Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: ‘Stolen Dreams’ by Christine Amsden

StolenDreams_med-193x300I can’t believe this is the last book in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series! I really have enjoyed this series a lot.
If you’re new to the series, I advise you to pick up the books in order:
In this the final installment, talented author Christine Amsden brings the infamous Scot vs. Blackwood family feud to a close, but not without filling her story with enough intrigue, mystery, twists and surprises to keep you thinking about the characters for a long time.
And this is, really, the biggest draw in these stories, the characters, especially Cassie and Evan. Cassie has been such a likable protagonist throughout the series, smart and strong and opinionated, yet caring and warm-hearted. Evan –yes, arrogant, condescending and overprotective Evan — has also been the perfect hero. They were school sweethearts…until Evan’s father stole her powers from her and gave them to Evan, thus starting a conflict between them that brought them to the depths of despair, especially for Cassie.
There are many subplots in this book, but the main problem happens when Cassie’s father is killed and she and her family think that Evan’s dad is the one responsible. The primary storyline has to do with finding out if this is true or not and, if not, then who, in fact, is responsible.
There are many surprises in Stolen Dreams, and I enjoyed all of them. Fans of romance will especially enjoy the focus on Cassie and Evan’s relationship. I loved the ending. In sum, this was a wonderful series, and the author delivered a satisfying closure. I wonder what she will come up next? I’m certainly going to be on the lookout for her future books.
My review was previously published in Blogcritics Magazine. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest Post by Sharon Van Ivan, Author of the Memoir 'Juggle and Hide'

I’d always thought of myself as an actor/writer, but one day in Los Angeles in 2005, I realized that all I was writing was a few words in a journal every morning.  A very few very boring words.  I needed to be around other writers.  That was my solution.  So, I saw a notice in a newspaper that sounded like the ticket for me: a writing group where the only goal was to produce words that you could read to the other members of the group.  When I got there, I realized that I was in a group of talented writers who were being guided by an even more talented writer – April Daisy White – and it was then that I learned that it was memoir writing for actors who wanted to do a one-person show.  A show using their own lives as a script.  This frightened the life out of me, but I thought I should stay and write anyway.  And I did.  Daisy, was a great teacher, coach, human being and she had had a very interesting life.  So I wrote a chapter every week or so and in not too long I had a memoir.  This stunned me and surprised and pleased my husband, Charles Pfahl.  Daisy went on to do a successful one-woman show about her own life – even went to Broadway with it.  I had no illusions about doing that, so I put my memoir away.  Well, actually I sent it to a few publishers first.  They all liked the memoir, BUT it was too intense, too relentless. Everyone else had thought it quite funny.  Dark, of course, but humorous at least.  So the manuscript was put away and I went back to adapting screenplays for other people who had written books.  Then Charles and I moved to Albuquerque for economic reasons.  But it was there that he became ill and eventually died.  Before he died, he asked me to please publish Juggle and Hide.  I promised I would and now I have.  I keep my promises and I try to always be early for appointments.
Juggle and Hide-BEA
Title: Sharon van Ivan
Genre: Memoir
Author: Sharon van Ivan
Publisher: Cygnet Press
Find out more on Amazon
Juggle and Hide is award-winning writer Sharon van Ivan’s dizzying story of her unconventional, often harrowing, and 
sometimes hilarious life. With a childhood split between time with her alcoholic mother in Akron, Ohio and her gambling dad in Brooklyn, New York, as well as other challenging family members along the way, she was destined to find comfort on the edge and in the company of highly creative and self-destructive individuals.
Hers is a story of getting drunk and getting sober, of triumphs and failures in her work as an actor and screenwriter, and of exhilarating love affairs, including her twenty-year relationship with the renowned artist Charles Pfahl. The book is quirky and compelling, and engaging on many levels. Sharon takes the reader on a roller coaster ride into the depths of personal tragedy with unexpected outcomes.
Sharon van Ivan lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with her two cats, The Duke and Earl.  She was born in Brooklyn New York and couldn’t wait to move back to New York when she grew up.  Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she lived with her mother in Akron, Ohio, until she returned to New York in her early 20s.  There she studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was a working actress for many years.  But she was always writing.  Her debut as a playwright was when she was 10 years old and living in Sacramento, California.  She wrote about the hardships of a young girl in Mexico.  The play was so good, it was presented to the whole school.  Sharon was mortified and did not write again until high school.  Then when she had a writing assignment, she would dream about it the night before, and write it just before class.  She was an A student in English.  Not the most popular person in school, however.
Growing up with an alcoholic and, therefore, mentally ill mother and a mostly-absent father (plus a slew of stepfathers) was a challenge that Sharon met head-on – as she had no choice. Later in life when she did have a choice, the patterns had already been set and she followed a similarly disastrous road until she found show business, a great psychiatrist and the love of her life, the renowned realist painter, Charles Pfahl.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Book review: Tanner Builds a Block Tower, by Anita Banks

