Review of Peoplescapes by Nancy Calef


When I first received my copy of Peoplescapes, My Story From Purging To Painting,  I was struck by the expressive, colorful painting on the cover. Nancy Calef certainly chose one of her more provocative works to represent what was inside the pages of this charming and heartfelt book.Peoplescapes by Nancy Calef

I was immediately drawn into the author’s tales of her atypical and often dysfunctional childhood. The modeling industry is a world where the sexualization of women and girls is still very much prevalent, and it was somewhat shocking to find out that Nancy’s own mother was the one pushing her in this direction. Far from a typical stage mother (or maybe not that far?), Esther was often eccentric and a bit odd.

As often is the case with girls who are made to rely more on looks rather than any other asset, Nancy soon fell into the world of anorexia and bulimia. Yet, rather than bemoan her unconventional upbringing, battle with eating disorders and life with stage mom, Esther, Nancy found a more productive outlet in her artwork. Peoplescapes also includes some of Ms. Calef’s  personal travel stories (depicted with additional artwork), which I found quite interesting as well.

I enjoyed Peoplescapes. I absolutely love Nancy’s artwork. She’s clearly a talented contemporary artist. While I would like to have read more about her battle with eating disorders, that certainly didn’t take away from the book. Nancy Calef is proof that we can all overcome life’s difficulties and turn negative experiences into positive creativity. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about triumph over adversity, and finding ones’ own creative path and purpose.

5 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton

Interview with Matthew Maynard Author of The Dragonslayers

Matthew Maynard Author PhotoeBook Review Gal recently had the pleasure of chatting with Matthew Maynard. Matthew is the author of the new Liberty Fiction novel, The Dragonslayers. He had some great things to share about his novel, his writing process, dealing with criticism and much more!

 

In your own words, please tell us about Dragonslayers:

Dragonslayers is a series of books (as in one published with at least two more in the pipeline) that explore the concept of insurmountable tyrannies and what it takes to defeat them. The two tyrannies addressed in the first book are cancer and governments that have exceeded the boundaries of proper behavior. They’ll both be explored more in the second book, as well as other tyrannies. The story centers around Scott Philipson, a young man who has to make his way in life after the loss of his parents in a no-knock drug raid on the wrong house.

Do you have a favorite character?

I like all my characters (except the antagonist, William Cavanaugh, I hate that bastard), and I’ve tried to put a little of myself into each of them (including Cavanaugh). As far as favorites, I think it’s a toss-up between Scott Philipson and Carley Hill. He is the character most like me but more timid, while she is like him but more aggressive.

Where did the idea for Dragonslayers come from?

Partly my upbringing, partly from real life. My politics come from my dad and are focused on individual liberty and how to respect and increase it. The details of the story I drew from real life news stories I came across while trying to sort out some contradictions I noticed in my view of the war on drugs.

What would you like readers to learn from Dragonslayers?

That struggling against tyranny is not a futile effort. You can beat the things that try to oppress you, be they mental, medical, physical, spiritual, or political, and you can overcome them permanently.

What do you think makes a good story?

It has to be well thought out and it has to have characters with flaws. One of the TV series I like the most is Babylon 5. J. Michael Straczynski knew the general story arcs from start to finish before he started filming it, and he wrote 92 out of 110 of the episodes, so he was able to make a continually integrated storyline that hinted in the beginning at things that were to come later on. That’s an example of a well-thought out plot.

As far as characters go, they have to change. It doesn’t do any good to have a character that doesn’t change, because that makes them less human. They can change from good to bad or bad to good, alive to dead or vice versa, but they have to change, and they have to have problems so that people can relate to them. In my book, Scott Philipson is timid, William Cavanaugh is prideful, Olivia Romano is hesitant, and Carley Hill is occasionally obnoxious. But they all have things in their character that we want and things we want to get rid of.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

No. Let me rephrase that – hell no. We’re good at writing stories, not copy, and we’re worse at distributing and announcing that copy than writing it. We make all the rookie mistakes that in indie publishing are like a jet on takeoff with its landing parachute deployed. We expect to upload our work to Amazon or wherever and it will sell itself. We need to either develop or buy the talent to self-promote, but in almost all cases we don’t have the time or the money to do either.

What are some of your methods for self-promotion?

I have my blog, my Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ accounts, and a mailing list. I don’t know what I’m doing, but I at least have the excuse that I haven’t been doing it for very long.

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to embrace it, but I’m not always successful at that. When I gave my wife the first draft of Dragonslayers 1 (which was actually the third or fourth I’d written and the first I’d finished) she was hesitant with her criticism. I told her to rip into it, and she did, and I know it made for a better book. For one, Cavanaugh ended up doing something you could cheer for, instead of being a flat character you felt obligated to dislike.

What types of books do you like to read?

