The Gen Delacourt Mystery Series

Molly Greene

Author Molly Greene does more than just write books; although to date she’s written seven! When starting her career in writing, she began blogging about her experiences and sharing what she was learning about the mechanics of blogging and self-publishing with other up-and-coming writers. This has garnered a substantial following for her books and her blog, but it hasn’t been an easy road. Her generosity in sharing what she’s learned has helped others, but of course it’s the books in her mystery series that hold the key to her heart. Read on to learn more about this fascinating writer, her work, and what drives her.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q How did your career in real estate prepare you for your writing life?

A I’m not sure it prepared me so much as it made me realize how badly I wanted to be done with having a boss! Seriously, though, my last twenty years of full-time real estate-related work was as a Marketing Manager for various wholesale mortgage companies. That meant cultivating diverse skills such as flyers created in InDesign and (limited) Photoshop, and lots and lots of copy writing and editing. I use all those skills now as an author, as well as the self-discipline I’ve honed over the years.

Q You’ve written six books in your Gen Delacourt mystery series. What do you find is a) the easiest and b) the most difficult part of writing a series?

A The easiest and most fabulous part is getting to know characters so well that you understand what they would do and say in almost any situation. The hardest part – eventually – will be coming up with plausible cases/situations for them to react to. So far I’ve had great good fortune in thinking up plots, but I fear by the time I get to Book 12, the well may run a little dry.

Q I discovered your blog via an internet search, but was immediately impressed with your “give-back” attitude toward indie writers. What inspired you to take this tactic with your blog?

A When I fired up my website in early 2011, I made an error common to new authors on social media: I began to share what I’d learned as I learned it, and as a result, I wrote blog posts almost exclusively for writers – not readers. I didn’t have a book out yet, I didn’t have readers or fans, so at the time it just made sense to share my self-publishing education with my peers.

Over time, my posts became popular among other authors who were also trying to navigate the learning curve. So my blog’s “give-back” philosophy was a natural offshoot to what I was doing. People helped me, so in turn I reached back to try and make the road easier for those coming behind.

Q What advice would you most like to give to new writers as they begin their journey?

A Great question! Here’s my advice:

* Read heavily in your chosen genre

* Watch what other successful self-published authors do to market themselves and their books

* Follow blogs of authors who share their experiences – it will cut the learning curve time in half

* Try on beta readers until you find two or three fabulous people who will give you good, credible, honest advice about your writing and your plots and characters

* Invest in (at the very least) a great cover and a proof reader

Q Who have been your greatest mentors, either in life or in writing, and why?

A My own poor decisions and errors have provided the greatest growth vehicle in my life, especially once I passed forty and really paid attention to the mistakes I was making, then tried to learn the lessons inherent in them.

In writing/craft, my most important learning vehicle has come from my favorite trad-published authors, Robert Crais, Janet Evanovich’s first few Stephanie Plum novels, and Susanna Kearsley (each at opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to writing style). They create fabulous characters and make me laugh and cry and never want to put their books down.

In the self-publishing industry, it’s been authors like Toby Neal, who I’ve watched closely as she’s worked her butt off and gained great success. That success helped me feel that if she could do it, I could too.

Q What has been the most difficult personal lesson for you to learn, and why?

A Not every person in the world is going to love or value me the way I want to be valued; not every reader is going to like my books and review them the way I’d hope to be reviewed; not every scenario, project, or life situation I develop and nurture will work out the way I plan. Why these have been difficult personal lessons is obvious.

Q If you could sit down at a roundtable of writers either living or dead, who would they be and why would you choose them?

A I’d love to sit at a roundtable of successful self-published authors and listen to a discussion about what they’ve done that’s worked as far as writing, collaboration, budget, diversification of sales platforms, print vs. ebooks, marketing, and promotion, including what has and has not worked, what they would do again, what they’ve heard and seen other successful authors do that they would like to try. THAT would be an interesting couple of hours!

Q What is it about mystery stories that draws you in and holds you?

A I read to be entertained and to learn, so I like mysteries because I can get the feel for characters as they grow through their experiences. I love the page-turning suspense of waiting to see what happens in a well-written plot.

Q What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about being an indie writer?

A 1) How generous most other self-pubbers are, and 2) how challenging the learning curve is when you first begin, how much there is to do: blogging, social media, writing, publishing, marketing, interviews, promotions … accck!

Q You’ve also written a nonfiction title aimed at self-publishing writers, Blog It. What is the underlying message you are hoping to convey with this book and your blog?

A Blog It evolved from the period of time I was setting up, figuring out, and achieving initial success with my blog. It was tough! There wasn’t a lot of info out there to use as a guide. So I compiled what I’d learned into a book in hopes it would help other authors navigate a little more easily. The message with my book and blog is simple, and exactly what I’ve learned from watching others: “if I can do it, so can you.”

Q Writers, like other artists, struggle with huge amounts of rejection, questioning from well-meaning friends and family, and their own doubts about their writing talent. What would you advise writers in dealing with these issues?

A I might question all the time and effort I put into something when it’s slow to pan out, but I don’t question myself, and no one has questioned me because I never shared my plans to become an author. I just did it. I had three books published before my mother found out!

I believe the greatest rejection-type challenge for authors comes from negative reviews. My advice would be to put it in perspective: Readers come in all types and expectations and desires. Just as I do not necessarily like certain authors’ writing styles and stories, some readers will not like mine. It’s the way it works.

I have the great good fortune – and the life experience – to not pay much attention to what people I don’t know think of me, and I don’t surround myself with people who feel compelled to hand out unsolicited advice. That would be another bit of guidance I’d pass on: take great care about who you hang out with and confide in.

