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.

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 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

 

Interview with Melanie Karsak

The Harvesting

“The world, it seemed, had gone silent. It was something we knew but did not talk about. We were alone.”

While Layla Petrovich returns home to rural Hamletville after a desperate call from her psychic grandmother, she never could have anticipated the horror of what Grandma Petrovich has foreseen. The residents of Hamletville will need Layla’s cool head, fast blade and itchy trigger finger to survive the undead apocalypse that’s upon them. But even that may not be enough. With mankind silenced, it soon becomes apparent that we were never alone. As the beings living on the fringe seek power, Layla must find a way to protect the ones she loves or all humanity may be lost.

This exciting new dark fantasy/horror hybrid blends the best of the zombie genre with all the elements a fantasy reader loves!

It’s all fun and games until someone ends up undead!

Stephanie: Hello, Melanie! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. You have written a story in a genre that is seems to be all the rage right now. What sets your book apart from others?

Melanie: Thank you so much for having me today. I am so delighted to be a BRAG Medallion honouree and grateful to be asked to stop by to talk about my novel!

So what sets this book about from all those other zombie novels? Well, in The Harvesting, I wanted to consider what the death of humanity might mean if there were, in fact, other being living in our world. What if there really were vampires, and shape-shifters, and fey people . . . all the beings of folklore? If mankind died, what might the impact be on the unknown world that lives in tandem with us? As an academic, the symbolic nature of the zombie trend really intrigues me. I believe it speaks to an inner deadness we feel as a society. I started playing with how other being might symbolically represent other feelings and attitudes about our world. At the end of all this debating and thinking, I ended up with The Harvesting.

Stephanie: Really interesting…I have to admit I’m not into the whole folklore of Vampires fey people and Zombies but your idea to explore a world where they actually live with us is intriguing.

Please tell me about Layla. What are her goals and the conflict she faces?

Melanie: Layla is interesting. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by a psychic grandmother who was the town’s resident medium, oddball, and “witch.” Layla always felt a bit ostracized as a child. While she did have a very passionate first love (with Ian), she ran away from Hamletville as soon as she could to better herself—education, a career, life in Washington DC. The end of humanity finds her returning to Hamletville, a place she’d rather not visit. In the wake of the zombie apocalypse, she finds herself reunited with her first love, Ian, but slowly begins to understand she is not the same girl who once loved this hometown boy . . . Ian’s brother Jamie, however, is an entirely different story. Of course, Layla also has to face zombies, and vampires, and her budding psychic ability. Most of all, Layla has to learn how to trust the right people. This is a major struggle for her.

Stephanie: Layla sounds like a fascinating character that I think many can relate to.

Is rural Hamletville a real place?

Melanie: Hamletville is my play on words; I was trying to describe the smallest of small towns. The town, however, is inspired by an amalgam of my hometown (a very Hamletville kind of place), Tidioute, PA as well as North East, PA where I worked.

Stephanie: Small towns are always cool to use in stories…

What is Layla’s occupation in this story and how did she learn to use the weapons she wields?

Melanie: Layla picked up a sword at a young age and fell in love. She learned fencing and went on to study the ancient art, becoming a state champion. She studied medieval history in college and is working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC at the beginning of this book. I took fencing as a student at Penn State, and the experience always stuck with me. A reviewer called Layla pretentious because of her esoteric education and skills, but it is those university-born skills that allow her to become a great leader during this catastrophic event.

Stephanie: Is this a stand-alone story or will there be others?

Melanie: I am planning to release The Shadow Aspect, the second novel in this series, in the summer of 2014. There will also be a Harvesting Series novella, Midway, that will release this summer. The novel will conclude with a third book titled The Green World, which will release in late fall 2014 or 2015.

Stephanie: How does your title tie into the story?

Melanie: Layla has a dream in the novel where the figure of a grim reaper takes her to a graveyard, telling her they are there for the harvest. This scene actually comes from a vivid dream my own grandmother once had and shared with me. In a way, a zombie apocalypse is the harvest of mankind. Our time is done. Those who survive have a big job ahead of them.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing in this genre and when did you first become interested in it?

Melanie: I have always written fantasy novels, but I think I always took myself too seriously. I wrote The Harvesting for fun. I wanted to play. I wanted to pick a topic that was both light and deep all at once and just enjoy writing it. Zombies seemed like fun. I think that makes me sound weird, lol!

Stephanie: Writing fantasy stories are a lot of fun. I’m working on an alternate history one right now that fits pretty close to fantasy. It’s wonderful that you enjoy writing in this genre and are having fun.

Please tell me about your writing process.

Melanie: I’m a planner. I have to know how the novel will go from A-Z before I sit down to write. I usually map out a narrative arch on paper then go from there. My actual writing process doesn’t take that long because I plan so much.

