Posted in authors, characters, children, editing, love, parents, support, writers

Author Marc Simon brings The Leap Year Boy

Marc Simon
Marc Simon

I had the pleasure of meeting Marc Simon last February at Marco Island’s AuthorFest.I have read his story, The Leap Year Boy and highly recommend it. It is with great joy that I have him with us today. We’ll get right to the questions:

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

Marc: I used to be in advertising as a copywriter in creative departments and as a freelancer. I used to write TV and radio commercials, print ads, brochures, web site copy, etc. Writing ad copy gives me a sense of how to be economical with words, as well as be colorful in descriptions of people and places. Also, I used to write and perform comedy. Doing comedy well requires a good sense of timing. I think there’s a carry over to fiction.  But as far as having a degree in creative writing or journalism, no. I did take some workshops at a writing school in Boston called Grub Street. They were quite helpful, and I met a lot of fine writers along the way.

Joanne: Do you always write in the same genre?

Marc: Actually, no. I like to write plays, and last year, my one act play titled Sex After Death was a winner in Naples in the Sugden Reader’s Theater New Play Contest. Also, I don’t write only novels. I’ve written and had published several short stories. But I guess that’s still fiction.

Joanne: Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Marc: You would find my novel, The Leap Year Boy on the fiction shelf. It’s literary historical fiction with a touch of magical realism.

Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Marc: My situation is a combination of the two, so let me explain. I do have a literary agent, Joelle Delbourgo, president of Delbourgo Associates in New York. I met her at a writing conference in Miami in 2010. The conference offered attendees an opportunity to have a short story or a chapter of a novel reviewed by an agent, editor or a writer. I had modest expectations, but low and behold, she liked my chapter so much she asked to see the entire novel. I sent it to her and three months later she offered to represent me. After I received about 25 “glowing” rejections from the traditional publishers, she sent my novel to Untreed Reads, a publisher that does eBooks only. They “bought” the novel pretty quickly.

After my novel was published as an ebook, I found that many people wanted a traditional paperback.  Since my publisher doesn’t do paperbacks, I decided to self-publish the print version. I had a graphic designer prepare the cover and the inside pages. I used a company called Lightning Source as my printer. They are a print on demand company that also distributes worldwide, so in my contract with them, they distribute my novel to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. Lightning Source is very professional and I think a step above many self-publishing companies in terms of quality.

Joanne:  Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

Marc: I think every story calls for its own voice—unless you are writing a series, like a detective series or maybe a romance series. My novel is in 3rd person, past tense and takes the POV of several characters. My stories in many cases are first person, which makes switching POV in the story a no-no.

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

Marc: For me, the hardest part is sitting my butt down in the chair, shutting off the internet and writing. I don’t do outlines. I let the characters and the setting build the story. I’m always surprised at what happens after I struggle for an hour or so.

Joanne: What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Marc: In my opinion, a new writer should just sit down and write and crank something out, whether it’s short story, a play or a novel and not look back until a first draft is done. There will be plenty of time to revise. And I recommend getting feedback from only a few people, and people who are not going to pat your on the back and tell you that you’re the next Faulkner, because quite frankly, you’re not. Only then should you go back and revise, revise, revise and rewrite.

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

Marc: The Leap Year Boy is set in Pittsburgh in the early 1900’s. It is the story of a working class family and an extraordinary boy named Alex Miller, born in the family’s home on February 29, 1908. What makes Alex so remarkable is that even though he’s full term, he weighs just two pounds, one ounce and is nine inches long.

Despite his size, Alex is perfectly healthy. However, his body grows at one-fourth the rate of a normal child—so that after one year, he’s the size of a three-month-old—but his mind grows much quicker. Eventually, so do certain parts of his body and his ability to do various and unusual things with them. As Alex’s special abilities become apparent, those around him see him as both a miracle child and a freak of nature—a freak to exploit.

