Monday, October 27, 2014

S.L. Carlson, War Unicorn, plus #giveaway, #free, #ebook




*Giveaway – one e-copy picked by random from the people who commented on the blog. Be sure to leave contact information in your comment to be considered in the drawing.

AUTHOR: S.L. Carlson
BOOK TITLE: War Unicorn
GENRE: Tween Fantasy
PUBLISHER: MuseItYoung
BUY LINK: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MV8VDYG  & other ebook formats


*What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing? Sleep. Also, when I get the chance, I walk in the woods or be by water.

*What are your thoughts about promotion? These days, until a large fan base is built which sells the books with little effort, the author must take a firm grip of self-promoting. That said, I find it very difficult to say “Look at me—me and my book! Lookie. Lookie. Lookie.”

*What was the toughest criticism given to you? What was the biggest compliment? Did those change how or what you did in your next novel?
The toughest criticism given is from people refusing to even take a peek at my story because (I’m assuming) of presumed ideas of what it would be like. I designed more professional swag (business cards/postcards), and removed the things which didn’t work and pushed the things that did.
The biggest compliment I’ve received was from my husband who doesn’t normally read children/tween books, and has only read one of mine. Even after 36 years, his opinion matters most to me.

*Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it? My writer’s block is realizing there is a plot issue and therefore skidding to a huge red writing stop sign. I think and think and read and read and think some more about how to fix it. Sometimes this means putting the story down and coming back to it later, sometimes years later.

*Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
After 30 years of yearly improving my craft, going to conferences and workshops, keeping up with the ever-changing publishing world, writing short stories, magazine articles, etc. and being told what a great writer I was, the book contract continued to elude me. When I finally had the opportunity to work with professional editors, I was humbled with how much more there was to improve. What have I learned from writing this book? There is always more to be learned.

*Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them? A friend I’ve known for ten years is now a successful romance writer and loves working as an editor with MuseItUp. I’d not considered Muse as a publisher because I’d heard they mostly do romance. I also wanted a book in print. Yet, when my friend offered to read and edit one of my stories, I tossed her an old one I had. She read it, cried, mostly fixed some formatting issues, and said if I wanted to go through MuseItUp, she’d get the story in the right hands. A month later, I signed a contract with them.

*What are your current projects? My current projects include lots of marketing and promoting. My current writing projects include another MG historical fiction, a collaborative YA fantasy with my son, as well as a sequel to War Unicorn.

*How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Website and blog: www.sandycarlson.com
Twitter: @sandycarl

*What genre do you write in and why? I write in both fantasy and historical fiction. I like fantasy because in those worlds anything can happen. I like historical fiction because of the ten times more research which goes into the book than the actual writing, and because I’m less likely to get sued.

*What is your experience working or being around children or teens?
I’m a former teacher of children, K-8th grade. Outside of the school setting there are numerous opportunities to be around children and teens. I take them. I also take notes.

*What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book? I’ve read several folk tales involving magical rings with various properties. I thought the idea was very cool. I wanted one! So I wrote about it instead. In order to pull away from Bilbo’s find, I thought to put a spell-bound unicorn inside a ring. I write, revise, read it over, toss it away, rewrite, revise repeat the process as many times as it takes, then close my eyes and press send (to an editor).
 
*What was the hardest part of writing your book? Finding the time to write it and revise it, and disciplining myself to write during “the computer’s free now” time.

*How did you decide how your characters should look?
A funny story with this is that after War Unicorn had gone through lots of critique partners, whole book critiquers, and two editors, my lovely line editor pointed out that by the end of the book, the only physical characteristic she’d read about the MC was that he was taller than his sidekick. I laughed and responded that any boy could now relate to him. She did not find it amusing.

*Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature? Release the idea that your words are written in stone. Read as much as you can on the craft of writing to monthly be a better writer. Attend writers conferences and workshops or webinars. Have lots of non-family and non-friends read/critique your story before your final revision. Research the market as to the best placement for your story. Don’t worry about waiting to hear the response. Instead, dig in on your next project.



BLURB:


  Reginald is content on his family’s apple farm – content until he digs up a magical ring in which a rude unicorn is spellbound. She claims she belongs to the king, but can’t tell Reg which one. A simple three-day trip to the capital to dispose of her, and he can get back to his family and apples.
     But with war building on the borders, even with the help of the general’s daughter, it’s nearly impossible for a farmboy to gain an audience with the king. Reg must be creative with his magic in order to present the unicorn. His attempts result in disaster, and not just for him.
     Promises made. Friendships kept. Families protected. War prioritizes all.
     Can an apple boy and one rude war unicorn save their country from the approaching enemy?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Matthew Peters, The Brothers' Keepers




AUTHOR: Matthew Peters
BOOK TITLE: THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS
GENRE: Thriller
PUBLISHER: MuseItUp Publishing
BUY LINKS: Amazon: http://amzn.to/1rAmd7o 
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1qNxMnO
MuseItUp Publishing: http://bit.ly/1nACJCG

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Matthew Peters. I live in North Carolina with my girlfriend and two cats. I’m a recovering academic, who writes fiction. 

