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Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Tracy Huff, Self-help/ Personal Development

Hi! I’m Tracy Huff, author of Self-Help/Personal Development. My recent book is “How To Punch Failure in The Face.”

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I have always done some writing internally for my students, my blog, etc. I also wrote a book for my parents that I have not published (yet).  I wanted to expand my impact to help women and business owners who would not come in my martial arts school to let me help them. As I started promoting my coaching program I was confused and a little angry. I wrote my book because I realized that people did not understand exactly what I do as a martial arts instructor. They had put me in a box of “just teaching punches and kicks”, when we work on the whole person. My book is the process I use in my martial arts school to develop our students from white belts to black belt which includes mindset, positive attitude, having personal standards, taking action, celebrating wins and so much more!

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:   I wrote it in about 2.5 months. I started mid August and published in November.   

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:      I self-published using Amazon, so the process was simple and pretty self-explanatory. Once I had the edited copy in the correct format I uploaded it to the KDP platform and “Poof!” I was on Amazon.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I based it on my experiences as a business owner raising  a family. I wanted to help all of those women just like me.

Marketing 

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      I write for my blog which is on familymaa.com and my podcast “How To Punch Failure in The Face”

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I give my books to all of the families that train with me at my school, my referral partners, and my network of women. 

How do you promote your content?

Author:       I write for my blog which is on familymaa.com and my podcast “How To Punch Failure in The Face”. I am also on Spotify and the Wisdom app.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:     Being true and authentic. Your message will resonate with the people you want to serve.  

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      Helping at least one person

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      I write in the personal development realm. I struggled for so long and spend way too much money to find what I needed to manage my family, my relationship with my husband, my business, and friends. I also am willing to share my mistakes and lessons learned so others don’t have to learn the hard way.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      I am a martial artist because I love how being one continues to push me to grow and face challenges and things that scare me. As I started to promote my coaching program, I realized that adults do not get an opportunity to stretch and challenge themselves in a safe environment and that is what I provide.

How many works have you published? 

Author:     One for now.     

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      The common element in my writing is based on our mantra: “Be Exceptional, Be Amazing, Be You (BE BABY!).

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:     To help as many woman, business owners, and teams as I can know they have value and gifts. To help them know that the world needs them to be used. They can make a difference. No, that has not changed. 

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      Yes, I have my blog on familymaa.com, my podcast on anchor.fm & spotify “How To Punch Failure in The Face”, my 4 week confidence course “Ignite Your Inner Spark” and my 12 week course, “How To Punch Failure in The Face”, and my youtube channel, FMAAFayetteville.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works? 

Author:      Inspired and empowered to go confidently into the world being the person God made them to be. To be free from judgement and other people’s expectations and to know they are valued and loved.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:  Writing versions of my book for different markets.    

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      Knowing that I am following my purpose. I am leading by example and doing what scares me so others will do the same.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:     I recommend using the Fletcher Method to help you clarify your message and understand who your market is, what their needs are, and how to reach them. 

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      I am such a big reader–my mentor Chris Casamassa & Shelly Toland inspired and encouraged me to write. 

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      No, I just wanted to help as many people as I could and delivered the message the way that I teach it.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I use the templates from the Fletcher Method to outline my chapters, determine my lead magnets, and simplify my message.    

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      Somewhere in between depending on the deadline I give myself.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:     Being willing to be vulnerable. 

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      A rollercoaster of emotions–scared, honored, proud, nervous, and vulnerable.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Trust yourself–if you feel you have a message to give the world, you do. Do not let other people and their opinions stop you from helping people and standing in your purpose.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I would not have waited so long to do it.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      Sometimes a driven & self-advocating author and sometimes a gun-shy promoter. I still run my martial arts school and am involved in several networking groups.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:     I keep my eye on the people that I help, that need to know that they have someone in their corner, and knowing by doing that I am fulfilling my purpose. 

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Just write–another lesson from being a martial artist. Just keep practicing and one day it will be easier and look better. You must persevere and not give into the negative voices that will come up in your head.  

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      Surprised when the author copy showed up in the mail.    

Fun Stuff 

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Any place where I can concentrate–outside, in my office, or late at night when everyone is asleep.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      I am reading Clockwork by Michael Macholwicz, Financial Revolutions by Gary Kesee, and Never Doubt by Jesse Duplantis. 

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique? 

Author:      I overshare.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      I had more to say than I thought and as I was writing I shared things that I never thought I would.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coffee and chewing gum   

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      When I was training to take my 1st degree black belt test I was completely freaking out. My friend looked at me and asked, “Why are you freaking out? You just have to do it (the test) the best you can do it that day.”  This is the beginning of my “Done is better than perfect” mindset. This allowed me to give myself some space to make mistakes and time to make techniques better.

How can readers follow you and learn more about your books? 

Author Website:    defeatfailure.com 

Social Media : TikTok: confidencecoachninja, Facebook, Youtube: FMAAFayetteville

Book Sales Pages: https://amzn.to/3X9ee3o, Signed Copy: https://bit.ly/HTPFIFSignedCopy

Other: Podcast Anchor and Spotify: How To Punch Failure in The Face, The Wisdom App: How To Punch Failure in The Face

Blog

Winter Drying out Your Hands?

Here are some of the best solutions I’ve found.

Please note this is an anecdotal article, and I’m not a doctor. If you have consistent or worsening symptoms not solved by over-the-counter products, I recommend seeing a dermatologist. (I have. I’ve tried all the prescription stuff too. This is just about OTC stuff.) Please note: I don’t endorse these products. I’m sharing my experience. Please use your best judgment for yourself!

Why am I writing this article? Well, because I care about you!

These products come from constant testing because I’m one of 30 million Americans living with eczema. I’ve had eczema since I was three…and I’m talking splits and tiny blisters on my feet and hands simply from just being me. It’s not from washing my hands too much. If it was, why was the eczema bad on my feet, arms, legs, and face? It’s a condition that flares when it feels like it. So if you have eczema like me or just dry skin from winter air, you’ll hopefully find something useful here!

Winter makes dry skin worse. On top of it, the cold makes all things less pliable, so there’s also the loss of elasticity, which I’ll touch on as well.

What to avoid with lotions:

  • Anything that is water-based. I know it will feel less greasy to put a water/aqua-based lotion on, but one of the key problems with dry hands is that moisture evaporates the oils from the skin.
  • Hydrocortizone or steroid creams should be used in moderation. I’m not kidding here. Use these only when the itch or blistering and inflammation has reached a level that’s intolerable. Steroid creams cause thinning of the skin. I know. It’s already happening with my fingers, and I’m only in my 30s. I’m fighting using these to the last straw because I’m terrified of what my skin is going to be like 30 more years from now (If I’m that lucky).

Tips for hand care:

  • Don’t wash your hands in super hot water unless you have to. Warm water is sufficient. Cold water can be as effective. Check out the CDC’s guidelines here. It’s not the temperature of the water that matters but the scrubbing action which frees germs to be flushed away. But seriously, who prefers washing their hands in cold water in the winter? Not me! Brrr!

  • If it itches, don’t scratch it! This is soooo hard! But if you scratch dry skin, it makes tiny little lacerations in the skin surface, which can lead to splits.