Q I still encounter many writers who aren’t comfortable using social media to connect with other writers and/or readers. Why should they bother with these outlets?

A Connecting with readers is a blast, and one of the most fun elements of being an author, so I have trouble relating to discomfort with that! But if I were a new author starting today, I’d focus on writing a slew of really good books, maintaining accounts on two or three social media platforms that they enjoy using, and building an email subscriber list via a great website. These things, over time, do provide great exposure and will help authors connect and sell books.

When I started blogging and using Twitter in 2011, it was great fun and introduced me to a horde of fabulous writers who remain friends. Sharing and collaboration is valuable and important, just keep it simple. Don’t try to be everywhere at once. I question the value of authors spreading themselves too thin trying to be active on and managing a slew of social media accounts.

Q What’s next for you, Molly?

A The Gen Delacourt Mystery Series Books 7 – 12. That’s it in a nutshell!

Discover more about Molly and connect with her at the links below:

Website: www.molly-greene.com

Twitter: @mollygreene https://twitter.com/mollygreene

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5561802.Molly_Greene

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molly.greene.7

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116507548651091841772/posts

She Said No To The Wind

She Said No to the Wind

I was introduced to César Moran-Cahusac through our Christina Hamlett, who designed the cover for his new poetry collection, She Said No to the Wind. As a fellow poet and nature lover, I was enthusiastic to connect with him.

For every book he sells, he donates a dollar “towards the implementation and development of a tree nursery that will be the seed for an urban reforestation project in the city of Cusco, Peru.” As a poet, his works are seeds for other things as well. He inspired me to write again from that playful, dark, inquisitive, wondrous place, to walk barefoot in the sand and just breathe, and to celebrate the little things that piece together all that counts in the end. His book is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. (You can see samples of his poetry and the gorgeous photography with the “Look Inside” feature.)

Interviewer: Joanna Celeste

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Q: In your work as an activist, poet, peace advocate and environmentalist, you share a lot of yourself with others. What are some things that people don’t know about you?

A: I think what I don’t share are my weaknesses and fears; it has been a long process to even start recognizing them. Mostly because one was taught not to be weak and vulnerable.

But, that is not true. On the contrary it is vulnerability that makes you resilient. So, as I have been writing I have been learning to accept my vulnerabilities and fears, understand and then overcome them.

It has been my poetry that has allowed me to expose them to myself; this allowed me to be courageous enough to compile them metaphorically in my first poetry anthology called She Said No to the Wind.

So, it has been a long walk where I was accompanied by my fears, and as we took this stroll we talked a lot and now I feel comfortable with some of them. There is still a lot of talking to do.

Q: That’s awesome—your poetry has a lot of heart and sharing that allows us to open up, too. What first drove you to write?

A: I have always been a sensitive and very passionate individual. By this I want to say that I feel things very intensively and these feelings are just there, lingering around me.

In fact, before waking up in the morning I would find myself with phrases and even complete poems in my head, but at that time I did not pay attention to them. I did not consider them important or even good enough to be saved by writing them on a piece of paper. Then little by little I took the risk to jot them down and play with the words I had written.

That is when the magic and the infatuation with words started, their meaning and sound became intensively beautiful to me. So, poetry in the form of free prose allowed me to get these feelings out, as I wanted to shout, cry, laugh, hug, run, dance, jump, and feel. Poetry became the medium to let it all out.

Q: Thank you for taking that risk of publishing it, letting it all out with us. Your cover captures the spirit of the book, with its message “to inspire”. In what other ways do you hope to connect with your readers?

A: I want them to genuinely feel alive, this is to fuel in them the urge to look around and embrace the beauty that surrounds them and that every one of them has stories that can be portrayed in a wonderful way. Hopefully, as they read this book and its lines they can understand who I am, how I see the world and kindle in the reader the urge to live life as uniquely as possible.

Q: What a beautiful way to see things. The poems in your book celebrate daily events. What do you consider the value and power of the seemingly mundane?

A: The mundane is what builds history; it has all the events that construct our lives and the lives of the people who surround us. We all, within our natural setting, weave a fantastic living textile that drapes over the landscape.

It is then when the mundane expresses colors, textures, aromas, that precipitates the wild array of events that construct our lives and makes us move us forward. By being sensitive to this magic one becomes uniquely compassionate.

Q: Your poetry also celebrates the magic of nature. From your work in the field and your Masters in Environmental Management, you’ve considered our world from multiple perspectives. What are you most passionate about when it comes to nature and conservation?

A: Yes, nature is the mother—it is what feeds us, embraces, and cradles our interwoven diverse civilization. Without her we are absolutely nothing. So by understanding her processes and fully acknowledging the fact that the consumption of natural resources is a blessing; we can see the necessity to tread gently over her, and by this I mean tiptoe.

So interacting with her should not be this greedy destruction. Moreover, we have to boldly declare the paradigm of endless growth as obsolete, not even think of sustainable development.

Q: What do you mean, abandon sustainable development?

A:  I do not believe in sustainable development, in the sense that nothing can grow forever; the concept that makes more sense is resilience.  Sustainable development is trying to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. But, nothing that grows forever is sustainable… it was a great concept presented in the Brundtland report in 1987. That had the idea to inspire people to care for nature.  But this has become a catchphrase, and abused by the interests of advocates of exponential economic growth, undermining environmental reforms. We are defunct as a species if we do not consider the fact that we need to start de-growing to reach an adequate balance and actively reduce our demands on nature.

