Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alicia Rades

AliciaRades With Book

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alicia Rades to Layered Pages to talk with me about her book, Fire in Frost. By day, Alicia is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor. When inspiration strikes, she is also an author. Alicia has been captivated by the YA paranormal and supernatural genre since reading The Seer series by Linda Joy Singleton when she was 12 years old, and most of her stories are born out of the love for the genre. In college, Alicia majored in professional writing. Alicia lives in Wisconsin with her husband and too many fish to count.

Alicia, please tell me a little about your book, Fire in Frost.

Fire in Frost is a young adult paranormal story. It follows Crystal Frost, who learns that she’s psychic and is faced with helping people thanks to her new abilities. I originally wrote the story for NaNoWriMo 2013, but it took over a year to rewrite it and get it to where I wanted it to be. It is my first full-length novel, and I have several other stories in progress for this series.

What was the inspiration for your story?

Fire in Frost was born out of my love for young adult paranormal stories. I love stories involving psychics and ghosts, so when I decided to take a stab at NaNoWriMo, I knew that was the type of story I wanted to write. The rest of it kind of evolved with that idea.

How does Crystal cope when she discovers her psychic ability?

At first, Crystal thinks that she’s going crazy. Then she witnesses her mom and her friends conducting a séance and starts to wonder if it might be real. When she confronts her mom about what she saw, she finally accepts her abilities as truth, but it’s really with the support of her family and friends that she’s able to cope with them.

What is Justine Hanson’s role in the story?

Justine is one of the most popular girls at school. When she overhears Crystal telling her best friend Emma about her abilities, she demands that Crystal help her—or she’ll tell the whole school that Crystal is a witch.

Will you please share an excerpt?

 “Crystal.” Emma’s voice seemed far off, a distant hum in my confusion.

The faintness I felt just moments ago returned. My heart pounded in my ears, and for a second my knees felt unstable. I gripped the edge of the fundraising table for support.

Emma snapped her fingers in front of my face. “Crystal,” she said again as her voice came back into focus.

I was suddenly whipped back into reality, dazed. “Wh—what?”

“Are you okay?” Emma asked with a tone of serious concern. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I let the statement sink in for a moment. “Yeah,” I said. But I wasn’t answering her initial question. I was agreeing with her latter statement.

Where can readers buy your book?

Fire in Frost is available in digital and print from major retailers including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

FIRE-IN-FROST Alicia Rades book BRAG

How did you come up with the title for your book?

The title came about as a collaboration with a friend. Nothing really “clicked,” so she suggested an exercise of writing down words or themes that represented the book. One of her suggestions was “Flame in Frost,” since Frost is the main character. I preferred “Fire in Frost,” and that’s when I knew I had something.

Who designed your book cover?

Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Designs

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

I generally wait it out. I’ll go do something else while I wait for inspiration to come. If it doesn’t, I’ll explore alternative story lines until something “clicks.”

Do you stick with just genre? 

Generally, I write just paranormal, but I am open to other genres. I have a romance and a sci-fi on Wattpad.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

There are two places I generally write: at my desk or on the couch, but you’ll generally find me in my office.

I imagine my writing process is much like anyone else’s. I search for inspiration and write an outline, then I get to work on the first draft. For me, it’s easier to write the thing in one go, although that can take a couple of weeks to put down so many words!

Then, I revise, revise, revise, get feedback, revise some more, repeat.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

You mean there are other hobbies besides writing? *smile* Of course reading is up there on the top of the list. I also take short backpacking trips in the summer, but of course much of my time hiking is spent brainstorming new story ideas!

Author Links:

Website

Goodreads

Amazon

Facebook

Twitter

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alicia Rades who is the author of, Fire in Frost, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Fire in Frost, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Emily Wibberley

Emily Webberley BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Emily Wibberley today to talk with me about her book, Sacrificed. Emily grew up in the South Bay where she spent her formative years battling zombies on her Xbox, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and voraciously reading everything from The Hunger Games to Jane Austen, where her love for feisty young heroines was born. After graduating from Princeton University Magna Cum Laude in 2014, she began writing. Her debut novel, Sacrificed, was named a finalist in the Young Adult category of the 2015 International Book Awards, the Young Adult category of the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Awards, and in the Young Author category of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Since its release, Sacrificed has spent more than four months as a Kindle Top Ten Teen and Young Adult Bestseller. When she isn’t reading the latest YA book, Emily enjoys watching kick-butt action movies with her two rescue German Shepherds, Hudson and Bishop, named after characters from James Cameron’s Aliens.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I believe I was looking through some book covers on Amazon when I first decided to self-publish and came across a couple titles with the B.R.A.G. medallion on them. As soon as I saw it, I made a note to myself to apply when my book was ready, not even thinking that I would stand a chance to win one of my very own!