  • Additional note: If you have dyshidrotic eczema like me, scratching will encourage the little blisters to burst, and that will cause more inflammation. (It got so bad with me one year that I thought I was going to lose a finger – that was until I discovered hydrocortisone cream, which hinders the immune system’s response and therefore slows and stops blistering and inflammation. It also calms the itch which was driving me to tears.) But again, only use these products when necessary to get inflammation and itch under control, then switch to something else.

  • Dry your hands really well. Don’t give the air anything to whisk away, or it can take oils with it!

  • The best time to put lotion on is right after washing and drying your hands.

  • If the dryness gets really bad, I slather that lotion on, let it soak in, then I put on a cheap pair of fabric gloves or socks to protect the lotion from being rubbed off during the night. Some of it will come off inside the fabric, but you will keep that lotion close to your skin and avoid getting in all over the blankets! No one wants to roll over in the middle of the night and wonder what that slimy spot is!
  • Any time you can, use dishwashing gloves or disposable gloves for cleaning etc.

All About the Lotions

Warning: there is a picture below which shows my hand in its red and split state. If this bothers you, please don’t proceed.

#1 Loreal Paris – Collagen Moisture Filler

This has become my favorite of all the products I use. It is fragrance-free and can be (is meant to be) used on your face. And while that’s how I got interested in it, as a face moisturizer, it has become my go-to for dry skin repair. It goes on smoothly and really absorbs well, even into severely dry skin that resists other lotions. This will take dry, rough skin, and make it soft and moist again.

This one really helps with elasticity. I put this one at the top simply because of this fact. My skin has already started thinning because of the steroid cream use, but this product has really helped plump up my skin and prevent it from splitting from simple movement. Ever tried to grab something and felt your skin split open? Yeah… not fun. It’s actually kind of scary. This product has been a game-changer.

When I get eczema on my face, this calms it. My skin feels fresh, smooth, and 10 years younger without a greasy feel. The fragrance free one doesn’t sting in cuts, which is another bonus.

Check it out on Amazon here.


#2: Mary Kay – Satin Hands

This set has been amazing. You can see my transformation photos below.

I started using Mary Kay products when I was getting ready for our wedding over a decade ago. I was in need of quality products to save our photos from future cringes at the condition of my skin. These products work every time I use them. They’re well worth the price, in my opinion. From lipstick to foundation and lotion, their products are quality and have never let me down.

The Protecting Softener featured on the left goes on at night and really soaks into your hands. It’s very thick and somewhat like Vaseline, yet not as slippery. It really does feel like a shield over your skin once it’s rubbed in.

The Smoothing Scrub in the middle helps free dead and dry skin and any Vaseline feel left from the Softener. (I washed my hands with that in the morning)

And the Shea Cream on the right is a beautiful, cool lotion that makes your hands feel like.. well, satin! I was going to say silk! Silly me! It’s in the name! If you can’t or don’t want to buy the whole set, this lotion is the one I’d recommend.

Mary Robeson is my consultant and gave me this set when she saw how horrible my hands were at a craft fair this fall. I was worried about book sales, not my self-care. What a wonderful gift! I went from breathing through the pain to feeling like I had my hands back again.

No, I’m not getting anything for promoting her products. She’s just an amazing, caring person who saw someone in need. And to me, that means a lot!

Below, on the left, is what my hands looked like the night before Mary saw me at the craft fair. Some people might say that if I just put anything on, it will help. My skin is oily in this picture because all I had was Neosporin. Yeah, the cut healer? Didn’t work. It’s not supposed to be used as lotion. Satin Hands outperformed Neosporin that weekend.

I’m always taking pictures of my skin to show dermatologists how it looks over time. That’s why I had this lucky before picture! When Mary gave me this set as a gift, I immediately used it!

I was away from my RV, so I didn’t have anything else with me. The picture on the right is just over a week later after using Satin Hands. Big improvement…not just of my skin but in my pain level. I type all day, go to the gym and lift weights, and I hand-wash dishes because we don’t have a dishwasher. These products have held up to my routine. I am very impressed.

You can get a fragrance-free set as well. I personally like the light scent of the White Tea myself.

If you’re interested in checking this out, you can read more on Satin Hands here.


#3: Red Wolf Apothecary Healing Salve

Not a commercial product person? Prefer something more natural? This has worked really well and has a beautiful story about its creation. I won’t dive too deep into details to be respectful, but it was designed for a family member with [a severe illness] whose treatments caused additional injury. They were shipping medications in from overseas and during Covid had trouble getting them. Thus, their healing salve was born. They also have arthritis salve and other products.

They are wonderful, kind people. I sat next to them at the craft fair and also received this product out of the goodness of their hearts. And this product works wonders! It really does absorb well into very dry skin in seconds. It immediately takes the stiffness of dry skin away and relieves itch! And a dab goes a long way!

A note: If you have pets, they might go a little crazy trying to lick this stuff off of you! My dog loves it, so I always have to cover my skin before I get dog kisses!

This product is comparable to the above two. I used it on a different dry patch for about a week and noticed similar healing. I’m all for natural options when possible!

You can learn more and shop here.


#4 Medix5.5 Retinol & Hyaluronic Acid Pack

This set has been wonderful as body lotion. I wanted something light and effective that didn’t leave my clothes sticking to me, or me smelling like a perfume store.

There are multiple sets by Medix5.5 available online. I chose this one because retinol helps the body produce more collagen beneath the skin’s surface and fights wrinkles, and hyaluronic acid helps keep in moisture.

Often when we use retinol products, it causes drying and reddening of the skin. I don’t get the reddening (oddly enough) but definitely the dryness. So I use the retinol lotion at night (while body is healing) and the hyaluronic acid in the morning. My skin isn’t nearly as crepey as it used to be. And so far it’s been great on my face and neck as well. Months of use with no breakouts or clogged pores!

These pumps hold a lot and are super easy to use, especially when hands have lotion on them. Sometimes twist-off tops are frustrating with well-lotioned hands. If that’s an issue for you, or you have arthritis, these pumps are great.

Check it out on Amazon here.


#5: Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration (Weightless)

This is my favorite summertime lotion, especially after being out in the sun. However, it’s wonderful year-round with a light fragrance and light moisturizing properties that leave your skin fresh and feeling like it doesn’t have lotion on it!

It absorbs easily and readily without any greasy feeling or sheen.

Check it out on Amazon here. You can buy it seasonally at Walmart and other stores.


#6 Gold Bond Eczema Relief

This one is usually in my purse. It comes in much larger squeeze tubes and pumps too. It has a light oatmeal fragrance due to the 2% colloidal oatmeal in it.

It absorbs decently but is best applied after washing your hands. It works pretty well for eczema relief, just like it says, without use of steroids.

It definitely tackles the itch, helps soften hands, and improve elasticity.

You can get this at Walmart and other stores, or you can check it out on Amazon here.


#7 Bodycology Body Cream

Like inexpensive lotion with fragrance? This one works pretty well. It’s best applied after hand washing when your pores are open. It leaves an almost polished kind of satiny coating on the outside of your hands.

If you have to put on gloves (especially disposable ones) after, this lotion won’t stick to the gloves.

Bodycology has a lot of fragrance options, and you can find them at Walmart. I also found it on Amazon here.


#8: Gold Bond Radiance Renewal

This lotion is really creamy and luxurious. This stuff goes on thick. It has a pleasant, sweet, and rich smell as it has cocoa butter in it.

