Professor and Indie Author, Gary McLouth talks about becoming a writer

Author Pics Gary Mc Louth

Welcome Gary.  When did you know you were a writer, and how did you develop your writing?

Tricky question, Joanne. From early childhood, I was drawn to stories told by my grandmother. She told stories about her youth, her music, her jobs, her family, her travels and her travails. She had a way of making drama out of the mundane. Her voice lilted in tones of suspension.  As I got older, my interest is listening grew into an interest in telling. Since the heavy-duty emphasis from my parents leaned on truth and honesty at all costs, I was forced to learn the ways of performance, projection, nuance.

I love to talk, and to entertain. Writing, however, is something else, and I’ve been challenged by it most of my life. How to tell a story on a page, when you, imagine the audience, hear the voice(s) fighting for a say, sit alone in a room and drum your fingers on the keyboard. It helps to take classes, attend workshops and conferences, read aloud to peers and read everything: newspapers, magazines, short story collections, novels, how-to manuals, bumper stickers and warning labels on prescription drug bottles. I appreciate the courses and workshops I’ve participated in, because they’ve provided what I need most. Focus and Deadlines.

Do you always write in the same genre?

I consider writing to be writing, so I write, and have written, in many genres. I guess poetry is my basic connection between my experience and imagination, and my writing. I don’t tend to think in sentences. Images, phrases, voices. I write a lot without the self-proclamation of “I’m writing.” Notes on student papers, poems, short stories, agendas for meetings, speeches for others as well as myself, and so on. But, yes, I have aspirations to write good literary fiction, and I do work that on paper and in my head. It’s ongoing.

Do you have a special time or place you like to write?

Now, that could lead to some pretty good story-telling! My favorite place to write: Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. My special time to write: Night Time.

Okay, the trouble with those conditions is time and place, and reality. I love being in the mountains, and I love staying up late. I have written a lot in those venues. The only problem is that the Adirondacks are a long way from wherever I might be, and late nights may stoke my memories but not much else. The solution, if that’s what takes, is adaptability and versatility. I practice writing any place, any time. I’ve trained myself to write scripts in my head as I walk. I remind myself that all time is usable, if I think it is.

I try to carry a few tools for writing at all times. You’d be surprised how many pieces of this and that swirl around us. Recycle litter into copy.

Why did you decide to become an Indie publisher, and would you recommend going the Indie route to other writers?

Hmm. Why, indeed. The traditional submission route worked for me when I had a full-time job that allowed me to hire a submission agency. The agency performed the market research and details of the copying, letter writing, mailing and archiving. All I had to do was supply the poems and stories. I started years ago, sending out poems and stories to magazines and journals that I wanted to appear in, and without any additional criteria, that made each submission a long shot. Now, I have no submission agent. I still have lots of manuscript copy lying around, and I feel even less desire to query editors and lick stamps than ever before. Get the drift here?

I studied/researched the self-publishing business for a long time before deciding to get involved. Founding West Main Productions, LLC, made me an official publisher, and I produced two collections of stories: Natural Causes (2008), and Do No Harm (2011). Working with The Troy Bookmakers of Troy, NY, I was able to make all production and marketing decisions for each book. The stories for the first book have been previously published in juried publications, as has one story in the second book. That assuages the “is this really acceptable work in the eyes of the gate keepers” worry.

Did I see that life was getting shorter, my publication time longer, and my dreams of literary stardom dimmer? Technology and confidence will lead you to Indie publishing.  Traditional publishing isn’t going away, but the Indie option is respected, and it’s really about the same thing as the traditional route: finding an audience for your work. Both avenues lead to the same place, and only a few of us pull up in front of the Pulitzer Prize stage, regardless of the route.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

A favorite author turns out to be one I trust to take me in and teach me, entertain me, show me light, swat me upside the head, nauseate me, love and respect me. A few favorites: William Kennedy, John Gardner, Denis Johnson, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Ford, Ray Carver, Sue Miller, Philip Roth. Many poets—James Wright, Tony Hoagland, Anne Sexton, William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, June Jordan, Jim Gustafson, et al.

Why do you write?

A much tougher question than it first appears to be. It’s like ‘fooling around and falling in love’. The more I do, the more I do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve lost people, places, jobs, sports and things, but reading and writing, not. Instead of limiting my idea of myself as a writer by genre, I’ve continued an early tendency to try new writing challenges while maintaining solid connections with my secret sharer, my conscience. Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes help me stay the course. I need the help. Thank you, Joanne, for this opportunity to think about these things.

Thanks so much Gary.  Here is a little about his life as an author.

Gary McLouth has published short stories in The Red Rock Review, The Cimarron Review, ELM, Studio One, Limestone, Minnetonka Review, The Baltimore Review and others. Poetry has appeared in Adirondack Life, Blueline, Emerson of Harvard, The International Poetry Review, Buckle &, and others.

http://www.amazon.com/Gary-McLouth/e/B00JGC7AII/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3?qid=1427644836&sr=1-3

Do No Harm book cover  Natural Causes

Natural Causes and other stories published by West Main Productions, and Gary’s second collection of short fiction, Do No Harm are available on Amazon.com in standard print or eBook format. Gary has co-authored Men and Abortion with Arthur B. Shostak, edited A Man Named Nebraska, Guilty Without Trial, and a number of other book-length manuscripts. TV scripts supporting shows on Culture TV, “Media Matters” on the Ion TV network. Gary co-founded Todays Authors, a studio talk show recorded for broadcast on its own You Tube channel as well as TV aired as a public affairs offering in Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, NY.

Gary is the President of the Gulf Coast Writers Association, a member of the Sanibel Writers Group #3, a participant in the Poetry Alliance, a featured poet in the Art Poems Project and a reader in programs sponsored by Big Arts on Sanibel Island. Other associations have included: The New York State Writers Institute; The Foundation for Mental Health; Poets & Writers; the Association of (college) Writing Programs.

Gary earned a Doctor of Arts in English at SUNY Albany where he won the President’s Distinguished Dissertation Award for Death and Other Frustrations. A Professor Emeritus at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. He has been an adjunct English professor at Florida Southwestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers since January, 2011.

Professional experience as an arts administrator, college administrator, speech writer, MC for non-profits, writing consultant and independent video producer contribute to Gary’s ability to serve the various needs of potential clients.

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Happy Birthday to Me

 

The earliest photo I have with Mom

Mom,  my  brothers  and  me

Today is my birthday, so I’m allowed to post about myself.  Life has taken me thousands of miles and blessed me with hundreds of friends, acquaintances, and family along the way. They haven’t all stayed in touch and that is okay. People come in and out of your life for a reason and I accept their time with me as a gift and their absence as a sign our time together has naturally come to an end and we each have different people to meet, to love, to aspire to be.

I usually ask authors questions about themselves and their writing. Today, I’ll ask myself the same questions.  Don’t worry. I will only pick a few.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

I wrote my first short story at the age of ten, but I am not sure now that I really thought through the idea of being a professional writer. That didn’t really happen until fifty-two years later, in 2010, when I realized that I would like to make a profession of the passion I have always loved.  (okay, you can do the math)

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

I have no formal training.  The only college classes I took were for my real estate career. But once I decided to take this seriously, I havent’ been able to stop learning. I read hundred of blogs, endless amount of books, attend every conference and workshop I can.  Since I am the president of my local writer’s group, I often have to fill in when a speaker suddenly backs out. If I am going to get up and teach a workshop, I am going to research until I know everything I can about the subject.