Tanner Builds a Block Tower is an adorable picture book for ages 3-6 by debut author Anita Banks. It tells the sweet story of a little boy with big dreams:
"I'm going to build a tower. It's going to be bigger than the trees. It will touch the sky."
But as he carries his blocks into the garden and encounters different animals--ants, ladybugs, a chipmunk, a rabbit, and a cat--something unexpected happens and he will have to figure out where all his blocks have gone. Will he get to build his big tower, after all?
Anita Banks has created a charming, totally sweet picture book that will both educate and entertain. Young children will learn about animals and numbers as they follow Tanner on his adventures. The illustrations are lively and colorful and well suit the story. Anita Banks is a name to watch out for!


Title:  Tanner Builds a Block Tower
Genre:  Children’s Picture Book, ages 3-6  
Author:  Anita Banks
Publisher: Wee Creek Press

About the book:  Tanner is determined to build a tower with his blocks. Despite the distractions of the garden’s various animals and losing his blocks on the way, Tanner joyfully shows determination and perseverance.

About the author:  Anita Banks harbored her secret of writing since she was in junior high school where the desire took seed in a creative writing class. She still journaling, reading, running and traveling, but nothing compares to playing with her grandchildren.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Interview with J. Boyce Gleason, author of 'Anvil of God'

With an AB degree in history from Dartmouth College, J. Boyce Gleason brings a strong understanding of what events shaped the past and when, but writes historical-fiction to discover why. Gleason lives in Virginia with his wife Mary Margaret. They have three sons.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Anvil of God, Book One of the Carolingian Chronicles.

Visit his website at

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Anvil of God is about a family in crisis.  It chronicles the power struggle that befalls the family of Charles the Hammer in the wake of his death in 741.  Despite Charles’s best laid plans, son battles son, Christianity battles paganism and his young daughter must choose between love and her family’s ambition. 

Why did you write your book?

I’d always dreamed of writing a book but life got in the way.  I had to support a wife, three kids, a dog and a mortgage.  And I had a good career that took up a lot of time.  The dream just kept getting deferred.  Finally, I had a six-week sabbatical and thought, “if there ever was a time, it’s now.”  Once I started the story, I knew I couldn’t stop.  I had to see how it ended.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Oddly enough, Anvil’s two main characters are women.  Charles’s daughter Trudi flees his court in the dead of night to pursue love halfway across the continent in the camp of his enemies.  Along the way she must grapple with the reality of her father’s violent history conquering a continent with what she has been raised to believe.

Charles’s widow Sunni moves to protect her 14 year-old son, Gripho from his older and more battle worn, half-brothers Carloman and Pippin.  They suspect (rightly) that she is pagan and refuse to sanction the potential for a pagan state.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

They are as close to real as I could get for the 8th century.  Most of the main characters are real people and I shaped their personalities based on what is known about them. There are two exceptions (which I note in the author’s note at the end) where a hole in the history appeared and I felt a need to fill it.

For me, it is like a putting together a puzzle.  I catalogue what I know about the person, what actions they took, and then begin to list a series of questions.  Why did they do what they did?  Was it well thought out, or impulsive? How difficult was it?  What help would she have to have?  How long would it take?

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

I researched the period thoroughly and know what happened in history; the trick for me is to figure out why.  So, I have an outline of where the story ends up, but I often let the characters (once they are fully fleshed out) drive the plot.  In one case, the character-driven plot opened up a whole new perspective for the novel and made it a much richer reading experience.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

I think the time period does.  It was a very unforgiving time.  Violence was pervasive and religion (whether Christian, Pagan or Muslim) was a central tenant of their lives.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

It’s rare that I have a full-blown case of writer’s block.  With me, it is just keeping the discipline of writing every day (at the same time, for the same period). I’ve always got something else to do (like answering these questions).  Unfortunately, I’m easily distracted.

