Titles I have Recently Added To My Reading List

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:

Queen of sorrow

Elizabeth Woodville was the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king’s brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth’s most dangerous enemies.

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:

NOAHS-WIFE

Noah’s Wife transports readers to an ancient time and place, while exploring timeless issues—family relationships, autism, religious freedom, and cultural change. Told from the unique perspective of a young girl with a form of autism known now as Asperger’s, this is the award-winning story of Noah’s wife, Na’amah.

“A novel inspired by the biblical story of Noah’s flood, Thorne’s version weaves myth, history, and archeological findings with her vivid imagination, wisdom, and humor into an epic tale you will not forget.”

Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey—a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change—a time of challenge to the goddess’ ancient ways, when cultures clash and the earth itself is unstable. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the

Behold the Dawn BRAG

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree:

Marcus Annan, a knight famed for his prowess in the deadly tourney competitions, thought he could keep the bloody secrets of his past buried forever. But when a mysterious crippled monk demands Annan help him wreak vengeance on a corrupt bishop, Annan is forced to leave the tourneys and join the Third Crusade in the Holy Land.

Wounded in battle and hunted on every side, he agrees to marry—in name only—the traumatized widow of an old friend, in order to protect her from the obsessive pursuit of a mutual enemy. Together, they escape an infidel prison camp and flee the Holy Land. But, try as he might, he cannot elude the past—or his growing feelings for the Lady Mairead. Amidst the pain and grief of a war he doesn’t even believe in, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought he had abandoned years ago.

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Valerie Biel

Valerie Biel BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Valerie Biel today to talk with me about her book, Circle of Ninie-Beltany. Valerie’s love for travel inspires her novels for teens and adults. When she’s not writing or traveling, she’s wrangling her overgrown garden, doing publicity work for the local community theatre, and reading everything she can get her hands on. She lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband and three children and dreams regularly of a beautiful cottage on the Irish coast where she can write and write and write.

Her debut novel Circle of Nine – Beltany has been honored as a 2015 Kindle Book Award Finalist, a finalist in the Gotham Writers’ YA Novel Discovery Contest and the Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest as well as being a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I learned about indieBRAG from a fellow author at a Book Festival.

Please tell me about your book, Circle of Nine-Beltany.

The story follows the path of fifteen-year-old Brigit Quinn as she learns she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe that serves as guardian of the ancient stone circles of Ireland.

This book is so many things . . . It’s a contemporary coming-of-age novel mixed with historical chapters. It’s a story of magic steeped in the mysticism surrounding the ancient stones. And it combines that all together with a dose of pagan ritual and Celtic myth.

Here’s my back cover blurb:

“Since I was a little girl I’ve been labeled a freak in my small town. There’s no blending in when your mom practices an ancient pagan religion and everyone believes she’s a witch. On my 15th birthday, my secret wish is the same as always—to just be normal. But that’s not what I get. Not even close.” – Brigit Quinn

Instead, Brigit is shocked to learn she’s descended from a legendary Celtic tribe – powerful people who serve as guardians of the stone circles of Ireland. A spellbound book of family history reveals the magical powers of her ancestors. Powers that could be hers – if only she wanted them.

And when someone sinister and evil returns to steal her family’s strength, Brigit has to make a decision. Fight to keep her unique heritage or reject it for the normal life she’s always wanted.

***

Additionally, I should note for your readers that the subtitle of the novel – Beltany – is the name of an actual standing stone circle near Raphoe in County Donegal, Ireland.

Circle if nine-Beltany Valerie Biel BRAG

Your historical chapters set in Ireland vary in centuries and I am interested in the setting of 1324. Could you please tell me a little about that?

Picking a year like that seems rather random, but I can assure you it was not. I had been researching when witch trials occurred in Ireland and that year was the earliest recorded date of a witch trial – anywhere. You can read more about that here

It was important to me that the plot line I was thinking up in my head would mesh with the historical reality of the time.

Do you have a picture you can share with us of the Stone Circle Beltany?

The best picture of Beltany comes from the Irish Megalith website. I love this one.

Beltany Stone Circle - County Donegal - Irish Megalith website

And here’s an aerial view to see the size of the circle.

DCIM100MEDIA

What intrigues you most about the Neolithic circles?

There’s something eerie and beautiful about the Irish stone circles, which rise up out of the greenest grass you’ve ever seen. They were built as early as 3700 BC – so thousands of years ago. I think it is fascinating that for the most part how they were built (with no modern equipment to hoist rocks weighing many tons) and exactly what they were built for remains shrouded in mystery. There are plenty of theories, but no one can know for sure. This mystery gives any storyteller a wonderful setting for a great tale.

Please tell me a little about your main character’s interest in history.

Brigit Quinn, the contemporary main character, knows nothing of her family’s true history until her fifteenth birthday. She’s spent her life unnerved by her mother’s pagan practices and has only wanted a normal life. When she learns of her heritage as a descendent of the Tuatha de Danann (one of the four mythological founding tribes of Ireland), she is initially unimpressed. As the book continues, she is drawn further and further into her family history as she reads a thick book about her female ancestors, starting in 1324. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t read the book, but Brigit is at least intrigued enough about these women to keep reading.

What is one of the special talents Brigit’s ancestors had and does she portray any of them?

Oooh, now we are entering SPOILER ALERT territory. Hmmmm . . . what can I say here without giving too much away? Brigit may or may not have a special talent that she may or may not learn is shared by at least one ancestor. How’s that for a cryptic answer.

Could you please share an excerpt? (This excerpt is from the first chapter.)

“Happy Birthday, Brigit Blaise Quinn. It’s getting late, but I’m glad you’re still awake. I have a present I want to give you.”

“What? Now?” My birthday was only a minute old.

Mom carried a wooden box into my room. Her cheeks were pink and her eyes sparkled with excitement. “I’ve waited years to give this to you. My mother gave it to me on my fifteenth birthday, and now it’s my turn to pass it on to you.” She sat on the edge of my bed, and I maneuvered out of my comforter to perch next to her.

“Obviously, you know we follow a different path than most people,” Mom continued.

I nearly snorted at her understatement that the Pagan religion she followed (and I tolerated) was a simple life-style choice.

She paused and seemed to search for the right words. “You remember the story I told you about the Tuatha de Danann, the ancient Irish tribe?”

“Sure, I like that story.” The magical tales about the mythological founding tribes of Ireland who built all the stone circles were my favorites.

“Right, but the thing is – the Tuatha aren’t a myth. They really existed.”

“It’s not just a legend?”

“No, it’s not. They ruled Ireland four thousand years ago, until they were defeated and banished to the mountains.”

“Okay.” I shrugged my shoulders, confused why this was important.

“There are some people who can still trace their lineage back to the Tuatha and that includes us. We’re their descendants.”

I didn’t understand why she was making a big deal about this. “Everyone’s descended from someone, right?” And then I had a neat thought. “Wait! Does this make me royalty? Are you going to tell me I’m a princess?” Now that would be a really great birthday present.

She smiled at my suggestion. “No, this doesn’t make you a princess, but being a descendant of the Tuatha is exciting in a different way.”

She shifted the box onto my lap and said, “We can learn a lot from our ancestors.”

Curious, I ran my hand over the intricate carvings on the lid and grasped the heavy metal clasp. It was obviously very old. When I flipped it open, the hinges actually creaked. Inside was a thick book with a sturdy brown leather cover, worn around the edges. I took it out, but, before I could open it to see what was inside, Mom covered my hands with hers and said, “You’re old enough to know. This is your history, where you are from, and who you could be if you choose it.”

Puzzled by her strange message and sudden seriousness, I waited for her to pull her hands away, and when she did, I turned to the first page. Although the script was hard to read, I made out the name Onora Quinn and the date September 19, 1324.

“Someone really wrote in this book nearly 700 years ago? There’s no way it could have lasted this long.” I squinted hard at the old page.

“It has survived against all odds, so treat it gently. Onora was your twenty-fifth great-grandmother and the first of the Tuatha to record her story in written form. This book has been passed down to each generation, and now it’s yours.” She looked a little sad for a moment and then warned. ”Don’t stay up too late reading.”

But, of course, I did.

Who designed your book cover?

A local artist, Kelsey Curkeet, did an amazing job with the cover. She read my book twice before creating the lovely digital image for Circle of Nine. She is in the middle of creating my novella cover and then the one for the sequel.

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

Circle of Nine references the women in my book who form a group of nine in each generation to continue the traditions of the Tuatha de Danann, a legendary founding tribe of Ireland. Beltany is the name of the stone circle in County Donegal that plays a big part in the Circle of Nine rituals.

