Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Writing Life with Donald Joiner, Author of 'The Antioch Testament'

Donald Joiner, a Georgia native, is a veteran who served during  the Korean War era. He is a retired public school superintendent who a lifetime student of history having once been a history teacher. He is a father and grandfather and has been married for fifty-two years. He has also authored two previous books about antebellum churches in Georgia.

His latest book is, The Antioch Testament. 

Thank you for being a guest on As the Page Turns, Donald, and congratulations on the release of your latest book. Tell us, what’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

DJ: You better get it right. There are many historical fiction readers out there who pride themselves on knowing much about the various historical eras. The author may be writing historical fiction, but he can count on his readers knowledge about the historical times surrounding the characters in the novel. If he gets dates wrong or mishandles historical characters or events, the reader will be sure to share this information with others and cross him off the ‘must read’ list.

What is so great about being an author?

DJ: The sense of accomplishment when you have completed the story. It makes all the long months’ and years’ efforts seem finally worthwhile. Your characters have been developed and have completed their performances and the author’s times of frustration and ‘writer’s block’ are at an end.

When do you hate it?

DJ: When you go for extended periods without inspiration and your mind is blank. When you have no idea how to continue with the story and are tempted to abandon some or all of what you have written. And then there’s the marketing process which requires you to fulfill some functions you are uncomfortable with.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

DJ: Reviewing the section of the work recently completed to climb back in to the story, perhaps doing some editing of yesterday’s work. Reviewing the notes you made for the next section, then finding the right words to begin. Sometimes I already know how that section will end so I begin at the end, then work backwards toward the beginning.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

DJ: Perhaps ultra-successful authors have big egos. If so, they’ve earned them. It helps to have some measure of ego in order to face the frustrations and impotent periods that are so frequently present in writing and in weighing and responding to criticism and editorial advice. 
I don’t think I have a big ego, but then I’m not (yet) an ultra-successful author.

How do you handle reviews?

DJ: Take comfort in the good reviews even when they’re not completely accurate. Try to honestly analyze bad reviews for they represent how some readers actually perceive your work. If you can be objective, you can then decide whether the reviews are valid. 

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

DJ: I’ve learned that you can’t force inspiration. Sometimes it’s helpful to work on other sections of the book, either rewriting or editing. I’ve found that often inspiration returns while you work on other sections. At other times it’s better to go do something else completely divorced from your writing.

Any writing quirks?

DJ: I prefer it to be completely quiet when I write. No TV, radio or people talking to me. A phone call can be completely distracting, causing me to lose my train of thought which might not return for a long period. 

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

DJ: No. I think you write because you believe you have something to say. There’s a satisfaction in completing your work that is unrelated to money. Of course, it’s always nice to have your satisfaction with your work endorsed and sealed with an infusion of cash, but your work is your baby and its completion is a reward in and of itself.

What had writing taught you?

DJ: I have a much greater appreciation for those who write than I did before becoming an author. It’s hard work! You’re either up in the heaven of inspiration or down in the pit of frustration because inspiration has deserted you. But nothing equals the feeling of satisfaction you have when you complete your work for you had something important to say and you said it!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

DJ: Be prepared for rejection. What you write is important to you, but it might not appear so to the casual observer. Never submit a manuscript to a potential agent or publisher unless it has been professionally edited. Write, write and re-write! You’ve got to convince others (potential agents or publishers) that what you’ve written deserves their attention. If you elect to self-publish, be on your guard.  Evaluate self-publishing companies rigorously. Some will say or do anything to get your money. There are ratings and reviews of these companies on the Internet for your convenience. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Conversation with Guitarist Steven Hancoff, Author of ‘Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for ’Cello’

