The Ghosted Bridge by Kristy Abbott

Kristy Abbott pic

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

I’ve always had the desire to write.  I composed my first book in the second grade.

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

I have an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in Journalism and a Master of Professional Writing Fiction also from USC.  I am a working online content writer specializing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) content (such as blogs, website copy, social media messaging and eBooks) for companies in a wide variety of industries.

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

From start to finish 4 years.

Do you always write in the same genre?

Ha Ha!  No.  My first book was a novel – a ghost story set against the backdrop of Minnesota’s I35W Bridge collapse in 2007.  My second which has just debuted is a children’s picture book about a homeless cat searching for a name and a forever family – opposite ends of the spectrum!

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?

The Ghosted Bridge shows up on a number of shelves. Paranormal, fiction, I’ve even seen it in fantasy. Of course in Minnesota it also appears on local author shelves. You can even find it at the USC bookstore in the Alumni Authors section.
For Finding Home you’ll hopefully find it cover front out on a shelf in the Children’s section surrounded by loads of happy kids sitting on the floor with the book in their laps!”

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

Yes, both of my books were published by a small regional press.  I did many query letters to agents and publishing houses to no avail.  This publisher – North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc. – was looking specifically for Minnesota topics and Minnesota authors.  I scored on both fronts for both books.

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

I did try to change one of my books from 3rd person to 1st person after I read Angela’s Ashes but it didn’t work for my story.

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

I think the topic of Voice is quite interesting.  The main thing I know is that my writing voice is sometimes quite different from my out loud voice.  For me the writing lets the real Kristy Abbott come out to play without judgment.

Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s?

I actually write the type of structure I like to read and that means shifting back and forth between characters as the story progresses.  This includes jumping back and forth in time because I like to explore generational themes – i.e., the ghost in my book is actually the relative of someone living and both story lines happen concurrently. 

I purposely used this tactic to build suspense in The Ghosted Bridge and actually sped up the pacing of the character shifts to heighten the reader’s captivation as I got closer to the climax. I think it worked quite well.  Nearly every reader I’ve talked with brings that up and says, “You captured me.  I couldn’t put it down.”  I’m happy to have contributed to some sleepless nights!

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

A few things were difficult, the query process is very disheartening.  You feel like your work doesn’t warrant an agent or publisher’s interest when you send dozens of letters out without feedback.  However, I have learned that there are LOTS of small publishing houses that are looking for niche books so I don’t feel discouraged anymore.  I’d tell any hopeful writer to acquaint themselves with publishers who might be interested in your theme or subject.

I also found it challenging to make my characters believable.  It’s easy to have a strong picture of them when they live in your head but you’ve got to make them solid for readers, too.  My main character in The Ghosted Bridge is a psychic and I had to really believe that she had these gifts to make her real.  Interestingly, the psychic goes through the book questioning her own abilities and is validated at the end. 

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?

Well this is the biggest thing I’ve learned about having a book published.  It doesn’t matter who you are, when you become an author, the hard work is just beginning.  I wrote a post on my blog called, Get out Of Your Longsuffering Writer’s Chair, You Are an Author Now, about the transition from being a writer to being an author.  The writer is the artist who creates the work, the author is the marketer who sells it. 

Today’s authors have to be committed to a nearly full-time effort toward marketing.  You’ve got to have a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Goodreads and Amazon profile, and a big email list.  I am good at some things and not so much at others but I’m doing everything I can think of – including getting television, radio and print interviews to get the word out about my books.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I think I am a combination.  In terms of marketing, I go in stints and try to stay committed for the long haul.  In terms of writing, I let the story come out when it wants to.

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

I say allow the story to be born without judgment.  I have author friends who write a few pages, maybe a chapter and then they go back and edit it before moving forward.  I feel like this completely stalls my process.  I don’t allow the editing policeman in the room until I’m pretty sure the characters are done telling their tale.

What is the biggest thing you didn’t know about being an author?