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

I will often make a note in the text that says something like FIX THIS SCENE or NEEDS WORK and then move on if I know what the next scene is going to be. If it is the end of my writing day, I will just come back to it with fresh eyes the next morning. This almost always works!

What are you working on next?

I just released on Samhain (Halloween) the first of three Circle of Nine novellas (Dervla’s Destiny), which explore the lives of historical characters from Circle of Nine – Beltany. (The other two will be released before the end of 2015 and a combined set with be available in early 2016.) I am also working on an April 2016 release for the sequel, Circle of Nine – Sacred Treasures.

Do you stick with just genre?

I have only published in the YA genre, but I have also written middle grade novels that I have out on submission with agents and editors. I would love to write some adult romance novels, too.

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

I move from place to place with my laptop . . . I have a desk but often sit in the kitchen at the breakfast bar or in the dining room. Much of Circle of Nine was also written at the local library between pick up and drop offs for my kids’ sports practices.

I write best in the earlier part of the day! I try to get right at it in the morning with my cup of coffee nearby. I’ll take a bit of a break for lunch and then if things are going well, I will continue until about 3 pm, which gives me enough time do things that need to be done before the end of the business day . . . book promotions, bill paying, errands. I mostly write complete crap if I attempt to write in the evening—so if I am motivated to do writerly things then, I will only make editing notations that I (carefully) review in the morning.

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

Coffee – Coffee – Coffee and it has to be in my special mug that helps me write better. J

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

I love to travel – but when that’s not possible, I read a lot and volunteer with the local community theater and historical society where I handle publicity projects.

Author Websites:

Website/Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Book Trailer

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Valerie Biel who is the author of, Circle of Nine-Beltany, 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, Circle of Nine-Beltany, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kathryn Guare

 

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kathryn Guare is here today to talk with me about her book, Deceptive Cadence. Kathryn lives in the Vermont town where she grew up, part of the third generation of her family to call the tiny capital city of Montpelier home. She spent ten years as an executive with a global health membership and advocacy organization, worked as a tour coordinator in a travel agency, and has traveled extensively in Europe and India. She has a passion for Classical music, all things Celtic, and exploring ethnic foods and diverse cultures. Her first novel, “Deceptive Cadence” was awarded a Gold Medal in the Readers Favorite Awards and a Silver Medal in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and most recently was honored with an IndieB.R.A.G Medallion. She currently has three books published in the Conor McBride Series, with more on the way.

Hello, Kathryn! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. How did you discover indieBRAG?

I belong to the Alliance of Independent Authors and several of its recipients are Medallion recipients. Through the discussions in the member forum, I came to understand that indieBRAG was very well respected among authors and other professionals in the self-publishing industry, so I decided to check out the website and learn more.

Please tell me about your book, Deceptive Cadence.

I like to think of it as “a thriller with heart.” The hero of the book is an Irishman named Conor McBride. He’s a talented musician whose career was ruined when was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, he’s been asked to reinvent himself, and assume an undercover identity to search for the man responsible, who happens to be his own brother, Thomas. The book is about his wild ride from the west coast of Ireland all the way to India, as he finds himself drawn into a dangerous game where things are not what they seem and he doesn’t know who to trust.

Who designed your book cover?

I worked with Andrew and Rebecca Brown at Design for Writers. They are based in the UK and I’m in the US, but despite the geographical distance the whole process felt very collaborative and positive, and I was really happy with the result.

Deceptive Cadence_Medallion BRAG

What are a couple of the themes written in your story?

I focus a lot on character development in my writing, so I’d say the most important theme in the story is the internal struggle of the hero to hold on to his own sense of identity. He’s not a professional spy, and he’s a decent man, so he has trouble with the moral ambiguity of what he’s doing. Pretty quickly, he gets sucked into this world of criminal gangs, drugs and human trafficking. He used to be a man who carried a violin everywhere, and now he’s a man who carries a gun. And what’s worse (from his standpoint, not the reader’s!) is his discovery that he’s very good at it. He’s learning things about himself he didn’t want to know, and as the book continues he begins to realize that he can never “unlearn” them, or go back to the life he had before.

What is an example of conflict that Conor experiences in his undercover identity?

I’d say one big conflict is his attitude about his brother. Thomas is ten years older and was Conor’s hero, so when he disappeared and let his younger brother take the fall for a crime he’d committed, it was a bitter betrayal. Conor’s first instinct is to refuse the mission to find him, but once he’s persuaded Thomas is in danger he can’t help but go through with it, because in spite of everything he still loves his brother, and part of him also wants the opportunity to confront him and get an explanation.

Does Conor play a classical instrument?

He plays a violin, and he’s a virtuoso. When he was very young, his father taught him to play traditional Irish music, and then he went off to Dublin and became trained as a Classical musician. He had a job with the national symphony orchestra before everything fell apart on him.

Please tell me a little about his friendship with an elderly Indian woman named Kavita Kotwal. What is her role in the story?

Like all good Irishmen, Conor is close to his mother, so when he’s in India and finds himself so dislocated and conflicted Kavita is a mother figure to him. She’s also got some interesting secrets. Like a lot of people in the story, there’s more to her than meets the eye!

Your setting for the story begins on a farm on the Dingle peninsula, which is on the west coast of Ireland. Why did you chose this place and what drew you to it?

My heritage is Irish and I’m a native Vermonter, so I think I’ve always been drawn to the west of Ireland because it’s more rural and reminds me of my own home, while still being a bit exotic. The Dingle peninsula is particularly gorgeous and it’s my favorite part of Ireland.

What period is your story set in?

The period is the recent past. For various reasons related to a few historical events, I chose to start this first book in the series in April, 2003.

Where can readers buy your book?

If readers are interested in the paperback, I always encourage them to buy from my website so they can get an autographed copy

For the digital copy it is currently exclusively available on Amazon.

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

This is a great time to ask this question because I’ve recently remodeled my house to create a second-floor apartment for myself, and I designed it specifically thinking about where I might like to write. I have a study and do a lot of writing at my desk there, but for a change of scenery, I might take the laptop to my breakfast bar and sit on the stool there for a while, and then maybe move to a couch either in the living room or out on the screened-in porch.

My process is as varied as my writing locations! I was pretty much a “pantser” (writing by the seat of) for my first three books. I had a general idea of the plot and where things were going, but there were situations and scenes that I didn’t know were coming until I wrote them, and characters that I was surprised to see show up! For the book I’m working on now, I’m trying an outlining method I read about in a book called Take Off Your Pants! I’ve found it helpful and although I worried it would spoil the idea of surprises, I’m finding that the outline doesn’t impede that at all.

When thinking about the next book in the series, the characters are paramount, so I’m first thinking about who they are and what stage of development they were at in the last book, and what kind of things they might be facing next in their own internal lives, aside from whatever external plot they participate in, and I really enjoy that. Then, I think about the setting I’d like to see the characters in—where in the world will they go next? When I’ve settled on that, I do a lot of research and thinking about the setting itself, – the food, the culture and history, the music, the people – and try to let it inspire me in terms of scenes and plot developments.

What are you working on next?

I just released Book 3 in the Conor McBride series, which is called City Of A Thousand Spies, and is set in the absolutely gorgeous and romantic city of Prague. For my current writing project, I’ve started writing the story of how Conor’s parents met. It’s set in Ireland in the early 1950s and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. His parents are fabulous!

Do you stick with one genre?

I would say that at its core the series I’m writing is thriller/suspense, but I find myself more inclined to be true to the story and the characters rather than the genre. So, while Deceptive Cadence is a straight suspense/thriller, the second book, The Secret Chord crosses into romantic suspense. Why? Because Conor McBride met someone! The story I’m writing now about how his parents met is connected to the series, but it’s purely historical fiction/romance, no thriller content at all. And I also have an idea for a book in the main series that would have the characters getting involved in something that plays more like a cozy mystery. I’m not sure if this is wise from a business standpoint (!), but I’m hoping most of the readers who have enjoyed the first three books are as caught up in the characters as I am, and will tolerate some coloring outside the lines when it comes to genre. When I read, I most enjoy a character-driven book. It could be a mystery, romance, western, whatever. It doesn’t matter what label you put on it, as long as the characters are people I care about and wish were my friends.