Please tell me a little about your book, Sacrificed (The Last Oracle Series Book I).

Sacrificed tells the story of Clio, the youngest daughter of the merciless Oracle of Sheehan. Clio wants nothing to do with her mother’s dangerous secrets, but when her entire family is murdered by Mannix, the king’s adviser, Clio inherits the Oracle’s power, a power she never wanted and doesn’t understand. Hunted by Mannix, Clio is forced to flee her home in Sheehan and seek refuge in a foreign city where oracles are forbidden. If she’s found out, she will be sacrificed atop its great pyramid. Clio has no choice but to win the trust of Riece, an enemy warrior. Despite the undeniable attraction between them, Clio knows that if he finds out who she really is, he won’t hesitate to execute her. Clio tries to hide her budding powers, but the Visions she keeps having of Mannix and his barbarian army slaughtering her people torture her conscience. She alone has the strength and foresight to stop him, but only if she can embrace her destiny and sacrifice everything.

SacrificedCover Emily Webbereley BRAG

Who is, Mannix?

In short Mannix is the villain of the novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll say that he’s the king’s adviser, and he will stop at nothing until he eliminates all threats to his control.

What are Clio strengths and weaknesses?

Clio’s biggest strength and her biggest weakness are actually one in the same: her tenacity. Clio will stop at nothing to do what she believes is right, especially when it comes to protecting the ones she loves. Obstacle after obstacle could be thrown at her, and she won’t back down. However, such single-mindedness often leaves her blind to the world around her. She is slow to change and admit her mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that she’s incapable of it, because at the end of the day, Clio will do whatever it takes, even if it means turning her back on everything she once believed in.

Can you tell me a little about her relationship with Riece?

Clio’s relationship with Riece is complicated to say the least. They meet when Clio is a slave bound for sacrifice in the kingdom of Morek, where Riece is the highest ranking warrior and the warden of her prison. Each knows what they must do—for Clio it means winning the trust of her captor and then betraying him, and for Riece it means turning Clio over to be sacrificed when the time comes—but as they clash time and time again and learn more about each other, they both find it harder and harder to do what needs to be done. To make matters more complicated, Riece harbors no kindness toward oracles, and if Clio ever let him in enough for him to learn her secret, he would likely execute her himself.

What is an example of a challenge Clio faces in the story?

Well, as I brought up above, one of the major challenges Clio faces is her imprisonment in a slave pyramid. If she doesn’t find a way to use her powers to escape (without letting on to her captor, Riece, who she really is) then she is bound to be sacrificed atop the pyramid for the whole city to see.

Surely her young age plays a factor in decisions she makes. Was there challenges for you to make it believable or realistic?

Absolutely. But, it’s important to keep in mind that Clio lives in a very different world than you and I. Where she’s from she has to grow up quickly. Everything she goes through forces her to mature over the course of the story, but it’s her young age that contributes to her naïve stubbornness. So even though I tried to think back to how I thought about and saw the world as a 15 year old, I knew that Clio was likely more mature than I was at the age.
How did you come to choose the Mesoamerican culture as the inspiration for your setting and period?

I have just always loved Mesoamerican culture ever since I read Aztec by Gary Jennings as a young girl. So much fantasy today takes its inspiration from Western Europe, specifically Medieval Western Europe. Don’t get me wrong, I love these settings, but I also think there are so many other rich and inspiring cultures out there to look at.

Who designed your book cover?

Sacrificed was really a team effort on the cover. I bought a beautiful pre-made cover from Adrijus Guscia from rockingbookcovers.com and then added the pyramid myself so that is was more personalized to my world and my story.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Titles are seriously so hard for me. I believe Sacrificed was already finished before I thought of the title. For both Sacrificed and Forsworn (Book II in the series) the titles came from the theme of the book as well as Clio’s character arc. I can’t go into much more detail than that though without giving away some major spoilers!

What are you working on next?

I just put out the second book in The Last Oracle Series, so I’m gearing up to start outlining book three very soon. In the meantime I have been working on a YA contemporary piece with a writing partner, which I hope to finish up very soon!

Do you stick with just genre?

