Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nancy Kelly Allen, FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKEE LEGEND and AMAZING GRACE, plus #giveaway, #writing workshop

Ms. Allen is offering a special prize to readers today. She will  give a 20-minute SKYPE session or phone call to discuss writing. Since she conducts many writing workshops and has 30-plus children’s books published by traditional publishers, some might be interested. Topics can be about a particular manuscript the person is writing, marketing ideas, potential publishers—anything dealing with writing. The manuscript does not have to be a children’s book. Please be sure to leave contact information in your comment!

AUTHOR: Nancy Kelly Allen
GENRE: Picture book and middle grade novel
 PUBLISHERS: Sylvan Dell[First Fire] and The History Press [Amazing Grace]

Please tell us about yourself.

My route to writing children’s books has more twists and turns than a winding mountain road. I worked as a social worker and traveled many a winding road, uphill and down, around Hazard, Kentucky. Later, I became an elementary school teacher, and then a school librarian. After spending days introducing books to children, I spent nights writing books for them. At this point I have written over 30 picture books, one chapter book, and one middle grade novel. I have a master’s degree in Education from Morehead State University and a master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky. Home is still in Kentucky in the log cabin in which I grew up. My husband, Larry, and I share our cabin with two canine writer assistants, Jazi and Roxi.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The idea of my first published book plinked and clinked its way into my brain. I  was downstairs in my kitchen. Upstairs, my husband removed some coins from his pocket and dropped them. The coins pinged and tinged on the hardwood floor. I looked at my two canine muses and said, “Listen, girls, the money tree is ripe and dropping its fruit. The words just popped out of my mouth. After dinner, I began playing with the idea of a story about a money tree. ONCE UPON A DIME became a book about two years later, in 1999. The book is still in publication and even has a Korean version.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?
I don’t anything as exciting as participating in extreme sports. A skydiver, I’m not. But I love to read about such activities if they are all wrapped up in a cozy tale. Reading for pleasure is a daily must. I also enjoy music, and, of course, playing with my two canine muses. In warm weather, I piddle outdoors growing flowers.

What are your thoughts about promotion?
Promotion is part of our jobs as authors. It’s how we build a platform, a fan base, and introduce our work to others. There are many ways to promote. I enjoy face-to-face meetings with kids who enjoy my books so I participate in several book signing events throughout the year. I also use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

What are your current projects?
I recently received a contract for a picture book, FORTY WINKS, that will be published in 2015. I’m in the process of outlining the skeleton of a middle grade novel and gathering research for another picture book. I’m also conducting a few writing workshops for beginning writers. And I enjoy school visits.

What do you plan for the future?
I’ll concentrate on researching, writing, and revising a middle grade novel. Writing a manuscript to the point it spit-shines is labor intensive so that’s how I see 2014 unfolding: writing-revising-revising-revising-revising-writing-revising-revising-revising-revising…and so on. My long-range plans are to continue writing for children, both picture books and middle grade fiction. Kids are filled with wonder. Curiosity practically oozes out of them, and that’s appealing to me.  I love research and learning new and exciting facts. I package the discoveries, the cool and exciting ones, in the form of a manuscript and look for potential publishers.

I especially enjoy science and history and tying these subjects into the lives of children. If a subject resonates with me, I figure it will probably be interesting to others, as well. My goal with every manuscript is to write a book that’s fun to read and to bring science and history or a fictional character into the reader’s world.

How can we find you?

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.
I’m fortunate to have two books released this spring. One is a picture book, FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKEE FOLKTALE and my first middle grade novel, AMAZING GRACE.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final.
AMAZING GRACE has had a long and meandering journey to publication. The story began as a picture book and was accepted for publication. Then, the publisher decided to stop publishing picture books. I submitted the manuscript to other publishers. Editors suggested the story was better suited for a longer book. I filed the story away. A few years later I reread the story and the letters from editors and thought I should give the story another try, so I rewrote it as chapter book. I received positive feedback, but again several editors suggested the story would work better as a middle grade novel. Back to the file, out of sight and out of mind. Same story, third verse. I decided to give the story yet another chance so it was back to the keyboard for this gal. About a year later, I finished the manuscript. A few months later, I had a publisher. The long and meandering journey was a mere 15 YEARS.