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kathryn Guare who is the author of, Deceptive Cadence 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, Deceptive Cadence, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Laurie Lunsford

Laurie Lunsford BRAG

I’d like to welcome Laurie Lunsford to talk with me today about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, It’s a Piece of Cake. Laurie is an artist, musician, poet, and a published author. Laurie is also the founder of Dancing Hands, an interactive music program. Her life experiences include teaching art in several elementary schools, raising three sons, inventing percussion musical instruments, and designing “one-of-a-kind rings” for those in transition.  She loves expressing herself through paint.

Painting, poetry, music, and gardening have been a healing agent as she maintains health through a chronic condition of her own.  

Laurie has started Interactive Art programs in three facilities, an Assisted Living Facility, a Psychiatric Nursing Center, and now at Golden Living Alzheimer’s Care Unit in Muncie, where she has an open art studio.  She also trains and facilitates volunteers.  She blogs on arts and healthcare blog several times a week at Hands That Create

In her free time, she is writing children’s picture books.  Her second children’s picture book is in process. It will also be useful in Alzheimer’s units to bring memories back about relationships and experiences.   Both books are very interactive and spur discussion. The past year she has been visiting elementary schools and Young Author groups, encouraging children to utilize their talents, not only in writing but in all the arts.

She also leads creativity workshops at health care conventions.

Hello, Laurie! Thank you for chatting with me today. How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG on FaceBook from a local authors group.

Please tell me about your story, It’s a Piece of Cake.

Its a piece of Cake BRAG

This is a book that encourages kids to persevere when learning something new. Young children find challenge in discovering different things to try, like diving off of a diving board, climbing a tree, or playing the piano. Nine different situations show the frustration of learning and also the success that comes with practice. The bright whimsical illustrations show children with whom the reader can readily identify. The unifying theme of “It’s a piece of cake!” comes out through incorporating a piece of cake in the illustrations to find.

What was your inspiration for this creative book?

I get ideas from things I experience every day. I love to put my ideas in story form. Some of them stay on the computer until I am ready to create something with them.   This book came from idea I had three years ago though a brainstorming session.

The inspiration to actually do the book came from meeting one of my son’s friends. Brittani was doing some unique art work, using cut paper. She made family portraits using the cut paper and it had become a business. Her art was in demand. One day she told me she had always dreamed of becoming a book illustrator. As we talked, I decided I would love to have one of my ideas in book form with HER illustrations. I went to the computer and pulled out one of my ideas and commissioned her to do the illustrations. I am an artist also and have a freer style. I have drawn a few illustrations using my style to show Young Author’s groups how we can all “be ourselves” when we draw pictures.

My inspiration also comes from children. I love interacting with them, especially   through the arts. This book fell in line with what I love.

What would you like readers to come away with your book?

Confidence to learn new things….and knowing the fun of reading a good book.

Where can readers buy your book?

It can be ordered on my interactive arts website through Paypal. It is also found on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kindle. It is also sold in small specialty stores around Indiana.

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

I enjoy relaxing on my couch with my laptop in total silence.  My ideas come at all hours of the day and night.  I write my little tidbits down as I get them or dictate them into my iPhone and develop them later. A large number of ideas come while I am driving my car.

Who designed your book cover?

Brittani Gothard, the illustrator

What are you working on next?  

The next book is from the very heart of me.  It is all about slowing down, living in the moment, and using all my senses to experience wonderful things.  It is called Wait, Katie, Wait.  Katie is the essence of who I am.  I am only beginning to find the pace which comes with being old enough to be a grandma.

Wait, Katie, Wait appeals to of all ages. Children bring the energy of wanting to be on the go. Older people offer the pace that brings the ability to enjoy the moment… touching, tasting, seeing, hearing, and smelling. These are moments to enjoy and remember. Grandpa and Katie go on daily adventures. The farmer’s market, fishing in the river, and a birthday party are a few of their destinations. Grandpa’s steps are slow but Katie wants to run ahead. Grandpa enjoys Katie’s company as they share together and Katie learns how to “stop and smell the roses”. The details and pictures in this book, make it mutually satisfying not only to the one being read to but also the one reading. There are roses in the illustrations to find. Alzheimer’s patients enjoy the story and the pictures that spark memories.

Do you stick with just genre?

I write for magazines about the healing benefits of the arts.  Some of my memoirs have also been published in newspapers and magazines.  My thoughts expressed through my blog has been a creative endeavor that flows easily because of all the valuable and shareable experiences I reflect on every day.

Thank you!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Laurie Lunsford who is the author of, It’s a Piece of Cake, 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, It’s a Piece of Cake, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

 

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Jane Hanser

Jane Hanser

Jane Hanser

I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Jane Hanser to Layered Pages to talk with me about her book, Don’t Don’t Look Both Ways. The most common comments Jane receives from people are, “Are you still biking?” and “You can afford to eat anything you want.” The answer to the first is – sometimes, and the answer to the second is “No I can’t.” Since Jane left her position teaching ESL and remedial writing position in Brooklyn, NY to marry Phil and move to Boston, she has focused on her educational software business and thrived living in a medium-sized City, the Garden City, Newton MA. She has had her poetry and essays published in numerous print and online journals such as “Poetica Magazine,” “The Persimmon Tree,” “Every Writer’s Resource,” and others, and she met an amazing dog named Joey, which led to incredulous circumstances that involved her and that resulted in her writing the book, Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways. Jane is involved with many and varied local community and civic activities, such as bicycle and pedestrian safety, feeding the hungry, literacy, and environmental safety. She spends way too much time on the computer.

Hello, Jane! Thank you for chatting with me today. Please tell me a little about your book, Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways: A Primer on Unintended Consequences.

Hello, Stephanie! It’s my pleasure. You make us feel so comfortable. First about the book: Everything described in the book actually happened. That’s why some people consider the book non-fiction. Also, readers have become convinced that Joey is the author: Some insist that his name should be on the cover.

Could you share a brief excerpt?

This excerpt is from Chapter One:

Some dogs live in families where they help guide a family member who cannot use his eyes to see. These dogs work hard to assist their partners and masters with walking down sidewalks, crossing streets, going up and down escalators, going shopping, going to work, and coming back home again. This also would not be me. Dogs who do this important type of work sometimes wear a nice jacket that says, “Do not talk to me. I am working.” Wherever I go, I like to wag my tail and personally greet everybody I see. When my parents and I are outside walking along the sidewalk, I look ahead and see where I want to go, or with my nose to the ground or pointed into the wind I smell where I want to go, and step down from the curb into the street toward that destination. Sometimes I step off the curb at a spot where another road is crossing. That’s when I hear Dad sharply call out, “Joey, stop. Sit. Cars are passing here. Do you want to get hit? Sit until I say it’s okay to cross.” So I stop and force my body to form the “sit” posture, though my bottom doesn’t like to cooperate, hovering and vibrating slightly above the pavement, waiting for some sign that Dad really means what he says. In this position I remain suspended and I plant my gaze firmly on Dad’s face, until he looks back at me and repeats even more emphatically this time, “SIT,” and my bottom finally and reluctantly cooperates. This I do only because he tells me to.

What is an example of how Joey deals with a conflict?

That’s a cute question. Joey knows exactly what he wants, but is not confrontational or aggressive. So he has an array of methods that are aimed at getting him what he wants, without any confrontation. The first example occurs after he, as a puppy, is told that he is no longer allowed to run the long distances he has become accustomed to running, and he has to find a way to revoke that harsh decree. He’s only 8 months old but he succeeds in pressing his point.

Joey also is extremely patient and tries to deal with some conflicts by out-waiting us. He will stand around, look down, up, shift his eyes side to side, try to wait for us to just give up, looking out the corner of his eye to see if we’ve softened. If we haven’t, he starts wagging his tail, first slowly, then more rapidly, then in wider and wider arcs. He times it just perfectly too: just as my frustration is increasing. He knows we can’t be angry or upset with him when his tail is wagging. He has much more patience than we do and uses it to his advantage.

Loud noises don’t bother him at all, but he hates being around interpersonal conflict. If he senses two people are in conflict with each other, he simply gets up, hangs his head down low, and quietly heads out of the room and for the basement.

Dogs don't look both ways with Medallion

And what is his relationship like with his human dad?

There’s a lot of adoration between them. As long-distance running partners, who run miles and miles at 5 am throughout the four seasons, they share a closeness and a world that I can never share with either! His human dad, my husband, has tremendous respect for him.

What are a few of the habits of Labrador Retrievers that people might not know?

