a memoir about how she obtained her guide dog, Campbell. Learn more about this author’s writing and her international publication that features work by blind and sighted writers from around the world.

When did you first start writing?

I began to seriously write when I was in the sixth grade, and my parents bought me an electric typewriter for Christmas. I’d had a semester of typing by then because I attended the Tennessee School For the Blind and Physically Handicap in Nashville, TN at the time, and it was a required class. Their belief was this, “According to the sighted world at large you already have one strike against you, so your goal is to show them different any way you can.”

I sat right down upon opening the gift, put in a sheet of paper from the pack that had come with it, and began to compose a short story. My mother had made chocolate covered coconut balls for Christmas that year, and I began to munch on one as I thought, and soon I was typing away. When I finished there was a crazy funny fictional story about a coconut ball that had been sprayed with chemicals from the nearby Eastman Chemical Company and had grown to a large size, come to life and was beginning to take over the town.

I knew right then that writing was something I wanted to do. I’ve never looked back. I wrote short stories for extra credit in English Lit any time I could and was always the one asked to tell stories at all the camp out trips I went on, and simply love all things writing.

What is your primary genre?

Although my first ever type written short story was one of fiction, my primary genre is nonfiction. I love to write about what I do. I love to write of my life, and all the awesome, terrifying, wonderful, and sometimes horrifying things around me.

What do you hope to communicate to your readers?

I want to make the reader feel what I feel, and see the way I do.

When I write my goal is to take the reader straight in to my experience. I want them to laugh with me, cry with me and feel my anger fear, joy, and sorrow.

I want them to know what it is to truly be me. I want them to know blindness and mental illness does not have to always be a sad way of life but holds many awesome adventures. Yes, sometimes they’re frightening. Sometimes Campbell and I have the strangest calamities befall us, but we don’t sweat them too hard, and usually before they’re even over I’m already rolling a story round in my head and simply cannot wait to get back to my laptop to write it all down.

You also have a magazine called The Neighborhood News. Where did you come up with the idea, and what’s the magazine about?

The Neighborhood News came to be after an editor of an online magazine I was writing for at the time, and I had a difference of opinion that led to an argument between the two of us during which she said to me rather nastily, “Well if you don’t like how we do things, why don’t you go create a magazine of your own?” I immediately stopped writing for her, and then with the assistance of my then book editor The Neighborhood News was born. It was a slow process, the title changed a couple of times, and the content as well. Finally, the editor I had then and I seemed to for whatever reason be growing apart, and after much discussion with and with support from a writing group I belonged to at the time, and due to the kindness of my now editor, Claire, The Neighborhood News began to evolve and grow. It is a monthly magazine filled with both advertisements, news worthy events concerning what the readers themselves are up to and literary submissions from folks both blind and sighted around the nation and world. Yes we even have readers in other countries.

The mission of The Neighborhood News? Simple!

I want to create a safe place for people to learn and grow together. A ‘Neighborhood’ if you will, of people who are connected but unique in their own way as well.

A place where I can not only share what I learn and know, but where the people living in ‘Neighborhoods’ all over the world can write in and talk about what they know, and what they’re learning of, and doing as well.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Do I have quirky writing habits? Wow! Do I!

First off I write at the oddest times. I sometimes wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a thought will cross my mind about a particular book I am working on, blog post, or an idea for The Neighborhood News, and next thing I know even if it is only an hour since I went off to bed, I’m up, making coffee, and writing away.

My other habit that some feel is quirky is that I do my very best writing off the cuff. My truest and best writing is done on impulse, with no plan forethought draft, nothing. Just sit down write it spell check it and it’s done. People don’t seem to understand how I can write so much at one time, but it’s just my way.

I guess I do have a couple more weird things, one is, when I get extremely in to what I’m writing I tend to wrap the ends of my hair round my fingers while proof reading, and when I’m deeply involved with the writing process I hold my bottom lip in my teeth.

The man I occasionally keep time with says he knows when he sees me at the computer, and my hair is wrapped round the ends of my fingers, and my bottom lip is firmly held in my teeth, he has lost me for at least an hour or two, and lucky for him he respects it, because I do not like to be interrupted when I’m on a roll.

Do you keep a regular diary or journal?

