Interview with Award Winning Author Joan Fallon

Joan Fallon BRAG

I’d like to welcome Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Joan Fallon today. Joan was born in Dumfries, Scotland but spent most of her adult life in England. Teacher, management trainer and business woman, she moved to Spain at the beginning of the new millennium and became a writer. Her first published work was a social history, ‘Daughters of Spain’, inspired by the women she met in her adopted home. Her subsequent books too have grown out of her experiences living and working in Spain. She is especially interested in Spanish history and has set her novels in periods as distinct as the Golden Age of the Moorish conquest and the Spanish Civil War.  She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors.

 Hi, Joan! Thank you for visiting with me today. Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG.

 Well actually it was Helen Hollick, the lady who set up Discovering Diamonds, who recommended IndieBRAG to me. I first got to know her when she was working for the Historical Novel Review Society a few years ago.

I love your book cover! Tell me about your story, The Shining City.

THE SHINING CITY BRAG

The novel is set in southern Spain in the mid tenth century. The country is ruled by al-Rahman III, who is celebrating the fact that he has just pronounced himself caliph of al-Andalus by building a new palace/city, Madinat al-Zahra. Many of his subjects have flocked to this new city looking for work and among them is a potter called Qasim and his family. Qasim is running away from his past and hoping to build a new future in Madinat al-Zahra, where he has taken on a new identity. Even his sons do not know his history.

The woman on the cover of the books is supposed to represent one of the leading characters in the novel. She is Jawhara, one of the caliph’s concubines. She was originally from Saxony and was captured by Viking raiders and sold as a slave to the caliph of al-Andalus. She is very beautiful and one day she is spotted by Omar, the youngest son of Qasim the potter. He falls desperately in love with her and becomes obsessed with seeing her even though he knows it is forbidden on pain of death.

One night he breaks into the harem to meet her but it does not go well. His father is horrified at what he has done and the consequences for everyone are severe. I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the story for you.

What fascinates you most about the period in history you have written about?

As you know, I live in southern Spain and over the years I have become fascinated with the country and its history. The Moors lived in Spain for 700 years and their influence is everywhere – in the architecture, the language, the food and the culture. So naturally I was drawn to learning more about them. I chose the tenth century because it was the Moors Golden Age. Never before nor after, did the country have such a reputation for wealth, culture and learning, nor was it so egalitarian. It was the most educated country in the western world and people flocked from all parts of Europe to its universities and libraries.

Tell me a little about Qasim. Was he a real person in history or fictional? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

No, Qasim isn’t a real character but he is based on real people. For example, the past he is hiding is based on a real man called Omar ibn Hafsun, one of the rebels who fought against al-Rahman III. Qasim is a potter who moved to Madinat al-Zahra, as many other artisans and workmen did at the time. The caliph encouraged people to move out of Córdoba and settle in Madinat al-Zahra by offering them the money to build a house. It was an offer too good to miss and thousands of people moved to the new city. So, I made Qasim one of them.

Qasim’s strengths lie in his strong religious beliefs and his love for his family. He is a man of honour. He treats his wife as an equal – almost. His weaknesses are that he is not flexible enough when faced with his son’s mistake.

Describe the city for me.

Madinat al-Zahra is in ruins now. But it is believed to have been a wonderful place with street lighting, paved roads, running water and public bath houses. I think the best way I can describe it to you is to let Omar tell you what he related to his nephew when he was an old man:

‘Our ruler, Abd al-Rahman III, wanted to build a city-palace worthy of the title of Khalifa so he sent his engineers and architects out to find the perfect location.  And they did.  They found a spot in the foothills of the Sierra Moreno, green, fertile, sheltered from the north winds, with as much water as you could wish for, yet set high enough above the plain so that you would be able to see anyone approaching.  From there you could see across the valley of the Guadalquivir to Córdoba and beyond.’

‘It was indeed the Shining City.  When visitors entered through the Grand Portico, passing beneath its enormous, red and white arches, when they climbed the ramped streets that were paved with blocks of dark mountain stone, passing the lines of uniformed guards in their scarlet jackets and the richly robed civil servants that flanked their way, when they reached the royal residence and saw the golden inlay on the ceilings, the marble pillars, the richly woven rugs scattered across the floors and the brilliant silk tapestries, when they saw the moving tank of mercury in the great reception pavilion that caught the sunlight and dazzled all who beheld it, then they indeed knew that they were in the Shining City.’

How did you come to write this story?