Please welcome my special guest, renowned international guitarist Steven Hancoff.
Hancoff began playing guitar when he was 13 years old. Within a year he was performing in coffeehouses around Baltimore and Washington, D.C. For the next 15 years, he toured the world—about 50 countries—as an official Artistic Ambassador representing the United States.
His recordings include Steel String Guitar, New Orleans Guitar Solos, Duke Ellington for Solo Guitar, andThe Single Petal of A Rose. He is also the author of Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitarand New Orleans Jazz for Fingerstyle Guitar. Hancoff also has a Master’s in clinical social work, and is a psychotherapist, a Rolfer, and a practitioner of Tai Chi.
He’s here today to talk about his latest work, Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo, an ambitious multimedia biography of Bach consisting of an ebook in four volumes with an accompanying 3-CD set. Connect with Hancoff via Facebook or Twitter @StevenHancoff.
You can also visit him at his website and listen to samples of his six Suites here.
Congratulations on the release of your biography about Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach, Casals and the Six Suites for Cello Solo. It’s quite an achievement. Can you tell us what compelled you to put it together?
I cannot tell you what compelled me to do this. It more or less feels like it is my destiny to have done this. I know that cello is a one-note-at-a time instrument, while guitar is idiomatically suited to play harmonies, bass lines and chords. So, the creative juice is in harmonizing the Cello Suites while still playing all of Bach’s notes, and staying true to the profundity of his musical and emotional intent.
In order to fulfill this intention, I started to read about the man, then think about it, how did he come to compose this music at this time in his life. I kept on reading, and thinking about it, and writing, and talking to people… and eventually this i-Book project got born.
Hancoff 3CDHow does the phrase “from tragedy to transcendence” describe Bach’s work? 
His was a life filled with tragedy – eight of the people closest to him, including siblings, parents and children died. A dreary professional life working for drunkard dukes and disapproving, heavy-handed ecclesiastical authorities did not give way to contentment until he was 32 years old when Bach, with his beloved wife Maria Barbara and their four surviving children, took up a position composing secular music for a talented and grateful Prince Leopold in the backwater village of Cöthen.  
But then, after 13 years of blissful married life, misfortune overtook him. In the year 1720, upon his return to Cöthen from a journey, a vacation, with Leopold to the spa at Carlsbad, he found Maria Barbara dead and buried, although he had left her hale and hearty on his departure. The news that she had been ill and died reached him only when he entered his own house. Imagine…
Now he is 35 years old, and he had not yet composed any of the great masterpieces for which he is known. It is now that he proceeds to compose the first of his immortal scores – the Violin Sonatas and Partitas and these miraculous Cello Solos.
So, the question for me became what was the process by which he avoided being crushed under the weight of his agony and grief, and instead transformed himself into the great genius of Western music. The man on whose shoulders literally rest the development and articulation of Western harmony.
My answer is given in the four volumes – His message is one of pure positivity: one’s life is a precious gift which a person has no hand at all in creating. That is what “gift” means, after all. It is the mission, or the responsibility of each human being to give back, with interest, as it were, to whatever force it is that gave you life. That means that if you are a human being, and you therefore have the gift of life and of self-consciousness and ego identity, then it is your glorious responsibility to deepen that gift, to leave the world a better place than when you entered it by means of developing the gifts you embody.
Bach, whose obvious gift was an immense musicality, deepened his identity by giving to humanity heavenly music that was more and more profound. What he did not do was to give in to the temptation to resentfulness and to hate life because of the agony he had to endure.
Tell us about Bach, the musician. What makes his music so special? 
To me, the mystery and the greatness of Bach’s music lie in his unerring mastery, his ability to unify the expression of breathtaking beauty, primal emotion, vast power, and intellectual rigor, and to do so on a giant canvas. The confluence of these elements evokes the feeling of flow, the feeling that each note inevitably follows the preceding one, such that there is never a “wrong” note, only “right” ones – never a random note, only meaningful ones.
The music of Bach has no trace of negativity, only exaltation and upliftedness – “the permissible delights of the soul,” as Bach himself put it. He seems to have created music from a state of reverence, awe, and wonder at Creation itself, as an act of gratitude for having been created to witness and participate in it, and with an innate feeling of personal proximity to eternity itself. One feels exposed to unveiled cosmic truth by means of transparent musical purity.
It is almost as though rather than having been composed, the music emanated from some exalted plane to which Bach was somehow attuned, perhaps something like The Music of the Spheres, the Keplerian notion contemporaneous with Bach, that ultimately music is the sound of Universal relationship. “The movements of the planets are modulated according to harmonic proportions … as God, the Creator Himself, has expressed it in harmonizing the heavenly motions,” as Johannes Kepler put it in his masterpiece, Harmonices Mundi in 1619. Or, as the great Pablo Casals most elegantly and succinctly put it, “Music is the Divine way to tell beautiful, poetic things to the heart.” Like some bodhisattva, Bach seemed born to translate and transmit this music to us all.