So far everything I have is definitely in the YA realm, but I’ve done fantasy, contemporary, and I have plans for an urban fantasy and even a sci-fi piece. I’m sure one day I’ll write something more adult, but for now I can’t get enough YA.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

This mostly happens to me in the outlining process rather than the writing process, since I make sure to have every single story beat worked out before I set pen to paper (so to speak). When I do get stuck, I’ll try to walk away for a while. Usually when I’m doing something else, the answer will come to me. Reading other books often gets the ideas flowing as well, and if it gets really dire, then I sit down and think hard about what I want the theme to be and what I want Clio to learn by the end of the book. Having those two pieces figured out unlocks everything.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I write in my bedroom, either at my desk, or more likely, on my bed. I have to be very strict and diligent with my process, otherwise I would spend all day reading, so I always, always,put together a very detailed outline that is often about forty pages long before I even start to write. When the outline is done, I jump into writing and set myself page goals every day that I absolutely must accomplish before I can pick up anything to read.

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

As I am writing this, I’m actually partaking of my daily writing fuel: Greek yogurt and granola.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

Well, besides reading, I sing and play a couple instruments, but I must confess, you’re probably more likely to find me playing a video game of some kind if I’m not reading or writing.

Author Links:

Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon

 

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Emily Wibberley who is the author of, Sacrificed (The Last Oracle Series Book I), our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Sacrificed (The Last Oracle Series Book I), merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Author & B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Gerry Renert’s Self-Publishing Experience

Gerry Renert Book Cover BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Gerry Renert today to talk with me about his self-publishing experience. Gerry has been a writer/TV producer for over twenty years.  He began his writing career when he was eleven years old (under protest) on the blackboard of Miss Peterson’s sixth grade class.  Once out in the real world, he wrote television commercials, which lead to his meeting a TV star who gave him a shot at writing TV sitcoms.  Luckily, he ended up writing episodes for two of the highest rated TV series in the history of CBS Television.  In 2002, he co-created the animated preschool TV series, ToddWorld, which aired in most countries around the world. The series has won three “Parents Choice” awards, an “iParenting” Award and has been EMMY nominated three times for “Outstanding Animated Children’s Program.” His two picture books in the “Nathan Series” have won “Mom’s Choice” Gold Awards.  His first storybook App, “Brave Rooney,” was included in the popular information series, “iPad Kid’s Apps For Dummies. “The second in the series, “Brave Rooney and the Super-Sized Superheroes,” has won a “Mom’s Choice” Gold Award, a Childrens eBook Award (CEBA) and a B.R.A.G Medallion. He’s been a long-standing member of the Writers Guild of America and currently president of his own company, SupperTime Entertainment.  

Gerry, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

Once my children’s stories proved themselves as interactive book apps on iTunes, I knew it would be worth the investment of turning the first two titles into eBooks for Amazon and all the other possible venues. For me, it’s all about the story and characters and when people responded to these aspects positively on iTunes, I felt the confidence to bring my books into other formats.

What has your experience been like along the way?

The physical publishing part has been the easiest aspect. Of course, you need to work with a savvy enough book designer who has good knowledge of translating your books into whatever graphic formats are needed. The rest is all about marketing which is never easy.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

Marketing. Marketing. Marketing. Prior to writing kid’s books, I was a Creative Director at a large Los Angeles Advertising agency. Having worked on many Fortune 500 brands, I felt I knew most everything you needed to know about marketing anything. Unfortunately, I forgot that while working in advertising, I had the luxury of working with the client’s money.   With my books, I had to be extremely judicious in how I spent my pennies. And with so much competition, I realized breaking-through was much more difficult than I imagined.

What have you learned in this industry?

I’ve learned that self-publishing is a very difficult industry but highly rewarding if you’re successful at it. I’m lucky in the fact I ‘m a partner in a kid’s entertainment company, SupperTime Entertainment, which creates and produces kid’s animated TV, in addition to kid’s books, so I have some experience in reaching moms. My partner comes from publishing where she was an editor for a Penguin imprint. She’s been an invaluable asset in helping me edit and launch my latest book series.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Although some of the one-stop-shopping places (i.e.editing, printing, distribution) sound attractive, I’d recommend staying away from them and devote the initial energy into finding the right graphic artist/designer to work with and doing as many of the other services you can on your own. Once your book is published, I’d do some PR, starting with self-initiated local PR and, if you can afford it, hire someone with national consumer PR experience. If your book is a children’s book, you’d want a PR person who’s well connected with the top Parenting sites and Mommy Bloggers.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Getting the etitle onto Amazon is not difficult but, as I mentioned above, getting enough awareness is always challenging. If you’d like to go the print route, there are several good print-on-demand operations, and I’d recommend printing enough copies for authors to do local readings at schools, libraries, etc.  Distribution into bookstores is something you’ll need a rep for. I’d also advise them to be prepared to spend an indefinite amount of time on contacting reviewers and, of course, marketing.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I’m always updating my FB page with award notices, news stories that are related to my book themes and any kind of positive chatter that is supportive. I’ve paid for several FB ads, but haven’t found they generate enough activity to warrant the ad. I have two twitter accounts – one for my name and another for the lead character in the book series. I tweet out news stories that would be important to moms, regarding building self-esteem for kids, improving diet, etc. Unfortunately, I don’t devote the necessary time to social media and spend probably 20 minutes a week on this.