Please tell us your latest news.

My religious thriller, THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, was released on October 1 by MuseItUp Publishing.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Thanks to a loving, understanding girlfriend, I am full-time writer. I organize my writing time by writing/editing/revising in the mornings and researching/marketing/promoting in the afternoons. I try to do it five days a week, but sometimes it spills over into the weekend.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing fiction in 2006. I’ve always loved writing but turned to fiction in 2006 because I wanted to try something different from the academic non-fiction stuff I had been doing.

What inspired you to write your first book?

Reading Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

I am always either writing/editing or thinking about it. However, I do enjoy listening to classical music, especially when I’m reading/writing.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learned that faith is an internal matter that is not necessarily connected to any outside institution or organization. 

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Twitter: @MatthewPeters65

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

Here is the back cover for THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS:

Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ purported spouse, Mary Magdalene. But what about Jesus’ siblings? What role did they play in early Christianity?
Contemporary Jesuit and renowned religious historian Nicholas Branson is about to find out…and the answer will shake the foundations of the Judeo-Christian world.
It all starts with the murder of a United States Senator in a confessional, and the discovery of a strange religious document among his possessions. At the urging of his FBI friend, Branson joins the investigation. His effort to uncover the truth behind the murder draws him into the search for an eight-hundred-year-old treasure and into a web of ecclesiastical and political intrigue.
Accompanied by a beautiful, sharp-tongued research librarian, Jessica Jones, Branson follows a trail of clues, from the peaks of the awe inspiring French Pyrenees to the caves of war-torn Afghanistan. Along the way, shadowy powerful forces trail the pair, determined to keep safe a secret buried for centuries.
How will it end? Read The Brothers’ Keepers … if you dare.

What gave you the idea for this particular book?

I started with a what-if question: What if we found writings by Jesus himself? Then, after I did some research, I asked myself what role Jesus’ siblings might have played in the formation of Christianity, or at least what we know today as Christianity.   

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what’s your initial process?

I come up with an overall idea of the plot, and the characters, and then I make a scene card for each chapter.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

I researched several months before I wrote a single word. Most of the research consisted of reading academic books from a local university. I’m also a big fan of YouTube and Google Earth.

How long does it take to write a book, and what is your process?

I try to write the first draft of a book in about a year. Then there is editing and revising, which involves beta readers.

What advice would you give a new writer starting out?

Read the classics and as much good literature as you can get your hands on. Read widely, too, from poetry and plays to science and politics. If you don’t read well, you can’t write well.



What are your current books out right now, and what are the books coming up for release?

In addition to THE BROTHERS’ KEEPERS, I have a work of literary fiction called CONVERSATIONS AMONG RUINS.

Here is the back cover:

Conversations Among Ruins is a portrait of a descent into madness, and the potential of finding salvation there.
While in detox, Daniel Stavros, a young, dual diagnosed* professor meets and falls in love with the cryptic Mimi Dexter. But Mimi has secrets and, strangely, a tattoo identical to a pendant Daniel’s mother gave him right before she died.
Drawn together by broken pasts, they pursue a twisted, tempestuous romance. When it ends, a deteriorating Stavros seeks refuge at a mountain cabin where a series of surreal experiences brings him face to face with something he’s avoided all his life: himself.
Though miles away, Mimi’s actions run oddly parallel to Daniel’s. Will either be redeemed, or will both careen toward self-destruction?
*The term dual diagnosed refers to someone suffering from a mood disorder (e.g., depression) and chemical dependency.

Here are the buy links:

Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/1phAi7v
Amazon Kindle: http://amzn.to/1oASGcG
Barnes & Noble Nook: http://bit.ly/1t6Q31L
All Things That Matter Press Paperback: http://bit.ly/1rBiB1e

Currently, I’m working on the next book in the Nicholas Branson series.

What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

I look for clarity in writing, and philosophical/spiritual depth.

What, if anything, bugs you when you read a novel?

Cardboard characters bother me, as do clich├ęs.

What books have most influenced your life?

In addition to CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, I’d say THE BROTHERS’ KARAMAZOV, DEMIAN, by Hermann Hesse, and the short stories of John Cheever.