How Alex saves himself from the designs of others—his religious fanatic grandmother, who sees him as the new Messiah; his money-grubbing immigrant doctor, who wants to put him on display; his unstable nanny, who believes Alex is her lost child; and his father and father’s mistress, who are eager to tap Alex’s commercial potential—is at the heart of the novel.

Ultimately, a family that has been fractured by ambition and circumstance rediscovers loyalty and love, thanks to Alex’s courage.

Joanne:  This sounds so interesting. Where can readers get your book?

The Leap Year Boy
The Leap Year Boy

Marc: It is available on Amazon:

Joanne: Thank you Marc. If you may, please share with the readers a sneak peak into your book.

The Leap Year Boy

Chapter 1

Alex Miller was born on February 29, 1908, at 12:01 a.m., precisely nine months and a day after he was conceived. He weighed a mere two pounds, one ounce and measured just nine inches long, yet despite his size, his breathing was relaxed, his heart beat like a metronome and his blue eyes were active and alert.

Alex entered the world headfirst in the home of Abe and Irene Miller at 707 Mellon Street, Pittsburgh, less than 20 minutes after Irene had gone into labor. Ida Murphy, Irene’s mother, was in attendance, not so much out of concern for her daughter or the welfare of her nascent grandchild, whom she hoped would be her first female grandchild; rather, Ida wanted to see firsthand why her daughter had engaged the services of a medical doctor, since she herself had delivered without an attending physician during the births of her own three children, the third stillborn, each more agonizing than the one before it.

Ida felt a pang of jealousy when her daughter delivered so quickly and relatively pain free. Not that she didn’t love her daughter, in her own guarded way, or wish her well, but still, she thought, suffering builds character. If she’d had to go through it, why should her daughter get off so easy?

When she saw the tiny baby, she remarked to the doctor, “That’s it?”

Irene’s physician, Dr. Malkin, shrugged and assured her that it was indeed “it.”

Malkin was a hairy, bear-like Russian/Jewish immigrant with filmy pince-nez glasses he wore on the tip of his pointy nose. The veracity of his medical credentials was somewhat suspect, had anyone cared to investigate, since his professional certificates were printed in Cyrillic type and framed in clouded glass on the walls of his so-called surgery, which happened to be on the second floor of a cold-water walkup. He served the Miller family as general practitioner, pediatrician and dentist.

“But it’s so small. Are you sure there aren’t more babies in there somewhere?” Irene admonished him to keep looking, that there had to be one or two more, look at the size of the thing, it was no bigger than the runt in a litter of pigs. It was all she could do to keep from looking herself. But when Malkin shook his head no, that’s it, Ida put her hands on her wide hips and said, “Well, in that case, doctor, there’s no use me dilly-dallying around here anymore, is there?” She washed her hands with rough soap in the basin on the dresser next to the bed, put on her gloves, quickly kissed her daughter on her damp forehead, harrumphed at the tiny baby boy and went downstairs. As she put on her coat, she told Abe Miller, who was waiting with a cigar in one hand and a beer in the other, that his wife had given him another boy, and that she was fine, and he should go on upstairs but be ready for a surprise—and no thank you, she didn’t care to spend the night at their house, she was perfectly capable of walking home by herself or catching a trolley.

Abe bent down to look at the baby. His cigar fell out of his mouth. The baby blanket quickly smoldered until he tamped it out.

Malkin came by the next morning, expecting to find the teensy baby dead in its crib, but there it was, alive and kicking, nursing and crying and eliminating like any other newborn, albeit in miniscule quantities. He asked after Irene as well, who happily reported that she felt so good, she was ready to go down to Rooney’s for a ham sandwich and a bottle of lager.

Posted in authors, characters, children, conflict, fiction, love, parents, WFWA, writers

Toot, Toot, Yes I am tooting my own horn

My book, ACCIDENT, is available in print copy at Outskirts Press. From Outskirts, price is $12.56. It wiill also be available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon for $13.95 but not showing up on those sites yet. I am soooo excited.
You can also order the e-version on Amazon for $2.99 at
Photo:</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><p>My book, ACCIDENT, is available in print copy at Outskirts Press. From Outskirts, price is $12.56. Will also be available on Barnes & Noble and Amazon for $13.95 but not showing up on those sites yet.