This stuff is great if you have deep dryness, especially on your feet. I put this on after a shower, let it soak in for a few minutes, then put socks on and go to bed that way. This is also great if you’ve been out in the summer sun a lot. While I recommend aloe for sunburns, this is a great after burn remedy for very dry skin.

You can check it out on Amazon here.


#9: Tree Hut, Shea Moisturizing Body Lotion

While I love this lotion for its fragrance and similar effects to Bodycology above, my immune system didn’t like it. My blisters got irritated. That aside, it’s wonderful on my legs and arms (avoiding flare-up spots).

I think this is my favorite scent of all the lotions. It’s a bit lighter, but not quite as light as the Hawaiian Tropic Weightless lotion.

I believe this was also a Walmart purchase. I also found it on Amazon here.


Bonus Recommendation: Lip Care

I have tried TONS of products that I won’t go into here. There are lots of lip glosses and balms but these two take the cake, in my opinion.

ChapStick Total Hydration is a lip balm that’s very smooth and not waxy. It instantly makes your lips feel softer even when they’re split.

I recommend the fruit ones. The lavender one smells great but isn’t my favorite flavor. Check it out on Amazon.

Satin Lips Shea Butter Balm by Mary Kay is a creamy gloss, and it is the absolute best product I’ve ever used on my lips. It is easy to spread, especially with extra sensitive chapped lips. I put this on at night, and it really helps my lips heal. They’re always 10x softer and plumper in the morning! Check it out here.


There are a ton of other brands to check out too. (I don’t currently have these products with me.)

CeraVe, Nivea, and Cetaphil work very well. These were recommended to me by professionals over the years, but I never became fond of them. I basically live in my lotion, so scent is important to me. These have nice light scents, but they aren’t my preference for body lotion. They have worked well on my hands and feet.

Eucerin and Aquaphor got me through childhood. They work, but I remember reapplying them a lot.

My grandpa gave me his Bag Balm when I was little, and that worked well for my split feet. It wasn’t easy to run and play on the ranch with constant pain in my feet. This made a huge difference.

Aveeno and Dove have nice light scents and give your skin a soft, almost powder-fresh feel. I’m not as much of a fan of this, personally, but I can see the appeal.

Lubriderm, Jergens, and Curel I’ve used in a pinch or borrowed a bit of from family. They are nice products, but I haven’t used them enough to speak to their effectiveness.

O’Keefs works well for softening cracks, and is something I use more when I’m working outside.

Bath and Body Works body cream is pretty effective, with wonderful scent options. For very dry skin, I use their shea butter lotion. When I want to smell like whatever holiday it is, without wearing perfume or coating myself in waxy lotion, I use their body creams.

Vaseline is probably one of the most well-known products, same with Palmer’s cocoa butter. These products definitely work for softening and moisturizing skin but also require gloves and socks, or to not touch any screens or sensitive surfaces. It is finger print city!


If you have a recommendation, add it to the comments! Let readers know why you like it and where they can get it! Thanks!

Stay Healthy & Best Wishes!

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Mike Martin, Mystery/ Memoir/ Christmas

Hi! I’m Mike Martin, and I write mystery.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I have always been a reader and a writer. From an early age my older sisters would take me to the library with them and I learned the fun and adventure of reading. I always wanted to write a book so I could capture some of that magic.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I jokingly say about 40 years since that’s when I actually finished my first book.

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

It took me about 3 years from start to published copy.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Absolutely. I can now write a book and have it published in about a year.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

I am hybrid but I have been independent. The traditional publishing industry is too closed and too hard to break into for new authors.

How did you determine your target audience?

Mostly by chance and by reader input.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

I have beta readers who have been with me all the way through. Some of those are reviewers and I use promo services like PUYB… A fabulous resource.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

I have a website and use Facebook and Twitter for marketing.

What is your launch plan for your works?

I try and get early reviews and then I use a book tour like PUYB to help get the word out

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Facebook is an absolute must for the crime/mystery genre. That’s demographically where the readers are.

How do you define success as an author?

A good book that people tell me they enjoy reading. That’s enough.

A Sgt. Windflower Christmas Mystery, Book 2

From the author of the Award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mysteries including Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries Book 1, comes another welcome addition to the Sgt. Windflower family of books.

Come sit by the fire of the woodstove in the kitchen and listen to stories of Christmas long ago in Grand Bank and Ramea and tales of great adventure and Christmas magic in St. John’s in the 1960s and onward. Have Christmas dinner with Sgt. Windflower and Sheila and their two little girls. Then wait and see if any special visitors show up to entertain them.

About Your Work


What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short
Stories? Epic?

I write a light mystery series set on the east coast of Canada

How many works have you published?

I have published 12 books in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series and 2 Christmas books

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Christmas in Newfoundland 2 is a trip down Christmas memory lane and a great way to kick off the most wonderful season of all.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

I have always written for myself and will continue to do so. Some people will like it and some others may not.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or
harder to create new stories?

That’s interesting because I have always been a sci-fi kind of reader. But my partner is a mystery fan. She introduced me to the mystery genre and I found my writing home there.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that
typically take you?

I am a pantser and it takes me about 3 months to get the first draft.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad?
Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

I connect with other writers through the Crime Writers of Canada and on Twitter and Facebook

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in
between?

I write about 1500 words a day 5 days a week until I am finished the first draft.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become
authors?

I would recommend to read as much as you can and especially read books by successful writers on how they did it. Stephen King has a great book called On Writing.

Fun Stuff


Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you
secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an
ottoman?

I can write anywhere there is a quiet space. But I prefer my own little writing desk the best of all.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Coffee and more coffee

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Keep writing and don’t worry about the process or the outcome.

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Susan Wingate, Literary Fiction/ Suspenseful Women’s Fiction

My name is Susan Wingate. I’ve been bouncing in and out of the mystery genre for years and have now settled into several mashups of genres—literary fiction, suspenseful women’s fiction, and coming-of-age mixed with touches of magical realism.

I had three novels released in 2022. They are: Gag Me (4/2022, Roberts Press), When You Leave Me (6/2022, Down & Out Books), and upcoming Hotter than Helen (Book 2 of the Bobby’s Diner mystery series, 11/16/2022, The Wild Rose Press)

From Planning to Published

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author: My first book took eight years to write, two years to edit, and then after, to be published. It is possibly the worst book ever written. The title is Of the Law and I recommend against getting a copy! LOL.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author: It depends on what kind of publishing program you’re speaking of. If I self-publish, the process goes fairly fast. After the book is written, I go through a couple of months of an extensive editing process, then I hire an interior designer and cover artist.
If we’re talking traditionally published books, well, those books go through the same extensive editing but are submitted to publishing companies which have their own timeframe for new books submitted to them for accepting or rejecting a book. For accepted work, some publishers are very quick to go from contract to release date while others are not.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author: I’m a hybrid author. Roberts Press is the publisher I self-publish under. But I amtraditionally published as well through Down & Out Books and The Wild Rose Press.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author: Mostly genre dictate who the target audience is. After that, the story’s main character. If the story’s main character is a man or woman, and then if the main character is adult or younger. But I look at genre first. There are many women who enjoy male protagonists and men who enjoy female protagonists. But we have to land somewhere so these are the ways I determine target readership.

What is your publishing process?

