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The sequel to Gateways is finally here! To celebrate this release, I’m answering some of the more common questions readers ask.

front cover Elder's Circle

What is your book about?

Picking up right where Gateways, Book I of The Elemental Chronicles left off, Victoria believes that she’ll be home tomorrow. After all, she defeated Ona, the mage who killed her father, and essentially saved the world. Or did she? Ona may be gone, but her followers are not. While they try to track her down, trouble brews in the Sphinx City where Elder Parnassus has been stripped of his elder-ship and the political atmosphere is tense, made worse by rivers turning to blood, fly infestations, and a plague of frogs that defile the city. Parnassus knows that the Mage Societies most valued possession – Faith – is at risk. But without Victoria to help, his hands…um, paws are tied.

Who would enjoy this book?

I wrote this for young adults, but students from sixth grade and up will enjoy it. It’s a fantasy, so obviously if you prefer a realistic story, this might be a stretch. The Elder’s Circle continues the adventure that Victoria Nike has found herself in–this episode takes her to other terraces and introduces more of the backstory that was hinted at in Gateways.

“The Chronicles inhabit a very rich and detailed universe filled with beautiful and poetic writing. With echoes of The Hunger Games and more fairytale-like stories such as The Magic Brush, the books weave Christian fiction ideals with adventure and magic for young adults.”  – Cate Baum, Self-Publishing Review

From where did the idea of this story come?

I always appreciate this question. It tells me that people are aware that the stories are not only crafted, but searched for, found, given inspiration, then fine-tuned. I especially appreciate it when students ask this question. I can always identify the budding writers in the group based on this question.

In answer, the idea for the first book in The Elemental Chronicles, Gateways, came to me when I was nine.  I had a dream that I found a secret city hidden between the walls of our house. It was such a detailed dream that it consumed my thoughts for weeks. That led to my fascination with miniatures–little doll houses, tiny reading nooks, even miniature books. The idea that there could be a different reality hidden in plain sight stayed with me. Gateways Mockup

Fast forward a good many years…I read Philip Pulman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. I was appalled to discover that he wrote those books with the express purpose of turning today’s youth away from God. As an acclaimed Atheist, he saw it as his duty to pull as many teens as possible away from the goodness of God, the teachings of faith and morality, and leave them with the idea that God is dead and we must become our own gods. That seems to be a growing belief in our society, but it leads to the total destruction of our world. That’s a strong opinion, I know. But I firmly believe that there is a right and a wrong and I go to my faith when I question a choice or need to make a decision.

I was shocked to learn that someone would want to turn people away from Truth, that I decided to do the same…if Pulman’s books were designed to draw young minds away from God, then my writing would bring them back. Without preaching, but with the promise of God and His eternal plan for our happiness, I am writing The Elemental Chronicles. The Elder’s Circle is the second installment in that series. A third book is coming.

You haven’t written on this blog much lately. What’s up with that?

You noticed that, huh? Much has happened in the last seven months. My husband and I have moved our four children from the city to the country. Until our house is built, we are living in a tiny house, made more tiny by the fact that we down-sized quite a bit to make this move possible and we still are homeschooling – our dining room table is in the family room. We do like to sit together when we eat, so the table needs to be constantly cleared off. More often than not, we simply stack our school books on the floor or on the center of the table during meals.

books

To add to the challenges of being a writer who is supposed to work at marketing her own work, we don’t have internet. That’s how out-in-the-country we are! I’m sitting at the local library right now, my new favorite place. I come here once a week to use their internet access and try to catch up with the world.

A surprising benefit to not having internet at home is how much more I can accomplish in writing, reading and homeschooling without the ease of distraction. Unplugging from the World Wide Web was probably one of the best things I’ve done since cancelling cable T.V. six years ago.

What’s next?

Outside of working on book III for The Elemental Chronicles, I’m polishing two other manuscripts for submission to publishers, waiting for my house to be built, and preparing for several speaking engagements I have this winter.

I pray that what’s next for you is a trip through a painting with Victoria!

God Bless!

Jessica

 

 

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There was a day in my past when I truly believed that I needed to know how to do everything. And then I became a mom. I realized I knew nothing.

Nadda.

No thing.

I wish I had read Deliver Me: Confessions of Motherhood, a compilation of essays edited by Laura Diamond. Mothers are a species unto their own. Stories of labor and delivery are bonds of friendships – those personal battlefields of brining forth life when we struggle against the pain to receive the joy of motherhood. And the pain doesn’t stop there… as I’m typing this, there is a four-year-old loudly singing as he rifles through the box of Legos for just the right piece. In the background, my three daughters are all practicing their instruments. And now the dog is barking. As much as I would like to run screaming from the house, I also know that these days are short and precious. There will be a day when my house is too quiet and I will crave this chaos. I wish I could bottle up this noise so I can savor it on a day when I would truly appreciate it.

Laura Diamond understands this. Deliver Me is just the beginning. This girl is going places! Watch for her name. This might be the first time you hear of her, but it certainly won’t be the last!

51LAfX88+dL._AA160_

 

  1. Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood is one of those books that make the reader laugh and cry. What was the inspiration behind the project?

 

The inspirations for this project were my two little boys, and the talented writers of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective.

As a stay-home mom with two little boys, I yearned for a creative outlet. I wanted to make something, other than sandwiches. I was lucky to be in a writing class with members of the L.A. Poets & Writers Collective, taught by the poet Jack Grapes. Every week in class, students read from our most recent work. And every week I was blown away by what I heard. Some writers, like me, wrote about parenthood. I thought, why not put some of these together to capture many voices on the same life-changing experience of parenthood. I put out a call for submissions, and the stories started coming in. I chose two of my own pieces, and selected work from nineteen other women to create this anthology.

Headshot, hi res

 

  1. I noticed on your blog that you list (and presumably support) several non-profit organizations that help women and the disadvantaged – One Billion Rising, Kiva.org, and A Window Between Worlds – to name just the first three listed. How are you involved with these organizations? What is it that drew you to include them on your blog? What is the ‘Call to Action’ you hope for from your blog readers?

Growing up, social action was part of our family’s life and values. My parents were always involved in politics, and that naturally became part of my world view. In Judaism, “Tikkun Olam,” or healing the world, is central.