Absolutely! The majority of my current book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life* came straight out of a journal I kept while the events written of were going on, and almost all of my blog entries in Campbell’s World are straight journalings. Nothing more nothing less. It’s just my way.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

I have two favorite places. The first is in my favorite chair in the living room. I am actually in it now. It is comfortable I can keep all the things I like to have with me easily to hand on a table next to me, and be involved with activity around me. I moved my desk in to the living room too, and if the room is filled with people sometimes I’ll sit at my desk, with a document open and write about what’s going on.

This however changes in summer. I have a porch swing, and I love nothing better on lazy summer evenings after the sun goes down, and folks get out on their front porches, and do what I call “Front Porch Sitting” to sit and listen to what’s going on around me and write.

It is the best time ever in the world for me to simply curl up in the swing with my laptop Campbell stretched lazily at my feet, and write a few great chapters, or work on some article for The Neighborhood News.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I love to read while taking a long hot soak in the tub. I read mainly via audio books and so reading while in the tub is no hardship for me, just tap tap the BARD AP or Kindle AP and I’m on my way to other worlds.

If you had to choose one of your books to be adapted for film, which one would it be?

I have only one book published thus far, but if I could have it made in to a movie I’d be truly in ecstasy! I can’t think of much else that would take me to that kind of level of happiness. I sometimes sit and try to figure out what actor I’d have play my Seeing Eye instructor, Drew Gibbon. I have to smile just writing it. I dream of it often.

If you could spend one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why?

If I could be one of the characters in my book I’d have to be Campbell. I’d really like to know what is in his mind. I’d like to know if what I believe to be is really so. He seems so very satisfied being a guide dog, but then again, he had no real choice, and other than his behavior and body language I haven’t a clue how to know what is in his mind, but … Would I really want to?

He might think me the silliest lady on the planet, but somehow I don’t think so. He really does come to life when the harness comes out and we are on our way out the door.

Still, I’d love to have his perspective on things.

*Legal Notes: THE SEEING EYE® and SEEING EYE® are registered trademarks of The Seeing Eye, Inc. See: www.SeeingEye.org

IMG_0060Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport, TN, where she worked for nine years at CONTACT–CONCERN of Northeast Tennessee, Inc.  She now writes full time.

Her autobiographical book is Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life (C 2014). There, she tells how she obtained her first guide dog from The Seeing Eye® in Morristown, NJ: what motivated her, the extensive training she had, and the good friends she made.

For more details about her and her book, including where to purchase the book in e-book or print format go to: www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

To see her blog and newly updated website go to http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/

SBW TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW OF ROBERT BALMANNO

SBW TalkBooks recently completed its first group read of 2016. This January, the book club read Embers of the Earth, a dystopian coming-of-age story written by the vibrant and personable Robert Balmanno. He’s contributed numerous works for publication, including nine novels, over the last 38 years. Read on to learn more about this author’s work and influences, as well as his person-to-person approach to sharing his books with others.

Synopsis

The Year 519 A.G. After Gaia. Civilization needs a restart. The Gaia-Domes, technology-rich, oppressive, and fanatical are collapsing. Contending religions and sects roil the planet. Semilliterate primitives, decimated by environmental catastrophe, struggle to comprehend their obscure roots and uncertain prospects. A brilliant youth, groomed for the task from childhood, is sent by the New Rebels on a 12-year odyssey to uncover archives that will enable him to construct a new alphabet and write the Foundation Document for a postlapsarian world. But can he successfully complete the mission without losing his faith, his principles, or his life? Drawing on what Joseph Campbell called the monomyth narrative, Embers of the Earth chronicles a future where ecology is destiny, revolutionaries are venerated as goddesses, family secrets have global repercussions, and the reluctant hero is a teller of tales who sparks an underground cultural revival by refusing to tell lies about humankind’s past.

Live Interview Recap

Embers of the Earth reads as a stand-alone novel, but it’s also the third book of The Blessings of Gaia series. What led you to write these books?

The Blessings of Gaia is a quartet of books that includes September Snow, Runes of Iona, Embers of the Earth, and my current work in progress. While writing September Snow, I came to the realization that there would at least be a trilogy. A library patron inspired the name of the first book, after which I watched a show that commemorated Earth Day. That’s when the story idea clicked. There’s been more of an interest in climate change since then.