Anybody who gets a Labrador Retriever is surprised at how much they like to chew – everything – and at how much they like to dig. Many say that Labs love to eat and will carry their food bowls around with them. This is generally true; however, Joey did not. Many will talk about how good Labs are at swimming. This also is generally true; however, this does not apply to Joey! One habit that is generally true is that Labs love people. Never get a Lab if what you want is a guard dog!

Were there any challenges in creating a voice for a dog?

Sure! The challenge was in channeling the voice for this dog, and getting it into words and on paper. This dog oozes personality and he has a regal quality about him; so the book – the vocabulary, the sentence structure, the punctuation – had to reflect the simplicity of a dog but also convey his unique sophistication and personality.

The other aspect of the challenge was to assure that his voice was not my, or any other human, voice. Here’s a simple example: In the book I had described the utility poles with their white light at the top of each; that line the roads. Then one day in looking out my window, I realized that to Joey, there is no relationship between the two: Although when outside in the dark he passes utility poles as he runs or walks, the light above is, to him, seemingly suspended in air. And the color light we humans see is not the same color that dogs, and Joey, perceives. So I had to question everything that I experienced and ask, “What does Joey experience?” and my writing had to reflect that world of his.

What was it like for you writing the emotional scenes in your story?

I wasn’t attached to my emotions when I was writing the emotional scenes. I was busy getting in touch with the details of what had happened, what Joey was likely experiencing, including how he was experiencing me (or anybody else), and how he was experiencing me experiencing him. And so on. Even re-reading the book, I was more focused on how accurately I was depicting what had happened and from his point of view. As I now read these emotional scenes, I can see that focusing on Joey and chronicling his experience made for scenes that were packed with emotion, whether that was laughter or tears.

Is there anything you would like readers to come away with when reading your story?

The book is full of so many things, but everybody will come away with something different, which is why I love reading readers’ reviews and comments: Each one is different, everybody picks up on something else and takes away something else. But I would like readers to be open-minded.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways is an honest story about life, boundaries, the need to explore, the need to understand each other and the challenges we – humans and our canine family members – face; it’s about being perfect and being imperfect. I hope that everybody will laugh; in some places they may tear up, but keep on reading and laugh and smile again.

Who designed your book cover?

Jonathan D. Scott. He is a friend from my high school who I had lost touch with; we reconnected after a recent high school reunion. He’s an amazing person and I was blessed. The lesson here is that everybody should go to his or her high school reunion. You never know what friendships you’re missing out on!

Where can readers buy your book?

The easiest is to purchase it online at Amazon or Kobo. They can also order it through their local bookstore.

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

I like to write at my computer in my home office, which faces west and looks out on the (small) front lawn and road, where people are walking by day and night. I write when I feel like it – no set time. Most of my ideas come when I’m riding my bike, or when I’m in a yoga class and not supposed to be thinking about anything in particular. Surprise! When I write poetry, I often jot down ideas on my iPhone “Notes”, which preserves the ideas but ruins the pleasure of whatever it is I was doing and focusing on and also is ruining my eyes.

Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways had its own process: It began with an idea and a goal that I wanted my writing to accomplish. I quickly initiated a blog to keep a record of what was happening day by day and to create the voice, and to determine if readers were responding to the dog’s voice, and they were, so that was encouraging. I also read many books about dogs – scientific, breed-specific, historical – many relevant points of which were incorporated into the narrative. It was also important for me to incorporate a spiritual and ethical component to the book. I did a lot of reading and spoke to child psychologists about animals and their role in literature and myth-making to represent certain human concepts to children and adults. Eventually, I discontinued the blog and just worked on a larger manuscript.

Do you stick with just genre?

My writing reflects the forces that are in my life at that time and the message I’m inspired to convey. Whatever genre or vehicle that requires.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Online, doing searches for people to review the book, and one led me backward to indieBRAG: The original website said we could get “one point” toward earning a review by having a book that was honored with the B.R.A.G. Medallion, and naturally I set about to see what that was.
What are you working on next?

Look at my blogs: I’m very interested in issues of family dysfunction and drug addiction. Subset: among individuals in “nice” middle class families, where it’s least expected. But one of my readers wants me to write more Joey stories. I like my writing to be inspiration and to help people find, and hold onto, the good.

Thank you, Stephanie!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jane Hanser who is the author of, Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways, 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, Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Marisha Pink

Marisha Pink - Headshot

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Marisha Pink is a rat race escapee turned author and entrepreneur.

Born and raised in London, from a young age she had an unhealthy obsession with books. She always dreamed of one day writing stories with the power to take readers on a journey, but somehow she wound up studying Chemistry and working in marketing instead.

In September 2012, after five years of climbing the corporate ladder, she decided that it was finally time to take the leap. Backpack in hand, she left everything behind to travel Southeast Asia and complete her debut novel, Finding Arun. She’s been on a mission not to live life by the book ever since.

Eventually returning to London in February 2013, Marisha raised the finance to publish the book through crowdfunding, and joined the self-publishing revolution. Released globally in September 2013, Finding Arun has earned a 5* Readers’ Favorite review, a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and a shortlisting for the inaugural Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction.

Marisha has been featured on BBC London 94.9FM, The Literary Platform, and across several popular blogs and podcasts. Her second novel, Last Piece of Me, the prequel to Finding Arun, was published on 5th March 2015 and is available from Amazon in paperback and ebook.

Marisha, why do you write?

There are two reasons why I write: a love of storytelling and therapy! As a child, my head was always stuck in a book because I loved getting lost in other worlds and other lives. Books fascinated me in a way that television was never able to, because words give you just enough to construct an environment, but let your imagination fill in the detail. I would write short stories and also song lyrics, which are essentially another form of storytelling, but I always had this burning desire to write whole tomes capable of delivering the powerful reading experiences that I enjoyed myself. When I started to write properly it was as though a tension had been released and I find the whole process very therapeutic and cathartic. Writing is a creative outlet for me and I enjoy crafting and tinkering with words on the page, knowing that I am creating something unique which others will be able to immerse themselves in and interpret in their own way.

How has writing impacted your life?

Writing has changed everything! I quit my job to write and though I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices in order to keep writing full-time, the experience has made me appreciate everything in my life so much more. The writing life has a much slower pace than the rat race does, and because I have slowed down I am far more observant of the world around me. I actually notice when the trees are blossoming or the leaves are on the ground, instead of simply hurrying along the street to get to my next appointment. I see things much more clearly than I ever did before, and I am constantly drawing inspiration for my writing from the places I visit and the people I meet. Everyone and everything has a story; if it doesn’t, then I find myself making one up – I can’t help it.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

Inconveniently, the best ideas usually come to me when I’m in the middle of writing another story! When I am writing I am at my most creative, and I often feel as though I am in an entirely different headspace, which breeds ideas faster than I can write them down. It’s tempting to hop from one project to another, especially because new ideas can feel more exciting than something that you have been working on for ages, but I have taught myself to note down new ideas so that I can come back to them at a later date. That said, earlier this year I had a brilliant idea for a story during a massage in Malaysia, so I guess ideas can appear at any time!

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

With gratitude. Whether someone has good words or bad to say about your work, you should appreciate that they have taken the time out of their day to let you know their thoughts. Positive reviews can make you smile for days and negative reviews can make you grow, so embrace them both as a part of your journey to becoming the best writer that you can be.

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

Just enjoy yourself! Often when we seriously turn our attentions to our passions and creative endeavours, we feel a tremendous amount of pressure to “get it right” first time or to be successful overnight. Yet this is not the reason that most writers begin writing and true commercial success is not a reality for most writers anyway. You should never lose sight of why you started to write and remember that writing is a marathon, not a sprint. It can take time to find your unique voice and you should enjoy the process of discovering it, because it’s all part of the joy of being a writer.

Where can readers buy your book?

Finding-Arun-3D-book Marisha Pink BRAG

Finding Arun is available in both Kindle ebook and paperback from Amazon US and Amazon UK)

More links:

Twitter: @marishapink

 Author Website

 

Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Janet Stafford BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her experiences in Self-publishing and what she has learned in her endeavor thus far. Janet was born in Albany, NY, but spent most of her childhood and all of her teen years in Parsippany, NJ – so she thinks of herself as a Jersey Girl. She went to Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) where she received a B.A. degree in Asian Studies. She also has a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture, both from Drew University (Madison, NJ). She worked for eight years as an adjunct professor teaching classes in interdisciplinary studies and history. But Janet’s primary call has been serving six United Methodist churches over the past 24 years, where she has worked in the area of spiritual formation and ministries with children and youth. Her current passion is multi-generational worship and learning.