What do you like the most about being an author?

I like the fact that my work can resonate so strongly with people.  To hear how readers grieve over some characters and celebrate others is really a wonderful way to connect.  My favorite compliment is, “How soon we have Book Two?”

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

The most pivotal point in becoming a writer is to decide to write and then to sit down and begin.
The most pivotal point overall, I think, is a toss up between typing the words, “The End” and seeing your book in hardcover for the first time.   

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Start writing.  It forces the mind to sort out what is important and what is not.  Really research your characters. Know who they are, why they are the way they are, what their dreams and ambitions look like, how they behave, how they talk.  Let their interactions with other drive the story.  They tell the story more than you do.  Finally, edit and edit and edit and edit.  It always helps.

Character Guest Post: Li Erh from Thomax Green's 'The Shu: The Gnostic Tao Te Ching'

My name is Li Erh. On the night I was conceived my mother saw a vision of me wrapped in the blanket of the sun, moon, and clouds. On the day of my birth three suns rose at dawn. After I suckled her breast for the first time nine dragons rained magical water down onto the people.
They all said I was extraordinary but it wasn’t until I was three I believed them. On a moonless night we had no oil for our lamps and I felt bad for the fear my family felt from the darkness so I began to radiate in a golden glow so they could have a peaceful evening. When I was five I stared at the sun for an hour and never went blind. At seven I went a year consuming nothing but sunshine.
When I became of age I had little interest in employment in the courts so I found a job in the imperial library where I could study the writings of the ancients.
 One day a school friend of mine named Kung Chung-ni came to the library to ask me about an obscure ritual. After I gave him his answer I told him that he needs to file down his sharpness and put away his sword of ambition. That great sages do not display their knowledge they live it.
Years later Chung-ni said in speaking about me: “Birds soar above the earth; fishes swim to the depths of the ocean; and tigers run the great expanse of the plains. But who can predict the behavior of dragons? Sometimes they fly among the clouds and sometimes the burrow into the earth.” Then he renamed me Lao Tzu the old one, and said that I was truly a dragon. Chung-ni was later known as Confucius.
 When I retired from civil service I traveled west. I stopped in a border town near Han Ku Pass and dictated my work to a soldier who recorded it as Tao Te Ching. Afterward I traveled further west until I came to Mount K’un Lun. I climbed the mountain and found the land of the immortals and that ended my time in the land of the living.

About the Book:

Author Thomax Green has produced a compelling new book so cosmic in its scope that it has the power to change readers' lives. THE SHU:  THE GNOSTIC TAO TE CHING is a “modern-day Gnostic work which blends all faiths and sciences into a super belief,” Green says. “With this belief system, you can be a faithful individual without the restrictions and classifications that are imposed by religious groups. In short, it is the way to freedom and happiness.”

About the Author:

Thomax Green was born in 1972. After waking from a coma 10 years ago, he says he “was finally freed of the devilish manifestations that plagued me with a life of sorrow.” In addition to being a writer, Thomax is a visual artist. His media includes painting, drawing, and photography. He has published a previous novel titled “C.O.W.:   Creatures of War.”

His latest book is The Shu: The Gnostic Tao Te Ching.

Visit his website at


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Interview with C.H. MacLean, author of YA fantasy 'One is Come'

To young C. H. MacLean, books were everything: mind-food, friends, and fun. They gave the shy middle child’s life color and energy. Amazingly, not everyone saw them that way. Seeing a laundry hamper full of books approach her, the librarian scolded C. H. for trying to check them all out. “You’ll never read that many before they expire!” C. H. was surprised, having shown great restraint only by keeping a list of books to check out next time. Thoroughly abashed, C. H. waited three whole days after finishing that lot before going back for more.
With an internal world more vivid than the real one, C. H. was chastised for reading in the library instead of going to class. “Neurotic, needs medical help,” the teacher diagnosed. C. H.’s father, a psychologist, just laughed when he heard. “She’s just upset because those books are more challenging than her class.” C. H. realized making up stories was just as fun as reading, and harder to get caught doing. So for a while, C. H. crafted stories and characters out of wisps and trinkets, with every toy growing an elaborate personality.

