Friday, May 17, 2019

Interview with Author Savannah Hendricks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When Savannah Hendricks is not writing, she is a medical social worker. Prior she worked with special needs preschoolers and spent seven years as a nanny. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s in Criminal Justice. Her stories have been included in over 30 children’s magazines, and is the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development: Vol 1 & 2. She has two new picture books releasing this year, Winston Versus the Snow and The Book Who Lost its Title. You can find out more at her blog: https://theseashellsoflife.wordpress.com


Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer:  My first sweet romance novel is Grounded in January. The title came to me when I thought about the plot of the story. I wanted a title with multiple references throughout the story, and Grounded in January does just that! I enjoy light stories and shy away from hardcore emotional fiction and sex scenes, so sweet romance was something I could naturally write. The world can often be upsetting and I want my stories to be realistic, but also give some level of hope and happiness.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer:  My mom’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was the inspiration for the story. I also wanted to write something set in the snow, and when I started plotting it out, I was missing the snow back in Washington. As I started writing out each chapter I wanted to make sure there were funny moments to give it a lighter feeling love story.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Kate and Ox are the main focus of the story and their differences drive the story forward. Kate has a horrible fear of flying and Ox is a pilot, talk about opposites. They both have a very strong sense of what they want, but lack the courage to obtain it. The independence makes them who they are but, also helps them push aside their dreams because no one is there to say, hey, go after that!  

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  My first picture book, Nonnie and I (Xist Publishing), set in Botswana is a story about making new friends, but keeping the old. It centers around a little girl, her pet giraffe, and the first day of school. I started my writing career in children’s literature and have over thirty pieces in magazines and anthologies. I have two more picture books coming out this year, Winston Versus the Snow (Brother Mockingbird Publishing) and The Book Who Lost its Title (Big Belly Book Co.)

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m wrapping up two other sweet romance novels, one set in the summer out in the desert and one set at Christmas time in Minnesota. The summer set one is almost ready for submission, and the Christmas one should hopefully be ready come mid-summer.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:   I worked as a nanny for about eight years and I started reading massive amounts of picture books and children’s magazines on a daily basis. Seeing children react with such joy made me take a leap. And I was not sure I could actually be a writer, because I was illiterate until about fourth grade and honestly hated reading until I became an adult. I’m so grateful I decided to be an author, hone my craft, and never gave up.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer:  Never give up! Write your way! These are the two things that stand out to me over my writing career. I lost track of how many times I wanted to give up. It’s a tough business and most don’t make money from it, at least not enough to quit their full time jobs. Rejections sting and unless you have a support system, it’s hard. Also, write the way that works best for you. If you can’t write every day, that’s alright. Whatever makes your story great is all that matters. Seek out advice and work on your craft, but don’t assume you have to do everything just as everyone else does.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer:  
Grounded in January is available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million, and the publisher (Brother Mockingbird).

Nonnie and I is available in English, Spanish and bilingual editions via Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Books-A-Million and numerous apps for children such as Epic and Reading Rainbow).
          

Comments and question for Savannah are welcome here!

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Truth about Mother's Day

Some of the facts about Mother’s Day are surprising and unexpected. The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in America was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872.  She became famous with her Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Anna Jarvis is actually recognized as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. She never married or had children herself. However, she got the inspiration for celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an activist and social worker. Mrs. Jarvis expressed a desire to have a day set aside to honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them. 

 By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the
Union, and on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day. Mother’s Day is now celebrated in several countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. Sadly, Anna Jarvis became disillusioned by the commercialization of the holiday. She eventually denounced it.

Today mothers are honored with many kinds of gifts: cards, perfume, jewelry, candy, flowers, plants. If a mother is a reader, books are great Mother’s Day gifts, either print or digital.

What most of us who are mothers appreciate most is simply spending time with our children. Sharing a meal like a brunch or dinner together is one way of making the day special. If children live and work too far away to visit, a phone call is always appreciated. I hope to see my children and grandkids.

My gift to other mothers this year is some fun free reading--since this is International Short Story Month as well.

For a Mother’s Day story:

“The Art of Listening”



BEYOND THE BO TREE is a collection of ten romantic short stories of all types and lengths. The first one, “The Phone Call,” is a free read:



What are your thoughts regarding Mother’s Day? How do you think this holiday should be spent?


Friday, May 3, 2019

Elements of Fiction: How to Build a Strong Plot

Whether we’re creating short or long works of fiction, plot is one of the key elements of story writing. Simply put, the plot consists of a beginning, middle and end. Plot is the structure, the architecture of a story. Build it strong and you have coherence. Build it weak and it falls apart. The plot of a story needs to be dynamic. Like a tree, it grows well if it has deep, healthy roots.


It doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing, a good plot puts forth a question, a puzzle, a mystery that needs a solution. Plots have a chain of cause and effect relationships, not just what happens, which is the story, but why things happen the way they do. Clearly, this brings character into play.

I believe it’s best to create a flexible outline before starting to write so that you have a clear idea of where your story is going. I write a rough synopsis of the plot. But before I tackle that, I write a character bible which names and describes the key figures.

As to the actual writing, I begin with the setup, an initial action or problem that needs to be solved. The beginning defines main characters and what they want, what motivates and drives their needs.

I try to start a book or story in medias res, beginning in the middle of a scene of some significance. Something important should be happening. Dialogue and action are crucial. You don’t want a static beginning. Description, internal monologue, narration, flashback and reflections all have their place, but they need to be limited, and they should not occur right at the beginning of a work.

My latest YA novel WITCH WISH begins in the middle of an argument, setting up a conflict between two sisters leading to surprising complications.


I suggest intriguing the reader by starting with some form of mystery. Make your reader curious from the first and then keep them guessing.

Think of the middle of the novel as rising action (Aristotle’s words). What happens grows organically from what occurs in the beginning. The protagonist runs into difficulties and can’t easily solve them. Don’t slow the pace. Keep the tension building. Increase the danger and/or the obstacles. This goes for any genre of fiction whether it is romance, sci-fi, mystery, literary etc. Always remember that the main characters drive the plot which involves some deep innate need or flaw in character.

I was very pleased with the review from LIBRARY JOURNAL regarding my latest mystery novel DEATH PROMISE:

“The plot kept this reviewer turning the pages."


The ending of a story should contain a climax, falling action and a denouement or final resolution. Some element of change needs to occur. Elements of plot follow a distinct pattern and yet each plot should be unique and not formulaic.

Jan Fields of Institute for Writers has this to say on the topic: 
Plot is exactly how the journey happened in the story. And if you have skills and imagination, your plot will not be exactly like anyone else's, nor will it be just like any other story you've written.”


Your comments welcome!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Interview with Author Keith Steinbaum

After a number of years devoted to poetry, followed by a decade and a few recorded songs as a professional song lyricist, Keith eventually developed a strong desire to write a novel, culminating in the completion of The Poe Consequence, a modern day supernatural thriller/human drama. The first version was self-published and released in 2012.  That year it was awarded   Supernatural Thriller of the Year by Books-and-Authors.net, an online literary website.  In 2015, after switching to another Indie book publisher, Kirkus Reviews selected it as one of its top books of the year in its year end issue, and in 2017, while still with the same publisher, it received a Finalist placing in the international Book Excellence Awards competition. 

Last June, 2018, The Poe Consequence was signed by Black Opal Books and will be re-released through them later this year. Although not currently available in book form, the audio book is obtainable through Amazon.com or Audible.com.

His second novel, a Beatles-themed whodunit murder mystery titled, You Say Goodbye, also published by Black Opal Books, was released on February 23rd. For those who plan to read the book, Keith likes to tell them to be prepared to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes to see if you can figure out who committed the crime. 

Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: My novel is titled, You Say Goodbye, and I refer to it as a Beatles themed whodunit murder mystery.  For those who are familiar with Beatles songs, ‘Hello Goodbye’ plays an important role in the story and my title is a line from the song.  As to why I chose to write a murder mystery, I decided that my original short story concept built around the relationship between two highly diverse characters needed a more ‘meat on the bones’ approach that could offer the murder mystery stimulation while also providing a story within a story about the evolution of the relationship between the two main characters.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: As with water not immediately coming to a boil after the flame is lit, the inspiration for my novel took a long time to develop, but I can definitely tell you what started the flame.  I like to scan the obituary section of the paper once in a while because there are people who lived fascinating lives and I like to read about them.  As fate would have it, on one of those particular days I chose to review that section, the birth of You Say Goodbye was about to occur.

A photo taking up nearly half the page showed a sweet looking little round faced girl sitting at a table under a large hand painted banner reading, ‘Alex’s Lemonade Stand.’  The unusual sight of a child immediately drew my attention, and as I read the article my emotions fluctuated from interest to amazement, all the while permeated with a profound sense of sadness.