What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

Parenthood.com, Mom’s Magazine, LA Parent, Friday Night Books, Mom’s Favorite Stuff, Dad Does It All, Mami2Mommy. I also write guest blogs for writing advisors like Jane Friedman

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I see the industry growing as the traditional trade publishers continue to focus on name authors and name brands, making it almost impossible for first time authors to get published.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

I think the “one-stop-shopping” places should be more transparent.   I find a lot of “bait and switch” offers where you’re offered all their services for one price, but as you get into it you find out the services and costs are much more a la carte.

How long have you been an indie author?

Four years.

Buying links to Brave Rooney and the Super-Sized Superheroes.

Amazon

Or buy the interactive version (MY PARTICULAR FAVORITE) via this link: itunes

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Mauro

Lisa Mauro BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lisa Mauro to char with me today about her book, The Place We Went to Yesterday. Lisa is a novelist and blogger. When she’s not breaking pivot tables during her day job in the pharmaceutical industry, you can find her watching The Office on repeat. She lives near Boston, MA with her better half, Brian Sfinas.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first heard about IndieBrag from my editor, Harmony Kent. She had been awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion for her novel, The Glade, and she suggested that I submit my book for consideration.

Please tell me about your book, The Place We Went to Yesterday.

The story is loosely-based on a very close friend’s experiences growing up in a group home. Ultimately this is the story of a teenager from a low-income and abusive family, who is just trying to find her way in the world.

The Place We Went to Yesterday

Why did you choose New York for the setting of your story?

I am a NYC native. Born in Brooklyn (though raised in South Florida), I lived there for most of my life so it’s very easy for me to capture the essence of the place.

What is the High Line?

The High Line used to be an elevated train track that was abandoned. However, years ago, restoration was begun and it’s since been turned into a park.

What are Ella’s strengths and weaknesses?

Ella is very independent and intelligent but she is also naïve and full of crippling self-doubt.

What is a conflict that Ella has with her mother, Marta?

Life! Her very life is a major conflict with her mother as she is a child of rape. This creates tension in the family from the very outset of the story.

Please share an excerpt?

I used to dig through Tia Paola’s photo albums when I was younger. I would take all of them out and lie on my stomach with my feet bent at the knees, swinging above me, and flip through the pages with ease—and only rarely had to ask for clarification about who someone might be. For the most part, they were all people I knew.

My favorite was a cracked, worn and faded photo with a wrinkled-faced woman in front of a palm tree. She had a scarf on her head, something I found strange as she was clearly in a tropical climate. I brought the photo to Tia and asked her about it. Her face softened and she said, “Esa es mi madre.” Her mother. She never offered any further explanation or details about her, so I simply created my own.

Over the years, I had managed to compile the story, but like a sieve, so much of it fell through the cracks. Malda grew up in Puerto Rico in the 1960s, a place with sharp contrasts—teals against light beige sand, pastels against sky, and black beans against white rice. Her father was relatively non-existent and I always had the sense they all preferred it that way.

She and her sisters grew up in a small and flimsy home just outside the slums of Cataño. It barely withstood the winds of a relatively calm storm, but the heavy ones they experienced always meant for major repairs. Local homes were built on stilts to keep the floorboards above the rising tides. In pictures, I have seen my grandmother—stoic—standing against the peeling white paint on the outside of their wooden home.

My grandfather made random and generally unwelcomed appearances, and according to Tia Paola, he did at times provide some financial support. He wasn’t steadily employed and I had the sense that he had no real skill other than drinking. The girls spent most of their lives in poverty, but they didn’t feel neglected since this is what they were surrounded by. It was their ‘normal’.

My grandmother was both the matriarch and patriarch of the family. She used the little bit of money she received from my grandfather to provide for the extras—a pair of shoes or a new dress for one of the girls. Malda, being the oldest, generally received the new items, and they were passed on to her younger sisters as she grew out of them. This wasn’t the way it was in our home. Despite being the oldest child, I typically received things last.

My grandmother sold small arts and crafts at the port of San Juan. Although Cataño is only ten miles away, there was no direct route by foot and cars were uncommon given their cost. When the ferry—La Lancha de Cataño—was implemented in the 1950s, it opened up opportunities for those in town to travel across the bay.