Back in the year 2000 I went to an exhibition in Madinat al-Zahra. I knew nothing about the place before that and I was fascinated by its history, and particularly by the fact that the city lasted no more than 75 years. I knew that one day I would write a story about it.

What is a tradition the people have in this civilization?

At that time Moorish civilisation was far more advanced than the rest of Europe. The majority of people were educated, including women. Women were allowed to work, to go to universities, to own property, to have careers such a doctors and scribes.

It was a multi-religious society. The ruling class were of course Muslims, but both Christians and Jews were allowed to worship their own faith, pursue careers in government and live their own lives. They were not however allowed to try to convert any Muslims to their faith. It was a society that also relied on slaves – but the slaves were non-believers. If a slave converted to Islam he regained his freedom.

Who designed your book cover?

A delightful woman called Rachel Lawston of Lawston Designs. She has designed a number of covers for me now and has a knack for getting just the right feel for the book (without having read it!)

Where can readers buy your book?

The Shining City is the first book in The al-Andalus series. All the books in the series are available on Amazon, from Barnes and Noble and other bookshops, both on-line and in the High Street.

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

Only this. Whether you prefer to read ebooks or paperbacks, never stop reading and encourage any children in your lives to read as much as they can. I worry that people are drifting away from the written word now that there are so many alternatives available to them. I’d like young people to realise that there is nothing so satisfying as reading a good book and becoming completely engrossed in the characters and the story.

Thank you, Joan!

Thank you, Stephanie, for inviting me to talk to you.

other links: Facebook

Website

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Facebook Author Page

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Joan Fallon who is the author of, THE GOLDEN CITY, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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 GOLDEN CITY, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Jim Andersen

Jim Andersen BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Jim Andersen to Layered Pages today. Shortly after the walk Jim quit his job at the paper mill and moved to Austin, Nevada where he lived for 32 years. While in Austin–chronicled in his first book ‘Lost in Austin’ (University of Nevada Press, 2009)–he worked various jobs, finally settling into positions of deputy sheriff for eleven years and Justice of the Peace for twelve. Jim is currently retired and living in Pahrump, Nevada, with his wife of 30 years, Val. He has one daughter, two stepsons and a cat.

Thank you for talking with me today, Jim. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Purely by chance.  I was looking into ways I might promote the book and just came across indieBrag on one of the searches.  It looked and sounded professional, and their function was clearly stated, short and to the point, all of which appealed to me.

How has your self-publishing journey been thus far?

Swift.  My other book was published by a University Press and took three years from the time it was accepted to the day it was printed.  I mean we’re burnin’ daylight here, and none of us know how much daylight we’ve got left to burn so that’s certainly a consideration.  The other thing I liked was the latitude I was given.  I really did have the final say on everything from the cover design to the punctuation.  The only thing I would have changed would be the photos accompanying the text.  For some reason, I thought the publisher would edit them a little as to focus and lighting.  However, I had total control over that too even though I wasn’t aware of it, so it wasn’t their fault.  The pictures are acceptable, they just aren’t as grabbing as they could have been.

Please tell me about your book, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much.

Sometimes a Great Notion

The ‘Great Notion’ was to get listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, a fad that swept the nation in the manner of the ‘pet rock’ craze or the Macarena dance.  In the late sixties, everybody was talking about the record book and trying to find some way to get listed.  I came up with the idea of walking from 14,496′ Mt. Whitney to Death Valley’s Badwater, at 282 feet below sea level; until Alaska joined the Union in 1959 those were the highest and lowest points in the entire United States.  My book documents the seven-day 143-mile trek I and three of my friends made, with the help of a support party and a lot of moleskin.

Would you undertake a challenge like that again?

Not likely.

What is one of the high points of this journey?

Mt. Whitney.  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)  I suppose the high point would be early in the walk, on the second day from Whitney.  We’d hiked a bit off course to get to a phone booth located in the old town of Keeler, where I called home and my stepdaughter told me the Oakland Tribune newspaper had run a Sunday article on our trip.  It was from an interview done a couple weeks earlier and contained our picture and these final words which I still know by heart because they made such an impression on us; “If all goes well, four figures dressed in ghostly white will emerge from the shimmering desert near Badwater in eight to ten days.”  Any thoughts of quitting that might have been skittering around the corners of our thoughts were expunged by that beckoning vision, at least for the time being.

Describe Death Valley.  