I understand Bach fell into obscurity after his death until his work was largely revived by Felix Mendelssohn. Can you tell us about this and how Pablo Casals discovered Bach’s cello suites in a used music shop? 
During his lifetime, Bach was not known as a composer, but rather as a keyboard virtuoso. Fewer than a dozen pieces of his music were published during his lifetime. When he died intestate, his two eldest sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel (who was known as “the Great Bach,” and who was keyboardist in the orchestra of Frederick the Great) divided their father’s scores between them.
To make a long story short (or you can read the entire amazing legend in Volume 2), Felix Mendelssohn’s great-aunt, Sarah Levy, herself a virtuosic pianist, over a period of many years collected the scores. When Felix, at thirteen years old, entered the Sing Academy to study music, she donated the scores to that school. There, Felix became infatuated with the score to St. Matthew Passion, decided to devote himself to producing it, and six years later (when he was nineteen) presented it to an astonished audience of the Who’s Who of Berlin society. This event, 80 (well, 79) years after Bach’s death, kick-started the revival of Bach’s music in Germany, and then in Europe.
It’s an astounding saga.
It was many years later, in 1889, on the very day that Carlos Casals, the father of the thirteen year old kid Pablo, bought his son his first full-sized cello, the two of them went wandering into a dusty old used book store on the Barcelona docks to find some music for the kid to play.
Casals later said: “Together we set off for the search. For two reasons I shall never forget that afternoon. First, my father bought me my first full-sized ‘cello — how proud I was to have that wonderful instrument! Then we stopped at an old music shop near the harbour. I began browsing through a bundle of musical scores. Suddenly I came upon a sheaf of pages, crumbled and discolored with age. They were unaccompanied suites by Johann Sebastian Bach — for the ‘cello only! I looked at them with wonder: Six Suites For Violoncello Solo. What magic and mystery, I thought, were hidden in those words? I had never heard of the existence of the suites; nobody — not even my teachers —had ever mentioned them to me. I forgot our reason for being at the shop. All I could do was to stare at the pages and caress them.”
He said he practiced them every day for twelve years before he worked up the courage to ever play one in public. There is no record nor any even anecdotal evidence of anyone ever having played them.
So, that is to say they lay dormant from 1720 to 1889 – 170 years until Casals came upon them, plus another twelve years before he played any of them in public. Plus another 50 years before he actually recorded them! That’s a treasure buried for 220 years!
How long did it take for this biography to come into fruition?  
It took me about three years to complete the transcriptions. During that time of reading and thinking about it, the seed for the book got planted. Then, it took another five years for the book to get into its final form. One element of the book I have not mentioned much is the contemporary art: about 335 artists (and foundations) ultimately sent me Bach-inspired art to include. This became a massive art book… the biggest one ever devoted to visual art inspired by Bach.
Jiayi Lu, an exchange student from China here doing her masters degree at American University, did wondrous work with me doing the many videos. And Denise Clifton at Tandemvines Publishing put her hand, mind and heart into designing the gorgeous and first-of-its-kind i-Book. I’d send Word document and .JPGs. She’d send back page designs. I’d send back corrections… Page by page… that’s how this was built. And Richard Roeder is the genius recording engineer who mixed and mastered the whole recording. I hope he gets the recognition he so richly deserves.
And of course my other half Beth Troy who somehow has managed to love me through this entire process, believe in me and in the music and in my playing and writing and collecting the pictures… the whole shebang. Her eye in terms of where words go, lines end, pictures appear, etc. is what gave elegance to the book.
What do you hope readers will get from this work? What will they experience? 
Well, first, I like to think the music is heavenly. Whether I did it justice is not for me to say. But I can assure everybody that I did it with plenty of love, complete immersion and attention to detail! As for the book, there is, as I said, the art to enjoy. But beyond that, this is one of the truly grand stories of Western culture – a story I knew nothing about when I started. So, I’d assume the reader will not know about it too. I’d like for people to know about this as a grand legend of our shared Western culture.
What’s on the horizon for Steven Hancoff? 
Beats me. Music to play, rivers to run, worlds to see, friends to hang out with. It’s a majestic world out there. And there are still plenty of glorious places to explore, amazing people to converse with, and adventures to partake of.
Leave us with some words of wisdom about music.
“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue…Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” – Plato
Bach himself knew that Luther wrote: “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”