I thought that a blog about motherhood should highlight organizations that help women and girls. I chose organizations that I have personally donated to because of their mission and their effectiveness. One Billion Rising, for example, is a multinational movement started by the playwright Eve Ensler, focused on ending violence against women worldwide. A Window Between Worlds, brings art therapy to women and families in Los Angeles who have suffered domestic violence. Kiva.org makes microloans to women in developing countries, so that they can start small businesses. Evidence shows that when women thrive, their families and villages benefit.

The organization I am most committed to is PATH Beyond Shelter, which is dedicated to helping homeless families get back into permanent housing, find employment, and rebuild their lives. Every mother should have a place to tuck in her children at night, no exceptions. I joined their Board when my younger son was one year old, after I had met a homeless woman with a child his age. Over $2,000 in proceeds from sales of Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood has been donated to Beyond Shelter. Also, my forthcoming novel, Shelter Us, touches on the plight of homeless families.

 

  1. As the editor of a book dedicated to mothers, would you share one of your favorite stories from your own experience as a mother? (happy, sad, touching… you choose ;)

 

My mother-in-law says, Men tell war stories; women tell birth stories. Here’s one more.

Contrary to public perception, just because you’re nine months pregnant doesn’t mean you know the first thing about giving birth. Thank goodness the baby knows what to do. You just have to stay out of the way.

Still, when I was nine months pregnant with my second child, you might think I’d be well versed in the experience. Not so. Even though I had given birth once, I had no idea what it felt like to go into labor. I had been induced the first time. So it was with some bewilderment that I said to my husband one Sunday morning, the day before my due date, “I feel…funny.”

“Are you in labor?”

“How should I know?”

So we went on with our day, taking our 3 ½ -year-old son to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, with its ponies and live music and, of course, farmers. An hour later, I felt “funny” every twenty minutes.

“I think we should go home,” I said.

“Can I have ice cream?” our son said.

“Sure,” my husband said, prompted by guilt over bringing a new baby into our family, as well as by a hankering for Phish Food.

They sat in Ben & Jerry’s enjoying their cones. I paced outside. I felt like an octopus was inside me, pressing on all my parts and levers, seeing how things worked. I had to keep moving to stay a step ahead of it.

When we got home, I called my parents who lived nearby to let them know it was time for them to come over. They came, as did my sister and nieces. They were all there to care for and play with our little boy so we could scoot out to the hospital to give him a brother.

As we said our excited good-byes, my little boy had these parting words: “Mommy, play with me.” He sat on the hardwood floor surrounded by wooden Thomas-style trains, with dozens of track pieces spilled around him. That wood floor had never looked so hard and unwelcoming. “Play with me?” he asked again. How could I say no to this child who I loved more than anything in the world, who would soon be second fiddle to a needy newborn?

My husband stood at the door holding my bag. My parents, concerned for their own baby, said, “Go on, we got this covered.” I looked from them to him. The sweet green eyes, the crown of brown ringlets – how to resist? I wobbled over, sat down on the unforgiving floor, and played trains until the next contraction lifted me off my feet and out the door.

 

  1. What kinds of marketing techniques have you implemented? What has worked…what hasn’t?

 

Book readings! These are the most fun, and when you have 20 authors in one book, each has a long list of friends to invite to different venues. It’s important to only go places where you know you have enough friends or family to show up. I approached independent bookstores in cities where I have lots of family and friends, and they were all welcoming. I used direct e-mail to get people to come, as well as some giveaways.

 

  1. Your bio on your blog mentions that you didn’t enter the world of adulthood seeking a career as a writer, but have always kept a journal. I have two questions: First, what drew you to keep a journal? Second, what led you to writing? (was it a hobby or did you start writing with a mission in mind?)

 

My first journal was a Hello Kitty diary, in which I wrote about the daily travails of a fourth grader. I still have it. I was pretty funny. The next journal I had was a gift to me when I was 13, from one of my mom’s oldest friends. That marked the beginning of my adolescent journal-keeping, a practice that kept me sane and centered through high school and college. Writing in my journal was a way to sort out the tangled emotions of adolescence. To figure out who I was and what I wanted.

I loved the way I felt when I wrote, the way it awakened my senses and powers of observation, both to the outside world and my inner self. I kept writing a journal through law school and while practicing law, but never thought of it as something more than a hobby.

When my first son was 2 ½ years old, I decided to pause my law career. I realized with excitement that maybe that would also give me more time to write. I wrote whatever was on my mind – which was a lot mom-stuff and kid-stuff and nap-stuff. Frankly, I was disappointed in myself. I thought I should be writing about something more substantial, more worldly. That is, until another writer, who was not a parent, told me that my writing brought them into a world totally unlike their own life. So I said, to heck with it, I’m a woman with two little kids, and this is what’s on my mind. I write what I write. And the rest of the book unfolded.

My muses came in human form, my two boys. Before they were born, I was a lawyer who had always liked writing. After they were born, I became a writer. I recently returned to practicing law, but I’ve kept writing. Now I do all the things I love: lawyer, writer, mother.

 

  1. What writing resources do you find valuable? (conferences, books, magazines, blogs?)

One of my current favorite websites/blogs is Writer Unboxed. Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird is a favorite, as are Carolyn See’s The Literary Life, Stephen King’s On Writing. One of my favorite writing resources is to read great writers.

 

  1. What snippet of wisdom – a quote or a saying your parents spoke frequently – would you like to share to inspire?

 

My parents didn’t speak aphorisms, unless you count “What am I, chopped liver?”

My Dad did often say to me and my sister when we were bickering about something silly, “Remember, girls, you are the only sister each of you will ever have. You will be sisters for the rest of your life.” He meant, you are family, you must value and support each other. She is one of my biggest supporters, and Writers need as much moral support as we can get. I now tell my own children, “Remember boys, you have one brother for the rest of your life,” to remind them to stick together and support each other.

My parents always made sure I knew that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. That didn’t mean it would be easy. But believing in yourself is necessary to stick with a project until you achieve it.

 

Upcoming Events:

My debut novel, Shelter Us, will be published in June 2015 by She Writes Press. I look forward to sharing more events then!

 

Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select Indie stores.

www.ConfessionsofMotherhood.com

Twitter @LauraDiamond1

 

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Ready for something fun? Sandra Bennett is it. Her book, Gingerbread Aliens, is wonderfully crafted to draw even the most reluctant reader into the literary world. I am thrilled to introduce to you, a great lady fro Down Under, Sandra Bennett!

Sandra Bennett

Your book, Gingerbread Aliens, had my son in a fit of giggles! He loved it. You clearly have a talent for sparking joy and laughter in the young at heart. Where does this wisdom come?