It’s well-named.  The summer heat out there itself holds a world record in the Guinness book–134° logged on July 10, 1913.  A person can’t function very long, if at all, in that kind of heat.   We didn’t measure the air temperature on our walk, but we did take a reading of the ground temperature with a meat thermometer in Panamint Valley and it was 165° just before noon.  I would say the heat we encountered was just short of debilitating in Death Valley, even at night.  And the walking surface out there was the worst on the trip–jagged rocks and salt pinnacles.  If you’re already beat half to death, it’s a bad place to put yourself.

Did you and your friends meet others along the way and what was that like?

We met very few people once we hit the Mojave Desert.  And outside of a ranger on Mt. Whitney, I don’t recall talking to anybody except a few drivers while we were walking the roads. They kept offering us a lift.  You have no idea how hard that was to turn down.   Our campsites we just set up whenever we got too tired to walk.  We’d scouted the route and had several wide spots scoped out and we even used one or two of them.  Nobody ever came around our camps.

What was your learning experience while writing this story?

Well I intended to keep a daily journal the entire trip so I wouldn’t have to trust to memory, but that sort of went by the wayside after a couple days, when the focus somehow shifted from keeping a record to just keeping upright, period.  So, I did have to trust to memory which can be a little scary if you’re really concerned with getting the right happenings in the right order.  I am sure of the book’s overall accuracy but I wouldn’t want to swear to the details.  You just have to recall things the best you can and get on to the next page.  So, I learned you should keep good notes if you intend to write about some event in particular.

Do you have any new writing projects in the works?

Not at the moment.  My wife and I are in the process of moving to a new house in Nevada so I’m just too busy.  There.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon is about the only place at this time, but we hope to place them in both Mt. Whitney’s lodge and the visitor’s center at Furnace Creek.  Hopefully, this interview may even help with that stuff.

Thank you, Jim!

To purchase this book, click HERE to the Amazon links.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jim Andersen who is the author of, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Sometimes a Great Notion…Isn’t, so much, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author Molly Greene

MollyGreeneHeadshot2

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Molly Greene to Layered Pages today. Molly writes the Gen Delacourt Mystery Series, which includes Mark of the Loon, The Last Fairytale, Paint Me Gone, A Thousand Tombs, Swindle Town, Lock the Cellar Door, Midnight at Half Moon Bay, The India Archives, and, out soon, Burn Rubber. For freebies, giveaways, and news about upcoming releases, join her Reader’s Club.

Thank you for talking with me today, Molly. Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Hello Stephanie, it’s a pleasure to join you, thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about myself and my books! I heard about the indieBRAG program through my friend Virginia King, author and fellow B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. Virginia is a staunch supporter of the program, and suggested I apply when I inquired about the Medallion on her book’s cover. I’m thrilled to have been chosen.

Please tell me a little about the premise of your book.

Mark of the Loon

Mark of the Loon is about a single, semi-isolated, thirty-something female real estate agent who falls in love with a cottage, side-steps a potential relationship and several obstacles to buy it, then slowly discovers that the house is so much more than it appears to be on the surface. As she and college friend Gen Delacourt unravel the mysteries attached to the property, she examines her personal issues and (better late than never) embarks on a new chapter of her life. Every title in my Gen Delacourt series involves a mystery, but also reveals some level of personal growth on the part of the characters.

Tell me a little about Madison and her strengths and weaknesses.

Madison is strong, disciplined, knowledgeable, and resourceful, but afraid of getting too close to a man. She has great relationships with smart, supportive, funny women. She does what she says she will do. She’s not afraid of taking risks, unless that risk involves her heart.

What is some of the history that surrounds this story?

The plot involves WWII, an Irish spy, Nazi looting, and Hitler’s plan to destroy the economics of the US and the UK by flooding the market with counterfeit bills.

How did you come to write this story and how many books will be in this series?

I’m an avid reader of mysteries and I love great writing, but over the years I grew tired of all the graphic gore and serial killers and child predators and unnecessary sex that so many authors depend on. So I set out to write a book that did not incorporate those things. The plot grew in my mind while my dog and I were on our daily walks, something I still rely on to hash things out as I’m writing.

Since then, I’ve grown the series to include eight titles with plots that avoid all the above-mentioned elements. I’m planning at least twelve Gen Delacourt Mysteries, then I’ll write a few standalones and/or another series that spin off a couple of Gen’s secondary characters I’ve grown to love.

What is the easiest and most difficult part of writing a series?

The most fabulous part by far is getting to know and understand characters so well that I know exactly what they’ll say and how they’ll react in most situations. It’s like having invisible friends! The challenging part, especially since I avoid many typical plot situations (sex, cursing, gore) is coming up with plausible cases and situations for my characters to react to. So far I’ve had great good fortune making this happen. I have two future book ideas in my head, and I also keep a file of real-life articles about weird and wacky stuff that might prove interesting for future story lines and characters.