Stephanie: What do you like most about writing?

Melanie: I love to live in my worlds. I love my characters. They are like real people to me. I enjoy spending time in their heads and seeing the world through different points of view. In the case of my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, I love that I can invent an entirely magical and different world and give it verisimilitude!

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Melanie: Shelley Adina, a steampunk author whose work I admire, is a BRAG recipient.

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

Melanie: Regarding The Harvesting, if they would like to try a zombie novel that is a bit different (I might even say quirky), they should give the book a try. Many readers say that while they aren’t into zombies, my book is so different that they really enjoyed it! I’ve gotten fabulous feedback on this novel from the book blogger community. It’s a fun, action-packed, book. It’s a fantasy-filled read with a kick-butt heroine, great for a Sunday afternoon.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Melanie: The Harvesting and my steampunk series, The Airship Racing Chronicles, are available at Amazon.com!

Stephanie: Thank you, Melanie!

Melanie: My pleasure. Thanks for having me!

About Melanie:

Melanie Kasak

Melanie Karsak grew up in rural northwestern Pennsylvania and earned a Master’s degree in English from Gannon University. A steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and zombie whisperer, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.

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A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Melanie Karsak, who is the author of “The Harvesting”, 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, “The Harvesting” merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Author Patty Henderson

Patty Henderson

Patty G. Henderson

I’m a Tampa, Florida native and still live in beautiful, Palm tree-lined South Tampa. I got hooked on mystery and supernatural literature after I read Edgar Allan Poe in junior high and soon after, discovered Gothic Romances.  The dark side still fascinates me and I lament the loss of some of the old style literature of the greats in the genre.  

I’m a firm believer in the romantic gothic element.  I write Gothic Historical Romances.  So far, there are three, THE SECRET OF LIGHTHOUSE POINTE, CASTLE OF DARK SHADOWS and my latest, PASSION FOR VENGEANCE.  These are total homages to the old paperback Gothics available at drugstores, department stores, grocery stores and every place paperback books were sold in the 1960s and 1970s. In my Gothic books, though, the girl gets the girl and the sex is much steamier! I’ve also written four books in the Brenda Strange Paranormal Mystery Series, THE BURNING OF HER SIN, TANGLED AND DARK, THE MISSING PAGE and XIMORA

When I’m not writing or thinking of plot lines in my head, I love spending time with my family friends, coffee shops, fine wine and enjoying being out in the weekend evenings under the soothing power of the moon. I love thunderstorms with rolling thunder and the quiet beauty of a cemetery. There is also lots more room for cats in my home. One can never have enough felines. I’ve had cats since I can remember and fondly recall each one with love for all the joy they brought me. I also create book covers and offer other book services for the indie author via my Boulevard Photografica business services. I enjoy collecting teddy bears, playing Pokemon, and old black and white films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. All things historical interest me.

Stephanie: Hello, Patty! Thank you for chatting with me today and welcome on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, Passion for Vengeance. Please tell me about your story?

Patty: PASSION FOR VENGEANCE, at it’s center heart, is a Romance. A story about betrayal, guilt, punishment, salvation and love. Set in the decade following the Civil War, we are thrust into the lives of the Havens Family, a once proud and wealthy family, now downtrodden and borrowing to keep their familial home, Havenswood, afloat. Jane Havens is one of three Havens siblings still left at Havenswood, and starved of all her previous priviledged life and love, Jane Havens becomes immediately enamoured of Emma Stiles, the new governess for her youngest brother, Henry. When Emma Stiles, beautiful, mysterious and oozing sex appeal arrives, Jane Havens knows that the woman will become special in her life. What she doesn’t know is that Emma Stiles brings with her secrets….secrets that will drag all the skeletons hiding in the Havens family closet out for airing. But the love between Emma and Jane, born of a damaged past and a hungry thirst for love between them, could not be torn apart.

Stephanie: What a fascinating premise and time period! What was your inspiration and what interest you most about this era?

Patty: I’ve always been a history buff, always considering it my fave subject at school (gosh, that was so long ago! LOL). I really read and studied the Civil War, and having written Gothic Romances in other historical periods like Victorian and War of 1812, I decided to set one in post Civil War. It allowed me the opportunity to bring in some of the dreadful fallout from the war and how it painfully touched not only the South but many families everywhere.

Stephanie: What are the challenges writing Gothic Romance? Was there research involved?