But toys were not mature, and stories weren’t respectable for a family of doctors. So C. H. grew up and learned to read serious books and study hard, shelving foolish fantasies for serious work.

Years passed in a black and white blur. Then, unpredictably falling in love all the way to a magical marriage rattled C. H.’s orderly world. A crazy idea slipped in a resulting crack and wouldn’t leave. “Write the book you want to read,” it said. 

“Write? As in, a fantasy novel? But I’m not creative,” C. H. protested. The idea, and C. H.’s spouse, rolled their eyes.

So one day, C. H. started writing. Just to try it, not that it would go anywhere. Big mistake. Decades of pent-up passion started pouring out, making a mess of an orderly life. It only got worse. Soon, stories popped up everywhere- in dreams, while exercising, or out of spite, in the middle of a work meeting. “But it’s not important work,” C. H. pleaded weakly. “They are not food, or friends, or…” But it was too late. C. H. had re-discovered that, like books, life should be fun too. Now, writing is a compulsion, and a calling.

C. H. lives in a Pacific Northwest forest with five cats, two kids, one spouse, and absolutely no dragons or elves, faeries, or demons… that are willing to be named, at least.

His latest book is One is Come.

Visit his website at

About the Book:

Haylwen doesn't care who actually blew up the wall of the school library. With a chance to finally have real friends, all she cares about is if her suspension will make her parents move again. Her parents, forced to keep their own magical past silent, are shocked to learn that she is indeed a magic user. She tested negative. Twice! Desperate to hide Haylwen from the King of magic users, they flee, but their efforts thrust them all into mortal danger.
Haylwen’s parents don’t know about the prophesy of “The One,” or that the only one who doesn't know Haylwen is a powerful magic user is Haylwen herself. The King and the dragon clans’ plans to remake the world are already in motion. As Haylwen struggles with her feelings of loneliness and unworthiness due to her inability to make a friend, she is completely unaware that the fate of the entire world rests on her choices.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

It’s about a fourteen-year-old girl, unknowingly caught up in the emergence of dragons into the modern world. She has to find her magic and the meaning of true friendship in order to save her own life and preserve the fate of the world.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Most of the people are entirely from the story that comes to me. Sometimes I notice parts of the characters that are like people I’ve known. Sometimes I can see bits of me in all the characters.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

For me, the whole story explodes as a complete whole, and I try to get down as much as I can in notes. With that trunk and branches, the rest of the leaves and flowers grow organically.

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Some parts absolutely require to be set in a place, such as a particular forest. In other parts, the movement from place to place is more important than the actual place. In general, for this series at least, it could have happened almost anywhere.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Haylwen is on the hike that will change her life. A page later she faces a choice to either plunge into her fears and take control of her life or continue safely but passively as she had been.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I haven’t suffered from writer’s block the way most people talk about it. In quiet moments, stories appear to me, play out as movies in my head. I have collected more notes of stories than I will ever have the time to write. But sometimes, especially when I am tired, I have a really hard time focusing on just the important parts of the story. I can feel I’m too much in the story, and it’s just swirling. At that point I have to stop writing and get some sleep.

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Probably a toss up between write or sleep.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love to read, of course. But I really enjoy spending time outdoors. Getting my hands muddy. Chopping wood. Taking hikes.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Write what you love. Give all of your heart and mind to the readers, they deserve it.

Interview with Eliot Baker, author of THE LAST ANCIENT

Eliot Baker lives in Finland. He teaches communications at a local college and runs an editing and translating business, but would be content singing for his heavy metal band and writing novels full-time. He grew up near Seattle, got his B.A. in World Literature at PitzerCollege, and got his M.S. in Science Journalism from BostonUniversity. He was an award-winning journalist at the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, and before that he wrote for the Harvard Health Letters. He spent four years pursuing a career in the sciences while at the HarvardExtensionSchool, during which time he spun old people in NASA-designed rocket chairs and kept younger people awake for 86 hours at a time in a sleep deprivation study. He likes good books, all music, and bad movies, and believes music and literature snobs just need a hug.

His latest book is the supernatural thriller/historical mystery, The Last Ancient.

Visit his blog at

Can you tell us what your book is about?

Absolutely. Around Nantucket Island, brutal crime scenes are peppered with ancient coins, found by the one man who can unlock their meaning. But what do the coins have to do with the crimes? Or the sudden disease epidemic? Even the
creature? And who--or what--left them?

