The New Eve Fertility Method for Getting Pregnant After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth.

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What a pleasure it is to welcome Bridget Osho, who has just released her new book, The New Eve Fertility Method for Getting Pregnant After a Miscarriage or Stillbirth. Bridget is more than a writer, she’s a woman with a mission to help other women overcome the difficulties facing them after pregnancy loss. For any woman who has undergone this traumatic experience, this book, and perhaps the institute she founded in the UK, Cherie Mamma, may be a wonderful new direction to consider. Welcome Bridget!

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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Q: What is the Cherie Mamma Institute?

A: The Cherie Mamma Institute is an organization designed to help women heal from pregnancy loss so that they can conceive healthy babies. We do this by helping them create healing lifestyles and regain their natural feminine balance, usually disrupted by pregnancy loss.

The primary mission of the Institute is to help women who have lost pregnancies grow healthy and happy families. Part of our mission also includes research into the understanding and prevention of pregnancy loss and bringing the topic into the public domain so that it stops being a taboo subject.

Q: When you lost a pregnancy at seven months gestation, that event changed your life on many levels. What would you say has been the most profound lesson you’ve learned in your journey so far?

A: My pregnancy loss led to me to seek a deeper meaning to my life, my calling, and the calling of every woman. I have learned so many life lessons on this journey, but I think that the most profound lesson I have learned is that every woman is called to achieve her emotional, mental, and physical potential. Once she does this, she can be happy and fulfilled.

I believe that it is not just that women can have it all, it is that women need to have it all, and many fertility problems would be prevented if women achieved optimal physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We cannot give what we do not have. Out of the fullness of potential we can become mums, grow our families, and make an impact in the world. That is why it is so important that women who have lost their pregnancies are given the support they need to heal and become the best versions of themselves.

Q: What unexpected lessons have you learned from the women you’ve helped?

A: I have learned that it is not enough to know what to do to help them, you also have to know how to help in a way that empowers them. Many women who have been trying to conceive or lost pregnancies would do anything to have their healthy babies, but after trying different solutions for so long with little success, they can start to lose faith in themselves, which translates to loss of faith in other solutions.

It is an unconscious way of protecting themselves from false hope. In order to help them—and this applies to everybody who needs any form of transformation, such as weight loss, career growth, etc.—one needs to help them believe in themselves again. People need to believe that what they want can still happen for them and they cannot give up. It is about empowering them with hope.

Q: When you wrote your latest book, The New Eve Fertility Method, what were you hoping to accomplish that the Institute couldn’t or hadn’t?

A: I am well aware that not every woman who needs to heal from pregnancy loss will be able to get direct support through the Institute. Through the book, more women will get to know that they can truly heal from pregnancy loss and grow their families.

Q: Could you explain what a rainbow and an angel baby are?

A: An angel baby is what some people call babies who have been lost during pregnancy. They are believed to be little angels in heaven. Some people go as far as to see them as their little guardian angels who are alive, well, and happy. It is a great source of comfort to families who have lost pregnancies if they believe in life after death. I know this helped me a lot when I lost my pregnancy. It still does.

A rainbow baby is what some people call babies conceived after a pregnancy loss and who was born alive and healthy. It denotes the rainbow after a storm in the same way we see rainbows in the sky during/after the rain.

Q: What is the difference between the method you outline in the book and other methods women may have tried?

A: There are two major differences between the New Eve Fertility Method and many other methods.

The first is the emphasis on the totality of what goes into making a woman herself. Too often other fertility methods and approaches focus mainly on the woman’s body. The New Eve Fertility Method is based on the principle that when a woman loses a pregnancy, it is her whole world that has been affected; from her mind, to her emotions, to her body, her relationships, and even her work. This method focuses on helping her to pick up the pieces in all these aspects of her life so that she can truly heal.

The second difference that sets The New Eve Fertility Method apart is the emphasis on trying to heal naturally. Our bodies are naturally designed to conceive and give birth to healthy babies. It is when our natural balance is compromised that fertility becomes a struggle. For many women, this imbalance can be corrected naturally, and even when medical solutions are needed, a natural approach can make them even more effective.

Q: Writing a non-fiction book is quite an undertaking. What have you learned about the processes of non-fiction writing and publishing that you didn’t know before?

A: There is a lot more to writing a book than having ideas! For one, you need to make sure that you can guide a reader from little or no knowledge on the topic to being very knowledgeable. It means you need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of your reader.

Another thing is that you cannot do it on your own, you need at least another pair of eyes to read your work and you also need to have an effective marketing plan, otherwise your book will not get into the hands of the people who really need it.

Q: What do you estimate is the success/failure rate for women who come to you and the Institute for help?

A: It is difficult to look at my work in terms of rates, since women who approach us have different needs. Some women need to heal physically, e.g. improve their menstrual cycles. Some women need the emotional support to help them heal from pregnancy loss. While we support women to conceive healthy babies, our primary focus is to help them heal emotionally, physically, and mentally from pregnancy loss.

To this end, we have had women whose menstrual cycles have resumed after months of no periods, women who have conceived and delivered healthy babies, and women who feel that they have been given a new lease of life and hope.

Q: What would you say is the biggest misconception many women and health care providers believe about fertility and conception that is not true?

A: I think the biggest misconception that women and health care providers have is ignoring the influence of lifestyle in conception efforts. I have found that there is a large dependency on medications and/or supplements and not enough on wholesome diets, stress management, mental healing, and so on. I believe this is the reason so many women struggle with little success to conceive.

Q: Have you encountered any push-back from the medical community, or are they supportive of your efforts to help educate women regarding fertility and conception?

A: I have not experienced any push-back from the medical community. I am not expecting to, since my work does not replace their work. If anything, our work complements theirs. Most women who need medical solutions will benefit from the support the Institute gives in terms of stress management, natural diets, and exercises, among other things. I have had the support of a few doctors who understand what I am doing and know that women benefit from it.

Q: In your book you address fear and guilt. In your opinion, how prevalent are these feelings in women who have not been able to successfully carry a pregnancy to term? Is it a reflection of societal or personal issues?

A: Fear and guilt are very prevalent in women who have experienced pregnancy loss. There is the fear that they might never carry a baby to term and never have a baby. There is also the guilt that something they did or didn’t do contributed to the loss of their baby, since they were their baby’s primary caregivers.

In my opinion, the fear and guilt that many women after pregnancy loss experience is largely a reflection of their understanding that as a mother they feel responsible for their children. That is not a bad thing. Every mum feels this way. Most women would feel guilty if their children had an accident at home, even if it was clearly not their fault. The problem arises when the woman is not able to move on from that guilt and recognize that these problems are not their fault.

I think society can help women with this. The fact that women find it hard to talk about pregnancy loss exacerbates the fear and guilt. They can come to believe that something is really wrong with them and they just might be bad mums.

Q: What’s next for you, Bridget?

A: Simply to reach out to more women who can benefit from the New Eve Therapy Method. I am working on collaborating with more people to spread the message to every woman who has lost her pregnancy and let her know that she can still create the family she wants. I hope to do so by guest-posting, interviews like this one, seminars, and joint venture programs.

You can contact/reach Bridget at the following links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cheriemamma

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/the-cherie-mamma-institute

Website: www.cheriemamma.org

Twitter: @cheriemamma

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/153974096X/

 

 

 

Final Round: The Journey of a Lifetime

 

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Dave’s facing death. Sol’s truck runs into a tree. Two very different males are thrust together in the same ward with life-changing consequences for both. Such is the premise of Australian debut novelist Ross Barrett’s new book, “Final Round, The Journey of a Lifetime.”

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: There’s no question that your career path has taken a fascinating route – from scientist to playwright to published novelist. Let’s time-travel back, though, to the early years of Ross Barrett. When you were a lad of 10, what did you envision doing as your life’s work in the future?

A: When I was 10, I think I had an aspiration to be an electrician. After that, I thought about being a Bank Manager, and later a teacher. I was always interested in science, but had no idea you could make a career out of it. I was very naïve with regard to the professions, and my family was quite poor, so the initial plan was that I would leave school after completing my Intermediate Certificate at age 15. Two of my teachers came to visit my parents at home and explained to them that it would be a waste of talent if I didn’t stay on and go to university. It was financially very difficult for my parents but they managed to support me for the extra two years of school. Once at university, I had scholarships and bursaries and was self-supporting. I am very grateful to my two teachers, and to my loving and very proud parents.

Q: Were you an avid reader back then or only putting your nose in a book if homework required it?

A: I was a keen reader, but not fanatical. Books were not part of our family life. I borrowed books from the municipal library, which were a mixture of fiction and popular science. My childhood tastes in fiction were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, Tarzan and Biggles. All of these are now regarded as politically incorrect. In my early teens I discovered Sherlock Holmes, and was attracted by the logical, i.e. scientific, methodology Holmes applied to the solution of his crimes. I read all of the SH stories many times. Later I based one of my plays on the relationship between SH and his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Q: What drew you to the field of science and, specifically, what type of science was your calling?

A: One of my early teachers, when I was about ten, gave me a book detailing simple experiments that could be performed at home. I loved working through them, and trying to explain unexpected results. For instance, spin a boiled egg on a smooth flat surface, and you will see it quite suddenly rear up and continue to spin on its point. Why?

I began to read books on science, and had an array of useful equipment that I had gathered together: electric batteries, buzzers, bells, transformers and globes. I was a bit of a pain in the neck, developing booby traps that woke up the household when my sister came home late at night from a date.

At university I studied physics, chemistry, zoology and mathematics. Although I was the top student in Chemistry, I dropped it and majored in physics because I liked the more fundamental questions that physics posed into the nature of the universe.

My research interests have been experimental and theoretical nuclear physics, signal processing, underwater acoustics and sonar.

Q: Do you believe that science is an art or that art is a science? How so?

A: I wasn’t quite sure what this question was getting at, so I Googled it. Most of the hits seemed to imply that art is subjective, and science is objective. I think this is very simplistic. We might like to believe that the results of science are independent of the scientist who carried out the research, but that is often not the case. Scientists are just as prone to ego trips, jealousy of their peers, susceptibility to financial inducements, and other human frailties, as anyone else. These can influence their interpretation of their results, so that they too become subjective.

Q: Like a lot of my peers in high school, science was a class that you either loved (because of the chance to make smelly things blow up) or loathed (because of all of the formulas and tables of elements that had to be memorized). You recently co-authored a book called Physics: The Ultimate Adventure. The title alone suggests a glamorous side to a subject that many of us would otherwise run away from. What inspired this approach and who was the target readership you and your fellow authors had in mind?

A: One of the attractions of science at school was to get hands-on and carry out smelly experiments ourselves. In those days, the school science lab was often full of the highly toxic hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas), and the benches awash with Mercury. These days the students are kept at arm’s length from such experiments, to avoid law suits from their parents. Little wonder that science numbers are down.

One of the reasons I dropped chemistry is because I found organic chemistry full of the rote learning of formulas. For me, this was not the case with physics. If you understand the basic principles, the formulas can usually be derived, at least at the level taught in high school.

When we decided to write Physics: the Ultimate Adventure we wanted to present physics in a way that would enable non-specialists to enjoy the mystery and wonders of modern physics, without being submerged in mathematics. We hoped it might encourage students starting out on their careers to consider physics as an option, and those who had already gone down another road to gain a better understanding of the world they live in.

We believe that physics, far from being dry, can be, and should be made, beautiful, inspiring and enjoyable.