Some of us thought Embers of the Earth might fall within the science fiction or climate-change fiction genres. Who’s your intended audience?

I consider the Gaia books to be dystopian with a crossover into sci-fi, but I see them as closer to general fiction than sci-fi.

How did you come about meeting and working with your editor and publisher?

I met my editor, Adele, at the East of Eden Writers Conference. There, I had the opportunity to speak with literary agent, Elizabeth Pomada, who was also in attendance. After reviewing a favorable rejection letter about one of my books, Elizabeth pointed out that the letter said to cut 20% of the book, and then pointed across the table and introduced me to Adele. Intense rounds of editing went on for eight months, and my book published with a small publisher in Berkley in 2006.

Did your travels and studies influence your creation of Gaia?

Absolutely. I lived and studied in Scotland and moved back. I’m a semi-Luddite, and one of my themes for the books is the dangers of a non-critical, non-careful, overwrought embrace of technology. Oral transmission of knowledge and information is different from written transmission.

When I created this new world, I gave characters Greek and Roman names, as well as made-up names. Talia, for example, is a made-up name. I even named one of the characters after a reader (with permission) who was really excited about the book.

What writers made an impression on you?

A lot of writers influenced me. I’m a huge fan of George Orwell and his book, 1984. I also love works by Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner.

If you could talk to any of your favorites right now, who would it be?

This question reminds me of an idea I had, and still have, for a play about an event that happened in 1945. George Orwell waited at a café in Paris to meet Albert Camus, who didn’t show up. My idea would be to capture what would have happened had they both shown up.

What does being “independent for your writing” mean to you?

I believe in being autonomous when doing my work. In other words, I’m not connected to a certain organization.

How do you approach marketing your books?

I have my own marketing plan and have done more than 200 book signings. I participate in meet and greets and seek out local support. I develop relationships with booksellers and readers that way. I really love getting their feedback.

Author Bio

Robert E. Balmanno earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, receiving Highest Honors. He attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he did post-graduate work in Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy. Later he attended postgraduate studies at the University of London, King’s College, Department of War Studies.

Balmanno served in the Peace Corps in Dahomey in West Africa from 1973 to 1975. He worked training bulls to plow fields and pull carts in a region where no outsiders have ever been before—the place where the New World practices of voodoo originated among the Adja people of West Africa.

Between 1975 and 1978 Balmanno traveled through Europe and Asia. He’s dedicated his life to producing contemporary literary fiction, with a recent switch to the genre of science fiction.

Learn more about him and his books on Goodreads and Amazon.

Don’t miss the next TalkBooks group read. Connect with us on the SBW Goodreads page.

Re-Release of The Phoenix Project

I’m excited to host D.M. Cain on my blog today for the Dec. 11 relaunch of her novel, The Phoenix Project. Learn more about this amazing person and author, as well as the events leading to the re-release below.

The Phoenix Project full cover

You first published The Phoenix Project in May 2014. What events led up to the re-release?

I initially released this book myself through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I never expected, or even wanted, it to be a success – I just wanted to take pride in finally holding my baby in my hands! But the book received a lot of praise and some excellent reviews, so I decided to take writing and publishing more seriously. I wrote and released my second novel, A Chronicle of Chaos, later the same year. In January 2015, I approached US publisher Booktrope who, much to my delight, accepted The Phoenix Project. Thus began the eight-month long process of re-editing and re-designing the entire book.

I put the whole thing through a thorough developmental edit and two rounds of proofreading, plus had a whole new front cover designed. Now it is better than ever and ready to be re-released. 🙂

Could you give a quick description to readers new to the book?

The Phoenix Project is a dark and gritty psychological thriller that is designed to question the way you view justice. This book has brutal violence and ‘edge-of-your-seat’ tension where prisoners are forced to fight to the death for the public’s entertainment. However, beneath all the action the real message of this book lies in the protagonist’s journey as he struggles to overcome his guilt and remorse from the crime that landed him in prison.

When did you first start writing?

I’ve always written stories, for as long as I can remember. I planned my first books when I was around 11 years old but never actually got to writing them until I was 18. That’s when I started working on The Phoenix Project, and it took me 10 years until I finished it! My writing process is now, thankfully, much quicker as A Chronicle of Chaos took 3 years, and The Shield of Soren (due next year) only 1 and a half.