I never realized how terrifying it can be to do a book signing with the prospect of no one showing up.  We’ve all had to do events at independent book stores or Barnes & Nobles never knowing if the advanced preparation of getting the word out worked.  On those days it didn’t it can be discouraging but as an author you can’t let that derail you.

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

I’m encouraging people to check out both of my books.  My novel, The Ghosted Bridge, is a fun paranormal mystery for adults.  The children’s book, Finding Home, is the heartwarming tale of second chances for lucky creatures for kids of all ages.

Ghosted Bridge Cover_The Ghosted Bridge Layout 1

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

Attached chapter from The Ghosted Bridge.  In these paragraphs, Sedona psychic Madison Morgan is visited by a mysterious ghost for the first time, setting off a search to determine who the ghost is and what she’s trying to communicate.

 

Madison didn’t notice it at first.  The psychic was having so many readings a day that her tablet pages covered with numbers were filling up fast.  She made a note to go to the office supply store and get another.  She looked at her watch and then contemplated the rest of the day, one more reading, and then off to yoga at 5:30.  The phone rang.

“Yup, I’m coming.”  She told the perpetually crabby Miriam.  As she trotted down the stairs she realized that the heaviness that had been hanging around her had lifted a bit.  Mercury was leaving retrograde, she guessed.

Fifteen minutes later she was just warming up her new client (an eight of diamonds – business expertise extraordinaire) in a session on opportunities coming down the pike, when a peculiar vibration filled the room.  Immediately, Madison’s hands went cold and her hair stood on end, but she was so intent on the young woman in front of her that for a minute, she didn’t even see the older woman standing in the corner.  With the ghost’s entrance, she got a stronger shiver that told her someone from the other side was about and she lifted her eyes to meet the measured grey stare from the woman by the door.

“Holy shit,” Madison squeaked.

“What?”  The young woman sat up straight in her chair.

“Nothing, just, just…shut up for a minute.”

The girl sat back quickly with a look of shock.

Madison turned her attention to the woman in the corner.  She looked older and was dressed in a plain pastel dress.  The woman’s skin shimmered as her visible molecules filled the space where she stood.  Madison sat fascinated.  She knew from experience that these people didn’t typically speak in words. In fact, they rarely made themselves seen.   They used pictures instead.  This woman’s ability to crystallize impressed her.

The ghost stood in the corner silently.  Madison realized that this amount of energy was a huge effort.  She whispered softly to the woman.

“You have a word for this girl?”  Madison pointed at the silent girl whose face still registered confusion.  The girl looked over her left shoulder.  Seeing nothing, she looked back to Madison, eyes wider than before.

The woman gave no trace of response.  Madison tried again.  “You need something from this girl?”  The woman’s quiet presence entranced her.

“Is your mother still alive?”  Madison asked the girl quietly.

“Yes.”

“Grandmothers?”

“Yes.”  The girl was brimming with prickling curiosity.  “Is there somebody here?”

Of course there is somebody here, Madison’s internal dialog snapped.  What are you an idiot?  Do you think I’m making this up?  But the voice that left her lips was soft and gentle.  “Yes, we have a visitor here.  Do you know an older woman who has passed?”

The girl brought a ragged fingernail to her mouth and began furiously chewing.

Madison breathed deeply and spoke from inside herself.  “Who are you here for?”  It seemed as though the presence would not respond but then ever so faintly, the woman moved her head slightly toward the door.  It was a subtle gesture but one that effectively told Madison this visitor wasn’t attached to the girl in the chair.

“I can’t think of…I don’t really know anybody….”

“That’s ok.” Madison cut her off.  “Just remember it.  Maybe it will come to you later.”

“Oh, ok.”

Madison looked back at the door.  The corner was empty.  She felt unbearably tired all of a sudden.  This typically happened when spirits spent that much effort to connect with her.  It was as if they tapped her energy to create a link.  She felt the weariness settle about her shoulders.  She passed her hand across her face and turned her attention back to the reading. A familiar tingle rose behind her eyes.  The sensation was a sign she’d get when she realized a heightened sensory connection.  She hadn’t felt this way in a long time.  It took nearly all her concentration to finish the reading.