What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I’m a retired teacher and school librarian, so I’ve been fortunate to spend my entire career with young people. I say fortunate because I enjoy spending time with kids. The time has been well spent because the kids teach me what they like to read. I encourage all writers who want to writer children’s books to read, read, read lots of children’s book…and to spend time with children.

Why do you feel qualified to write a children’s or teen novel?
I’ve had over 30 children’s books published so I guess one answer would be experience. I also have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, a second Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science, and a career teaching elementary students. I’ve introduced thousands of books by a wide range of authors to young readers. I have a vast knowledge of books in the marketplace and of children’s reactions to many of those books. Again, my job as a teacher and librarian was like a laboratory in which I learned how and what to write.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?
AMAZING GRACE required a massive amount of research. The story takes place during WWII. I wasn’t born at that time. My father and his brother served in WWII so this book is dedicated to them. Much of my research was centered on D-Day and facts relating to the troops. Another even larger research effort was based on the Kentucky home front: what people ate, what they grew in Victory Gardens, common WWII phrases, newscasts, school activities, automobiles, and everyday life for families who were helping with the war effort. 

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?
Read a wide variety of books in the genre in which you want to write. If writing historical fiction is your goal, read that type of book. When you enjoy a book, try to figure out what the author did to draw you into the story. Read books that you don’t enjoy. Try to determine what the author did that made the reading boring or uninteresting so you can avoid that with your own writing. You can learn as much, maybe more, by reading books that you don’t like. Sometimes, I reread a book just to analyze how the author developed the characters and plot. 

Tell me a little about your latest nonfiction book.
FIRST FIRE—A CHEROKKEE FOLKTALE is a picture book that is a retelling of a Cherokee folktale. I spent twenty years as a children’s librarian and have long been smitten with folklore. I love creation stories. They unravel the mysteries of the origins of the world and/or that of animals and people. Many cultures have their own stories that are similar to the stories of other cultures half-way around the world where the tales developed independently of the other. The stories are sacred and reflect how the people and animals of the culture cope with everyday life. Young readers enjoy the tales and identify with the characters since the young readers are learning to cope with a world that is new to them.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?
I wanted to write a story to pay tribute to my Cherokee great-grandmother. As I began reading Cherokee and Native American folktales, I found FIRST FIRE and knew immediately that I wanted to retell it as a picture book. The story had all the elements I was looking for: a variety of animals, a conflict, a crisis, and an unlikely hero, all tied up with a happy ending. I wanted to stay true to the original story, but add my own storytelling imprint.

What types of writing do you prefer, and why?
I enjoy writing fiction for children. I love the freedom fiction allows. I can be in charge of the fictional world and completely control the plot and characters. I’m Top Dog. The characters say what I tell them to say and do what I want them to do. In the real world, I’m not Top Dog, and I don’t control anyone around me.

I also enjoy writing creative nonfiction. I’ve never outgrown the inquisitive child living inside me. I say “creative” nonfiction because presenting facts and only the facts can be dull and boring. I like to wrap the facts in a narrative that uses literary styles and techniques to make the reader want to keep on turning the pages.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?
I want a book to draw me into the story from the beginning; then I want the book to hold my attention through the ending.

What books have most influenced your life?
Bill Martin, Jr’s books have influenced my picture book career. His work has such rhythm, in addition to wonderful characterization and plot. The words practically zing in a cadence. Reading CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM aloud is almost like singing. The same is true for BROWN BEAR BROWN BEAR WHAT DO YOU SEE. The words of his powerful writing linger long after the books are closed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sara Jayne Townsend, Death Scene

AUTHOR:  Sara Jayne Townsend
GENRE:   Mystery
PUBLISHER:  MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINK:  Coming soon

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Part time writer with full time day job.  And I spend three hours a day commuting to and from London to get to the day job.  It can be difficult to fit writing time in.  I have learned to be disciplined.  And sacrifice sleep.  I get up at 5:30am a couple of mornings a week to go into London early and I sit in a coffee shop near the office to get an hour of writing in before I go to work.  This seems to work well for me, and I get a lot done in that hour.  I think I’m tapping into my creative energy before the ‘internal editor’ wakes up, and I am able to write uncensored.

When and why did you begin writing?

