A Bloody Mess in the Wild, Wild West

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Outlaws, soldiers gone mad and the aftermath of the Civil War encompass the pages of Justin Bienvenue’s horror novel, A Bloody Mess in the Wild, Wild West. Following the Civil War, a corrupt tycoon has taken over one ghost town that must reclaim its peaceful status and survive the struggles of a powerful man with abilities beyond these citizens’ imaginations.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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What can you tell us about your latest work?

My latest work is a western horror called A Bloody, Bloody Mess In The Wild, Wild West. It is a book about struggles and life during western times, the Civil War and, of course, the undead. It focuses on the Mexican outlaw Javier “Bones” Jones and his wish to wreak havoc upon the small town of Toomswood. When the town has had enough of his business in their town, they wish to take him out; however he has gained new abilities and suddenly getting him out of town will mean a lot more than just asking him nicely.

What was the inspiration behind wanting to write this?

I was watching a few horror films on zombies and a few days after that I was watching some of those spaghetti westerns starring Clint Eastwood. I believe the movies were Dawn of the Dead or one of those weird, gory zombie flicks and the Clint Eastwood movies were A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Well upon watching them I thought writing a western would be a great idea. I then thought back to the previous days of watching zombie movies when suddenly the title popped into my head. I realized my brain didn’t need to be sold on it anymore –  I was in! I have always enjoyed westerns and when the thought came into mind that I could actually write one I knew right then and there that this was happening.

How does your book compare to other books written in its particular genre?

I would say they are definitely similar for sure. I didn’t really realize how much of the Western Horror genre was out there until I glanced at some of the books. They have a very good fan base and my concept for the book is a common one in genre but I have found that everyone has their own creative unique spin to it. I have found a few fellow authors of the genre such as Tim Curran, who is highly regarded, Joe R. Lansdale and Eric S. Brown who all have multiple book within the genre and all look very enticing. I think the book shares certain qualities for sure although I also like to think my book gives a small detail to the real hardships of The Civil War and the western times compared to most. However, I know my book doesn’t come close to works of Tim Curran and other such profound western horror writers.

How do you think potential readers will perceive the book?

So far it has been perceived very well. Some have stated it’s got plenty of action and they enjoy being put in that western atmosphere and others have stated it comes off as a manuscript for a horror movie. I realize some will love it and others won’t care for it and either way I am happy with the outcome. I just hope that if they didn’t enjoy it they at least took something from it.

What’s one unique element or quality you put into the book that people would be interested in knowing?

The historical accuracy of certain aspects during The Wild West era. I wasn’t going to just write a book about The Wild West and throw in horror; I wanted to also portray real life events or accurate things during it as well. This includes such things as the right weapons (when certain revolvers came out), the language, certain Civil War accounts and timeframes. Overall, I wanted to give it a good ol’ western feel with real historical events and elements as well.

What is your take on the self-publishing/Indie industry?

My take on the industry is that it is just like the traditional publishing industry although people tend to treat it as less. I believe that Indie publishing is clearly on the rise and that the authors who self-publish work just as hard as those who take the traditional route. Given the spike it has taken, I think more people are going down the Indie route as either a shortcut or they want to do the work themselves and retain control of their work. I do believe for the most part that it is a growing trend in the publishing world and I think it’s a good thing.

How has being a self-published author helped in your writing and what have been some of the downfalls?

It’s helped in the sense that I don’t have people giving me a deadline as to when I need to get the book done. Also there are no certain set of rules or word counts that I need to follow or reach. I believe this helps me by giving me the freedom to set my own rules and pace and this way I can write at the pace I wish and not have to worry about reaching a deadline. The downfall is, of course, not getting the proper processes that follow the finishing of a book such as editing, formatting and proofreading. Traditionally the company tends to have all those on hand whereas a self-published author has to find someone to do it for you – sometimes one person to do it all – but mainly individuals to help assist you in each department. For the most part I have been lucky in finding the proper help but it certainly makes it a challenge when you have to look and find the right person to look over your work.

What do you believe is a benefit in being self-published that traditional publishing doesn’t offer?

Freedom, self-esteem and satisfaction. The freedom in being able to work as you please without having to worry about certain things you’d otherwise worry about with a traditional publisher as I stated above. The feeling that you did all the work yourself and the outcome gives you complete satisfaction. There’s nothing better than working your hardest on something and feeling good in the end knowing you accomplished it.

Was it always your plan to have your book self-published or did you look into traditional ones as well?

For my second book, yes. I went with a bad traditional publishing company with my first book. I believe they were even a vanity press in some degree. Anyway, I had a very bad experience with them so I decided that for my second book it would be best to go down the self-publishing direction. I definitely think it was the right choice and it has been a lot better. I have since gotten out of my contract with that company and also re-published the first book as self-published as well. I am not completely turned off on the idea of traditional publishers in the future but I just feel right now that I like the Indie side of publishing.

What’s one thing you want readers to take from reading your work?

I want them to enjoy what they are reading and I want them take to something with them after reading that will stick with them. I want them to remember something from the book that they find themselves looking back on and either referencing it with something or just thinking “that was a good scene.” Overall I want them to experience the book as if they themselves were a part of it.