My interview originally appeared in Blogcritics.

Guest Post: “Writing under pressure…” by Stephen Caputi, Author of 'I Should Have Stayed in Morocco'

Writing from a prison cell was far from idyllic. I wrote after every meal, and started by chronicling every mundane event—even the actual delivery of the meal, and trips marching to and from the ‘recreation’ cage in handcuffs. Or the nuances of being shackled for our treks to the showers. Each night I’d write for an hour before crashing, after the last of the day’s insipid counting rituals were duly completed.

            For my own protection, I had to stash my written notes in-between pages of books I was reading. I couldn’t risk mailing them out from the Hole, so I waited until after getting out of solitary confinement to transport them. This presented another challenge, since everything we mailed was subject to being inspected and read.

Due to its content, my writings were extremely risky. If any of the brass got wind that I was keeping a diary of their antics, there were no imaginable limits to how they might retaliate. As an example, an inmate buddy of mine had been the unlucky recipient of “diesel therapy”—an intimidating tactic so commonly used by the Bureau of Prisons that it commanded its own nickname. Since his arrival, he was overly insistent that his rights not be violated. Because of his annoyance, he’d been kept suspended on a perpetual road trip for a year and a half. The guards would transport him in chains in a Twilight-Zone-like ride to nowhere, on an endless bus ride from one federal prison to the next. It took months and a dozen letters from his Congressman to get him anchored somewhere. Their explanation was that they “lost” his paperwork. No apology. Acting with impunity was a routine... a matter of policy for the gatekeepers who harbored little or no fear of outside pressures or intervention.

I was tipped off by one of their own that they were not as likely to read legal mail, and even less likely to read it when it was mailed certified. Although this was despite any regard for our privacy rights to send legal mail to counsel. But they understood the potential of getting themselves into serious trouble by tampering with certified mail, since a trail existed that could be traced directly back to them. Even though I sandwiched all my writings inside packets of legitimate legal correspondence and forms and other camouflage, I was still rolling the dice that I might get “pinched” whenever I sent my package out at the end of the month. Who knew what the consequences of that would be?

Title: I Should Have Stayed in Morocco
Genre: Memoir
Author: Stephen Caputi
Publisher: Twilight Times Books 
Read the First Chapter
Purchase from Amazon / OmniLit
About the Book: 
Stephen Caputi’s memoir, I Should Have Stayed in Morocco, is not just another forensic account of billionaire Ponzi-schemer Scott Rothstein’s life. Caputi opens his heart and soul as he takes the reader on a journey through two decades rife with personal experiences, misadventures and wild escapades with Rothstein, climaxing with their now-infamous ramble in Casablanca. It’s a frighteningly true story of how friendship and loyalty was dedicatedly served to a master-manipulator, just to be rewarded with deceitful betrayal and a prison sentence.
About the Author: 
Steve is best known for his involvement in the creation, building and management of successful nightclub and hospitality businesses. Decades of experience in the industry and the good fortune to work with a succession of the best performers in the world gave him a broad base of skills… skills that were instrumental in his entrepreneurial quest and subsequent sparkling career.
As an Ivy-league student-athlete, he graduated from the renowned Cornell University School of Hotel Administration in 1979. Rostered as the ‘smallest player in NCAA Division 1 football’, he lettered under George Seifert, world-champion coach of the San Francisco 49’ers and played centerfielder on Cornell’s EIBL championship team of 1977, led by hall of fame coach Ted Thoren. Steve set several all-time team and NCAA records, one of which still stands 37 years later.
His career experience was equally as fortunate as he was trained by the best club management experts in the business while managing the Texas billionaires’ favorite watering hole – the ultra-private, magnificent Houston Club. In the early 1990’s, Steve was President of Michael J. Peter’s gentlemen’s club empire, featuring the world-famous Solid Gold, Thee Doll House, and Pure Platinum. It was during that era that adult clubs became legitimized. After redesigning and opening Club Paradise in Las Vegas, Steve became a partner in South Florida’s most successful long-term nightclub chain ever, Café Iguana. Over the decades, businesses under his direct control amassed nearly a billion dollars in revenue.
Steve was blessed with everything a man could want until he got tangled up in Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme in 2009, at which time everything was lost… including his freedom. So began his most recent quest upon his release from the Federal Bureau of Prisons… to find out what happened, how it happened, and why!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Interview with Christopher Keating, author of 'That Which Maddens and Torments'