I have always felt laughter is the key to encourage children to develop a love of reading, so that makes me delighted when I hear that my book has tickled someone else’s sense of humour. Our own house has always been full of laughter and entertainment with my boys and all their friends. I notch up a lot of my ideas from the wonderful experiences they have all brought to my life. I believe it is being constantly surrounded by my family that has enriched my ideas and kept me young at heart. I also regard myself as lucky in that I taught Primary school children for many years, my favourites were always the Kindies and year ones. In that respect I always considered myself like a “mother hen,” all clucky, wanting to embrace and cherish them all. I began writing stories for them and about them in a bid to engage them in the learning to read process. Having also taught English as a Second Language and Literacy Assistance I have a strong belief that stories need to be easily relatable to children if you expect them to want to learn to read and that we only have a small window of time to turn them into life-long lovers of reading.

Cover Gingerbread Aliens

I was particularly impressed with the illustrations. Who is your illustrator? How did you connect?

Hayley Welsh was the illustrator for Gingerbread Aliens. She is a young artist living in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. At the time we were introduced she happened to be working for my husband on an oil and gas project. He saw some of her drawings and asked if she would be interested in reading my manuscript and the rest as they say, is history.

 What was your greatest moment in your writing career?

Two memorable moments come to mind quite quickly. Firstly, the moment I opened the email from The Australian National Eisteddfod requesting the use of Gingerbread Aliens in their 2013 Championship Section of Speech and Drama for Ten years and under, to when I was finally able to watch the performances of the children on stage reading from the book. I feel it was a great honour to watch the children perform exerts of my book. It gave me such delight to see they were obviously really enjoying themselves onstage reading my words, that truly was a great moment. The other great moment was the time when I arrived at a school for a book reading during book week to discover one of the students dressed up as my main character (David Bradberrie), complete with a cardboard cut out of a gingerbread alien and his copy of my book. It was such a lovely feeling to see that a reader had decided to choose one of my characters to dress up as instead of a more famous character.

 As an educator, what are the top three things you suggest to parents who have struggling or reluctant readers?

First and foremost relax! The more stressed you are, the more stressed they will be! All children learn to read at their own pace but with a little encouragement, motivation and time spent reading together they will eventually get there.

Find books that will pique their interest or curiosity. Provide a wide variety of genres, including non-fiction, magazines as well as science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, especially books that have great hooks at the end of each chapter and make then laugh so that they want to read more.

Play lots of word games with them, simple things like memory and scrabble to begin with. Even Karaoke on the console may seem like just a game, but as they sing along they are reading the words and having a whole lot of fun and learning along the way. Mix it up a lot but keep it interesting and fun. For an extensive list of ideas you can visit my blog “Raising Awesome Readers.” Here’s the link to two of my blogs to help get anyone in need started.

http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/the-awesome-value-of-picture-books.html  http://gingerbreadaliens.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/how-do-i-turn-pages-on-my-reluctant.html

Sean with his homemade Gingerbread Aliens

 

Describe your writing community, your typical day, what you do to enhance your writing output, editing, and revising.

I live out in the country amongst the kangaroos, native birds and other wildlife and I don’t drive a great deal these days so my writing community has to be online. I joined writing.com several years ago where I was encouraged to further my writing career when I won several competitions I entered and received amazing feedback from many other wonderful writers. It really is a great community to develop your skills, receive reviews and helpful hints. Through Linkedin and Facebook I have become friends with some other wonderful authors as well that continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm and motivation. This year I also joined another group of wonderful writers online that encourage one another with their writing, revising and editing through an author magic spreadsheet where we are encouraged to list our word count each day. It keeps track of your weekly and monthly output helping you to strive to stay on task. Authors can seek advice from each other and generally tend to be quite helpful. I usually try to squeeze in a couple of hours writing during the afternoon after taking care of the usual house hold routines, any work I may need to do for my husband’s company and chasing around after tradesmen working on the building of our home. (This is a long term project that is taking much longer than I ever anticipated.) I am also spending quite a bit of time away from home while my husband works in Darwin, I am hoping this will provide more opportunities for longer hours on my laptop without as many daily interruptions from home.

 

What recommendations do you have for other writers? (this can be a mention of a few books about writing, blogs, habits, conferences, frame of mind…)

Writing is like any craft it takes practice, lots of practice. I use to tell my students that it is ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them, writing is the same. Don’t worry too much about how a first draft reads, just write, you can always go back and edit later. The key is to get your ideas down on paper (or computer) fast, before you lose the thread of an idea. Too many of my students would worry about grammar and spelling and then stumble on the main idea or plot. It is more important to form good writing habits than to be concerned with perfection. Also read a lot. Whether you read books on how to write or you read books in your chosen genre you can still learn so much from studying other author’s techniques. Look for a style and flow that suits you, search for what you feel works or doesn’t work in a story. Observe their use of intrigue, adventure, chapter hooks, climaxes and resolutions but it is also important to take the time to develop and find your own voice. In fact I only recently read a great article on this subject, the link is below.

http://www.livewritethrive.com/2014/08/11/nailing-genre-by-studying-successful-authors/

Reading to an intrigued class

In the world of marketing, what habits have brought you success? How do you find readers?

In the world of children’s books most of my book sales have come from school visits. As a former teacher I have had the opportunity to be invited to do readings at various schools throughout Canberra where many of my former colleagues are still teaching. Once introduced to a class of students it doesn’t take long for them to become hooked readers. I have been planning to add to my blog a series of classroom activities to enhance the reading experience. Hopefully these will start to appear soon to build on the marketing through the use of my books within the classrooms. Word of mouth has always been good for me as well, parents spreading the word when their children enjoy the story. I encourage parents and children alike to write to me on my website or Facebook page with a review or a photo of them cooking a batch of Gingerbread Aliens, this always seems to help.

 

As a published author, what were some of the lesson (good, bad, and memorable) that you learned in the process?