 

A Bloody Mess in the Wild, Wild West is available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

 

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Bloodstone

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Heroes, swords, and an unexpected journey into a cursed warrior’s heart describe the suspenseful, fantastical novel Bloodstone, by author Helen Johannes. With a modern day fairy tale vibe, this romantic adventure combines the intrigue of Beauty and the Beast with the stuff swashbuckling legends are made of.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us, Helen, what first inspired you to start writing?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school. I ‘decided’ to take up the craft seriously when my children were small and I needed an outlet for my creative energy.

Where did the idea come about for your latest release BLOODSTONE?

This story grew out of the Cupid and Psyche myth. In the myth, Psyche is forced to wed what she thinks is a monster so horrible he refuses to let her see him. They can meet only in the dark. It’s a story about trust, and I wanted to build on that concept with a cursed hero who’s taken on a heavy load of guilt. He needs to be redeemed by a woman courageous enough to do ‘anything’ to save him.

What attracted you to writing fantasy romance?

I love fairy tales and Arthurian legend.  There’s something fascinating about a hero with a sword on horseback. Plus, my earliest favorite book was a collection of fairy tales. Besides the well-known tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this one had stories like The Donkey Prince, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tin Soldier, and The Dancing Princesses, to name a few.

I’ve always been drawn to the stories about heroes in disguise, about people who are misjudged or discounted by others because of appearances. The Donkey Prince, for instance, is about a prince born with a donkey’s body due to a curse on his parents. They give him the best of everything, and he becomes a skilled lute player, but he’s still a donkey. Tired of being looked upon as a freak in his home town, he decides to take to the road, playing his lute, until one young woman falls in love with the sensitive man inside the ugly skin. That transformation from beast to beloved is a theme that I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it’s probably what drew me to the romance genre in the most elemental sense.

You’ve become published! What was the journey to success like for you?

To anyone who has any aspirations to be published someday—or to achieve any other creative dreams—I’d like to affirm that turtles do win.

That’s right—turtles, the slow and steady plodders. I am a turtle. It’s taken me years to realize my dream of becoming a published author. Lots of rejection letters, contest finals, conferences and workshops later, I have two books available from The Wild Rose Press. I’m not likely to become a household name, but I can hold my dreams in my hand today. So can you. Just keep plodding along.

Any steadfast work rituals in your writing process?

I write in the kitchen on a laptop at the table where I’ve installed my cushy office chair. I like the sunlight from my southerly window and the easy access to the microwave for hot tea. Sometimes I listen to music while I write, usually a soundtrack or something Celtic-inspired. I need something where I don’t understand the lyrics so I won’t try to listen to them. The music for me is about creating a ‘zone.’

What’s the best perk of being an author?

Realizing a dream has to be the foremost. Another great perk is connecting with authors and readers around the world. Writing is a solitary business, so making connections to other creative people who listen to the ‘voices in their heads’ is a definite plus.

What are your ultimate ambitions as a writer?

I’d like to establish a reputation for writing well-crafted books that have something to say about the power of love to heal and inspire. And I’d like to have fun doing it.

What’s the most unusual or challenging character you’ve ever written?

In BLOODSTONE I took on two challenging characters. The first is a blind boy, and I had to imagine the world as he would encounter it without using the familiar sense of sight. Everything for him became about the sounds and scents and sensations. The other challenging character was a Wehrland she-lion. I used my knowledge of growing up with pet cats to describe her behavior. As it turned out, she was the most fun to write.

Okay, who’s your author ‘crush’ and what makes him or her so great?

I’d love to pick Rick Riordan’s brain. In his Percy Jackson series he manages to juggle multiple storylines with vivid and unique characters while keeping the plot running at full gallop—and he sustains it over a series of books.

What were your favorite books growing up?

Fairy tales and books about horses, definitely—what little girl doesn’t love horses (or unicorns)? The stories of a boy and his horse, or a girl and her horse, feeds right into my historical bent. I do so love a hero on horseback with a sword. From fairy tales to medieval knights isn’t a big leap, especially when fairy tales led me to THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and Middle Earth. It’s no wonder that my two published novels are fantasy romances featuring heroes on horseback with swords.

Any words for aspiring writers?

Read. Write. Finish something. Join a writers’ group. Share your work and get feedback. Enter contests. Learn from your mistakes. Cycle through all steps repeatedly.

Where can we learn more about the published works of Helen Johannes?

Books:

THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE (debut book)

 BLOODSTONE (new release)

 

Websites and Links:

Blog: http://helencjohannes.blogspot.com/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4031965.Helen_C_Johannes

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Helen-C.-Johannes/e/B003JJDQWS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

The Wild Rose Press author page: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=742

 

Buy link to Amazon:

THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE: http://amzn.com/B003JH8CO2

 

BLOODSTONE: http://amzn.com/B00G8GTHRC

 

Buy link to Barnes and Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-prince-of-val-feyridge-helen-c-johannes/1021446067

 

 

The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say

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“The best executive,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt, “is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” Suffice it to say during all of the years I was employed by someone else, there was only one boss I ever had who fit T.R.’s definition of quality leadership. Woefully, the rest were either manic control freaks and paranoid blame-gamers or women that were gung-ho about teamwork and upward mobility…until, that is, they crossed over into managerial positions and promptly pulled the drawbridge up behind them.

Such are the individuals who could benefit mightily from David M. Dye’s new book, The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say. Targeted to leaders and managers, this how-to guide is packed with practical and encouraging tools for cultivating energized, responsible, and results-oriented teams.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: With 20+ years of experience in multiple business sectors – including nonprofits – who would you say had the greatest influence in honing your professional skills (and passion!) for leadership and employee engagement?