I have a half-hour commute to my day job, so I’m into audiobooks a lot. Right now I’m listening to Danger Close, which is about tactical air controllers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before that was Trigger Men (US Army and Marine snipers) and before that was War of Honor by David Weber. There’s lots of military themed stuff (fiction and non-fiction) on my shelf, but I’m also into mystery – namely Sherlock Holmes and Dashiell Hammett. There’s always Sci-Fi (Heinlein and John Scalzi) and I’m on the lookout for other stuff to capture my interest.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I brew my own beer and wine. I reassembled the engine for my first car (91 Ford Ranger, 4L V6) after it had been taken out by the mechanic and swapped out for rebuilt parts. I can hit a man-size target at 400 yards with a .30-06 rifle. I take great pleasure in one of Jefferson’s quotes: “No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” I had a rabbit growing up that I named after James Madison. I’m born again, and that faith influences my views on liberty.

If you could spend the day with a famous author, politician or other historic figure (past or present), who would it be?

Thomas Jefferson. If he wasn’t available, Tom Clancy or Robert Heinlein.

How would you spend the day together?

We’d have an ATF day – alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, in reverse order.

How can readers connect with you? (personal blog, social media, etc.)

On my personal blog, which and has links to my social networks – Facebook, Twitter, Google+. I also have a mailing list and RSS feeds. I post every weekday, so there’s always something new.

Are you writing anything new now?

I am working towards a camp NaNoWriMo goal of 25,000 words for a piece called Dance in the Desert, which is a story of a militia in the Arizona southwest during the days of the dissolution of the Union. You could put it in the on-the-way-to-the-apocalypse fiction category. I’ve also got the second volume of the Dragonslayers series fermenting in the cellar of my mind. I’d like to publish that by November, perhaps.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Keep at it, or get started, whichever applies. Start by writing by the seat of your pants for the first draft, then switch to plotting the story out for the first revision. Don’t show it to the outside world, meaning anyone other than yourself, until the third version. Keep at it, because the world has a dearth of books.

The Dragonslayers is available for purchase via Amazon.com:

*Please read Susan Barton’s review of The Dragonslayers here. 

Interview with Author Norma L. Jarrett

eBook Review Gal is pleased to have had the opportunity to chat with accomplished author, Norma L. Jarrett. Norma is a speaker and the Essence bestselling author of several contemporary novels. Her work has gained attention in Gospel Today, Ebony, Essence, Southern Living, Upscale, USA Today, Gospel Truth, Black Expressions, Publisher’s Weekly and several other publications.

Norma L. Jarrett Author Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your own words, please tell us about your books:

Sunday Brunch is a novel about five, female lawyers each at a different place professionally socially and spiritually.  Each Sunday they meet after brunch to discuss faith, friendship, careers and love.

Sunday Brunch Diaries: The sequel to Sunday Brunch picks up after some of the ladies’ personal and professional prayers have been answered.  The brunch ladies keep their commitment of friendship through the next season of fun and mayhem.  This time their mates are in the mix!

Brunchspiration:  A non-fiction book of encouragement inspired by the ladies of Sunday Brunch; witty, sage advice for every area of life!

Sweet Magnolia: Story of two sisters, Summer a soon to be bride and Misa an international model.  Family saga of an affluent family from New Orleans trying to reconcile a tainted history and broken relationship.  Essence magazine national book selection.

Christmas Bea:  Haven Powell issues God a challenge to find her “plus one” by 11:59 p.m. December 31st. Her sister Harper joins in the fun for a year ’round tale of love, expectation and the true meaning of faith.

Love on a Budget: Handsome Jake quits his job and unsupportive girlfriend of several years to launch his dream business. The line item not in his budget?  Skylar Ross, his potential dream girl.

Valentine’s Day…Again?  February 14th is the anniversary of Torrie Patterson’s engagement, wedding and unofficial divorce.  As the date stalks her like Jason on Friday the 13th, as series of events, unlikely characters and a turn for what seems like the worst, lead her back to joy.

Do you have a favorite character?

Lexi, she’s quirky, relatable, imperfect, loving and a great friend.  (Sunday Brunch and Sunday Brunch Diaries)

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?

Not professionally.  During my kid/preteen years I loved reading and writing poetry.  In my last year of law school I figured out what I was really supposed to be doing.  I wrote and published my first novel Sunday Brunch. The rest is literary history? Lol, an expensive, yet purposeful journey!

Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

I believe it was some type of poetry but what stood out the most was a short story called “The Porch”.  I submitted it to a contest. I didn’t win, but it inspired my novel Sweet Magnolia which became an Essence Magazine national book club selection.

Where do your story ideas come from?

Real life, nature, walks, family, friends, the news, dreams, God and anywhere else inspiration finds me.

How do you work through writer’s block?

Ugh, I struggle with that often.  I let my emotions get the best of me sometimes.  Meditation, goal setting, affirmations, prayer and the knowledge that my work inspires and encourages others.

What do you think makes a good story?

Authenticity, rewrites, captivating plots, passion, multi-dimensional characters, emotion and the willingness to let characters have their say.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

I can’t say for sure. However we eventually learn!  I was blessed with Sunday Brunch because it was relatively commercial, relatable and easy to market.  I worked hard, networked and it paid off.  In the age of social media you must find unique ways to separate yourself from the masses. It can be challenging.  However marketing is an investment like anything else. It takes a little time and elbow grease to see results.  I tend to look for places that aren’t so saturated.

What are some of your methods for self-promotion?

Social media, blog talk radio, print media, endorsements, etc.

What’s your writing schedule like?