Author: Write, edit, edit, edit, submit, then publish. If I haven’t gotten a traditional contract within a matter of six months, I usually self-publish.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author: For digital and print books: KDP for Amazon, (Nook) Press for Barnes & Noble. For audio books ACX for Audible.

Marketing

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author: Interaction with readers. I think, by far, this is the most critical function of having a successful career. It didn’t before but it does now in this social atmosphere. In the 1900’s, authors were like demigods. Now, we mustn’t ever strive to be above the so-called fray we must interact one-on-one with readers, give them books, let them chat us up if they like our work; and post and be viable and accessible on social media. But mostly we must write a good story that is free from errors.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author: My author brand is: Small Town, Big Trouble. I typically write stories about the place where I live.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have sixteen published works. Mostly fiction with one memoir about my mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease, and one chapbook of poetry. I guess that makes fourteen novels.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author: Hotter than Helen is the second book in the Bobby’s Diner mystery series. I consider this second story more suspenseful women’s fiction bordering on thriller. This is the blurb: When Georgette’s old friend, Helen comes back to Sunnydale, the town begins to sizzle. Is Helen attracted to Hawthorne Biggs, Georgette’s new beau or Georgette’s imagining things? However, when Helen goes missing, all seems lost. Will they find Helen dead? Does Hawthorne truly have Georgette’s best interests at heart? HOTTER THAN HELEN is a psychological women’s suspense that reads like the sharp edge of a dagger.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author: For readers, I hope they get a sense that truth and justice will prevail. That good will win out and that the bad guys, in the end, will get their just desserts.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author: As a graduate of Lindenwood’s Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I definitely recommend them. For shorter classes, Coursera.org has some amazing writing programs through pretty prestigious other colleges. They offer an inexpensive avenue for certificated courses as well as audited courses—whatever suits your time constraints. I also took Jerry Jenkins writing program. It’s expensive but very good. I’m a big proponent of continuing education.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sweet Romance Blog

Author Interview: Sheila Roberts, Romance/ Women’s Fiction/ Devotionals/ Non-fiction

Hi! I’m Sheila Roberts, and I write women’s fiction. My most recent publication, The Road to Christmas, is out right now.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     

I have been writing since I was a child. Hard to answer the why. I jus felt the urge. I love telling stories, and to be able to do that for a living is a blessing.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:     

You know, it was so long ago, I can’t remember. But I do remember writing it all in long hand and then typing it on my little electric typewriter. A typewriter! That should give you a clue how long ago it was that I wrote my first published book.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:     

These days I am expected to deliver two books a year to my publisher, so I don’t have the luxury of unlimited time.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:     

I’m traditionally published. Back when I started that was the only option I knew about.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:     

I didn’t begin looking for a target audience. I started writing Regency Romances – something I enjoyed reading. I think that’s key. Write the type of book you love to read and you will find your audience.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:     

I was in a critique group for years – all published authors – and the input I got from my fellow authors was invaluable. We eventually all got too busy to meet on a regular basis and now just meet occasionally to visit and brainstorm book ideas, so my main input comes from my editor. I do have a good friend who loves to read my messes in progress and serves as a beta reader sometimes, and it’s always good to get that extra input.

Marketing

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:     

I always have a virtual book birthday party on my Facebook like page. Then there are blog tours where I get to meet bloggers and readers, and Instagram, which I really like. Then of course there are email and eblasts. In addition to that I do both virtual and in person events. I am a people person and I love to party, so getting out and talking about a new book is always fun.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:     

This is handled by my publisher and my publicist. I have been around a loooong time and have built up a great network of reviewers over the years. Building a readership, getting your name out there takes time and persistence.

How do you promote your content?

Author:     

Social media is the key these days.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:     

I honestly think there comes a time in a writer’s life when she has to consider hiring help. A publicist is one of the best investments you can make.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:     

Seeing my books available in a variety of outlets, and, of course, making best-seller lists. And making a good living, of course. But, having said that, what warms my heart most is when I hear from a reader how much she enjoyed my book. Sometimes a reader will even find a particular story encouraging. Knowing you’ve touched someone’s heart is priceless.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:     

I love fiction, love taking a character or cast of characters and spinning out a life for them, taking them from challenging times that build their character and make them strong all the way to that well-deserved happy ending.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:     

I would say upbeat – a few tears, a good dose of humor and a happy ending. Life’s hard enough and I don’t want to add to anyone’s misery by writing a depressing tale. I don’t know if this type of thing is a conscious decision. Sometimes the stories we write end up reflecting our own life philosophy. The things we believe are important can’t help but creep into our work. In most of my stories you will find women working together to build a better life.

How many works have you published?

Author:     

I’ve written over fifty books – everything from non-fiction and devotionals to romance.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:     

And in my new release, The Road to Christmas, I like to think I’ve given readers a fun holiday romance … as well as inspiration to let go of those negative feelings that can hold us back. The story follows three different journeys as various members of a family all make their way to their holiday gathering. Lots of mishaps and misadventures, some tears and, most important, love and new beginnings.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:     

Humor, inspiration, problems to overcome… and food. There’s always mention of food, and there are often recipes.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:     

When I first started I just wanted to find an agent and get a book published. But, as with any career, there are always new goals, new career mountains to climb, like making best seller lists. Sometimes it’s easy to get greedy and want more and more success. I temper that by reminding myself how lucky I am to be able to earn a living doing something I love. I get to sit around and make up stuff – what a great career!

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:     

Just my website: http://www.sheilasplace.com

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:     

Inspiration and happiness.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:     

Your local library! Most libraries have shelves of books on writing. Check out everyone and read it. That is a course anyone can afford.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:     

Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, Nancy Naigle, RaeAnn Thayne, Marie Boswick. These women are wonderful writers and friends.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:     

I have read in my genre and I’ve also read outside of it. I think it’s important to read a variety of books by a variety of writers. It helps you expand as a writer.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work?Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:     

I am big on planning out where my story is going to go. That’s not to say I won’t make changes along the way, but it does give me a base to build on, a skeleton, so to speak, on which I can flesh out my characters’ journeys.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:     

Somewhere in between, I supposed. I’m a pretty fast writer, but I think more important than the pace you write at is the consistency with which you write. It’s an art and a craft, but it’s also a job, and you have to show up regularly for work.

Struggles

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:     

Keep writing, keep learning. The ones who “don’t make it” are the ones who give up.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:     

Not a thing!

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:     

Deadlines are a powerful motivator. I have to turn in a book by a certain time. I can’t afford to be a diva. For someone starting out and struggling with motivation, try imposing some deadlines on yourself – with a fine if you don’t make that deadline and a reward if you do. It might help.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:     

Happily for me, my family has been very supportive – my husband especially!

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:     

That we lead glamorous lives.

Fun Stuff

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or awarm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:     

Sitting in my living room, working on my laptop. I have a beautiful water view from there.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:     

I am reading Mornings on Horseback, by David McCullough, which is a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. If you want to get inspired, read the biography of a successful person.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:     

Chocolate! It’s vitamin C for a writer’s brain. J

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:    

It came from my mother. If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all. Her other favorite adage was: Pretty is as pretty does. My mother was a very smart woman.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: MNR, Science Fiction/Crime

You might know me as “MNR” depending on when and where we’ve met. MNR is short for “Mark Niemann-Ross.” This drives the IT folks crazy when I ask for a corporate email address  like “mnr@somewhere.com.” They prefer mniemannross@somewhere.com, but seriously, who can remember how to spell that?