My grandmother spent the nickel fare each way, her shoulders loaded with her wares, and made her way to her stall near the port before the girls were even awake. Unlike the mothers I saw in my neighborhood, my grandmother was the one gone from sunup to sundown. She was the primary provider for her family, and despite there hardly ever being enough resources to go around, she was determined to provide for them without handouts from well-intentioned neighbors who could barely afford the assistance they so frequently offered.

My grandmother was a strong woman and a great negotiator. Tourists came into port looking to buy inexpensive items from the ‘natives’. These were items of little cost or consequence to them. They bought dresses and baskets, and rugs and small metal trinkets from the various vendors. They would depart the ship with soft eyes and meander through the stalls for the short amount of time they were in port. To the chagrin of the operators, rarely did they sign up for any island tours.

Is there a message in your story you hope readers will grasp?

Yes! It doesn’t matter where your starting point is, if you have a destination in mind, and the willingness to do whatever it takes, you can get there.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I wanted to create an air of mystery around the place that became Ella’s escape, so this seemed to fit well.

Who designed your book cover?

I designed the book cover myself. A friend of mine who lives in NYC was kind enough to take a walk along The High Line in Manhattan to take some photos for me. I was fortunate enough to have so many wonderful shots to choose from that it made it difficult to settle on a cover.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I tend to write at either my dining room table or my desk (when there’s enough room and it’s all cleaned up!). Because I work a full-time consulting job, I have to fit my writing in around that work, so I usually tend to write very early in the morning or after work while sitting in a hotel room near a client site.

When you’re stuck on a scene in your story, what do you do?

I take a break from writing, usually by switching to television for a little while, and then I go back to it.

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

I am a big fan of Red Bull and drink a truly disgusting amount of it.

What are you working on next?

I have two more novels in the works. One is a follow up to The Place We Went to Yesterday. I intended for it to be a standalone novel but ended it in such a way that I could continue the story if I chose. It seems, from the reviews I’ve received, that people want more of it, so that will probably be my primary focus.

Do you stick with just one genre?

I’m not a fan of genres. I know they’re necessary, but I find them limiting. I write stories that I enjoy reading and worry about the genre later.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually traveling or working on music with my partner in crime, Brian Sfinas.

Thank you, Lisa!

You can find out more about Lisa’s work by visiting her website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Lisa Mauro who is the author of, The Place We Went to Yesterday, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Place We Went to Yesterday, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Self-Publishing with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Boris back to Layered Pages to talk with me about her experiences with self-publishing. Laurie has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of five novels. Her sixth, A Sudden Gust of Gravity, will be published in November. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she’s a freelance copyeditor and enjoys baseball, reading, and avoiding housework. You can learn more about her at website.

Laurie, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

My first novel, The Joke’s on Me, was published in 2011 by 4RV, a small press in Oklahoma. I really appreciate that they gave me a chance, but as I completed my second novel later that year, I knew I needed to do things differently. Drawing Breath is based on a friend who died from cystic fibrosis, and the story was so close to my heart that I was reluctant to give it to a publisher. At the same time, I’d been getting more active on Facebook and met a terrific group of authors who were self-publishing. They were generous with their information, time, and support. I’ve always had an independent streak, so self-publishing appealed to that side of me. I thought I’d give it a try. And I never looked back.

What has your experience been like along the way?

It’s been a definite eye-opener—in the beginning, I felt like I’d flung myself into the deep end of the pool without a flotation device. But I’ve met some wonderful people, and I really enjoy connecting with readers. I’ve also felt privileged to have had the chance to talk to other writers in my community who are deciding if self-publishing is right for them. It’s been frustrating at times to keep my enthusiasm in the face of a rapidly changing marketplace. Overall, though, I love the feeling of being empowered and in control of what happens to my work: that I can choose what to write about, what to publish, how to market and promote it, and that I can make changes as necessary. I also like a good challenge. So I try to keep my eye on that prize.

DontTellAnyoneCover_LBoris300px

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The learning curve has been steep in some areas. In the early days, I wanted to learn how to do EVERYTHING myself. E-book formatting had me tearing my hair out. I have a background in marketing and advertising, but promoting my own work—and myself—was a completely different animal. As an introvert, it’s a tough balance between getting the word out and wanting to huddle back to the safety of my writing room, and the line often wiggles around. Time management is another big challenge as I juggle the many hats I wear: author, editor, freelance writer, entrepreneur. Let’s just say that my husband is a very patient man, and I have a high tolerance for dirty dishes, dust bunnies, and unmade beds.

What have you learned in this industry?