Erratic (but I’m trying to do better).

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, travel, catch a good movie, laugh, hang out with my husband and dogs, catch a good brunch with my girls (of course – smile).

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? 

Parents/family, (writers) Terri McMillan, Dorothy West, Susan Taylor, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Gordon Parks.

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

Yep…but, “This is a work of fiction…”

How do you deal with criticism?

It used to really get to me.  It still does if it is really not based upon substance. But after the dust settles you step back and find the constructive value.  Learning not to take it personal.

What types of books do you like to read?

Contemporary fiction, inspirational fiction, motivational, business, historical fiction.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?

I’m an introvert on a personal level, an extrovert when it comes to author/business (my best friend, an executive coach and psychotherapist, told me that at brunch so I’ll take it).  I hate to cook, so my husband does most of the cooking (but I try anyway – smile).

If you could spend the day with a famous author (past or present) who would it be?

Oh, I only get one?  Have to name two (sorry, I’ve been good up until now, I think – lol)

T.D. Jakes, Monique Greenwood

How would you spend the day together?

Wow, just have a one on one sharing my vision concerning my writing gifts and other aspirations.  Get advice for this season in my life. I met T.D. Jakes when I was in law school. That would be a “full circle moment”.

Monique Greenwood:  I would spend the day at one of her Bed and Breakfast Inns.  Her book Having What Matters changed my life.

How can readers connect with you? (personal blog, social media, etc.)

Website

Amazon Author Page 

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Pinterest

Instagram:  @authornormajarrett

Are you working on anything new now?

Yes a book called Vineyard Surrender and another book in the The Brunch Series – Bridal Brunch

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself.  Realize writing is one part, marketing is the other, and it’s a business.  After all the research and advice, go with your gut.  You know more than you think (Caveat:  always look for ways to grow and improve).   Remain open and don’t be afraid to blaze a trail or two. J

Interview With Kevin Brennan Author of Yesterday Road

eBook Review Gal Interview with Author Kevin Brennan Today’s interview is courtesy of Kevin Brennan, author of Parts Unknown, Our Children Are Not Our Children, and most recently, Yesterday Road.

In your own words, please tell us about your latest book:

My most recent book, Yesterday Road, is about an elderly man trying to make his way home. Home is a tough nut to crack though, especially since he can’t seem to remember anything further back than yesterday. He sets out to find his daughter, and on the way is helped by Joe Easterday, a young man with Down syndrome, and Ida Pevely, a waitress with a less-than-thrilling life of her own. Adventure ensues.

It’s a classic road picture with unconventional characters. Yesterday Road by Kevin Brennan

Do you have a favorite character?

If you mean in my book, it would have to be Ida — partly because she sacrifices a lot to help these wayward fellas and has nothing to gain for it but her own self-respect. Plus, she’s funny and endearing — sort of a kinder, gentler Kathy Griffin.

If you mean a character from all of literature, I guess I’d lean toward a classic, sort of archetypal one like Don Quixote. Figures like him turn up all the time in different garbs.

Where do your story ideas come from?

Mostly they just pop into my head, but usually start from a character. A lot of people think most novelists do thinly veiled autobiography most of the time, but my characters are usually a little too offbeat for that.

Once in a while I’ll read a story in the news or hear of something odd and provocative through word-of-mouth, and I’ll develop a plot that way.

To my friends and family, you’re not in my books! Or if you are, I melded you with other people.

How do you work through writer’s block?

Hard to believe, but I never really have writer’s block. If something’s not working, I have plenty of other projects to mess around with until the juices start flowing again. Writer’s block is a state of mind.

What do you think makes a good story?

Frankly, I really look for something fresh, that I haven’t seen before. There’s probably a little too much reliance on formulas and conventional wisdom in fiction these days, so I like to see unusual characters in unusual situations. Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is a great example. The protagonist is a female artist/motorcycle racer/street anarchist. What’s not to like?

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

Nowadays I think they do. I wish I’d understood it better when my first novel came out in 2003. Of course, the tools we have today — social media especially — weren’t available then.

What are some of your methods for self-promotion?

I blog, I tweet, I have a Facebook fan page, I had t-shirts made and bookmarks printed, I have a link to my book on every email I send. I’m really pretty annoying. But, kids, please: no spam!

What’s your writing schedule like?

When I’m really rolling on a book, I write every day, from about 8 am to 1 pm. Since I’m self-employed, I get to juggle my schedule and work around my writing. It’s a real luxury. I used to get up at 4 am and write before going into the office, but that was pretty hard on my brain — a self-administered lobotomy.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My wife and I are avid hikers, so we’re always out there among the trees with our dog. I’m also an extremely amateur guitar player. I enjoy writing and recording extremely amateur songs and making my wife listen to them.

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? 

Daffy Duck.

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

As I mentioned above, I might make composites that resemble any number of familiars. Mostly, it’s subconscious, I have to think. I certainly don’t carry out fictional vendettas or wish fulfillments through my writing, though.

How do you deal with criticism?

Ignore it. (Well, partly.) It depends on the spirit in which the criticism is offered. I can handle a negative review that’s thoughtful and well-meaning. I appreciate, especially during revision, critiques that might help me see the material from a different angle. But when criticism is flip or spiteful — well, I don’t think anyone benefits from that.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?