How long did it take for you to write your story and what was your process?

I began LOON in 2009 when I was working full time, and it took a year to complete the first rough draft. A dozen full-book edits later it was published in 2012, then I edited the manuscript again in 2013. From 2014-2015 I wrote like a madwoman, publishing four more titles, then slowed a bit. Eight are available at this writing. My goal now is to publish two new titles a year.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon, of course, and other major online booksellers.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I have a marketing background and have always done a lot of business-related writing. I wrote narrative poetry when I was in high school. I never planned to be a writer of fiction; not until I sent Mark of the Loon to a friend to read and she told me she couldn’t put it down. I chose to believe her and embarked on a new path.

What are some of the writing tools you have learned along that way that has helped you?

I’m a panster at heart, which means I don’t know how a book will end until I’m at least halfway there. At first, I wrote knowing nothing about future events in the plot. But having a clue about what’s going to happen before it does helps an author write faster, so now I do a bit of outlining before each book, usually the first 10 chapters or so. That way I have to backtrack less, revise less, and it gives me an opportunity to think up cool scenes I might otherwise miss. Outlining is one of the best production-boosting tools I’ve learned.

Is there a particular message you would like to give to your readers?

I write mystery novels that include elements of cozy mysteries and women’s fiction. So far, all these stories are set in California. They each feature strong, independent female characters who are professional and/or amateur sleuths. My novels are both character and plot-driven, include both friend and romantic relationship elements, but no graphic sex or gore. My protagonists are flawed and smart and imperfect but manage to improve, both personally and professionally, in some way, through every story line. Think whodunit suspense solved by smart women!

# # #

Links:

Website

Facebook

Goodreads

Twitter

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Molly Greene who is the author of, Mark of the Loon, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Mark of the Loon, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

Interview with Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner

Marlo B BRAGI’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Marlo Berliner today. Marlo is the award-winning author of THE GHOST CHRONICLES, her debut book which was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim. The book won the 2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best First Book, was named FINALIST in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Young Adult Fiction, received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was named one of the “best indie YA books we have seen in the past year, from both self-publishers and small presses” by IPPY Magazine. Marlo is represented by Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency and she writes young adult, women’s fiction, and short stories. Her second book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES BOOK 2, will be released in August 2017. Visit her at marloberliner.com or on Twitter and Instagram @marloberliner.

When she’s not writing or editing, Marlo loves reading, relaxing at the beach, watching movies, and rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions. After having spent some wonderful time in Pittsburgh and Houston, she’s now back in her home state of New Jersey where she resides with her husband, two sons, and a rambunctious puppy named Max.

Thank you for talking with me today, Marlo! Tell me about how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed an indieBRAG medallion on another young adult book and thought, “I’d like one of those, too!”

Please tell me about your book, The Ghost Chronicles.

The Ghost Chronicles BRAG

The book is about a young man who dies tragically and is trapped in the afterlife, where he falls in love with the ghost of a beautiful woman who died just as tragically as he did. The only trouble is falling in love and binding oneself to another soul is forbidden, for it may keep one or both of the souls bound to earth for longer than they should be.

To make matters worse, there’s also a danger in going too far with Sarah, because the “joining” of two souls in the afterlife is also strictly forbidden and they don’t know what will happen if they do go that far. Each time they touch they can feel the boundaries of their energies slipping perilously into one another.

Things get even more complicated as Michael learns he’s being pursued. Demons are after him because he’s a marked soul, a soul the devil wants very badly for some unknown reason.

So, maybe falling in love in the afterlife isn’t such a good idea.

What audience are you targeting with this story?

I designed the story with upper young adults in mind, but also tried to give the book that crossover appeal for the adult audience.

Tell me about Michael’s strengths and weaknesses.

Michael’s main strengths are his bravery and his inherent goodness. His major weaknesses are his impatience and his impulsiveness.

Give me an example of the relationship between Sarah and Michael.

Their attraction is magnetic from the very beginning. They have a lot in common – they both lost a parent young and they both lost their own lives way too soon. They’re also both free-spirited, fun-loving and have big hearts. Once Michael meets Sarah and gets to know her, he realizes they were meant to be together.

How long did you work on this story and what was your inspiration for it?