What is your primary genre?

My favourite genre to write is fantasy. My first novel, The Phoenix Project, and a short story that I published in the Awethology Dark entitled ‘The End’, were both dystopian fiction and I did thoroughly enjoy writing both of these. However, I feel that my real passion lies in the epic fantasy genre and the next 10 or more books that I have planned will be within this genre as part of my Light and Shadow Chronicles series.

What do you hope to communicate to your readers?

I feel that my writing is less about communicating something from myself and more about drawing things out of my readers. Yes I poured a lot of my own thoughts, feelings and opinions into my work, but my dream as a writer is to be able to lock onto a reader’s innermost emotions. The Phoenix Project in particular features a lot of emotionally and morally taxing issues which readers have responded to in a multitude of different ways. My main aim is to make my reader feel, no matter which direction this is in.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I do almost all of my writing through two distinct methods. The first and foremost way that I get my words down is through weekly #Writestorm sessions with my fellow #Awethors (a Facebook group of other authors that I run.) These intense weekly writing sprints have helped me to write a large number of words in a short amount of time and more than anything they have continued my writing momentum, which sadly gets pushed aside when most of my focus is upon marketing, editing etc.

The other way that I write is by heading to a cafe or restaurant alone, hiding myself in a corner, plugging in my headphones and hand-writing up a frenzy! I get very attached to certain beautiful notebooks and particular pens as well!

Do you keep a regular diary or journal?

I always used to, from the ages of twelve to around twenty. I used to write in it religiously and I have around thirty old notebooks packed full of my daily thoughts, experiences, concert tickets, love letters etc! Then adult life got in the way and I stopped writing my daily life and started writing my make-believe life instead!

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I love to read in the bath. With a very busy and hectic day job and a four-year-old child at home, it’s very difficult to find the time (and quiet!) to read and the bath is one of the few places that I can find some peace and solitude.

If you could spend one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why?

I’d love to be Callista Nienna, the matriarch of the Children of Light in A Chronicle of Chaos. I’m not sure that it would be totally pleasant as she has a LOT of responsibility, but she is amazing – beautiful, immortal, intelligent and one of the strongest warriors the world has ever seen. It would be incredible to walk in her shoes for just one day.

Profile picAuthor Bio

D.M. Cain is a dystopian and fantasy author working for US publisher Booktrope. She has released three novels: The Phoenix Project – a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, Soren – a middle-grade fantasy, and A Chronicle of Chaos – the first in a dark fantasy series. She is currently working on the next novel in the series, ‘The Shield of Soren’, and a novella to accompany it.

D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.

Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.

Connect with Cain online at:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DMCain84

Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/XevZH

Website: www.dmcain84.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DMCain/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7888430.D_M_Cain

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt_E8st1pyfkoTiA4E5jNg

For more information on her work, check out her books on Amazon:

The Phoenix Project –

US: www.amazon.com/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/

A Chronicle of Chaos –

US: www.amazon.com/Chronicle-Chaos-Light-Shadow-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00NJ89B8M/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicle-Chaos-Light-Shadow-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00NJ89B8M/

Soren

US: www.amazon.com/Soren-D-M-Cain/dp/1507796579/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Soren-D-M-Cain/dp/1507796579/

SBW TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW OF MARK GELINEAU AND JOE KING

This November, SBW TalkBooks read A Reaper of Stone, the first installment of a fantasy series of novellas by Mark Gelineau and Joe King. Intrigued by their characters and storyline, TalkBooks members wanted to know how they work together and what comes next. Read on to learn more about Gelineau and King’s team approach to publishing.

Synopsis

A Lady is dead. Her noble line ended. And the King’s Reaper has come to reclaim her land and her home. In the marches of Aedaron, only one thing is for certain. All keeps of the old world must fall.

Elinor struggles to find her place in the new world. She once dreamed of great things. Of becoming a hero in the ways of the old world. But now she is a Reaper. And her duty is clear. Destroy the old. Herald the new.

 

 

 

Interview Q&A Recap:

How long have you known each other? Have you been writing that long?

We’ve been friends for over twenty-five years. We have been writing and telling stories in one form or another for about that long, yes. Mark’s an English teacher and has been published for a few years. Joe’s held a similar passion for writing for a long time. This is the first series that we are publishing together on our own.