Chris Keating had his first story published when he was just seven years old and in second grade. He has been writing both fiction and nonfiction ever since.

He wrote his first book, Dialogues on 2012: Why the World Will Not End, while he was a professor of physics at the U.S Naval Academy. He was inspired to write it because of continually being questioned on all walks of life about the myth the world was going to end on December 21, 2012 according to the Mayan calendar.

After the world didn’t end, Chris decided to tackle the controversial topic of climate change by writing Undeniable! Dialogues on Global Warming, which was published in 2014. He also began the online Global Warming Skeptic Challenge, offering $10,000 to the first person who could prove the fallacy of global warming. His challenge quickly went viral and Chris spent his entire summer that year responding to submissions. He later published a compilation of the submissions and his responses, which can be purchased at or downloaded as a free PDF at Chris also writes the blog, Dialogues on Global Warming, which is devoted to climate change issues.

Chris most recent book is the thriller, That Which Maddens and Torments. It pits an ambitious, hard-hitting young newspaper journalist writing about global warming against villainous denier lobbyists in Washington, D.C., who are working for the fossil fuel industry. At the behest of their clients, the lobbyists will stop at nothing to protect the industry’s profits and to ensure that a scientific study proving the truth of global warming does not become public. Chris hopes that by tackling the issue of global warming via a work of fiction, he will engage a broader cross section of people in the issue.

After successful careers as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy and the Navy Reserve and then as a professor of physics, Chris now lives in the Texas Hill Country, where he continues to focus on climate change research and to write.

For More Information
  • Visit Christopher Keating’s website.
  • Connect with Christopher on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Find out more about Christopher at Goodreads.
  • Visit Christopher’s blog.
About the Book:

Title: That Which Maddens and Torments
Author: Christopher Keating
Publisher: Christopher Keating
Pages: 274
Genre: Suspense/Thriller

With the encouragement of her uncle, a retired professor of geophysics, Josephine Black, a recent college graduate, begins reporting on the issue of climate change for a major New York City newspaper. She quickly discovers that she has a passion for the subject and a talent for investigative journalism.

It’s not long before Jo’s hard-hitting articles are being noticed. However, leaders within the powerful fossil fuel industry don’t like what they are reading. They believe that the information in Jo’s articles could threaten their profits eventually, and they are also concerned that Jo will uncover a scientific report written by a friend of her uncle’s that proves the truth about global warming. The industry’s leaders are ruthless and are willing to stop at nothing to silence Jo and protect their profits.
Soon, Jo finds herself caught up in a very dangerous high stakes “cat and mouse game” related to the climate change debate. A game that combines politics and policy brokering at the highest levels of government with criminality. However, Jo is determined to outwit her ruthless enemies no matter what it takes.

Full of twists and turns, That Which Maddens and Torments is an entertaining, page-turning read. However, it also provides readers with insights into the debate surrounding the issue of global warming and helps to explain the motivation behind many of the global warming skeptics or deniers we read about or see on TV.