That I exist.

If you could spend the day with a famous author (past or present) who would it be?

I would have loved a day with Kurt Vonnegut. Between his humor, his voice, his ideas, and his decency, I hope some would have rubbed off.

How would you spend the day together?

After reading his volume of letters, I guess we might have had a few drinks together. All day.

How can readers connect with you? 

Facebook

Twitter

email

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Are you working on anything new now?

I’m planning to publish a new novel later in 2014. It’s sort of a hybrid literary/chick-lit story called Wish I Were Here. I hope readers are willing to give a chick-lit novel written in first-person by a man a fighting chance.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Take up rocket science instead. It’s easier.

Sydell Voeller Author Interview

Sydell Voeller Author PhotoSydell is the author of several romance and YA books. We recently hosted Sydell’s Author Blitz and wanted to be sure visitors had a look at her author interview. Sydell has a lot of great information to share! Here’s what she had to say:

 

In your own words, please tell us about your books: 

My stories reflect my love of the Pacific Northwest. Many of my settings include the oceans, beaches, mountains, high desert, and islands that characterize this part of the U.S.  You’ll also see my love for camping, wildlife, and stargazing peeking through the lines of my prose.  What’s more, I’ve always adored the circus, and after considerable research, Summer Magic was born.  (I still remember riding on my dad’s shoulders when I was a little girl and pretending that I was a trapeze artist.)

Years ago, I started writing and publishing young adult (teen) romances.  My first two YAs were part of the popular series “Sweet Dreams” by Bantam and “First Love” by Silhouette.  Later, I published five additional YAs for a German market, Cora Verlag.  The books were written entirely in German, so I had no way of determining how much editing had been done.  Still, it was so much fun to see their eye-catching covers when the paperbacks arrived in my mailbox.  (I purposefully haven’t included these early books in the list above, because I want to focus now on my current digital publications and how they transitioned into this brave new world.)

In time, I “graduated” to adult contemporary romances.  My adult stories are just a step up from YA in terms of being “sweet, not spicy,” although a thread of emotional sexual tension often runs throughout the story until the conflicts are resolved.  In comparison with my YAs, my adult heroines struggle with more sophisticated conflicts and my heroes are more mature and worldly.  My first adult contemporary romances were published in hard cover by Avalon Books, which has recently closed its doors.  The Avalon titles were later picked up by two digital publishers:  Books We Love and Montlake Romance (Amazon). The two Montlake Romance books are also available in paperback.

Do you have a favorite character?

Actually, I’d be hard pressed to single out any of my characters as a favorite.  There’s a little bit of myself in each of my heroines, of course, although I strive to create characters that blossom into their own personas with their own unique world views.

Where do your story ideas come from? 

My story ideas come from a variety of sources:  newspaper and magazine articles, events in my own and other folks’ lives, and sometimes even from within my dreams.  For example, before I wrote The Fisherman’s Daughter, I’d read a news article about a local fisherman that had been discovered missing from his fishing boat.  The boat’s stabilizers were down, his medications remained on the counter in the galley, and there was no evidence of foul play.  At the time this piece was written, the fisherman’s whereabouts was still a mystery.  This article immediately sparked the germ of an idea for my romantic intrigue novel, and from there the story, set in the San Juan Islands off Washington State, began to spring to life in my mind.

What do you think makes a good story?  

A good story must start with a believable protagonist and a challenging conflict/problem/quest that he or she will have to grapple with. There must be complications and plot twists along the way to raise the bar and make the main character struggle even harder.  Finally, a satisfying resolution whereby the protagonist proactively solves her problem is a must.  In the end, the main character should grow and/or view life in a new way.  In the case of a genre romance, that usually involves a “happily ever after” ending—and deep seated emotions.  The more deeply the author can dig into his main character’s psyches to discover what makes her tick, the more the readers will connect with the protagonist and care about her.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work? 

I can’t speak for all authors, but my colleagues most definitely understand this importance.  On writer’s lists and in emails, we constantly discuss ways to gain reader recognition and keep our books selling.  We also often “share” our promo posts on Facebook in order to gain a wider audience.

What are some of your methods for self-promotion?  

I post to my Facebook page, Twitter, Google, and my personal blog site.  I contact websites that offer promotional opportunities for authors via book reviews, interviews, excerpts, book covers, and so forth.  Sometimes I take out ads.  I’ve also used bookmarks and refrigerator magnets featuring a specific book and its cover to pass out at book signings and writer’s conferences.  Additionally, I’ve given talks for school classrooms, adult education classes at church, community events, writer’s conferences, and local critique/writing groups.

What’s your writing schedule like? 

My day usually begins in reviewing the on-line writer’s posts that went live during the night while I slept.  I answer those that need my attention, as well as emails.  I log onto Facebook for any pertinent writing news, especially those posted by my excellent publisher, Books We Love, on their FB pages and blog.  I check out Amazon, too, to stay abreast of the day’s prices for my books and to see current book ratings.  (The books are often free, 99 cents, $1.99 or $2.99, and the prices can change daily.)