A: I’ve always believed that the very best life-textbooks we have are when things don’t go well. I’ve had some excellent leadership mentors, but often the people who weren’t very good taught me the most and helped me honed my own professional skills. My passion often came from realizing what would be possible if only the leadership was more effective.

Q: How has your mindset changed and evolved from how you originally approached leadership issues and how you address them now in consultations with your clients?

A: When I was young, I went searching for the secret to changing people (naïve, I know!). Of course, as I matured, I came to understand that the only person you are responsible for is you. Consequently, my approach to leadership shifted from fear, power, and control to real engagement based on taking responsibility for myself and the environment I create for the people I lead.

Q: Once upon a time, individuals fresh out of college (or even high school) would go to work for the very first company that hired them, climb the promotional ladder, and remain there until the day they retired. Nowadays, many students are not as wedded to the idea of corporate loyalty and, accordingly, view every job as a revolving door to somewhere else. How then, can today’s employers create an environment that will not only engage the members of their team but also provide incentives that will make them want to stay?

A: No team can thrive without trust. The tension you’ve described is a lack of trust between employers and employees. When neither group feels that the other cares about them, it is tough to build high performance organizations. The answer begins with something Stephen Chbosky, Writer and Director of Perks of Being a Wallflower, said: “The generation gap is nothing more than a conversation we haven’t had yet.”

People want similar things, but they want them in different ways. They want meaningful contribution, purpose, recognition, a feeling of growth, a sense of power over their own destiny, the opportunity to use their strengths in meaningful ways. These express themselves in different ways in different people…so start with conversation. What is important to you? What is important to them? Why are you both here?

Q: How do these principles of engagement and esprit de corps extend to the external teams with whom a company does business, especially, for instance, if their management practices are radically different?

A: It depends on the nature of the interactions. If an external group is going to be closely related to day-to-day operations, you want to be very careful about doing business with someone whose values are very different from your own. More generally, however, treat those individuals and their teams consistently with your own values and practices without judgment or criticism. You may even change how they do things.

Q: What are some of the most common mistakes that managers make under the umbrella of “Motivation”?

A: Band-Aids!

What I mean by Band-Aids is when manager becomes aware that there is a motivation or morale problem and they respond with a team bowling day or a pizza party. The team collectively rolls its eyes and now feels even worse. Why?

They feel worse because now the manager is essentially telling them, “I’m not going to address the real issue. In fact, you must now feel better because we did something ‘fun’.”

This is so demotivating. Fun is only fun when fundamentals are sound. If there are broken systems undermining productivity, having a pizza party is like slapping a Band Aid on an infected wound without first cleaning it, disinfecting, and getting stitches.

Q: Is leadership a natural born talent or one that can only be learned through hands-on experience?

A:  It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and. Leadership has many components and most everyone is born with strengths in one or two areas. Effective leaders learn their skills and acquire ability through study, mentors, and experience.

Q: There are lots of leadership books on the market but you’ve approached the topic very differently. How did you come upon the idea of the ‘things your team needs to hear you say’ as a structure for your message/book?

A: Above all, I want the tools I share to be practical – something you can read during lunch and apply as soon as you return to your team. I focused on what leaders say because words are an easily modified behavior, because words work, and because what we say is often the start of further behavior change.

Q: You’ve included a number of individuals and stories in your book. Was there one in particular that profoundly touched your heart and made you say, “Wow”?

A: I share a story about a time my daughter asked why nothing she does is good enough. It is difficult to share, even now, how impactful that was. It goes back to why I focused on what leaders say: our words have incredible power, either to create or devastate.

Q: What’s the first thing you hope your readers do after finishing your book?

A: I hope the first thing readers do is tell themselves, “You can do this!”  The second thing would be to pick a phrase and share it with their team.

Q: What prompted you to launch Trailblaze and what are its core objectives?

A:  We have thousands of years of leadership wisdom available to us and yet 2/3 of Americans say they’d prefer a better boss to a raise in pay.

Clearly, there are so many leaders in need of practical wisdom they can apply in a fast-paced, pressure-filled environment. I launched Trailblaze to provide leaders, managers, and supervisors with practical tools they can use to get more done, build teams that care, and meet their goals.

Our core objective is to help leaders be effective at what they do. I think of my work as a “force-multiplier” for all the wonderful vision, passions, and energy people bring to their jobs.

Q: If you had to summarize your message on a billboard, bumper sticker or tweet, what would it say?

A:

Everyone’s a volunteer.

Lead to bring out the best, not wring out the worst.

Be the leader you want your boss to be.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

A: My website is http://trailblazeinc.com.

For more about the book, check it out on Amazon or get more information at http://trailblazeinc.com/7things

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Imagine what can happen when people take responsibility for their corner of the world and work with those around them to make a better tomorrow. I invite you to be one of those people!

 

The Seven Things Your Team Needs to Hear You Say is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.

 

 

River Oaks Plantation

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Throughout history, we’ve seen no shortage of the havoc and devastation that Mother Nature can unleash in the form of hurricanes, floods, tornados and earthquakes. It’s not just the immediate losses of lives and property that cause such heartbreak, however; it’s also the erasure of entire communities, landmarks and architecture that have endured the test of time, only to be wiped out in a matter of days – or sometimes mere hours – by forces beyond anyone’s control. Such is the crux of B.J. Robinson’s latest release, River Oaks Plantation, a historical romance that artfully intercuts between the lives of two intrepid women – one of them a new bride in the Old South and the other a very modern editor watching the aggressive floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina lay siege to her stately but vulnerable inheritance.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with some background on who you are.