As it is all such a huge learning curve, especially as children’s books have illustrations to include, I decided to enlist the aid of a small self-publishing company here in Canberra to show me the ropes so to speak. While I would say in many ways they have been very helpful and supportive they still leave all the marketing up to me and have not managed to gain a great deal of access to bricks and mortar book shops leaving me wondering if it has been worthwhile having a middle man? My other issue is that they control the price of my book on Amazon making it difficult for me to sell it at a sale price. When I asked the self-publishing company to reduce the price of my e-book, they made a separate link on Amazon which I can’t seem to link back to the original page where you can see the reviews and my author profile. This has not helped with sales at all. I would much prefer to be in control myself. Most of my sales come from hard copies via my website.

http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Aliens-Sandra-Bennett-ebook/dp/B00H5WD2NI

http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Aliens-Sandra-Bennet-ebook/dp/B009G4BDEI

The book launch they organised at a local bookshop was fantastic though and as a result Gingerbread-aliens stayed number one on the sales chart here in Canberra for over month when it was released. I hope the second book in the series Alien Shenanigans does as well when it is released in the coming months.

I am currently in the process of editing the illustrations for Alien Shenanigans, the Bradberre Brothers Alien Adventure continues. Also book three Brussels sprouts and Alien Brains, is in the final editing stages. To top it off I have just completed a collaboration with a wonderful illustrator here in Canberra on a picture book, Emma the Eager Emu. It was one of the short stories I originally won an award for that encouraged me to pursue my writing career. Now the gorgeous illustrations are complete and the Australian birds have come to life so beautifully, I look forward to it being published soon.

 

http://sandrabennettauthor.com/

http://www.gingerbread-aliens.com/

https://www.facebook.com/GingerbreadAliens

 

Peter as David Bradberrie

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Lois, please start by telling us a little about yourself. You know, the typical first date conversation :)

Probably the most fun way for your fans to learn about me is by watching this little video I made called: My Life In Pictures, posted at: http://tales2inspire.com/?page_id=79

But here’s a little ABOUT THE AUTHOR snippet taken from my Tales2Inspire™ books:

After twenty years as an active educator, I continued to pursue my love of writing, soon becoming co-editor of a popular Long Island web-zine. As I created and authored my column Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives, I solidified my special niche of investigative journalism and put those same talents to work while writing Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery. I followed up with my second book, Tick, Tock, Stop the Clock. Getting Pretty on Your Lunch Hour to address many of the less invasive paths to beauty.

You can Watch this candid interview of me on The Writers Dream Show to learn more about these books.

Tales2Inspire™ began a whole new chapter in my life. . . . Another story for another time.

Lois W. Stern

Lois W. Stern

 

Your story collections, The Topaz Collection, The Emerald Collection, and now, hot off the press, the Sapphire Collection remind me a little of Chicken Soup of the Soul. What is the story behind your desire for this project?

I’ve gotten that same comment from a couple of people, and I guess in a way it’s true. Oh, if only one day Tales2Inspire would be the new Chicken Soup of the Soul. That would be a dream come true. I’m working on it!

I created this project as an Authors Helping Authors Project and also a contest. I wanted to help talented authors (including me) get some recognition for their talents and help them build their author platforms. It has become a passion truly, one to which I devote hundreds of hours a week.

 

Is there an ‘Opal’ Collection in the works?

Opal? I hadn’t thought about that stone although I do love Opals! But the one I’m working on right now is the Ruby Collection ~ Gifts of Compassion. I’ve already received some smashing, unbelievably inspiring stories for that one. Ruby might just top them all, but then again, as I publish each new collection, I think that’s my best one yet. I think I just fall in love with so many of these stories.

 

How would someone submit to you? What types of guidelines and suggestions do you offer?

Here are a few things they should know right off the bat:

  • There is no submission fee. it is free to enter.
  • Each submitted Tale must be an original, non-fiction story.
  • Authors are encouraged to include author owned, relevant images (Note: The impact of the images is factored into the final scoring.)
  • Each submitted story must have an inspiring or motivational message.
  • Each author must include a signed release form granting me first North American rights to publish their story.
  • All of the specific guidelines to submitting a story are on my website. Just click on the word CONTEST in the top left of screen. Since information such as entry and deadlines dates and wanted themes do change, the best way to keep updated is GUIDELINES, named Steps-to-Success.

T2I Poster_new

 

It’s clear from your work that your goal is to offer inspiration to people. What specifically do you hope for these books? Describe the perfect reader of the Tales2Inspire™ series of books.

People who are tired of picking up the newspaper or turning on their TV only to be bombarded with the latest uprising, rape, murder or other calamity. I want my books to give hope and optimism to those who need that perspective and simply feel-good messages to those who enjoy a good, uplifting read.

 

Is there one story in particular from these collections that really struck you?

Oh, my, I’m always afraid people will ask me that question and the short answer is, “Yes, I do.” But I’m really more interested in learning about my readers’ favorites. As a matter of fact, at the end of each Tales2Inspire book you can find a letter I have written to my readers asking them that very question. I hope some of them take the time to respond.

winner_mint

Suppose you were speaking to a group of writing hopefuls…what are some gems of advice you would offer?

Write because you love writing and think you have something important to share.

Don’t fall in love with your words.

Join a critique group and listen, listen, listen. Keep an open mind and you will learn from your peers.

Writing a well crafted book takes enormous energy and skill, so authors tend to think they have done their deed once their book is published. If only that were so. Be prepared for stage to: Marketing with a capital ‘M’.

 

What types of resources have you found useful in this career of writing/editing?

Books:

On Writing – A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White

My critique group

 

Want to learn more about Lois W. Stern? Do you have a story to submit to The Ruby Collection, visit:

 

My website for Tales2Inspire: www.tales2Inspire.com

My Inspiring stories YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WinningTales

My websites for my beauty books: www.sexliesandcosmeticsurgery.com

http://www.ticktockstoptheclock.com

LinkedIn page:http://tinyurl.com/qyoj73q

Amazon Author page: http://tinyurl.com/q2qlzg5

 

Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/tales3inspire/beauty

Twitter page: http://www.myfabbeautyblog

My beauty blog: https://fabulousbeautyblog.wordpress.com

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Blog Tour – Why I Write

I was invited to take part in this Blog Tour by Jennifer Chow, a fellow author Martin Sisters Publishing, author of The 228 Legacy, and a woman who understands the power of books reviews as she took the time to read my book, Unforgettable Roads, and leave a review on Goodreads!

I started reading Jennifer’s book and was immediately intrigued. Her style is fresh and thought provoking – you won’t be disappointed!

In doing my due diligence to see just where this blog tour has stopped, I’m humbled. There are some really great authors out there who have taken the time to make a ‘stop’ on this tour, and many more whom I can’t wait to meet – both in terms of a face-to-face encounter and within their writing.

Blog Hop – Writing Processes

What am I working on?