The rest of my work day consists of either working on my own WIP or editing the manuscripts submitted by my students. (I teach for a popular long-distance learning writing program.) Often I do both within the same afternoon.  My “office assistant” is my spoiled and much-loved tuxedo cat, Banjo, who sleeps on the cat window shelf above my desk or “helps” me when the printer is spitting out pages.  In the best interest of smart ergonomics, however, I take frequent breaks from my office chair to move around to other areas in my home, or when the weather allows, walk into my yard.  (In everyday language, that means to start a load of laundry, make a fresh pot of coffee, take a short walk to get the mail, and/or pull a few weeds.)   Then it’s back to my office again.  I usually quit working around 4 and reserve my evenings for reading.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing? 

I head up a Prayer Shawl group at my church, so a portion of my spare time is occupied by crocheting, either solo, or whenever the group can get together in my home. I enjoy going for walks (but not in the rain!), reading, baking, planting flowers in springtime, and Skyping with our son and sweet 4-year-old grandson who live on the opposite side of the country.  I love amateur astronomy.  I own a pair of giant binoculars, designed specifically for stargazing, and I’ve logged over 100 deep sky objects.  Further, I love playing with our adorable two “rescued” kitties, which we adopted from a no-kill cat shelter last year. (Often you’ll see the pictures of them that I’ve posted on Facebook.)  And getting back to the grandchildren–my husband and I also spend time with our three lovely granddaughters, ages 6, 4, and 2.  Fortunately, they live only a 40 minute’s drive away, so we see them often.  I’m not much of a TV watcher, however—except for the news.  When all is said and done, I’d rather be reading!  And oh, before I forget, I enjoy going out for lunch with girlfriends!

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life? (writing or otherwise)

I’d have to say that would be my late father.  When I was growing up and involved in a variety of activities, he always encouraged and praised me, plus he often got involved.  For example, when I was a member of The Campfire Girls (as it was designated back then), he participated in Camp Fire related committees.  And during high school, when I played the violin in the community orchestra, he sat on the Board of Directors and served for several years.  Two decades later when I started writing seriously, just a couple of years before he died, he was once again proud and supportive.  In fact, he told me one day I’d become a famous author, just like the well-known predecessors in our direct line of the Lowell family.  (James Russell Lowell and the poet, Amy Lowell, just to name a couple.)  About a year later, I received a contract for my first YA novel, Merry Christmas, Marcie by Silhouette’s First Love teen line.  I’ll always regret that Dad was no longer here to know about that, but thankfully, my mother was—and she was equally happy for me.

How do you deal with criticism?  

In the past, I’ve participated in a handful of critique groups, plus I’ve received assessments from editors—both negative and positive.  On the balance, I appreciated that editors took the time to jot down even a line or two.  As writers, we know that when this happens, it means our work grabbed their attention and prompted their comments—and that’s a good thing. Editors are very busy people, after all!  Also, now that many of my books have gone digital, I receive reviews on Amazon and Good Reads.  Most of the feedback from fellow writers and editors has been constructive criticism.  I spend time reflecting on their offerings–once I get over whatever initial reaction I might have had (i.e. this editor just doesn’t get it!)—and use their assessment to begin the all-important process of revision.  (“Writing is rewriting.”)  Criticism from readers, however, is often a mixed bag.  Again, negative comments can be helpful if offered constructively, and I try to keep that in perspective.  Often, though, the reader’s reviews come across as just plain snarky.  I try not to let that get me down though.  If I did, it would be very difficult to keep writing.  And I realize that snarky reviews happen to even the most popular, best-selling authors.

What would readers be surprised to know about you? 

Within the past 9 years, I’ve had four major joint replacement surgeries—and I’m not that old either!  LOL

If you could spend the day with a famous author (past or present) who would it be?

Nicholas Sparks, without a doubt.  I love his style of writing, even though it often involves a characteristic “Greek tragedy.” His ability to handle deep emotions and the romantic aspects of plot and characterization are phenomenal, in my opinion.

How would you spend the day together?

We’d spend time chatting and drinking coffee (no, I’m not a fan of sweet tea) while we sat on a covered porch filled with lush potted flowers—Southern style, of course.  Maybe later we’d continue to chat over lunch at a charming eatery in his hometown, and then take some time to tour his favorite stomping grounds.

How can readers connect with you? (personal blog, social media, etc.)

Website 

Facebook

Pinterest

Amazon Author Page

Blog

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

My best advice is to keep learning, reading, writing, and honing your craft.  Never give up.  If you receive a rejection, don’t let it get you down.  That’s just the name of the game in the publishing industry.  (I’ve had enough rejection slips—back before the days of email correspondence—to wallpaper my office!)  If an editor offers a comment, take some time to consider it, and don’t be too hasty.  Later, if you agree, then pull out your manuscript again and start rewriting.  And most of all, keep submitting your work.  I’ve sometimes sent out my short stories and articles up to a dozen times or more before they found a publishing home.  The same was true for my book sales, at least in the beginning.

Finally, writing can sometimes be a lonely process, so don’t hesitate to network by attending writer’s conferences, professional critique groups (as opposed to mere coffee klatches), book signings, and other writing events.  That’s one of the best ways to stay on top of this every-changing industry and develop your talents.