The answer leads reporter Simon Stephenson on a journey through ancient mythology, numismatics, and the occult. Not to mention his own past, which turns out to be even darker than he'd realized; his murdered father was a feared arms dealer, after all. Along the way, Simon battles panic attacks and a host of nasty characters -- some natural, others less so -- while his heiress fiancee goes bridezilla, and a gorgeous rival TV reporter conceals her own intentions.

Why did you write your book?

It was time to put my keyboard where my mouth was. After failing to publish a different novel a decade earlier, I’d reached that magical triple point of creative inspiration, financial stability, and an irresistible wedge of time. It all came together after moving with my family to Finland.  One day between classes (I’m a teacher, amongst other things), I opened up my laptop and stared out at the encroaching Finnish winter and thought back to my time on Nantucket as a reporter, some of the best years and experiences of my life. I thought about one of my first field assignments, shadowing a deer hunter at dawn, and how the island sun rose all red and raw to a chorus of gunfire. I got nostalgic. I typed, “Gunshots bark across Nantucket.” It was like an incantation. A portal opened to another world.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Growing up the son of a dangerous arms dealer (amongst other enterprises), the protagonist, Simon, developed a host of anxiety issues, including intense panic attacks, while being defended by his best friend and body guard, George the Greek. Simon has deeply conflicted feelings about his father, of whom Simon wrote a prize-winning expose before his father was assassinated. Judy, Simon’s Manhattan debutante fiancee, is a fellow Ivy League overachiever and elite tennis player. Cecilia Rodriguez is much more than just a sexy celebrity TV reporter covering Simon’s story—she’s a brainy girl of humble origins who finds herself hopelessly entwined in Simon’s story. But none of these characters are what they seem. And then there’s the creature, which is perhaps in its own right the most dominant character.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Ultimately from imagination, but my characters are like mosaics, or DJ samplings, of different people: celebrities, historical figures, friends and acquaintances. I mix wide-ranging traits into a single character, but the combinations of personality ingredients often surprise me. For instance, I took pieces of the best people I know and carved them into some arch villains to make them more interesting and sympathetic. It’s like real life filtering into a dream. It’s unavoidable, not a conscious decision. But of course other people will think your character signifies something or someone else you hadn’t even considered. If I do find that a character is too obviously like a real person, I flip some combination of the character’s gender, race, sexual preference and age.

Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel or do you discover it as you write?

Ah, the Great Question! Yes, I’m highly aware of the plot once I put pen to paper. I have to be, to stay on course. I believe plot is the soul and backbone of a story. I always map out a beginning, some of the middle, and definitely an end– and then let the book take on a life of its own. The rules and logic of the world achieve their own sentience. I admire people with an engineer’s approach to constructing a novel—hard chapter-by-chapter outlines, never deviated from, with exactly five good pages written a day, and so on-- but I can’t do that. Not completely. Just sucks out all the joy of discovery for me. So I write down a strong outline and then open up my mind to whatever the little voices tell me. I find that after tons of thinking about a world, and kilotons of research and preparation, the keyboard becomes like a Ouija board for channeling the world onto the page.

Your book is set in Nantucket.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I fell in love with the Grey Lady (Nantucket, not the New York Times) after I spent two years as a reporter on the island. There’s nothing like it—the natural beauty, the swanky high society, the history, the isolation, the collision of classes. It’s a place of extremes, and once you’re there you can feel stuck there, which is just delicious when you throw in a few assassins and a killer mythical beast. While I wasn’t sure what my first (published) novel would be, I knew where it would be set. 

Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Oh, absolutely, as much as a setting can. Nantucket is a main character of The Last Ancient. Being stuck on a small island thirty miles out to sea with a murderer and a creature begs the tagline: “On Nantucket, no one can hear you scream.” Also, the history-heavy coded message within the ancient coins Simon keeps picking up at crime scenes has a nifty pay-off concerning Nantucket as a location.

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Simon, fresh off of having just witnessed a grisly murder scene, tries to grab a cheeseburger but is pestered by the town Sherriff, who insinuates he knows something about Simon that makes him not only in danger, but a danger to the island. Simon responds by threatening to publish a story about a shady land deal the Sherriff has been involved in—which serves as the tip of the iceberg for the great conspiracy unfolding on Nantucket before  Simon’s eyes.