Q: How it is possible to “de-grow”?

A: De-growth is a new term that expresses “that the only way for humanity to live within its biophysical limits and mitigate the effects of climate change is to reduce economic activity, to downscale consumerist lifestyles, to move beyond conventional energy sources, to give up on the fantasy of ‘decoupling’ economic and population growth from environmental impacts, and to rethink the technologies that have gotten us into our current predicament. There has been no known society that has simultaneously expanded economic activity and reduced absolute energy consumption” taken from   A Call to Look Past An Ecomodernist Manifesto: A Degrowth Critique [http://www.resilience.org/articles/General/2015/05_May/A-Degrowth-Response-to-An-Ecomodernist-Manifesto.pdf].

This should liberate us from thinking naïvely that technology will save us from overriding planet Earth and look into how can we become resilient and design actions towards adaptation.

Q: You are an advocate of environmentalism and peace. How do you consider these to be connected?

A: I think they are connected through compassion—when we have sincere, compassionate feelings for ourselves, these feelings ripple into the environment. In this way, we build care and slowly but surely the way we look at nature changes, perceiving its small marvels as a delicate equilibrium that can’t be disrupted violently. This is when peace sets in as the way to be in harmony with nature and the rest of living and human beings.

Q: What inspires you in your daily life?

A: Well, to be able to take the any opportunity to smile and enjoy life thoroughly by just recognizing its daily events. Just the fact of waking up in the morning makes me smile, inspiration comes by being open-minded, allowing everything to inspire me. Sounds, words people say, the weather, whatever comes my way has a meaning and brings sensations that need to be expressed.

Q: You also express yourself with martial arts. What draws you to practice?

A: I have practiced two martial arts, Kung Fu and Aikido. The latter is called the art of peace or the way of harmony. I try to live in harmony and I recognize that this is very difficult, but as I train all I want is to polish the art, the expression, the connection, the form, the movement, the ability to create kuzushi or to take your opponents’ balance in a subtle way. So, what draws me to practice is the endless opportunity one has   to polish and perfect a technique  Like with words, I go about with my training—I try to use them in the most precise way possible. The arts in general offer you a stream of incredible surprises than can only be found if you practice them committedly. One always has to train with a beginner’s mind, willing to learn something new every day.

Q: In all your activities, as an activist, advocate, poet, and as one who practices peace, is there something that you consider joins them together?

A: I think it’s my heart that joins them, yes, my heart is a wonderful thing because it embraces them all, I learn from every single one of them. They all interact, taking energy and knowledge from each other, and my heart fuels them, making them move forward with passion.

Q: There’s a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a community to raise an author, an idea. Your book is dedicated to several key people (and our ultimate shared mother, nature). In what way have the people in your life been your village?

A: When we interact with people, they leave in us experiences from which we learn. This is in some ways streams of good and the bad, the happy and the sad.  On which we can navigate, I tend to navigate on the positive side of things, when I meet or interact with the negative side I learn from them that I definitely do not want to be there or become that. “Positiveness” is the force that I share and take from people. This I have I learned from my mother and father that taught me to always look forward for a new day, for a new way and to be able to appreciate the opportunity to learn something new.

And in that sense I give thanks to all the above, to be kind and compassionate to everybody and to draw a smile as fast as one can. In fact become the fastest smile out there and with this practice always laugh every single day of my life. So, it’s my responsibility to stir happiness and postiveness in my village. The people I have mentioned in my dedication have sparked in me this way of being, I have become resilient in so many ways thanks to them and furthermore I would have to add more people on to that list. So I can take the opportunity now to thank them all for inspiring and allowing me to be who I am.

Q: When you look at our future, as a humanitarian and nature advocate, what do you see?

A: I see that there is an urge to change people’s attitudes and level of consciousness. It is unbearable to see how opportunism, manipulation, greediness, oblique disdain for equal human rights is still rampant.

If words can trickle down as gentle rain and sensitize people; well let’s write, share the words in all its forms, so that being  said I will continue writing and expressing what I see and feel intensively.

Editorial Note: Over the course of the interview, César revealed he had been inspired to pen a new poem. We are happy and honored to share it here with our readers.

Can You Draw Your Smile?

Can you draw it fast, as fast as you can?

Yes, can you make that sparkling ivory shine like a blaze?

Shattering the ice that has taken the hearts

Breaking the rusty padlocks that incarcerated joy

Invisibly loitering around lips and cheeks,

So heavy that frowns became conspicuous

Making daily strolls gloomy and the inability to open up a constant

So slap everybody with it, back and forth, be mighty

Become merciless with that smile

Release it quick as lightning that hits the ground with a rumble

Cracking elation to extent of anointing the spirit with warmth that leaks pleasure into the cells

Defusing anger, embracing shyness with a welcoming grin

Evicting shallow greetings that kill love

Invigorate with that nimble feat that flashes your dental sculpture

Allowing eyes balls and brows to expand in surprise

Permeating the spreading of fun vibes in a brink like butter on hot bread

Call upon teeth and gums; astonish at dawn, at sunset,

Halt the stiffness that has cramped faces

Bring abundance with no fear of scrutiny

Because your smile is perfect as it opens any cloud or clouted ideas

A perpetual smile cleanses the body, stretches it to enable tolerance

Killing incisive stares that bleed hatred,

It can relieve agnostic perceptions that life is only crappy

So, become a believer ignite a brouhaha that will ransack everybody,

Yes, a squawking commotion like macaws’ flying into the sunset.