My latest written work is a contribution to Crooked V.2 – “Do-Ye0n Performs a Cost-Benefit Analysis on a Career Based on Questionable Activities.” I’ve released “Stupid Machine” – A (science fiction) murder mystery solved by a refrigerator. I’m currently prepping to write “Vicious Machine – A murder mystery caused by a refrigerator.”

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I’ve always scratched out stories. My mom was an interrupted journalist but continued to write stories for friends and family. She mourned her missed opportunity to write full time. I’d like to think I’m fulfilling her dream?

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      Way too long but just long enough. I rewrote Stupid Machine three times and threw out more words than the length of the final book. It was a cheap way to learn to write – cheaper than an MFA. There’s no better way to learn about writing than to crash your way through it.

I’ve stopped worrying about how long it takes finish a project. The finished idea only comes around as fast as it can – I need to be patient.

Has your publishing timeframe improved at all since your first publication?

Author:      Nope. It won’t. I’ll finish it when it’s ready.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      My short stories have appeared in Analog Magazine of Science Fiction and Fact, so in that way I’m traditionally published. Stupid Machine is self-published and I’m happy with that. I’m open to working with an agent/publisher, but until that happens, I’ll proceed with confidence.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I didn’t. I wrote what I know. The audience will have to sort themselves out. I’ve found  two demographics reading Stupid Machine: coders and murder fans. Sometimes they’re the same. I understand coders. Maybe someday I’ll understand murder fans better.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      Write the damn story. Publish the damn story.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:      I’m published at Amazon in both print and kindle. I’ve been pleased with Smashwords for everywhere else. The amount of time I have to fool around with publishing services is growing thin, so I watch numbers and economize. There’s lots of ways to get a book published; I assume if someone really wants to read what I write, they’ll find a way to buy the story.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I have a group of trusted readers. It’s difficult to get good critiques, especially since I’m working somewhere between technology and fiction. I cherish the folks who are able to bridge those two disciplines.

Marketing

What is your launch plan for your works?

Author:      Start with the low-hanging fruit and work outwards. Friends and family, then industry associates, then recognized experts, then general public. My time is limited, so I select activities I can support, complete those activities, then move on to the next. It’s really easy to lose focus with all of the companies who want to offer marketing opportunities.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I pester readers until they submit to my will.

How do you promote your content?

Author:      My next story is the best promotion for my current story. It’s endless. It’s tiring. I wish there was a magic formula. Sometimes people get lucky and famous.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Be famous, then your books will sell. Success is a subjective pursuit.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      If I learned something from the creation of a book, then I’m successful. I have the luxury of having an income from other sources, so the financial return on a book isn’t the primary indicator.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      Yep…I write Science Fiction.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Sub Genre: Hard. Sub-Sub Genre: Technology-gone-wrong.

I teach programming languages and small computers (Raspberry Pi) so I constantly trip over bugs and unintended machine behaviors. Those are no big deal until we trust our well-being to predictable technology.

I worry about what happens in the unplanned gaps between technologies. One company tests lawn mowers to make sure they’re safe. Another tests to make sure microwaves are safe. But what happens if you plug a lawn mower into a microwave? Nobody tested that. 

What could possibly go wrong?

If you think that sounds just stupid, you ought to educate yourself on what’s going on inside your car at 65 miles per hour.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      Just me. I teach technology. I write about technology. I write fiction about technology. It’s all related to the singular me.

How many works have you published?

Author:      Lots of shorts. One long.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      Sure. “Do-Ye0n Performs a Cost-Benefit Analysis on a Career Based on Questionable Activities” is part of Crooked V.2. It’s a background exploration of Do-Ye0n, an inept fuck-up. Everyone assumes criminals are masterminds. If they ARE masterminds, they fix the system so they aren’t criminals. At least, that’s what happens today. Criminals are the folks just short of manipulating society to believe they are doing the right thing. Do-Ye0n just doesn’t work hard enough. So he continues to fall off the edge of competency.

This is important to my writing. Masterminds are a fiction. Everyone is just trying to get it right. Criminals don’t aspire to be criminal – they aspire to survive and maybe a bit more.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      A common element? The gap between technologies. Quality assurance does their best to make things work right, but there’s always an edge case between THIS thing and THAT thing.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      Someone needed to write this thing. I’m the only person (I know of) with this combination of skills. So I was chosen to write it. I wish I had a better grasp of the medium, but I am what I am.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      Enjoy the story. Oh please…enjoy what I write.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      Stop using cliches. Use semi-colons, colons, dashes, and em-dashes correctly. Learn more about the stupid english language.

Seriously – programming languages are so much easier than english. Punctuation is predictable, spelling is absolute, the syntax makes sense. That leaves me to fixing bugs – but that’s just logical errors. Why can’t english be that simple?

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:      I love when characters reveal themselves. I know they are fictional, but they develop personalities. That’s also somewhat of a pain in the ass – some characters decided they didn’t want to cooperate with the overall story when it was too late to write them out. So I need to accommodate their needs. What a bunch of complainers.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      I admire Andy Weir. He works hard to make sure his stories exist within the bounds of physics.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      Oh gawd no. Read outside your genre. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who doesn’t like science fiction. As a result, I watch all sorts of movies and read books I would never have considered otherwise.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I scratch out an idea, then write, then fix the outline, then write, then plot. Characters tell me things about the story I didn’t know when I started. Pantser vs Plotter is an unnecessary bifurcation. Writing is an interactive process. You suggest a situation, then ask the characters what they are going to do. Sometimes they tell you the situation is wrong and you have to start over.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Face to face. Beers. Social media is a cesspool.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I write when the story demands to be written. There’s lots of gaps in my writing while the story sorts itself out. I write as fast as I can, but I’m not in control.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Interesting question, but this really doesn’t apply to my writing. I’m an author because I write. Stories need to be written. I’ve expressed an interest in writing them, so they show up at my doorstep.

A journey has a beginning and an end. The stories I write never really started – they always were waiting for me to get my shit together. They never end – they just pause until the next chapter starts. I’m kind of just an innocent bystander with a keyboard.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I hate killing off characters. I spend so much time learning about them, then they die. Dammit. But that’s the deal. If you’re going to write, you need to be emotional about these fictional characters. It doesn’t get any easier, but it does prepare you for when “real” people die.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Nobody “becomes” an author. You are, or you are not. There isn’t a merit badge you can earn. You can only write. Even if nobody publishes your writing, if you’re writing, you’re an author. That’s a relationship between you and the story.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      coffee shop music and chatter. I can’t write without background noise.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      1Q84. Before that, A Gentleman in Moscow.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      Chekhov’s gun.

I splatter news everywhere, but the most current is my website at http://niemannross.com

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Cheryl Carpinello, MG/YA Adventure

Hi, I’m Cheryl Carpinello. I write MG/YA myths/legends adventures. The Atlantean Horse, book 1 of The Feathers of the Phoenix, officially released on Sept. 23, 2022.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      After working with reluctant and non-readers in high school, I chose to target the younger kids in hopes of getting those not currently reading to come to enjoy reading. My successes in the classroom with Arthurian Legend and Stories from the Ancient Worlds became my avenue. Once I retired from teaching, I was able to devote time to writing.    