Q: In 1987, you began writing scripts for live theatre, a decision that subsequently led to not only seven of them being professionally produced in Adelaide but one of them selected as the best new South Australian play of the year in 1994. Tell us about your approach to the playwriting craft. For instance, is there a formulaic/outline structure that draws from your left-brain expertise as a scientist or do you allow your right-brain creativity to invite the muses in and see what they do?

A: I do not have any formulaic structure that I work from. I tend to have a broad outline of character, plot or theme that is the starting point. I start writing fairly early in the creative process, and it is this act of putting the material on the page that generates further ideas on where to go next. For me, the analytical, or left brain activity comes at the rewriting stage. Characters are then torn apart and extra traits introduced to give them more depth, the dramatic structure is analysed to locate the climaxes and make sure they are in the right place, and the dramatic conflict in every scene is studied to find the characters’ objectives and what is preventing their fulfilment. When all the problems of the script have been identified, I then return to the starting point, and let the muses prepare a second version. This cycle continues until a convergence occurs, and I have what I call my First Draft.

It is a time-consuming process, and probably not practical for a long work, such as War and Peace. However, if I try to plot everything out first, I find myself staring for ages at the blank page.

Q; Do you allow anyone to read your works in progress or does everyone have to wait until you have typed the final page?

A: After I have reached the First Draft stage described in the last question, I let others read it and offer critical comments. To let them read it before this stage would be to waste both their time and mine, because the script has not yet solidified enough. It is very beneficial to get a play script read aloud by good actors. They have much to contribute on characterisation and dialogue.

Q: What did it feel like the first time you heard applause for one of your productions?

A: It was very exciting. Even though not comedies, most of my plays have plenty of humour, and it is always rewarding to hear laughter come at the correct places.

It was a great surprise to me to see the different reactions of different audiences for the same play. This is the charm of live theatre. The audience is a part of the production, and the actors feed off their reactions, as much as the audience responds to the actors. Some audiences can be quite cold, while others respond very warmly to the same show. Psychologists could make a living studying the group dynamics of audiences. One of the best audiences I ever had was when the play went on after a cocktail party, and the audience was half sloshed.

I will always remember a comment I overheard at interval during my first play. I was walking past two young members of the audience who were outside the theatre with a drink. They did not know I was the writer, and as I went past I heard one ask the other: “what do you think of the show?” My ears pricked up because I was interested to discover whether someone thirty years younger than I was would get anything out of the play. His reply was one of my most satisfying moments. “That’s my life being enacted on the stage in there,” he said.

Q: Your first novel, Final Round, was originally conceived as a stage play. What was the inspiration behind the storyline?

A: This play began several years ago when I spent a week in hospital with a Deep Vein Thrombosis. “Look on the bright side,” everybody said to me. “It’ll give you material for a new play.”

When the character in the next bed learned of my condition, he comforted my wife with: “That’s what I’ve got, only worse. They may have to take my leg off.” Another member of the ward had a carotid artery that was 50% blocked. He was given aspirin, sent home and told to come back when it was 75% blocked. The fourth patient, who kept everybody awake at night with a hacking cough that we all thought was chronic bronchitis, was found to have inhaled a pea, which was now lodged deep in his lung.

A hospital ward is a place where people, who would normally power-walk the Nullabor Plain to avoid each other, are thrown together. Scars are opened, muscles flexed, secrets unlocked; all this in an environment where tragedy and death are often not far away. I realised I had the perfect setting for a play to explore the growth of a bond between two very different males who nevertheless shared a dark secret.

Q: What triggered your desire to adapt it to a different medium?

A: In a play, you are bounded in what you can present by the available time (in this case, 60 minutes) and by the limits of the stage. I wanted to explore the motivations and internal thoughts of the characters in more depth than was possible in a Fringe stage play.

Q: What did the adaptation to a novel allow you to do that might have been challenging/problematic in a live performance?

A: I structured the novel so that each chapter was written from a different point of view, cycling through the POVs of the three main characters. In this way the thoughts of the three characters about their life situations, and the others sharing them, are clearer.

The stage play takes place entirely in a hospital ward. Although this is still largely true with the novel, in the latter case there was more freedom in exploring the characters’ back-stories and other events outside the hospital environment.

Q: What would you advise other playwrights who may be thinking of adapting their stories to a different platform?

A: Go for it. If you have a successful play then you already have well-developed characters, realistic dialogue and a plot line with climaxes in the appropriate places. A novel enables you to go into greater depth with the characters, and explore issues that may only have been hinted at in the play. You have the freedom to develop sub-plots and take the action to exotic or surreal locations.

Bear in mind, however, that you must develop language skills that enable you to write clear, grammatical English. A play consists of dialogue and stage directions. The latter are read by nobody, least of all the director. A novel must carry the reader along with the artistry of the writer’s prose. This is a different skill from those possessed by a playwright.

Q: In writing for both the stage and the page, are there recurring or underlying themes that readers should pay attention to?

A: My writing has dealt with historical subjects (Billy Hughes and How We Beat the Favourite), science themes (Footsteps, Love in the Chook House, Double Blind) and more general explorations of the human condition (Suns of Home, Final Round, Rainbows Singing). My writing is about the themes that interest me.

In both my career as a scientist and in my writing, I have ranged over a fairly wide area. Probably more success comes to those who restrict themselves, e.g. the specialist who knows more than anybody in the world about the third digit on the African elephant’s left front foot, or the writer churning out the fifteenth book in a crime series. However, that is not what I enjoy doing.

Q: Authors oftentimes inject aspects of their own personalities into their characters. Would you say this is true of your own work?

A: Partially. I would say that there are parts of me in most of my characters.

If you are writing about a murderer, that doesn’t mean you have to be one. However, you need to be able to construct a believable murderer if your play or novel is to be successful. This might entail imagining what you would be capable of if some of your moral inhibitions were switched off. Character actors face the same situation when playing villains. Some decline to play child abusers because they are unhappy with the dark places in their minds that their research for the role takes them to.

I would say my characters are based on research, combined with exploring and exaggerating the parts of my own personality that are relevant to the character.

Q: Which comes first for you – the characters or the plot? Why does your chosen method best suit your writing style?

A: This depends on the play or novel. My plays, Billy Hughes and How We Beat the Favourite are the stories of two real characters, a former Australian Prime Minister and a poet/horseman. In these cases, the characters obviously came first. My play Sherlock Holmes and ‘The Coming of the Fairies’ asked the question: how could such an irrational person as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who believed in spiritualism and fairies at the bottom of the garden, have created the most coolly rational character in fiction? The characters were already there, and I had to develop the plot. In the novel I am working on now, Double Blind, the plot came before the characters, as it was based on a fiction analogue of a real situation.

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: I write in my study at home in Adelaide, or at a beach house we have in Marion Bay on the Yorke Peninsula of South Australia. When I was working as a scientist, I wrote in the evenings after dinner. Now that I am retired, I write in the morning.

I try to write as a habit, and to produce a minimum number of words each day. This is not realistic when writing about science, as there is quite a bit of reference checking and research to be done with each paragraph.

Q: Do you self-edit as you go along or wait until the end?

A: Before beginning my day’s writing, I tend to read several of the last pages that I wrote at the previous sitting. I polish the prose while doing this. I treat it as a warm-up, in the same way that actors warm up before a performance. It enables me to get into the state of mind that I was in when I left off last time.

One thing that I do not do is listen to the critic on my shoulder who is whispering into my ear that what I have just written is rubbish. I know from past experience that although it may be rubbish at the moment, by the time it has been subjected to endless rewrites, it will at least be of an acceptable standard.

Q: What governed the decision to self-publish Final Round?

A: I was one of a group of writers who had submitted their novels to a small U.K. publisher, had their books accepted, and been offered quite generous contracts. However, the publisher became sick and when he recovered from an illness lasting over a year, he had lost interest in the fiction side of his company.

Rather than go through the whole hassle again, we all decided to self-publish, and provide each other with any tips that we picked up along the way.

My experience with Physics: the Ultimate Adventure was quite different. In this case, we submitted two sample chapters and a summary of the other chapters sequentially to three publishers. We received replies within a few weeks. In two cases, they said they liked the proposal but it was not the type of book they published, and they did not believe their readership would be interested. They were basically text book publishers. The third was more dismissive, but also replied quickly.

The fourth publisher we submitted the proposal to was Springer. I received their email reply 48 hours after the editor returned to her office from a week-long holiday break. The mail started off in a very positive vein. I skip read down the screen, looking for the paragraph beginning with “however”. There wasn’t one. They were going to publish it.

Q: What have you learned from the self-publishing experience that you’d like to share with fellow writers?

A: Self-publishing is a doddle and costs nothing. The resultant Print-on-Demand paperbacks and ebooks are of good trade quality. However, the marketing of the books takes time and effort. This is something that I, and the other group of writers I mentioned above, are working at.

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

A: Possibly that I have played seven 1st grade rugby matches, and have had my photo published in the local newspaper more often as a rugby player than as a scientist or writer. Admittedly, this was half a century ago.

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Both. I like a cappuccino in the morning, but prefer tea as a thirst quencher during the day. These days, however, I have to cut down on caffeine.

Q: Cake or cookies?

A: Cookies (we call them biscuits). However, they do tend to put on the weight.

Q: Early riser or night owl?

A: Certainly not an early riser.

Q: If Hollywood came calling to make a movie out of Final Round, who would be in your dream cast?

A: Geoffrey Rush for the older character. Rush was a member of the Adelaide State Theatre Company when we moved to Adelaide years ago. This was before he won his Oscar, his Emmy and his Tony. I saw him in many stage plays at the time, and thought he was brilliant. I saw him again last year playing King Lear in Sydney. Same verdict.

For the younger man, I would suggest Russell Crowe, but he would have to take off a few years.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Double Blind, which is my second novel, also based on a play script.

It is set in a science research institute. Linh, a Research Fellow at the Verdelho Institute in Melbourne, becomes worried that her supervisor has more than just objective scientific reasons in wishing to see a pharmaceutical discredited. She finds herself unwittingly caught up in a major scandal, and the steps she takes to extricate herself have consequences for her career, and for everybody else at the Verdelho Institute.

As you can imagine, my academic background came in useful here.

Q: Where do you hope to go with your writing from here?

A: My two Italian co-authors and I are planning a second book, exploring the limits of physics. Our first book raised a number of questions, and issues, that deserve further discussion. For instance, the two major 20th century theories in physics, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, are mutually contradictory. They can’t both be right. Also, there are about two hundred arbitrary fundamental constants in physics, and if the value of one of these were changed by a few percent, our universe would be so different, life as we know it would not be possible. We thought we could write something interesting on these, and similar, topics.

Q: With hindsight, what have been the most rewarding aspects of your professional life?

A: For a scientist it is exciting to be able to look at your work and say “I have just learned something that nobody else on the planet knows.” This is the ultimate adventure. It is exciting to look at Google Scholar and see that scientific work I published in 1990 is still being cited today, and used in fields, e.g. traffic control and the analysis of music, far-removed from where I ever imagined it being applied.

However, another reward is the variety of people I have met, and the places I have visited. To live in a non-English speaking country (Germany) for two and a half years, learn German, and appreciate the different perspective that an experience like that brings to one’s outlook, is broadening.

At my recent birthday party, among the guests were physicists, engineers, business managers, company executives, writers, actors, directors, musicians, teachers, and university professors. They were the friends I have made in the various phases my career has passed through. They are all very different people. I hope none of them recognises themselves on the stage, or in one of my novels.