The Brothers’ Keepers

Excerpt:
The man lit another cigar. “As hard as I try not to smoke these things, I just can’t seem to help myself. The treasure must have something to do with the Roman Catholic Church’s claim as God’s sole representative on earth. Nothing else makes sense. So, it has to be something that threatens their claim to such authority, and taking into account the involvement of secular powers, I think whatever it is threatens Judeo-Christian civilization as a whole.”
“How could anything bring down the dominant civilization?” Branson had thought of this often since his session with Rawlings.
“Among the world’s religions, Christianity is uniquely susceptible to having its underpinnings knocked out. Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism all developed slowly, along the lines of indigenous cultures. Without Mohammed, Islam would still live, as would Buddhism without Gautama. Christianity rests on one thing, the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christianity becomes a mere set of moral maxims, at best a good way to live one’s life, perhaps even a precursor to secular humanism. But if Jesus died and was raised from the dead, then Christianity has what other faiths only promise, the guarantee of eternal life in paradise.” Albert puffed on his cigar until it glowed fiercely. “And so, Doctor, another question. Is there proof of Jesus’ resurrection?”
Branson was on familiar ground now. “The Gospels give us eyewitness accounts. Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden near his tomb. His disciples see him again in the Upper Room and elsewhere.”
Albert knocked his cigar ashes into the fireplace and smiled. “Let me ask you this: which Gospel is the oldest?”
“Mark, written around 70 AD. The next oldest is Matthew, followed by Luke, and finally John.”
“How does Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, end?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Tell me how Mark ends his story.”
Jessica joined in. “Three women go to Jesus’ tomb and find it empty. They meet a young man dressed in white who tells them that Jesus is risen. Then, not long after, he appears to the apostles.”
“Does she have it right, Dr. Branson?”
“Well, she’s pretty close. The three women go to the tomb, find it empty, and are told by the white-robed stranger that Jesus has risen. But…”
“Yes?” Albert pressed.
“The fact is the original version of Mark’s Gospel ends there. The material about Jesus appearing to the apostles, his ascent into heaven, was added later. But in the original, Mark makes no mention of any appearance of the resurrected Jesus.”
“Is an empty tomb proof of resurrection?” Albert asked. “Is hearing about the resurrection from a stranger proof? A rather shaky foundation to build a world religion on, n’est-ce pas? What about the testimony of the Roman guards? Of course they agreed with the resurrection story. If they’d admitted to falling asleep, or leaving their posts, or getting drunk, they would have lost more than their jobs. Just an empty tomb does not a resurrection make.”
“No, but that doesn’t mean the resurrection and appearance to the apostles didn’t happen.” Branson sounded more defensive than he’d intended. He didn’t feel himself to be in a strong position to serve as apologist for the Church, not here and now.
Jessica cleared her throat. “So, let’s ask a different question. What would constitute proof that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?”
Branson let the objective scholar within take over from the Catholic believer. Under the circumstances, he was certainly glad he had the ability to do so. “Well, off the top of my head, I’d say finding his bones.”
“Very good,” Albert said, puffing away on his cigar. “But is that really the case? Old bones in some ossuary. How would you prove they’re the bones of Jesus Christ? Highly unlikely. So proving Jesus died is probably not the threat.”
“Isn’t there anything else that might challenge the foundation of Christianity?” Jessica asked.
Branson thought for a moment. “I suppose something that brought into doubt the virgin birth or the crucifixion.”
“Very good, Dr. Branson,” Albert said in between puffs of his cigar.
“Also very unlikely,” Branson admitted. “How can you prove the virgin birth? It’s not like Mary went around town saying, ‘Look at me, I’m the Virgin Mary.’ That title was bestowed upon her by the Church hundreds of years after her death. Unless you could find the equivalent of a two thousand year old birth certificate, or a paternity test from Joseph you’d be hard pressed to disprove it. And even if we allow for the fact that Jesus had siblings, as he clearly did from what the Gospels tell us, there is nothing to say that he wasn’t the eldest, and thus Mary could still have been a virgin at his birth, while the other children were conceived by Joseph.”
“What of the crucifixion?” Albert said.
“How can that be proved?”
“Well, I suppose you could find the cross upon which Jesus was crucified, or the nails used to affix him to the cross, or the crown of thorns he wore. However, proving any of that is next to impossible. The Romans crucified thousands and there is no way to tell from the remnants of wood who was crucified on a particular cross, the nails that were used, or the crown that was worn.” Branson thought for a moment. “So what do you think the Cathar treasure is, and where is it?”
Albert blew smoke rings into the cabin’s stale air. “Those are exactly the questions we hope you can help us answer, Dr. Branson. Will you join us in our efforts?”  





Monday, October 13, 2014

Ruth Tenzer Feldman, The Ninth Day, plus #giveaway, #free ebook





Giveaway: For the first two winners: Leave a comment on my Facebook page, Twitter page, or website, and mention that you saw this interview. Give me a way to contact you and I'll send you a copy of The Ninth Day.  I'll also send an autographed copy of The Ninth Day and Blue Thread to the first person who sends me an email describing in detail the cookie—and what it links to—on my website.