Patty: Like most genres, Romance has its template and general outline for a story. Same for the Gothic Romance. Gothic Romance is best rememered as those cheap paperbacks you could buy at your local drug store or grocery story with covers picturing a dark castle and frightened heroine running from it. My Gothics are homages to these old, fun Gothic Romances with the twist being the romance is lesbian romance. The template for Gothic Romance is that you must have a heroine in distress, a dark, brooding hero, but in my case, since I write lesbian fiction, a dark, brooding heroine who is either suspect of dark deeds or not, an unstoppable attraction between the two of them, murder, suspense or both, a menacing or decaying castle or mansion and…of course….steamy romance for today’s readers. LOL. The challenge comes in creating a story that is fresh and intersting with each Gothic. I mean, there are only so many ways and reasons to get our herione to a castle, etc. LOL. Coming up with creative plots and characters that don’t become too cookie cutter or two dimensional is extremely important. If a reader feels all the books are telling the same story about the same people, then you will lose readers. But especially for PASSION FOR VENGEANCE, I had to do some research for an obscure but frightening practice: Sin Eating. The sin eater eats and drinks food arranged atop the body of a deceased person and by doing this, he/she “eats” or consumes the sins of the dead so they can pass without sin. I found that this ritual cleansing and belief originated in Scotland and England, and some say as far back as the Aztecs. I wanted to make sure that sin eating was practiced here in the USA. Apparently, while there is no written records, tales say that sin eating was practiced in the Apalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th centuries and maybe later.

PASSION-FOR-VENGEANCE

Stephanie: What is Jane Haven’s strengths and weaknesses?

Patty: Without a doubt, Jane Haven’s strength is her belief in complete salvation with love. She believes she can save her brother, Cole, from the alcohol addiction. She believes she can save Emma Stiles’s tortured soul. She also has a strong faith, although she questions it with a healthy dose of reality. I would say that her weakness is trusting too much in the goodness of others without realizing that trust must be earned. Living a sheltered life at Havenswood did not help her in this respect.

Stephanie: Have you learned anything new about the civil war writing this story that you didn’t know before?

Patty: I can’t say that I did, because I had been a Civil War buff for so long, but I so very much enjoyed being able to actually write and set a story in the time period.

Stephanie: What was your process in writing this story?

Patty: I write all my novels longhand, on yellow legal pads. I then transfer everything to the computer. A little time consuming, I know, but I just cannot sit and create in front of a computer. I love the organic flow of pen to paper. It really helps the muse. I’m of the type where I need distractions around me to create, so I go to my favorite Starbucks, find a comfy seat, set pen to paper and write. I love the “white noise” and hum of conversation, music, etc. that is there in Starbucks but I am totally able to tune it out when I am in writing mode. Also, music is a big motivator. I sometimes set playlists for all my books, somewhat like a soundtrack, and use that for writing time. And I don’t outline. I have the general story down in my head and go from there. I may jot down paragaphs, sentences, etc. that pop up, but mostly I am a “pantser” although I do have the general plot already in mind. That does change sometimes, though.

Stephanie: What book project are you currently working on?

Patty: Oh, I always love to talk about books I’m working on. Currently, I am about half way into my new Gothic Historical Romance, WHERE EVIL DWELLS. It is a Gothic Romance where a tragic triangle of romance defies even death!

Stephanie: Do you use an outline for your stories or just write?

Patty: I think I touched a bit on this in my writing process response. I don’t really outline. I have the general outline in my head. I might jot down characters, etc, but not much. I write in a linear fashion. I cannot proceed if I don’t finish one chapter. I know some writers can write the ending or a chapter out of order but I must write in linear order. LOL.

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

Patty: For readers who have not read a Gothic Historical Romance, a world of dark suspense, adventure, danger and steamy romance awaits you. For some who might find a romance between two women not something you want to read, think more open-minded. The storytelling, setting, atmosphere are not different than mainstream romances and you might find yourself looking forward to my next Gothic Historical Romance!

To my regular readers, WHERE EVIL DWELLS should be published end of this year, 2014.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Patty: It was some time ago, so my memory fails, but a fellow author wrote about her being accepted as a BRAG Honoree some time back and I wanted to see if I could get a BRAG Honoree for one of my books. And it is quite an honor for which I am so grateful.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Patty: All my Gothic Romances and other books, including the Brenda Strange Paranormal Mystery Series, are available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com as eBooks or trade paperbacks. I also have Audio Book Versions of PASSION FOR VENGEANCE and another Gothic Romance, CASTLE OF DARK SHADOWS.

Thank you so much for the opportunity, Stephanie, to let me talk about PASSION FOR VENGEANCE and Gothic Romances.