Wow, what haven’t I learned? I’ve learned that even editors need fresh eyes on their work. I’ve learned that what worked to promote a book last month might not work this month. I’ve also learned that, at least for me, self-publishing is a team sport. Partnering with my colleagues has been invaluable. It’s helped me improve as a writer and as a publisher. I’m especially grateful to my fabulous fellow minions at Indies Unlimited and the lovely authors of E-Novelists at Work.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Every author is on a different journey, and a definite “don’t” for one person is a “must-do” for another. For me, the biggest “do” is to go out with the best, most professional book I can produce. That includes thorough editing and proofreading, an effective cover, and a compelling description. My “don’t” list is growing as I learn how to more effectively navigate the business. Spamming strangers with an endless loop of buy-my-book links: no. Paid reviews: no. Hissy fits on social media about negative reviews: never.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Self-publishing is easier than ever, but I’d still suggest taking a little internal inventory to see if it’s right for you. Are you willing to put in the time and energy to learn how to do this? How are you with multi-tasking, uncertainty, and keeping yourself motivated? I’d also recommend keeping an open mind about trying new things—you never know what strategies are going to pay off down the line. Do your research if you’re paying anyone to help you publish, because plenty of companies are more than willing to separate a new self-publishing author from his or her money. Not that there’s anything wrong with hiring out services—it can improve your efficiency, if you have the budget for it. Just make sure you’re getting what you pay for and that the company is reputable. That’s another reason to have a good support group. Indies on the whole are a generous bunch, more than willing to share information and resources about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. Just because you’re self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to plunge in alone. Unless you want to.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I use Facebook, mainly, because I’m comfortable with it and it’s fun. (When it’s not being annoying.) If I have a book on sale, I’ll post it to my page and to a bunch of reader-oriented groups. I try to vary what I post—info about other authors and their books, grammar jokes, how my favorite baseball team is doing, whatever is amusing me at the moment—because nobody wants to hear about my books all the time. Generally I spend a few hours a week promoting my work, but that covers a multitude of tasks from planning upcoming promotions to writing blog posts to connecting with friends on social media. I use a variety of websites to promote my books. Lately I’ve been using E-Reader News Today, Free Kindle Books & Tips, The Choosy Bookworm, Midlist, and a bunch of other smaller sites.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

It’s so tough to predict, because everything seems to be changing so quickly. But if authors are willing to ride the rollercoaster and keep putting out great work, I see more equality and more acceptance. At least I hope so.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Already I’m seeing that authors are raising the bar on the quality of their product. I’d like to see more authors taking the time for that good, hard proofread at the end. I think if we continue down this path, even more of the biases against self-publishing will be reduced. I’d like to see Amazon’s review policies become more transparent, although I’m not holding my breath. I want to see more self-published authors in bookstores, presenting at major conferences, getting reviewed (and not charged megabucks for the privilege) in major outlets. I want the “self-published versus traditional” infighting go away. It’s such a waste of time and energy.

How long have you been an indie author?

Drawing Breath was published in May of 2012 and I’ve been self-publishing ever since. I may never stop.

A Writer’s life with Hunter S. Jones

Den Hunter

I’d like to welcome Deb Hunter to Layered Pages today to talk with me about her writing. She writes fiction as Hunter S. Jones. She is a member of the prestigious Society of Authors founded by Lord Tennyson, Rivendell Writers Colony, Historical Writers’ Association, Historical Novel Society and the Atlanta Writer’s Club. Her Tudor History blog, Fear and Loathing in Tudor England, is a reader’s favorite. Originally from a Chattanooga, Tennessee, she currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her Scottish born husband. Her best seller, PHOENIX RISING, a fictional story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn is available on Amazon.com and at a bookstore near you.

SECRETS from a DANGEROUS TIME is a multi-dimensional series set in post-Civil War Reconstruction in Chattanooga, Tennessee and the north Georgia. This series is an Amazon Exclusive available via MadeGlobal Publishing.

Why do you write?

Is there really an answer for this? I’m not certain if writing is a compulsion or an art form. It feels as if it’s a bit of both, doesn’t it? Writing is something I have always done. As a child I made up stories and plays for my cousins and friends to ‘play’. Some people dance, some paint, some are musicians and some of us write. Writing has always been a major part of my life. Great question. Thank you for asking.

Secrets

How has writing impacted your life?

You mean besides having no interaction with family or friends so you can research? Or, the part about chatting with strangers about imaginary people who you have created? Otherwise, I can’t say it’s impacted my life at all.

Actually, writing has had a wonderful impact on my life. Due to writing, I received a scholarship which assisted in paying for part of my undergrad degree, many moons ago. Along the way, I’ve worked with some incredible people and institutions. Writing and research have lead me to meet some of my best friends and helped in building friendships with quite a few people I admire greatly. Writing has shown me a path that I want to follow for the rest of my life. My own ‘Yellow Brick Road’, so to speak. I cannot wait to get to Oz, because the journey has been a revelation.