How long did it take you to publish your fist manuscript?

I wrote my first published work in 30 days during a NANOWRIMO challenge in 2010. It took another  two and half years before it was even close to being ready to publish.  I look at it now and know I could do so much better today.

Are you published through a traditional publishing house or Indie published?

I am Indie published through Create Space and as far as self-publishing, you can’t beat it. But, I would love to find a traditional publisher and my desire it to secure one for my current work in progress. It is currently in the editing and re-writing stage.  I hope to complete that within the next six months so I can start sending out queries.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I am a planner. I write and outline and a timeline. Then I search photo sites like Istock and Photo.com for pictures of my protagonists. If I can see them, it is easier to write about them. I also write a character sketch for each of my main characters. All this said, once I start to write,  things sometimes take a life of their own. When that happens it is like someone else’s fingers are typing, and all I can do is sit back and say “WOW, How did that happen?”

Was there a mistake you made in your writing process you could share with us?

The biggest mistake  I made was publish too soon.  Even with tons of beta readers and an editor, there was more work that needed to be done on that first book.  My second biggest mistake was getting discouraged too fast and self-publishing.  I  hope I have the stamina to keep seeking an agent for as long as it takes next time.

What genre of book do you love? Do you write in that same genre?

I love women’s fiction, stories about women’s journey’s in life.  My favorite writer of all time is Jodi Picoult. I can only hope to write as well as her. Yes, I do write in that same genre.  My books are current events (typically within the last ten years). I get my ideas from watching the news.  Accident is about an alcoholic soccer Mom from the suburbs that causes a fatal car accident. Town Without Mercy’s inspiration came from the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  My WIP (work is progress) is about international adoption.

Tell us about one of your books in one sentence.

I’ll give you a peek into my current work-in-progress.    Re-homing Pigeon is the story of a Louisiana Cajun woman and an orphaned Russian child that must lose everything, including each other, before they can find what family really means

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?   A sneak-peek into the first chapter. of Re-Homing Pigeon.

If it weren’t for the voodoo curse, she would have been a terrific mother. Cecile Lafayette Boudreaux stroked the Gris-Gris amulet around her neck, and then the mound around her middle. We’ll get through this, Junior, don’t worry. Born in the Louisiana bayou, she wasn’t supposed to scare easily. The weatherman had drawn spaghetti lines that snaked through the Gulf of Mexico, all heading straight toward the mouth of the Mississippi. They named her Katrina. The die-hards planned hurricane parties. Fire up the outdoor cooker; them mud bugs were waiting for cayenne pepper, hot sauce and ‘taters. Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll.) Mayor Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation. Governor Blanco told anyone refusing to leave to write their names and social security number on their arms in magic marker so they could identify the bodies.

Cecile told herself that she’d be safe in their sturdy home in Saint Bernard Parish. Armand had boarded the house so not a sliver of daylight peeked through the plywood sheets. This wasn’t the first hurricane in her thirty years, and it wouldn’t be the last. No matter the warnings, she couldn’t leave without her husband, who had responsibilities as drilling manager for the Murphy Oil Refinery.

She opened the door and stared at ominous dark clouds and things that had no business being airborne. Thousands of mosquito hawks (dragonflies) flew in a frenzy, forming a gossamer purple and green funnel. It’s coming . . .

Thanks readers, for letting me indulge in a little self-promotion. Where can people buy my books?

                   https://www.createspace.com/4441710

My Husband is a Woman Now

Leslie Fabian pic

This is one of the most unusual  interviews I have ever done since starting Author Interview Friday.   As you can tell from the title, My Husband’s a Woman Now, it is quite an unusual story. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Leslie Hillburn Fabian, today’s Author. And because this is such an unusual topic, I’d like to change the order which I normally do my interviews. So hold on to your seats  readers, as I reverse the order. (just to keep you on your toes  LOL)

What shelf would we find your book if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

            With the ease of ordering on-line these days, I seldom go into book stores anymore, so I’ll have to create some shelf labels, to wit: LOVE STORIES; TRANSITION STORIES; RELATIONSHIP HELP; PERSONAL GROWTH & AWARENESS; MEMOIRS; TRANSGENDER…things along those lines.

Leslie, Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

From My Husband’s a Woman Now: A Shared Journey of Transition and Love by Leslie Hilburn Fabian, LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker)

            “When I met my husband, he was wearing a dress.” I had occasionally made this surprising declaration during the first twenty years of my marriage to David. I’d been selective, of course, trusting my instincts to determine when and to whom it was safe to reveal this.

            Making this bold pronouncement, I’d been “outing” my husband as a cross-dresser, exposing his life-long secret of sometimes wearing women’s clothes. The statement was invariably shocking and confusing to others, but I had found it the least complicated, most direct way, of opening a conversation about who he truly was—or rather, who we thought he was.

            Then, in 2009, after twenty-one years together, we both realized that David was more than “just a cross-dresser” and he began moving in a much more audacious direction. His sporadic feminine expression, the act of cross-dressing, had morphed into a plan to become a woman full-time. This revelation was alarming to the majority of people in David’s life. They’d known him only as a man and it was unlikely they’d ever thought to question his undeniable masculinity, a perception based on observable details.

            …All who know David saw a skilled orthopedic surgeon, beloved and respected by hospital and office staff, patients, family, friends, and particularly by me, his wife. But the physical form, the skills, integrity, and brilliance of this individual—all that one could witness of his life—masked the inner workings of David R. Fabian, M.D.

            This transition story begins in middle age, in our early sixties. It is about the deconstructing of our previous life and the creation of a new one. My husband, David Robert Fabian, M.D., began living as a woman in the fall of 2011. This woman, Deborah Rae Fabian, has existed internally for all of David’s remembered life.

Did you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time’s?

            I have no formal training in writing, other than occasional weekend workshops and a class I attended years ago. All of the reading I’d done throughout my life, prior to beginning my book, contributed to the structure I used. There was, in fact, little structure in the beginning. My daily writing was essentially a “free-form” recording of what was occurring, both internally and around me. As I promoted my husband’s transition, maintaining a desire to remain in our marriage, emotional fluctuations were rampant.

            In the second year of my three-year writing process, the composition emerged. Working with a book shepherd was enormously helpful, as she guided me in structuring my work into the finished product that manifested. The book gradually took a chronological shape in four parts: our past, the process during the two transition years, journal entries from the first year after transition, and, finally, what I learned from the entire process.

As someone who’d never before written a book, how did you know how to start, once you believed you had something to say?

     After I’d written for a year and had accumulated 150 pages of writing, I believed I had a book-in-the-works, yet had no idea how to proceed. Fate stepped in; a book on self-publishing practically fell into my lap at a Barnes & Noble! In the midst of looking there for clues to my next steps, I read about the concept of Book Shepherds, people whose work it is to advise, encourage, and support writers. This led to four phone interviews and the hiring of my incredible book shepherd, Judith M. Weigle, Book Shepherd, Judy@JudyWeigle.com.

     For two more years, to the completion and publishing of my book, Judy was a God-send who kept me afloat and assisted me in creating my first literary work. I doubt I’d have done it without her!

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Both of my parents (now deceased) aspired to write; each wrote beautiful, inspiring letters. While providing incentive, however, neither ever got serious enough to create a book.