Smile as fast as you can, deliver the blow that knocks out animosity

Fill that face with content; yes be quick, as fast as you can.

César Morán – Cahusac

Cusco, June 2015

An Unsubstantiated Chamber

Jackson cover

If through some celestial twist the future had not only arrived sooner but brought with it an airship full of technological gizmos and gadgets as well, the past would clearly reflect today’s popular genre called “steampunk.” The clever mash-up of science fiction, alternative history, romance and even a smattering of Victorian “penny dreadfuls” were certainly flirted with in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne – two icons who’d find plenty to chat about – and applaud – with William J. Jackson, author of the Rail Legacy books. Set against a backdrop of 1886 Railroad City, Missouri, An Unsubstantiated Chamber finds two unlikely allies working together to track down a paranormal killer. Looking for a page-turner summer read? We recommend hopping Jackson’s fast train to a race against time. Just fasten your seat belt first…

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Congratulations on the debut of the launch title in a new steampunk series! Since you’ve indicated that the Rail Legacy books will appeal to audiences 14 years and older, we’re curious what the 14-year-old self of William Jackson might have had on his nightstand.

A: I was coming out of my Stephen King phase then. But comics, mainly DC and Marvel. LOTS of comics.

Q: What are you reading these days?

A: Indie! I gave up on ever changing Dc and Marvel – popular books just based on what’s hot and read indie. Try Kara Jorgensen, Jack Tyler, David Lee Summers and many more!

Q: Who (or what) inspired you to start penning your own books?

A: I always wanted to write but couldn’t find the words or the self-esteem. Both came gradually.

Q: Do you begin with a formal outline or do you allow your muse to guide you from one chapter to the next?

A: First the muse, then an outline. Slowly, the outline gives way to how the characters should naturally behave. Then back to the muse.

Q: So what attracted you to the popularity of steampunk fiction?

A: Childhood, long before it had a name, there was H.G Wells and Jules Verne. The rpg Space:1889 really got me back into it again.

Q: For readers unfamiliar with the rudiments of a steampunk story, give us a 101 primer on the types of characters, plots and settings one typically finds in this genre.

A: While many see goggles, top hats and airships (mine has those) steampunk is more of an archetype of advanced steam technology and the historical mess of imperialism to which any time period or other genre can be merged. It’s really quite open once you know those basics.

Q: When YA novels initially hit their stride in the 1970s, the majority of their themes revolved around the misfit experiences of high school and the pangs of unrequited crushes. YA titles today have dramatically left that suburban comfort zone and plunged readers into the midst of dark paranormal and dystopian worlds. Yet, in your view, have the teenage quests for love, acceptance and survival really changed that much?

A: Regardless of the type of world built, the emotional and maturity struggles remain. The only real difference is how hard said world makes life and growing up.

Q: A lot of these YA stories of escapism and empowerment appeal to adults just as much as they do to teenagers. Why is that?

A: Adults have the monster called Responsibility, and thus also crave escape! It’s more a human factor than one of age.

Q: What was the inspiration behind “An Unsubstantiated Chamber”?

A: My love of superhero tales, but wanting a deeper one about justice to go with the battles and splashy powers. My love of Victorian scientific romances, but hating the vapid racism/sexism of the era. Let’s combine the two, but add what I felt was missing.

Q: Which came first for you – the characters or the plot?

A: Plot. I dreamed of Railroad City back in 1993! Steam trains and a city of heroes really gave me a kick in my rpg days. Then it was a game, but I said back then that if I ever became a writer, the Rail, the Legacy Universe as a whole, would be first.

Q: Any special meaning behind the title?

A: It is very self-explanatory, but I wanted words that I wouldn’t find in another title. I’m anal that way.

Q: How is the series steampunk and how is it not?

A: Goggles, airships, top hats, imperial militant takeover, steam power…check! The basics are there, as well as the bad effects of the military rule. But add to it powers (talents) caused by an alien element. Oh, and there were aliens, too, at one point.

Q: Which character in the series do you most identify with?

A: Flag Epsom. He loves history, is a loner, and is very sarcastic. Sarcasm was how I got through being picked on in school. Now I’m trying to get rid of it and be more calm.

Q: What governed your decision to craft Rail Legacy as a series? (beyond the obvious reason that many of us simply hate to say goodbye to our characters by the final chapter!)

A: The story is a chase. But the things uncovered will unleash a cacophony of secrets, lies, and drama that most of the characters in the book and those to come will find hard to accept, and to handle. Thus, it would take more than one or even two books to tell it.

Q: One of the challenges of writing a series is the fact that readers might not read the books sequentially. How do you address this insofar as giving your new readers enough back-story to be brought up to speed while not boring your fans that are all ready for the next adventure and don’t need a recap?

A: Each book will remain its own, while connecting to the next one. So, it really shouldn’t hurt not to read in order.

Q: Any book(s) written over a long stretch necessitate great organizational and time management skills so as not to lose track of who’s doing what where and why? What’s your insider secret about this?

A: Lots of note paper! Truly, I write tons of little notes that look frantic on the table but help to organize my thinking. In one book I have the overall timeline, and reference that. All together, it works.

Q: What’s a typical day of writing like for you? (i.e., setting, time of day, music in the background, quirky habits)

A: Early morning, put out hopefully a thousand words in the quiet. If TV is on, I use headphones and listen to jazz/dubstep. Not exactly steampunk music, but it works!

Q: Are there any “rules” of writing that you steadfastly never break? Any that you always break?