A: I’d describe myself as hardworking, dedicated, loyal, trustworthy, an avid reader, a passionate writer, compassionate, caring, organized, excellent keyboarder, great cook, gardener, short, animal lover, especially dogs, nature lover, lover of water whether it’s lakes, canals, oceans, or rivers, and a lover of listening to rain on a tin roof. I’m a lover of the Civil War era and antebellum period, plantation homes, and I love touring them.

Like most women, I’m a woman who wears many hats: mother, grandmother, wife, retired educator, reader, and last, but not least, writer. My passions are reading and writing. I live in Florida with my husband and pets, a golden cocker spaniel, golden retriever, and a cat. I’m a pet lover, animal lover, and I usually include pets in the novels and stories I write. Reared in Louisiana, I have a love for seafood, large oaks, old plantation homes, flowers, and rivers. Since I use life experience as fodder for my writing and create realistic fiction, readers may journey with me vicariously through summer vacation experiences as well as many other life experiences. I have been blessed with children and grandchildren, and Jesus is my best friend.

Q: So tell us how your journey as a writer began.

A: I started writing in elementary school when my teacher submitted a short story I wrote about my pet dog to a local newspaper, and it was published. In college, my first essay was published in another local newspaper, and I won first prize for a short story, and it was published in the university’s literary magazine.

I’ve been honing my craft and skills for over a decade, but I only started publishing my own work one summer. Before that, I had many short stories, poems, devotionals, and four novels published with a traditional publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc. out of California. Since then, I’ve published more short stories, novellas, and one full-length novel, River Oaks Plantation, which I feel is one of my best pieces of work, if not indeed, the best.

Q: Who are some of the authors whose work you most admire and whose storytelling skills may have influenced your own style?

A: I fell in love with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind years ago, and I think I probably have a habit of beginning and ending writing in the omniscient point of view, frowned upon by today’s publishers. Most romance publishers want a single point of view, but I don’t care for novels written with only one point of view. I enjoy deeper work and want to get inside my character’s heads. Mitchell began her novel in the omniscient point of view. Perhaps that is why mine reminded some readers of it, but I think it’s more because it’s a Civil War novel and when readers think Civil War novel, they think Margaret Mitchell. I know I do.

I read Athol Dickson’s River Rising and loved it summer before last. Contemporary writers I admire include my former writing mentor with the Christian Writers Guild, Eva Marie Everson. I love all of her novels. She’s a Southern fiction writer, and I love Southern fiction. Chris Fabry’s Dogwood is another one I admire, and Lynn Austin’s All She Ever Wanted.

Naomi Musch writes historicals, and I love her Empire in Pine Series because I love the outdoors. I read The Green Veil and The Red Fury a couple of years ago, and they’re the type of books to stay with you after you turn the last page as Lynn Austin’s and Chris Fabry’s were. Eva Marie Everson has a Cedar Key Series set in Cedar Key, Florida, I loved, but her best book I’ll long remember is Unconditional. It’s another one that stays with you. It’s been years since I read Lynn Austin’s and Chris Fabry’s books, but I still remember them. I think it’s because I read so many deep novels that I can’t write single point of view ones. Not that I can’t, but I don’t like to because I want to write the type of book I enjoy reading, and I feel you give your readers a deeper, more lasting story when you write using multiple viewpoints.

Jerry B. Jenkins’ books have influenced me greatly. I read his entire Left Behind Series, and, of course, they stayed with me. His work influenced me to try to write a book using dual storylines because I’ve read some of his novels that are structured that way, and I loved them. The dual storylines provide a page-turner. I had a reader tell me that and another one say my novel stayed with her after the last page. That’s the highest compliment she could have given me. When one reader got the metaphor, was another.

Q: What’s your favorite genre?

A: I grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries, so I love writing books with mystery, intrigue, or suspense, usually all three. My favorite genre to write was inspirational romantic suspense until I got into writing historical fiction set during the Civil War and antebellum period. With it, I think I’ve found my niche. I love the old plantation homes and the time period.

Q: Tell us what readers can expect when they immerse themselves in River Oaks Plantation.

A: River Oaks Plantation is my favorite thus far since it has dual storylines that blend the past with the present and realistic characters. Readers love it, and I love it because it focuses on the Civil War era and Hurricane Katrina. It’s doing well and getting great reviews on Amazon. Here’s a short blurb: Two love stories. Historical romance during antebellum and contemporary times, cultural history and characters you’ll root for.

Q: Just curious, what governed your choice to use your initials instead of your first name?

A: Another author suggested it because it wouldn’t be obvious that I was a woman unless people knew me, but with Facebook that is pretty pointless.

Q: One of the obvious challenges for any writer who embeds historical elements in a work of fiction – be it the American West, World War II or the 1860’s – is to be mindful of 21st century “political correctness.” How did you address this issue in juxtaposing a contemporary story against the backdrop of a Southern plantation during the Civil War?

A: For the historical part, I wrote events that really took place, feelings, beliefs, and endeavored to put how both sides felt and the reasons why. As a good journalist, you’re taught there are two sides to every story. I think many Southern people were conflicted, and I tried to show this in my work. I didn’t set out to offend anyone, and I tried to write a good story, bottom line.