Interview with Jim Yackel Author of Dead-Ringer

Jim Yackel Author PhotoPlease tell us about your book:

Dead-Ringer takes place in 2009, and yet as events unfold it could just as easily be 2013.  The main character of the story’s considerable cast is Jesse Same; who is an Elvis Presley impersonator by trade and the loving father of a young son.  Jesse is a follower of Jesus and suddenly finds himself having startling dreams and terrible visions that he believes to be of relevance to the biblical End of Days.  At times and without his control, he is overtaken with the ability to hear with a frequency higher than that of a dog – being able to hear people’s heartbeats from a distance of many feet and conversations that could be as far as a quarter mile away.  In regards to the conversations, they reveal amongst other things a U.S. Government knowledge of impending horrific events that may take place in America; being allowed to transpire in order to further the goal of the creation of the one world economy and religion. 

Our man Jesse lives in Chittenango, NY – the birthplace of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum.  Jesse sees deities, which include flying monkeys like those from the Land of Oz, and yet he’s confident that they have nothing to do with Baum’s beloved fiction tale.  The demonic beings that he sees are in the supernatural and do have an influence on an unwitting, unseeing and disbelieving public in the small upstate New York town.

As the world is perched on the precipice of the End Times, Jesse encounters great difficulty in finding anyone to believe him in regards to his dreams and visions.  As he fights against the unfaith of others – including some in the Christian church – he likewise battles his ex-wife and her hard-driving new husband; neither of whom like his faith in Christ and are determined to keep the young son from spending time with his “Jesus Freak” dad.  Indeed, it is a supernatural battle that Jesse is forced into – but would God bring “natural” help in the form of people sympathetic to his cause?  And, would the young son who shares his dad’s love of the Lord put himself in great peril in order to see his Jesse?

Dead-Ringer is filled with pop-culture and musical references as it twists and turns to its gut-wrenching finish.  If you are a conspiracy theorist and/or a doomsday prepper, this is a story you’ll love as this truly is TEOTWAWKI – the end of the world as we know it.  And speaking of love, will Jesse ever find it?  Will he ever solve the mystery of who his own dad is? 

This writer is a follower of Christ, and despite the bits of profanity here and there uttered by people who speak the way the real world does – I believe that Dead-Ringer hammers home the message of Christ’s salvation and warns of his imminent return.  Indeed, the references to false religion, demonic influence, secret societies, government out of control and the steady breakdown of our culture and society are many in this story – but all in all, I believe this is an exciting tale that not only warns but most of all carries the message of our eternal hope.

Dead-Ringer Cover Photo

Which of your characters is your favorite and why?

This is a tough one for me and it’s a tie.  Both Jesse Same and North Madison Militia co-founder Galen Moss are my favorites.  Both are men of considerable courage and strong character who can see through the “bovine feces” of this world and likewise are not afraid to confront it.  Galen and Jesse are men that I could entrust trust my daughters, my wife, and my measly amount of money with and not have a concern.  They are men to be looked up to in this current culture in which we live.

Where do your story ideas come from?

My story ideas come from news events, human interactions, the real world around us and it all gets fictionalized.  Certainly, my faith is a primary driver of my stories.  These are exciting and yet perilous times in which we live.  Who could make this stuff up!?

How do you cope with writer’s block?

I get writer’s block because I’m hard on myself and expect perfection that I will never in this life achieve.  I find that taking time off from the creative process helps – and being an Indie author there’s plenty of time needed to invest in attempting to find new ways to promote my work and then the block is broken.

What do you think makes a good story?

In my view, a good story takes real locations and events and spins them into fiction – a sort of “what if” or “could have been” threaded into a “likely” outcome.  Taking real people and modeling them into characters that mimic their real personas adds color and believability into fiction.  The events in the world today and those who are famous faces in it could inspire countless fiction books that could entertain as well as fuel a myriad of spiritual and emotional responses and likewise help change real lives.

Do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

I believe they do.  Authors, like songwriters, are a dime a dozen and we know it.  It’s a great task to make enough noise to create a loud book-selling buzz.  We truly can’t rely on Big Publishing or Big Promotion, Inc. to bust us open so we need to grind away on our own.  Terribly enough, the economy isn’t strong enough nor is the culture populated with enough readers anymore to make all of us the next Stephen King, Joel Rosenberg, or pick your favorite author example.  We need to be persistent and creative.  This is no walk in the park!

What are some of your methods for self-promotion?

It has to be free or dirt cheap.  Free reads of a chapter on Freado is a good way to expose a book.  Twitter and Tumblr are my favorites.  Quick messages, book quotes and links, and they in themselves require creativity because again, I’m in there with millions of others all fighting for a piece of the pie.  In my own experience, Facebook is a waste of time – many just click “like” and then move on to post more “selfy” photos.  Author sites like The Independent Author Network and Indie Author News are good too, but I can’t help but feel that I’m promoting mostly to other authors and we’re all saying “hey, buy my book.  Okay, buy my book.  No, buy my book and I’ll give you X, Y, and Z free if you check out my cover reveal.  No, I can’t check out your cover reveal because I have my own and I’m giving away my last book for free!”