A: I hate writing rules. No adverbs. No ending in a preposition. Bleh! If it’s in the English language, I use it. If it fits the story, I write it. There are the rules.

Q: As with many aspiring authors, you chose to exercise control over your intellectual property and go the self-publishing route. What do you know now that you didn’t know when this publishing journey began? Any advice to writers considering a similar path?

A: That KDP Select makes you unable to sell your ebook elsewhere for at least 90 days. If I had known, I would not have enrolled. I suggest trying Direct2Digital, Smashwords and more first. They are more lenient.

Q: What are you doing to promote the book?

A: Alerts on Facebook and Twitter. I have the ad program on Goodreads, tweets via BookWerm. I guess they’re helping.

Q: If Hollywood came calling for the Rail Legacy to make it a movie or television series, who would comprise your dream cast for it?

A: Wow. Flag Epsom – Christopher Eccleston. Aretha Astin – Gina Rodriquez. Sergeant Powell -Sam Neill. Madame Amberson – Meryl Streep. And I guess for the role of the elusive killer, Michael Keaton.

Q: And would you want a role in it yourself?

A: I want to be in the green suit, playing any of the oddest paranormals in the background!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Finishing Book Two, writing a dieselpunk chapter every week on Wattpad,

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work (and buy your book)?

A: They can buy it at…http://www.amazon.com/Unsubstantiated-Chamber-Book-Rail-Legacy/dp/1502714353/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433966474&sr=8-1&keywords=an+unsubstantiated+chamber&pebp=1433967675551&perid=80B0C8398D324B8E8D08

I also blog about my book and the genre at therailbaron.wordpress.com.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I’m excited to talk to steampunk and all punk fans online. Email me at andorian9@gmail.com or find me on Facebook. Let’s come together and build up the indie scene!

Children of the Night (series)

FallenEmbers cover art

Vampires and sex! What could be better for paranormal romance lovers? Author PG Forte certainly pushes the envelope and explores the dynamic, complicated lives of her vampire characters in her Children of the Night series. I wanted to delve into the world and mind of a writer who creates such complex characters and doesn’t shy away from writing outside the proverbial box. With open candour, PG provides answers that give readers insight and a behind-the-scene look into what goes into writing this kind of series, fitting in, and the benefits to not fitting in.

Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

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Q So what’s a nice Catholic girl like you doing in a sexy vampire fantasy writing world like the ones you pen? What draws you in and holds you to this genre?

A LOL! Would you believe my daughter made me do it? No, seriously, she did. She was reading a lot of vampire fiction at the time, and I’d been complaining about the various vampire traditions I didn’t like—not being able to see themselves in mirrors, being allergic to Holy Water, that sort of stuff. She suggested I write my own, so I did. What keeps me there are the characters I created.

I love them because they’re a family. They care about each other, even though they don’t always show it. They can live forever, which isn’t always the blessing it appears to be on the surface. That’s why the first line of the first book is, “When you live forever, you’re bound to make a few mistakes.” Oh, and they do! lol! But, on the other hand, when you live forever, there’s also time to get a few things right.

Q You are writing your sixth book in a vampire series. What would you say are the challenges writers of serial books face that are different from single titles?

A Oh, where do I start? lol! I guess I should begin by saying that I love writing series. It can be hard sometimes saying good-bye to a set of characters at the end of a book. With a series, you do get a bit of a reprieve. On the other hand, I generally find myself getting frustrated at some point and have to be talked out of killing off the majority of my characters. While I was writing my Oberon series, for example, I kept threatening to have an earthquake destroy the town.

One of the big challenges is consistency. I have to go back and re-read earlier books all the time to make sure my characters aren’t contradicting themselves from book to book. Also, with a big, sprawling series, like most of mine, you end up with a lot of minor characters. Sometimes you don’t remember all their names—which can be a big problem when you reuse a name, or call the same person by two different names. Usually it gets caught in time, but I live in fear. lol!

Another problem is writing yourself into a corner—it happens a lot! Even though I plot everything, my characters have a way of taking detours or going off on tangents. Sometimes those are great, serendipitous moments of glorious inspirations. Other times, you find yourself lost in a world of pain and re-writing, to get yourself back on track.

And then there’s the pacing. You need a few series-long story arcs, but those are often the things that try your readers’ patience. Some loose ends take a while to tie up. For example, there’s a bit of a mystery in the Children of Night series involving Conrad and Damian. The two were lovers for nearly four hundred years. Then, in 1856, they had a terrible falling out. They didn’t speak to each other for the next hundred and thirteen years, and it took them another forty years to finally get back together.

Not surprisingly, readers want to know what happened. No one is thrilled when I tell them I’m not going to explain it until the seventh and last book. And, no, it’s not because I don’t know the answer! I know exactly what happened between them, and why it happened, but as it happens, they’ve both been keeping secrets from each other, so they don’t know. And until they break down and tell each other the truth, there’s no way for the readers to find out either.

So that’s another challenge: keeping your readers so interested in what’s going on, that they forget how frustrated they’re getting with you for not telling them everything up front.

Q What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you began your writing journey?

A Well, I’ve learned I’m a bit of a perfectionist. Trust me; anyone who’s seen my house will be as surprised as I am by that fact. I have patience—who knew? I have determination and the ability to persevere, and a trace of paranoia, which appears to be an occupational hazard for many of us. I’ve also learned I’m a lot more competitive than I ever realized.

Q Would you say you’re a plotter, or a pantster, and why?

A Oh, total plotter. Occasionally I’ll start writing a story before I have the entire plot laid out. Usually this happens when I have a deadline and start panicking about the fact that I don’t have the entire plot laid out. But even then I usually have to stop and work out all the details before I can proceed.