Q: Who’s your favorite character in River Oaks Plantation?

A: Maggie is my favorite because she illustrates that life on a plantation was not as romantic as people tend to think when they view beautiful antebellum homes for the first time. They often see the splendor, but people need to remember how most were built on the backs of slave labor and that the beauty on the outside often hides the heartache and pain. The plantation is the common thread that weaves the dual storyline together and a metaphor for the resilient human spirit.

Q: Several reviewers have drawn comparisons to Gone With the Wind. What’s your reaction to that?

A: It compares to the novel in that it’s about the antebellum South and the Civil War, but it’s set in Louisiana, not Georgia, and it’s a blend of historical and contemporary with dual storylines. Gone with the Wind was not structured the same way. I loved the novel so, of course, when readers compare it, I can’t help but feel I’ve done the job I set out to do in writing my own novel. My storyline is very different. I didn’t try to write Gone With the Wind. I wanted to write a novel about the Civil War set in Louisiana because I was reared there. I wanted to do my own thing, something different, and I feel I have. Maggie is no Scarlett, and Danny is no Rhett. My novel is a Christian historical romance, or Christian contemporary romance, but it’s not preachy and some readers don’t seem to have noticed. Instead, they get hooked on the dual storyline and can’t put the book down.

Q: What do you feel best differentiates Rivers Oaks Plantation from other historical romances?

A: The story structure has a dual storyline and blends the past with the present, historical and contemporary. One of my readers posted in a book group that I was one of her favorite authors because I was atypical. I guess that’s one way to stand out in a crowd. The book is different, but readers love it. Many say they can’t put it down.

Q: Tell us about the historical research that went into this story.

A: I spent much time researching via the Internet as well as reading books on the Civil War and antebellum period and touring plantation homes. I’ve toured Oak Alley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana, which is the setting for my next novel, Romance Under the Oaks. I’ve also toured The Myrtles in St. Francisville among others.

Q: Do your characters ever do anything that surprise you?

A: Yes, at first I didn’t think Danny would decide not to keep working on the boat, but he did. In the beginning of the novel he took up for one of the slave women and later he saw his wife’s point of view, which I didn’t think would happen. I don’t plot other than general notes. Since I’m a morning writer and tend to do my best writing in the mornings, I usually put on a pot of coffee and let the words flow. Sometimes my characters have a change of mind or heart. Also, I had no clue I’d do the surprise ending the way I did until I got there.

Q: How did you go about finding the right publisher for your work?

A: I didn’t attempt to with this one. I self-published through Amazon KDP because I figured no publisher would want to risk historical and contemporary blending, but I’m happy to say it works, according to my satisfied readers. You can tell from what they have to say in Amazon reviews. I didn’t think I’d sell a publisher on my idea of a part historical, part contemporary novel, so I took advantage of Amazon to see if the idea worked, and it sparked. Also, since most traditional publishers will no longer even glance at your work without an agent, I didn’t bother to submit.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m working on Romance Under the Oaks, another historical romance set during the Civil War period. I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll go historical all the way or blend the historical part and contemporary again, but I’m learning toward a straight historical for this one.

Q: What would you like to say to your readers who follow you or may follow you in the future?

A: Thank you so much for reading and responding to my novel. I love feedback. Great reviews always make my day. Please know that in writing, I create works of fiction to carry my reader through a fictional dream, a way of seeing how others live and differ. If we were all carbon copies, it would be a dull, boring world. It is because we are unique that our world is full of diversity that makes it interesting. I respect your beliefs and opinions and hope that, in turn, you will also respect mine. I appreciate your support of my writing endeavors and value you as readers. Please follow my Author Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBJRobinson and check out my Amazon author page to read about my new projects: http://www.amazon.com/B.-J.-Robinson/e/B007DNJIKU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

 

Murder at Melcham Hall

Dave Watson

It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out! A door slammed. The maid screamed.

What is it about mysteries that compel us to pour a cup of tea, settle into a cozy armchair by the fire, and proceed to match wits with fictional detectives? Lovers of this genre have a new sleuth to admire in Inspector Wesley – the creation of author Dave Watson whose latest book, Murder at Melcham Hall, is the third in a page-turning series that transpires across the pond.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with some background about your upbringing in Middlesex. Was it a landscape that fueled your imagination for history, mystery and village life?

A:  I was born in 1956 in Heston, Middlesex, some twenty miles from London. In those days Heston was a tiny village where the hive of activity took place along the small parade of shops and, of course, the local public house. The village is steeped in history and I have traced my family back to the early 1700’s where Watson was the predominant surname. When I was a youngster, there were no fences to separate neighbours’ gardens and everyone walked in and out of their neighbours’ back doors. I have always longed for a village life again and maybe one day that dream will come true.

Q: Were you an avid reader as a child? If so, what authors and titles might we have found on your nightstand?

A: I have always been an avid reader. As a child I read all the ‘Biggles’ books written by Captain W E Johns. In my teenage years I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings along with Jules Vernes’ classic 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

Q: Who or what first sparked your interest in becoming a writer?

A: I wrote a couple of short stories for my children when they were in Junior School and that was probably the spark. It was something I really enjoyed.

Q: Are there some favorite authors that influenced your own style of storytelling, character development and dialogue?