What’s your writing schedule like?

It’s done in the early morning as that is when I’m most creative.  I have to admit that I’m not writing anything much this summer of 2013 as I’m trying to get together an omnibus edition of my previously released trilogy The Wayfarers.  And, I have to get some overdue new music out as well!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to fish, listen to music, make music, and spend time with my wife, daughter, and step-daughter.  I enjoy walking and hiking and those activities have inspired a bevy of stories I need to write.  Additionally, I am a news junkie and a watcher of world events.  There’s some inspiration there, by golly!  I’d really enjoy doing a radio show on current world events if I could get that going.  I have a face for radio.

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life?

Jesus has been the most significant influence in life and in writing.  People that I encounter out there in the world influence me considerably.  I recall conversations and the way individuals and groups communicate and emote.  I focus on what they say – good or bad.  I’m a sponge in that manner.  Many of the conversations in Dead-Ringer are written to reflect the colloquialisms of upstate New York – the way that so many mispronounce and misuse words.  It can be humorous at times!

Are you working on anything new now?

As for now, I just finished some edits on the upcoming re-release of The Wayfarers trilogy.  I have to wait impatiently for my “tech guy” to finish the formatting.  It’s not going quickly enough and I’m feeling pressure that may or may not be self-induced.  So, in the meantime there are ideas bouncing around in my head and I need to filter them into the next book and soon.  If I don’t write enough, I get cranky.  Plus, I need new product out there and I have no excuses.  Be expecting the #amwriting hashtags on Twitter very soon!

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

Always – especially so with acquaintances.  They are the basis for nearly every character I create.  But, Jesse Same is unique in that I’ve never encountered anyone like him.

How do you deal with criticism?

I’ve been criticized my whole life, and I’m not saying that to solicit pity.  I don’t like it, but I have to accept it.  If I feel it’s valid, I’ll take it and learn from it.  Sometimes criticism is constructive and other times destructive.  Either way, no one likes it.  Again, if it’s valid and constructive it can be edifying.

Do you hear from your readers?

It’s funny, but no, unfortunately not that often.  I appreciate anyone that buys my work – whether it’s a .99 cent download or a $12.00 paperback.

How can readers connect with you?

Readers can follow me on Twitter. and on my website.  There isn’t much in the way of blogs going up lately, but I promise I will be getting busy.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Stephen King because of his imagination and inventiveness.  Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins because the Left Behind series brought me to faith in Jesus. Joel Rosenberg because he is a watchman at the wall and understands the time in which we live and the importance of Israel and the Middle East in the chain of biblical prophecy that is and will continue even more so to effect America’s future as the non-fictional one world system takes shape.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Write what you like to read because if you fake it you won’t be satisfied and your product won’t be great.  Write, write, and write some more.  Don’t get discouraged if you can’t get signed to a book deal.  Indie publishing can be very effective but be persistent and watch how others who have seen success have done it.  Keep your aspirations grounded but your hopes very high.

Thanks for chatting with eBook Review Gal! We really appreciate it 😉

Thank you kindly.  I appreciate the opportunity!

*Dead-Ringer is available on Amazon.com (purchase link at the top of the page), at Barnes&Noble.com, on iTunes and on the author’s website. 

Interview with Claudia Harbaugh Author of Her Grace in Disgrace

Her Grace in Disgrace Book Cover Photo

eBook Review Gal had an opportunity to chat with debut romance novelist, Claudia Harbaugh. Claudia had a lot of great things to share about her life, her book and her writing process.

Author Bio – In Her Words…

“Okay, I admit it. I am an anglophile. And while I’m in the confessing mood, I’ll also admit that I devour Regency Romance novels. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a no-nonsense, independent type with a barely discernible feminine side. But I am a sucker for the understated romance, the English stiff upper lip and the snappy dialogue ala Jane Austen. No overt sex, no bodice ripping, just a good story with great dialogue with an undercurrent of passion. If there is a duke or duchess or even a commoner, a strong female heroine, an equally strong, but not overbearing male hero and the chance of some romantic entanglements, I’m all for it. I like it so much; I decided to write a traditional regency romance novel myself…and enjoyed every minute of it. Hope you enjoy it, too!”

Claudia Harbaugh Author Photo
Claudia Harbaugh – Author Photo

The eBook Review Gal Interview:

Tell us about your book

Her Grace in Disgrace is a novel set in early 19th century England. The Duke of Warwick is dead. As the book opens we find a group gathered to hear the reading of his will. Much to everyone’s horror we learn that the heroine’s (Isobel) six year miserable marriage to the Duke of Warwick was a sham. He was secretly married to another woman and they had a son, who would now be the Duke of Warwick. Everything Isobel had worked for is stripped from her and she must begin anew. Isobel is faced with the reality of her fall from grace in the society where she once ruled and her own guilt as she confronts her past, rife with mistakes. What follows is Isobel’s journey to self-discovery and forgiveness. Along the way she also rediscovers love with a man from her past, a love she thought she would never find.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

I think I’d have to say Lady Joanna. She is young, impetuous, outspoken and has a ready wit. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, but she also does not allow others to dictate to her. She has a strong sense of self, despite her youth. She definitely has room to grow, but she has a great foundation.