I worked on and off on the story for more than five years, but most seriously in the last two of those years. Inspiration for the best stories lie at the intersection of truth and imagination. The Ghost Chronicles began this way, as well. I had my ‘eureka’ moment one day while reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my son. Chapter Eight, The Deathday Party, deals with the ghosts in the Hogwarts Castle and what it might be like to ‘live’ in the afterlife, so that provided the spark that ignited the fire to write The Ghost Chronicles.

At the same time, I was also thinking about a truth from my past. When I was seventeen I was in a car accident that wasn’t my fault. An accident that almost took my life. The thought of ‘what if I had died’ has been one that has haunted me ever since. So immediately I knew I wanted The Ghost Chronicles to be not only a story of what it’s like to be stuck in the afterlife, but I also wanted it to be about a boy who dies tragically through no fault of his own. The kind of story ripped from the headlines about a promising young person who has their life taken away far too soon. It won’t be completely apparent until later in the series, but I wanted it to be a story of great hope for anyone who has lost someone tragically, particularly someone young. I’m also hoping readers will take away the theme embodied in this quote from the book – “Cherish life, it’s absolutely precious.”

The final piece of the love story in The Ghost Chronicles fell into place after I stayed at The Angel of the Sea, an award-winning bed and breakfast in Cape May, NJ. This spectacular inn has been featured on several television programs and in magazines throughout the world. Most notably, it was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as one of the “Best Vacations in the World” and included in her television talk show. The two buildings of The Angel of the Sea are so iconic, that it is one of the most recognized Victorian structures in the United States. Legend has it that in the late 1960’s, a girl did fall to her death at the Angel of the Sea and did at one time, haunt the inn. The story of the girl has been included in several non-fiction books about ghosts in Cape May. Sarah’s character in The Ghost Chronicles was inspired by this legend and after staying at this romantic inn, I also decided to make The Angel of the Sea the setting for the book.

How many books will be in this series and will you introduce new characters in each one?

I’m planning to have three books in the series and will introduce many new characters along the way. I love bringing historical characters, both well-known and lesser-known, into the books.

Who designed your book cover?

My cover was designed by the very talented S.P.McConnell.

Where can readers buy your book?

The book is available at all major retailers – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound and Walmart.

Tell me about how you got into writing.

I began seriously writing in high school and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even had teachers and professors who told me I had true talent and begged me not to stop writing. I continued writing in college, but largely gave it up once I graduated because I was simply too busy with life. I picked it up again many years later when my kids were young and I was struck by the idea for THE GHOST CHRONICLES. This book just wouldn’t let me not write it!

Is there a message you would like to give to your readers?

I always intended THE GHOST CHRONICLES to be a thought-provoking story, and I hope the story touches your heart the way it touched mine.

Thank you, Marlo! It was a pleasure chatting with you! Please visit with me again soon at Layered Pages!

AUTOHR LINKS:

Amazon –
US

UK

Barnes & Noble

 Indiebound

Walmart

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Marlo Berliner who is the author of, Ghost Chronicles, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Ghost Chronicles, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Paul Haughey

Paul Haughey BRAG head shot

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Paul Haughey today. Paul was born in Toledo, Ohio, grew up in Los Angeles and now lives outside San Francisco in Sausalito.  He was an electrical engineer, went to law school, became a patent attorney and now is a writer. His first book was the legal thriller novel “Undue Diligence” in 2006.

Congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion, Paul! Please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

Thank you, I am very gratified that my book won a BRAG medallion.  That’s the political answer – now to answer your question – I was searching online for sites that do book reviews, and came across indieBRAG.

Tell me about your book, Common Cents.

Common Cents BRAG

It is an attempt to explain various problems with our political system in simple terms, with examples.  It explains how the Constitutional checks and balances have been distorted – for example, through campaign donor/lobbyists, a broken primary process, winner-take-all voting and rigging of district boundaries by incumbent state legislatures (Gerrymandering) to solidify the control of partisan incumbents and defeat compromise.  It shows how we are manipulated by partisan media and how these and other distortions have led to extra benefits to special interests at the cost of the middle class engine of our economy. And it has 30 cartoons!  The chair on the cover, by the way, is Washington’s chair from the Constitutional Convention, and is still there in Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Ben Franklin commented that the sun on the chair was a rising sun, indicating good fortune ahead for the country.

How did you come to write this story?

I read a lot of books and articles on individual political topics.  I hadn’t seen a simple, comprehensive approach.  A lot of the books would have made a good short article.  I started making notes to clarify my own thinking, then decided to convert them into the simple, comprehensive summary – Common Cents.

Were there any challenges?