            In the nineties, I was in graduate school for social work at Boston College, and a professor noted on one of my papers, “You are a gifted writer!” I’ve always loved writing and was pretty sure I did it well, and that short statement stuck with me until I got serious about it in my sixties. Then, with a profound transition occurring in my life, I felt compelled to write the on-going story as it unfolded. Voila! A love story emerged, and my first book was published.

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

            I actually used a print-on-demand publisher called Virtual Bookworm. I consider this a “step above” self-publishing, as companies such as VBW provide myriad services, much as a traditional publisher does, for which the writer contracts. Their services are available both individually and packaged, and they are selective about what they publish.

            There are many reasons why I avoided the traditional route. Foremost was the warning of a friend who’s published several books and  found that the results of using a traditional publisher for one of them have been highly disappointing. The publisher made changes to her book with which she was not in agreement. She makes a pittance on the thousands of books sold, while the publisher makes much more. Further, the publisher now owns the book and she must buy it back if she wants to change publishers. She also warned me that it would likely take a couple of years to see my book in print, since I was a first-time, unknown author.

            I chose Virtual Bookworm after researching print-on-demand publishers and liking their services, packages, and responses to my inquiries regarding their work. They have been wonderful to work with; I highly recommend them.

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

            As I said, I felt compelled to write this book, under the circumstances occurring in my life. I found the writing to be therapeutic and instructive to my own process, as I have for thirty years of daily journaling. I also knew that what I had to say could be helpful to others—to those going through similar processes, to anyone going through a huge transition, and also to those who might be curious about our situation and how my spouse and I handled it. There was no stopping my “Voice,” once the writing began!

What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

            I developed this technique in graduate school, with lengthy papers to write, and it’s continued to work for me whenever I have a project of any kind. First I decide on a total time I want to write for that day. Then I prepare my work space, read something inspiring, and set a timer for one hour. I work until the timer goes off, then take a break. If I’m highly engaged in my work when an hour is up, I might continue working for another half-hour or to the completion of that piece, and I’ll set the alarm again for thirty minutes (to keep track of my total time). Then I get up and do something fun, completely unrelated to my writing, for fifteen to thirty minutes—e.g., walk the dog, grab something to eat, read something unrelated. Then I begin writing again, resetting the timer until I reach my total time for the day. This system promotes meeting my daily goal, as well as providing rewards for satisfying work.

 MY Husband is a Woman

Thank you Leslie.  This is a strange and compelling story. It took a lot of courage to expose your personal life, knowing that some people would never understand and attack your views and decisions.  Yet, it is something you felt compelled to write.  Reader, to learn more, go to her website: www.lesliefab.com

Below is a intro into her story and links to buy her book.

Nothing is more certain in life than change, and this change is bigger than most. In 2009, Leslie Fabian’s husband, David-an orthopedic surgeon who’d been privately cross-dressing for most of his life-realized that brief forays into the world as Deborah would never be enough.
This came as no surprise to Leslie. For two decades, cross-dressing had been a part of their lives; but she had witnessed her spouse’s devastation each time he returned to his male persona. To purchase, go to any website below. These are for Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and my publisher, Virtual Bookworm.

http://www.amazon.com/My-Husbands-Woman-Now-Transition/dp/1621374319/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394127297&sr=8-1&keywords=9781621374312

(http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-husbands-a-woman-now-leslie-hilburn-fabian/1118828078?ean=9781621374312)

http://www.virtualbookworm.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=SRCH

Combining childhood innocence with historical verisimilitude and a dash of magical fantasy

Welcome Linda Schell to Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.

Combining childhood innocence with historical verisimilitude and a dash of magical fantasy—that was the impulse behind the start of my writing career.  A travel log about the city, St. Petersburg, Russia inspired me to write my first fantasy-adventure book, Come Along With Me.

I wanted to bring appreciation to American children and their parents for the magical city known for its culture, architecture, tree-lined parks, and its bridges by the hundreds. This led me to my second book, The Palace Buzz, a wacky romp coated in outrageously true history.

Perhaps one day the series will find its way into Russia, and the people there will learn that there are people here in America who have an appreciation for their history and accomplishments.

Do you remember when you first wanted to be a writer?

When I was five years old I saw a broken typewriter in my aunt’s attic, and I wanted to start writing then.  I didn’t have access to a typewriter until I was a junior in high school.  By then I had put my writing ideas aside.

My long-range goal is to expand the imaginations of children while simultaneously exposing them to a variety of cultures and histories. For the last twenty-four years I have lived in Venice, Florida with my husband, Tom, of forty-six years.  We have one son.

Do you have a background in writing?

My background in writing is business.  The Elements of Style helped me in the business world.  The book is short, and informative, and easy-to-understand.

I wrote the first rough draft to my debut story in about three weeks.  Because I worked full time and sometimes sixty hours in a week, it took me years to tweak it, have it edited, and finally published.

What genre are your books in?

The two books I have written are fantasy/adventure, primarily for the nine to twelve set.

The Gracie Series would be found in the children’s section for fantasy, although the books do claim a little science fiction.

I see you went with self-publishing? Why did you go that route and are you happy with the results?

The hours I worked in my day job didn’t permit me to query main-stream publishers.  At the end of the day I was too tired to query.  Eventually, I would like to try mainstream.  I am pleased with Amazon’s Create Space.  Their crew responds immediately to my phone calls.  They are patient.

What has been the hardest part of writing for you?

Writing a well-crafted descriptive sentence.  In order to overcome my personal obstacle, I read not for enjoyment, but to learn how other author’s craft their sentences. 

What are you doing to promote your books?

I’m a novice to writing as I started two years before I retired from work.  Right now I am relying on Facebook, book fairs, and my husband’s great selling skills.  Eventually, I will have to move to my own blog and website.  I’m talking my time and learning as much as I can about marketing before I take definitive steps.

Do you have advice for other writers just starting down this path?

If the writer is as “wet behind the ears” as I was,  I hope the newbie can find a friend who doubles as a writing coach.  I’m not suggesting a professional, I am suggesting someone who understands what it takes to move a story forward, and someone who understands good sentence structure. I would suggest finding a Writer’s Group to learn about social media and marketing.  If   new writers finds themselves in a Writer’s Group that delves on negative personal criticism and the leader of the group is weak, move on.  There are lots of groups out there.  Read good “how to” books.  Be mindful that some books are long on form and short on good advice.  Read books.  Although my target audience is children’s chapter books, I read adult books to improve my writing style.  J. D. Salinger is a great author to study.  Personally, I don’t care much for what he says, but how he says it was a learning curve for me. When sitting down to write, don’t worry about an outline.  How can an author produce an outline if the author doesn’t know what he wants to say in precise detail.?  Let your pen take you to the place you want to go.  If you have amassed a great deal of research data, a time line will start to emerge in your mind.  At that point, write down key events of what comes next and when.  Another thing I taught myself to do, I did this with my first book because I had a beginning and no middle or end, I wrote little scenes that I thought would be interesting.  The scenes spawned other ideas.  Before I knew it I was easily connecting one scene to another, and throwing out other scenes that didn’t fit. That said, if an outline works for the author, use an outline.  Use what works.  Write in a way that the reader wants to keep turning the page to find out what will happen next.

What is the premise of the book we are promoting today?