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

A: I have a web site at www.rfbarrett.com

Readers can read more about my work there, and contact me through there if they wish. I will be glad to answer any of their questions.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I think that about covers it.

Places and Times

 

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“Poetry,” wrote Robert Frost, “is what gets lost in translation.” For a lot of today’s adolescents – and no shortage of adults as well – the chance to go beneath the surface and explore a poem’s meaning is so often dismissed because, frankly, other forms of expression seem like much less work. A case in point is my nephew Eugene who balked throughout his public education that there weren’t any or enough words that rhymed with the actual words he wanted to use (i.e., pterodactyl). As an adult, the closest he allows himself to get to poetry is the greeting card aisle…and even then gravitates only to short verses with obvious rhythmic patterns. Oh, Eugene! The expressive word-pictures, philosophies and insightful turns of phrase you’re missing out on!

For the rest of us, poet Arthur Turfa’s Places and Times is a cozy invitation to step – as if through the frame of a gallery painting – into the reflective moods, passions and travel experiences that have shaped this globetrekker’s vibrant life.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: “At home in the world” is a phrase that could easily be your personal motto. How have you been able to put that mindset in active practice in your years of traveling the globe?

A: One way is to learn something about my destination. It could be some of the language, or it might be someplace I want to see there. Having seen tourists act like tourists or tour stereotypical Ugly American, I try to connect somehow with people and places.

Q: Is there a favorite place that calls to you – either as a destination to return to or one that’s on your wish list of places you’ve yet to visit?

A: Oh yes! Berlin. I have been there primarily as a tourist, but also as a student. When there was still a Wall, I lived for a summer with German friends. My great-grandfather was a cadet at the academy in nearby Potsdam, and that plays some role I suppose. When I am there, I am rejuvenated.

Q: People who love to travel are often bitten by the wanderlust bug at an early age. Was this the case for you and, if so, how did it subsequently influence your writing style and your view of globetrekking?

A: My parents like to travel, but they stayed in the US and Canada. I liked to travel. So far I’ve bene to 41 states, Europe seven times, Asia once, Mexico once, and Canada six. The way I remember best is writing I remember a place, persons, or an event that is either historical or personal. Most of my travel to Europe was to learn German, and I immersed myself in the language, literature, and culture.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your exposure to languages other than your first one.

A: In my father’s hometown near Pittsburgh, I heard about ten Old Country languages regularly, as well as accented English. Three of my grandparents were born in Europe; my paternal grandparents still spoke Hungarian daily. Those experiences form the basis of my second book Accents. My mother taught me some French; her mother was a Walloon. The Germans in the family were all speaking English, but I learned that also. Languages came easily to me.

Q: You’ve had a number of interesting careers during your life – pastor, educator, and soldier. What have those diverse pursuits taught you about the creative, business, and discipline aspects of being a successful author?

A:  All of them have given me tons of experience, I’ll say that! The careers have taught me how to set a schedule, to make good use of time, and to keep on track. Creativity is needed in all of them, and there are some carry-overs. For example, I have used pastoral skills in the classroom, I have taught as a pastor (even in sermons), and found military skills contribute confidence and a “let’s-get-the-job-done” attitude.

Q: You’re also a moderator on Google+. What does that involve and how does it sync with your writing activities?

A: Lately it has taken me away from them except for prompts and occasional pieces. Sometimes the personalities can get in the way of poetry. But some of those pieces become part of something larger. Peppered Poets is a guild for people who want critique and to wrestle with poetry. Words on Fire is another smaller group with amazing talent. POETS is the largest but very diverse. These groups bring me into contact with different styles of poetry. I also have found some very food friends from all over the world of whom I can ask anything.

Q: Let’s talk about your passion for poetry. When was this first ignited?

A:  Of course I was exposed to poetry in school. I learned what I had to, and tolerated what I was given. However, I liked hitman. In my senior year in high school, my English teacher saw something in me. He allowed me to spend most classes in the library, reading anything I wanted to. I wrote reports and found myself loving literature. Auden’s poetry really grabbed mem, and still does. Sadly, a teacher could not do that today, unless there was Project Based Learning.

Q: What were your early poems like and how do they compare to the poetry you’re penning now?

A: The first things I wrote were lyrics for songs, heavily-influenced by what I was listening to at the time. As far as early poems, they were nature or history-based. I actually found a few undergraduate poems recently, and they were not terrible. They are on a Google+ Collection of mins. The ones I remember best though, I cannot find.

There are some similarities with current poems in terms of content and structure. But I have learned to love sonnets. Getting older has improved them, I assure you!

Q: Tell us about Places and Times and how its development came about.

A:  I had a break of about 20 years from writing poetry. During that time I wrote sermons, lesson plans, had civilian and military education happening. In my free time, I was not interesting in writing anything. A friend, Carol Worthington Levy, sent us a print from a trip she and her husband took to Italy, and that sparked something. Maybe my mind was turning to poetry again. I started writing. After my deployment to Germany I finished the dissertation, and wrote more. Cautiously, I posted a few things. Joanna Kurowska told me my poetry was good enough to publish. While I had a piece or two in a journal already, she encouraged me to produce a book-length manuscript. During the period between the years 2007-2011 I wrote a lot of poetry, mainly as a break from everything else I was doing. My life has calmed down a bit, and I had the time. She told me to contact her publisher. And Carol’s artwork graces the cover of my book.

Q: How would you describe your style as a poet?

A: People say I am a painterly type of poet. I create a scene and/or tell a story. Structure helps that a great deal. I do not like short lines, unless I am writing in a certain form. In the process of creating the scene, telling the story, I let the emotions come out subtly. I love sounds and words. Like a good painting, a reader might need to step back from one of my poems or re-read a section to appreciate it.

Q: Has anyone ever said to you, “Poetry? Why? There’s no money in it.” What’s your response to that?

A: Not exactly, but some think it is frivolous or pretentious. I will work something into a poem about them or their attitude.

Q: I feel fortunate to have grown up at a time when reading and writing poetry were part of the English curriculum. Sadly, though, the exposure so many young people get to this form of creative expression is either through nursery rhymes (which suggest a poem isn’t a poem unless it’s a la-dee-da rhythm) or epic tomes like Beowulf (which are cumbersome and impossible for most to understand). As an educator, what do you feel can/should be done to make the study of poetry more fun and approachable and, accordingly, something students might voluntarily seek out as enjoyable reads when they’re adults?

A: Students need to be exposed to the classics; there is no question about that. But there are creative ways to do that. There is a lot of good contemporary poetry out there, but some parents object to language and theme (but they watch/read/listen to worse). Students need to try their hand at writing something of their own.

That being said, most English Departments debate over what and how much to read. Some song lyrics would be good to stimulate interest.

Q: Who are some of the poets and writers whose work you especially admire and/or draw from for inspiration?

A: Among the better-known ones are Auden, Eliot, Whitman, Hopkins, Rilke, Goethe, Plath, Bukowski. Among those from my Google+ communities my mentor, Joanna Kurowska, Denise Baxter Yoder, Jose Coelho and Martha Magenta,  Locally, Ed Madden and  Ray McManus,

Q: What sorts of things do you pick up on that eventually appear in your writing?

A: Really all kinds of things. These range from a glimpse as I drive or have more time to linger outdoors, a piece of music, people I know, situations involving them and/or myself. I also pick up some themes from other writers.

Q: What other types of writing do you do?

A: I do have a YA draft in process. Additionally I still do sermons, an article for a professional publication. The dissertation took some time but was interesting. And lesson plans!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I am editing a manuscript for a second book of poetry, tentatively entitled Accents. I am also submitting to journals, both print and on-line.

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

A: That I am an avid baseball fan, especially of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work?

A: https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-Turfa-Poems-of-Times-and-Places-Reflected-293732337470677/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4616169.Arthur_Turfa

http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Turfa/e/B00YJ9LNOA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1468187274&sr=8-1

https://plus.google.com/u/0/collections

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  Thanks for the perceptive questions and the opportunity to answer them!

 

 

 

Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots

Bonded at Birth

“Our history begins before we are born,” wrote Scottish inventor James Nasmyth. “We represent the hereditary influences of our race, and our ancestors virtually live in us.” It’s a quote that aptly captures the popularity of genealogical quests but what if the paper trail goes only as far as a birth mother’s decision to leave her baby’s future in the hands of strangers and walk away, taking her own life story with her? In her poignant memoir, Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots, author Gloria Oren shares insights gleaned from 16 years of searching and 41 years apart.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Where, when and how did your journey as a writer begin?

A: My journey as a writer began years ago. My first published piece was a poem in a camp newsletter. I seemed to be writing something all the time. It strengthened during the “Breaking Into Print” course.

Q: Do you feel that you chose this profession or that it chose you?

A: It sort of chose me. One day I received a piece of mail from Long Ridge Writers Group offering a writing test to qualify for one of their courses. I thought, why not, at the worst I won’t pass. I received the test, filled it out, and sent it back. I didn’t think I would pass or qualify. A few weeks later I got that piece of mail I didn’t think would come saying I qualified for the “Breaking into Print” course. It included the application. I applied and the rest is history. I owe a lot for the improvement of my writing to my instructor, Lori Soard.

Q: Your new book, Bonded at Birth: An Adoptee’s Search for Her Roots, just made its debut. What inspired you to put fingers to keyboard and bring this story to life?

A: What inspired me to write my story was the realization that adoptees do have the right to their own information regarding their origins and medical histories. I had almost no information to go on, yet things have a way of happening, and because of them and the help of others, I was found. I had to share my story with adult adoptees who wish to search but hesitate, adoptive parents confronted by their adopted child’s wish to search, and by birth parents who fear searching not wanting to intrude on their biological offspring’s life. It will also attract memoir readers who enjoy a unique story. And couples contemplating adoption will learn the damage that secrecy can lead to and, with hope, this book will ensure that they will be the ones to talk to their adopted children about their adoptions.

Q: Describe your book in seven words.

A: Interesting, unique, roller coaster, engaging, motivating, descriptive, and page-turner.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of developing this project?

A: Oh gosh, mostly technology, but also sounding good on audio clips and creating professional looking videos. That is yet to come.

Q: Did you allow anyone to read it as a work in progress or make everyone wait until you had typed the final chapter?

A: I had many beta readers at various stages of development. Feedback has been great.

Q: In earlier generations, adoption records were kept sealed, often as a measure to keep both the birth parent and the adoptee from having their respective lives disrupted down the road. Today there seems to be a greater emphasis on literally making those records an open book and even including birth parents as part of the extended family. What are your thoughts on this shift in accessibility? If, for instance, an unwed mother gives up her baby in order to avoid personal scandal, is she now offered no legal protection if/when the adult child demands to know her identity?

A: Since not all states have opened adoption records, I would venture to say that unwed mothers are still given the option for sealing the records or opting for an open adoption where they will have connection with the child.

My thoughts on this after being raised surrounded by secrecy and post reunion being told by my mom that she was forced to sign the papers not even knowing what she was signing says that records should be accessible to the adoptee at age 18 and that secrecy has no place in their lives.

Q: Aside from medical considerations, is “curiosity” a substantive excuse to expose past secrets about parentage?

A: I suppose curiosity has a play in it, though it is a right the adoptee has to know his ancestral roots, where he came from, and if secrets get exposed at some point, so be it. In the end it usually works out well for many cases.

Q: What do you know about yourself now that you didn’t know before?

A: If you mean before my reunion, then I didn’t know I was related to Col. William Prescott or that my sixth great aunt was the first North American nun.