Author Website

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Patty Henderson, who is the author of, Passion for Vengeance, one of our medallion honorees 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, Passion for Vengeance merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with Author David Beasley

David Beasley

David Beasley was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and graduated from McMaster University with a BA in Arts. He worked, studied and wrote in several European countries for five years and then In Manhattan, New York for 35 years, where he worked as a research librarian in the New York Public Research Libraries for much of that time. He organized a union for library workers and used his experience to write a trilogy of mystery novels—The Jenny, The Grand Conspiracy, Overworld/Underworld. He earned a Masters Degree in Library Science and a PhD in political economics from the progressive New School for Social Research. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing. He has written much fiction, including historical fiction novels, but has been recognized by the award of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his non-fiction and biographies. His blog on his website http://www.davuspublishing.com features the Major John Richardson Newsletter which gathers information on and controversies about Canada’s first novelist, whose biography he wrote. He returned to Canada in 1992 and has been writing and publishing under the imprint Davus Publishing in Simcoe, Ontario.

Stephanie: Hello David! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Sarah’s Journey.

David: Sarah’s Journey is historical fiction based on true events. Sarah, born on Brown’s Island in the Ohio River by the Virginia panhandle [now West Virginia] was the daughter of her owner, Colonel Brown and his slave whose father was a white slave named Kinney and a black slave. At 16 Sarah marries a black man, Lewis, who says he is a free man and is hired by Col. Brown. She has two children by him. When col Brown dies, her husband is captured by bounty hunters and taken back into slavery in Kentucky. Sarah and her children are sold to a neighbor who is a cruel taskmaster. Sarah is taken advantage of by white men including her owner and has three white children, with whom she escapes through Ohio to Upper Canada in 1820 where slavery has been abolished. A young Scots entrepreneur falls in love with her and brings her to Simcoe where she has his child. Her life and the lives of her children in that community of freed and escaped slaves take her through tribulations, including the Duncombe Rebellion, to her death in 1862. Her son by the Scots entrepreneur becomes one of the richest men in New York City.

Sarahs Journal

Stephanie: Many people are interested in this period of time in our American history. What inspired you to write your story?

David: I was inspired by the many aspects of slavery and freedom in the story. Sarah could pass for white and had three white children. Her black children had to be left behind but they escaped 18 years later on the underground railway, their conductor marrying Sarah’s black daughter and setting up a barbershop in Simcoe from where he could continue conducting escapees and fight bounty hunters. The relationships between the white and black communities, the loyalty of the blacks during the rebellion because of fears that American invasion would bring back slavery, the conflict among races in the mill town of Brantford, and the extraordinary success of Sarah’s youngest son, who being the son of a slave was a slave and had to hide his past.

Stephanie: I noticed this is considered, Literary Fiction. Was there any research involved? What are the factual events or people in your story?

David: The story is factual and most of the people are from real life, except for those who helped Sarah escape, who, of course, could not be revealed and whom I had to imagine. When the rich son died in an accident, curious New York lawyers discovered that he came from Simcoe and the affidavits and testimonies taken in Simcoe about the family were in the archives in the Norfolk county Museum across the street from my home. I went to West Virginia and found court records and interviewed descendants of Sarah’s owner. I also researched the history of the areas in Virginia, Upper Canada, and Simcoe.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

David: I picked the illustration I wanted and my stepson Eric Rustan designed the cover.

Stephanie: What do you find most challenging about writing?

The hardest part of writing, according to Erskine Caldwell, is attaching the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. I have written for so long that it is not a problem now. But most challenging is knowing what you want to write will not be accepted by a publisher. Of course one can find out what a publisher wants and write to his measure but that is not the mark of the artist, rather of the hired man.

Stephanie: What is your next book project and will you self-publish again?

David: I have three future projects in mind and presently writing my memoirs. Since I have self-published about 20 books, I shall probably continue the practice.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

David: IndieBRAG discovered me, I think. Someone must have recommended Sarah’s Journey to it.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

David: My favorite quote is a short poem by Ezra Pound:

Like a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens
She is dying piecemeal of a sort of emotional anemia
Round about her are the filthy, unkillable infants of the very poor

They shall inherit the earth

In her is the end of breeding
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive

She would like someone to speak to her

And is almost afraid that
I will commit that indiscretion.

This is how I remember it. Pound gives one a hint of his meaning by the epigraph from the end of first line of a poem by the French Symbolist poet Albert Samain “. . . . en robe de parade.” The full line is “Mon ame est un enfant en robe de parade.” My soul is a child in a fancy-dress costume. Thus the artist’s soul.

But when a poem becomes too strange for a listener, I like to quote the Duke of Gloucester: “Another damned, thick, square book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh! Mr. Gibbon?”