Lots.  For example, getting good facts and statistics.  It seems no two articles or sources had the same numbers for the same thing – such as how much we spend on different subsidies and loopholes, or even something as simple as how much of the federal budget is spent on defense.  Everyone seems to choose a different period, different accounting method, etc.  I ended up just picking one that seemed in the middle oftentimes, and footnoting it.

What is some of the feedback you have gotten about Common Cents?

People love the book!  The problem is getting them to read it – it seems a lot of people just don’t read books anymore.  I have to tell them it’s short (110 pages before appendices & end-notes) & it has 30 cartoons!  I’ve heard people buy extra copies for their friends after reading it, or sending copies to their representatives, etc.  The reviews on Amazon have been heartwarming, except for one curmudgeon!  Some readers are surprised at how politics really works, and are skeptical that my solutions will ever come to pass.

What was your writing process for this book?

I pulled things from articles and books by experts, and simplified them, while footnoting the source.  I’d write in evenings and weekends when not working at my paying job.  I kept a notepad by my bed, because I’d often get inspiration when I’m falling asleep or just waking up.  I got inspiration in the shower as well – but the notebooks kept getting wet!

Will you write more political books?

I would like to do some articles next, then perhaps another book down the line.  I think it makes sense to follow-up on several of the topics in my book with articles.

In your book description it says “The branches of government fight each other for more control with executive orders, signing statements, legislative vetoes and other tricks.” I would have to agree with you there. Could you give an example of this please?

Georg Bush tried to get a Republican Controlled Congress, his own party, to limit federal funding for stem cell research, where the stem cells come from aborted fetuses.  Congress wouldn’t do it, and they are the branch of government that is supposed to pass laws.  So Bush issued an executive order.  Congress then passed a bill reversing the order.  Bush vetoed the law, and Congress couldn’t muster the 2/3 majority needed to override.  When Congress doesn’t like how the President is administering laws, they create agencies that report to Congress, or to their committee, duplicating functions.  With a “legislative veto,” Congress passes a law giving it the right to overrule an administration decision, such as where military bases are located, or approving real estate transactions – a nice way for members of Congress to hand out favors to special interest donors.

I know there are many who would love to “do away” with the Constitution or start over-if you will-how important is the Constitution to you?

I revere the Constitution, as do most Americans.  It is what establishes the rule of law instead of a dictatorship.  It was the first, and has defects, that later constitutions in other countries did better.  For example, most countries elect a parliament, and the parliament selects the president, so you don’t have our divided government and things get done.  However, I doubt we could ever change the fundamentals of our Constitution since ¾ of the states need to approve, and there are vested interests by small states in their outsized representation – states with less than 20% of the population control half the senate and have outsized electoral votes.  But it has been amended, and is due for a tune-up.

As a history enthusiast I am really into the history of our forefathers and what they envisioned for this great country. Which of the founding fathers you most admire and how has what they envisioned changed?

I admire both Madison and Jefferson, and they would both be rightfully proud of how the Constitution has performed to avoid a dictatorship or monarchy, which was the norm in that day.  Jefferson would be flabbergasted that the Constitution has lasted this long – he thought there should be a new convention every 20 years.  They both may regret leaving so many details to Congress, which has upset the balance they created.  They did not foresee political parties, primaries, winner-take-all voting, the filibuster, large campaign contributions, Gerrymandering and massive media manipulation of voters.

Where can readers buy your book?

Online – here are the links:

Amazon paperback & Kindle

Barnes and Noble

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to interview me.  I think it is wonderful what you are doing with your blog!

Thank you, Paul! It was lovely talking with you.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Paul Haughey who is the author of, Common Cents, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Common Cents, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author R.D. Vallier

R.D. Vallier BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree R.D. Vallier today. The highlight of R.D. Vallier’s award-winning career was when her 6th grade teacher threatened to call CPS over a story about a runaway and a magic wolf. She avoided government capture, but continued creating dark tales in secret. Now she’s living the cliché as a storyteller in the remote wilderness, handcrafting an off-grid homestead with straw and mud and whatever she scrounges from the landfill. She holds degrees in wildlife management and hard knocks, only feels at home on the road, and believes humanity illuminates the most brilliantly during darkness.

Tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

I noticed books which had done well in the various writing contests I was researching had earned indieBRAG Medallions. I looked into indieBRAG, and was happy with what I discovered—an organization which seemed to honestly care about both authors and readers. I liked the concept and agreed with their vision, so I submitted Darkshine!

How did you get into writing in the Paranormal genre?