I will admit here that I’m slightly ADD. When people ask this question, I usually keep it simple and just share that I’m still writing. In truth, I have 4-5 different writing projects going. I don’t think that that I’m unique in this – I can think of no career where a person would only work on one project until it’s finished. For some reason, people are surprised to hear that writers don’t write just one book at a time.

Currently, I’m editing and polishing the sequel to my first book, Gateways. I’m still working on a title, but I have been calling it Maps but I’m leaning towards, The Elder’s Circle. I have a wonderful writing partner that I’m meeting with twice a week to work on a book titled, Retreat, a woman’s survival story in the back woods of Northern Wisconsin. After hours of editing or Retreating (our term for our work on this book), I switch gears to another novel, Circle of Pride. Using the seven deadly sins, I’m working on a series (yep, 7 books) about two foster brothers who are targeted by people possessed by these sins. Wanna sneak peek?

Why do I write what I do?

I write to bring Christian values to teens and young adults without the preachy, shoved down the throat lessons. As difficult as failure is, I really do think it is the best lesson and my characters all suffer good-intentions turned bad as the means to become the person they are meant to be. Let’s be honest, if every character acted on 20-20 maturity, there would be no story. The mistakes we make add to our character, our understanding, and our compassion.
As a mother and a reader, I’m disheartened by the amount of fantasy available that makes death look appealing. A young girl at our church, who comes only because she wants to spend that time with her grandmother, told me that she really would love to become a zombie.
What?
I know nothing of the current trend of zombie books and movies, but it’s my understanding that zombies are dead and quite horrifying. The fact that she wants to become one…well, needless to say, I’m confused about her life goals.
I am saddened by the changes happening in the world. I’m sure we can all agree that the world we live in now is not as healthy as the world into which we were born. Perhaps it appears a bit lofty for me to hope that my writing can make a difference in that, but that’s exactly what I hope. Stories are the language of the soul. If we feed our soul on dark stories, we become burdened. If we inspire our souls with stories that lead to truth (even difficult truth) and hope, our souls become light.

How does my writing process work?

Here is what I wish I could answer honestly:
I start with a scene in mind, a skill that is uncannily simple for me, and with a glass of something bubbly in hand, I sit on the deck of my vacation home and plan out the story in its entirety. With my insanely organized mind, I plot each chapter with character notes, plot, and theme. Then, as the waves roll up on the beach outside, I click away contentedly on my laptop, laughing at my jokes, crying at the emotion of scenes. About three or four months later, I submit my work to my agent, who prepares to battle the onslaught of publishers who are knocking down her door for my latest work.

Here’s the truth:
Sometimes I do start with a scene in mind and toil for months to create a story that develops from that. Mostly, I start with a theme or a purpose for the story first. Once I’ve established setting and a basic plot, I turn to research to enhance my understanding of that time period and location.
I do use an outline to plot points, but it’s an outline that inspires fear for any Type A personality – giant sheets of paper that I tape to the wall of my dining room, I sketch out the story as the ideas come and link them together with lines. In education, it’s called brainstorming. To my family, it looks like a mess. To me, it’s perfect.
Being a homeschooling mom of four and a wife who also runs a business with her husband, my time to write is the only strict schedule I follow. I squeeze in an hour every day for writing or reading, but every Thursday afternoon, my husband is home and I disappear. In order to make the most of that time, I do have to keep a running To-Do List with deadlines. It’s this To-Do List that determines the success of each week of writing. If I know what scenes need work, have a few resources to read to keep me motivated and in the loop of the writing and publishing world, then my time that is dedicated to writing is much more focused and effective. If I just sit down to write, I accomplish nothing.
It’s possible that I’m in the running for being the slowest writer, needing several years to complete a manuscript.
Currently, I don’t have an agent. I have been published through a small publishing house, Martin Sisters Publishing. I have also self-published a two other books. The process for both of those avenues to publishing is very different, but both were fulfilling.

Meet Virginia Ripple

I’m tagging Virginia Ripple as the next author in this Blog Tour. She’s an incredibly gifted writer and a true support for other writers. You can check out her writing and mission at www.virginiaripple.com.

 

 

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Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

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1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.

 

2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.

Secrets-of-the-Malkin

When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.

 

Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.

 

Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.

 

Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.

 

Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.

 

In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.

 

3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?

 

Both.

 

I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.

 

The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.

 

As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.

 

4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?

 

I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.

 

In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.

 

The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.

 

The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.

 

And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.

 

5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?

 

At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.

 

After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.

 

The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.

 

As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.

 

6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

 

I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.

 

Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.

 

7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?

 

Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.

 

It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

 

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

 

In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.

 

9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?

 

My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.

 

About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.

 

Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.

 

I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.

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Connect with Virginia!

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When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

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Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.

 

Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.

 

In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.

 

What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.

 

Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.

 

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.

 

Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.

 

Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.

 

  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny

 

Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1

 

Connect with Nikki:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleRecovery

http://write2empower.webs.com

https://www.facebook.com/Write2Empower

http://write2empower.wix.com/write2empower

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3311275.Nikki_Rosen

http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/in-the-eye-of-deception/9990006606270-item.html

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If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience :)

Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!

[applause]

Gail Hedrick

Gail Hedrick

I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?

Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask questions and do research! I began by finding a ‘webmaster’—I tried to go it alone via Go Daddy, but it was over my head tech wise. One of the members of my critique group and pretty famous children’s author, Joan Hiatt Harlow, has a cousin who teaches IT for a living at the college level, and also has a website design business. I then looked at lots of writers’ sites for content. Neither my webmaster nor I are graphic designers, and I was doing this site on a small budget, so that would have been a nice addition to the team. It’s probably due for an overhaul, appearance-wise, but it has been fun to have and very much served its purpose.

Check out Gail’s website @ www.gailehedrick.com

Something Stinks! is wonderful! You set this in a specific region and then visited schools in that region. Is this an area near to where you live?

Again, thank you for the kind words. I am married to a North Carolina native, and his job took us to Southwestern Virginia. We lived there a number of years, developing many friendships and connections to the area. So, when we made the move to Florida for work, we still kept up with all things Virginia. Some of the news stories I read were about fish dying in large numbers in the Virginia rivers. (I now know, after research for this book, that, sadly, fish die in large numbers around the country for many different reasons, but at the time, I was only seeing the stories from Virginia.) The strange thing was, at that time, nobody seemed to be doing anything about this, either on the state or local level. With a writer’s curiosity, I began to wonder if industrial pollution were the culprit, could any of the many industries in that area of the state be the bad guy? I came up with a ‘what if’ and asked a contact in one of these industries if I was on the right track. He gave me several scenarios where ‘yes’ could be an answer, and I had the makings of a story. I kind of figured kids would care about the fish, and particularly, Virginia kids as this was where the fish were going belly up.
 Something Stinks! won the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Book Award. That is a wonderful accomplishment!