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

David: Readers can buy my books from my website: www. davuspublishing.com in paper
or as an e-book, some of which are on kindle.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview David Beasley, who is the author of, Sarah’s Journey, one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . 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, Sarah’s Journey, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Becca Lawton

Becca Lawton

Stephanie: Rebecca Lawton is an author and naturalist whose essays, poems, and stories have been published in Orion, Sierra, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Shenandoah, Standing Wave, THEMA, the acorn, More, and other journals.  She has received the Ellen Meloy Fund Award for Desert Writers, three Pushcart Prize nominations (in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry), and residencies at The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers in Langley, Washington. Becca was among the first women whitewater guides on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon and on other rivers in the West. Her essay collection on the guiding life, Reading Water: Lessons from the River (Capital Books), was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and ForeWord Nature Book of the Year finalist.  Her novel, Junction, Utah, set in the beautiful and resource-rich Green River valley, was released in early 2013 by van Haitsma Literary as an original e-book and later in 2013 as a softcover book (Wavegirl). With Geoff Fricker, Rebecca is co-author of the forthcoming Sacrament: Homage to a River (Heyday, 2014), and her first collection of short stories, Steelies and Other Endangered Species, is due out from Little Curlew Press in 2014.

Hello Becca! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Junction, Utah.

Becca: Hi Stephanie! Thank you for hosting me. I’m thrilled to receive the BRAG Medallion, as it’s clear from the Indie BRAG website that the books you recognize are very high quality. I’m happy to be among the honorees!

 

Junction, Utah, is a romance and adventure story set in the river valleys of Utah and other parts of the West. It’s based on my years as a river guide and a geologist working in some of the settings in the book. It’s also a work of ecofiction. I became concerned as I worked out there that oil and gas exploration as it was being conducted was going to ruin the place—both the fabric of the community and the integrity of the wilderness. I wanted to tell a story that would draw readers into the lives of characters based on real people and wildlife living in these places time had otherwise forgotten—and where the way of life is as beautiful as the land.

 

Stephanie: Sounds wonderful and I do like stories that are based on real people and places. Please tell me about your character Madeline Kruse. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

 

Becca: Madeline is a twenty-nine year old river guide who, even at that relatively young age, is a long-time veteran of rivers. She’s never known her father, who has been missing since going to fight in the Vietnam War, and her concern for her mother’s fragile health sends Madeline on a bit of a quest. She finds her way to Junction to work a season as a guide and discovers that many of the issues she’s run from in her home state of Oregon are in full play in Utah as well. She’s a fairly voiceless character through much of the story, and she undergoes transformation, as any good protagonist should.

 

Stephanie: Is there a moral to the story? What would it be?

 

Becca: We’re more alike than we think, in this fractured, dangerous time for our planet. Working together is the only way to save our race and other creatures. Truly.

 

Stephanie: I would agree with you. What was your inspiration for your story?

 

Becca: I didn’t want to preach, but I did want to create awareness about the fragility of our wild world. One thing I’d learned through years of working as a river guide and scientist is how vulnerable natural systems are to change—much more vulnerable than I thought as a young person just getting to know them. A single road cut into a wilderness area causes a stream to start incising, or deeply eroding, its bed. Really, we humans have been changing the world for a long time. We’re only now understanding how unstable nature is in light of our impacts. The changes that come to community, too, are just as intriguing to me, and important. I wanted to write about both.

 

As a friend of mine has said, however, the novel is not “thinly veiled proselytizing.” It’s a story first and foremost, with three acts, a narrative arc, characters who become real to the reader, and settings you’ll never forget. It’s a page turner above all.

 JUNCTION,-UTAH_BRAG

Stephanie: What do you find most challenging about writing?

 

Becca: Sitting still. Some writers have figured out how to write while walking on treadmills, riding stationary bikes, you name it. I write well while strolling in nature with a notebook in hand. But some of the hard work just has to be done indoors at my desk, and that’s been a tough transformation for me, an active person, to have to put myself in a chair and stay there for periods of time.

 

Stephanie: I would have to agree with you. It is even hard for me to sit still while reading sometimes. Most of my reading is while I am on my stationary bike. When I write, I get up and pace while thinking about what I want to say next or how I want to structure my next paragraph or scene. How long have you been a writer? What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a writer?

 

Becca: I started writing the character sketches for Junction in 1979, for a creative writing class I was taking while living in the Rogue River Valley, Oregon. Scenes from both Utah and Oregon made their way into the book, and they stuck. Before then—really, as far back as grade school—I’d written articles and stories for school publications, and then for adventure/river journals once I became a river guide, but nothing book length.

 

Good advice: figure out how you’ll happily support your habit, in case your books don’t cover the rent. Achieving balance with other work is critical. Maybe you’ll be one of those writers who doesn’t have to keep her day job. If so, wonderful. But be prepared to be good at something else as well.

 

Stephanie: That is sound advice, Becca. What book are you currently working on?