When soccer-mom, Susan Jennings is convicted of vehicular homicide, she is destined to spend the next ten years in a prison. Her seven-year-old son is dead and her teenage daughter is left without a mother – and her left leg. She must find a way to survive the dangerous prison world while trying to win her daughter’s forgiveness. When she discovers that the handsome and charismatic pastor of their church is pursuing her daughter, Susan must face her fears in order to be granted an early parole and save Deanna from the same fate that caused her own downward spiral into alcoholism.

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, love, writers

Women’s Fiction is not for sissies

People have such preconceived ideas of who women’s fiction writers are and what exactly is women’s fiction. I am so pleased to have Travis Erwin with us today on Author Interview Friday. Tell us a little about yourself.

“I’m a native Texan and despite the ever-present gale force winds here in The Panhandle, I can’t imagine living anyplace else. Long before I figured out that I wanted to be writer, I was an avid reader. I write lots of different things but mostly humor and Women’s fiction. Yes, I know it’s a little weird for a six-foot-five, two-hundred, and too-many-pounds man to write “girly stuff” but what can I do? I have to write the stories that fill my head. I’m obligated to be the voice for the characters that speak to me, because they’re not going to shut up either way, and at least on paper I can act like they exist for a reason. Otherwise, I’m just a guy with multiple personalities.”

Travis Erwin photo
Travis Erwin

Joanne: What would the “logline” of your novel be?

Travis: A tarnished name and a bitter heart.

That’s all Angela Ross took when she fled Texas fifteen years ago as a teenager. Now, she’s back to take care of her grandmother’s estate. But in a town like Grand, where reputation means much more than the truth, some sins are never forgotten much less forgiven.

Joanne: Wow, that will  leave me wanting more for sure. Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Travis: I took a writing class taught by RWA Hall of Famer Jodi Thomas, mostly because I thought it would be fun. She liked my voice and encouraged me to pursue publication. I learned a lot in the class but I think it was her enthusiasm for my work that really prompted me to chase the dream. Having someone who was so successful in the business endorse me validated a dream I wasn’t even ready to admit I had at the time.

Joanne: What was your first published book?

Travis: The Feedstore Chronicles was my first published book but it kind of came out by accident. It started as a series of blog posts about my teenage years. My eventual publisher read them and encouraged me to create a book. What I created is a comedic coming-of-age memoir vastly different from the Women’s Fiction I normally write.

Joanne:  Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?

Travis: My publisher is a small Indie Press, TAG Publishing LLC. I have known the ladies who founded it for years. Truth be told I was reluctant to sign that first contract since I’d always had the agent big NY house dream. I chased that for a long time and did eventually land an agent, but turns out the two of us had vastly different visions for both my career and the book I signed for so we parted ways and not five minutes later my friend from TAG called me and said, “When are we going to get that Feedstore book out?” I took it as a sign and it has worked out great.

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

Travis: Right from the start people have talked about my voice being my strongest asset. For a while I thought they meant my actually speaking voice and thought, What the heck does that have to do with my writing? Eventually I understood it meant how I phrase things, how I structure my stories, how I tell a tale. I’ve always been the kind of guy to tell stories whether I was gathered around a campfire, sitting atop a bar stool, or standing around the BBQ grill. So I think my voice is impacted from all that oral storytelling. I am without a doubt a storyteller first and a writer second.

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

Travis: I don’t outline. I start with a character and a, What if. The hardest part is marketing. The after. From querying to even after the book is published. The, Hey I wrote a book, look for it and buy it. I use social media to interact. You of course have to toss out links and plugs, but I try to disguise these pitches when I can by making the posts entertaining in their own right.