Is it hard to get a genre-mashing supernatural thriller/historical mystery/horror/fantasy book published?

Yes and no. Agents I’ve met turn a peculiar shade when they tell them your  book’s genre contains slashes. Which I get. It’s much easier to find an audience for a distinct genre. But I happen to most enjoy books that throw genres into a blender and make them cold and frothy with a good dose of strong writing. The Last Ancient had to blend genres. It’s an intricate mystery that I spent oodles of effort to seem plausible, and then even more effort to make the writing not suck. And it has alchemists. And journalists. And scientists. And arms dealers. And a mythological creature. Oh, my. When you go outside the genre box and make a stack of boxes, it’s always harder to get published.

Is it hard to promote a genre-mashing supernatural thriller/historical mystery/horror/fantasy book and where do you start?

Regardless of genre, promoting represents a mountain range of difficulties for a debut indie novelist to traverse. Just getting someone to read and review my novel for free was a technical climb on slick rock I’d not anticipated. I had to attend conferences and do crazy research to find out about things like book blasts, blog tours, a social media platform, micro-publishing, etc.. I’ve found you need to figure out what makes your book stand out and promote that uniqueness to whoever is your most likely audience (once you identify it, which is tricky with genre-mashing). Conventional wisdom has it that many genres are mutually exclusive in their audiences, such as fantasy and thriller. I totally disagree. American Gods, The Passage, Stephen King – the counter-examples are endless but yes, it is hard to figure out to whom I should promote when it’s not a straight romance or horror novel.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I’ve never had it. I know people who have. It’s really terrifying. I’ve of course had long bouts of lethargy and poor production, but true writer’s block is a real mental issue that requires therapy; two people close to me would sit down and go increasingly insane as they found they couldn’t write a single word without going back over what they’d already written and tweaking that. Four weeks and no new sentences later, they were ready for therapy. I haven’t had that. I’m actually overwhelmed with the opposite problem; I have a menu of twelve novels I’ve outlined, and it’s hard to focus on just one. Or perhaps that qualifies as writer’s block?

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I would extend my run in the endless Finnish sunshine by an hour! And while I was running, I’d memorize some lyrics to whatever hard rock/metal song my band is trying to cover.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

I love the summer solstice here in Finland. It’s 24 hours of sunshine, a giant bonfire, lots of sausage, fishing, beer, and guitar playing with friends and family. Racing naked from the sauna to the lake and back again…True pagan goodness.

If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?

I think we’d go for a long hike in my native Northwest. No better way to discuss ideas than sweating along a beautiful mountain path. In Finland, we’d do it winter-style, cross country skiing or ice skating, followed by a session in a legendary Finnish sauna. And then we’d go the local bar, Kirjakauppa, which means, of course, Book Store.

What do you like to do for fun?

I’m into singing for my heavy metal band, Sniffing Hyena. It’s sooooo good for the soul to shout into the oppressive darkness of Finnish winter. Outside of music, I am fairly outdoorsy (fair and cold weather), I exercise, I read, and I will watch any movie with anyone as long as I get to hold the popcorn.

Can you tell us about your family?

They are awesome. My kids, four and six, boy and girl, are bi-lingual, which never ceases to amaze me, as a suburban Seattle kid who still struggles with Finnish. My wife is extremely supportive, she’s the brains and organization behind the operation. My mother, Sharon Baker was a sci-fi novelist when she was living. My father is a physician, still working at eighty-three years young. And I have three older brothers who stopped beating up on me a long time ago when I got bigger than them.

What do you like the most about being an author?

Knowing what I am, at a cellular level. Whether you figure it out in grade school or upon retirement, one either is or is not an author, I think. Either you’re willing to embrace the required frustration, rejection, and loneliness, or you flee from it. It comes down to what gets your brain to release the happy chemicals. For me, writing a good sentence makes my brain go, “Oh!” Conceiving and nurturing a whole plot lights off the neuro-fireworks. As a runner, I’ve had runner’s high. Writer’s high is better. Lasts longer. You smell better, too, after four hours of writing than of running.

What is the most pivotal point of a writer’s life?