 

Becca: I just contracted with Little Curlew Press in Florida to publish Steelies and Other Endangered Species, a collection of short stories about water and our relationship to it in a changing world. We’ll have a lot of work to bring that out together, and I’m looking forward to it. Meanwhile I’m adapting a play from the title story from that collection, “Steelies.” I’ve written plays before, but this is the first one I’ve worked on that I feel certain will be produced. Meanwhile I have two nonfiction proposals in mind that I hope to have circulating among the markets in early 2014.

 

Stephanie: How wonderful! Looking forward to hearing more about your projects. I do love non-fiction! Tell me what you think of the self-publishing industry.

 

Becca: As varied and capricious as the traditional publishing world. There is incredibly good work in both industries, and there is incredibly bad stuff in both. One thing self publishing has done for authors is allow them creative expression despite the gatekeepers in New York, who have a fairly lock-step view of what’s good literature. Just as I don’t agree much with the views of those in Hollywood who dictate what constitutes good film, I’m not in alignment with the few traditional publishers who are left standing about what the public ought to be reading. But it’s up to those who self- publish to dot every, ”I” and cross every T in book writing and publishing, and to do a good job, and that’s a rare thing. The books recognized by Indie BRAG are excellent examples of how it can be done.

 

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

 

Becca: For me, releasing Junction first as an e-book issued by my agent and then as a print version published by my own small press has been the right journey for this particular book. Earlier versions of it were accepted by small presses, but it wasn’t really ready and those acceptances never resulted in a signed contract and a collaboration with a publisher that might have given it the editorial love it needed. After two or three false starts, I gave up on Junction more than once—and only picked it up after dreaming that an agent urged me to get back to work on it now. This was only after my agents at the time, Mike Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada (who I love and owe a huge debt of gratitude for championing my first book), decided to pass on representing it.

 

In getting the Junction manuscript ready for acceptance by another agent, I had to put it through arduous revision. That’s a story in itself, and I love to tell it when I teach at conferences and workshops. It took two years of revision after those first drafts that could have become a book—a different book—earlier on.

 

Stephanie: Please tell me some of the goals you have set for yourself as a writer? It can be anything.

 

Becca: I write every day, at least an hour but more commonly two. I rise on the early side, generally 6 a.m. or earlier, so I can write my wild, creative work before moving on to contract work that brings me more immediate cash. It’s a fairly tenuous existence at the moment, as I recently left a long-time job to work on my own in all arenas, so . . . it’s a grand experiment. Not sure how it will evolve. But, for me, the daily writing goal seems to work best.

 

Stephanie: I need to follow your writing habits. How did you discover indieBRAG?

 

Becca: I believe I conducted an internet search of “awards for independently published books” or something similar. I somehow found my way to Indie BRAG. I loved the look of the books that BRAG champions.

 

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

 

Becca: I always urge readers to go to their local independent bookstore first, to help keep their neighbors in business. If that doesn’t work, it’s easy to buy through my website, www.beccalawton.com, where you can purchase through me or be linked to the online bookstore of your choice.

Author Links:

Facebook: Rebecca Lawton
Twitter: LawtonRebeccaC

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/274442

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Becca Lawton, who is the author of, Junction, Utah, one of our medallion honorees at  www.bragmedallion.com . 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 Junction, Utah, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell is a native of County Meath, Ireland. He is a professional in Agro-Industry and has worked in Ireland, Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He is currently on assignment in Mongolia. When he is not on assignment abroad, he lives with his wife Mary, in Navan, Co Meath. He has 4 adult children and 3 grand-children. His interests include history, especially local history, reading (good books!), photography and music.

‘Morgallion’, his first book, is a historic novel based on actual events during the Bruce Invasion of Ireland in 1315. His father’s farm on which he was born and grew up, bordered Moynagh Lough, where the remains of a crannog settlement was discovered during the 1980’s. This was subsequently subject of a comprehensive archaeological exploration under the direction of John Bradley from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.

More on website – www.morgallion.com

 

 

Stephanie: Hello Arthur! Thank you for chatting with me today and congratulations on winning the B.R.A.G Medallion. You write about one of my favorite and one of the most intriguing times in our world history.  Please tell me about your story, “Morgallion.”

 

Arthur: Firstly – thank you Stephanie for this interview. I just heard recently about the BRAG medallion award for my book ‘Morgallion’, which gives me great encouragement and means a lot to me. Writing the book was very much a labour of love, so any words of appreciation please me greatly.

 

The book ‘Morgallion’ is based on how ordinary people living on the periphery of English occupied Medieval Ireland, managed to get through a troubled period of history. First they had to deal with the tension of living in the marchlands that existed between Gael and Gall (Irish and English). Then in 1314, they experienced the trauma of invasion of a Scottish army under Edward deBruce who swept through Ireland causing death and mayhem in a land also subjected to a series of disastrous harvests impacting all of Western Europe in those years.