Alexandra Scott suffered from a form of cancer, and starting at the age of four she decided she wanted to sell lemonade to raise money for childhood cancer research.  Starting with that one front yard lemonade stand at her home in a Philadelphia suburb, Alex’s Lemonade Stands grew to be located in all fifty states, Canada, and parts of Europe.  She died at eight years old.

I hadn’t heard of this charity, so her life story was new to me.  I cut the photo out of the paper and taped it on my office wall as a perspective reminder.  I’d look at her photo often, sometimes talking to it as a source of strength.  And it was months later that I started to piece the idea of a story together knowing that I wanted a starring character patterned after Alexandra Scott. 

I eventually decided that the best way to utilize her inspiration was to contrast her courage and appreciation for life with an adult who complained a lot and felt his best days were behind him.  So while searching for that adult character, I looked at my own life, at my own occasional complaints, and thought back to my days as a song lyricist when frustration often left me feeling bitter about the state of things.  And that’s how my down-on-life-one-hit-wonder-ex-rock-n’-roll-star was born. 

Eventually realizing that the story needed something more than the effect of two dissimilar characters on each other’s lives, a murder mystery started coming into focus.  It took some time to figure out how fit the pieces but once I developed the characters around the protagonist I found my way. 


Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Have you ever heard the expression, generally found in humor, where the person’s answer to a question is “I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you?”  Well, I’m not threatening anybody’s life here, but if I were to tell you that answer for a whodunit murder mystery, that would be giving too much away. 

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I’ve written one other novel, a supernatural thriller titled, The Poe Consequence with the following as its premise: After the death of an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting, the two rival street gangs responsible for his murder face an Edgar Allan Poe inspired vow of revenge from beyond the grave.  The book was originally self-published but I signed a contract with Black Opal Books for it to be re-released probably near the end of this year.  As for what other published works I have, before I wrote The Poe Consequence, I was a professional song lyricist for over a decade with some recordings but not enough to ever consider it a career possibility.  Before that I wrote a lot of poetry, so creative writing has been a passion of mine for most of my life.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I wish I could present you with some unique and appealing concept for an answer, but while the radar is always on the lookout for something to move me emotionally enough to spark an idea, which is what it will take, right now my ocean brain waves are flat awaiting the next call for surf’s up.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: Without going into specifics because of the personal nature of the situation, I experienced a tragic event in my mid-teens that created an urgent need for a release of some kind.  I turned to writing poetry, which eventually evolved into lyric writing, and then, years later, the desire to write a novel.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: I’ll be sixty-five in June, and having written creatively since the age of fifteen, I’ll be ‘celebrating’ my fiftieth anniversary in a few months.  So with the many thousands of hours devoted to the combination of poetry, song lyrics, and two novels, I do feel that I’ve learned a thing or two.  That said, here are two of three key suggestions from me that might help, with the third one coming from author Anne Lamott from her ‘Bird by Bird’ book on writing that will help maintain a writer’s sanity.

1.   Be patient with yourself.  Let your creative right brain side and your logical left brain side work as a team.  It’s amazing how just ten minutes away from what you think is the final version of something will often take on a different perspective when you return to re-read it.  It’s when you return again, and then again, and don’t feel you can say it any better, that you can finally claim you found the buried treasure.  A creative writing teacher I had told the class that Proust recommended keeping your manuscript in a drawer for seven years before looking at it again.  I don’t think we need to go to that extreme but any time away will provide the objectivity you need to properly judge your own work.
     
2.   This advice won’t apply to genres such as comedy or non-fiction, but for me and the genres I seek, if you want your reader’s heart to be moved, then you as the writer need to write from the heart.  The creativity from your brain will follow along accordingly.

      3.   For novelists who find themselves on a never ending merry go round of finding       something to change again and again, and again, wondering if they’ll ever finish,   Anne Lamott’s octopus analogy is brilliant.  When you finish your book but still       wonder if there’s more you can do to improve it, it’s analogous to putting an      octopus to bed. You tuck it in and walk back to turn out the light but notice a   tentacle has flopped out from the sheet.  You go back, tuck in that tentacle, and     start to walk out again.  When you look back, now another tentacle has flopped       out.  After tucking that one in, when you turn back again before turning out the light and see that another one has flopped out, at a certain point you just have to        tell yourself that the octopus will probably keep having tentacles flop out no     matter how many times you tuck them in so just turn out the darn light because you gave it all you had. 