My protagonist wants to visit the magical, fairy-tale city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Instead she finds herself marooned on a dairy farm in St. Clair, Pennsylvania where she meets a new friend, Gibson, a Maine Coon Cat who was just dumped off on the farm.  Gibson is a dude from the city.  The two meet two evil rats who are on a mission to destroy the farm and the farmer.  In the end good triumphs over evil.  In the meantime the grandparents will have fun reading Come Along With Me, because it takes place in the 50’s, pink kitchen appliances, hoola hoops, and all!

Watch this interview with author Linda Lee Schell:

http://youtu.be/Mhtd7J1oVao

 

BUY LINKS : 

http://www.amazon.com/Come-Along-Me-Gracie-Book

https://www.createspace.com/4567510

 

Come Along With Me Cheryl Abney

 

EXCERPT OF BOOK  Come Along With Me, Vol. 1 in the Gracie Series:  (First page)

 

Deep inside the thirty-sixth universe, just south of the Never-Ending Rainbow, millions of shimmering spheres drift serenely through a tranquil sky. Gracie, a gentle soul, lives on one of these spheres, located near the heart of not only one of the oldest, but quite possibly the grandest of all the universes.

 

When the rays of the Everlasting Never-Ending Rainbow find their way to Gracie’s sphere, rose petals in myriad shades of pink and red flutter playfully to the ground.  The creatures in Gracie’s world amicably take turns removing the petals from their lawns and winding paths.  Here, even the local version of “bad weather” (which is always conveniently forecast well in advance by the Weather, Whether or Not creature), rarely turns out to be anything more severe than a late afternoon breeze, producing much rose-petal clutter, but little else.  Undoubtedly, Gracie’s world is perfect in every way–except for one small problem:  Gracie is bored.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheryl Abney writes Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

cheryl abney

Cheryl Abney is a retired educator with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher and counselor at all levels—college, high school, middle, and elementary. She is a current member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Florida Writers’ Association, Gulf Coast Writers’ Association, and the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. Cheryl loves to create historical fiction stories and has written two middle-grade readers set in the Florida Lake Okeechobee area, circa 1918—Belle of the Glades, and its sequel, The Bone Field Mystery. She lives in the Florida Glades area of her story’s setting with her husband, two Jack Russell terriers (Zoey & Ditto), and her tortoise (Theo). She loves her current freelance position of creating short historical fiction stories for www.TheFreedomkids.com, and she hopes you’ll like reading them as much as she has enjoyed writing them.

Cheryl Abney weaves a new adventure in the old frontier as a young city girl meets rustic fish camp in her book Belle of the Glades. When recently orphaned Isabelle Lacy, is sent to live with her uncle on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in 1918, a whole new world is opened to her–a world shared with snakes, alligators, outlaws, and a new Indian friend.

 The Bone Field Mystery is the sequel to Belle of the Glades, and it takes Belle on an adventure to solve whether there is a Bigfoot at the Bone Field. Both Christian oriented middle-grade readers can be purchased online at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com as an e-book or softcover through links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (iUniverse for Belle of the Glades only).

 

 The_Bone_Field_Myste_Cover_for_Kindle Cheryl Abney

Cheryl, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think I inherited my note-writing from my father, who would leave these small manila- work-tags scribbled with notes on his desk (the top of the refrigerator). I kept diaries when younger and still journal, was PTA secretary a number of years, and loved English and shorthand classes. My first remembered interest dates back to a fourth grade activity of creating a class poetry book—which I still have. We each had to create three poems for this hard-cover book. I was ecstatic.
What type of writing do you do?

I have written nonfiction articles for magazines, newspapers, websites like The Parenting Network and Kids Faith Garden, but my books and short stories are historical fiction for middle-grade readers. That’s where my heart is.

Why did you choose the self-publishing Indie route? Why did I choose this publisher and would you recommend that same Indie publisher?

I was probably premature to self-publish BOTG, because I’d only submitted it half a dozen times, and was encouraged to hang tough by a writing mentor. I retired in 2011 and I wanted to see it in print…felt I didn’t have the advantage of youth to wait years. I chose iUniverse after speaking with a friend who used them, and I did my homework researching the different Indies. My sequel, TBFM, was published through CreateSpace. It involved more work on my part, but I had more control over the product price…which dictates our profit margin.

I know that feeling of wanting to hold your book in your hands. I don’t think patience is an easy virtue for authors.

Do you always write in the same POV or do you switch it up.

I have always written my books in third person POV. It wasn’t until this year, when hired to write historical-fiction short stories for middle graders in first person, that I attempted this POV. It was definitely a learning curve, but I do feel it more effective in getting your reader into the story—as if they’re experiencing it.

I am also working on my adult historical romance, but keeping it in third person POV; so yes, I’m switching it up. I find I have to edit the short, first-person stories carefully so I don’t slip back into my books’ POV.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I have done both, but I tend to grab an idea and jot a few notes, then write, write, write. I usually end up stopping at some point and creating a plan. But over all, I’m a pantser. I must admit to trying some excellent planning programs, but don’t follow through with them. However, I think it’s extremely important that you do lengthy character sketches of each main character before starting to write. I clip pictures from magazines for images. I’ve heard it said that you don’t “write what you know, but who you know.” Personalities, I steal from people I know. I heard one author assigned character names starting with the letter of the known person’s name, who she could relate the character’s personality to. Important thing, is to get to know your character well, before writing.

What advice would I give to new writers just started with their first manuscript?

Two notes of advice—join a supportive, productive writers’ group and an editing group; and practice discipline. Set a definite, nonnegotiable time of the day to write, and write most every day. I’m most productive when I treat my writing like the business it is—showing up regularly.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, and Zora Neale Hurston’s There Eyes Were Watching God, both about the everglades; I thought it’d be enjoyable and educational to write about the area I reside in from a young reader’s view.

How did you come up with the title?

When I was a young college student first introducing myself to a class, the professor kiddingly referred to me, that one instance, as “Belle of the Glades.” I’ve never forgotten it, even though I now know the label was referring to Belle Glade (my residence then) by its original name.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

May sound corny, but I like to think it says “home is where the heart is.” Home has nothing to do with money, possessions, popularity, location—but a lot to do with security found in family, faith, and friendship.

How much of the book is realistic?

The dates and locations of the islands and settlements bordering Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach Canal, 1918 flu epidemic, and environment are realistic. I’ve created the Glades Runner, Sam’s store, and Hayes’s Fish Camp—but representative of the real things.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Pieces of every author creep into their writings. In BOTG, my youth was more like Belle’s after she came to live at her uncle’s fish camp. I loved wading and catching pollywogs, frogs, and turtles in the pond near home. My friends and I climbed the sand hills and wandered paths in the woods.

What book are you reading now?

I enjoy historical books like BOTG. Right now I’m reading the second in a series that started with an historical time-travel plot—Tomorrow & Always by Barbara Bretton. It’s captivating, as I hope Belle of the Glades is.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I belong to several writing groups, but Gulf Coast Writers Association (Fort Myers) has definitely been the most interactive and rewarding. They meet the third Saturday of every month. I also meet with three other ladies, Critique Critters, to edit each other’s work once a month.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Francine Rivers is my favorite author. I just finished her current series that starts with Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy). It is historical and crosses three generations. This Christian author, whom I’ve heard and met at conference, writes detailed accounts of another time and place, so that the reader is transported to that era.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)

No, because I’ve lived in the area of my setting, Lake Okeechobee, for 43 years. I have, however, visited many of the museums within driving distance to research the material in BOTG. Have you learned anything from writing your book?