If you mean before I wrote the book, then I now know that I can do it and can also do the marketing as long as I take it step-by-step.

Q: Like many authors today, you chose to go the self-publishing route. What governed that decision and was the experience what you expected it to be?

A: I’ve queried over a hundred agents and though they all had something good to say and responded, no one accepted it for publication. I knew it had to get out there, and I was getting tired fishing for a hooked bait so I tried the self-publishing route.

Q: What did you like best about self-publishing?

A: What I liked best was that I could produce a product the way I wanted to. It was a learning process for me as well.

Q: What did you like least?

A: What I liked least is that I didn’t have a backup marketing setup in the route I chose, but I will get the ropes of the marketing side and will do the best I can for now. I hope to sell enough books to allow me to find some marketing help in the future if needed. As they say, the best form of marketing is word of mouth and for that, no training is needed. So please tell everyone you know who likes to read a good book to check Bonded at Birth out.

Q: Advice to other authors considering the DIY route?

A: Do your research and don’t give in. You will get bombarded with phone calls from self-publishers out to get your money. I got quotes from $1200 up to $4000. I reached out to someone who published many books on the self-publishing route and he connected me up to the gal who helped him. It cost a lot less, the work was completed in a timely manner and the finished product is beautiful.

Q: What are you doing to promote your work and which strategies are proving to be the most successful for you?

A: My book just came out on the 15th of this month (June 2016) so right now I’ve sent out some press releases, some tweets, announced it on Facebook, and word of mouth. I’ve been working on creating a marketing plan. I plan on doing a small scale launch party now and probably a two week long (or longer) virtual book tour in November to coincide with National Adoption Month.

Q: Bad reviews are a fact of life. What do you do when you get one?

A: Not everyone will like your writing. If most reviews are positive and good, one or a few are the needles in a haystack. Most of the time they won’t be seen and if seen I pretend I don’t see them. I don’t respond to bad reviews.

Q: Morning person or evening?

A: Morning. I’m usually up and at it between six or seven.

Q: Dogs or cats?

A: Definitely dogs. I’ve had a dog since I was six. My last dog was a Doberman-Australian Shepherd mix. She died several years ago. I’ve been searching for a non-shedding dog since but all the good ones I come across seem to slip right through the cracks and I haven’t had luck yet.

Q: Coffee or tea?

A: Both, though mostly tea.

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

A: On a trip to Sitka, Alaska, I visited a bear sanctuary and fed a bear apple slices.

Q: Describe yourself in five words.

A: Dependable, dedicated, helpful, creative, and caring.

Q: What is the oldest, weirdest or most sentimental item in your closet?

A: The most sentimental items in my closet are my children’s childhood blankets.

Q: If you could sit down at lunch with your favorite hero, who would it be and what would you most like to talk about?

A: Definitely Col. William Prescott of the Battle of Bunker Hill fame. I’ve always liked learning about him in school and thought he did some amazing things. After my reunion when I started genealogy research of my birth father’s family ancestral tree, I discovered that Col. William Prescott was my 1st cousin 7X removed. I would talk to him about his aunt, Sarah Prescott, who was my sixth great grandmother.

Q: Sent off to live on a deserted island (yet with all the necessities for survival), which three books would you want to have with you?

A: Foraging & Feasting: A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook so I would have something to eat; Making Shelter in the Wild so I could have someplace to sleep; and a Soduko booklet so I would have something to do.

Q: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

A: Let’s see, I like crocheting and needlepoint, paint by number, and lots of reading. I love doing genealogy research and trying to solve the puzzles brought upon by DNA matches. I’m also an avid Scrabble player but don’t get to play often. And when I have the opportunity, I love jigsaw puzzles.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I am in the research state. There were seven elected presidents before George Washington. I want to learn more about them, about the duties of those elected presidents, and how they were elected. What else they did in their personal lives. Did they have families and who were they. What were those years like and how did events of daily life affect those men. I became interested in this when I heard it mentioned on the radio and when I asked around no one seemed to know anything about this. I don’t recall having learned about this in school.

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

A: I can be found online at the following places:

Facebook: Gloria Oren Writing Ventures
Facebook Group (women only):
Women Writers, Editors, Agents, and Publishers
Twitter:
http://twitter.com/gloriaoren
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+GloriaOren
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/2049009-gloria
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/gloriaoren/
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/gloriaoren

And of course, they can visit my website at http://gloriaoren.com.

I also have two blogs: Gloria’s Corner http://gloriascorner.com and Family Links Matter http://familylinks.blog.com/ http://

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: If you do have a chance to read Bonded at Birth, it would be greatly appreciated if you took a minute to post a review on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. It is available at https://www.amazon.com/Bonded-Birth-Adoptees-Search-Roots/dp/0692722289

 

 

 

Raisin the Dead

 

Karoline Barrett

“Cooking,” wrote American journalist Harriet Van Horne, “is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” The same can be said about the craft of writing, and when these two passions come together in a culinary themed mystery, it’s the recipe for a mouth-watering delight that leaves readers hungry for more. Karoline Barrett – today’s featured author – joins the ranks of Ellie Alexander, Miranda Bliss, Christine Wenger and other kindred spirit wordsmiths whose protagonists have a taste for solving neighborhood crimes. In Barrett’s latest release, Raisin the Dead, library director Anne Tyler is a person of interest in a murder, a scenario that compels bakery owner Molly Tyler to step in to help clear her mother’s name.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When did you first know that writer’s ink was flowing through your veins and you just had to do something about it?

A: I’ve always enjoyed writing, but didn’t take it up seriously until I was older (we won’t discuss how much older). My husband encouraged me to take writing classes from an online writing school in Connecticut, where we now live, called Long Ridge Writers Group. They were wonderful and I learned so much. My very first published novel, The Art of Being Rebekkah, started as a short story in one of my classes.

Q: Stylistically, what authors (living or dead) do you feel have had the greatest influence on your own approach to storytelling?

A: Ann B. Ross (author of the Miss Julia series) because of her character portrayals, they’re so very real, and Janet Evanovich because of her humor.

Q: The Bread and Batter mystery series is a clever concept. What inspired it?

A: I was having a hard time thinking of another writing project and my agent asked me what I liked to read. The answer was mysteries. She suggested I write one, and I took her advice. I like discovering new bakeries, so I wanted the series to center around Molly and the bakery she owns with her best friend, Olivia. I’m happy to say it worked out.

Q: Which of your characters is secretly your fictional self?

A: I’m asked that a lot. In reality, my characters come from my imagination. If I had to pick the one I want to be my fictional self, it would be Emily, the owner of Barking Mad books. I’ve always thought owing a small bookstore would be delightful.

Q: Favored baked dessert – a cake, a pie or cookies?

A: Since ice-cream isn’t a choice, chocolate cake with chocolate icing (do you see a chocolate theme here?)

Q: Store-bought or homemade?

A: Homemade. The best kind!

Q: In your daily writing routine, when and where do you feel you are at your most energized?

A: I’m a morning person, so I do well between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. My writing desk faces a window, so I navigate between that and my recliner when I’m writing.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your material while it’s still a work-in-progress or do you make them wait until you have typed The End?

A: They have to wait. My work-in-progress goes through a lot of changes between the time I type the first work and the time I type The End.

Q: Which do you feel is more challenging – to pen a short story, to develop a stand-alone novel, or to create recurring characters for a series?

A: I’ve done all three, so I have to say a series. I have to keep each book fresh, make sure all the characters come back with the same names, eye colors, etc. Make sure the town names haven’t changed. It’s also a challenge not to say too much about the previous books in case someone hasn’t read them yet. Then there’s the challenge of keeping all the characters interesting.

Q: Let’s say Hollywood comes calling to turn Raisin the Dead into a new TV series. Who’s on your wish list for casting?

A: I have to confess I don’t keep up on who’s who in Hollywood. I don’t know who the Gilmore Girls are, and I thought The Game of Thrones had something to do with Queen Elizabeth. I’m going to chicken out of this one and say I’d be so thrilled to see it as a TV series, I don’t care who was playing the characters. Although, I’d love to hear from readers on whom they think would be good casting.

Q: How did you go about finding the right literary agent to represent your work?

A: As mentioned, my first novel was The Art of Being Rebekkah. I compiled a list of agents who were looking for women’s fiction.  I got a lot of requests for the partial manuscript, and the full manuscript, but no takers. After going through 120 agents, I was thinking about calling it quits. Then, on Twitter, I saw someone discussing Frances Black. She and a partner own Literary Counsel. Okay, I thought. One more time! She loved my book and signed me. The rest, as they say, is history.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about being published?

A: Pleasing my readers and having them ask for more books!

Q: Promoting a new title is almost as much – if not more – work than writing it in the first place. What are some of the activities you’re pursuing in this regard to put your book(s) on everyone’s radar?

A: It really is! I’m a constant presence on Facebook. Both on my author page and personal page. I’ve connected with a lot of other authors, readers, and bloggers. I do a lot of blog tours and giveaways. I love the giveaways, but I make my husband pick winners. I just can’t do it. I’d pick everyone!  Since my Bread and Batter series is e-book only, I can’t do book signings, which I’d really like to do.

Q: To celebrate your success, you’ve made reservations for dinner at your favorite restaurant and can invite any three famous authors to join you. Who are they, what are the seating arrangements, and what question would you most love to ask each of them?

A: I’d have Shirley Jackson, Janet Evanovich, and Debbie Macomber. I’d be at the head at the table, so I could see and hear everyone.  Shirley’s question would be, “How on earth did you come up with The Lottery? It’s my favorite short story of all time.” For Janet, I’d want to know how she comes up with all the scrapes her characters get in to and how she keeps all her books so funny and fresh. I’d like to talk character development with Debbie. Her books are so character driven, which is what I love about them.

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

A: I want to write a psychological thriller like The Girl on the Train.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?

A: Read, shop, spend time at the beach. Think about writing.

Q: Do you typically read one book at a time or have multiple stacks throughout the house?

A: I can handle reading two books at once, but more than that and my brain starts complaining.

Q: What are you reading now?

A: I just finished A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson. Time for a trip to the library!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A:I’m working on book three of my Bread and Batter series, I’m outlining a new series I want to present to my agent, and I also have a romance half-written.

Q: Best advice to aspiring writers?

A: Write what you love, believe in yourself, and have patience, lots of patience.

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

A: My website is karolinebarrett  On Facebook, readers can find me here, KarolineBarrettBooks

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Thank you so much for having me, it’s been fun! Of course, a thank you to all my readers!

 

 

A Chat With Dan Lombard

Dan Lombard

For as many years as I lived in Northern California – and even the coincidence of penning advertising copy – my path had never crossed that of fellow wordsmith and publisher Dan Lombard.* It was through some of his well-crafted political posts on Facebook that our cyber-paths not only began to cross regularly but soon segued to chats about our joint fondness for fabulous food and travel. When I learned that Death Panel, Dan’s debut novel in 2012, had been followed in rapid succession by several more, I just knew I had to put this prolific author in the global spotlight.

*A mirthful bit of disclosure here is that I’d once had a government coworker of the same name. When I encountered that name again decades later, I couldn’t help but think the passage of time had made DL much more accomplished and interesting. A closer look at his head shot, however, also explained why he never mentioned he remembered me. Because, in fact, we’ve never met.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: If we were to time-travel and take a peek in the bedroom of your 10-year-old self, what clues might give us an indication of what you thought you wanted to be when you grew up?