A difficult question because I didn’t consciously start writing – it seems that it was always there.  As a young child I was always making up stories.  All of my dolls and toys had names, family histories and personalities and I would make up stories about them to tell myself at night when I went to bed.  From the age of six or seven, when I first learned how to write, I started writing them down.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I wrote many books (the first aged 11) before I got one published, and I am choosing to answer this question as it relates to my first published book. 

In the early 1990s I had a job in an office close to my home, and I used to walk to work.  My route took me past a ramshackle old house on a street called Nightingale Road.  The house looked empty and neglected, with dusty windows and overgrown plants in the garden.  It likely belonged to an old person, perhaps someone who’d gone into a care home or who’d died and there was no one left to care about the house.  But my imagination went into overdrive.  Who did live in the house?  I was inspired to write a story called ‘Kiddiwinks’, about a creature who lured children into her house by taking on the persona of a kindly old woman, and then she’d eat them – a sort of take on Hansel and Gretel.  I put the story to my writing group and they told me I should turn it into a novel.  So I did.  Eventually that novel became SUFFER THE CHILDREN (now available as an e-book).  Many of the details changed, but the old house on Nightingale Road still features.  As far as I know, its real-life inspiration is still there, too.

What are your thoughts about promotion?

Once upon a time writers could hole up in their garrets and never talk to anyone.  There’d be marketing people to sell their books for them.  Before the Internet you could go a lifetime without ever knowing what your favourite author looked like, unless you bought the hardback with the author photo on.  Now writers are expected to be much more proactive with the promotion.  The Internet can be a good place for promotion, especially for e-book authors, with Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads all providing platforms to promote your work and interact with readers.  Guest blogging can help you reach a new audience, as well.  I offer guest spots to other writers on my blog on Mondays, and most writers are more than happy to reciprocate.  Some writers argue that online promotion takes up writing time, but I would say that it’s just as important, and you have to make time for it as you make time for writing.

What are your current projects?

I’ve got a horror novel that is almost at final draft stage, and I hope to have that ready to submit later this year.  I’m also working on a collaboration with my husband.  He has an interest in 1960s music and thirty years of running table-top roleplaying games has made him quite good at plotting.  We are working on a crime thriller set in 1967, about a young woman who goes to London with dreams of playing bass guitar in a rock band, and who bites off a lot more than she can chew when she starts to investigate a friend’s disappearance.  We worked together on the plot, and I am writing the first draft.  It’s the first time we’ve worked together on a writing project.  So far it’s going quite well, but there’s a long way to go before it’s finished.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

What genre do you write in and why?

Crime and horror.  I’ve never been a ‘happy ever after’ sort of girl.  I like exploring the darker side of human nature, and people generally die horrible deaths in my work.  I often use writing as a way of exorcising negative or difficult feelings – loss, insecurity, death, fear, isolation.  So generally happy feelings do not make their way into my writing because I want to hold onto them.

So saying, I am a fan of satisfactory endings, if not necessarily happy ones.  In my novels, the main characters reach the end of the story have generally moved on from where they were at the beginning, having learned something or resolved some issue.  Though I can’t say the same about my short stories.  If you like happy endings, you probably shouldn’t read SOUL SCREAMS.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

I do outline, and this is something I have learned over time. I have too many half-finished manuscripts languishing in drawers because I got stuck halfway through.

Now, before I start writing chapter one I will start by writing a plot summary that usually ends up about three pages long.  I will then take that summary and expand on it a bit and plan a chapter-by-chapter breakdown.  Only then will I start writing draft 1.  Quite often I stray a bit from the plan, as I discover that an event in chapter 5 will actually take three or four chapters to play out, or some character gets distracted for a while by a side issue that I wasn’t expecting.  But as long as I have that chapter plan to come back to I know where my characters have to end up, and it means that whenever I sit down to write I know what’s going to happen next.  I know not everyone likes to be that organized with their writing, but it works for me.

How did you decide how your characters should look?

I generally try and think of a famous person my character resembles, and I keep that person’s image in mind when I write about them.  Sometimes I’ll even print off a brief ‘fact sheet’ containing relevant facts about the character’s appearance and personality, and include a photo of their famous look-alike which I will print off and keep by the PC when I write.