For More Information

  • That Which Maddens and Torments is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea actually evolved quite a bit. When I was done, I went back to my original notes and it was surprising to see how much I changed the story line during the process. Basically, I had an ending in mind and I wrote the rest of the book to get me there. The ultimate goal was to tell a good story.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Writing is hard. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t try to do it. You’ll spend hours every day on it and wake up in the middle of the night with ideas. One entire chapter came to me in my sleep. Another chapter came to me during a New Year’s Eve party. Writing will consume your life. But, if you like it, it is really a lot of fun. I’m already hard at work on my next two novels.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I’m self-published. I explored the idea of doing the traditional publishing, but it is extremely competitive. When I considered all of my options, I decided I was better served publishing myself.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

Not really. I had done my research before I started and pretty much knew what I was getting into. I think a lot of people don’t do that, though. The writing of a book is the easiest part. After that, you have to convince the reading public why they should read your book. That part is a lot of hard work.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

My next book is Purple Legion. The story line is about the unforeseen consequences of our actions. I’ve shown the working draft to a couple of people and they really liked it. After that, I’m working on a story that takes place in a fictional, Shangri-La place in the Texas Hill Country. It will be a quirky, humorous story.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

I do research on climate change (I’m a professor of physics). I spend a couple hours every day on science sites, reading and studying science topics.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I’m not realty trying to send a message. People who know me might doubt that because the villains are climate change deniers. But, the story would have been the same with any villain. I simply wanted a different villain and felt this group of bad guys hadn’t been exploited too much. It was easy.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Write. That first word is the hardest part of writing a novel. Sit down and do it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guest post: "One-Thousand Voices in My Head to Help Promotion," by J.J. Sherwood, Author of 'Kings or Pawns'

Me:     Writing is, and always has been, my first love.
Ishmael: Good gods, woman. You’re going to have to start stronger than that or you’ll put your audience to sleep!
Me: …I started writing when I was a kid—
Ishmael: That would explain my brother’s ridiculously child-like behavior.
Evrae: Hey! I resent that!
Ishmael: …Stop making crude signs at the computer. This is a written interview. They can’t see them.
Me: (*AHEM*) There’s a giant filing cabinet in the closet right now filled with half-completed tales. Tales that I’ll never show. But I do have novels I’ve worked very hard on—novels that have become my passion. The Steps of Power series is that. And so I’ve worked very hard to promote the series to share that excitement and passion with fellow adults.
Zauviir: (snorts*) Or kids who wander by our convention booths with cash in hand.
Me: Hey. I don’t do that.
Zauviir: I wasn’t talking about you. Someone—me—has to help pay the bills around here.
Me: …This is obviously a talk we’re having later. …Anyways, promotion can be a real challenge for new authors. Even with all the hours spent researching, you often still feel lost. Just the other day, a new author messaged me on Twitter and asked, “How do you have so many followers??” So I’m going to try to share a few tidbits of information—
Darcarus: (snickers*) Titbits.
Ishmael: Good. Now that Darcarus is here, the immature fest can really get going.
Me: …that might help authors—at any walk of life—ramp up their potential audience. So let’s do this!