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: The book was released on February 23rd.  Here are the online retail sites with links included, starting with the publisher, Black Opal Books:

Amazon


Barnes and Noble

i-Books

Smashwords

Kobo

Scribd

The Poe Consequence won’t be available in print again until the Black Opal Books release, but the audio book version can be found through the Audible link:

Audible

For more information on Keith and both of his novels, go to www.keithsteinbaum.com.  You can also visit his Facebook page by typing Keith Steinbaum-Author.


Comments and questions for Keith welcome here!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Novel Writing: Revision Strategy

A newsletter distributed by THE WRITER offers ten revision strategies. I couldn’t help comparing their procedure to root canal. Frankly, I prefer a less painful and simpler approach. I’ve decided to share mine with you as I’ve been doing revisions on my 5th Kim Reynolds mystery novel, THE BLOOD FAMILY.


Stage one: I begin a novel by percolating it in my brain for sometime. It might be months or even years before I’m ready to create a rough outline and do a character bible. Usually a character bible comes before the outline. So that is stage two.

Stage three consists of writing an outline followed by the first draft. I try to write it through without much in the way of correction. I’m also flexible with my initial outline. I then put the draft away for a time and work on other projects.

Stage four: I return to my first draft and read it through. If it no longer appears the brilliant writing I initially thought it to be, I might drop the work. However, if in fact the manuscript seems solid, I begin revising. I am now wearing my editor’s hat.

Stage five: How many revisions will the work need? That depends. Some novels need a great many. Others go smoothly with just a few. However, self-editing is a demanding process.

I used to hand write all of my work in the initial first draft. But with the last few books, I’ve been writing them on my computer. I now prefer this method. It’s not only faster but I can study the writing more critically and accurately early on.

If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must be honest about your work. There are more people writing than ever before and fewer people reading print. Opportunities have diminished. So you need to really want to write and be willing to put in the effort to be competitive.

Revision is a necessary component of the writing process. We writers are fallible. We are human and therefore make errors. No matter how often I go over my own work, I always find ways I can improve upon it. I accept the fact that I make mistakes and do my best to correct them before I send my work out to editors—who will always demand further revision before a manuscript becomes a book.

My advice for successful self-editing and revision—pretend you are a professional editor. It’s painful to rewrite and remove sections of your work, but you have to be honest about it. Are there parts that are repetitious and redundant? Put them on the chopping block. Good writing is all about re-writing. We want our writing to be crisp and precise. We need to cut out the clich├ęs and strive for originality.

Your comments welcome.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Interview with Author Elly Molina

Author, Elly Molina, is an international mind power consultant, educator and visionary. Elly’s clients include former heads of state, celebrities, business professionals and seekers. Elly has appeared on FOX, ABC, NBC, CBS, and in The New York Times. Elly is the author of Children Who Know How to Know (Black Opal Books), Annabelle and the Domino, and her latest release, a collaborative Amazon Bestseller, titled Dancing in The Unknown.

Elly holds a Master’s Degree in Linguistics from NYU and contributes to See Beyond Magazine, Meaningful Mom Magazine and Thriveglobal. She specializes in children’s intuitive development and is the founder of Psi-Kids (www.psi-kids.com)
 
Question: What is the title and genre of your book?  Why did you select them?

Answer: Children Who Know How to Know is a nonfiction resource guide for parents, educators, and anyone interested in learning how to access, develop, and utilize their powerful intuitive and psychic abilities. I selected the title since I work with children and adults to help develop their intuitive abilities and thought it would be catchy since the book talks about children who know how to use their minds in a different manner than many of us.


Question:   What inspired this book? How did it come about?

Answer: I’ve wanted to write a book like this since 1986, when I left my College Adjunct position and began teaching Middle School. Originally I wished to write an empowerment book for kids and title it “You can, too”. I accumulated a lot of data over the years yet didn’t write the manuscript. Then, in 2008, while teaching at a very unique school, where we taught children blindfolded archery, telepathy, telekinesis, remote viewing, I witnessed seriously remarkable phenomena. Being psychic myself, I went on to co-found another private Magic School, where once again the results were mind boggling. I wanted to reach a much larger audience, so I put all the stories and activities that I have used successfully over the years into a How to Book.

We all possess psychic abilities. We are all intuitive. Some of us, like myself, are more psychic than others. I wanted to teach this skill to others. What I learned is that it takes emotional intelligence, self-awareness, control, mindfulness, along with self-discipline to practice this, and being able to navigate life intuitively makes life a lot easier.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published work?