The publication of Janet’s first novel, Saint Maggie, led to the creation of a series by the same name. She followed up with Walk by Faith in 2013 and After the Storm in 2014. Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll, a contemporary romance, was published at the end of April 2015.

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

I had tried attracting a publisher and/or agent years ago, to no avail. At that point I gave up trying to publish and focused on creating dramatic materials for the churches in which I worked. I realized that self-publishing was a possibility when a friend of mine, Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators, announced that he was publishing a book through Lulu. I thought, “Well, if Rich can do it, so can I!” So I polished SAINT MAGGIE and began my self-publishing adventure.

What has your experience been like along the way?

My experience has been a major learning curve! I’ve learned so much about publishing in general – everything from formatting and editing to cover design, to distribution and eBooks, to marketing and publicity. Self-publishing is not about writing one’s book. It’s about writing the book and everything else that goes into putting the book into the public’s hands. However, I’ve got to say that I am enjoying the experience. I’ve made some interesting goofs along the way, but every time I mess up, I learn something and am more empowered.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The big challenges have been marketing and publicity, and I freely admit that I still am not very good at either of them. I’m just not good at tooting my own horn. It’s hard for me to say “This is the most moving book you’ve ever read” or “This book will sweep you into the conflict and pain of the Civil War.” The Saint Maggie series is an inspiring story about a family, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life. My upcoming romance, HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, is fun and engaging, but it’s not going to bring about world peace. Advertising and marketing is all about exaggeration in order to get people’s attention, something I find disturbing and difficult to do. Also, marketing on social media, while free, takes a significant amount of time – time that I would rather spend writing. So the marketing and publicity aspects are quite challenging for me.

Saint Maggie Book with BRAG Medallion

What have you learned in this industry?

I have learned to do what’s best for me and my books. I started out with Lulu then tried a few other publishing/printing platforms, only to come back to Lulu. My reasons are simple: even though the books cost more to print through Lulu, I find that they give better, more personal service and I have easy access to my files. I even run copies for beta readers by uploading drafts to Lulu and printing them while keeping the material private. The process also helps me work on the cover. When the book is complete, I change the setting so that it will be available to the public, add my ISBN, and it’s ready.

I have also learned the value of old-fashioned public relations. One of my favorite things is to give talks and make public appearances. This past February I spoke to one group that was excited to have an author in their midst. Let’s be honest, most indie authors are unknowns, but if you offer to speak to a group for no charge, as long as you can bring your books to sell and sign, many book clubs, discussion groups, and community groups will be happy to have you. People want to pick authors’ minds, discover why we write, how we write, how we come up with characters, and so on. Best-selling authors don’t or can’t do this for local groups. But relatively unknown authors can. Groups and clubs appreciate it if you take the time to converse with them and sign books. It’s a slow-track in the world of publicity and marketing, but for me it’s the more rewarding track.

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

1) DO find someone to help you with editing, story continuity, etc. If you can’t afford to purchase someone’s services, then find friends who are avid readers, or school teachers or college professors. Also find people who will be honest with you. You cannot do editing all on your own. I use volunteer beta readers at present.

2) DON’T believe deals that look too good to be true. A simple adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. There are countless people and agencies out there looking to separate you from your money. They will tell you that you’ll get x-number of readers or x-amount of publicity if you use their services for x-amount of money. But experience has taught me that there is no magic bullet. I have been taken a few times and I’d like spare you. Be judicious with your money.

3) DO celebrate with the few indie writers who have become well-known and/or wealthy; but DON’T allow their success to make you doubt your own value as an author. Remember, people who write best-sellers are a minority who probably had some phenomenal good luck and/or good friends in the right places. What about talent? They have it – but many little known or unknown authors have talent, too. Don’t forget that.

4) DO work on becoming a better writer. Read work by other authors, be critical when reviewing your drafts, and ask for helpful criticism from others.

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

Know why you’re writing. If it is to get rich and famous, forget about it. You’ll quickly get discouraged when it doesn’t happen. However, if you’re writing because you need to and because you have a story or stories to tell, then go for it – but be prepared to do the hard work and don’t expect to be thrust into the wonderful world of a best-selling book. Instead, look for your rewards in the “small” things. At a recent book club, one reader gave me some helpful criticism of my second book, and then finished up by saying that she could see my growth as a writer throughout the three books. I loved that. Another reader told me on Facebook that I was her favorite author. Are you kidding, with all the other authors out there? That is some kind of compliment! Rewards should not be confined solely to income, book sales, popularity, or number of reviews. Find your joy in the process of writing and publishing, and in your readership.

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

I use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and have a website for my micro-publishing company (I will be publishing work from another author soon) and one for me as an author. I’m also on Goodreads, but I’m inactive and really should drop it. I found it was just one site too many for me to handle.

Since I also work 25-30 hours a week as an assistant minister at a United Methodist church, ideally I want to devote 15 hours a week to research, writing, and publication. I’ve never really tracked how much time I spend on social media. I suppose now that I’ve got four books under my belt, I should log my time to see. My sense is that social media and website work can suck up a fair amount of time.

As for promotional techniques, I do a few things. For instance, I enjoy putting up impromptu games and offering a book as a prize to the first one to give the correct answer. I did that recently on Facebook with HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. On occasion, I run special deals on my author page. I will drop the price or ship for free. However, I don’t care to do deals on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because it is klutzy to change pricing. Also, I don’t go in for things like KDP Select or Matchbook on Kindle – which probably explains why I don’t get much traction on Kindle or Amazon! But I do not like having to make my eBook “exclusive” to Kindle. For WALK BY FAITH and A TIME TO HEAL, I used a crowdfunding platform called Publish to get the word out and raise money for publishing expenses. Crowdfunding also raised awareness about the books. Occasionally, I have used advertising on the web through Yahoo or Google. The ads did get my work exposed to a wider audience, but I learned that you must watch the daily expenses, as they can pile up quickly.

Finally, I have done giveaways on Goodreads. These were comprised of an offer to give away ten books to ten people who enter the giveaway. I got tons of interest and gave away the ten books, but the follow-through from other potential readers was negligible. I am wary of doing too many giveaways – first of all because they cost money, and at present my company is always short of that! The second reason comes from seeing what has happened to music. Easy access to free music has led many people to expect that all music should be free, forgetting that someone had to create that song. The music did not spring forth from the ether. Of course, the work of musicians, authors, and other artists should not be priced out of the average person’s reach, but neither should a person’s creative work be taken for granted and expected to be free on a regular basis.

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

I don’t think of self-publishing as an “industry.” It seems to me that we are so many little ants out there creating books and trying to get readers’ attention. So perhaps self-publishing will become an industry as more small publishing companies and/or authors’ support groups come to the fore. At the present, self-publishing reminds me of the frontier – anything goes until the sheriff, pastor, librarian, and schoolmarm come to town.

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

Perhaps we need to have author support groups. Oh, I know writing groups are out there – but my “day job” (or more correctly, my “other vocation”) is demanding. I often work Saturdays, am always busy on Sundays, often at the office on weekday mornings and sometimes doing things on weekday evenings. So hooking up with a face-to-face group doesn’t work for me. But it would be helpful to have online groups where people could exchange experiences, give and get advice, and so on. Hey, maybe I should start one of those! Anyway, the emergence of more organization might make self-publishing an industry.

How long have you been an indie author?

I published SAINT MAGGIE in 2011, so I have been an indie author for four years. I’m a baby in the field! That said, I have published two more books in the Saint Maggie series, and have just launched my first romance. Whether or not I become a “best-seller,” I’m in this for the long run!

Author Link:

Pinterest

Facebook

Twitter @JanetRStafford

Squeaking Pips (my publishing company)

Website

indieBRAG

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Carrie Beckfort

Carrie Beckfort

Carrie Beckfort

I would like to welcome, Carrie Beckort to Layered Pages to talk with me about her B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Kingston’s Project. Carrie has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and a MBA from Ball State University. She spent seventeen years in the corporate industry before writing her first novel. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.

Carrie, thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, Kingston’s Project. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Thanks for having me, Stephanie! I’m so excited that Kingston’s Project earned a B.R.A.G. Medallion. Since I never expected to write a novel in the first place, the B.R.A.G. Medallion helps to ease a few of my anxieties in this new phase of my life. I first learned of indieBRAG from a fellow author, who I met through a mutual friend. She is also a new self-published author, and we try to help each other by sharing information.

What has your experience been like with self-publishing so far?