A: Probably more riddles than clues. I haven’t figured them out yet. Or maybe I just did. Yes, that is it, I was always seeking adventure in the unknown, and back in those days entertainment was very participatory and required imagination, unlike today’s passive entertainment. It was a different place and a different time though. I mean, today I’m reluctant to allow my high school children to go into our local Target store alone. But when I was 15, back in the early 70’s, my buddy and I bought Eurail Passes and toured Europe for a month with nothing but that pass, a few hundred dollars and whatever we could fit in our backpacks. I need to keep that in mind when considering a contemporary audience; their experiences today are completely unlike anything I experienced. Perhaps that is why ageism is prevalent in Hollywood and on 5th Avenue.

Q: Did you have favorite authors/books at that young age?

A: Tolkein of course, the Harry Potter of my generation. Then, not long after it was Ian Fleming, I enjoyed reading about James Bond’s adventures as much as seeing them on screen. It was not until much later in life that I became aware that a favorite childhood movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written and directed by the same duo, Ian Fleming and Albert Broccoli, who gave us Bond in print and on film. Of course, that made complete sense.

Then it was Leon Uris and above all James Michener (notably The Source) and his ability to draw you into a tale that featured far off places and spanned centuries. At one point I also found an unfortunately misplaced copy of a Henry Miller book, I can’t even remember now if it was Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn. Needless to say, it ruined me. But little did I know it would give me a taste of what would, far in my future, (today) be the model for bestselling novels. At the time I was living in Stockholm, Sweden, a very permissive society in that regard, and on my way home from school every day (yes, in 7th grade) my buddies and I would pass by a number of sex shops. Nobody would ever bat an eye when we’d stop in for a little ogling of the picture books, furthering my youthful debauchery.

Q: And who are your favorites now?

A: I do not read near enough fiction today, either in reprint from generations ago or contemporary. My preference in writing and reading is for books with an (accurate and believable) historic context, Dan Brown being a good example. I do have one peculiarity that I will share. At the age of 25 I read the entire 6-volume set of Winston Churchill’s recounting of World War II. I reread it 25 years later at the age of 50, and expect to do so one more time at 75. However, in between those readings, I do read volume one, The Gathering Storm, alone. That volume contains the instructions on how to avoid reliving the subsequent volumes. History is fascinating, a great teacher and, unfortunately, widely ignored.

Q: What experiences – travel, work, relationships – would you say have/had the most influence on your approach and discipline toward the craft of putting a story together from start to finish?

A: It’s not so much the experiences, but my approach to them. Everything I say, do, hear, think or see is tucked away for future use, whether simply in life, at work, or perhaps to form a plot or subplot in a good story. And in dreams and nightmares, the observations do show there frequently, as well.

Q: Which is more challenging for you as an author – writing a book or writing a short story?

A: If writing was a challenge I would not be writing. Okay, that was snide. A book is more difficult but has less regret. A short story is easier, but I am always left wondering why I didn’t expand that wonderful plot into a more complete work.

Q: Catharsis often factors into the development of works that are deeply personal and/or painful. Your first book, Death Panel, addressed the failure of the medical system during the last four months of your wife’s life following a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. What governed your choice to pen this as a novel told in third-person through fictional characters rather than as a first-person memoir?

A: It was not to shield myself from pain, or to serve as an outlet for the pain. I wanted to be completely honest in recounting my experience, which included some emotions from which I felt I could derive no pride. A reader can tell, though, that the third person is merely a front, so it was not an attempt at deception. But rather to deceive myself, and thinking that, since I had signed a confidentiality agreement with Kaiser when they paid me off, that this was a defense should they decide to come after me for violating that confidence. In retrospect, the best thing possible would’ve been for them to do exactly that, to give me publicity you just can’t buy. And after that ordeal, there really wasn’t any blood for them to get in return.

Q: The reviews on Amazon reflect that the themes which underscore Death Panel have resonated with readers across the country. What was your reaction to the outpouring of vicarious support from total strangers?

A: The reviews were a tremendous reward in themselves, and were sufficient to justify the time spent writing the book. Which is fortunate since, well, there was no financial reward.

Q: Almost on the heels of your debut novel, you entered the self-publishing waters again, this time with a cat and mouse suspense thriller set against a backdrop of California’s high-speed rail system. How did Midnight Departure come about and can we draw from the plot’s prescient context that Dan Lombard is secretly psychic?

A: I actually had been against the bullet train back when it was first proposed at the turn of the century, and even financed a website called StopTheBullet.com. That measure failed, I patted myself on the back for the small part I played, and assumed that was gone. Then it came back, and I thought what a great context in which to place a cat and mouse suspense thriller. Much of what I wrote is happening, not that greed, corruption and government planning are such a novel premise.

Q: Other than flowing prose and compelling dialog, what is the most important consideration as you write?

A: I like to bring together larger concepts and figure out how to work them in together. In the case of Midnight Departure pairing the project to build a $100,000,000,000 high-speed rail system with greed and corruption might have been kind of obvious. In my screenplay Prime Time Crime I chose to pair the notion of seeking fifteen minutes of fame (and the hoped for fortune that follows) with the evolving idea that just about everything we do is, or has the potential to be, surreptitiously recorded. In Last Writes, a short story, I chose to pair a Faustian deal with unforeseen consequences, especially when the devil is the author of those consequences. In the short story Red Ringer I paired the concept of identity theft with the Wild West of the 1880’s. And in Serum 6 I chose a device that is, I think, unusual if not unique. In this medical thriller I create a situation whereby the two protagonists do not realize they are brother and sister (though the reader does) as they get closer to consummating their relationship. Later in the novel, when this knowledge makes all the difference, the roles are reversed: they believe they are brother and sister but the reader now knows they are not.

And finally, most important, as I write, I think, how will this novel translate to the big screen? And, in so doing, how can I avoid stretching credibility?  Not only do I feel compelled to research anything I write for accuracy, but timelines as well. I absolutely detest faulty timelines in writing or in movies. The notion that, in the space of five minutes (five minutes to other characters in the work, not necessarily for the reader), the protagonist can board a plan, fly halfway around the world and confront his nemesis for the final battle, just bothers me.  And bathroom breaks. How can someone live an entire life, or even a month, or a year, in a novel or a movie, and never have to relieve themselves?

Q: When and where are you the most creative at the keyboard?

A: At the strangest of times.

Q: What’s the most unusual object that occupies a space on your desk or the walls of your home office?

A: Perhaps not so much unusual as special. Many years ago I had been publishing a local advertorial magazine and for one issue I featured an artist’s work on the cover. She later confided that had done more than anything to boost her career. I soon began doing this for a different artist on each issue, though no longer as a favor. I am the proud owner of a very nice collection of art by the local art community. In one case I commissioned a piece through this arrangement, bringing the artist two very different historical renditions of William Shakespeare and had her meld them into one. He looks over my shoulder whenever I sit down to write.

Which brings me to the one thing for which I am most grateful. While the Italian language may be wonderful for soaring operatic aria, and French as a musical spoken language lacking hard edges, as a writer, I most grateful that I am an English speaker. It is an incredible language with great depth that allows nuance and poetry within prose. Rules that I can break with abandon; though recognizing the need to avoid the banality of one cliché too many. The downside? A rapidly increasing English speaking population that believes a vocabulary of under one thousand words is sufficient to see one through a lifetime of communicating.

Q: If your writing career came with its own soundtrack, what would it be and why?

A: Magic Carpet Ride by Steppenwolf, one of my ten top favorite tunes of all time, and because if its title.  Any good read should take you on a ride like that, as should the writing itself.

Q: Anticipation or the real thing: which is better?

A: If it is alright I will direct you to the answer to next question as I see them as intertwined. Anticipation is the future, the real thing is history

Q: If someone gave you a crystal ball, would you look into it?

A:  Yes, though I would likely question what I saw.

Q: What are your thoughts on modern literature and the direction it’s taking in the 21st century?

A: The greatest let down was not long after I published my first two novels. First was, after finding my book as one of an estimated 30,000 titles self-published every month, as lost in the wilderness, oblivion, that I would try giving my books away for free on Smashwords.com.  After three months of promoting myself vigorously and watching my rankings inch upwards I found I just could not compete with the porn that was also being given away.  So–no I did not decide to write my own porn–but I did download and read one. We are not talking soft core here, folks.

The second instance was shortly after publishing Midnight Departure I was on a flight back East to visit my parents and struck up a conversation with the fellow on the other side of the vacant seat between us. I gave him a free copy of Midnight Departure, for which he thanked me profusely. Thirty minutes into the flight he pulled Fifty Shades of Grey from his carry-o and was immersed for the rest of the flight. So immersed that he forgot to pack the copy of my book which was left on the vacant seat as we deplaned.

Q: Do you let anyone read your projects while they’re still in progress or do you make everyone wait until after you’ve typed “The End”? What about that method works for you?

A: I don’t really have anyone around me right now that would be particularly interested or have the time to critic a lengthy manuscript, so pretty much rely on myself.

Q: What piece of technology could you not go an entire week without using?

A: The Internet.

Q: What makes writing a joy for you?

A:  As previously stated, the fact that I get to write in English. An amazing language.

Q: What is currently gathering dust in your footlocker or (to channel Hemingway) in your mind ready to bleed from your forehead?

A: Since I have already, in bits and pieces, described the work I have completed, what lies ahead? I have a drama in the works, Jack Rabbit, a story of an accidental con man, which unfortunately will not be completed until long after Danny DeVito has stopped performing in lead roles; I pictured him firmly in my mind’s eye every time I sit down to write a chapter there. I have a great American Novel in the works, in fact in the works for fifteen years now, and largely untouched for the last seven. A paranormal novel that involves time travel, though without the intention or ability to change history.

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

A: The books are on Amazon, or drop me an e-mail at dan@mailprose.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  The most important part of writing, and the one which can cause the most serious hang-ups (writer’s block) is the segue. It is necessary if you want to weave your tale. Loose ends are to be avoided and ideally, you don’t give your reader a resting place where they can set the book down and resume it later!  Perfectly good, and acceptable, to fool your reader. But if you do fool them, it is best to do so with a V8-style forehead-slapper: leave clever clues.

Humor is always a useful tool in writing. I see humor as having three flavors:

Situational, where you juxtapose two or more unlikely-paired conditions in one scene.

Slapstick, where simply falling down is funny.

Wit, where you use the tool at your disposal, language, to bring a smile.  This is my favorite flavor.

So, to tie it all together, and before I lose my audience, I repeat my favorite quote by my favorite author and conclude the interview:

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”

 

 

Heaven’s Gate

Jan Dunlap

Science fiction, spirituality and a dose of suspense describes author Jan Dunlap’s first book in her new series Heaven’s Gate: Archangels Book I. Jan spins a tale of intrigue when a physicist inadvertently proves the existence of heaven and all hell breaks loose. Be the first of your friends to read what one reviewer called “a mind-blowing experience”!

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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What or who inspired you to begin this whole journey?

The first time I stepped into a public library – I think I was about five years old – I decided then and there that some day, I wanted to have my name on a book on a library shelf. That led me to become a ferocious reader; I earned a communications degree in college and worked in PR and advertising for a few years as an account executive/writer. I wrote a family humor column for our local paper while I raised my five children, and then one day, I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery just to see if I could do it. That turned into my first Birder Murder Mystery, of which there are now seven in the series.

Your previous books of memoir and cozy mystery have all employed humor. Have you always had an interest in scientific subjects that led you to switch genres?