If you’ve published, how long did your first book take?

Author:     I published my first book, Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, in 2009. In between grading papers and teaching, it took me a little over two years to release. Since then, depending on the book or picture book, it still takes a good year, and sometimes a bit more, to write, produce, and publish a book.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I am an Indie Author through and through. I tried traditional, but found that I had no control over decisions being made about my books. I like being in control of my options although it requires a lot of work and time on my part.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      Once my book is finished and corrections from my two editors complete, I send it to my layout designer for paperback and ebook files. Once I have the ISBN, I get my cover done. Finally, I upload my files for publication on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Overdrive, Baker & Taylor, Scribd. I also use Draft2Digital as my distributor.

Marketing  

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author:      I ask when people buy my books direct from me to leave a review. I post on social media about the importance of reviews for authors. My blog tours usually bring in a number of reviews also.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author:      Consistency and variety. You need to be in front of readers consistently and use a variety of medias to do this.

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      I feel my success comes when I have kids come up to me and tell me that they have enjoyed my stories, and buy another book. I’ve had some who have read my Arthurian series 3 and 4 times!

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic? 

Author:      I write Arthurian Legend, Tales from the Ancient Worlds, and my picture book series Grandma/Grandpa’s Tales. My novels are shorter than typical middle grade/teen novels because my target readers balk at long books. My Arthurian Legends stories also have an illustration at the beginning of each chapter because reluctant and non-readers usually count how many pages they don’t have to read!

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      My target audience is Reluctant Readers, mainly ages 8/9-18; however, my books have appealed to mature audiences who may or may not be reluctant readers. My brand: Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers.

How many works have you published? 

Author:      4 Arthurian Legend, 3 Ancient World, 6 Grandma/Grandpa Tales, 1 Writing Journal, I book of Short Stories relating to my Arthurian Legend, and my grandson’s book: Cameron’s Book of Insects written when he was 9 years old. Total: 15

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      The Atlantean Horse is a unique adventure story that melds the ancient world with today’s world. Rosa and Jerome have been given the epic task to find and bring the five feathers of the Phoenix to the Atlantean Horse. When they have completed the five tasks, the prophecy says that the island of Atlantis will rise again so it’s people can finally come home.  Sound easy? Maybe, but not when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are pursuing the same and will stop at nothing to obtain the feathers.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      I help out author friends with promotion on Facebook and Twitter when I can. I have two author friends overseas and we exchange promo ideas, writing ideas, and what we are currently doing. It’s fun to keep in touch via email (we have never met in person).

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      A little of both of these. My characters tend to take over my stories so my writing mirrors their actions. Sometimes they like to run through certain parts of the story. At other times, they just want to enjoy their surroundings and experiences.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      I published my first book in 2009. Back then, writers who did this were not respected and were referred to as self-published or vanity authors. I’ve worked hard on my craft, belong to several professional organizations, and am a member of an author co-op out of England. I still bristle when people ask if I am self-published. I calmly but firmly inform them I am an Indie Author.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Be sure to write the best book you can, get it professionally edited, find a professional cover designer and layout designer. Write your book from beginning to end and then go back and do editing. Also: Develop a thick skin!!

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      Most of the time I’ve driven. I do a number of shows/conferences all year round promoting/selling my books. I do classroom visits around writing programs I’ve developed, and I talk with parents, grandparents, teachers, and principals about the importance of reading and writing.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I don’t have writer’s block. I’m constantly writing, whether it be on paper or in my brain. When my story comes to a stop, I move on to another part knowing that my characters will let me know when it’s time to come back to that spot.

Fun Stuff 

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      A variety: Mumford & Sons, OneRepublic, Elton John, Mark Knopfler, Pink, James Blunt to name a few.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Usually on my couch with a concert DVD on. I love music when I write. My favorites are Mumford & Sons and OneRepublic. Sometimes I do go to a small restaurant for coffee and a bite of lunch and write there, minus any distractions.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      The Ape who Guards the Balance (Amelia Peabody historical mystery series) for the 3th time through the 25-book series.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I do not, but my daughter and husband always read my stories and give me honest feedback. My two good friends/authors always read and give me their read on my stories. I do that in return for them. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Don’t worry about rewriting while you’re writing. Turn off the critical side of your brain and let your creative side tell the story. It knows how to do this!

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Peter Marlton, Literary Fiction

Hi, I’m Peter Marlton. I write literary fiction. Eternal Graffiti, my first novel, is published by The Story Plant.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:   I’ve been writing one thing or another most of my life. Songs, poems, plays, screenplays, stories, and a couple of bad novels before Eternal Graffiti.  When I was about ten I pretended to start to write a book about Willie Mays by copying the first few pages of Arnold Hano’s biography of Willie in a notebook.  I put quotes around all of it.  I’m not sure why I did that, but when I found the notebook years later, I had a good laugh.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:  I’m a slow writer and I’m never fully satisfied. In the last couple of weeks I’ve read through parts of Eternal Graffiti that I’d revise if I could. Small things, but still. It took about seven years to write. The first few years it was on and off.  The last three years it was non-stop.  I revised it countless times, worked with an editor who convinced me to cut 16,000 words, and revised it some more. I was still revising during the proof-reading process before it went to the printer. But I’m happy with it.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:    I’ve written all the above over many years, except maybe an epic.  Each one of these forms has its own way of luring me into the inner sanctum. It’s hard to describe what I mean in some ways. It’s sort of a mysterious process. Something will happen and I’ll “feel” which way I should go with it. For example, my short screenplay, Memorial Day, which was a finalist in the Austin Screenplay Competition, came to me all at once “as a film.” I knew there was no other way to write that story.  I write songs all the time. I love recording.  I’ve been a musician and songwriter since I was 12. Most of the songs I write should not be imposed on anyone ever, but every now and then they are OK. I have a few on my website.  I don’t write poems very often and I haven’t written a short story in years because I was working on the novel.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      My fiction would always be labeled literary fiction. Plays and screenplays often have more comedic elements. I don’t know why that is.

How many works have you published?

Author:    I’ve published a few short stories and a couple of essays, and now a novel.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:     It’s a novel called Eternal Graffiti.  It’s a wild ride. Drugs, sex,  homelessness, true love, friendship, betrayal, catastrophic loss, suicide, and a resolution.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:     My stories always seem to be about characters who are not in the “common orbit” of mainstream American life.  They tend to be outcasts who invariably face the same challenges we all do. It is character-driven storytelling and often I don’t know where it’s all going until I sit down at night and write and find out.  I also seem to have a thread of a kind of magic or mysticism that appears every now and then.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:   My goal was always to succeed by publishing writing that lots of people enjoy reading. But writing is hard. Very hard for me.  And the thing is, I’ve never been able to keep from writing even when I wanted to. There were a few years I just wanted the compulsion to stop because I was terrible at it and what was the point? But I couldn’t stop. I’d go a little nuts when I didn’t write. When I finally just gave in to it, come what may, the gloom lifted, and I started to improve.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:     If somebody reads Eternal Graffiti and finds that when they finish they are moved and need a little time to themselves, even just two minutes to feel whatever it is they’re feeling and think for a while, I will have succeeded inwhat I set out to do – write the kind of book I want to read

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author:      I’m very busy writing my next novel.

What has been your favorite part of the writing and querying or publishing process?