My amateur sleuth Shara Summers looks like the actress Jennifer Gardner.  Now, whenever I write about this character, this is how I picture her in my head.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

I had to do a lot of research into poisons to write DEATH SCENE – what sort of substance will poison someone slowly, and remain undetected?  I initially wanted to fall back on the old standards arsenic and cyanide, but a doctor friend of mine advised me that these substances are practically impossible to get hold of nowadays, and if I was writing a contemporary crime novel I couldn’t really use them.  She suggested to me a viable alternative, which is what I ended up using (though to avoid spoilers I will not reveal any more!).

I do have a book on poisons sitting on my bookshelf, which always worries people when they visit the house and notice it.

What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?

I’ve got a supernatural horror novel, SUFFER THE CHILDREN, currently available as an e-book, and a collection of short stories (also horror), SOUL SCREAMS, which is available as print and e-book.

The first book in my amateur sleuth series, DEATH SCENE, is not currently available but it will be re-released by MuseItUp Publishing in the Summer, and the sequel, DEAD COOL is scheduled for release in Autumn.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

Write often, even if it’s initially rubbish. Anyone can form a sentence, but it takes practice to become good at writing.  Join a writing group – an online one if you can’t find a physical one that’s suitable – and put your work out for critique.  Listen to the comments you get back, even if you find them harsh.  It’s not easy to hear that your baby is ugly, but if you want to increase your chances of publication you have to learn where you’re going wrong.  Go to genre conventions as often as you can and start talking to other writers and industry professionals (starting conversations is much easier than you might think – they’ll all be in the bar, and offering to buy someone a drink is always a good place to start).  And then, when you’ve polished your manuscript as much as you can, submit it.  Rejection is painful, but it happens to us all.  You need to develop a thick skin.  Every time a standard rejection email drops into your inbox, you promptly send it out somewhere else.  And never give up.  No writer becomes an overnight success, and you have to keep picking yourself up and throwing yourself out there again.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I play bass guitar (rather badly – I’m still a beginner) and my husband plays electric and acoustic guitar so we do a lot of open mic nights together at local pubs.  I am also very fond of playing video games.  Currently my favourite series are Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dragon Age.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

Most of my reading is done on my commute to and from work. I have a couple of hours’ reading time every day and I am a fast reader, so I get through at least one book a week. I like action-driven crime novels and horror stories, with strong plots and courageous female characters. I get on the train at 7:20am and my brain isn’t fully awake then, so I like stories I can leap straight into, without having to think too hard – ambiguity and obscurity are turn-offs in books.  I also like short chapters.  I hate leaving a book in the middle of a chapter, and since most of my reading is done in half-hour bursts before I have to change trains, I don’t like starting a chapter if I know I won’t get to the end of it before I get to my stop.


DEATH SCENE (Shara Summers #1)

Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEAD COOL (Shara Summers #2)

Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with.

Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window.  It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed.  His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?


Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.  She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Stephanie Burkhart, Dark Shadow

Author: Stephanie Burkhart
Book Title: Dark Shadow
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Publisher: Desert Breeze Publishing

Question: Please tell us about yourself.

Steph: I grew up in New England where there was plenty of snow in the winter and tons of humidity in the summer. When I was 18, I joined the US Army and they shipped me off to Germany where I had a front seat to the fall of the Berlin Wall. My husband and I were married Denmark in 1991 and settled in Southern California. I have a B.S. in Political Science from California Baptist University. Currently, I'm a 911 dispatcher for LAPD, I adore chocolate, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and I'm a proud mom of a boy scout and a cub scout.

Question: When and why did you begin writing?

Steph: I was six when I saw an episode of the Electric Company. It was a kids' show in the 1970's. One of the segments was about Spiderman so I took paper and pencil to the kitchen table and would draw comic books based on the Spiderman excerpts. During high school, I focused on poetry and short stories and when I was in the Army, I worked on longer stories.

I can't really explain the why except to say it's a passion inside me that must come. Writing is an expressive, enjoyable outlet. It never gets old or dull, and there's always something new to explore.

Question: Are you a full time writer or part time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Steph: I would consider myself a part time writer. I hold a full time job with LAPD as a 911 dispatcher. Not only that, as my boys get older I find myself dedicating more time to their activities and I still have to clean the house.