Publishing a novel is so completely different than anything I’ve ever done in my professional career, yet at the same time I can pull from much of my previous experience to navigate through the process. After I finished the first draft of Kingston’s Project, I started researching what it takes to publish a novel. I knew immediately that self-publishing was the right path for me at this stage of my writing career. I enjoy the control I have over the entire process. Personally, I’d say that the self-publishing process is more intimidating than it is difficult. Certainly there are parts that are difficult, such as trying to find and connect with readers, but I enjoy the challenge.

Another challenge I had was simply the fact that I had no previous writing experience. It’s hard to get people to believe in your work when you have nothing to ‘justify’ that you know what you’re doing. This is one area where indieBRAG has been a huge help. Having earned a B.R.A.G. Medallion has provided me with some credibility as an author that I didn’t have coming into the process.

Kingston's Project

When did you know you wanted to write a novel?

I have always loved reading, and more specifically I’ve always loved stories. Sometimes I worried that I spent too much time in my daydreams than in reality. However, I never considered writing a novel. I had chosen the technical path in college and eventually migrated to marketing and sales, and I connected more with data analysis and process improvement than creative writing.

Back in 2012 I told my book club gals that I was considering taking a personal leave from work to focus on my family and my health. They were supportive, but they also brought me down to reality. They knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied with staying home and having nothing to do while my daughter was in school. They started tossing around ideas for what I could do, and one of those was that I could write a book. I actually dismissed the idea pretty quickly. My thought was, “I read books. I don’t write them.”

However, about three weeks later I woke up and remembered part of a dream. I thought, “I wonder why that would happen.” My next thought was, “Oh crap, I’m writing a book.” It really was that clear for me. There was no ‘can I do this’ or ‘should I do this’—I started writing Kingston’s Project that very day.

What is your writing process and where in your home do you like to write?

I did end up taking a leave from my company when I was about halfway through the manuscript for Kingston’s Project. It wasn’t for the purpose of writing, but I certainly use the time off to my writing advantage. Because of this, most of my writing time comes while my daughter is in school. This means I don’t get much writing done during the summer, spring, and fall breaks (or on snow days), but that’s OK because spending time with my daughter is my priority. I try to stick to a schedule whenever possible—get the family out the door in the morning, go to the gym, get through emails and other admin type work, then write until the bus brings my daughter back home.

When I first started writing Kingston’s Project, I didn’t tell anyone for about four months. I was convinced that everyone, including my husband, would laugh if they knew (when I did finally tell my husband, he did laugh but only a little). Because I kept it secret, I would mostly write sitting on the couch at night after my daughter went to bed. Now, I write in our dedicated home office.

My actual writing process varies with each novel. For Kingston’s Project, I didn’t even create a timeline until I was about halfway through—and that was only because I was afraid I’d mess up my timing of events. I just started writing at the first word, and continued to the last. For my third novel, Shattered Angel, I had to start with an outline for each chapter before I could start writing. It’s a fixed chapter concept, and I needed to know ahead of time what each would be about and make sure they all fit together.

Please tell me about Kingston’s Project.

Kingston’s Project is told from the point of view of Sarah Mitchell. The novel starts two years after Sarah had suffered a significant loss. She’s struggling to move on, only really able to get through the mechanics of each day. Deep down she does want to live her life again, but she’s so far into the darkness that she doesn’t know how to find her way out. Sarah works for a company that does contract project management work for other companies. One of her firm’s largest clients—Elijah Kingston—requests to interview Sarah to lead a confidential assignment. At the encouragement of her boss and best friend, she accepts the interview and flies out to Colorado (from her home in Indiana).

She is reluctant to agree to do the project, primarily because she is not a fan of Elijah Kingston. What she learns about his project shocks her to her core. It’s enough to make her want to refuse the project and return back home. However, Elijah is able to convince her to stay with the promise to help her heal in the process. The story follows the friendship that forms between Sarah and Elijah, and how they navigate the difficult circumstances that life has thrown their way. Kingston’s Project brings each of their journeys to life—Sarah’s healing and Elijah’s strength and courage.

Tell me a little about Sarah Mitchell.

Sarah is a strong woman who doesn’t know how strong she really is. She’s confident in her professional career, but in her personal life she allows herself to become dependent on those she loves in a way that dims her own strength. She doesn’t know how to pick up the pieces of her broken life without the one person who always did it for her.

Sarah is caring and respectful of those around her. She’s able to accept people for who they are, without passing judgment their way. It doesn’t stop her from speaking her mind, but she tries to do it while respecting the viewpoint of the other person.

Sarah is very organized, which servers her well in her career. She prefers to remain professional at all times, and often finds it difficult to relax. Oh, and she loves coffee and fuzzy socks!

What is a challenge Sarah encounters dealing with her loss?

After her loss, she basically isolates herself from just about everyone. It’s hard for her to overcome something so devastating when she feels so alone. She loses herself in destructive behaviors, which include a lack of eating combined with excessive running. Elijah recognizes this and forces her to acknowledge the extent to which she has allowed her grief to impact her life and health.

What are Elijah Kingston’s strengths and weaknesses?

Oh, Elijah. I really enjoyed watching his character come to life. He’s the kind of person who has a permanent gray line between his strengths and weaknesses. What he may perceive as strength, someone else will certainly see as a weakness! He is confident, arrogant, demanding, and proud. He gets results, and it’s usually the results that he wants.

Yet, he’s a very caring person. All of his actions come from a place of good intentions. He’s capable of recognizing when he’s wrong, he’s just too stubborn to let go of his original decision. We see this in his relationship with his children. They don’t get along, and he refuses to make a change despite Sarah’s encouragement for him to close the gap. Once his course is set, he doesn’t look back. Most of the people in his life view this as a weakness; however, it’s the primary thing that helps him through his situation. So in his journey, it’s his most powerful strength.

What was your inspiration for this story?

It all started with a dream. I woke up, remembered part of something I had dreamt, and immediately went to the computer to do some research. I can’t tell you the exact dream, because it would give away key aspects of the novel. I will tell you that it was more about the relationship between Sarah and Elijah rather than their individual situations. I started with that connection, asking why it existed. Elijah’s story developed naturally from there. For Sarah, I knew she was struggling with something significant, so I decided to give her the one thing I fear most in this world. In addition, my family had recently suffered from a significant loss right before I started writing Kingston’s Project. I think I needed to write through my own grief as a form of healing.

Is there a message in your story you would like readers to grasp?

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. There may be loss, illness, injury, broken relationships—the list is long. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t still live and enjoy the path we’ve been given. Sarah’s unexpected path was loss. Grief is a powerful deterrent to life, but it can be overcome. Sometimes we need to reach out to others for help. And sometimes that help comes from someone we would least expect. We just have to be willing to accept and embrace it when it comes our way.

Were there any challenges in writing this story?

Since I wrote Kingston’s Project without the initial intent to publish, I didn’t struggle with too many writing challenges. I just wrote without worry. The challenge came when I finished the manuscript and decided to publish it. One of my biggest challenges was that my manuscript was entirely too long! I ended up cutting over 40% of what I had written. I actually don’t mind that I cut that much—I look at it as I was getting better the more I wrote, so it wasn’t wasted time. But it was difficult to determine what to cut. It’s such a heavy book at times, and I needed to balance that. While a certain scene may have seemed insignificant to the overall plot, if it was one of the lighter moments I had to take caution before cutting it or reducing it.

My other primary challenge after I decided to publish was making sure the information in the novel was accurate. I needed to ensure that the key aspects of Elijah’s struggle were well represented. In my research, I had come across a foundation that supports people in Elijah’s situation. I sent a request, asking if someone would be willing to read the manuscript and offer comments. I was really blessed that they agreed. It was so important for me to get the information right, and I’m so grateful for the input I received.

Where can readers buy your book?

Kingston’s Project is available in paperback and ebook through most of the online retail stores—links are provided below.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM | Indie Bound

For other locations, please visit my website

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Carrie Beckfort who is the author of, Kingston’s Project, our medallion honorees 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, Kingston’s Project, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Debrah Martin

Debrah Martin -BRAG

Debrah Martin writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, is to be released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs is the first in the series and Magpies will follow in 2015.

So why not stick to just one name and one genre?

‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.

Hello, Debrah! Thank you for chatting with me today and your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Patchwork Man. I must say, what a fantastic title! It catches the reader’s eyes and leaves them wanting to find out more about the story. Before you tell me how your title pertains to the story, tell me about your book.