Social Media

Me: By now you’re probably catching on that half of the promotion work is about “first impressions.” Social Media is where we get to the next step. Previously I mentioned that I had a woman ask me the other day how I had so many followers on Twitter (and I get about 1000 a month). My series art and website are by no means small contributors to promotion, but they are not the only things that promote my work. In my case, Twitter is my platform of choice. So I’ll talk about how to really enhance your presence online. In short:
Darcarus: Be hot.
Me: …That is not at all what I was going to say. First, your avatar should be a picture of you.
You: “Whoa. I’ve seen lots of big name authors who—”
Sairel: You’re not a big name author and that’s why you’re still reading this post.
Me: …Way to be snarky, Sairel. Sorry about him. Anyways, readers in this day and age like to put a face to the work they are reading. It’s just the facts of life. And I know some of you are sitting there, squirming with anxiety that you look like the left-over scrapings at the bottom of a chili bowl, but trust me when I say to you: put a face to your work. It legitimizes everything about your novel.
Sairel: Otherwise just assume everyone online envisions you as a thirteen-year-old kid who pretends to know how to write. Even if you claim you are forty and married. In the eyes of the online community, you’re probably still thirteen.
Evrae: You can be thirteen at heart, though.
Ishmael: Or in Evrae’s case, ten.
Me: Second: your bio should infuse you into it. Your passions, your quirks, your faults. Details. Your followers want to get to know you.
Sairel: Don’t just throw in a random quote or “I like food, dogs, and long walks on the beach.” That is also incredibly boring.
Me: And lastly: Follow people with like-minded passions. Don’t just “follow all” to add numbers to your feed. Follow people because you care. Because you see that they are, say, a fellow roleplayer and you are like “Oh boy! I bet they’ll have some awesome stories to share!” First and foremost, you’re a friend on Twitter. Most of the people you follow—95%—will never look twice at your work. So when you follow, keep in mind that you’re forming friendships first—and enjoy them for that. Who knows, maybe they’ll share a passion in your work as well and you two can spend long hours giggling about it! I’ve had so many Twitter followers who I have had a fantastic time talking about League of Legends champion hotness ratings, the hilarities of cats, foreign music, and other non-novel related talks with people who have said to me down the road, “Hey, I’d like to read your novel.” And then it’s even more fantastic because they’re not just a random number, they’re a friend who I can share yet another passion with! And for me, at least, that’s my greatest joy in writing.
Darcarus: Also getting hot artwork of us.
Me: …That too…
Title: Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power, The Kings: Book I)
Genre: Fantasy
Author: J.J. Sherwood
Publisher: Silver Helm
Purchase at Amazon
About the Book:
Kings or Pawns is the first novel in the Steps of Power series. It takes place after two very significant events in the world—the continental division between the human and elven races after the betrayal and death of Aersadore’s hero, Eraydon, and the recent Royal Schism that has left the elven nation’s politics even more corrupted than was prior. The new elven king, Hairem, is determined to overcome the council’s corruption and restore the elven lands, but he has far more to contend with than just the politics within the capital: an assassin has begun killing those loyal to him, a rebelling warlord threatens the city from without, and an unknown beast devastates the king’s forces at every turn. There are multiple points of view—the youthful and naïve king Hairem; the mute and spunky servant girl, Alvena; the mysterious and arrogant foreigner, Sellemar; and the cynical, dry-humored General Jikun.
About the Author:
JJ. Sherwood was born in Tucson, Arizona on New Year’s Eve—and has always had a flair for the dramatics. JJ began writing in kindergarten and her first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain.
Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity. JJ continued writing throughout her school years and escaped the horrors of short-story writing in college, ready and eager to write meaty, character-driven novels. With over 250 well-rounded characters developed from her nearly 20 years of roleplaying, JJ dove straight into the rich history of Aersadore, ready to let her puppeteers pull her creative strings.
JJ lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her spouse, parrot, bearded dragon, and four cats who look far too similar.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Virtual Book Tour: Interview with Children's Book Author Lisa McDonald

Lisa McDonald is an author and radio host. Her children’s books, LITTLE BOY GAN FROM PASSION-FILLED EVERLAND and REIMBURSE THE UNIVERSE, take readers, young and old, on journeys with diverse characters that teach lessons of acceptance, understanding, and sharing. Lisa’s radio program, Carpe Diem, promotes personal empowerment and showcases world-renowned authors, speakers, and musicians.

Writing has been a long-time passion for Lisa. “I have been writing since the age of five. I always wrote poetry, short stories, anthologies, essays. My maternal grandmother foresaw me being a writer/author from a very young age and encouraged me to pursue it. As a result of reinventing myself due to a change in personal/familial circumstances, it became clear to me that writing was not meant to be a hobby but rather my vocation.”

Lisa’s third and fourth books, PLANET POME-GRANITE and KISMET TALES FROM HAPPY TRAILS, are forthcoming in late 2015 and early 2016.