What have you written before the current series of novellas?

In terms of published works, Mark has a very cool series of pulp stories with Pro Se following the Hanged Man. We did one short novella together for them called “Southern Hospitality” in the collection Once upon a Sixgun. The Echoes of the Ascended is the first work we are publishing together, and on our own.

How are the stories within the Echoes of the Ascended series organized?

There are four different series, all in the same world. Each has its own protagonist with a different story, but they’re from the same group of orphans who grew up together. Each series also embraces a different genre. A Reaper of Stone is the first novella in Elinor’s series, which is epic fantasy. Rend the Dark is a horror story that features Ferran. Alys is the protagonist in Best Left in the Shadows, a noir tale. Roan and Kay’s storyline begins in Faith and Moonlight, the opening installment for our upcoming young adult series.

The way we’re piecing the world together has been very different and we’re enjoying it. We didn’t have time to draft a full novella at the beginning, but we had enough time to draw a flash part of the world, and we continue to build it as we go along. We’re both big film and TV guys, and we’re trying to give it that type of feel.

The resulting prose is smooth. How do you share writing tasks?

Thank you so much for the kind words! We share and swap a lot of tasks, so there’s a lot more nuts and bolts to our Frankenstein-style of writing that I can probably cover here.

Joe comes up with a grand scheme and refines it into story beats. Mark writes first draft and gives it to Joe to edit and revise. The process repeats. Edits, alpha pass, beta pass, etc. But generally, Mark is the writer, the wordsmith, and the artist. If you see a particular piece of prose that’s like “Wowza!”, that’s Mark. Joe’s the cold-hearted editor that cuts and cuts and cuts. Then Mark does more writing, and Joe more cutting. And we go back forth until we feel it’s done.

We never do the same job as each other. We each perform different functions at different levels to prevent the writing from feeling inconsistent. Instead, hopefully it feels more like a polished product as we add layers of more editing and more writing on top of the original drafts.

Does sharing the writing load let you turn out more books?

Yes and no. We think it helps with writer’s fatigue and writer’s block because if we do start feeling worn down we can always tag out. But there’s also a lot of thinking and decision-making that usually happens within our own heads that need to happen across emails or phone calls instead, which takes an awful lot of time.

I think our team-writing probably writes at, or a little slower, than your average solo writer, but we make up for it in consistency, which allows us to publish a new novella every month. I couldn’t imagine having to face that kind of deadline alone every month.

What’s it like to release a novella every month?!

It has been pretty insane. Since we are publishing these on our own, we manage one to two rounds of beta responses, one to two rounds with our developmental editor, one round with our copy editor, and then manage the cover design and formatting vendors, and create all marketing and promo materials every month. The book-a-month model helps gain exposure for previously published novellas. And we have loved every minute of it. Well, almost.

How do you approach social media?

We use social media platforms, such as Twitter, to engage with people, to reach out with others, and to also talk about their work. Other writers are great for support, but we also focus on reaching out to our target audience.

How do you get your book reviews?

We did a few things to help us out here, but mainly, we just asked people who bought our book, “Hey, love it or hate it, we’d really love a review.” In our experience, the hardest part is just asking people. The length probably helped too, as far as people’s investment in time. Here are a couple of things we did. Your mileage may vary.

1) We gave the book away for free at launch for a few days and let people know it was available (through websites, emails, going into local stores/groups).

2) We contacted the amazing web blogger community and asked if they’d be interested in doing objective reviews.

3) We also did Goodreads giveaways and other similar giveaways to reach more people.

Ultimately, I think people are wonderful about wanting to leave honest reviews if given the chance. We just tried to remove as many barriers as we could to giving people that chance. With that in mind, if anyone would like to do an objective review of our work, please contact us. We have ARCs available 🙂

Do you have plans for other publishers to pick up your books?

We like the freedom of self-publishing, but we’re very open to a publisher wanting to take over. Writing is just twenty percent of all the work that needs to get done. It requires lots of coordination to stay on schedule.

Author Bios:

Ever since the day he discovered his grandfather’s stacks of pulps, comics, and sci-fi and fantasy novels, Mark was fascinated. When he saw his first movie, Star Wars, he was hooked.