I’ve learned how difficult it is to publish and market a book for profit. I’ve learned to stress less and enjoy the journey. An author needs to enjoy the accomplishment—the fruition of their efforts. Enjoy the kind comments and support from readers, and keep their eyes on the original goal to share knowledge and pleasure. I would advise young writers to follow their dream now—for it’s true that “tomorrow never comes.”

Writing for profit has a long learning curve, so take advantage of writing clubs, online seminars, workshops—and write. Google “young author publishers,” and check out CreateSpace. Parents can encourage their children’s writing by helping them navigate CreateSpace and publish 5 copies of their book for a minimal fee.

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

A link to a short-story sample can be found at www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com, as well as book purchase links. I hope you enjoy Belle’s adventure and will contact me.

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview.  Cheryl’s  books are available through:

Create Space:  The Bone Field Mystery:    http://www.createspace.com/4500669

Her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylabney

iUniverse : http://bookstore.iuniverse.com/Products/SKU-000603311/Belle-of-the-Glades.aspx

Her website:  www.BelleoftheGladesBooks.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon Danford writes “Mystery Blues”

Shannon Danford

Welcome Shannon Danford to Author Interview Friday. I have met Shannon twice now in author events such as Marco Island’s AuthorFest. It is a pleasure to have her on my blog today.

Shannon, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading to me, reading whatever they happened to be reading.  Not surprisingly, I became intrigued with the magic of the written word.  Then, in the fourth grade, my teacher published some of her students’ stories and after seeing my story in ink, I knew writing was in my future.   That future turned into a circuitous journey that ultimately provided the stories that needed a voice.   I saw my first book in print at age 49.  It’s been a long road.

I know the feeling.  Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?

I have an undergraduate degree in marketing, so I have a basic understanding of the pipeline from creator to end user.   And since I’m not a fan of traditional marketing, I’m employing a strategy that makes more sense to me – place a high value on creativity throughout the product cycle; it keeps things fresh and authentic.  To that end, I think the wordsmith/creator has to reinvent herself to adapt to a new literary world where she has to escort the book from concept all the way to the end reader and employ her creativity in ways that defy traditional marketing.  At this point, if a major press became interested in my books, I don’t think I’d sell out the flow and process I’ve forged.  I like being a rebel.

What does finding your “Voice” mean to you?

I think part of the human experience is coming to understand your authentic self which naturally includes the discovery of your own voice.  Whether you play an instrument, dance, cook, paint or write, that spark that animates us wants to be known.  For me it happened while working in a nursing facility.  Watching people die (often without any family around) and handling things like adult briefs that no one wants to touch, takes a toll on you.  To get through the day, I started imagining I was on the set of a sitcom.  If I didn’t figure out how to laugh about my situation, I would be too depressed to function.   That humorous perspective allowed me to survive and ultimately flourish.   Back then, finding my voice was liberating.  Today, writing in that voice keeps me grounded.

What was  your biggest challenge in learning to write or in the industry?

For me, the hardest part of writing is changing hats from writer to editor, to publicist, to publisher, to marketer.  But the literary world is in flux and I believe to survive it, one must adapt.  On a positive note, I have to think that with every book the obstacle course gets more familiar and easier.  I look forward to the day when I can take off my training wheels.

Do you have any advice for new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Believe that you can’t fail.  You are the only person who can speak in this voice; you have a story to tell.  The only way you can lose is to stop writing!  When you have a finished manuscript, get as many people to read it as possible and listen to their feedback with an open mind.  Then buy the best editing you can afford.

Complete this sentence……. My favorite place to write is …..

My favorite place to write is at my desk with a cup of coffee on my right and a lighted fragrant candle on my left.  Celtic music plays in the background and it is raining outside.  Ahhhh

What’s your next big writing challenge?

Everything I’ve written to date has been humorous and I plan to continue in that genre for at least two more books; however, my sister writes screenplays and encouraged me to give that a try.  So I’m working on a story that is told largely through pictures.  It is a challenge that I think will help sharpen my dialogue skills and allow me to explore another writing medium.  Beyond that, I’ll go where the muse leads.

Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to whet our appetite?

This excerpt is from my third book in the blues series – Chinese Takeout Blues.

“What the hell is this?” Bucky knelt down and picked up the script. He began to read the questions out loud. When he looked up, Bucky’s mouth hung open, unhinged; his eyes were black pinpoints of malice.

Mo collected the rest of the pages and tucked them away. Then he stood and faced his colleague. “I would like to say I’m sorry, but I’m not, Bucky. You don’t deserve to serve the people of this county.”

Fern made no move to turn off the camera when she left the sound booth. Hiram followed behind and they entered the chamber where the two commissioners were still facing off.

“You did this!” Bucky shook the paper at Fern, spittle flying from his mouth.

Fern nodded. “Yes. I had to do something before you hurt anyone else.”

Bucky stormed toward her full of enmity and rage. “Are you trying to shake me down?” He drew up to within a foot of Fern and stood, nostrils flaring with each breath, oblivious to the fact that his entire comb-over hung free, dangling from his barren pate down to his shoulder like a threadbare beret. Buell closed the gap between them to inches. “This is setup!” He held the script under her chin and then released it. It floated harmlessly to the ground.

“No, sir, this is justice.” Fern said the first words that came to her. She stood toe-to-toe with the man, daring him to push her further. Buell flinched first, turning to the sound of the chamber doors opening. After several very tense seconds, all of which were being recorded, Fern knelt and picked up the paper, turned on her heel, and left him seething in his Kenneth Cole loafers.

Thank you Shannon.  Where can readers buy Chinese Takeout Blues or your other “Blues” mysteries?

To purchase my books at the best price, go to my website:  www.mamasluckymojo.com

There are also available on Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&field-author=Shannon%20Danford&search-alias=books

 