I’ve been a closet science geek my whole life, and especially loved astronomy. When PBS aired their series on string theory many years ago, it renewed my interest in cosmology and the mysteries of quantum physics. About the same time, my oldest son took a college course from the author of the Afterlife Experiments, and he urged me to read the text, which I did. That book sparked a landslide of ideas in my head for a suspense thriller that combined speculation about life after death, religious faith, and cutting-edge physics. I thought about it for years until I realized I had to write Heaven’s Gate (the first book in my new Archangel series) or I’d never quit thinking about it! It was a huge leap from comic cozy mystery, but writing those books helped me hone my skills at suspense and character development which are key to Heaven’s Gate.

And what was Jan Dunlap, successful author, doing before exploring the publishing world?

Raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, volunteering at their schools, writing my weekly humor column and eating chocolate.

Since this book incorporates topics of spirituality and faith in God, do you have a personal backstory to share?

My children and I often discussed spirituality as they were growing up, or at least, I spent a lot of time explaining why people practiced a religion. The older my kids got, the more interesting the questions they asked! In particular, a lot of contemporary scientific discoveries seemed to diminish or contradict faith, rather than strengthen it. It made me really explore my own belief in God, and I wrote Heaven’s Gate almost as an argument for faith in God that incorporates science, rather than taking sides in a faith OR science debate.

There are those people in this world who truly believe in psychic abilities. How do you feel about that?

I totally think that we have yet to discover/document the full potential of the human brain. We all have déjà vu, compelling instincts and even snippets of prescience. I think those are types of psychic abilities, and that some people are more skilled at using those abilities than others. As my Heaven’s Gate medium Khristina reminds my hero Michael, Shakespeare was right when he penned the line that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” If we think we know everything about life, that’s our pride talking, because only God knows everything.

Which leads me to of course to ask, have you ever had a psychic experience of your own?

I’ve never had what I’d term a classic psychic experience. I can’t move objects with my mind, I can’t forecast the winning lottery number, and I can’t find lost items by picturing them in my head. (Actually, I can’t find lost items no matter what I do…) But there have been a few times in my life where I could feel that something was about to happen, or I see something and I recognize it even though I have no recollection of seeing it before. Whether that’s psychic or not, it reminds me that there is more in the universe than we know.

Fill us in on some of the research topics you explored to write this manuscript?

I read extensively about Albert Einstein’s later years as he searched for the One Theory of Everything, and I poured over the PBS transcripts of the Elegant Strings series. I read about psychics who work with detectives to find lost children, and I reread the Afterlife Experiments, along with material about mediumship. I even researched survivors’ eye-witness accounts of tornados and reviewed my notes from grad school in English studies about William Blake and the Grand Narrative concept of literary criticism. I spent hours online looking up everything I could find about archangels in the Bible, as well as contemporary religious cults. I read about Russian icons and Jesuit scientists and reviewed what I remembered about a Rubik’s cube.

You’ve developed a great story! What’s next in the Archangels series?

Book Two is already finished, tentatively titled Heart and Soul, and it deals with medical science, neurobiology and the power of prayer. The hero is Raphael, or Rafe, as he’s known to my cast of characters, and his story is another roller coaster of deceit, betrayal, murder, forgiveness and redemption.

Lastly, let’s switch gears a bit. If you could attend a meet and greet for any writer living or dead, who would that be and why?

Dr. Seuss, hands down. He was unbelievably creative. I’d love to talk with him about the risks he felt concocting such wacky stories that influenced generations of children and writers.

Where can readers delve into more info about your series? Any social media or websites?

I have a Facebook page dedicated to the Archangel series at https://www.facebook.com/Archangelsseries/ and readers can get a deep look into my research and writing process on my Pinterest board https://www.pinterest.com/jandunlap/archangels-book-one/ . I’m also on Twitter @BirderMurder, on Facebook at Birder Murder Mama, and my author website is jandunlap.com. I write a blog on Goodreads now, too: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2100500.Jan_Dunlap/blog

 

 

A Chat With Steph Young

No Plus One cover.jpg

In the sort of “perfect” world the mothers of an earlier generation envisioned for their daughters, every “meet cute” that transpired in a laundromat would magically end up in a fairy tale wedding, every blind date set up by well intentioned friends would be Hugh Grant and not Eddie Munster, and every man who ever whispered all the right words would actually fulfill them. In the wackily imperfect world of the 21st century, however, finding “Mr. Right” has more likely become a quest for “Mr. Right For Now” or a reluctant acceptance that maybe matrimony just isn’t in the cards one has been dealt.

In her new book, No One Plus One: What To Do When Life Isn’t a Romantic Comedy, author Steph Young embraces a mirthful message of female empowerment – that instead of lamenting you’re seated at a table for one, you should be happy that you neither have to share your dessert nor be chided about whether you’re cheating on your diet.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Why do you feel the message of your book is important, especially in an era where we’re constantly bombarded with messaging that we’re not meant to live our lives as singletons?

A: My friend Jill Dickman and I dated a lot and we were single all the time. Though we were still working through our own disappointments, our friends would always come to us for advice when they were newly single. The common themes were boredom and loneliness. The loneliness seemed to stem from a lack of self-confidence. They wanted reassurance that they were desirable – don’t we all?

Predominately media makes a fairytale ending seem like the norm, which becomes the ultimate success for women. Try to think of a movie – even those with strong female lead characters – that doesn’t end with a love connection. So when your life isn’t turning out like the movies, women tend to assume something is wrong with us. Jill and I recognized this and set out to tell women that it’s okay to be single. And while we are single, whether for 2 weeks or 10 years, we should still enjoy life, not pine away for a perfect relationship, which seems to be up to chance or luck anyway. We promote the idea of feeling complete as is.

Q: If you could time-travel, what would you most like to go back and tell your younger self about romance, sex and happily ever after?

A: I probably did tell myself this, or somebody did…But really, just stop worrying, analyzing, fretting. Time will take care of everything. We are all on the right path to where we need to go. Single or taken, life is to be lived so don’t waste time analyzing if somebody likes you back or not. Just keep it moving and do what makes you happiest. Another huge piece of advice that finally clicked for me recently is to stop beating myself up. So much energy is spent feeling bad for what’s not going right. This is the biggest time waste/energy suck there is. It has absolutely no positive value. It doesn’t make you feel better; it doesn’t motivate or inspire. It just makes you feel like shit. It was a hard shift to stop doing this, but once I got some mastery of it, my life changed.

Q: What’s the stupidest thing you ever did in the name of love?

A: I haven’t done many stupid things in the name of love, but when you fall sometimes insecurity seeps in and gets the best of us. One time I was fearful that a guy I was dating was sleeping with other girls, so one night I waited outside his house in my car to see if I could catch a girl coming in or out of his place. Now as an older, wiser me, I would handle this insecurity with good communication and getting up the guts to talk to him about it. Or if I felt he wasn’t showing me the kind of love that made me feel secure, I’d probably just stop seeing him. I really admire a friend of mine who moved to Europe in the name of love. She left her whole life and started over for a really, really nice guy. It’s been working out so far. They are now married and have lived together for four years. We all have different paths; we can’t judge our own life on somebody else’s. I don’t know if I would be able to take a leap like that but I love that she did. It’s all part of the adventure.

Q: What inspired you to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard) and turn your perspectives about living an unapologetic single life into a book?

A: The book started on a whim. It happened one day when Jill and I were sitting in our living room (we were roommates at the time) and going through old journals and cracking up at our ridiculous dating stories. Then we said out loud, “We should write a book” and so it was. We put together an outline and some ideas that afternoon and picked it up every so often. The slow process lasted for years until we got serious about it last year and set the goal to complete and publish No Plus One.

I had no idea what writing a book would entail, and I really didn’t think it was going to be so hard. I don’t think all messages make for good books, but we agreed the story + “how-to” nature along with the homework would warrant a short and snackable book.

Q: What governed the decision to write a book from two people as one?

A: We initially started writing the book as a fictional story from one character’s point of view, however it wasn’t really coming together, so we decided to switch to a non-fiction, how-to / self-help style. Our stories were so similar, we felt it would be less confusing to the reader for us to seam our stories together rather than following two separate narratives. We also wanted to get to the heart of the issues rather than drag the reader through backstory and set up.

Q: Tell us a bit about how the day-to-day development process worked for both of you.

A: We worked really well over Google docs. When one of us would get stuck, we would hit the other up and say, “Can you pick this up?”  Since we knew each other so well, we could essentially fill in the missing pieces. We were friends for a long time and we had both lived through a lot of the stories together.

Another tactic that worked was when we’d jump on the phone while both of us were in the live Google doc and talk and write. That was really efficient because by working together we didn’t let writers block settle in for too long. Either the other person would pick up and write, or we could talk through what we were really trying to say. Talking out loud often helped us find the right words to write down.

Q: How do you manage to stay away from envy, ego or jealousy from getting in the way of your friendship/partnership?

A; It can be an easy to fall into the trap of wanting individual success or feeling resentful if you feel like you’re contributing more than another person. When we decided to finish the book, Jill and I clearly outlined our individual goals, desires, and expectations on how we wanted to contribute to the project and what we wanted to get out of it. We agreed that our number one goal was to get our message out. We weren’t using this platform to turn a huge profit or grow our personal platforms, though either of those would be an added bonus. We really believed in our message and wanted to help women. We also outlined a partnership contract that identified how we would split everything should we turn a huge profit. The important part of that process wasn’t necessarily having a signed contract, but rather working through the contract together. It gave us a forum to communicate. It can be awkward approaching a friend about a contract. It can seem insulting, like you don’t trust the other person, but I’ve been on the loosing end of a friendship agreement before, so I was happy to go through any awkwardness if it meant saving our friendship in the end.

Q: What was the greatest challenge during the creative process?

A: The biggest challenge was writer’s block. It’s really hard to make a streamlined and cohesive story, especially sustained over nine chapters. Getting the words on the page was difficult, editing and re-writing parts that didn’t make sense was even more painful. Being persistent was also really hard. It took over a year of intense and consistent writing and editing. I have a full time job so the time I would write was at five o’clock in the morning. Getting up and doing this everyday was a challenge but it soon became habit.

Q: What do you know now that you didn’t know when this journey toward publication began?

A: I didn’t know how long the marketing process would be. Books are different than other products because the word of mouth is much slower. People need to read the book before they pass it along. So after a year of marketing we are still gaining interest and audience, we haven’t reached a tipping point yet, but I know with consistency of messaging we will find the right fans. With a traditional publisher, they will typically do a big marketing/PR push for you at the beginning. I talked to people who had gone the traditional route and still were not satisfied even though they had a big publisher behind them. They also had less control of the outcome. The decision to self-publish meant we had to do all the work, but we also control all the profit as well. We also can continue hitting new audiences and trying new marketing tactics long after the launch.

Q: Did you ever encounter writer’s block along the way? If so, how did you get past it?

A: All the time. Writer’s block, frankly, sucks. One tactic we used was to talk through it. I would call Jill or she me, and we’d say what we were trying to say. By the time we had talked for five minutes, we had formulated the words and could continue writing. Another tactic is free-form writing. When you can’t find the right words, sometimes just writing any words, even if they don’t make any sense, can get you past writer’s block. The last part is to read. When I run out of inspiration I remember to look outward. Sometimes I’d find the nugget I was missing while exploring other articles, books, artwork, etc. Also, the same goes for getting out of your house to experience the real world. Our life experiences give us insights that we use, so it’s important to take time out to go get some new material and perspective.