Organizing my writing time gets more challenging every year. I usually take pen to paper during down time at work (since we aren't allowed computers) and at the house, I type up what I've written. I'll write in the car when going on a long trip or I'll write at home on my day off. I prefer to write in the morning when I've had two cups of coffee.

Question: What do you do when you're not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

Steph: I chuckle because I'm usually very busy. I teach religious education for my church on Mondays. It's the 1st grade and I find working with the children very rewarding, but the prep work involves lesson planning and obtaining my resources. I also teach the Little Church on Sundays as my schedule permits. I help out as an assistant den leader for my son's cub scout den so I'm always prepping outings. I enjoy reading, walking, racquetball, going to the movies and watching Pawn Stars, but rarely do I find the time, (or babysitters) for those activities. Well, maybe Pawn Stars. (wink)

Question: Tell us your latest news.

Steph: I'm in the editing phase of "A Lady Never Lies," Book 3 in my Windsor Diaries steampunk romance series. I'm also working on a short story for the upcoming writer's digest annual competition. I'm also firming up some story ideas I've sketched out, working on a "cozy" mystery/suspense called "Bad Wife" and getting back to work on a romantic suspense I started, "Hunt for the Margrave's Lace."

Question: How can we find you?

Steph: Here are my links:






Question: What genre do you write and why?

Steph: I write several genres: romance, mainstream/literary, horror, and children's stories. The inspiration for my children's stories have come out of my interaction with the kids from my religious education classes. It's such a reward to see the world through their eyes.

I haven't written any horror stories in a while, but I do enjoy a good scare. I'm more of a "demon-you-don't-know-girl," than the demon "within" writer, though I find "within" stories tend to tap into more raw, poignant emotion.

Two my mainstream/literary short stories, "Spontaneous Decision" and "Made in America," earned 8th place in the Writer's Annual Digest Contest. It's fun to explore topics that everyday people struggle with.

The bulk of my novel work is romance. I write paranormal, steampunk fantasy, sci-fi, and contemporary stories. The attraction of romance writing is delivering the HEA. I'm a hopeful person in general, despite the gloom we see on a daily basis. I'd like to think that love can overcome any challenge which is what I enjoy depicting in my stories.

Question: Do you outline before you write? If not, what's your initial process?

Steph: I do outline, but it's very rough and loose. I outline a start where the main characters are confronted with a problem, and then I outline an end. I usually outline 3 chapters at a time once I start writing in case the characters want to do something else.

Question: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Steph: The characters. I have rough ideas of what I want my characters to do. For example, hero must save space station from a biological weapon. Then I work on my hero and the supporting cast, i.e., heroine, sidekick, villain, friend, mentor, etc. Once I firm up, I flesh out my idea into a plot remembering to include inner conflict, external conflict, sexual tension, etc.

Question: How did you decide how your characters should look like?

Steph: I cast my characters. That really helps me to visualize their appearance and their quirks, especially when I'm writing.  For "Dark Shadow" I cast Alex Meraz for "Helios" and Camella Belle for "Vivian."

Question: Tell us about the current book you're promoting.

Steph: "Dark Shadow" is a sensual novella set in the distant future. Kal Raines runs the Borealis, a space station owned by the bad guys, the TPP. (Trans Protectorate Police) My heroine is Vivian. She runs a bar on the station called "Korn." Helios (my hero) is sent to the station to investigate the TPP. They're testing a biological weapon. Can Helios destroy the weapon and keep Vivian safe?

Question: What do you look for in a book you read for fun?

Steph: I want the book to stimulate my imagination or take me to another time and place. I want to escape. Take me on a journey.

Question: What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

Steph: I'm not a big fan of first person present tense so the writing has to be very strong for me to stay with the book. I’m reading "Divergent" now and it's written like that, but the writing is sharp and the story is intriguing. I keep turning the pages.

Here's a Blurb for "Dark Shadow:"
The TPP have developed a new destructive weapon and intend to test it on the Borealis Space Station. Helios Talon, a Rebellion freedom fighter from Pith, is dispatched to the station to discover the extent of the weapon's development and stop it if necessary. He's also given a personal mission from his sister, Persephone: keep Vivian Melendez, the owner of Korn, safe from an unknown assassin. 