Let’s use my new series SECRETS from a DANGEROUS TIME and my novella PHOENIX RISING as an example. PHOENIX RISING is a story of Anne Boleyn. It introduced me to Claire Ridgway, Alison Weir, Susan Bordo, Elizabeth Fremantle and Nancy Bilyeau. I admire and respect these authors immensely. Working with them on my FEAR AND LOATHING IN TUDOR ENGLAND has been a dream come true.

Yet, after PHOENIX RISING and the success the book has brought, it would be expected that I follow with another Tudor era story, right? Well, it didn’t work that way for me. I was inundated with Tudor information and decided to write about something I knew little about, the post-Civil War era, known as Reconstruction. We all know the U.S. Civil War is documented and the stuff of legends. But, what secrets lie hidden in the Reconstruction Era?

In writing SECRETS from a DANGEROUS TIME, I took two family stories to build the series on; first my family was involved with the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. Part of the family went to Oklahoma and part remained in Southeast Tennessee. The other fable is that we sold medicine in Chattanooga during the Reconstruction. So, I dive in head first and begin research, only to find out that little is documented for the era due to the volatile political and racial divide in the U.S. from 1867-1877. Not to be deterred, I have worked with the Chickamauga National Military Park, Chattanooga History Center, and the Atlanta History Center to better understand what everyday people experienced during this controversial period in U.S. History.

What I have discovered is that Chattanooga was a hospital center for the Confederacy at the first part of the Civil War. Due to the railroad system, wounded soldiers were shipped to Chattanooga to heal. As the tides of war turned, Chattanooga became a hospital center for the Union Army, again due to the railroads into the town.

As my research continued, I discovered that patented medicine at that time was a unique quantity. If you sold medicine after the war, you didn’t simply stand on a street corner and peddle your wares, nor did you mainly sell your medicine in a shop or pharmacy. Medicine companies or pharmacies would pay for medicine shows to tour parts of the Southeast to sell the medicine. These traveling medicine shows were the only entertainment everyday people in the rural South had at that time. When the musicians and entertainers came to a little town, it became a big event. These Southern medicine shows, and there were medicine shows in the Northern states as well, evolved into what we now call the Wild West shows of the late 1800s. In the early 20th century the traveling shows underwent another metamorphosis and became known as Vaudeville.

There’s much more but you will have to read my series to learn more. Although, SECRETS form a DANGEROUS TIME, it’s simply a history book. I’ve blended the drama of the era with the mystique of the South, tossed in romance and enough suspense to give the stories a contemporary feel. Who doesn’t love a steamy Victorian romance with enough history to make the story intriguing?

One more thing for you. When I decided to write a Victorian story, I looked into what was popular with Victorian readers. Serialized fiction was all the rage. Think Charles Dickens and The Pickwick Papers, Alexandre Dumas and The Three Musketeers. In America, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry James and Herman Melville wrote serialized stories.

Following their formats, I decided to write SECRETS form a DANGEROUS TIME and its stories in a series. I have even included photographs and maps which have never been published before, just as was done in Victorian series. All in all, this has been a labor of love and a dream project for someone who is both a literature and history proponent. I invite your readers to take this journey with me.

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

Follow your heart but don’t quite your day job!

Thank you so much for featuring me today!

Secrets from a Dangerous Time is listed as a fall 2015 featured release by Historical Magazine!

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Theresa Larsen

Theresa Larsen BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Theresa Larsen to talk with me today about her book. A Florida native, Theresa graduated from Florida State University with a degree in elementary education and a minor in psychology. She taught school in England, Wales, and the United States for over twelve years. Her writing credits include a Welsh children’s book, an educational article published in the Cardiff Advisory Service for Education, parenting and mental health articles published on several online websites and her award-winning memoir, Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother. Learn more about Theresa here

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I came across indieBRAG when I was researching writing awards.

Please tell me about your book, “Cutting the Soul.”

Cutting the Soul is a journey into the mind of a mentally ill teenager as he faces intense feelings of depression, psychosis, addictive cutting, and suicidal behavior. This memoir details four years of Matthew’s life through the eyes of his mother, health care workers, and Matthew’s own journals. It shows the desperation of a mother battling through the world of mental health and her own “demons” of the past and present, in an effort to save her son.  It is an informative guide into mental illness today and illustrates how it is an illness in need of a treatment. This is a story for everyone, not just those directly experiencing mental illness.

Mental Illness is so complex. What were the challenges in writing your story?