 

Thank you, Kristy, for being one Writing Under Fire’s Author Interview Friday.  Where can readers go to buy your books?

My website: www.KristyAbbott.com where you can read more about me, purchase my books and leave comments. I encourage you to check it out.

 

 

 

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9 Ways Dating Has Changed In The Thirty Years I Have Been Away

candy 2013

Candy Cooper McDowall

This is a Facebook post from my daughter that I wish to share with you (with her permission).  I am sure you will love it as much as I did. No author/writer lessons here today or  Author Interview. But I think you will find some wisdom and humor.

posted August 22, 2014 at 4:51pm

When I was a teenager, my father told me I was not allowed to date until I was 16. Yes, you read that right. 16. That’s not to say I didn’t hit the occasional basketball game with a “friend” or double-date for the movies (that we walked to). But for a legitimate date, one that involved alone time between me and A BOY, I had to wait until that magical age of teen maturity. Sweet 16.

I remember pretty distinctly sitting at the dinner table telling my dad that I had been asked out for my first date, and having to ask his permission to go. He tried to be funny. He failed. I will leave the out the details.

However, this was 1982 or thereabouts. There were rules. Some of them were imposed by my dad. Some were just, you know, how it was done. But there were guidelines we pretty much all knew ahead of time. It never occurred to me they might be variable. They just… were. Which, I suppose, was fairly naïve considering dating in the 8Os was not very much like dating in the 50s, which is equally not like dating in the 20s. Still, these were the times I knew, along with the rest of my contemporaries. We were trying to act all grownup in our awkward bodies with our rampant hormones and having no idea what we were doing, guessing at societal norms in order to know how to proceed. Whether we followed them or not is not the point. They were there.

Fast forward 30 years…or so…

Stepping back out into the world of dating as a single woman in her 40s, with almost grown children watching, has been daunting. I’ve changed. The world has changed. But the one thing I did not expect is that DATING HAS CHANGED. Caught me totally off guard with that one.

I was scared enough as it is, with my previously unscarred heart now battered and slightly bruised. But at least, I thought, this time I had experience. This time, I knew what was coming. This time, I am all grown up in my not-too-shabby-for-my-age body, possibly with some raging hormones (which are likely menopausal), having some idea of what I am doing, because this time I KNOW the societal norms that tell me how to proceed. Whether I follow them or not is not the point. THIS TIME at least I know the rules.

Hah. Ahaha. Ahahahahahahaha!  WRONG.

I give you…online dating.

If you had said the words “online dating”  in the 80s we would have wondered what laundry had to do with your love life.

And so at this time, I would like to enumerate for you lucky souls who are NOT negotiating this newly-laid digital landmine, or maybe those of you who are jumping into those waters again, what is it like to be a teenager of the 80s dating in this new millenium. For those of you already doing it, high five for bravery.

80s Rule #1 – If a boy asks you out, he probably likes you.

I mean, he had to get up the nerve, look you in the eye (or write you a note), get made fun of by his friends, and then wait nervously for you to say yes. You don’t do all that for somebody you aren’t really interested in. It’s too nerve-wracking.

2014 Version – If you see a picture of someone you find interesting, and he sees yours, you might start a conversation. You will probably be emailing or texting for awhile. This might lead him to ask if you possibly want to get coffee or something. Maybe. He might just flirt. Or be cautiously distant so that you aren’t sure if he is interested or just bored from sitting home alone. And then right about the time YOU are ready to ask HIM if he wants to get coffee or something, because, you know, you are a modern confident woman and he already said he likes coffee, he will suddenly disappear and delete his profile. Likely in the middle of the conversation you were having and probably right after he just asked you out for that coffee.

80s Rule #2 – Your date must pick you up at the door.

There was no way in hell my father was going to miss out on the chance to terrorize any potential suitor of mine, even while being polite. I think it was the smile that threw them off. The anticipation of meeting The Father was likely much worse than the experience of meeting The Father himself.