A: The authors who have influenced my style of writing are Agatha Christie, Kate Ellis and Jacqueline Winspear. These authors have the ability to write leaving the reader to want to keep turning the page. They create characters that one can envisage and relate to, almost as if they were real.

Q: If you could go to lunch with any of these authors and ask them one question, who would it be and what would you want to know?

A:  It would have to be Agatha Christie, and my question would be, “Did you always decide who the murderer was at the start of each novel, or did you change the culprit as the story unfolded?”

Q: What’s the first book you had published and how long did it take from start to finish?

A: The first book was titled Full Circle and it took me around eighteen months from start to finish.

Q: For many authors, the task of finding the right publisher for their work can be even more time consuming than writing a book in the first place. What was your own experience in this regard?

A: To anyone starting out I would simply say, shop around. The Writers and Artists year book is a good guide. Look for publishers who specialize in your genre. It is also important that you find a publisher who understands your work.

Q: What governed your decision to create a mystery series and what are some of the particular challenges of this approach?

A: Initially I think Agatha Christie is responsible. One of the main challenges in each story is remembering the personalities and mannerisms of the main characters.

Q: So what’s Murder at Melcham Hall all about?

A: The story relates to centuries of corruption and fraud surrounding the ownership of Melcham Hall. When a young girl is found murdered on the estate, Inspector Wesley soon uncovers a web of deceit. Someone living at Melcham Hall is not who she appears to be and when an elderly woman living in the grounds of the estate disappears, things take a dramatic twist.

Q: One of my college professors once said that if you’re going to write murder mysteries, it’s better to set them in an earlier time period versus contemporary because of all the advances in technology that make crime-solving easier. What are your thoughts about that?

A: To some degree that’s correct. I also think readers often prefer to be taken back in time as stories set in an earlier period often carry more nostalgia.

Q: Who’s your favorite character to write about and how did s/he evolve in your imagination?

A: My favorite character has to be Inspector Wesley. I grew up watching old British detective series on television (in the days of black and white television) and Wesley evolved from there. Rather a plain character who sits back to roll a cigarette whilst contemplating the case in question.

Q: How much historical and police procedural research goes into your stories?

A: Quite a lot really. It helps to get a feel for a location and if you can base it on somewhere you’ve been then so much easier to visual places. My police procedural research is mostly done from watching TV programmes and learning from other authors.

Q: Writing is a solitary craft. Do you allow anyone to have sneak peeks at your work in progress or make them wait until the whole thing is done?

A: I occasionally ask family or friends for feedback, especially if I’m unsure about a particular paragraph or chapter. It helps to obtain feedback. I have learnt that no one asks a silly question.

Q: What’s a typical writing day like for you?

A:  I usually shut myself away around mid-morning until mid-afternoon. That time of day works for me. However, it’s in the evening that I read other people’s novels and discuss book matters with friends and colleagues via Facebook and other outlets.

Q: Have your characters ever surprised you by doing or saying something you hadn’t planned when you were fashioning the story in your head?

A: Yes and no. Once or twice I have written a few lines about what one of my characters is doing at the time, only to stop and ask myself the question. Would he/she really say that?

Q: You also have a short story out about a pair of adventurous cats. That’s quite a departure from Inspector Wesley, isn’t it?

A: Smudge’s Adventures is a short story written for charity. A close friend lost her baby due to Group B Strep which is a life threatening infection. My son and a few friends ran a number of 10K races to raise money and I thought I could add to the pile by writing a short story donating all proceeds to the charity. http://www.gbss.org.uk/

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Ah good question. I guess it would be that at 57 years of age I have only been writing for around 4 years. I wish I had started earlier. There’s a story in everyone.

Q: What’s your best advice to writers who are just starting their own journey and wanting to get published?

A: Be prepared to allocate yourself some time each day and stick to it. Put your story together and read it numerous times before asking someone else to proof read it. Take time to find someone who is prepared to edit your work. Only then, search for a publisher, someone who works in your genre. Look at who else they publish. Look to see who publishes other works similar to yours.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m currently working on a 4th Inspector Wesley novel, titled The Loxwood Legacy which I hope to have published in the Spring.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: The best place is to check out my website www.davewatson.info or take a look at my author page on Amazon.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: It is an amazing feeling knowing that other people read your books and in doing so share your thoughts and ideas. It makes all those solitary hours of writing so worthwhile!

 

 

How to Prepare Your Young Child for Success in School

How to Prepare Your Young Child for Success in School

I often consider myself fortunate to have been a toddler in a pre-technology age. Yes, there was radio and television but they figured only minimally in terms of educating me or keeping me mindlessly entertained. I also seem to recall that my favorite toys were sans batteries and that I could be mesmerized for hours with “talking” sock puppets, blowing bubbles, making hand-shadows on the walls, collecting fallen flower petals, and turning the pages of a colorful book as the nearest available parental read out loud to me.

As a result of these experiences – all of which were “free” – I knew how to read, write, talk up a storm, color pictures and do simple math before I ever started school. Margaret Welwood’s book (available through SmashWords) may be small in terms of page count but it packs a pleasant punch of happy memories and serves as a reminder to today’s parents, grandparents and guardians that the very best thing they can spend on the little ones in their lives is Time. It’s a message that can’t be repeated often enough, especially the concept of carrying on conversations with toddlers even though logic might otherwise tell you that they haven’t a clue about, oh say, what the national deficit, global warming, or supply side economics even means.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Let’s start with your background as an educator and ESL instructor. During the 25+ years you worked with immigrant families, were there any differences you observed between the passion they exhibited to give their children the best learning opportunities versus the mindset and expectations of non-immigrant parents?