Answer:  In 2011, I wrote an illustrated children’s book titled, Annabelle and the Domino. The story, although fiction, is based on a true account of a little girl who moved a domino with her mind (telekinesis). It inspired all the other children and adults so much that everyone began practicing daily and I felt called to share the story to inspire and empower the child in all of us.  I wrote a chapter of my journey from New York to Washington State in a collaborated book title, Dancing in the Unknown. I really love that book. It’s filled with incredible true stories of people who overcame fear to go on and create something remarkable

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m writing a YA fiction. My character is a young boy who is a hero and on the hero’s journey. It’s set in Washington State, in the mountains that border on Mount Rainier. It’s such a beautiful area. It has inspired me, and Washington is a state that feeds my soul.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: When I was in 5th grade, my elementary teacher hung my story on the bulletin board. My name wasn’t immediately visible. My mom went towards the story and began reading. When she finished, she stopped and gasped, “You wrote this?”  The teacher shared with my mom she felt I was gifted when it came to writing and encouraged me to continue. I’ve wanted to write since then. I haven’t been the most courageous in this area of my life.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing?

Answer: Just write! Don’t focus on how you’re going to publish and who your editor or publisher will be. Just write. Pay attention to your audience. Get writing tips. Learn technique. There are fabulous resources available, and believe in yourself.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your books?

Answer: Children Who Know How to Know is available wherever books are sold. Annabelle and the Domino is only on Amazon or through my website @www.ellymolina.com  and Dancing in the Unknown is available everywhere as well.


Questions or comments for Elly are welcome!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Luck and Irish Literature

The Ides of March, the 15th and 16th of this month, traditionally bode ill luck. For instance, in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the emperor is warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by the Soothsayer. Julius, not being a superstitious sort of fellow and believing in his personal immortality, sneers, ignores the warning, and refers to the Soothsayer as “a dreamer.” Not Caesar’s wisest decision.

 It will soon be St. Patrick’s Day which supposedly brings good luck and fortune. People do at times have lucky things happen to them and at other times suffer misfortunes like ill health, accidents or assaults. However, authors prefer to believe that for the most part we make our own luck.


According to Napoleon: “Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.” I apply that statement to authors. We get lucky with our work when we’ve done adequate preparation—that is being well-read, writing, rewriting, and editing until we’ve created something of value and quality. If we’re too lazy or too full of ourselves to make this kind of effort and commitment then alas we’ll never “get lucky.”

Luck is often a theme in literature. For example, Thomas Hardy created characters that were unlucky like Tess or Jude. Yet it could be argued that their bad luck came as a direct result of fatal flaws in their own characters. This is where tragedy derives from. Things don’t just happen. There is a cause and effect relationship.

I write about and admire main characters with positive values who make their own good luck and overcome obstacles through personal effort, not bemoaning their fate or bad luck. To quote Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar again, as Cassius observes: “Our fate, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.”


In tribute to Irish literature which often deals with themes related to luck, I want to mention a few of the outstanding Irish writers I’ve appreciated over the years.

As an undergraduate English major, I read and enjoyed John Millington Synge’s The  Playboy of the Western World. Synge celebrated the lyrical speech of the Irish in a boisterous play.

In graduate school, I took a semester seminar on the works of William Butler Yeats, a great Irish poet. I learned a great deal about Irish mythology from his work.

George Bernard Shaw was also of Irish origins and a great playwright, another favorite of mine. His plays still hold up because of thought-provoking themes and clever dialogue.

I’ve read James Joyce’s stories and novels but most appreciated his earlier work. I thought Portrait of the Artist was brilliant as was Dubliners, his short story collection. His style was original and unique.

Satirist Jonathan Swift is often thought of as a children’s writer, but this is, of course, completely false.
Notable Works: Gulliver’s Travels, Tale of a Tub, A Modest Proposal, A Journal to Stella, Drapier’s Letters, An Argument Against Abolishing Christianity, Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift.
Oscar Wilde was a talented Irish writer and playwright. Sentenced to two years in prison for gross indecency (homosexuality), he eventually lost his creative spark. Notable Works: The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Importance of Being Earnest (play), Poems, The Happy Prince and Other Tales (children’s book), A Woman of No Importance (play).
Abraham Stoker (Bram Stoker) gave us Dracula (enough said!) Lawrence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith, C.S. Lewis all had Irish origins as well, although they left Ireland for England. The list of outstanding Irish men and women who have provided great literature is very long and therefore beyond the scope of this mere blog.
My most recent mystery novel, DEATH PROMISE, is set in Las Vegas and, surprise, luck does play a part in it. If you haven’t read it, you should—it just might bring you some luck.


Did you believe in luck? Do you have any favorite Irish authors? Your thoughts and comments welcome!