Patchwork Man

Lawrence Juste QC finds himself tricked into taking a case defending a juvenile against a charge of manslaughter by his clever – but dead – wife. Normally he wouldn’t even have opened the folder without her around to persuade him, but she’s left something else to do that for her; a list of all the unsavoury people and events from his past. The ones he’s carefully hidden until now and didn’t even know she was aware of.

Disconcertingly, the boy reminds him of himself – not only as a person but in the crime he’s supposed to have committed. Taking the case catapults Juste into a world that touches his own past with alarming regularity until it throws up the brother he betrayed as a teenager, the bully he’s done his best to avoid ever since and a disturbingly attractive female liaison. It also leads him on a journey in which he rediscovers the family he rejected, has to answer for the murder he should have ensured was fairly tried, but didn’t, and himself – or the principles the man who styled himself Lawrence Juste once wanted to observe. By the time the book closes, the links to his forgotten family have drawn significantly closer and so has the childhood bully. And the one person who still seems to be the linchpin for all of it is Juste’s dead wife whose influence oddly still seems to be very much alive and active…

Your story is set in two specific times – Lawrence/Kenny’s childhood is based in the 1950’s in Croydon, England. Run-down, poverty-stricken and dismal. The ‘present-day’ story is 1999, with Lawrence (born 1950) and now middle-aged, well-to-do, respected and living in London. How did you decide to write about these periods, topic and what was challenging about the themes? Also, please share a bit of research you might have done.

It all started with my mother’s description of how the rag and bone man used to tour the streets years ago. My mother is now eighty. It was such a vivid piece of living history I wrote it up straight away and then started looking around at what else was happening at the time. Next I hit on some information about what it was like being in a children’s home in the fifties and how some of the children desperately wanted to leave that past behind them when they left. I started to think about what it might be like for someone with an experience so bad they wanted to entirely forget it and turn their back on the whole of their past life, even the times before they were unhappy. That obviously provided the possibility of wanting past misdeeds to be hidden too, and for them to later come back and haunt the protagonist. He, or she, therefore had to be a ‘fallen hero’ and I particularly liked the idea of one who was ultra-respectable but intrinsically damaged – or dramatically failing to adhere to the principles they once aspired too. Lawrence Juste was ‘born’, and after having seen an adaptation for the theatre of To Kill a Mocking Bird, my long-time admiration of the book found its target in the principles of justice and fairness Juste aspires to, but lost sight of a long time beforehand.

The research was easy in some ways as some of my family had lived in Croydon in both the 1950’s and 1990’s. I, myself, lived in London in the 1980’s. The more difficult area to research was the state of children’s homes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I was both disturbed and pleased to be told by someone who’d actually worked in a children’s home round about that time that my description was very accurate – of both the kind of buildings and arrangements in place as well as the incidents that occurred. Research for me is usually a mix of research using the internet, and interviewing people with recall of appropriate places and times. Personal remembrances are much more ‘alive’ than research conducted through books or the internet, but both are be necessary because the memory is fallible, whereas recorded facts tend not to be! I’m not a legal eagle, but I had a massive stroke of luck in coming across someone who introduced me to a British High Court Judge and he checked the legal and procedural sections for credibility and accuracy. He asked to remain nameless of course, but I’m indebted to him for his kindness in helping with Patchwork Man.

What is an example of a choice or a path Lawrence takes that affects his life and how does he deal with it?

Laurence made a major life path choice in his teens when he decided he was going to cut himself off from his past. It derived from self-preservation, firstly after an incident at the children’s home he spent his teenage years in,

“… it was the determination to never be falling backwards with a knife in my gut that kept me safe until Jaggers arrived.”

And subsequently that determination to survive taught him how to subdivide his life and his emotions so he could operate almost robotically, and not be truly touched emotionally:

“… Keep everything separate; separate lives. That way the trouble of one life wouldn’t spill over into the other. The two versions. Fragmented…”

But this is only possible until he’s forced to become involved with people who operate quite differently to him; Danny – who might be his son, and Kat, who disturbs all kinds of hitherto stifled emotions. He’s never dealt in emotion or loyalty before. Facing his past as it collides with his present requires him to also face himself, and the man he’s become.

“… Advice can be good at the time, but time moves situations on and everything is changed. And to be a whole person the fragments have to be assembled …”

What is a Patchwork Man? And this must be how you came up with your title.

My patchwork man is Laurence,

“…Maybe we’re all patchworks, slowly adding to the pattern, piece by piece – some frayed, some neatly sewn, some brightly coloured and some dull and faded from over-use…”

But I think we are all patchworks, created out of our experiences and past choices. They inform our behavior, create our instinctive responses, and sometimes come unraveled if there’s a loose thread that someone or something tugs hard enough on. I’m also fascinated with how life can change dramatically from one moment to the next and what we thought was the pattern of our world can tangle or even become undone. That was what I wanted to portray in Laurence – the man who thought he’d got everything sewn up tight, only to find that single loose thread pulled, and with it everything else coming unstitched too.

How much time did you spend writing your story?

The whole trilogy took me just over a year to write. I worked on it more or less continuously during that year and the story took over and told itself after a while. I find that quite often happens when I get to know the characters well because what they choose to do is almost inevitable once I’ve understood them and their motivations and fears. Of course there is always – as with real life – the chance that they will act out of character because of a revelation, and Laurence does have one of those moments in the final book of the trilogy; Patchwork Pieces, out on the 13th April, but I’ll keep what a secret …

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

I have a writing room which used to be my daughters ballet studio – until she gave it up. I could, if I wished, admire myself in two walls of mirrors whilst hanging off the ballet barre, but of course I’d rather sit at my desk and write! My day starts with a mug of tea and a review of what I did the day before. If I’m on a roll I might get a whole chapter down in first draft, but often it’s much more slow-moving. I tend to write a whole first draft before doing any editing, and once a first draft is completed I like to put it away for a while before going back for the first round of editing. It enables me to see it with fresh eyes. I don’t use Scrivener or any of the other tools some writers use. I have a spreadsheet detailing the chapters, the main plot points occurring in them, Sometimes there are quite detailed descriptions if I’ve already imagined some elements of the chapter in my head, like a conversation between characters or a specific turning point in the plot, or sometimes just a sentence I particularly like. The spreadsheet gradually gets scrawled all over as I think of things I’d like to change or add to, or the characters themselves dictate that something different should happen. I try to break the day up with a walk with my dog unless our English weather puts a stop to that. Otherwise, Rosie, my retriever lays just behind where I sit at my desk and reminds me from time to time that she’d like some attention too! My writing day usually ends round about 4.30pm when my younger daughter arrives home from school, demanding food – why are teenagers always starving? If, by then, I’m most of the way through a chapter, it’s been a good day, but often the progress will have been more in determining plot points, character development and collating research material in the early days of the book.

Who designed your book cover?

The cover design is mainly mine, but brought to life by a cover designer. After looking at a number of book covers in the genre, I decided I needed a theme for all of the books in the trilogy and chose the images with that in mind. The basic white background of the front cover was a natural choice because of the first image I chose and it also perfectly complimented the theme of something coming out of nothing. Laurence Juste starts out as a ‘nothing’ person – hidden secrets, hidden past, hidden emotions, and on the front of Patchwork Man he’s just about to break cover. The images progress through the spying eye of Patchwork People – and there’s a distinctly spying eye at the heart of the second book in the trilogy – to the handprint on the cover of the final book in the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, where Laurence’s identity is sealed.

In your bio it say you write under three pen name. How do you keep up with that? *smiling* That is impressive!

With difficulty! I often have more than one book in progress, is really how. At the moment I’m working on Magpies, my next YA fiction, but I’m also plagued with all sorts of ideas for The Definition of Iniquity, which is to be my next suspense thriller. I also have Thirty times Thirty, another literary fiction underway. In progress too are a re-release of a novel now out of print from 2013, and waiting in the wings with my agent is Falling Awake – also a literary fiction. I chose to write under three pennames mainly on my agent’s advice. She felt that it would be confusing for readers to pick up a book written in one genre anticipating it to be a particular kind of story, only to find it was something completely different. I can see the sense in this and as long as the ideas and stories keep flowing and readers keep reading, I’m happy to be read under any name.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first found indieBRAG via another author agented by my literary agent, A for Authors; Alison Morton. Alison also writes suspense thrillers and I was interested in the award she referred to having won for one of them as she is also an indie. I had a look around the B.R.A.G. website and was impressed by both its authenticity and its professional approach. I decided to submit Patchwork Man, although hardly daring think I would be awarded a BRAG medallion so you can imagine how delighted I was when I did. Being an indie author is tough at times. So many doors are closed to you by the traditional publishing world, yet I know from other indie authors that I have read that there are some extremely talented writers out there – more talented, dare I say, than some authors published by mainstream and major publishers. To receive an award based on a thorough and professional review is not only an honour – and an accolade very much worth having – it’s a validation of all the work that goes into writing a book and garnering the self-belief to self-publish it. What more can I say than that I am delighted to be able to BRAG about mine.