A:  An interesting question. I would say that in my experience most parents want the best for their children and will sacrifice to provide for them. However, some of the refugees I worked with had suffered so terribly in their home countries that I believe they had a heightened appreciation of what it means to be Canadian. They were truly grateful for the opportunities their children would have here.

Others, whom we would term “economic refugees,” gave up good positions in their home countries so their children could have a better life here. One young woman told me that in her country she didn’t have choices. “Here,” she said, “I have choices.”

Q: What attracted you to the topic of early learning?

A: I’d worked with children off and on for years. When I wanted to promote our college’s English as a Second Language program for adults, a freebie on the website on how parents could help their children learn seemed like a good idea.

Q: What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in this field?

A: My early work with children consisted of teaching nursery school, Sunday School and English as a Second Language. In later years I worked as a teacher aide with Canadian students who had special needs. Thus I can’t really speak to how curriculum and delivery have changed, but I will note another important facet.

That is the emphasis on safety and security. There were no peanut-free schools when I started out. Fire drills yes, lockdown procedures no. And no signing in and out at the day care. I was so impressed with the director of Tommy’s after school care. I used to pick him up about once a week. Once I picked him up two days in a row, and the director asked, “Is he staying with you now?” They don’t miss much!

Q: What do you feel distinguishes your approach to early learning tools and techniques?

A: I believe that’s what is in the book is simply common sense, based on shared experience and solid research.

Q: Define the desired takeaway value of this book for your readers.

A: I think that for conscientious and aware parents and caregivers much of the value may be in being able to say, “I’m doing most of these things. I’ve got it right!” But there may be a couple of surprises. I’m really intrigued by the link between learning a second language and delaying Alzheimer’s symptoms, and the possible link between excessive screen time and autism.

Other parents, particularly young ones, may find a lot of new information that they can use from day one.

Q: Throughout the text you’ve incorporated wonderful pictures rather than using stock photos. Why?

A: None of the pictures except the cover one were taken with the book in mind. I looked through some very attractive—and free—stock photos, but they all looked so posed. They didn’t fit with my theme of using everyday experiences and no-cost or low-cost activities.

Q: Tell us about your prior writing/editing experience.

A: I started writing freelance newspaper and magazine articles, then edited a business magazine and a Writer’s Digest award-winning book on diabetes education.

Q: How did you get into writing picture books for children?

A: My grandchildren, Tommy and Tina, were the impetus. They like me to read them stories, but there’s something special about making up our own. Tina even missed her school bus one day while she and I were engrossed in our story about a bug hotel! And once Tommy called, very sad, and said, “I think what would help me is a really funny story.” I did a take on Jack and the Beanstalk using his house, and it helped to distract him from his sorrow.

Q: The best writers were often voracious readers growing up and have simply carried that thirst for reading into adulthood. Would that apply to you?

A: Yes. I really liked science fiction. My mother used to park me in the book section of The Bay while she did her shopping, and I worked my way down a series of SF books.

Q: What and who were some of the books and authors that especially resonated with you?

A: Marooned on Mars by Lester del Rey and French-Canadian fairytales. I also read non-fiction books about astronomy. The Stars Are Yours by James S. Pickering was an inspiration. I bought a telescope, and my friends and I had a space club.

Q: I’m assuming you read aloud to your children when they were toddlers?

A: Oh yes, and years after they were toddlers, too.

Q: As crucial as this bonding experience is between a parent and child, a lot of today’s moms and dads who are dual wage earners or are single heads of households lament that they just don’t have enough time to read aloud, much less play games. What impact does this have on a child when s/he starts school?

A: Some older teachers say that kids aren’t as smart as they used to be. I think part of that is the need for faster and flashier stimulation than a book affords. Yet, earlier this year as a volunteer story reader at a day care, I found that the children were, in general, very good at listening to stories. I also never saw a TV on there.

Reading and playing with children is important, but I believe that a lot is also accomplished through solitary and group play with generic toys that encourage creativity.

Q: Every year there seems to be a strong push to get technology into the hands of children at a younger and younger age. In your view, what are the pros and cons of this approach to early learning?

A: Pro—it’s the way our world is, and children need to be ready for it. Also, some learning technology is highly interactive. I’m attempting to learn French with a free online program and a set of DVDs I’ve borrowed from the library, and I think they’re pretty effective.

Con—I think some children are less able to entertain themselves or to pay attention to what’s going on around them. And they are losing the ability to interact with others through play. I see these as real losses, and I’m always encouraged when parents limit screen time.

Q: Writing is a solitary pursuit. Do you allow anyone to read your work while it’s in progress or do you make everyone wait until it’s completely done?

A: Allow?? I insist! I love getting feedback.

Q: You’re giving your book away for free and yet this still requires marketing efforts on your part to let parents, grandparents and guardians know that it’s available. What steps are you taking to accomplish this?