During the writing of Cutting the Soul there were times when I had to physically get up and walk away from my computer because the subject matter or episode I was writing about became overwhelming. When I came to difficult sections of self-harm or psychosis I broke those up into small pieces and wrote a little at a time.

I wanted to be open and honest with my story, but I was also conscious of not letting the story overwhelm the reader. Editing was also a great challenge for me. I poured out my soul and wrote over 144,000 words and after I edited my memoir I reduced it to 78,000 words, cutting almost half of the original manuscript.

Theresa Larsen Book Cover BRAG

Could you please share an excerpt?

“Seeping in through my skin. A depression so thin, so thick to think. What would it be like to feel not this?”—Matthew’s journals

There are no words to describe the fear that gripped me day after day, the absolute knowledge I had that if I did not react quickly, my child would be dead by his own hand; of this I was absolutely sure. I wanted to flee from my life and the course it was taking. Every day became a day to dread. Every day was a day I agonized over. Every day grew worse than the one before. Each morning since Matthew had come back from the hospital, I dragged myself out of bed and the same thought dominated my mind, would today be the day I find him dead? With shaking hands, I would dress and brace myself for whatever I might find. Biting my lip, I would climb the stairs to his room, stand on the landing, and give myself a mental pep talk, before taking a deep breath and opening the door. My willpower to do this was slowly dissipating, but somehow I managed to find the strength and courage to continue.

What are some of the emotional issues-in your story-that Matthew was dealing with and how was it dealt with?

Matthew had to deal with an intense emotional pain from depression, post-traumatic stress, and psychotic thinking. Matthew’s solution to his overwhelming and unmanageable pain was to suppress it and ignore his worry and distress. This required a great deal of energy and he was not entirely successful at it; his feelings leaked out in self-harm, intense anger, dissociation, violent drawings, and impulses toward suicide. When this became evident at home I obtained help from counselors and psychiatrists, where he was given therapeutic goals and medication. This was not enough to help him, so I researched other choices and decided on a residential treatment center where he could get the treatment he needed. Matthew spent 17 months in full-time treatment and various other times in partial treatment. It took many years for him to find a healthy balance in his life.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I started by calling this book Matthew’s Book (name has been changed to protect the privacy of my son) just to put a name on it when I saved it on my computer, then I changed it to Striking the Match because one of my son’s journal entries mentions striking a match and I thought the analogy of the match changing from cold to hot worked well, but it wasn’t quite right until I honed in on Cutting the Soul. This title summed up everything about the story in three words.

Who designed your book cover?

The cover of my book is a self-portrait of my son. He is an amazing artist and I felt that the picture conveyed a dark mood and feeling. He didn’t draw this specifically for my book, this was an art piece he had done several years prior to my writing, but it seemed to fit perfectly. The fascinating example of the right side of the brain controlling the left side of the body was pointed out to me by a friend in the psychology field. The right side of the face in the illustration is in shadow, the left side of the brain, that controls the right side of the body, is responsible for understanding and use of language, memory, and detailed analysis of information. During my son’s darkest times, his ability to communicate and interpret information was poor or I could say shadowed. The artwork depicts this state of mind beautifully. I choose the back cover picture of a phoenix because this is how I see my son, “a powerful being with the strength and ability to rise above harrowing and tragic circumstances and recreate himself.” The covers have a mixture of dark and light, creating an element that is a thread throughout the book. I had specific ideas of how I wanted the cover to work and my graphic design team helped me with the final product.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on the biography of Dr. Erik Larsen, a man whose life spans nine decades. Born into a working class family in Denmark, Erik Larsen would have become a civil servant or tradesperson, with no hope of higher education. Luckily his family immigrated to the United States when he was two years old. Dr. Larsen later went to medical school and was drafted into the army during the Korean War, where he served as a surgeon in the first M.A.S.H. unit. He continued to deliver outstanding medical service in the United States over the next fifty years and was eventually knighted by the king of Denmark.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have an office at home that I write in. I enjoy writing in the morning when everyone has left for school or work and the house is quiet.

Do you stick with just one genre?

For the time being I am writing biographies or memoirs. I enjoy writing about inspirational people who have made a difference in somebody’s life.

Is there a particular hobby you enjoy when you’re not writing?

I love to read, but I don’t do it often enough. I can become an obsessive reader and not want to put a book down, so I have to limit myself. I also do Pilates and play tennis in a league.

Is there a favorite food or drink you like to enjoy while writing?

I enjoy munching on Fritos when I work.

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Theresa Larsen who is the author of, Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Cutting the Soul: A journey into the mental illness of a teenager through the eyes of his mother, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.