Helios and his cousin, Athena, arrive on the Borealis and discover the TPP are ready to test the weapon. He's got to act fast, but when Helios meets Vivian, distractions complicate his plan. Can he overcome his challenges and save not only the feisty Vivian, but the station, too?





Enjoy this excerpt:

He cupped her cheek and felt his mind connect with her again. "I'm not ashamed to work for the Rebellion. The TPP are ruthless and careless with life. The Rebellion is growing and soon it will be strong enough to overtake the TPP."
"I can't deny the conviction I hear in your voice."
"When I believe in something or someone, I'm in one hundred percent. It wasn't easy growing up on Pith, then watching the TPP rape my world. They killed my parents."
"That's your reason for being a rebel?"
"No, my motivation. I still have relatives on Pith. I still want to live there when the fighting is all over." He quieted and offered her a wistful smile.
"Anything else you want?"
"A family of my own one day."
She paused. At one point in time she had wanted that, too. The knots lessened in her stomach. Helios drew close. Impulse took over. His lips skirted hers. His warm breath and spicy scent made her feel protected. Vivian leaned against him. Her lips brushed against his. He tasted of honey and berries -- and chocolate. The seductive sample he offered fueled her body, urging her to savor and enjoy.
She placed her palms flat against his muscled chest and her heart skipped a beat. She never felt so safe, so wanted.
Then reality struck. This was only a moment. She wasn't TPP or a rebel. Her home was here with Sally and Korn. Adonis sounded like he wanted more than she could offer, and Benares was not going to ruin her life again.
She pushed Helios away and broke off the sweet, heartwarming kiss, but discovered she was breathless and couldn't look away from him. Adonis managed to confuse the heck out of her.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Madeleine McLaughlin, The Mountain City Bronzes

AUTHOR: Madeleine McLaughlin
BOOK TITLE: The Mountain City Bronzes
GENRE: Horror
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

I always planned to be a full-time writer but I've found when you begin to write when you're older, the habits of a lifetime intrude. I do write every day but I also have to do chores and take care of the people in my life. When you start writing when you're young, you are better able to put all your time into it. At least that's my take. It just means I write shorter things.

When and why did you begin writing?

I worked many kinds of jobs but when I stopped working, I wanted to have something to do. I took various correspondence courses and decided that writing was the best because I could do it from home. Besides, I had been writing bits and pieces since childhood and kept a journal, so it was natural to choose writing.

What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment?

When I was a student, I loved to use archaic words. My feeling was that readers would love to be given a chance to learn some new/old words. One word I loved was 'thowless' an archaic Scottish word meaning 'listless'. So I put it in this sentence. 'The thowless sky held gray hands aloft and winds tumbled restlessly under them.' Just to be told by my teacher that readers would put down any book that contained words they didn't understand. How did I change? No more archaic words.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learned not to skimp in the research.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

I am published by MuseItUp Publishing. I found them because I have an account with Critique Circle, a website where you can post your writing to get critiques on it. Another member of the site was bragging (on the brag thread) about being published by MIU so I thought I'd send in a story. That was in 2010. Beggar Charlie will be my second story published by them.

What are your current projects?

I'm going to be releasing a new e-book this summer entitled Beggar Charlie. I'm really looking forward to it, it's my first foray into writing for young people.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

My blog is Madeleine's World, you can find it at

What genre do you write in and why?

The Mountain City Bronzes is a horror story but I'll try any genre if I have a good idea.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

As of yet, I have not outlined, I just have it in my head and see where it goes but I can definitely see a use for outlining especially if you want to do a murder mystery. One day I would like that so I'm doing an outline for that.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

Both can be true, for me, they usually come at the same time because the character will tell you what kind of story you're writing. The Mountain City Bronzes has a child as the MC. That is integral to the way the story unfolds.

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

I pity Chester and Lorne and think their predicament is all too common. I won't explain further, you'll have to read the story to find out what I mean.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?

It can take years to write a book. I'm currently working on a big novel which has been at least four years in the making and I have a long way to go.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

If it's fiction, I like beautiful prose, if it's non-fiction, I want to learn something.

Describe your writing space.

I write in a great, big comfy chair right in front of the television. It's by the window so I can see out.