T.M. Jacobs presents SW Florida History

T.M. Jacobs

T.M. Jacobs

Welcome, T.M. Jacobs to Author Interview Friday. Tim is on the Corporate Board of Directors for the Gulf Coast Writer’s Association and Owner/President of Jacobs Writing Consultants in Fort Myers, Florida.  He is also Advisor to the Board of Directors for Southwest FL Historical Society. It is my honor to have him with us today.
Tim, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?
For me it was the sound of the typewriter. My mother used to do some typing at home for work, and I fell in love with the “click-clack” of each letter as she typed. I was probably around 5 or 6 years old at the time.
Do you always write in the same genre?
No, I don’t. I write a little bit of fiction, I have written poetry, but I love to write non fiction, especially local history. I believe that writing in different genres helps the creative part of mind to always be going, always searching for ideas, twists, plots, etc.
For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?
It would be in the local Florida section, as it covers Harvie Heitmanof Fort Myers, as well as other events and histories of that area.
Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication?
I wanted to have more control in the overall process of the my book. I also wanted to learn as much about the industry that I could. Prior to publishing my first book in 1996, I took a job at a publishing company was able to learn all the ins and outs of the business before venturing out on my own.
What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
I’ve seldom used an outline for my writing. I think both the synopsis and query are a challenge. It’s hard to focus your novel or book down to a mere page or two, but that’s how you make the sale to an agent or publisher. As far as the building the story, I’ve always felt that the stories build themselves. In fiction it’s the character that tell the story, you just write it down. With non fiction, let the facts tell the story.
It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
You need to constantly put yourself out there, or your book out there. Constantly repost to Facebook, send out emails, mention your book to organizations that you belong to you, write articles for newspapers and magazines and put in your byline your book title and where it’s available. Think outside the box. Set up tables at craft fairs and other events. Do book signings and lectures, lunches, etc.  
What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Don’t give up. Keep writing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, join a writing group or form one of your own – they’re so valuable. It’s where you find support because everyone there knows what it’s like to be a writer. They understand the struggles you will encounter and will be your loudest cheerleaders when you reach a success.
What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Tim Jacobs book cover
“H. E. Hiemtan, An Early Entrepreneur of Fort Myers, Florida” is the biography of Harvie Heitman, the man who practically built First Street in downtown Fort Myers. It’s also the history of the businesses that flourished downtown from the 1880s to the 1920s.
Where is your book available?
It’s available at Savvy on First in downtown Fort Myers,  Bombay Liquor/Book Den on Marco Island, the Southwest Florida Historical Society, the Southwest Florida Museum of History, or by emailing me attjacobs@jacobswc.com.
How did your consultant business come about?
With the advent of Kindle, Nook and e-readers, it has become easy for anyone to upload their novel or book, and become a “published author.” I was amazed when I began to download books and read them, only to find there was little to no editing done. It’s like the author thought he or she wrote it without error and quickly posted it for the public to buy and read. In some cases the story was fantastic, but difficult to read as you had to think or (in your mind) put in a comma, figure out where the missing quotation mark goes, or who’s speaking in a dialogue. So, I got together with a few editors, and put together Jacobs Writing Consultants to assist writers. Our tagline is “We ignite your writing – one page at a time.”
How can a writer contact Jacobs Writing Consultants?
The best way is through our website – http://www.jacobswc.com./ One thing we tell potential clients: “We’re so confident you will love our work, we’ll do the first four pages free and you’ll decide to say, ‘yes. . .finish it!'” Send us four double-spaced pages of your current project, and we’ll edit them and show you what we can do to enhance your writing.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a consultant?
It’s difficult at times to get clients to see and understand that their writing or their story needs work. They believe because a co-worker or their best friend read their manuscript and loved it, that it’s good. True, the story may be good, but the nuts and bolts of it need to be tightened and adjusted. Sometimes the writer is too attached to their work, and it’s hard to get them to step back, let go and to take an alternate view of their book or main character.
Thank you Tim, for being on Author Interview Friday at Writing Under fire today. You can find out more about Tim, his writing and his consulting firm on his website:  www.jacobswc.com.

Micki Suzanne talks about writing and selling vintage jewelry

Micki Suzanne

Please help me welcome Micki Suzanne to Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday.   Micki, was there a particular inspiration to start writing?

As a kid I was obligated to write for church and school assignments. I didn’t enjoy the topics, but I’ve always loved wordplay.

In the sixties my high school English teacher told my mother I had talent and urged her to send me to college; she just didn’t have the money.

In the 80s I worked my way up from secretary to event planner for a Detroit-area marketing company. The guys in the creative department enjoyed passing informal essay contests around via email. Themes ranged from “what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done on a date” to “what’s the most humiliating thing you’ve ever done for money.” My contributions garnered guffaws, so they decided I should be hired in as a writer.

The creative director – an f-bombing bear of a man – took me under his wing and taught me the ways. That generous act changed my life. I’ve been writing professionally ever since.

Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

In the 90s I studied non-fiction with William X. Kienzle (author of The Rosary Murders and other best-sellers). His wife Javan was his editor, and they taught as a team. We became friends, met for lunch and discussed possible scenarios for his latest book “Til Death.” It came out in 2000; he passed the following year.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_X._Kienzle

 What brought you from Michigan to Fort Myers?

A deer tick. In 2002 I had a writing career that paid so well I was able to open an antique shop on the side; then I got sick, lived with undiagnosed Lyme disease for two years and never fully recovered. I lost my job and my health, but I still had the antique shop. I was known for my estate jewelry, which I bought and sold online.

In 2006 eBay invited me out to join their Voices of the Community group. I returned inspired to write my first book, “Sick Mick’s Guide to Selling Antiques & Collectibles.” It was for people (like me) who were dealing with chronic illness.

When my boyfriend started wintering in Cape Coral, I closed my shop for the season and brought my estate jewelry down to sell online. I noticed I felt much better here!

When the relationship ended, I stayed and – to my surprise – managed to make it as a freelance marketing writer. That’s not easy at my age in a tourism-based economy.

This is my personal website/online portfolio: www.mickisuzanne.com

Are you a pantser or a planner?

Neither; I need to be inspired.
What inspired your new book?

When my freelance writing business slumped in 2012, I panicked and took two bags of my best jewelry to the gold buyers. I knew better, but I was teetering on the brink of financial disaster. Fortunately, I didn’t give them all of my gold. I walked away with some cash and the best of my stuff; which I promptly sold on eBay for substantial profit.
Once I calmed down, I was ENRAGED by the prices the gold buyers deemed “generous.” People needed to know how to sell their own jewelry online!  I thought I could just revise my previous book, but it was terribly out of date. I needed to write a whole new book – it is:

“How to Sell Vintage & Gold Jewelry Online”
http://www.amazon.com/Sell-Vintage-Gold-Jewelry-Online/dp/0978739329/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389483848&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+sell+vintage+%26+gold+jewelry+online

It’s available on Kindle (or PC) for $4.99 and as paperback for $9.99

Vintage Jewelry

Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

I published my first book through a respected self-publishing company; I was lucky if I received pennies on the dollar. In their hands, my first book is – and has always been – out of my control. I will be shutting it/them down this year.

If you have the smarts to write a book, you have the skills to manage the publishing process. I’m extremely happy with my results through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Create Space; most important, I own and control my work!

Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

 My voice is my tone. We have a different tone with certain types of friends. I choose who I will write to. I see their faces and know their reactions.

Challenge brings sadness, so I attempt to soften hard truth with wry humor. This sample briefly explains how I acquired Lyme and what it felt like to part with my first heirloom.

“Weekends with Randy were my salvation. He had a hot tub, swimming pool and five acres of woods. One Sunday I should have been poolside catching late day rays, but no – I was cranked back in his bony blue La-Z-Boy watching Sex and the City.

Sassy ambled over, circled three times and curled up at my feet. She had been out back chasing deer. Her soft wavy fur carried the parasitic freeloader that would steal my health, my wealth and my man.

‘The thing’ I clawed from my thigh that day was a deer tick; but I didn’t know that. I wouldn’t know for a long time. It was round and hard as a bullet with my blood.

Years of crushing illness and brain fog passed without income or diagnosis. I literally kissed my house good-bye, ran a red light and cried all the way back to Randy’s.

It was time to rethink the spoils of failed relationships; the skating rink [3 carat diamond] was the first to go. I was freaked about putting something so valuable on eBay.

The day it sold, Emma was checking the pool filters for trapped frogs.

I vaguely remember putting the big pear cut diamond in her sticky little palm and apologizing that it should have been hers one day.

Then I cleaned it, insured it and shipped it to Texas. The new owner was ecstatic.

I was encouraged; I could do this.

So can you.”

What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Editing is the hardest part. I’ve gone in to tweak a sentence and wound up restructuring one chapter that affects five more.

It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

As a marketing person, I know the importance of establishing online relationships. My favorite method is sharing my estate jewelry buying and selling experiences on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MickiSuzanneAuthor

 What advice would you give to new non-fiction writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Find a need and fill it.