A: I’ve posted a link on my website. There are several links to the book on my g+ page because I’ve posted it on several communities. I offer it to people I meet who show interest in the topic—and I ask people like you and The Edimath for reviews!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: The artist is coloring the pictures for Scissortown and then the marketing will begin in earnest, hopefully this month. (I have a reading at the Christian school booked for Jan. 27.) I’m also doing a course on Google AdWords.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: The e-book, Scissortown, and other books to follow are expressions of my love for my grandchildren and our enthusiasm for stories.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Please visit Writing Books for Children to learn about my writing journey, Grandma’s Treasures to learn about Tommy and Tina, the inspiration for my stories, and Grandma’s Bookshelf for a video about Scissortown, a link to my free e-book, and reviews of books I like.

 

Surviving The Fog

morris

While most of us looked forward to sleep-away summer camps as exciting, what would we do if upon arrival, frightening things began happening and the expected world of wondrous fun turned into a deadly nightmare? If you plan a stay in this cryptic version of camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, author Stan Morris warns you to be prepared to survive much more than wild animals and sunburns.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about Surviving the Fog. Is it part of a series?

It is part of a series, and there are currently two books available in the series.  The first is Surviving the Fog, and the second is Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections.  I am currently working on Surviving the Fog-Douglas Lives, and I have written snippets for Surviving the Fog-Sasha and Kim and Surviving the Fog-Howard the Red.

Is this series more post apocalypse or is it science fiction?

Definitely more post apocalypse.  The science fiction aspects are only present in the prologue to Surviving the Fog.  It describes the Earth moving through a region of space containing the Fog.  The book centers on the efforts of the teenage campers to survive.  They must obtain food and shelter, and perhaps more importantly, they have to decide what kind of community they will create.

How was the idea conceived, and what influenced the conception?

There are two books that influenced Surviving the Fog.  The first is Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and the second is Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein.  I disagree vehemently with Golding’s suggestion that a group of boys would degenerate to that extent.  I think it is much more likely that a group would create a community similar to Heinlein’s.  The reason for my belief is the archeological record.  In almost every case humans have formed stable communities.  It’s in our DNA.  Bees create hives, ants create mounds, and primates create communities.

You have both male and female characters as leads. Is one more of a focus than the other?

In Surviving the Fog the focus is clearly on the boys with a few notable exceptions.  But Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections is from the point of view of a fourteen year old girl, and most of the focus in on the girls.  After Surviving the Fog was published, I received numerous requests for a sequel.  I resisted this for a time, for I felt that I had nothing more to say about these kids.  But a few years after the book was published, I was engaged in a conversation with a woman at Goodreads.  She was complaining about how I had neglected the girls.  This was not the first time I had heard this complaint, but this conversation led me to consider how Kathy, one of the characters, might have viewed her situation and how she might have viewed the events that occurred in Surviving the Fog.  I began writing her story, and I became absolutely obsessed with it.  I usually write about 100,000 words for my novels, but in this case I decided to keep writing until I was satisfied with the story.  I finished Surviving the Fog-Kathy’s Recollections with over 200,000 words.

The New Adult category has taken off for writers who like to put a more mature spin on things. Is your book along the lines of YA or NA?

It depends on the definition of YA.  I’ve seen some definitions of YA that go as low as twelve years old.  Having raised two boys, I can say that describing a twelve year old as a “Young Adult” is flat out irresponsible.  Young teenagers should never be labeled “adult,” because doing so robs them of the right to linger in their childhood.  I define YA as sixteen to twenty-one, and my books meet that definition.  At the beginning of the book, the youngest camper is twelve and the oldest is seventeen.  The teenagers age as the story progresses.  I think this book skirts the line between YA and NA.  There are sexual situations but nothing graphic.

You’ve got us stranded at a mysterious camp in your novel. Where did you come up with the setting?

The camp is set in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  When I was a kid I attended camp in the Sierra’s almost every year, so it was a natural setting for my camp.  The purpose of the camp is to preach sexual abstinence and to teach the various methods of birth control.  Some people have objected to the premise, but I wanted to challenge the notion that abstinence and birth control education are not compatible.  These ideas are not only compatible, it is irresponsible not to encourage both.   There is an irony here, because once their society and culture is destroyed, and the adults have mostly disappeared from the scene, the kids don’t have any rules to follow except for those they create, and as in all communities, rules about sex are created.

Did you do any specific research while writing the book?

Wild Plants of the Sierra Nevada by Ray S. Vizgirdas and Edna M. Rey-Vizgirdas was very helpful and like most writers these days, Wikipedia is my best friend.  I did a lot of research on subjects like soap making, edible plants, temperatures, and the animals of the Sierra Nevada.

What kinds of details were more important than others as you wrote the book?

One of the most compelling aspects of Tolkien’s writing was how he described the countryside as the Hobbits moved about.  Many times I was forced to use a dictionary (pre-internet) to learn the kind of plant life he was referring to.  When I write, I try to remember to add details to the scene like the flora, fauna, and the weather.  The kids build a “lodge” in the book, and I had to describe the construction in a way that made sense.

Are there any sequels waiting in the wings?

I have written about 10,000 words for Surviving the Fog-Douglas Lives and about 2,000 words for Surviving the Fog-Sasha and Kim.

What book genres do you enjoy reading?

Science fiction, romance, and history books make up the bulk of my reading.  I branch out occasionally into fantasy and anthropology.

Where can we learn more about you?

My Website: https://sites.google.com/site/stanandrene/home

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Stan-Morris/e/B004KB2HG0/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Barnes and Noble Author Page: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/stan-morris

iTunes Author Page: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/stan-morris/id366779015?mt=11

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2884264.Stan_Morris

Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/morriss003