Synopsis: Kevin is a ten year old boy who worships his father, the town jailer. He plays inside the jail everyday and is curious about a locked door he finds. He pesters his father to tell him why it's locked and when his father finally does, Kevin learns about secrets and evil right near to him

Friday, April 4, 2014

Boyd Lemon, A Long Way to Contentment

Author: Boyd Lemon
Title: A Long Way to Contentment

Self-Publishing :

What are the biggest improvements you’ve seen in the self-publishing process (quality of print or e-book, speed of the process, etc.)?

Even if you are only minimally skilled in electronic technology, you can now publish your book yourself for free using Create Space, which with the click of your mouse will put it up on Kindle as well as in the print format on Amazon and distribute it to the major book wholesalers. Even the cover of the print book can be done through Create Space for free. If you cannot use the technology at all beyond typing your manuscript in MS Word format, you can hire people to format it for you for $50 or less. If you can’t even navigate Create Space or create your own cover, again you can hire people to do it for around $100. When self-publishing first became possible, the companies that published for you, known as author service or vanity publishers, charged in the thousands of dollars.

Do you think self-publishing is kind of like a baseball “farm system” for the majors? That is, the self-publisher tests the waters for certain types of work, which might be picked up?

It was that way for the most part. I don’t think it is anymore. A large percentage of the best sellers are now self-published, and I know many self-published authors who have sold tens or even hundreds of thousands of books. I think the traditional publishers are going to be a thing of the past, like cassette tapes, sometime in the next decade. There may be more companies like Amazon, but they won’t be traditional publishers.

Have any mainstream publishers expressed interest in « picking up » any of your work ?

No. My books, so far, have not appealed to the mainstream market, so no mainstream publisher would be interested. I am not trying to make money from my books. I write what I want to write; I don’t write for the market.

What were the biggest barriers you faced as a self-published writer? How did you surmount them? (Are there any you could not surmount—yet?)

The biggest barriers I faced were (1) learning no navigate the technology involved in getting a book published, and (2) learning what scams to avoid in book promotion and what might or might not work to sell books. I am still learning every day.

What was your biggest mistake as a self-published writer?

Paying a P.R. firm $4,000 for what I thought was book promotion.

How does a self-published writer get serious blurbs—which will be taken seriously by potential readers?

You have to keep writing quality stuff, keep publishing and interact in person and on the Internet with readers and potential readers. In time the praise and the blurbs come, but probably not with your first book unless you know a well-known author or two.

Similarly, how does a self-published writer get serious reviews?

There are Internet sites of reviewers. You find them (Google “book reviewers,”) and you send them a copy of your book. Also if you do giveaways on, most winners of your book will review it and post on Amazon and Goodreads. Finally, for everyone that you know read your book, ask them to post a review on Amazon. If you are an unknown author, is there a way to get your book reviewed in the New York Times or similar publications? No.

What’s the best way to promote a self-published book?

There is no “best way.” Engage on social media, particularly about subject matter that is relevant to your book. Create a website and blog and post articles relevant to your book. Comment on articles on major blogs (e.g., Huffington Post) that are relevant to your book. Join Face Book, Google and Linked In groups that are relevant to the subject of your books, and engage with other members. Be very careful to use key words for your book on Amazon that will lead people to your book. For a first time author, consider selling your book for $.99 for a while. Go to local libraries and try to get them to carry your book. Go to local independent bookstores and ask them to carry your book and schedule readings and signings. Go to local “events” and sell your books where appropriate. Carry business cards with the name(s) of your book(s) and your Website URL, and give them to everyone you meet where appropriate. Try to set up presentations at local clubs, senior citizen centers, etc. The problem is if you do all this, you won’t have time to write another book.

Should other professionals involved in the process (press agent, etc.) be hired in the same way? Or should the writer use the companies cropping up that cater to self-publishing writers?

In my early experience with self-publishing I spent way too much money on professionals who said they would promote and sell my books, and none have been successful. What I have done myself has been more successful. In the current environment nobody really knows exactly what sells books, other than being famous. There is only one company that I would pay to promote my books, and there is no guarantee that even this company will succeed. I only know that the principal of the company is honest, does not overcharge and will not guarantee something that he cannot deliver on. The name of the company is Novel Ideas, and the principal is Nick Wale. Incidentally, I have no connection or interest in Novel Ideas, other than as a client. Sometimes what Nick does in promoting your book works; sometimes it doesn’t.