Thank you Micki for being part of my blog today. Okay guys and girls, let’s run out and sell our vintage jewelry.   Joanne 

Laughter Salad by Kimberly Borin

 Kimberly Borin pic

Joanne:  Welcome Kimberly.  Learning and Growing with Laughter Salad is such a fun title.  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Kimberly:  At a young age, I wanted to be a writer.  I loved reading and would spend hours reading Nancy Drew books and more.  I distinctly remember reading one quote by Eudora Welty, that granted me permission to be a writer.  In her book, One Writer’s Beginnings, on the last page she writes, “As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life.  A sheltered life can be a daring life as well.  For all serious daring starts from within.”  Her last words seemed to free me up to know that I too could become a writer.  I am still writing, and for some writing, I still feel like someone trying to be a writer.  I am grateful for her simple words of encouragement and freedom to pursue my heart’s calling.

Joanne:   Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Kimberly:  I belong to a writing group called, The Sunrise Circle Writer’s Group.  This group of women encouraged me to write, find my voice and tell my story.  I have had plenty of writing courses and have had to learn how to write for public relations, education, dissertation research and more.  I am always learning to write in a new style and my first book Laughter Salad helped me learn to write in the first person, as a personal narrative.  Of course, there is still so much to learn and so much to hone too!  The skill I did not know I needed was the courage to put my voice out there and promote my book. This skill seems to be a little tougher to develop!

Joanne:   Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indie publisher to a colleague?

Kimberly:  I chose the self-publishing route because I was in a hurry to publish my book – I had to have it done within a year – and my friends had already used a self-publisher.  My first book was through iUniverse – I would never recommend them to anyone.  I have since published two books through CreateSpace, which I adore!  I work with a wonderful formatter, who is a lifesaver and allows the CreateSpace process to be easy for me.  I would highly recommend Judy Loose and her formatting services.

Joanne:   Authors and publishers are always talking about finding your “Voice”. Exactly what does that mean to you and how did you find yours?

Kimberly:  I am continually finding my voice.  In my first book, Laughter Salad I tried to just be myself and speak from a very honest place.  Of course, as soon as it was published, I said to my family, “I hope NO ONE buys the book!”  I felt so very vulnerable and afraid that people might see my inner feelings.  In my second book, Laughter Salad for Little Ones, I was writing letters to children.  My school counselor and friend voice came through in my writing and it was fun to see that on paper.  For my third book, Learning and Growing with Laughter Salad, I was writing stories and lessons for my colleagues who are counselors, teachers, and parents too.  I kept moving from a personal voice to a professional voice – it felt a little unnerving but seemed like what I was called to do.  I see that finding my voice also requires much silence, waiting and listening within.  The silence allows me to hear the small whispering voice, that I eventually bring to life on the page.

Joanne:   It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Kimberly:  This is a great question, one I wrestle with weekly!  I am starting in small ways.  I work with local book shops to have book signings.  I enjoy being local and seeing friends that I know.  I have also given talks at our local libraries and in schools.  I often incorporate my work into my yoga classes too.  I am slowly and surely finding my voice in the marketing world.  At the moment, I am also relying on serendipity, synchronicity, some prayers and a miracle or two! (Doing more marketing is also my New Year’s resolution!  J)

Joanne:   What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

Kimberly:  Learning and Growing with Laughter Salad offers over 60 activities that bring simple moments of peace, relaxation, and nourishment to the lives of children, and the adults who work with them. This is the perfect book for teachers, counselors, parents, and anyone who works with children. The book is divided into three chapters, each one highlighting activities using Nature, Relaxation, and Stories.

These simple lessons are perfect for the classroom, counseling office, or the outdoors. They are easy to use and can be adapted to meet the needs of students of any age. In a matter of minutes students can feel centered, calm, and connected to all that is around them. These mindful activities also help children develop deeper compassion and caring for themselves. If you take a moment to flip through the playful activities within Learning and Growing with Laughter Salad, I promise, you’ll feel nourished, relaxed, and peaceful too!

Joanne:  Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite?

The Cover Design LS3i 11Best2

Here is a sample activity from the chapter on Relaxation:

Activity #1: Beginning Relaxation Strategies

In school, we want students to be able to handle stress by practicing simple relaxation strategies. We know that with practice, students can learn to calm down, ease anxiety, and easily feel at peace when they need to. These are skills we want our students to have as they take a test, prepare for a big game, make a speech, interview for a job or college, or ease their worries.

Please note that the activities suggested in this book require adult assistance and supervision. If you have any doubts or questions about the suitability of these exercises for a student’s social, emotional, or physical needs, please consult a healthcare practitioner. Below are some very simple and basic strategies to help with relaxation:

  • Awareness of Body Tension and Feelings – First, we have students take a moment to see how they feel, physically and emotionally. Students are asked to notice how they feel while sitting at their desks. We ask them to notice muscles that feel tired, sore, or energized. We also ask them to notice how they are feeling – happy, sad, concerned, tired, etc. We want them to know that they have the ability to change how they feel, but first they have to figure out what is happening and what they need. We also encourage them to talk with a trusted adult if they need help with any of their feelings.
  • Postural Awareness Students are asked to become aware of how they sit at their desks. We help them notice when they may be slouching and when they are sitting up tall. We point out how much more oxygen and breathing is possible when students sit up straight with good posture. Sitting with good posture can also allow them to feel more confident, alert, and energized throughout the day.
  • Simple Breathing Techniques Next, children are encouraged to take a deep breath. So often throughout the day, we don’t even think about our breathing and we forget how relaxing a long inhalation or exhalation can be. We practice taking a large inhale and then allow the breath to “travel” all the way down to our feet before exhaling. This long exhalation is the key to relaxing. When students are practicing just two or three breaths, we also ask them to be silent and notice sounds in the room, which will enhance their listening skills, concentration, and awareness.
  • Progressive Relaxation We also talk about progressive relaxation, which is used by professional and Olympic athletes, rock stars, corporate CEOs and more. Students are taught to tense muscles when inhaling and then relax them while exhaling. We start with our feet and tense and relax knees, stomachs, backs, arms, and shoulders. This simple act of tensing the muscles and relaxing them creates a more relaxed state as the body releases tension. Students notice a difference as they hold the tension in their muscles and then relax. This is also another good technique for managing emotions, preparing for a test or competition, or releasing fear or worry.
  • Imagination – When students are done relaxing, we ask them to use their imaginations to think about a peaceful place or an image of their “best self.” We encourage them to see their best self – with as many sensory details as possible. The images they share with us are always positive and encouraging. They have said, “I saw myself as smart and confident.” Or, “I saw myself as being a doctor, which is what I would like to do when I grow up.” We also talk about how professionals use visualization to see themselves making the perfect foul shot, scoring a touchdown, or auditioning for a Broadway play.
  • Staying Positive, Positive Self-Talk and Reframing We also speak with students about positive self-talk. In their visualizations of their best self, we ask them to choose three positive words to describe this image of themselves. We want them to notice the words they use when speaking about themselves. If the words are negative, we want them to know how to change those words to something positive. For example, if a student is saying, “I’ll never be good at math,” we want to help them reframe the words into something positive, like, “I am able to learn math in my own way and my own time. I am very capable of learning lots of new things.”
  • Other simple ideas that will help students stay positive include:

o   Laugh when you can, especially if you feel nervous.

o   Try to think in new, creative, and positive ways.

o   Use kind words, eye contact, and politeness to build a bridge to others and be an ambassador of peace. Your kindness will help others too.

o   Take good care of yourself by getting lots of sleep, eating well, and drinking water. The extra effort will keep you strong, smart, and happy!

o   Tell someone – a friend, a teacher, or any trusted adult – if something is bothering you. Telling someone is taking a positive step to help yourself.

o   Think positively about yourself. Everything that you do matters!  You never know how your kindness or help can have a positive, lasting effect on the people around you.

o   Try to learn something new. When we stretch ourselves, we realize that we are capable of great things, even when we make mistakes.

o   Take one moment (or two or three) to just take deep breaths!

o   Take one moment (or two or three) to know that you are an amazing person with unique likes, dislikes, talents, strengths, and needs!

o   Take a moment to celebrate your gifts, strengths, hopes, and dreams too!