2014 Version – Your date must not know where you live for a very long time.

It’s very possible you don’t have a good idea of what your date really looks like, since those pics he uploaded were from when he still had hair. (Side note: Beware the naked bathroom selfie. That would have gotten you arrested in 1982.) And since you are a single woman now, probably alone in the house in the primping hours prior to any first date, for safety’s sake, a new guy can’t get within 100 yards of you without a room full of caffeinated strangers, who may or may not be looking up when you walk in, but could at least call 911 if they heard screaming.

80s Rule #3 – Your date pays for dinner.

His dad probably slipped him a 20 on the way out the door, and reminded him to tip the waiter.

2014 Version – You get there early enough to buy your own coffee so there is no awkward reaching for your wallet as he reaches for his, not knowing if he really wants to buy your coffee or just feels socially obligated. Or he buys his own coffee and leaves you standing there feeling like a dolt for assuming those were together.

80s Rule #4 – If it is a nice date, he might ask you out again before the night is over.

I mean, you like each other. It was fun. Why not?

2014 Version – If it is a nice date, he will likely wait until he gets home, and then text or email you a day or two (or 5) later to see if you would like to go out again.

I had a guy say to me in all honesty, “I never ask a woman out for a second date while we are still on the first date, because then it avoids the whole awkward refusal thing.” Because truthfully, the chance of being turned down for the second date is much higher when you don’t know each other to begin with. I can’t exactly fault the guy. So you might be waiting for awhile for that second request. Or it might not be coming at all. Hard to say.

80s Rule #5 – If it is a nice date, there might be a goodnight kiss.

There might not, if one or both of you is shy. But there was little chance of more happening on that first date than a bit of awkward groping in the driveway. Not to say that more wouldn’t happen later, but much first date action was unlikely.

2014 Version – You have to state in writing on a public forum whether or not you are willing to have sex on a first date.

I wish I was joking.

80s Rule #6 – Once you are a couple, it is ok to slide across the bench seat and sit next to him while he is driving.

2014 Version – First, you probably aren’t even in his car for awhile. See Rule #2. But if you have made it that far, the bench seat is long gone. The best you can do is try to hold hands over the console between the bucket seats and hope you don’t lose feeling in your wrist.

80s Rule #7 – If your friends like him, he’s probably ok.

2014 Version – If he’s ok, your friends might like him. But not necessarily.

80s Rule #8 – If things don’t work out, there is probably an emotional breakup in person, but if he’s a real heel, it might be over the phone.

But if he did that.. COWARD! Couldn’t even look you in the eye. (spit) And then all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.

2014 Version – If things don’t work out, a text message is a convenient and efficient way to get out of a potential relationship without having to bear witness to the other person’s heart breaking right in front of you.

But then, all your friends and family get to say mean things about him, and he wasn’t worth your time anyway.

Some things don’t change that much at all.

80s Rule #9 – If it all goes well, you gaze happily into each other’s eyes, put your picture in the newspaper, and start planning that over-the-top wedding with the giant cake and people from your dad’s office you’ve never met.

2014 Version – If all goes well, you slowly introduce each other to your respective children, quietly move in together one dresser drawer at a time, and maybe sneak off in a private little ceremony to tie the knot at some point. But not necessarily. Let’s not move too fast here.

Wish me luck. At least now I know the rules.

Candy Cooper McDowall ©2014

 

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.

 

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: http://www.amazon.com/The-Leap-Year-Marc-Simon/dp/0615802907/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1375201891&sr=1-1

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.

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

Preparing Your Home for Sale

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One of the hardest things for a seller to do is to transform the home that they have taken years building full of treasures, keepsakes and memories and change it into a product.

When Tommy fell and chipped his tooth on that cracked floor tile, that tile became a memory, not a faulty piece of flooring. When Suzie colored on the guest bathroom wall, that wall became a shrine to the little girl that is now in Kuwait with the Peace Corps. The love of our families can put blinders on our home. We only see the memories, not the flaws. Remember, those chipped tiles and crayon colored walls are not endearing to buyers, they represent work. Buyers need to build their own memories and your things only clutter their mind and get in the way of visualizing living in the home.