On the plus side, even when I get side-tracked I always have a map to get me back on track. And my finished outlines are so detailed, all I need to do is clean them up again and voila! Instant synopsis—which is a huge advantage!

Q Could you give our readers a brief summary about what your latest book is about?

A I’d love to! Fallen Embers is the fifth book in the series. It’s a seven book series, so this is the point where things are starting to look pretty bleak for some of the characters, while other characters are just starting to come into their own. Exciting times!

The series for the most part is about Conrad Quintano, the patriarch of the Quintano vampire family, and his two youngest children, twins Julie and Marc Fischer. Julie and Marc were born vampire—which is supposed to be impossible. By all the rules governing vampire culture, they should have been killed at birth. But Conrad promised their mother on her deathbed that he would protect them and raise them. He and his partner, Damian, went into hiding together (even though they were no longer lovers) and raised the twins in secret until they were adults and could “pass” for normal vampires.

In each of the books, the twins learn a little bit more about their true heritage and destiny. And, in each of the books, we also explore a little more about Conrad and his relationship with various members of his family. Fallen Embers is largely about Conrad’s relationship with Georgia—his oldest friend and another of his former lovers.

Conrad and Georgia first met in the early twelfth century. On the night they met, Conrad saved Georgia’s life, but he’s always maintained that she saved his as well. It was Georgia who taught him that, just because he was a vampire it didn’t mean he had to be a monster as well. But that was then and this is now and a lot can happen over the course of nine hundred years! They’ve both been keeping dangerous secrets from each other, and now they’re starting to come out.

Q What inspired you to write this series?

A To be honest, I didn’t exactly intend for the series to go this way. In the very beginning I wanted to write a paranormal mystery series. I imagined the twins would be growing quite bored with their lives. Sure, Conrad has amassed a huge amount of wealth over the centuries, and you’d think this would mean they could do whatever they want. But after forty years of not being able to pursue any kind of career (since they don’t age, etc.) and having to keep a low profile, I figured they’d want something to keep their minds occupied. So I thought they should start investigating crimes and mysteries in the paranormal community.

The first book was going to be an introduction to the series and their first case was going to be finding Conrad, who’d gone missing. In the course of writing the book, however, I realized there was a lot more to Conrad’s story than I’d realized. And a whole lot more to Damian’s as well.

Five books later and here we are. Sure there are still mysteries to unravel and the twins are in the thick of things, but it hasn’t unfolded at all the way I thought it would. On the other hand, I love these characters and enjoy spending time with them … now that I’ve been talked out of killing them all off!

Q For you, what is the easiest part of writing a book, the beginning, middle, or end, and why?

A It depends on the book. A lot of beginnings are easy because even when I haven’t worked out all the details of where I’m going or how I’m going to get there, I at least know where I am at the start. But beginnings are also probably where I spend the most of my time, because I am never satisfied with them and, until I have the beginning just right, I can’t move one.

Middles can seem endless, and it’s really easy to get bogged down in them, or to get turned around and lose your way. On the other hand, once you get a little momentum going—and assuming you follow your outline and don’t get off track—you can make a lot of progress in a relatively short period of time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that endings are usually the easiest for me. However, there are a couple of exceptions. If you’re ending a series, or a stand alone book and saying goodbye to characters you aren’t ready to say goodbye to, endings can take forever. Also, I love endings; which means I’m a perfectionist. I want them to be just right. I’ve written a couple of books in which the last chapter took an embarrassingly long time to write. In fact, in one book, Waiting For The Big One, the last chapter took as long to write as the entire rest of the book. Of course, it was just a novella, and I wrote the rest of it in record time, but still!

Q Do you have a favorite character in this book, or in the series? If so, what makes this character your favorite?

A I love all my characters … well, almost all of them. Even the minor characters have a way of surprising me from time to time. I have one I just can’t kill. He was supposed to have died a couple of times, but one of the other characters keeps stepping in and saving him at the last minute. But, having said all that, I have to admit to being especially fond of Conrad and Damian. And Damian maybe a little bit more.

After 1200  years, Conrad’s a bit tired and jaded. His early life was, for the most part, very unpleasant. And by early life I mean the first several hundred years of it. This has also left him with more than a bit of a bad temper!

Damian, on the other hand, is more irrepressible—and a lot more flamboyant. Unlike Conrad, he was raised in relative luxury. He came from Spanish royalty and was serving as a courtier when he met Conrad. He fell in love with Conrad and ran away from court (and his patron—a very jealous Archduke) to be with his “demon lover”. He also has a temper, however, and a reckless, impulsive nature that regularly lands him in trouble.

I think it’s fair to say Conrad treats Damian, at times, as he would a trophy wife. He loves to indulge him and shower him with gifts, but he doesn’t always understand Damian’s needs and insecurities. There are also some times when he really wishes Damian would just shut up and do as he’s told. Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.

But the two of them love each other to death and have enormous admiration and respect for each other, so they’ll be okay. At least they will once they get those pesky secrets they’ve been keeping sorted out.

Q What’s the one thing about you that might surprise our readers?

A Uh…you mean beside the fact that I talk about my characters as though they were real people? I don’t know. I’m assuming most of them already know about the tattoos, the piercing, and the unicorn hair. That’s old news anyway. One thing that continues to surprise my husband is the fact that, when I’m on a roll, I can happily spend days in front of my computer writing. Seriously, if I’m the only one at home, and as long as I don’t run out of coffee, wine, or dog treats, I’ll barely even stop for meals.