 

Helpful Websites:

Laughter Salad: http://www.amazon.com/Laughter-Salad-Nourishing-Inspiring-Stories/dp/1475937539/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392335512&sr=8-1&keywords=Laughter+Salad

Laughter Salad for Little Ones: http://www.amazon.com/Laughter-Salad-Little-Ones-Nourishing/dp/1482371995/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392335534&sr=8-1&keywords=Laughter+Salad+for+Little+Ones

Learning and Growing with Laughter Salad: http://www.amazon.com/Learning-Growing-Laughter-Salad-Celebrating/dp/1489579125/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392335562&sr=8-1&keywords=Learning+and+Growing+with+Laughter+Salad

Kimberly’s Website, The Encouraging Works: www.TheEncouragingWorks.com

Kimberly’s Art: http://kimberlyannborin.zenfolio.com

 

Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen

It is my great pleasure to introduce Alice Oldsford, author of  Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen.

Alice

Who am I and what do I write?

I wear a variety of hats – wife, mother, grandmother, Realtor, author, herbalist. On reflection I note that those pursuits relate to land use, not as a result of some grand plan, but simply from a conscious connection to the earth we call home.

It is my good fortune to pursue what I love, which is mostly found outdoors, whether walking, gardening or locating the perfect home with a client.

I raised 5 kids in the most self-sustaining environment I could conjure, of home-made and home-grown. My kids remember no one would trade lunches with them because their sandwiches consisted of home-made peanut butter and jelly on home-made whole wheat bread, an adolescent’s version of yucky.

My grandkids look forward to walks in the woods or even the neighborhood seeking traveling gnomes, puzzle rocks and edible wild plants.

And, as for my role as a wife, part of what attracted me to my husband was his love of vegetable gardening.

As a Realtor, I get to help people realize the American dream. Mark Twain said, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

My NJ Trails books:

You Can Get There from Here: Hiking Hunterdon County Trails and the sequel  Hiking NJ Trails – Hunterdon County and Beyond: You Can Get There from Here Too, have been my most fun land use activities yet, sharing my love for the outdoors with folks who want to give it a try.

The NJ trails books are meant to inspire people to enjoy the trails and prepare them for what to expect. It is my contention that knowing what you are likely to encounter enhances the enjoyment. More than maps provide, this book comes from my own perspective and love of the trails.  I have walked each and every trail in all seasons.

When I started to write Recipes and Life: Life is too Short to be Stuck in the Kitchen, I thought “Whoops, how does this book fit in with my love of  nature and the outdoors.” Then I realized it absolutely reflects my passion for home-made and home-grown as well as embracing what Mother Nature has to offer.  In addition, it reflects my desire to get out of the kitchen and embrace the outdoors.

This is my collection of inspirations sprinkled with favorite recipes. My intention is to spark the reader’s imagination and offer practical tips gleaned from a chef and friends/foodies who have shared their recipes and insights. These thoughts confirm for the reader that nutritious and delicious food patterns can be established without dedicating countless hours in the kitchen and outside the fast food forum.  It is a jumping off place for adventures in the kitchen.

Writing Challenges and Finding your Voice

When I was writing my first trail book, which was published in 2009, I found staying on track a bit of a challenge. There are lots of distractions in life, which we all experience.  I remember moaning about “not having time” and one of my sons reminded me we have time to do the things that are priorities for us. I had offered this advice to my children, and now it came back to me. I got back to work and finished the book. If a writer will do something each day, progress is inevitable.

Recipes and Life was about 3 years in the making.  My original vision kept evolving, and I was having trouble finding my voice. Then I moved from NJ to Florida.  Oh my, that literally created some technical difficulties as to gardening in Florida and food mores.  In the end, I decided I needed to tell my readers who I was, where I had come from and how I got into writing this book.  That allowed my voice to come through.

Alice's book

My favorite anecdote/excerpt from Recipes, which actually reveals a lot about me:

Thanksgiving

In the late 60’s when I was a young married woman, we lived in a duplex with a nice backyard and the smallest kitchen I have ever seen – no more than two steps to any appliance or work space. We had a purebred German shepherd named Mingo. I thought it was a good idea to invite the family for Thanksgiving dinner. I think it’s called “Ignorance is bliss.” I was organized and excited to host my first big dinner party.

The day arrived, and the turkey was awaiting the stuffing and roasting. The turkey proved too much of a temptation for Mingo. While I was in a different part of the house, there was quite a commotion in the kitchen. When I arrived, I found Mingo had wrestled the turkey to the floor with the intention of devouring it. I was able to rescue the turkey and banish Mingo to the yard. Now what? With no experience and only my creativity to rely upon, I washed the turkey then took needle and gold thread and sewed up the torn skin. Why gold thread? I reasoned it would blend with the roasted turkey.

The family came and enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner. No one noticed the stitched up skin, and I did not tell the story until sometime later.

Why Self Publishing and Promotion

When I was writing my first trail book, I realized the market was very regional, so publishing options would be limited.  I contacted a couple of small publishers, which were not as prolific in 2009 as they are today.  They were not taking on new titles. I did not feel discouraged, and self-publishing seemed a natural solution. The trail books were never stigmatized as a result of being self-published, and they have done very well in their target market. It helped that I lived in an area where Indie bookstores are embraced.

With “Recipes and Life”, it was just natural to do it my way, so to say. The publishing industry has evolved  since my first book in 2009. Established authors are self-publishing and using small publishers, and that gives credibility to those of us who are newbies, who follow their lead.  Although there are fewer Indie bookstores in this area, Florida does seem to encourage local authors.

When I published my first trail book, a long-time journalist/family newspaper owner in NJ advised me that I would need to rely on myself to get the word out and market my book. His newspaper had done some local publishing, and he disclosed that sales and distribution had less to do with the quality of the book and more to do with the author’s efforts to promote it.  He told me they had boxes of excellent books in the office basement that the author just did not push.

I start with my network, arrange signings and presentations, and ask anyone who might be remotely interested in putting my book on their shelf.  Press releases are often helpful in garnering attention and invitations to present.  I have a website and blog for the trail books.  I am about to create a blog for “Recipes” which will allow followers to share recipes.  I always have books in my car. I ask other authors what they do.  Check out local authors shelves in your favorite book store.

My advice to new writers:  Keep on keeping on!

 “Energy and persistence conquer all things” Benjamin Franklin

My website with links to blogs: http://www.aliceoldford.com/

Thank you Alice. Your humor and zest for life is contagious. This has been fun. Come back to Writing Under Fire sometime soon.