Again, thank you. And, what a huge surprise to me, a non-scientist!!

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Was this something you or your publisher submitted the book for consideration?

Well, my publisher, Tumblehome Learning is a Massachusetts transmedia company that helps kids imagine themselves as young scientists or engineers and encourages them to experience science through adventure and discovery. [More information at: http://www.tumblehomelearning.com] So, they submitted Stinks! for this award, and I all but yelled when the publisher personally called to tell me it had won! I really think not being a scientist helped me research through things like the kids would, and in the process, I really learned a lot. I recently posted an article on Middle Web on getting kids interested in science through fiction. This might be of interest to the home school folks, so here is the link: http://www.middleweb.com/14464/using-fiction-excite-middle-grades-kids-science/

 

What is your writing process/schedule?

Honestly, I am terrible at processes. I do write everyday. It might be a journal entry, writing practice -like pick a word ‘suitcase’ and free-write for twenty minutes. Or, go for a walk. I get ideas for things to write about on a walk, or work out a problem scene, or hear a rhythm that might work in a verse. But, for planning a big project, like another book, I find it difficult. I have an idea or premise, and then a loose outline like ‘what if’ and the characters. Then, I do a bit of research. It seems that if a subject interests you or makes you go ‘hmm’, it might be worth pursuing. I have written 4 full length middle grade manuscripts, but they remain in a drawer (s) as they are not very good. But, they served their purpose to give me practice, and this is a craft that needs lots of practice.

If you are someone who likes journaling, go for it. I do it in spurts, but nothing regular. I also do different kinds of writing, so that stretches me a bit, which is always a good thing. I write non-fiction pieces, activity verses, short stories, and poetry. My big dream is to write a picture book, so I mess around with the text from time to time. I probably will sign up for a class one day, as it is not an easy task, and I think tricky to tackle without some direction. (At least for me!)

Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written ‘something’ since elementary school. Speeches, poems, and greeting cards for our family to name a few. I think, though, it was reading to our kids when they were little that ‘pushed me over the edge’ to take my first class from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took their Beginner’s and Intermediate classes. I could do it, and still be at home with the kids, so it was a great solution. Then, I took a community college Creative Writing class, and continue to take workshops at conferences. I may start an online class this summer with Joyce Sweeney if there is still room, and I can squeeze in the time commitment.

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career?

It’s a tie, between making a sale on the first piece of work I ever submitted, and receipt of the email from my publisher, Tumblehome Learning, for my first book. The editor/publisher and I had been working together for five months, and the email ‘We have a book’ and ‘We’ll get a contract out to you in the next few days’ still makes me smile. It was a very quiet reaction, more internal than shouting to the rooftops, as I had waited so long for it to happen. To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment? Well, my most difficult moment has been kicking myself for not ‘getting serious’ about my writing twenty years ago.

photo 8

What is your publication story? Did you go through an agent or straight to a publisher?

I went directly with a publisher. My book was a bit different, so I had my antenna up for a publisher where my manuscript might fit. I subscribe to Writers Market Network, and the Institute for Children’s Literature newsletters, and of course, SCBWI. I saw a posting for mystery stories for middle-grade with a science component, and took a chance that mine had enough of the science for it to get a read. And, it did! The process for it to become a book took about 10 months of revisions, but that was fun as I like working with an editor.

Describe the perfect Spring Day.

I just had one this April, so it’s fresh in my mind. We were in Raleigh, NC, mid-seventy-degree day, with our son, daughter-in-law, and first grand, nine month old, Callum, sitting at an outdoor café. The sun was shining, but not hot, the dogwoods, daffodils, and tulips were nodding in the breeze. The baby laughed at something, so did we, and kind of, so did the day. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moment to be sure!

Gail at a Va Book Sale

I’ve asked authors this question before, and I’ll ask it to you as well: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

I wish this could be profound and epic, but here goes. Don’t wait-know that time is passing, and if you want to write and have a modicum of skill, don’t say ‘aw, I’ll try to write that piece next week’, or maybe I’ll read this article on writing the perfect ending tomorrow. Learn your craft, yes. But, if you really want to do this thing called writing for kids, then do it now. Find good/great readers or editors for your work, and do the work. I kept thinking ‘oh, I’ll do that next month’, and didn’t knuckle down until a cousin read an article of mine that had just been published in Kiki magazine. He looked at me, and said, “You have a gift, and should figure a way to do this full-time.” I listened, more importantly heard him, went part-time with my day job, and within two years had a book contract. Study your craft, get feedback, but mostly, do the work. And, have fun-remember, you are writing for the ultimate fun people-kids!

 

Something Stinks! is currently listed in the Goodreads Giveaway. Click Here to sign up. The entry to win ends on May 31, 2014 so don’t delay :)

 

Thank you! If you are an author or know an author and would like to be considered as a “Feature Author” contact me @ jessicaschaubwrites@gmail.com with a brief synopsis and form of publication.

 

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The world is full of writers, from devoted list-makers to poets and short stories to novels and beyond. For as many writers there are, it’s not too far fetched to claim that there are as many purposes behind the writing. Personally speaking, I write because it helps me organize my thoughts…I just happen to think in a story format.

Once the decision is made to take writing from sketching little stories and poems for our own enjoyment to the next level – that elusive publication. With Self publishing making waves in the industry, these stories are sometimes mistaken (sometimes not) as lesser in quality. As such, self-published authors have come together as a community in several different formats and in online forums. Aviva Gittle is one such author with a heart for helping other self-published authors.

Aviva is my next featured author. Along with amazing stories for children, Aviva has a talent for working with others to bring stories to life and to help other authors share their work. It’s this kind of writer that makes me smile with admiration! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Aviva Gittle:

Feb 2014 Photo 1 Cropped

Q: Your website is amazing. From what I can see, you have a talent and desire to work with other writers, promoting their work. What was the inspiration for your website and how has it enhanced your writing life?

Aviva: First, thank you for the kind words. My website is a mix of self-promotion, how-to articles for writers and a platform for, mainly, self-publishers. I want to transition to less interviews and more articles. I have much to share about the process of self-publishing. My website (www.GoToGittle.com) is really an experiment in marketing. Often I forget that I’m supposed to be marketing my books and not creating an online magazine. Which isn’t a bad idea, but then I’d have to market the magazine, too! I could call it, “Aviva.” How’s that for self-promotion?