Where can readers buy your book?

Patchwork Man is available on Amazon

As is the sequel, Patchwork People

And the conclusion to the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, is available for pre-order

For YA fiction readers, my first YA fiction, Webs, is available here

You can also find Debrah’s website here

Her blog is here

Her Facebook Page

And she’s on Twitter as @Storytellerdeb

Thank you, Debrah! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please visit Layered Pages again soon.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Debrah Martin, who is the author of, Patchwork Man, our medallion honorees 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, Patchwork Man, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Award Winning Author Ginger Scott

GingerHeadshot-March-2013_crop

Ginger Scott is a writer and journalist from Peoria, Arizona. Her debut novel, “Waiting on the Sidelines,” is a coming-of-age love story that explores the real heartbreak we all feel as we become adults throughout our high school years. The story follows two characters, Nolan (a Tomboy with a boy’s name) and Reed (the quarterback she wishes would notice her) as they struggle with peer-pressure, underage drinking, bullying and finding a balance between what your heart wants and what society says you should want — even if you aren’t ready. The sequel, “Going Long,” follows these characters through their college years. You can buy both now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, Smashwords and more. Her newest novel, “Blindness,”is a new-adult romance that follows two broken souls who are barely living and dealing with tragedies of their own, until they meet and their hearts come alive. “Blindness” is also available on all platforms.

Scott has been writing and editing for newspapers, magazines and blogs for more than 15 years. She has told the stories of Olympians, politicians, actors, scientists, cowboys, criminals and towns.

 When she’s not writing, the odds are high that she’s somewhere near a baseball diamond, either watching her 10-year-old field pop flies like Bryce Harper or cheering on her favorite baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott is married to her college sweetheart whom she met at ASU (fork ’em, Devils).

Stephanie: Hello, Ginger! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, “Waiting on the Sidelines”. Please tell me about your book.

 Ginger: Thank you for hosting me! It’s an honor.

“Waiting on the Sidelines” is told through the eyes of an average teenage girl with a boy’s name. My protagonist, Nolan, is a tomboy who’s comfortable in her own skin until she enters high school. On her first day, she meets the boy—quarterback Reed Johnson—the one everyone, including herself, wants. But then she overhears him talking with some other girls, making fun of her, and suddenly she’s thrust into this awful adolescent rite of passage—where you no longer want to be yourself, but you’re mad at yourself for giving in. The book follows Nolan through her four years of high school, and readers get to feel everything right along with her—her first love, first kiss, her first heartbreak, the cruel things girls do to one another and her triumphs. Through it all, Nolan continues to listen to her heart, and a real, though not always easy, love begins to grow between her and Reed. The question in the end: Is true love enough?

Ginger Scott's book cover

Stephanie: What age group is your story written for and is there a message in your story you hope readers will grasp?

Ginger: I have heard from readers of all ages, and I think it’s a story that any woman, no matter her age, can identify with. I have heard from several mothers and daughters who have read it together, and hearing that is the greatest compliment. There are a lot of lessons to take away, but at it’s core, “Waiting” really highlights how girls treat one another, and I hope it tips the scales a little, encouraging us to support rather than tear down. It’s also one heck of an angst, swoon-worthy romance, so anyone who has ever sighed at a John Hughes movie should be pleased.

Stephanie: Being a teenager is tough. What are Nolan Lennox weaknesses and strengths and how does this affect her life?

Ginger: Being a teenager is tough. It’s a wonder we all survive! I think Nolan’s strength probably starts with her connection to her family. She has parents that are present in the book, and she talks to them—not always, but when it counts. She also has a backbone and isn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself. But as much as she puts on a strong face, underneath she still has doubts, and she battles anxiety and low self-esteem. I really wanted to make Nolan feel real and honest, so I focused on her flaws and her anxiety, because I think even the most popular girl in school gets her feelings hurt sometimes, and girls that read this need to see themselves and know it’s okay.

Stephanie: What is one of the examples in this story that explores, “young love to the fullest”?

Ginger: Your first love is a powerful one, and those feelings are so raw and new and uncharted. Because this story follows the main characters through four years, readers get a unique perspective on a real high school romance. It’s not an instant-love story, but one that starts with friendship and makes a stop at every emotion along the way—jealousy, rivalry, lust and adoration. There’s a scene where the main characters, Reed and Nolan, are a little bit older, but they still don’t know how to just say what they feel. So instead, Reed tries to evoke a reaction from Nolan, making her jealous by being affectionate with another girl in front of her. Of course Nolan reacts, and they yell and fight and say hurtful things to each other—but they also chip through that armor we all wear in high school, and this scene is the first time we see them start to be honest. It was one of my favorite to write.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write this story and is this your first published work?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” was my debut, and it is the story I always wanted to write. I still remember the first time I read Judy Blume’s “Forever.” I had never read a book that felt exactly like me before—anxiety, shame, fear, desire. That book is probably the reason I wanted to be an author, but I took a detour through journalism to get here. After years of reporting real stories, I finally felt brave enough to get the one out of my head onto paper (e-book paper in some cases). I was inspired by my reaction to “Forever” many years ago, and I also was inspired by the young girls in my life, goddaughters, who have faced adversity in high school through bullying and broken hearts. I wanted to write a fairy tale that was also a tribute to their strength, and I think this is it.

Stephanie: What are the challenges to writing in this genre and with this particular content?

Ginger: I love romance, and I love coming-of-age stories, so I think for me, the biggest challenge was to add something I was truly proud of to a larger body of work I admire so very much. Personally, though, the biggest challenge was writing real. What I mean by that is that I didn’t want to tell a story that felt like it couldn’t really happen. I wanted readers to picture every feeling and detail, smell the same air and want to have the same friends. And I also wanted my characters to sound like real teenagers, which meant that sometimes Reed—my prince charming—was a real jerk. Sometimes the cute boy isn’t nice, because he’s still learning how to be a man, and it was a challenge to make Reed say and do some things that I made him do. But I’m glad I did, because he’s very real to me.
Stephanie: When did you first began to write?

Ginger: I know this isn’t a unique answer, but I really have been writing since I was a kid. I picked journalism as my course of study when I was maybe 10 or 11. I wanted to see my byline in a magazine and a newspaper, so I wrote fiction, poems and reported on real people every chance I got until someone started to pay me for it. I went to ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism, and I was a reporter for the Arizona Republic and several magazines and newspapers in Arizona. I think every story I ever wrote on a real person has helped me to better tell the make believe ones aching to get out of my head.

Stephanie: How has writing affect your life and what advice would you give to someone who is inspired to write their first story?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is my first of now three titles—one a follow up to “Waiting” called “Going Long” and the other a stand-alone romance called “Blindness.” I was always afraid to put myself out there—afraid no one would notice or care, and terrified of rejection. But finally doing it is one of the greatest achievements of my life, and I regret letting fear hold me back for so long. My advice is to not be afraid—write without abandon. Just write. Your heart will thank you later.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Ginger: I was looking for other independent reads to add to my reading list, and someone had posted a Medallion book on Twitter. I followed the links back to the indieBRAG site and was impressed with the list of titles. Then I saw a call for books for consideration, and I decided to send in “Waiting on the Sidelines” and try (again, a huge step for me as I fear rejection—seriously, it terrifies me). When I heard from indieBRAG that “Waiting” was a medallion honoree, I was thrilled. The honor is tremendous, and I’m so touched.

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

Ginger: Just, thank you. Thank you for reading my stories. I do not take the time you give to me, and my words, lightly, and I will always work my tail of to write heartfelt stories that make you feel something. And I hope you continue to like how my stories make you feel. Because writing for you is the greatest joy of my life…well, second greatest. Being the baseball mom is always number one.

Stephanie: Here can readers buy your book?

Ginger: “Waiting on the Sidelines” is available for Kindle and print on Amazon. It is also available as an e-book on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Sony and more.

Amazon

B&N

Kobo

Smashwords

Author Website

Facebook

Twitter – @TheGingerScott

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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Ginger Scott, who is the author of “Waiting on the Sidelines”, one of our medallion at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, 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, “Waiting on the Sidelines” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member