A buyer must be able to envision themselves living there before they will ever make an offer. As a Realtor® for 24 years, I recognize the body language of buyers. If they sit down, they are trying to picture themselves sitting there, looking out the window, entertaining their friends or relaxing from a stressful day at work. Women especially, but not exclusively, will wander about the kitchen opening cabinets, gazing into the pantry or the sink. They are not looking at your dishes. They are picturing their own things behind those doors.

Keep in mind that if you spent $500 ten years ago to upgrade an appliance, time might have flown by for you and you think of that refrigerator as new – your buyer thinks it is OLD. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a seller say to me, “but I just replaced that”, but when I pressed for a date, it was 5, 10 maybe even 20 years ago. Every single upgrade in your home loses value beginning the very first day. Just like a brand new car, the minute you drive it off the lot, it begins to depreciate. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades hold their value the best, but only if they are current to the style of today. Yes, homes follow trends and fashions just like your clothes and cars.

If you are serious about selling your home, here are some “Must do’s”. Not only will it get you’re an offer faster, but statically, it will bring you a higher dollar.

  1. Most important – De-clutter. Your things are not going to get into your new place by osmosis. At some point you need to box them up anyway. Do it now. Box up as much as you possibly can, not just the obvious winter clothes in the summer, etc. Remove all knick-knacks. Take down family photos (Buyers need to visualize their family, not yours) Less is more. Keep boxing until the house looks empty and cold to you. You are almost there. Just a few more dozen boxes.  Now, store those boxes somewhere else. Rent a storage unit or rent a P.O.D, but get them out of the house.
  2. Fix those items you have been meaning to get to for years, the chipped tile, the crayon painted wall. Fresh paint can go a long way. Keep it neutral, but not white. Taupe or beiges, or soft greys are best with either fresh white baseboards or natural woods.
  3. Clean until every corner shines and don’t forget those windows. You may think that is obvious but I have been in literally hundreds of homes that were so filthy it was an embarrassment for my buyers and myself.
  4. Paint the front door. First impressions speak a million words. If they don’t think the house is well maintained at the entrance, they won’t believe it inside either.
  5. Add a pop of color to the front yard. Buy some live flowers that are in bloom for that time of the year. Even in the dead of winter, you can add some potted red poinsettias or bright green holly with red berries.
  6. If you have a yard, make sure it is at its very best, grass mowed and weeds pulled. Fresh mulch goes a long way to make a front and back yard shine. If you are in a condo, add a new front door mat and hang a colorful wreath on the door.
  7. Visit a model home. Even if you can’t put top of the line new furniture in your home, the one thing you will notice in the model is the minimalism. They don’t do that because they don’t want to spend money on furniture. They do it to make rooms look larger.
  8. Replace all light bulbs in your home with a higher wattage light. And remember to turn on every single light in the house during a showing. Even in the middle of the afternoon.
  9. Once you have the home on the market, never be there for showings. Let the Realtor® do his job. A buyer will feel uncomfortable sitting down or opening cabinets if you are there. But that is what you want them to do.
  10. Make sure your house smells clean and fresh. Use plug-in air fresheners but don’t overdo it where someone will think you are trying to cover a bad smell.
  11. If you have kept a notebook of warranties on appliances or service on the air conditioner or furnace etc., leave it out on the counter for the buyers to look through. They probably won’t spend much time actually going through it, but it leaves the impression with them that you have always maintained the home, not just put a Band-Aid on it to sell.
  12. Understand that the best real estate transaction is one where both sides win. The sellers deserve to get a fair price, but so do the buyers. If you are realistic on your price and negotiate with the buyer on price and terms, when that glitch pops up (which very often does), your buyers will be much more willing to work with you to resolve the issue.

For all your real estate needs, anywhere, let me help. If you don’t live in SW Florida, let me refer you to an expert in your town or community. I will do the research to make you get a professional experienced in the type of property you are buying or selling.

Joanne Tailele, Realtor

ERA Flagship Real Estate, Marco Island FL

www.joannesellsmarco.com