In fact, now that the kids are out of the house, whenever my husband has to go out of town for business it’s exactly what I do. And I’m perfectly content.

Q What are your thoughts on the future of publishing and the self vs. traditional publishing debate?

A I think the more options the better, at this point. I was not an early adopter of the indie publishing movement, to be honest. DIY is a lot of work, frankly, and I really believed—or wanted to believe—that publishers had, perhaps, a better grasp on the industry than individual authors.

I still think some publishers have a better grasp on some aspects of publishing than some authors—but for the most part, I think the days when ANYONE could lay claim to having a handle on what’s going on in the publishing industry—or how best to appeal to the book buying public—are long gone.

At this point, I think the smartest way to go—for me—is hybrid. I don’t want to do all the work for every title, but some titles, yeah. I like being the one making ALL the decisions.

Right now, however, I think it’s really kind of a free-for-all. I think everyone has to decide for him or herself what kind of career best suits them.

Q You write erotic books featuring both gay and straight characters. Has it been difficult finding your “niche market” readers and/or publishing venues? If so, what has been your greatest publishing challenge?

A Oh, yes! Absolutely. Writing a series which is basically impossible to categorize? Terrible, awful, very bad idea. But it’s worse even than you know. Some of the books in the series are erotic; others have no explicit sex at all. There were several important reasons for why there was no sex—either all the sex took place in the past while my main couple were broken up and sleeping with other people and my editor pointed out that, while it was understandable they had both taken other lovers, readers would get upset if they “saw” them having sex with other people. And rightly so, btw, because readers did mention the fact after the book was published! Then, too, I write really long books, and when you have to cut 40K out of a book before it can be published, sometimes the sex has to go.

I don’t know if I’d do anything differently, because as I said, I love my characters and I’m happy with the way the series is turning out, but yeah … not a good idea. Lol!

Of course, I write in a lot of different subgenres anyway, which has hurt me in some ways too. It’s hard to sell books when you can’t easily elucidate your brand.

Q So, what’s next for you, PG?

A Well, I’m just about finished with the follow up to Fallen Embers, which is called To Curse the Darkness and is due out in December. This one picks up pretty much right where Fallen Embers leaves off. Then, before I tackle the seventh and last book in the series, I’m hoping to release a trilogy of novellas which are the start of a spin-off series from my book Inked Memories. The stories all revolve around a tattoo shop in Oakland, CA where a reality TV show is being shot. These are straight up contemporary romances … well, straight up with a little bit of kink and a lot of tattoos. I’m also hoping to finish up a short story and a novella that, hopefully, will also be released this year as part of two anthologies I’m involved with. So, hopefully, it will be a real busy year.

You can find PG here:

Website: http://www.PGForte.com

Blog: http://www.RhymesWithForeplay.blogspot.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorPGForte

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheCronesNest/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PGForte

Tsu: http://www.tsu.co/pgforte

Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits

Leanne Hoagland Smith

Because of my own background in sales and marketing, when asked by Christina Hamlett to interview author Leanne Hoagland-Smith, I was intrigued. Once I delved into who Leanne is and what she’s accomplished thus far, I came away extremely impressed. With over 30 years in sales and a Masters in Science from Purdue University, Leanne knows what she’s talking about when coaching clients and writing this book. In addition to penning Be The Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, she’s the author of over 4000 articles, a weekly business columnist for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, and a contributor of various business journals.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q On the surface, your subject matter seems to be sales, but what would you say is the point you really want to get across to people who hire you or purchase your book?

A To stand out in the crowd be it in sales, in being hired, or in one’s personal life, requires adherence to solid, personal core values that are non-negotiable. Additionally, your beliefs drive your actions generating your results. If you want better results, look to your beliefs, invest time to assess through reflection, speaking with mentor, or taking physical assessments. From those assessment interactions, you will gain immense clarity as to what you need to do. Then you can have exceptional execution because you have taken the right action steps in the right time frame.

Q People often struggle with how to be unique, and forget that they are intrinsically unique by nature. What advice would you give to those seeking to bring their “red jackets” out of the closet?

A Return to your core values, know what those values are, and live by those values. Those who consistently demonstrate unwavering positive core values are noticed because so many people short cut their values because “everyone else does it.” I would also add; demonstrate emotional intelligence, because Zig Ziglar said it best “sales is the transference of feelings.” What he implied but did not say was that everyone is in sales. We are always transferring feelings. When we transfer those feelings with emotional intelligence, we are the Red Jackets.

Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you started coaching others and writing this book, and why?

A Sales is truly a simple process. My sense is sometimes we make sales too complex because of all the nuances to the latest and greatest sales fad, and fail to understand Ziglar’s words and emphasis on feelings. Within all that complexity, we lose sight of what we do well, our own authenticity, because we are trying to emulate someone else.

Q Who would you say is/was your greatest mentor, and why?

A My greatest mentor is my Swedish grandmother. She showed me how having a purpose and a plan really make a difference. I did not realize how her story was so essential to my own business. As I grew older and realized how much she accomplished with her clarity of purpose, I recognized what I needed to do.

Probably my second greatest mentor is my father, who was a lifelong salesman. He shared with me practical insight that is just as true today as it was 50 plus years ago.

Q Women are particularly vulnerable to the fear of appearing too pushy when dealing with clients, bosses and co-workers. In some cases this extends to just about every aspect of their lives. What advice would you give these women?

A First, we can only control our own behaviours. My sense is there is too much emphasis on what others think, and so a self-fulfilling prophecy happens. ‘I cannot say this because someone will think I am pushy.’ The reality is, a man can say exactly the same thing and be viewed as assertive.