Where do your story ideas come from?

I honestly don’t know. From my head, I guess. My stories are very character driven. I’m all about the interaction and dialogue between my characters. The story comes from their encounters.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not really. If I get stuck, I walk the dog and just let my mind run. But writer’s block is not a luxury any author can afford. I read about an interview with Lee Child, who is a very well-known and successful author, where he talked about writer’s block. He compared being a writer to any other profession. If you are a truck driver or a stock broker, you can’t just say, “Gee, I’m not feeling it today, so I won’t go to work.” You wouldn’t have a job for very long if you did. If you’re a writer, you have to write through it. You may not be feeling it, but you’ve got to keep at it and you can always go back and rewrite. Writing is like any other talent – you have to keep using it or it can go stagnant on you.

What do you think makes a good story?

Conflict and human interaction. Good stories come from the reality of human frailty and the miracle of human determination to survive and thrive.

Who are some of your favorite authors? 

Agatha Christie was my first favorite. She was a groundbreaking female author at a time when women were not well accepted as authors. Her characters have stood the test of time and her books are still popular to this day, even though some of her material is dated, the human pathos transcends all that. 

My all-time favorite author is Elizabeth Peters, who just passed away last month.  Ms. Peters had an uncanny knack of making you feel as if you were right there in the story. Her characters are well drawn and her sense of place and history is amazing. I wanted to be friends with Amelia Peabody. I wanted to be there in Egypt covered in dust, digging out artifacts from caves and pyramids. I wanted to help solve the murders. I wanted to take tea with them on the veranda after a long day at the dig.

I must give an honorable mention to Jane Austen, whose grasp of character and dialogue is unparalleled.

What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love my family and spend as much time as possible with them. I have been happily married for almost 32 years (I’ve been married for 38…just kidding) to John and together we have two beautiful daughters, who have in turn blessed us with two wonderful sons in law and they have blessed us with three absolutely amazing grandsons. But they live far away and so I do my best to visit as often as possible and they return the favor. I am absolutely addicted to reading and cannot go a full day without at least an hour of reading for pleasure, usually before bed. This often means a lack of sleep. I enjoy movies and TV shows that have great characters and snappy dialogue. I’m also a big theater buff, on both sides of the curtain. I have been involved in my theater group at church for many years, writing plays and performing in them. I love, love, love the ocean and dream of owning a place where I can write while I watch the waves crashing on the shore.

Who would you say has been a major influence in your life?

There are really too many people. My parents, my siblings, my husband. First and foremost, I’d have to say God. My faith is the foundation of my life and everything else is built on that. There have been so many wonderful people who have been woven through my life to make me who I am today.

Do you ever use friends, family members or acquaintances as character models?

Not consciously. My characters are more of an amalgam of all the people I know. They become real people to me, which of course makes me sound a little crazy.

Are you working on anything new now?

I am writing Book 2 in my series: The Widows of Woburn Place. I am also working on a project with my nephew. Something very different for me: a dystopian thriller. And lastly, the Christmas play for my church, which is a comical farce.

How do you deal with criticism?

I think my age helps me. I know by now that you can’t please all the people all the time. Everyone’s taste varies so much. I really don’t enjoy Science Fiction, Vampires or Paranormal novels, but tens of thousands of people swear by it. All the power to them. As long as the criticism is not personal, I’m pretty okay with it. I’ll be honest, I don’t love it, but I accept it as being part of the process.

What’s your writing schedule like?

Excuse me? What did you ask? Schedule? Honestly, I’m seriously trying to set a schedule, but I’m not there yet. My goal is to deal with marketing, website, email etc. in the morning and write in the afternoon. I’m not a morning person. What’s happening lately, since I published Her Grace in Disgrace, I am overwhelmed by the marketing side of things and the writing is suffering. My hope is that I will catch up to the learning curve and write more and market less.

Speaking of marketing, do you think most authors understand the importance of marketing their own work?

Noooooooooooooooooooooooo! It is overwhelming. Especially to someone like me, who, while I’m no stranger to technology and the internet, I wasn’t raised on it. It is a really big learning curve.

What are some of your marketing methods?

When I first published Her Grace in Disgrace I felt as if I had to do it all! I got a Twitter account, a Facebook Author account, a Goodreads account, a website, a blog and the list goes on. I learned about bloggers and wrote countless emails asking for reviews. I was a bit frenetic about the whole thing. But the reality is that it takes time to build an author platform (an online presence) and it’s not something you can rush. I’m now doing my best to chill a bit more and little by little I’m building up my Twitter following, my likes on Facebook and my website and blog followers. I’m learning what ads will work for me and what is a waste of money. I’m getting there, but I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Do you hear from your readers?

Yes, a few. People are usually very kind and encouraging. A lot of people want to know when book 2 will be ready!

How can readers connect with you? 

Via the following:

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Read! And write. And repeat! And if you are an Indie Author, heck, even if you aren’t, do your homework on marketing your book before you publish so you can be ahead of the curve. Learn about Facebook and Twitter and bloggers and reviews!

Her Grace in Disgrace, by Claudia Harbaugh, is available in paperback and eBook format on Amazon.com.