Q: Tell us about the decisions you made regarding a publisher once the book was done.

A: We made the decision to self-publish before we completed the book. Often when pitching to a traditional publisher, you don’t need the final manuscript, you need a pitch. Early on we pitched our project to literary agents and got a few bites, but after a year of this we grew impatient of the process. We decided that getting the message out was far more important than signing with a publisher so we set on self-publishing. It’s a much more involved process, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody who doesn’t have an interest in anything business minded. If you only enjoy the writing process, I would suggest trying to find a publisher (even a small one) who can help with the publishing details. I personally love business and new projects, so it was something I wanted to dive into. There is a huge learning curve, so it was important to give myself time and do a ton of research throughout the process.

Q: What has been the response by your readers?

A: The response has been more fulfilling than either of us imagined. While I feared scrutiny, mostly I just wanted to make sure people “got it.”  It was really important to have the message land. We wanted women, and especially single women, to feel good. We designed the book from the format to the length to do just that. When I see comments or reviews and women say that single or not, they’ve gained a sense of empowerment or self-confidence, it fills my heart. It means a lot that our message and experiences can directly connect with somebody and impact their life. I believe in paying it forward and in the power of positivity, so I feel good knowing that I’m spreading positive messaging around in the world.

Q: What are you doing to promote this title and which methods have yielded the most success for you?

A: We’ve run the gamut to promote No Plus One. The biggest goal is awareness, so all marketing is done with that in mind. I’ve got a great PR person who continuously reaches out to get placements and features. I worked on an influencer seeding strategy using my personal relationships. I also write articles to promote my book along with other articles that are a cut down of the book to help find and hook potential new readers. The most effective network I have are my Facebook friends and family. They are the most supportive and engaged audience. I’ve also tried paid tactics like FB and Twitter ads as well as iAds, but these aren’t my favorite methods. All the tactics should be done in tandem to be really effective. Writing for platforms, like Thought Catalog or Mogul, plus PR and influencer seeding have been the most effective.

Q: What do you feel sets your book apart from similar self-help titles about relationships?

A: Most other self-help focused was on how to change your behavior to remedy being single (i.e. find a relationship). Our book focuses on discovering the beauty in being single and feeling confident in yourself so that you are comfortable being single. It neither promotes finding a relationship or being single, it just recognizes that being single is a special phase that we can all benefit from.

Q: Are you currently writing full-time or does another career absorb a lot of your waking hours?

A: I have a full-time, well, more than full-time job in marketing. All my writing happens early in the morning. It was a huge commitment to get this book done while working the hours my day job requires. I bordered on the verge of obsession. I needed to set a really aggressive goal in order to finish. For about a year I woke up at 5 a.m. to write for as long as I could before I needed to get ready for work. Other times, I’d spend all weekend writing. I don’t write the best at night, but even sometimes, I pined over chapters just to stay on my self-imposed schedule.

Q: When and where do you do your best and most energizing creative thinking?

A: I love writing first thing in the morning. I pour some coffee and sit in front of my windows and just write. The Internet is a really distracting place, though, so I do my best not to get sucked into mindless surfing while on my computer. I also found that putting on vibey, calming music was really effective. I loved the idea of working before the rest of the world was up.

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

A: That I am actually quite good at my day job in marketing, which has little to do with writing self-help. I’ve become somewhat of an industry expert in digital marketing based on the portfolio I’ve built with the brand I work for.

Also, I didn’t really start writing before I wrote my book. The extent of my writing was journaling or the occasional blog post. Writing the book made me feel comfortable enough to call myself a writer.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: I’m starting a new job in brand marketing in a few weeks. I’ll be heading up a team so that will be an entirely new challenge in leadership. I’ve been taking a breather from writing so I hope to start up again in a really authentic, no-filter style for a new project. I am also working on a screenplay – which I have no idea how to do.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Following me on Twitter or Snapchat (@StephYoungMC) is a really quick and unfiltered look at who I am as a person. I also write a lot of articles on onMogul.com; I can be reached on any of those platforms if anybody has questions. I’m always happy to help other writers / entrepreneurs.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Don’t ever be afraid to go after your dreams.

 

 

A Chat With Jeffrey G. Roberts

The Healer - Cover Art

What happens when a 22nd century doctor working on Mars is suddenly stranded 168 years in the past on a violent and primitive world – ours! Such is the premise of author Jeffrey G. Roberts’ SciFi novel, The Healer. With an inventive muse that regularly zips around at the speed of light and an imagination that constantly asks “What if…,” the fun of landing Jeffrey for a feature interview this week is a treat for anyone who has ever wanted to (1) understand how time-travel works and (2) appreciate the therapeutic value of chocolate cream pie.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: When you were growing up back in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, what is the weirdest, oldest or most sentimental item we might have found in the bedroom of your younger self?

A: I guess the oldest would have been two particular books I bought – Stoddard’s Practical Arithmetic, copyright 1853, and Appletons School Reader, copyright 1886. And the most sentimental: my aircraft books! I’m an airplane freak!

Q: What did you dream of growing up to be?

A: My Mom liked to recall a story about how my Dad once went on a business trip. I was about five and he told me I was now man of the house until he got back. And I burst into tears. When asked why, I told him I didn’t want to be man of the house – I wanted to be a horse! Luckily, I have no recollection of this bizarre incident. This is a good thing. But as I got older, and had given up the dream of changing species, I believe I wanted to be a test pilot. Never happened, but I did solo in 1968, and my Mom, Dad, my dog, and I had many happy times flying all over the country in my Dad’s plane. He was a great influence on me, as he was a decorated Spitfire fighter pilot in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain.

Q: Were you a good student in school?

A: I was a fair student in High School – because I hated it. I was an excellent student at Northern Arizona University – because I loved it. No brainer.

Q: Your current repertoire includes SciFi, Horror, Fantasy and Comedy. Among the authors who pen works in these popular genres, who do you most admire and what influence have they had on your own style of storytelling?

A: Probably Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, Douglas Adams, and Kenneth Grahame have inspired me most. And, of course, my Dad, who wrote radio drama after WW II.

Q: With a degree in American History from Northern Arizona University, you’ve no doubt spent a lot of time pondering how even the slightest nudge of Fate (including “outside” intervention) could have rewritten the outcome of major events. Were it left up to you, what single historical event would you like to have seen come out differently so as to impact future generations in a profound way?

A: I would have hoped General Douglas MacArthur could have gotten the green light from President Truman, to rid the world of the scourge of Russian and Chinese Communism, when the “infection” was small and weak, thus saving tens of millions of lives.

Q: In 1978 you decided to get serious about your writing career. Was there something significant about that year which fueled your enthusiasm to put your stories in front of an audience?

A: The work I had put into my undergraduate degree in writing, the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger, and my Dad telling me to get a job!

Q: What genre is the most fun for you to write?

A: Probably fantasy/comedy.

Q: Do you typically work from an outline or let the thoughts come naturally as your fingers fly around the keyboard?

A: I work from an outline, hand writing my stories in a black and white composition book, like our parents used. Then, after I’ve “bled” all over it, I put it into the computer.

Q: Does anyone get to read your chapters in progress or do you make them wait until you’ve typed “The End”?

A: Only my two closest friends.

Q: Favorite SciFi movie or TV series?

A: Sleepy Hollow, and the original Star Trek movie. Sleepy Hollow, because even though its premise diverged widely from the original story, I love Washington Irving. And Star Trek because its original premise was based on hard theoretical scientific principles. And many of its devices are actually in use today, not 200 years from now! It also showed a world where global problems have been solved.

Q: In both The Healer and Cherries in Winter, your respective protagonists find themselves thrust into another time period. Speaking for yourself and as an accomplished man of the 21st century, would you rather time-travel to the distant past or the distant future? Why? And what do you feel would be the greatest challenge to deal with?

A: I would prefer to visit the distant future; say, 2100; because I want to experience interstellar travel. I suppose my greatest challenge would be assimilation and understanding of the world of the 22nd century.

Q: If you had to live permanently in whatever time period you suddenly found yourself transported to, when and where would it be?

A: I suppose, as above, the 22nd century. I cannot know if the world will have changed for the better or worse, but that’s the chance you take in the world of time travel!

Q: Time-travel plots often emphasize the dire risks of changing the future through even the most minor acts. (In Back to the Future, for instance, Marty rushing to push his father out of the path of a car delayed his parents’ meeting and required the rest of the movie to get them together by the night of the prom.) What’s your own theory on this; specifically, how can one not change the future by going to the past?

A: It has been postulated that the universe has a governing mechanism to prevent such horror: what I call the Reality Tree, where an infinite number of branches represent all possible realities. If you tamper with one, it vanishes, to be replaced with an alternate, thus preventing reality from exploding!

Q: Speaking of theories, who is your favorite or most annoying “ancient astronaut theorist” on Ancient Aliens?

A: My most annoying – even though he is a Facebook friend – is Giorgio Tsoukalos.  And my favorite is John Greenwald – but not because he published my article on “The Face on Mars Controversy”. No, of course not.

Q: Who or what inspires you to come up with your storylines?

A: Basically what you’re asking me is – what is the nature of creativity? And I haven’t the slightest idea, to tell you the truth!

Q: When and where do you get your best writing done?

A: At my desk, right here. And when? When an idea, or the muse hits me.

Q: Like many authors, you’ve gone the self-publishing route. What is the most challenging aspect of wearing so many hats in order to get your work into circulation?

A: Marketing and promotion, without a doubt. It’s brutal. In comparison, the art of writing itself is a piece of cake, easy as pie. Now I’m hungry!

Q: What are you doing to promote your books?

A: I’m on Facebook, and have a Facebook fan page – A Talespinner – and I’m on Goodreads, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, about 300 Facebook book promotion group pages; I have a website (http://Atalespinner.weebly.com),  and I also promote my books on dozens of book promotion websites, such as Story Cartel, Reader’s Favorite.com, Promocave, Reader’s Gazette, and many others.

Q: In a perfect world, there’d be no such thing as bad reviews. Alas, but they’re a fact of life, even for writers that are seasoned. When someone leaves a snarky critique about your own work, how do you react to it?

A: Thus far, aside from story rejections, which every writer gets, I’ve gotten good reviews, for the most part. What do I do when I get a bad one? I go in my bathroom, put my face in a pillow, and scream obscenities in three different languages. Then I find the biggest piece of chocolate cream pie, and a glass of cold milk. Works for me!

Q: Best advice to aspiring authors?

A: Never accept the opinions of naysayers or dream breakers. There are always going to be people, who for whatever reason, take perverse delight in skewering your most sacred hopes and dreams. Ignore them, and press on! Individuals like that are attempting to blow out your candle, to make theirs appear to burn brighter. Carpe diem!

Q: What do you know now that you wish you had known much earlier?

A: If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: A horror novel, The Horror on the H.M.S. Cottingly.

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

A: For Cherries in Winter:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1LEdUSh

Amazon – http://amzn.to/1NpBvU8

Kellan Publishing – http://bit.ly/1nPHRp1

For The Healer:

Barnes & Noble – http://bit.ly/1uw2YbA

Amazon – http://amzn.to/ZDv24p

Booklocker – http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html

Also i-tunes and Kobo. And to find out more about me, you can read my bio at http://Kellan-publishing.selz.com or

http://Booklocker.com/books/7244.html.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Nothing, other than this has been a very enjoyable exercise.