The hero is Cormac MacLochlainn, the son of the crannog community of Moynagh who, with some of his companions are moved to resist the impositions of the nearby English garrison which was under the command of the capricious and unpredictable Milo deCogan, who summarily executes Irish clansmen and destroys the crannog houses, forcing the Moynagh community to live under his watchful eye as a labour force to maintain his military fortifications. Cormac and his “Moynagh Brigade” leave Moynagh to join the Gaelic resistance to the English presence in Ireland. Here they learn the art of guerilla warfare during the months before the Scots invade. These are lessons which prove useful in the difficult days that follow, as Ireland’s communities, both Gael (Irish) and Gall (English) are impacted by the trauma and terror of war, famine and pestilence.

 

After Edward Bruce’s victory at Kells, Cormac saves the beautiful Niamh, a chieftain’s daughter from Kilnamanagh from a terrible fate at the hands of invading soldiers but is himself seriously wounded. The Scottish soldiers want revenge and Cormac has to rely on Felim Maguire, a Prince from FirManach to prove his innocence and the guilt of the true wrong-doers. Cormac, Felim and Niamh spend an idyllic Winter in Kenlys as Cormac recovers. Their serenity is marred by the fact that both men have both fallen in love with Niamh. Cormac is painfully aware of the deep class chasm that exists between himself, his beloved and his friend.

 OW_Russell_cover_9_03-04-12-1

Stephanie: You write about some of the harsh realities of medieval Ireland. What were some for the challenges in doing so? Please tell me about some of the research involved as well.

 

Arthur: Trying to visualize what life was like in Medieval Ireland as well as the harsh realities of living in the no man’s land that was Morgallion was sometimes difficult, even in an area that is well known to me. This gives truth to the adage “the past is a foreign land”. It required a lot of reading and research about medieval times and the immediate history and circumstances that prevailed in the region at that time to even begin to get some understanding of what life was like for Cormac MacLochlainn and his contemporaries on both sides of the political and ethnic divide. Also trying to imagine what the class divide in Gaelic Irish society was not easy to envisage, as there is very little on record to help envision what this meant for people living at the time (as exists and is very clear in relation to the feudal system, which operated on the English side)

 

Stephanie: What are some of the fictional aspects to your story? And what inspired you to write about this period and conflict.

 

Arthur: I tried to visualize and tell the story of what was happening from the side of the plain people of the time without focusing overmuch on the “great and the good” who seem to be always regarded as the history makers, and who seem to attract more than their fair share of attention from writers of both fact and fictional books. Of course you cant completely ignore the so-called “movers and shakers”; but too often the impact of their actions on ordinary people somehow gets passed over.

 

This also poses a challenge when it comes to researching available records – for these too are largely focused on the great and the good, so it is hard to hear anything from those who simply have to endure what is being imposed on them. I believe the role of the writer of historic fiction is to “put flesh on the bones” of what is on record, thereby giving cold stark history a more human aspect; in the process making history more interesting.

 

Personally I never want to read historical books, (or watch historic films) that bend or change history to suit a storyline It should be the other way around. When I was writing ‘Morgallion”, I tried to weave the story into the record of what is on record and what actually happened. I believe the writer owes it to the reader not to distort any known facts, just to give a story more spice, or whatever.

 

Stephanie: What are your personal feeling towards Robert deBruce’s ambitions?

 

Arthur: In the context of his time, moving so quickly from winning independence for Scotland (after Bannockburn), to opening a second front with a view to annex Ireland was an extremely ambitious project, which almost succeeded. It is interesting to speculate what this might have meant for the future evolution of the British Empire, which might have displayed a more Celtic character (whatever that might look like!). I rather like Bruce’s ambition; the pity was the methods chosen to fulfill them. The Bruce brothers were a product of their time, so they probably were no better or no worse than any other medieval leaders. The younger Bruce brother Edward; the man who was designated to become the next High King (Ard-Rí); had many flaws as a leader; even more as a king. His invasion of Ireland was not a campaign to “win hearts and minds”, even though in early letters written by King Robert, he placed heavy emphasis on the shared Celtic nature of Irish and Scots. This did not seem to count for much as the invasion progressed. (How often have we heard the expression of winning “hearts and minds” in recent times?).

 

The Bruces as military leaders? a passable yes. As statesmen —–? 