For More Information

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

I have been writing since the age of five, and have continually written throughout my entire life. It was due to a change in personal circumstances, that I reinvented myself and my career. I got very clear as to what it is I am most passionate about and decided to then turn my hobby into a vocation - a labour of love. My idea to write children’s books (soon changing my genre to adult material) was primarily motivated by my children, and my choice and necessity to always make them my number one priority as the result of being a single parent.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

Truthfully, writing the book is the easiest part of the process (in my humble opinion). The hard and necessary work comes from what follows after the book has been written - particularly if you are self-published. In order to gain exposure, build momentum, and market your product(s), one must be fierce and consistent with wearing many hats and juggling many balls. One often times has to learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable - meaning - you have to self-promote diligently as well as regularly interface with the public, store managers, anyone for that matter who is classified as your demographic audience. One must consistently expand their business so as to enable their product/work to become as far-reaching, accessible, and widespread as possible. My advice is to implement these vital strategies every day, and to anticipate delays, setbacks, and challenges while all the while, remaining committed to the process and both your short-term and long-term goals.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I have been self-published up until just recently. I am now partnered with FriesenPress Publishing. As a result of also making videos for the Internet, I had not long ago made a video speaking to the subject of kindly asking listeners, supporters, and fans, to graciously provide me with any referrals they may have of publishers, and/or publishing companies. One such individual, kindly offered FriesenPress as a suggestion in the comments section of my video. It has resulted in a flourishing and beautiful partnership.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The timing in which my journey has exponentially ramped up and gained momentum, is probably the most surprising - top of what this list entails, would be my very recent telephone conversation with my ongoing contact person at FriesenPress, whom only days ago, confirmed for me over the telephone that the partnership is now a green-light. The contract will soon be officially signed.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I currently have two children’s books out in print and on actual book shelves. My third and fourth children’s books are currently being illustrated. The third book, Planet Pome-Granite, is on target to go to print and released in the fall of this year (2015). My fourth children’s book, Kismet Tales from Happy Trails, is expected to be available for purchase by spring of 2016.

 Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Given that I generally have regular updates and announcements pertaining to my work and other related endeavours; I am a radio show host as well on The Contact Talk radio Network – go LIVE every Friday at 11:04am EDT - I am on social media a considerable amount of my time. Specific websites I derive much daily inspiration from would be inclusive of, The Writer’s Circle, The Master Shift, and Purple Clover.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

Although each book is unique with its own individual message, the underlying premise to all of my work, speaks to human connectedness, kindness, love, passion, compassion, humility, and paying-it-forward. I am extremely grateful that my work is resonating with all demographics regardless of whether or not people have children and grandchildren, or not. Teachers, and schools have been purchasing my books as well as inviting me to classroom book-readings, and annual book-fairs. Mothers have been reading my books to their unborn children. People have kindly been purchasing my books and have graciously donated them to school/public libraries, women shelters, and hospitals for children.  The reception has been incredibly lovely.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I always take full-advantage of any and all opportunities to properly extend my wholehearted gratitude to anyone and everyone who has played a role in my journey. I could not be here without the immense support I have graciously received from my friends, family, community, mentors, partners and collaborators. From the centre of my heart, thank-you!

About the Books:

Title: Little Boy Gan From Passion-Filled Everland
Author: Lisa McDonald
Publisher: Lisa McDonald
Pages: 36
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
McDonald’s first book, LITTLE BOY GAN FROM PASSION-FILLED EVERLAND, tells the story of ten-year-old Gan. Gan is humble and wise with a loving spirit that he shares with the animals he meets in the magical forest where the story takes place. The curious animals watch Gan and observe his kindness and humility. Soon they seek the boy out to learn the secret of his happiness. The old soul gives his new friends advice on humility, passion, compassion, and paying it forward. The impact Gan has on the animals is life changing. The lessons they learn lead to expressions of gratitude for their individual gifts and embolden them to share their passions with the world.

For More Information

  • Little Boy Gan From Passion-Filled Everland is available at Amazon.

Title: Reimburse the Universe
Author: Lisa McDonald
Publisher: Lisa McDonald
Pages: 36
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
In REIMBURSE THE UNIVERSE, a diverse cast of characters continue the theme of people sharing their best selves with the world. The message of this book focuses on giving back to the universe by honoring and respecting ourselves and others and understanding that all human beings are part of a collective whole. Each page in the book offers examples of how individuals can give back to the collective out of appreciation for the many gifts that the universe has provided all of us.

For More Information

  • Reimburse the Universe is available at Amazon.