Joanne: What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Travis: Write it. Don’t worry about all the business side. The improbabilities, the idea of marketing, building a fan base or any of that crap. Write the book. You are going to have time for all that other stuff, but so many new writers never seem to finish anything. They start this book then decide it’s not right for the market or is too much like some other book, or that they can do better on the next one. So they start a new book and then the same thing happens. You have to finish a book before you can publish a book.

Joanne: What inspires you to keep writing when you’re feeling down or less confident than usual?

Travis: Writing is tough. One of my colleagues once said. If you can just quit you probably should. I have given thought to quitting but if I go more than a few days without writing I feel this undeniable urge to spill forth on the page. When I’m not feeling confidant I just keep writing. Not all writing session are good ones but I think the only way to get back on track is to keep moving forward.

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

Travis: Twisted Roads is set in the small town of Grand, Texas. At its heart it is the story of two women. One who has always gotten everything she wanted, or at least thought she wanted. And one who has lost everything she ever wanted. It is a book about how we can become a slave to our own image if that is all we care about. It is a story about redemption, about starting over.

If you can, please share a few paragraphs from your book to wet out appetite

Twisted Roads

Dusk bathed the living room in pools of violet shadows. Angela sat up and rubbed her swollen, red-rimmed eyes. Physically spent from the long drive, and emotionally drained from her homecoming, she’d collapsed onto the couch and cried herself to sleep the moment she entered the old home. Now the sun dipped below the horizon and the resulting dimness matched her mood.

Rising to her feet, she moved around the room. The scent of mothballs and mentholatum permeated the house. The floor creaked underneath as she struggled against the urge to weep again. Everywhere she turned, sights and smells kindled recollections of the past. The place seemed untouched since her departure. White lace curtains still dangled in the windows. The collection of commemorative plates hung on the walls. The same floral print furniture filled the sitting room, as if she’d been gone only a day or two, instead of sixteen years.

Part of her was glad nothing had changed. She would have felt like an intruder had the house undergone a major metamorphosis. Nevertheless, the realization her grandmother’s life had remained stagnant pained Angela.

She paused at the foot of the stairs. Pictures lined the paneling all the way up to the bedrooms. A gold frame holding a black and white of her grandparents on their wedding day, followed by images of Angela’s father as a toddler. Then her own parents’ wedding. The wall served as both a visual timeline and withering family tree.

Halfway up, Angela stopped to stare at the proof of her entry into the world. Her dad grinned down at her tiny pink face. Her mother’s face awash with maternal pride. Angela bit her lip. She, and possibly her mother, were the only people still alive.

Angela reached out and grabbed a loose photo tucked into the corner of a frame. It was a small picture taken on her first day of school. Angela stared at the image. She sat atop her father’s shoulders, a pair of pigtails the color of a newborn chick hung on both sides of her face.

That day was one of her earliest and fondest memories. Perched high in the air, she felt like a princess as her family marched the three blocks to the school house. At that time, she’d still had a mommy and a daddy who loved her. Riding on his shoulders was like riding on a carriage of love, stability, and dreams. Back then it seemed as if nothing could ever go wrong.

Even as she stood outside Stephen F. Austin elementary school, afraid to go in, things had worked out. She first met Misty on that sidewalk. They walked in together, beginning a decade long friendship which remained the truest and best of Angela’s life. Until she screwed it up.

The old adage “You can never go home again” finally made sense to Angela.

Even if she wanted to stay, the townspeople would never allow it. Shelly and Charlene’s words at the funeral proved as much. They’d barely tolerated her when she dwelled here as one of them, and she’d transformed into an outsider the instant she hiked over to the highway and stuck her thumb in the air.

Angela took the photo with her and moved upstairs to her old room.

She was ill-prepared for what she found. Her old clothes still hung in the closet. Her posters still lined the wall. The crumpled sheets on the bed appeared to be in the exact position she left them. Her heart thumped at the sight of the slip of paper on the dresser. She did not need to pick up the hastily scribbled words to recall the message.

I’m leaving and I won’t be back.

Buy Travis’ book today by clicking on the link below.  Thank you Travis for putting a smile on my face today. I love this story already.

Amazon link