Stories of adventure and far off worlds thrilled him then and inspire him now. It was this passion for imaginative storytelling that led him to writing and education. In addition to his own writing work, Mark has taught middle school English for the last thirteen years, and is excited to share his stories with his young son, Bryce.

 gelineau and king

Joe King spent most of his childhood doing what he loved most—building things with his friends. He built friendships, stories, worlds, games, imagination, and everything in between.

Joe believes in the power of stories, dreams, family, friendship, and getting your ass kicked every once in a while.

More than anything, he wants to tell a good story, and, for him, Gelineau & King is the constant reminder that it’s never too late to start building the things you love.

SBW TalkBooks Interview of Liz Newman

SBW TalkBooks chose a mainstream romance novel, The New Orleans Way by Liz Newman, as its September group read. The club had a chance to grab copies of the book right before it went out of print. During a live Q&A, author and SBW member, Liz Newman, discussed her story, writing habits, and thoughts behind the book’s sudden disappearance. Read on for a recap of her interview.

Book Blurb

“Everything comes at a price. Love. Security. Even happiness.

Southern debutante, Rosemarie Kuhn, is captivated by the lowborn private detective, Michael Hennessy. In 1890s New Orleans, status and propriety can get in the way of true love. Betrothed by her mother to marry a general, she finds her new suitor has placed her and her family’s finances in a precarious position. Her love for Michael Hennessy and her alliance with a Mafia family offers a tantalizing solution to her woes, but as her ardor for Michael grows stronger, so do the forces determined to keep them apart.”

We thought this book might be categorized as romantic suspense or historical fiction. What’s your take on the genre?

I write what’s considered mainstream literary romance. It’s a side genre, but that’s what I enjoy. I love romance and the idea of two people falling in love. But I see so much more in a story, such as the richness of the historical period.

Your cover is gorgeous—who made the cover?

The cover artist was Don Dominque from Secret Cravings Publishing.

Was this book part of a series?

So far I’ve written three novels and four novellas. None of them are in a series except for Vampire Eden, a paranormal romance; but I haven’t written the second installment yet.

Why did Boas desert Rosemarie on their honeymoon—what was his motivation?

He was definitely a jerk. I’ve studied sociopaths, and it seems like they just use people. Half the fun for Boas is the fact that she was so vulnerable. He’s just mean.

Did you research David Hennessey?

Yes. I researched a lot of the history, and he seemed handsome for those times. There was a lot going on with crime families, including the Italian mafia in the late 1800s.

What’s the story behind the publication and sudden takedown of this book?

When I first signed with Sweet Cravings, a division of Secret Cravings, I’d heard good things about them from Romance Writers of America’s reports. Sweet Cravings had won their publisher of the year award and had a great marketing plan that sold books. The publisher recently went belly-up and didn’t give details. I just got a reversion of rights.

What would you like to do with the books that have been taken offline?

Ideally, I’d go to an agent with one of my current manuscripts that hasn’t been published, and then present my backlog of work. I also plan to attend the San Francisco Writing Conference.

What’s your writing style?

I’m an outliner and a plotter. During my post-editing rewrites, I think of ways to make the story better and learn more about the characters. It’s important to write to a reader even if you’re writing about someone who’s imaginary.

After you wrote your first book, what was your process toward publication?

I’d always wanted to be a writer; I wanted to create something. I have four children, so I wrote while the kids were taking naps and after bedtime. When my work was good enough to send out, I researched publishers and vetted them on the Preditors and Editors website. After submitting to two agents, I decided to go forward without one.

I went with midlist publisher, Gypsy Shadow, which had a wide variety of genres and good book covers. I felt more comfortable having a publisher give the book that extra look and knowing that it’s a book they think will sell.

Author Bio

Liz Newman holds an MA in Clinical Psychology and a BA in Mass Communications, with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism. Among other things, she’s worked as an intern at KTVU Broadcasting Station in Oakland, California.

Learn more about this author and her books at her website and Amazon author page.

Join me at the Speculative Fiction Cantina today!

S. Evan Townsend will interview Kevin M. Craft and me about our books on a radio show this afternoon (6pm EST, 3pm PST). Join us for SFF writing talk and live readings of our work!

Listen to the show: http://ow.ly/QG15E
Call in to ask questions: (347) 945-7246