 

Stephanie: What can you tell me about the crannog settlement? I have done very little research on what it means and it sounds interesting…

 

Arthur: Pre-historic communities all over Europe sought the protection of their terrain to protect themselves and their livestock. They lived either on hills surrounded by circular ditches on which they erected easily defendable wooden palisades, or lived in low ground surrounded by water. Ireland with its many lakes provides many examples of crannogs. A crannog was generally built in relatively shallow water, on islands that could be linked to the mainland by means of an easily defendable causeway. It was often necessary to build up such islands on which a cluster of houses could be built for small communities. The community was further protected by palisades which were built around the perimeter that surrounded and enclosed the houses. Crannog living continued in Ireland until the early 17th century, and was often used by Gaelic chieftains to shelter in times of war. Crannogs had the advantage of not being vulnerable to attack from heavily armed soldiers or artillery as they were located in water-logged areas with soft underfoot conditions. With the advent of artillery, by contrast; fortresses built on heights became much more vulnerable.

 

Stephanie: How many battle scenes are in your story and could you please tell me without giving too much away, how they were fought?

 

Arthur: Most of the pitched battles that took place during the Bruce Invasion are covered in the book; some in more detail than others. The big battles, such as Moira, Kells and Faughart were classic medieval engagements where strategy played an important in deciding the outcome. Edward Bruce was able to use his forces to advantage in the earlier part of the campaign and was almost invincible in the field. The English, having soaked up much adversity during the first two years, learned to avoid major engagements and adopted hit and run tactics to wear down the Scottish army. The last battle at Faughart in October 1318, was a disaster for Bruce as he went into it totally outnumbered by the English under John deBirmingham. In truth serious damage had been done to Bruce’s military capacity during the year leading up to this battle (Oct 1318) by the tactics of Roger Mortimer who had managed to persuade King Edward III to give him a powerful army which succeeded in forcing Bruce to withdraw completely from the south and centre of Ireland. At Faughart itself, Edward Bruce was too impatient to wait for reinforcements from his older brother, King Robert who had actually landed in Ireland and was on his way to support him with a powerful army. The younger brother apparently was not happy to accept his brother’s help and foolishly wanted to go it alone. For his impetuosity, he suffered defeat, death and the loss of the whole Irish campaign, including the Irish High-Kingship which he had won when he was crowned just 3 years earlier. (He is in fact regarded as Ireland’s last King)

 

Stephanie: What book project are you working on next?

 

Arthur: At the moment I have a few book-projects in mind, some of which are at an early stage of development. One of these is a sequel to ‘Morgallion’ which follows the fate of the Moynagh community who featured in ‘Morgallion’, through the traumas of the later 13th century and beyond. This could deal with such historic events as the Black Death which ravaged all of Christendom in 1348, and the outbreak of the Hundred Years war between England and France, as well as the disputed English monarchy; both of which have echoes in Irish affairs of their day. I would also plan to weave some local stories and legends with which I am familiar, which date to that period of history.

 

Stephanie: Will you self-publish?

 

Arthur: I more than likely will, as I like the freedom of action self-publishing gives, in such issues as design etc. I would however welcome more help and support in marketing the book from the publisher. Some are better positioned and able to market more than others, so I will be looking for that next time around. The indie writer needs all the help s/he can get if they are to make any impression. I actually see this as a main challenge.

 

Stephanie: Where do you see the self-publishing industry five to ten years from now?

 

Arthur: If they/we (writers) can get the marketing bit right, the sky is the limit. There was great need to break the monopoly the major publishing houses had on the book market which they used so effectively to determine who would make it as a writer, and who would not. This worked particularly hard against new writers who had to face huge barriers in the publishing world, often without basic knowledge about what s/he was getting into. Mind you, many challenges still face the writer, aware or not. Self publishing calls for a high degree of self belief as well as encouragement and support. The printer publisher will have to be more than just book printers, or persuaders of authors to publish regardless of quality etc. They do writers no favours if that is the sum total of their contribution. They must make some effort to sell the books they print for writers, often at huge expense to the writers, who bears all the costs as well as the risks.

 

All that said, I would not like to see it going back to where it was before indie publishing evolved to the point where it is today. The question now is – where does it go from here?

 

To answer the original question more directly; indie publishing could well be the principal source of new books coming to the market in 10 years time. Meantime there is possibly need for strategic alliances to evolve to conduct campaigns to better get word out about new worthwhile authors and titles (such as indieBRAG?). Within this obviously, the role of good credible reviewers has a critical role to play in bringing indie books to the attention of potential readers. The more objective these can be, (and be seen as such); the better.

 

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

 

Arthur: I have to say that indieBRAG discovered me, or more precisely, discovered ‘Morgallion’ in the miasma of hundreds of indie books that came out during 2012. Perhaps the fact that I opened a website www.morgallion.com may have drawn a share of positive attention to the existence of ‘Morgallion’. Whatever, I am grateful for iB’s attention and their award of the BRAG medallion. As I said earlier: as a first time book author, it means a lot to me.

 

Onwards and upwards!!

 

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Arthur Russell, who is the author of, Morgallion one of our medallion honorees at www.bragmedallion.com . 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, Morgallion merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.