Author:     The querying process is awful. Every writer I know hates it.  The publishing process with the great people at The Story Plant, from start to finish, has been fabulous.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:    This is an eclectic list, in no particular order, and it’s probably more accurate to say they are influences rather than having written similar books:  Denis Johnson, Rachel Cusk, Philip Roth, OttesaMosphegh, JD Salinger, Raymond Chandler, Emily St. John Mandel, Lawrence Durrell.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:   I’ve always read literary fiction but not only that. Sometimes I go on binges reading Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler, PG Wodehouse, Georges Simenon.  I think the more you read, whether it’s in a single genre or in many genres, the more likely you will come up with new ideas or approaches to writing.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work?Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I never use an outline. My characters usually take the story where it needs to go. This can create serious problems with blind alleys and digressions.  But there’s magic to it too.  Things happen that you could never have dreamed up ahead of time. Characters can appear out of nowhere.  In Eternal Graffiti, my character Kiera appeared first as a voice heard by Owen, the protagonist.  I had no idea who she was. She turned out to be the heart and soul of the novel, the crucial character around which everything revolved. She’s a 19-year-old UCLA student from Ireland. I had to go to Ireland to find out where she was from and what her life had been like.  The book took about seven years to write, off and on.  It was a pleasure to write, not knowing what was going to happen next. I also really like the revision process. That’s a whole other kind of hypnosis.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:     I’ve never really networked per se.  It’s not something I feel comfortable doing—I’m too self-conscious—although with the publication of my novel that’s becoming easier for me I think because people are making it easier. 

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:     When I say I’m a slow writer what I mean is I am slow to produce something I’m willing to share with people.  I actually write pretty quickly. It’s the revisions that take so much time.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      Having to work a fulltime job. Major drag.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      I think the best way to approach it is to expect to be rejected because that is the most likely outcome. It’s like playing the lottery—you have to be in it to win it, but your chances of winning are very low.  If you submit and expect to be accepted you will likely suffer serious disappointment, rather than just disappointment (if that makes sense).  I highly recommend Googling something like “great novels that were rejected.”  There you’ll find great company and it can help knowing that if you keep submitting it’s very possible that each NO is one no closer to a yes.  It can help you understand that the gatekeepers are flawed human beings who can get things very, very wrong.  For example, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was turned down by eleven publishers before finding a home.  It makes you wonder if the eleven who said no have ever forgiven themselves.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      The main thing, no matter what else happens, is to write and keep writing.  If you pursue an MFA that will force you to keep writing.  If you can’t afford an MFA or are unable to go for some reason, you’re on your own. It’s good to find a writers group with people you trust and work that way.  Make sure you involved with serious people like you.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I’d try to stop beating myself up all the time. I’d try to stop telling myself I’m a fraud and have no business submitting my work to anyone.

Are you a driven & self-advocating author, a gun-shy promoter, or a total marketing procrastinator?

Author:      I do what I can to promote my work but it’s a process I’m only now becoming familiar with. It’s a little weird, kind of like, “Look at me!  It’s all about me!” 

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      I honestly can’t help it.  I have to write. It’s been this way my whole life. Part of a mental illness!

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I don’t suffer from writer’s block if it’s defined as a prolonged period of being unable to write.  I can almost always write. But I have to add that producing writing doesn’t mean it’s good writing.

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      My friends have been very supportive.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      That writers are worth talking to at parties.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I always listen to music while I write.  What I listen to depends on my mood of course. It could be anything from Mozart to Billie Eilish.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      The End.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or awarm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      I used to write in cafes a lot but my favorite, a place called Bauhuas in Seattle,closed down and became an upscale Italian bike store.  I usually write at home, although when I’m in Paris, where I try go every year to write, I write in cafes.  I love that. 

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Nana by Émile Zola, and I’m finishing I Buried Paul by fellow Story Plant writer Bruce Ferber.  I’m about to start The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:   I really don’t. I’ve learned to write honestly and somewhat fearlessly and not worry about what anybody thinks. I think if you try to be unique you’re probably going to end up a cliché sooner or later.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      Two main things, I think. First, that after years of teaching myself to write I can finally manage to produce good work. Second, with respect to the authorship process, I enjoy the writing life in general. I feel at home in it.

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:      I have three friends I met at a writers retreat. One lives in France, another in the UK, and one in Toronto.  I live in Seattle. We’ve known each other for years and keep in touch often.  It’s a great friendship and I feel very lucky.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      Someone once told me, “If you feel like screaming, scream.”  That was what I really needed to hear at the time.

Author Website:   http://www.petermarlton.com

Twitter: @petermarlton1

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Michael J. Brooks, Science Fiction

My name is Michael J. Brooks. I am a science fiction author. My most recent work is Republic Falling: Advent of a New Dawn (book #1 of the Wars of the New Humanity series). Currently in progress is Republic Under Siege: Threat from Within (book # 2 of the Wars of the New Humanity series).

From Planning to Published

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:  I am an independent author. Being independent, I don’t have a publishing company influencing my work, and I don’t have to send submission after submission and get rejection after rejection before publishing, or seek out an agent to get my work into publishers’ hands. I can cut out the middle man and release my work when its ready.

What platforms do you use to publish your works?

Author:  My work is published on Amazon (ebook and paperback) and Barnes & Noble. Ingram Spark is my wholesale distributor and allows my books to be available online through multiple retailers, and possibly get picked up by book stores.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author: Reedsy is a great marketplace to find editors, but the professionals on Reedsy can be expensive. Fiverr is a good place as well to find editors, and you can find some there who are less expensive than Reedsy but are still great. You can also find beta readers on Fiverr.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author: I have a website and social media platforms that I use to promote my books and communicate with potential readers and my fans.

How do you get reviews for your books?

Author: In the past, I got reviews from groups on Goodreads or Facebook, sending people free books for a free, honest review. Now, I have discovered Book Sirens and NetGalley, which allows readers and reviewers to read advanced reader copies (ARCs) of authors’ books, and then those readers and reviewers post their reviews to sites like Amazon when an author’s book is released. A lot of big publishing companies use NetGalley. There is a cost associated with both websites, Book Sirens and NetGalley, but I intend to include them in my marketing budget. I am excited about using these sites in the future to see what results they bring.

Also, I enter writing competitions, like the BookLife Prize and Readers’ Favorite’s competition, which, even if you don’t place in any of their categories, you get a critic’s report/critique that you can use for marketing.

How do you promote your content?

Author: I promote my content through social media and the use of Amazon ads.

What do you think is the most critical marketing component or tactic for becoming successful?

Author: I think the most critical component is getting reviews and praise pre-release and getting reviews after the release of your book. Reviews are social proof of the quality of your work.

About Your Work

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author: I mainly write science fiction but intend to write some urban fantasy and fantasy in the future.

How many works have you published?

Author: I have published three works: Exodus Conflict, Exodus Conflict: New Genesis, and Republic Falling: Advent of a New Dawn. My latest work, still in progress, is Republic Under Siege: Threat from Within.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:  Republic Falling: Advent of a New Dawn is book one of the Wars of the New Humanity series, a page-turning sci-fi thriller that explores socioeconomic hierarchies, class warfare, ascribed status, group identity, war politics, and more, in a world where humanity wages battle in mechanized combatwear called Shells, humans Link in mental communion, and life throughout the universe is vast.