That moment you acknowledge that you are a writer. I started writing something rather than going out to a party when I was twenty-one. I kept on writing. And writing. And writing. I was just glowing with the thrill of it, the discovery of ideas I didn’t realize I was capable of. I’m not religious, but it was like having a certain kind of light shine through you. I wrote between 20 to 40 pages a day. That first effort (like many people’s first efforts) wound up not getting published, but it was a turning point. I was hooked. Writing is an addiction.

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Paint a realistic portrait of success. An Indie NY Times best-seller? It could happen, but probably won’t, so if that’s how you define success you’re going to define yourself as a failure--even if you achieve the high honor of publication. Success in writing is personal. Try, in the beginning, to just be happy about completing a short story. Throw a little party for yourself. Embrace the warm glow of creation. Then try a novel. Be okay with writing a crappy first draft--and love every moment of it. Put it away for a month or two. Then read it over. Do you still love it? Yes? Then, and only then, start thinking about publication. Identify your weaknesses, your obstacles to publishing—descriptions, characters, dialogue, plotting, whatever--and start honing your craft. Don’t be afraid if it takes years to summit that mountain. If Frodo turned away from Mount Doom, we’d all be speaking Orc now. You’ll get there. Just keep living, keep writing, keep smiling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Interview with Praying Medic, author of 'Divine Healing Made Simple'

Praying Medic is a paramedic and author living in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2009, he has written about the miracles God has done through his medical practice. He is married to his best friend and business partner. His first book Divine Healing Made Simple was published in December of 2013. 

His life goal is to teach people to live as ambassadors of God's kingdom. His books and articles are intended to inspire, challenge and if necessary, provoke readers into a deeper relationship with God. 

If you're interested in connecting with him outside of Amazon, he has a personal blog where he writes about the miraculous. You can contact him there.

Can you tell us what your book is about?

The main focus of my book is to provide a simple approach to healing illness and
injuries for people with little or no religious background and to answer the most common questions people have about divine healing.

Why did you write your book?

Unlike most writers, I never had any interest in being a published author. I was quite happy just being a paramedic. But over a two year period I wrote about 30 articles on the subject of healing. The articles helped people understand healing better, and they provided answers to some of the most common questions people have. A number of friends told me that more people would benefit from the information I shared if I wrote a book, so I spent about a year turning the articles into a book manuscript.

What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?

Anyone can operate in supernatural healing, regardless of their education, social status, or spiritual background and healing can be done in virtually any type of setting.

Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?

I self-published my book and it was not as hard as I imagined it would be. Amazon made the process pretty straight-forward. Once we had the cover images and text document ready, publishing the book was a breeze. I would encourage authors to check out Amazon’s self-publishing services and see if it’s something that might work for them.

Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I currently have six book manuscripts in the works right now. I was 30,000 words into my 3rd manuscript when I hit a wall. I just ran out of inspiration. Instead of trying to write more, I spent the weekend editing what I had already written. After the initial 30,000 words were written and edited, I found that I could write about 500 to 1000 words at a time before running out of inspiration again. I would close the document and take a mental rest for about 30 minutes. When I rested, I received new inspiration on a different subject. I'd open the document and write until I had it all down then I would have to walk away and rest again. I think it can be helpful to keep the flow of inspiration going by alternating periods of writing and resting.

What do you like the most about being an author?

Most of what I write is aimed at helping people develop their spiritual gifts. I get a lot of positive feedback from readers who try my suggestions and find that they work. When someone is set free or healed because of something they read in my book – it’s immensely gratifying to me.

What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors? 

My advice to anyone who wants to write a successful non-fiction book is to begin by starting a personal blog. If you’re new to writing, developing a regular habit of writing can be a difficult process. If you’re a veteran writer – the problem is usually marketing what you write. Writing regularly on a personal blog solves both of these problems.

Most people who want to write books never write them because they never develop a regular habit of writing. Blogging can give you the motivation you need to write regularly. Blogging also puts your writing in front of an audience that can give you feedback. All writers need to hone their writing skills. A good way to go through the process of becoming a better writer is to let readers tell you what they like and don’t like about your material. If you respond to criticism by changing (and improving) your writing style, you will become a better writer.

When you post messages on a blog you’re creating an audience of readers who will likely buy your book once it is written. If they like your blog posts – chances are they’ll like your books. You do the writing and let search engines bring interested people to your blog. After you’ve written a certain number of messages, you may find that they can easily be converted to the chapters of your first book. A personal blog can be the marketing tool you need to get your books in the hands of a larger audience.