I adore both paranormal and reality, and my brain tends to naturally mesh the two. I find myself questioning and making up stories about what I see around me. What really goes on inside that storage unit building? Is that graffiti just graffiti, or is it some sort of code? What’s hidden in plain sight? I love bringing an element of magic to the mundane, and believe the fantasy genres in general have tremendous capability to explore humanity.

Please tell me about your award winning book, Darkshine?

Darkshine BRAG

Darkshine is a dark urban fantasy/paranormal. The main character, Miriam, has a mundane, adult life, and no social or family connections outside of her emotionally abusive husband. Her whole life she has been treated differently, but it isn’t until a chickadee speaks to her that she begins to understand she is a lost changeling. Two fae–who are complete opposites of each other–try to convince her where her true home is, and each insists the other is lying to destroy her. Miriam goes on a whirlwind adventure, both physically and emotionally, to discover who she is and where she belongs, while staying ahead of her enraged husband who is desperate to keep her silent about truths which can damage his political campaign. Along the way, Miriam needs to confront the preconceptions of dark and light, good and evil, and hopefully choose the answer which will deliver the home she’s always yearned for, instead of her demise.

Will this be part of a series?

Yes. Dark Ember, book 2 in the series, is currently in the editing and beta reader stage. It should be released soon, but I don’t have a date yet.

Tell me a little about Miriam. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Miriam is a changeling and an intentionally mixed bag, especially early in the story. I often see stories where changelings learn what they are at a young age. I wanted to see what would happen to a changeling discovering who they were after having a spouse, a job, a mortgage, an adult life (and what type of life that would be).

Miriam never excelled in anything, has low self-esteem due to emotional abuse, and is someone who people treat as a chore to deal with. I wanted to write an “average” character who suffered social ostracism, and who had never experienced much good in life. But I also wanted a character where the reader had to question whether her background was a weakness which hindered her (as she always believed), or a strength to build upon and draw conviction. Thus, her weaknesses are also her strengths, melded together, which I feel is closer to reality. As people, our failings and shortcomings, while they do hold us back in some ways, often drive us forward in others. I often see books where the characters have specific weaknesses or strengths, and those aspects are written throughout the book as solely weaknesses or strengths. I sought to break that concept of static attributes, and instead strove to create an amalgam where each was both simultaneously. Where a beaten down woman can stand up, fight back, falter and still strive to overcome where others would give up, all drawing upon the myriad of experiences which brought her to this point. Thus, her strengths are found in accepting her weaknesses, fighting the internal voices of those who insist she could never amount to anything and that she is an unlovable failure. Her strengths are found in discovering that her shortcomings do not need to hold her down, she can move forward despite pain and fear, and her weaknesses only overpower her while she allows it.

Did you face any challenges writing this story?

Darkshine is what I called “my throw away novel.” I went into it giving myself permission to break a lot of rules (well, what I then considered rules, anyway), to explore ideas and themes I had, and to see what would develop. As Darkshine started morphing into a novel instead of a writing exercise, I had to keep preventing myself from writing the story I thought I should tell, and keep on telling the story I wanted to know. I fought a lot of internal programming, and in doing so found my style and voice and a story I love. It is a challenge I will forever be grateful for.

In addition, I explored a lot of my own past suffering to capture the tone I wanted for various scenes, making myself relive the memories over and over. To this day I have trouble reading some scenes in Darkshine because it calls up those personal memories I used. But in the end, I love the result, which makes me feel gratitude for those past grievances. This is as uncomfortable as it is freeing, and a continuous emotional challenge.

Where can readers buy your book?

Currently, Darkshine is available as an e-book at all major retailers. I just took it off Kindle Unlimited, and I’m unsure when or if it will return in the future. As a paperback, Darkshine is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Most private bookstores will order it in as well.

What is your current writing project?

I’m currently working on Dark Cinders, book 3 in the Darkshine series. I’ve always seen the story as a trilogy, so I hope this will be the final book, but there is a possibility it will be split into two books.

I’m also working on a series of free Darkshine short stories, going more into the background and hidden drives of the various characters. I will be releasing these only to people who have joined my email subscription. http://www.tinyurl.com/darkshineemail

How did you get into writing?

I’ve always considered myself a storyteller in various forms. My early focus was on comic book story and illustration, but I eventually discovered my ideas were too in-depth for this medium, and I couldn’t explore the inner journey as much as I wanted. I then shifted my focus, learning how to write novels instead. And here I am!

Is there a message you would like to give your readers?