Q: I found six books listed on Amazon: Moon Jump, In Nana’s Arms, Bagel Boy, Kitten and Butterfly, Mort the Fly, Snack Attack. Share a little with us about the origin of these stories.

MoonJumpKindleCover4Upload2KDP

Aviva: In Nana’s Arms is a poem to my first grandchild, Louis. I was holding him with one arm while he slept and wrote a rough draft on my iPhone with the other hand. Bagel Boy, and you’re going to love this, is based on a story idea from my ex-husband. Moon Jump and Snack Attack! I wrote with my writing partner, Mark Megson. An amazing young man whose website I stumbled upon last year. (http://www.readingjuice.co.uk/) There I found dozens of story ideas. I asked him to partner with me. Our writing styles mesh so well, I can’t always remember who wrote which parts of a story. Mort the Fly I wrote in 2005; it was the impetus to my becoming a self-publisher. (Because I prefer to do things my own way even when I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.) Kitten & Butterfly is part of the Kitten and Friends series. I wrote all 7 stories in a couple of months. But, it took a year to get the first story published. I’ve got a cute book trailer for it that I’m very proud of.

KindleCover4Upload

Q: What is your writing process/schedule?

Aviva: I’m not a schedule person. A former burnt out IT project manager; I yanked my watch off my wrist September 16, 2004, got in my car and drove away from my corporate life. I’m a writer for a reason. LOL! Something has to inspire me to sit my butt down and write. Kitten and Friends was inspired by an illustration of a kitten and butterfly I saw in an artist’s portfolio. I would jot down ideas for other creatures Kitten could make friends with. I was in a manically productive phase that has yet to be repeated. (Bummer, man.) I have ideas for stories all over the place. In notebooks, on my computer, iPad, iPhone. I even have photos of paper scraps with ideas scrawled on them. Like my brain, my writing process is very scattered. Fortunately, through years of college and work experience, I have learned to write very quickly. So, when I can finally sit still, I get a lot done.

Q: Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

Aviva: Preteen angst. I wrote my first song at age 7. I don’t remember the words, but it was a sad love song. At age 11 I started writing poetry. I’ve been battling depression for as long as I can remember. And writers know that anger, sadness and love are the great motivating emotions. It’s great when you’ve got all three storming around your head at once. LOL! I wrote my first children’s story in 1995 at a very low point in my life. It was called Chloe and the Belly Beast. It was about dealing with fear. I went as far as hiring an illustrator last year with the intent of self-publishing it. When the initial sketches came back from the artist, I knew it was way too dark to be a children’s story. I then tried to make it a tween novel. To date, I just haven’t found a way to make it work. That’s when you put it on the back burner and move on. I did make a fun greeting card with one of the sketches.

Chloe-Falling-Sketch

Q: What lesson in writing has been the most difficult but the most effective? (For example, early in my writing career, I realized that the novel I was writing was in need of a major overhaul. Overwhelmed by how much that would take, I decided the best (and yet most painful) solution was to delete it all and start over. Best move of my life. Well, I married a great guy, but that has little to do with writing :)

Aviva: You need to hire an editor. It’s the first thing I talk about in my Birth of a Children’s Book column (about my experiences as a self-publisher). 
 You should listen to others, but not blindly follow their advice. If you find yourself reacting strongly to feedback, set it aside and go back to it in a few days. Once you put your ego aside, you open yourself up to some great opportunities to make your stories better. Like, a lot better than you can do all alone. Unless you just want to sit in your room and read all your stories to yourself.

The best decision I made was to partner with Mark Megson. I think of myself as a loner, but working with Mark has improved my writing and my production. In addition to Moon Jump and Snack Attack! (technically I’m the senior editor on that, but we really wrote it together), we wrote Mary’s Magic Word which will be published later this year. We are also working on a tween sci-fi novel, Quentin and the Quantum Quilt. Your feedback on the first very short chapters is greatly needed and appreciated: http://goo.gl/VQhSMD (It’s posted on Wattpad.com; real easy to leave comments and vote.)

Q:  When you walk into a bookstore or library, what is the first section you browse?

Aviva: I haven’t walked into a bookstore in a very long time! When I browse Amazon.com, it’s usually for children’s books. Either I’m trying to find self-published children’s book to review or I’m looking to buy children’s books for my grandchildren.

Q: Describe the perfect birthday. Why? Because it’s fun :)

Aviva: The perfect birthday would have me surrounded by my grandchildren playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, “Musical Chairs” and other birthday games of my youth. Oh, and a piñata stuffed with individually-wrapped pieces of fudge. I love fudge. My grandson, Louis, would strike the winning blow and I would stand underneath the poor, battered, paper Mache creature with a giant bowl.

Q: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

Aviva: Life is a balance. You can’t just write for yourself and you can’t just write for others. Okay, you can do whatever the heck you want. But, one will leave you lonely and the other will suck the joy out of your writing life.


 

Credits:
Moon Jump illustrations by Carlos BritoMoonJumpScene8WithCredits

 

Kitten & Butterfly illustrations by Tekla HuzárKitten-Butterfly_Interor

My links:

Buy or borrow an Aviva Gittle Publishing book: amazon.com/author/avivagittle
Website: http://gotogittle.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aviva-Gittle-Publishing/262156237258544
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AvivaGittle
Wattpad: http://goo.gl/VQhSMD
Submission guidelines for The Gittle List 2014: Top 10 Self-published Children’s Picture Books: http://gotogittle.com/the-gittle-list-2014-guidelines/

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Author Visits, Guest Speaking, and School visits are the bread and butter of an up-and-coming author’s income. While your royalty payment per book might peak at 17%, what you make on the speaking circuit is all yours. It’s not just good for income, it’s a great way to share your message, share your writing, and network with like-minded people.

The days of BICAW (Butt in chair and writing) need to be tempered with SIFOP (standing in front of people). Okay, enough of the acronyms :) Lol. Sorry. Below is a list of steps to consider to focus your thoughts in preparation for a presentation of a school visit.


 

Now that the books are on the shelf... what's next?

Now that the books are on the shelf… what’s next?