When women learn to leverage their innate emotional intelligence and refrain from keeping their emotions out of any sales conversation, success does happen. There is a direct connection between active listening and emotional intelligence. These are two skills that women can leverage to increase their sales results as well as life outcomes.

Q Writing a book often seems easy for those who’ve never tried it. What were some of your greatest take-aways from that experience, and why?

A Writing a book is a commitment to time. Schedule a daily goal to write 750-1000 words. Non-fiction books are at a minimum 30,000 words, or a book that can be read on a two hour plane flight. Within a month you can have the bulk of your book written. Then start the editing process. One piece of advice; do not try to edit and write each chapter. Write the entire book and then edit it once or even twice. Let your flow, flow. Editing restricts that natural flow.

Q I love the title, and the image it conjures, of the Red Jacket. How did you come up with it, and what does it mean to you?

A The idea came during a discussion with a colleague while we were talking about how small businesses need to differentiate themselves. He mentioned standing out in the back of the room where people are rushing up to you to learn more about you. At this time, I mentioned “kind of like wearing a red jacket with a lot gray suits milling around.”

What the Red Jacket signifies to me is differentiation, not only in one’s solution, but in one’s presence. Today we hear the word disruptor. A Red Jacket disrupts the landscape because everyone else is in black, gray, or blue suits. Wearing a Red Jacket also gives an internal confidence and strength.

Q Can you give us an example of a funny or difficult situation you encountered when conducting a seminar, webinar, or book signing?

A When I first transitioned from training and development into executive and sales coaching, I was approached at a business to business networking event by a “certified coach” who asked who “certified me”. My response was “my clients.” She then again said, “No, I mean what organization certified you?” I responded “My clients, through the results they quickly achieve, certify me.” She then replied, “Well, results are not everything, and you are a fraud.”

Given she was also a practicing psychologist along with being a certified life coach, I was amused by her comment. She obviously lacked emotional intelligence not to mention some basic sales communication skills.

My answer to her statement of my being a fraud was “You are entitled to your opinion. Obviously my clients do not believe so, because they hired me for results.” What is interesting to note over the last 18 years; I have been only asked if I am certified by other certified coaches, and never once by a client.

Q  Many companies utilize “rewards” of everything from experiential adventures to items with strong perceived value for their employees and clients to encourage engagement. What rewards would you say work the best, and why?

A People buy from people they know and trust. They first buy on emotions, justified by logic. Salespeople are people as well. Letting people know they are doing a great job by offering support sometimes will go far further than extrinsic rewards.

Handwritten notes encourage engagement. People appreciate you took the time to physically find the card, write the card, and mail the card.

Again, we sometimes get lost in all the hype and just fail to connect with people. Yes, people want some sort of incentive, but first they want to be remembered. President Teddy Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Q What would you say is a company’s greatest ROI (return on investment), and why?

A That is such a simple question to answer: Your people are your greatest return on investment. If you have hired the right people with the right talents making the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment, you will receive the greatest return on your investment.

Q How important would you say social media is to business, and what is the biggest mistake you’d say businesses make with this new contact/engagement method?

A Social media is important for any business that wants to grow. As mobile takes greater and greater presence in the B2B and B2C worlds, not having a social media presence will have your business behind the flow, and possibly even dying on the river’s bank.

From my experience there are four big mistakes. The first one is not engaging in social media, believing it is not for you or your business.

Not understanding that social media is a marketing channel and can deliver exceptional ROI with a minimum effort is the second big mistake. Here is where automation tools such as HootSuite come into play.

Expecting social media to deliver instant results ranks as the third biggest mistake. As in any marketing effort, slow and steady wins the race. Social media is not the quick fix to bad sales results.

Finally, social media does require engagement and sharing. The old one way marketing channels have been replaced with a dynamic two way channel. If all you do is spew your sales pitches and never share the social media marketing efforts of others, you will fail, and fail miserably.

Q What’s next for you Leanne?

A First is relocating the office from outside of Chicago to Northwest Arizona by the fall of 2015 provided as they say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Second is to continue to offer an even stronger voice for small business owners with fewer than 20 employees who are in aggressive growth mode and require support to help them overcome people and process problems. Third is continuing the Red Jacket series. However, due to the forthcoming move and current client activity, this goal is in temporary hiatus. Fourth is to further market the Career and College Success Boot Camp for high school seniors and juniors. Our country needs good, ethical, and results driven leaders. Also, our economy needs leaders without excessive college debt. This Boot Camp provides a leadership foundation that most high school and even college experiences do not offer.

Author of Be the Red Jacket – http://bit.ly/1Q9mnV
Website: www.increase-sales-coach.com
Twitter: @CoachLee – http://bit.ly/1k0SPRa

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ADVANCEDSYSTEMS

LinkedIN – http://www.linkedin.com/in/leannehoaglandsmith

2014 – Small Business Journalist of the Year – http://www.edayleaders.com/home

2014 – Best International Sales Blog – http://bestsalesbloggerawards.com/p/26/hall-of-fame.html
2013 – Top 25 Sales Influencers – http://labs.openviewpartners.com/top-sales-influencers-for-2013/
2012 – Most Influential Dame in Social Media for Indiana

Editorial Note: Although we’ve yet to meet in person, I had the privilege of including Leanne as a savvy contributor to my two most recent business books. She’s a true pro to work with and it was a pleasure for us to put her in the You Read It Here First spotlight. – Christina Hamlett