 

 

Another Autumn

Yvonne Higgins Leach

Was there ever a more dreaded phrase heard in a classroom than “Let’s read a poem,” “Let’s interpret what this poem meant,” or “Let’s write a poem”? One can’t help but wonder how many careers of aspiring young poets were nipped in the bud by teachers who simply went about teaching it in all the wrong ways and made their pupils eschew this form of expression for the rest of their lives! Fortunately, Yvonne Higgins Leach was not one of those students scared off by the depth of what poetry has to say. We’re pleased to put Yvonne in the spotlight to talk about her debut collection, Another Autumn.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

**********

Q: Tell us about your journey as a writer and, especially, what fueled your enthusiasm to express your feelings through poetry?

A: I started writing poetry in sixth grade. My sister Michelle was about six years older than me and she was writing poetry. She introduced me to the art form, and more than anything, she instilled in me that I could write and that poetry was a gift to anyone who wanted to give it to the world. I went to a Catholic school and every day we’d say the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. After starting to write poems, I approached my teacher and asked her if I could read one of my poems instead of having the class say a prayer (that’s asking a lot when you think about it!) and she agreed.

From there, I got involved in my high school literary magazine. I had a teacher – Mark Arnold – who was influential at such a critical time in my life. He did after-school workshops and even a mini-course where we went to the Oregon Coast for a week with about six other students. In college, I got a degree in English, took as many creative writing classes as I could, and met another mentor and talented writer, Alex Kuo. Alex was more than a teacher, and I vouch for all my co-student friends when I say that. He took each of us under his wing, advised us constantly, read our work carefully and gave honest feedback. We’d do things outside of class too. He’d have us over to his house and we’d go camping. Having a sense of community around poetry was phenomenal. Those were great years.

My MFA came later (from Eastern Washington University) after I was in the workforce for several years. You know, you go to graduate school and you get a degree in Creative Writing Poetry and you make these goals for yourself: mine was that I’d have my first collection of poems published by the time I was 30. Well, my reality at 30 was that I was going through a divorce, raising a daughter, and had started working for a Fortune 100 company. A short three years later, I was in a new relationship and raising two daughters. I did well at my job and was recognized for it, so they kept giving me harder, more challenging assignments and more responsibility. I took on each one and just did my best at it and over the years I found myself an executive and leading good-sized teams and handling major PR corporate issues. The job became a 50 – 60 hour week, easy. But regardless of all that was happening in my personal and professional life, I never gave up on poetry.

Q: Many an aspiring writer has lamented, “Oh, but I just don’t have the time to write because I’m too busy raising my family, climbing the corporate ladder, cleaning the house, etc. In your own experience, you had more than a full plate to fill your waking life. What was your secret to making room for the written word?

I remember many a day at work being tired because I started a poem at 10 p.m. at night and wouldn’t finish until the wee hours. And then I would work on refining it throughout the evenings of that week. For me, it was as if I couldn’t help it. Either I had an experience that moved me to the point that my inner voice said: this has to be told, or someone tells me a story and I am so moved I said the same thing: this has to be documented. When that happened, the poem would stir in me until I could carve out time to get it on paper.

Q: Tell us more about your writing process.

A: It usually, but not always, goes like this: something strikes me…an idea, a story, an experience I had directly, and it tells me that it must be written. I then feel it is something that needs to be made separate, in and of itself, and to be shared with others. I’ll sometimes write the idea in a notebook; but often it just hangs around in my head and heart. When I actually get to the point where phrases are being written in my head or I see the structure of the poem taking place then I know it is time to write. From there, I live with the poem for days and sometimes weeks, replaying the lines, the images, in my head and I’ll tweak them, refine the poem over a period of time. I do a fair amount of this in my head.

Q: Do you allow anyone to read your works in progress or did you make them wait until you felt you had polished it to perfection?

A: I do allow people to read my work as I create it. I find that having an “early reader”, as I call them, is very helpful. He or she usually can tell me right away if something isn’t working, is a bit clunky, or unclear. Also, just recently I joined a small community of poets and we now post first drafts on a website called Inked Voices that allows us to critique each other’s work. It’s a really useful tool.

Q: What is your favorite style of poetry?

A: I have two favorite styles of poetry: free verse, especially when a poem uses regular patterns of sound and rhythm that are close to how we speak naturally and yet create an emotional experience that blows your socks off. I have always loved the elegy as well. I know it might sound strange to admire the “melancholy poem that laments its subject’s death” but what I appreciate in an elegy is by the end there is some form of consolation.

Q: Who are some of your favorite poets?

A: I’ll put them in two categories – those who have passed and those who are living.

Those who have passed: Theodore Roethke, for his largeness and realness in poetry. Raymond Carver, for his simplicity of language and expression.  The Irish poet Seamus Heaney, for his acute eye and ear and sense of storytelling in poetry.

Those who are living: some of my favorite poets are Tony Curtis, not the singer, but the Irish poet. He really knows how to capture an experience that moves you.  Edward Hirsch…I find his poetry precise, thoughtful, accessible, and his passion for poetry insatiable. He has written several wonderful books about poetry as well. W.S. Merwin, for his love of the world, both physical and spiritual. And last, Ellen Bass, for her gorgeous poetry that has a great balance between intelligence and heart.

Q: If you could sit down for lunch with any of these beloved wordsmiths, which one would it be, where would you go, and what question would you most like to ask?

A: I am of Irish heritage so I would definitely sit down with Seamus Heaney in an Irish pub in County Derry in Northern Ireland where he grew up. I would ask him to describe what he felt was the hardest thing he overcame as a writer in his lifetime.

Q: My favorite part of any interview is shining a spotlight on a book’s debut. Another Autumn is your first published work. Brava! It’s time to brag and tell us what it felt like to hold that first copy in your hands.

A: It felt surreal to be honest. I remember first feeling happy with the cover art because it represented authentically the title and so many of the poems in the book. Then I read it front to back as an actual book in my hand and that was a wonderful experience.

Q: What’s the story behind the title (and is it a teaser to future “seasonal” collections)?

A: The title comes from one of the poems in the book. I picked it because many of my poems are about the passage of time, which the seasons represent so well.

Q:  You are what I would consider a working poet. Most poets are academics and tied to a college or university. Do you have thoughts on the academic versus the working poet?

As with most things, there are advantages and disadvantages. I have two primary thoughts on this: One, I think if one is in the academic environment there is a lot of support for writing, because writing is taught there and “the structure” and peers tend to be very supportive. In the work world, often your work and your writing are very separate so you frequently have a feeling of isolation when it comes to your writing. It is easy to not feel understood. Second, I think it boils down to how a writer manages his/her time to write. I don’t think anyone can deny whether you are tied to academia or the work world, we’re all busy people. It’s a matter of how you carve out the time to write. For me, it was often late at night after all the duties of the day, both professional and personal, were done. That was just my reality.

Q: What about the naysayers who declare, “But there’s no money in writing poetry. Why aren’t you writing novels instead?”

A: For me, it’s a matter of what drives your passion. I have always had a passion for poetry, knowing there was no money in it. I wouldn’t want to change genres just to make money. I would feel like I would be leaving my real self behind.

Q: The resistance that a lot of people put up toward poetry and its interpretation often stems from their exposure to it in elementary school and high school. What do you say to the person who says s/he doesn’t understand it and, accordingly, chooses not to read it?

A: Poetry is an exchange. I believe both parties have some responsibility in that exchange. The poet’s responsibility is to capture the essence of the poem through the use of his/her tools — words, line breaks, rhythm or song, metaphor — in a way that allows the reader to understand and experience it. I don’t believe in poetry that is so complicated or obscure or internal to the poet that the reader never does understand it. On the other hand, I believe the reader does have a responsibility, too, to give the poem a chance. To wrestle with it, talk back to it, read it again and again because by engaging with it he/she will discover more about the poem and I am certain something more about themselves. When we have this exchange, we make meaning together.

Q: On that note, what’s your personal list of “Ten Poems You Need To Read Before You Die”?

A: What a fun question! “Digging” by Seamus Heaney; “Traveling Through Dark” by William Stafford; “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden; “Sonnet Xvii” by Pablo Neruda; “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost; “Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke; “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins; “What the Doctor Said” by Raymond Carver; “Fall” by Edward Hirsch; “Elegy for a Walnut Tree” by W.S. Merwin.

Q: What’s your philosophy on the writer and the reader?

A: Like a painter, s/he starts with a blank canvas and then, with the tools at hand, paints a scene, image, portrait, whatever it might be. Then the painter waits for a viewer. Poetry is similar. I start with a blank white page and my tools are the words, rhythm, images, metaphor, white space that I create into an experience. The relationship between the writer and the reader is by definition removed by being experienced through text, a body of words on the page. It is a particular kind of exchange between two people most often not physically present to each other. If the poem is good, it is often a passionate form of communication between strangers, and often immediate and intense. Reading poetry is a way of connecting – through a medium of language – more deeply with yourself even as you connect more deeply with another. As a result, I believe the poem delivers on our spiritual lives precisely because it gives us the gift of intimacy and privacy and participation that we wouldn’t experience otherwise.

Q: You’re hinting at the spirituality in poetry. Can you tell us more?

A: Oh most definitely. I have two perspectives on this: First, Wallace Stevens said that “poetry is like prayer in that it is most effective in solitude”. Poetry often comes out of silence and it longs to discover the mysteries of life; hence it is kinship to prayer. So when you think about it, poetry is one of the soul’s natural habitats. In that moment when the soul captures what is deep within we attain something spiritual. I look at the poem as the soul in action through words on a page. Second, poet Pablo Neruda said in so many words: to feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. He also said “but to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, that is something greater and more beautiful because it widens our boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.” I believe that is what poetry does. It connects us.

Pablo told a wonderful story related to this. When he was a young boy in his backyard, he looked through a hole in the fence and much to his surprise the hand of another small boy shot through. When Pablo looked through the hole again, there was a marvelous white sheep there the boy had brought him to gaze at. But the boy had disappeared. Pablo then went into his house and brought out his favorite treasure: a pinecone, opened, full of odor and resin, which he adored, and set down in the same hole in the fence. The next day the pinecone was gone. This little story is about how all of humanity is somehow connected. And when the exchange of gifts occurs, whatever they may be, that is indestructible. Poetry, to me, is an exchange of gifts.

Q: Now that you have more time to write, what do you hope for?

A: Because my time was limited for literally decades, and as a result, many of my poems fit just on one page, I hope to explore writing longer poems, and perhaps write about more philosophical topics. Many of my poems are about experiences, and from there, I have an insight. I’d like now to explore other topics for poetry, like maybe take on concepts and see where the poem goes. As an example, recently I went to a reading where a poet read a 10-page poem about particles meshing into the thing they are closest too. It took her a year to write that poem. I am also reading other poets “by the pounds” now and feeling like I am getting a more complete perspective on the contemporary poetry scene in the U.S.

Q: So who is on your current reading list?

A: I have been reading poets I consider on the national scene but also getting to know many of the local poets in the Northwest. On the national scene, poets include: Claudia Rankine, Nicky Finney, Tony Hoagland, Ross Gay, Gregory Pardlo, Jane Hirshfield, Terrance Hayes, Jamaal May, Saeed Jones, Ocean Vuong, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kathleen Jamie, and Wesley McNair. I could go on and on. I am having so much fun consuming poetry!

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: At my website: www.yvonnehigginsleach.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: If you feel you have something to share, a story to tell, a poem to write, then do it. Don’t let that critical voice we often hear inside ourselves shut you down. You have every right to create!