 

STEP ONE:
Narrow your target audience and purpose. You’ve written something, and maybe it’s published, maybe not. Either way, you have something to share with others. Or do you? Here are a few questions to consider before you take your show on the road:

1. Who is the intended reader for your book?
2. Write down the message that you can share with them. Is it in a church, a school, a business?
3. What other messages are out there that are similar to yours?
4. How is your message unique?
5. Are you an expert in your field?

In my case, the intended readership for my books are Christian families looking for stories that aren’t filled with vampires or zombies. Yeah, there are those of us who love a good story that doesn’t involve the un-dead.

My message deals with sharing stories – the premise for Unforgettable Roads. For elementary students, I offer writing workshops that parallel Frog’s Winter Walk. I also share a presentation that is a humorous look at stories, how they grew from campfire mythology to the 3-D spectacles we pay $15-$20 for at the theater.

I also talk with parents about reading with their children, how to bring books into the spotlight. This is my area of expertise as my Master’s Degree is in Education with an emphasis on reading instruction. These are my tools, not my story. I use these tools to bring my published (and soon to be published) stories to new readers.

 

STEP TWO:
Prepare your presentations. Obvious step, huh? This step needs to be solid before you move to step four – looking for places to speak.

Outline your thoughts. Then write out everything you think you’ll say. You won’t use it all, but you will benefit greatly from organizing it all onto paper.
• Decide if you are in need of props, a power point presentation, etc. Know your limits or skills with technology. Stay within your comfort zone, but also work toward improving your abilities with technology, or going without.
• With a recorder, practice your presentation with your notes and then without. Practice does make perfect…or at least better.
• Once you have your presentation smooth (and it won’t be the same twice – which is what you want. It leads to a more natural approach) video tape yourself. Watch for ticks, frequent phrases, anything that makes you cringe.

On your website, narrow down your presentation to one sentence and three bullet points. Why? Summarizing the overall idea in one sentence is the flashing banner that potential schools and organizations look for in a guest speaker. The three bullet points are just a sampling of what they will receive. We all like free samples…use them.

 

STEP THREE:

thecolorofmoney
Determine your price. Oh, how I despise this part. It’s extremely difficult for me to put a price on something I absolutely love doing. However, the grocery store has no problem marking up foods and my kids have no plans to starting eating less, so I need to charge what I’m worth.

Don’t take this step lightly. Do a google search of local authors, go to a local author event and find out what people charge. The prices will be all over the board. The second and third questions will help narrow down a comparable price for you: 1) How many speaking engagements do other authors do in a year? 2) How many years have they presented professionally?

 

AN IDEA! If someone charges $1000/day to be in an elementary school giving back-to-back assemblies to school children and have five years experience, he can charge that. If you want to start small, say a few classrooms at a time, consider a barter while you’re getting your feet wet – if you can sell a certain number of books prior to the speaking engagement, you’ll speak for free. If that sales quota isn’t met prior to your date, then the organization meets the difference. Anything above that, and you can consider a small donation back to them.

Note: There is much debate over how much new speakers should charge. Offering to speak for free might cause the organization to think you are not worth anything. Just be honest – let them know you are new at the speaking, but your expertise is solid. You are trying to launch a new aspect of your business and in exchange for the early practice and networking, you are willing to exchange cost for time.

I did do this and I have no regrets. I had fun, learned a great deal about speaking, asked for comments, reviews and recommendations. I decided I would do three school visits at no cost before charging a set rate. I do not include my speaking fees on my speaker flyer. Instead, I include a note that states that I consider each proposal separately and create a quote based on the list below.

  • What to consider in your pricing rubric:
    Milage/ Travel Time
    Time spent in preparation
    Time spent in presenting

 

STEP FOUR:
Once you’ve established your message, it’s time to start talking to managers, librarians, teachers, business owners…anyone who has a group of people who would be interested in your insight. Prepare a speaker information sheet. Keep it simple, colorful, include cover art from your books, or a picture of you speaking at an event, or simply a professional head shot from your back cover.

Your speaker sheet is fun to put together. No, really! Think of it as a one page picture book about you. Be creative. Include your expertise, intended audience, photos, contact information, and links to your website. (If you don’t have any of these, I highly recommend you put it together. As a public speaker, you are now considered a business. Where do people go to check on the quality of a business? Yep. Websites.)

This is the time to play the ‘Who You Know’ card. Talk to friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, and provide them with the information you’ve put together. Couple that with a free speaking offer, and you are certain to get a bite.

A Success Story:
I offered an Author Visit to an Elementary School and three books as an auction item for a church fundraiser. A mom won it, her child’s first grade teacher eagerly contacted me, and I presented a short writing workshop to three first grade classrooms. I learned how to use some of the new technology that is common place in schools but new to me. I met almost 80 children, and had a wonderful morning.

While I was in town, I attended a breakfast event at that church and met up with my former kindergarten teacher. She still volunteers at the school and helps arrange Author Visits.

Right place + right time + who I know = networking.

I didn’t, sadly, have any business cards left, so I came across as being unprofessional. I did order 1000 more cards the very next day. That will not happen to me again.

 

STEP FIVE:
What will you need for your presentation?

Aside from your notes, props, computer and books, you should also consider the following:

• A bottle of water
• Hot tea to soothe your throat
• Snacks or a lunch if you are working a full day
• Table cloth and possibly flowers, bookmarks, business cards if you will have a vendor table. If you don’t have a table, bring the bookmarks, business cards and speaker flyers with you in a nice looking folder. Be prepared to meet your next connection and it will happen.
• A camera to have visual documentation that you were really there ;)
• A digital recorder. Record your presentation for two reasons: One, to hear it again and make notes on weak areas, and Two, to use sound bytes on your website. Those free samples again. (True story – I’ve brought my recorder every time and have either forgot to use it or it didn’t record clearly, which is why my website is missing this feature. On my list is to purchase a microphone I can wear so I will remember to turn it on and hopefully have a usable piece. See? I’m learning.)

 

STEP SIX:
Ask for a review.

Provide the teacher, leader, or the CEO with a short comment and review sheet. Ask them to either fill it out right after your presentation or provide a stamped and addressed envelope so they can return it to you. This will provide you with immediate feedback and quotes that you can use on your website and marketing sheets (be sure to ask permission first).

  • A few quick questions to ask:
    Did this presentation meet your expectations?
    What is one thing I said or shared that you enjoyed?
    Is there anything I can add to my presentation to improve it?

 

I hope these six steps help you as you prepare or revamp how you are doing your presentations. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more suggestions or a personal success or dum-dum story to share, please do!

Jessica

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