In the book, Randal Scott, Guardian of the Commonwealth Defense Force (CDF), wants nothing more than to deliver retribution to the man who killed his mother and mentally scarred him forever. That man is his father, former CDF captain, Arson Scott. After establishing a wonderful life for his family and nurturing Randy into manhood, Arson mysteriously joined the insurgency threatening to collapse humanity’s intergalactic republic and partook in his wife’s murder. Randy’s lover, Guardian Stacie Spencer, also enlists into the CDF for personal reasons, to forge a life free of her aristocratic parents’ control. She will shape her destiny, no one else.

Now Randy and Stacie, who are Linked (joined in mental communion), enter a bloody war that has Randy questioning both of the combat forces in opposition, the CDF and the insurgency known as the Coalition of Rebel Factions.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author: I hope that the themes within my work will resonate with readers. For example, Republic Falling explores the theme of seeing things from the perspective of others to sympathize with their misfortune.

What part of the author process are you working on or studying most now?

Author: The part I am working on the most is marketing. Marketing is how authors get books in the hands of readers. So I am constantly studying how to market my books, and I am always looking for new ways to market my books.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:  WC Bauers, William C Dietz, Linda Nagata, David Weber, Nicholas Sansbury, Richard Baker, and others. I found them by browsing books on Amazon and Scribd.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author: Yes, I have always read in my genre. It makes it easier to create new stories because those books provide influence and inspiration and lead me to new ideas. Therefore, I am always reading science fiction, to continue to learn more about writing the genre.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:  I am what you would call a pantster or gardener. I’m not like an architect who can develop and outline of a story from beginning to end and then write it. I start with an idea for a story, and then that idea grows as I write. The same is true with my characters. I’ll have an idea for a character, then as I write that character, they grow and change and I discover who they are.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author: One of the hardest things to overcome would be watching my book not get any sales at times. Sometimes you start to question yourself and your skills. But I believe that selling books has a lot to do with not only writing skills but marketing as well. Another hard thing to overcome is the stigma that comes with being an independent author. I feel independent authors’ books get stigmatized as being “low quality.” And yes, a lot may be low quality in terms of editing and story development, but not all of them. I believe it is up to us independent authors to put out good quality to fight that stigma.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:  I combat writers block by stepping away from the computer and doing something I like, such as working out or going on a run. What also helps me is reading science fiction books as I write my book, which is something I do constantly to get influence and ideas, and discover new verbs and adjectives that I might use.

What literary/writer-based term did you not know when you started that has become important and relevant to you?

Author:  When I first started independently publishing back in 2012 I wasn’t aware of these terms: advanced reader copy (ARC), blurb, query letter, sell sheet,  developmental edit, line edit, copy edit, beta reader. These terms are definitely important for me as an author. They are important to competence of the profession.

Fun Stuff

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author: I write in my home office or coffee shops. I love coffee shops!

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author: I am currently reading Blood and Steel by Josh Hayes and Devon C. Ford and 36 Streets by T.R. Napper.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author: I have learned that I am an exceptional world-builder, as told to me by critiques and editors.

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author: Coffee or an energy drink like Zoa, Monster, or XS.

How can readers follow you and learn more about your books?

Author: They can go to www.authormbrooks.com and they can follow me on Twitter at @AuthorMBrooks.

Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Steve Brock, Mystery

I’m Steve Brock. My first novel is Half Moon Lake, which I would say falls into the mystery/conspiracy genre.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but life intervened when I was young. Last year I realized that at 61 years old I was running out of time, so I made the time to do it. 

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      I began the first of September last year and finished the manuscript just after the new year. Once that was complete There was the editing, both mine and a professional editor I hired. That process took another couple of months. Then there was hiring a book cover designer and working with him. Finally, figuring out how to actually publish the finished book took more time. All together it took about seven months. I think the next one will be quicker though.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      I published independently this first time. I didn’t feel like going through the process of trying to find an agent. My understanding is that can be an arduous task, and I was prepared to take on the publishing process on my own. I was also told that traditional publishing has been slow to change with the times and a lot of authors previously published traditionally are now choosing to go independent.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I was lucky enough to have a relative who is a long-time friend of an author who has published 58 books so far. I was introduced to her and she was more than willing to help me along the way, offering advice and critiques as I progressed. Without her assistance, it would have been much more difficult to know how I was doing during the writing process. 

About Your Work

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      This is my first novel and it happens to fall into the mystery/conspiracy genre. I’m not going to say that is the only genre I’ll write, however. I actually have a couple of new book ideas that I’m working on that would perhaps cross genres into science fiction. I say cross genres because if I write the book as I have it in my mind I wouldn’t consider it totally science fiction, but it would contain elements of SciFi.  

How many works have you published? 

Author:      This is my first published work although I have been writing all my life, both for pleasure and for work.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent publication?

Author:      The book is titled Half Moon Lake. The story revolves around the main character who has life all laid out in front of him until a personal tragedy causes him to leave it all behind. He moves far from his home and begins a life of solitude working as a float-plane pilot flying people in and out of remote locations in northern Minnesota. His new life gets upended when he is accused of being involved in the disappearance of a group of campers he flew to a remote cabin. To make matters worse, a rival from his past reappears with vengeance on his mind.

Do you have other supporting services like a podcast, blog, webinars, courses, video channel?

Author:      I do not, but it’s early and I’m still learning what might work best for me. 

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

Author:      Yes. I took a course that is offered through The Great Courses channel on Amazon. The courses they offer include just about any topic you can think of. They are college-level courses usually consisting of a series of lectures presented by a college professor. I found a course titled, How to Write Best Selling Fiction. It was very well presented, and I learned a lot from it.     

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’ve found I like to start with creating a main character first. After that I work on a plot, but I’m not totally a Plotter. I like to know where I’m taking a story before I write, but I don’t require the whole thing to be worked out before I begin. I also find as I write I come up with ideas to make the story better.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      When I was writing this novel I tried to write every day, and for a while I set a daily goal for myself. That was helpful during the beginning of the writing process, but as I got closer to the end, and the whole story was complete in my mind, I found I didn’t need a daily goal any longer. There were days toward the end when I wrote into the midnight hour.

Struggles

How did your family and friends react to your writing? Was it what you expected from them?

Author:      Other than my wife, who knew I’d always wanted to be a writer, it was a total surprise to the rest of the family when I told them I had written my first novel. The immediate response was typically “I want to read it”, I don’t know if that was because they thought it would be a train-wreck they just couldn’t help but look at it or not. Of course, they have all been very complimentary after reading it, and they ask if I plan to write another one.   

Fun Stuff 

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      I always have the TV on in the background. I find a program I’m only marginally interested in and I write as it plays. Usually, I find when I finish writing that the program had ended long ago and I don’t know what is currently on. I can’t write in silence, I need that background noise. 

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Most of the time I write on the family room sofa. I do have an office I retreat into when necessary. I don’t always write using my laptop. I really enjoy the tactical experience of putting pen to paper. There are several scenes in my book that I wrote by hand using my favorite fountain pen and journal. I would type those scenes into the computer later. Sometimes I find writing by hand is not only enjoyable, but it slows down my thought process when I’m working on a section that I haven’t completely worked out in my mind.

How can readers follow you and learn more about your books? 

Author Website:     BrockNovels.com

Book Sales Pages: Half Moon Lake on Amazon