Darkshine can be read as a fun adventure, but can also be dissected as a fictitious analogy of cultural and sociopolitical viewpoints, and life under different governing bodies throughout history, through which the main characters gain their own independence and honesty. This is all crafted into the background to remain unobtrusive and out of sight for the reader who simply wants to be whisked away to a dark fairytale, and who doesn’t want to think about politics or governments or whatnot. (Books where such details are in-your-face have always turned me off.) Foremost, I wrote the book to be an entertaining fantasy. Yet it is also written to have deeper substance, and for those who want more, it is there. I’ve had numerous readers tell me they were surprised with what they initially missed, and that they enjoyed a “different” story the second time through.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview R.D. Vallier who is the author of, DARKSHONE, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, DARKSHINE, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

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Interview with Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly

C.S. O'Kelly BRAG

I’d like to welcome Award Winning Author C.S. O’Kelly today. Born to a loving mother with little money, but an abundance of imagination she shared with C. S. during long walks, bike rides before helmets, and nightly readings from mountains of books.  Stories of giants and elves, mythical beasts and powerful maidens filled the world of C. S. from the earliest of memories.

After finishing graduate school, C. S. O’Kelly sold off all five possessions, purchased a 1974 Ford 19-foot motorhome and went north. After ten years in SE Alaska, C. S. landed in warmer climes on a small ranch in Northern California where crafting stories and story worlds seemed as natural as raising organic free range chickens (named after Stars Wars characters) for eggs only.

To this day, C. S. travels the world, but always comes back to the small ranch with a home built with C. S.’s own hands near San Francisco, California. The philosophy that we enter the world with innate, powerful and beautiful imaginations is the core for all of C. S. O’Kelly’s works and a belief that permeates all things C. S

Hello, C.S.! How did you discover indieBRAG?

First off it’s a pleasure meeting you, Stephanie and thank you for giving another independent author a medium to highlight their work. indieBRAG was highly recommended to me by our talented editing team and has a great reputation in the indie publishing realm.

A pleasure, C.S.!

Please tell me about your children’s book, The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear.

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear

It’s ‘Book 1’ in a picture book series about a friendship between a young girl, Gracie and her dog, MonkeyBear. Through the power of imagination and kindness, they travel to adventurous, far off places, helping those in need along the way.

Tell me a little about the relationship between Gracie & MonkeyBear.

They are the best of friends and the closest of family. Gracie is a bold and fearless adventurer while MonkeyBear is a brilliant scientist and inventor. Each is a different side of the same coin and when together… anything is possible!

What is an example of the adventure they take by finding portals to new worlds?

Gracie & MonkeyBear hear a mother whale calling for help from their wading pool in the backyard. MonkeyBear designs a submarine out of odds & ends lying around and together, they build the sub and launch it into the wading pool and are off to help the whale.

What was the inspiration for your story?

Watching my Niece playing with my Bernese Mountain Dog, Seamus (nickname: MonkeyBear) in the backyard. She was only 5 at the time, but would ‘put a bubble’ over his head as if he were carrying on a conversation with her. She has a boundless imagination and MonkeyBear adores her. I grabbed a notepad and sketched out the first few scenes of what became, Book 1 of The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear series.

How did you get into writing children’s books?

I worked with youth programs all through college in the summers and whenever I was working with the younger kids, they clamored for ‘storytelling’ time, so I spent many hours reading the best picture books from all the greats. Many years later, I stumbled upon works by Illustrator, Jordy Farrell; I knew it was time to give Gracie & MonkeyBear life. Book 1: Summer is our teams’ first book.

Who designed your book cover?

The wondrous, Arial Light took my loosely bound concept of creating a cover similar to those of the early adventure novels by Jack London and Jules Verne.  Arial created a cover that harkens back to the daring times of the past when the potential of adventure seemed on every horizon.

Where can readers buy your book?

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ask for it at their local bookstore, Signed Author Special Edition from the Gracie & MonkeyBear website.

What is up next for you?

The Adventures of Gracie & MonkeyBear, Book 2: Winter is coming out late October 2017 and I am also working on a picture book series with Illustrator/designer Arial Light at the helm that is going to be fantastically unusual! Of course…

Thank you, C.S.!

LINKS:

Gracie & MonkeyBear Website

Purchase on Amazon

Kirkus Best Books of 2016

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Instagram

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Facebook

Gracie & MonkeyBear on Storytime Station and More

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview C.S. O’Kelly who is the author of, Gracie & MonkeyBear, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Gracie & MonkeyBear, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member