Have your books made a profit? What advice would you give the self-publishing writer in terms of making his or her book profitable?

My first book lost money because I spent too much promoting it, not knowing what to do. Four of my books have made a very modest profit, and one has not been out long enough to know.

Writing at an advanced age:

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take up writing after retirement, or at an advanced age?

Go for it! I’m having the time of my life. Writing has become my passion during my retirement, a reason to keep going.

What are the special challenges facing such writers?

Learning the technological stuff. Otherwise, the challenges do not differ with age.

Should senior writers focus on genres such as memoir? That often seems to be the case.

Memoir is appropriate and sometimes cathartic for seniors, and they provide the reader with the perspective that years of life experience gives. However, I think seniors and any author should write what they most enjoy writing. Memoir is a good place to start for the same reason that writing teachers advise to “write what you know.” I wrote three memoirs before I took on a novel.

Should senior writers focus on shorter books? Some celebrated writers, such as Phillip Roth, seem to write thinner books when they get older.

As I said, write what you feel like writing. I don’t think age precludes long books.

As an older writer, do you focus on older readers when you market?

In a way, I do, but not because I am an older writer. It is my perception that older people read more. It is difficult to fit in reading books when you have a full time job and two or three small children to raise, especially if you’re are a single parent, or both mother and father have full time jobs.

Chapter 1

My sister had attempted suicide twice in her short life. When I called her the day before yesterday, I got her voicemail, and she hadn’t called back. Normally––if there ever was a “normally” with Lori––she returned my calls within a couple hours. I called again before I went to bed last night and got voicemail again.

The morning sun shone soft light through the flickering window and warmed the studio apartment, heralding another beautiful Southern California day. I had lain awake much of the night and was chock full of anxiety. My love for Lori was visceral, like we were joined at the chest. I hadn’t heard from her for a couple weeks. Although she was four years older than me and had been my protector and idol during my childhood, as her emotional stability floundered, our relationship had flip-flopped. I was now her support and protector.

It was too early to call again; Lori was late to bed and late to rise. I slumped down at the little, round, yellow table in the corner, the same one I wrote at, to drink my customary blueberry smoothie. My wife Jessica, dressed in her short, pale blue nightgown that showed off her long, sexy legs, and eating a piece of whole wheat toast, shuffled over and kissed my cheek. 

“Morning,” I said.

“I take it you haven’t heard from Lori.”

“No. I’m worried.”

“Well,” Jessica said, “maybe she’s finally gotten a life. I’m sure she’ll call soon, honey.”

I called three times later that day with the same result––the flat echo of her voicemail message. At the table the next day, my notebook in front of me, I continued to stare at the same page of the short story I had been writing and that I hoped to sell to pay next month’s rent. I got up from the table, turned on the TV and flopped down on the orange futon that doubled as our couch and bed, hoping that the news of the last days of the 2000 presidential campaign would distract me. It didn’t, so I turned it off. Alone with my thoughts––Jessica was busking on the Santa Monica Pier that afternoon––I thought about flying to San Francisco, where Lori had been living for several years. I knew it wouldn’t accomplish anything if she weren’t home. Also, I didn’t know any of her friends or even her landlord’s name. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

I feared the worst. Lori was twenty-nine and had suffered from depression since her teenage years. When she was eighteen and I was fourteen, we lived with our grandmother. Grandma and I came home from the grocery store one afternoon. I was the first in the door and, hearing sobs coming from the bathroom, I pulled open the door. Lori lay on the floor bleeding from her wrists. She had to have known that Grandma and I were likely to find her before she died; it was an obvious cry for help, not a serious suicide attempt. Through the rest of her teens and early twenties she had been in and out of therapy, mental hospitals and drug rehab facilities, and had barely survived another suicide attempt. The phone on the table next to the futon rang just as Jessica came in the front door. I sat frozen through the second ring.

“Are you going to get the phone?” asked Jessica as she leaned her guitar against the wall.

When I picked up the phone and held it gingerly against my ear, I heard my voice crack. “Hello.”

“Brad Wilson, please.”


“Brad, this is Gabriel.  I’m your sister’s landlord. I’ve been trying to find your phone number since yesterday. I’m sorry to tell you that Lori’s in the hospital.”