AUTHOR: Ruth Tenzer Feldman
BOOK TITLE: The Ninth Day
GENRE: Young adult historical fiction/fantasy
PUBLISHER: Ooligan Press
BUY LINK: Please support independent bookstores: http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781932010657-2
But if you can't, there's always Amazon:


Please tell us about yourself.

I've been enthralled with character and points of view since second grade, when I had an eye narrate my science report on vision. After studying international relations (lots of viewpoints there) and law  (there, too), I crafted a career as a legislative attorney for the U.S. Department of Education. I practiced sounding like several different presidents when I drafted bills and documents to send to Congress. My only other contribution to the national political scene has been an airing on NPR of my food parody of the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise."

While working for the government, I started writing articles and nonfiction books, finishing the last two books after leaving the law behind. My first novel, Blue Thread, won the Oregon Book Award for young adult literature in 2013. My newest book, The Ninth Day, is a companion novel that entwines the Free Speech Movement in 1964 Berkeley, the aftermath of the First Crusade in 1099, and LSD.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

That's a good question. I have no other outside employment now, so I can devote as much time to writing as I wish. In practice, though, I rarely write more than three hours a day. I used to write primarily in the mornings, working an hour or so at a stretch. Now I write in shorter chunks throughout the day. Staying on task is easier when I'm revising rather than when I'm writing new material.

When and why did you begin writing? What inspired you to write your first book?

Mt. Rainier inspired me to write under my own name, instead of pretending to be the President or Secretary of Education. It was 1992. My family was spending a year in Seattle, far from our home in suburban Maryland. I fell in love with the magic of a mountain that made so much of its own atmosphere that sometimes it appeared in the sky and sometimes it vanished. Every day I'd check to see if the mountain was "out." I decided then and there to put some of that magic into my first published articles, even though they were nonfiction. The real world is a wondrous place! Many articles later, I was asked to submit ideas for a children's nonfiction history book, which later became Don't Whistle in School: The History of America's Public Schools. I was hooked.

What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

My favorite non-writing activity is walking around the downtown section of Portland (we finally moved to the Pacific Northwest). I listen in on snippets of conversations and peek at tattoos. I people-watch like crazy while riding the streetcar in my disguise as the innocuous older woman with the library book on her lap.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I sometimes suffer from Writer's Kvetch. That's when an annoying editorial voice insists on telling me that everything I am putting on the page is slop. When this happens, I try to shut off the voice by patiently explaining how she'll have a chance to complain during the revision process, if only she'd leave me alone during the first draft. If that doesn't work, then I sulk and eat way too many chocolate chip cookies. At that point one of my current characters usually starts talking in some scene or other, and I have to write down what happens, and Writer's Kvetch stomps off in a huff.

Please tell us your latest news.

I'm in the lo-o-o-ng process of writing another story involving the time traveler featured in Blue Thread and The Ninth Day. This third book is currently called (drum roll, please)…Book Three. Oh, well. My writers' critique group, Viva Scriva, and I will come up with a better title eventually.

How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?
Hello out there. I'm tucked away in social media at:
Facebook: Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Twitter: @ScrivaRuth
E-mail: ruth@ruthtenzerfeldman.com

Tell us about the current book you're promoting. What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

The Ninth Day centers on Hope Friis, a shy, stuttering teen who is scarred by an accidental LSD trip in 1964, and who meets a time-traveler claiming that Hope must find a way to stop a father from killing his newborn son in 11th century Paris. I aim to have readers enjoy accompanying Hope through nine days of her life.  If they learn something from either time period, that's a bonus. If they take away from the book a sense of confidence in their own voice, then that's even better.

Did your book require a lot of research? If so, what kind?

Research? Oh, yes, indeed. Tons. The Ninth Day involved research on 1964 Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement, the Jewish community in 11th century Paris, and the First Crusade. The main character stutters, which I did as well at her age, so I could write from experience. My biggest surprise came while reading about ergotism—a disease that in the Middle Ages was called Saint Anthony's Fire—and its link to the Salem witch trials and to LSD.

Is this your first published children’s work? What other types of writing have you done?

I started by writing articles—dozens and dozens of them. The Ninth Day is book 12, but only my second novel. The first ten works were nonfiction books, in history and biography. I'm fascinated by history. One day I had the urge to stretch the truth on a biography of president Calvin Coolidge. Calvin loved to play pranks on his Secret Service guards, and I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the guard. I figured that was a sign to try writing historical fiction.


What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Historical fiction demands a balance between history and fiction, between authenticity and artistry, between what really happened and what happens in the story. I always find that balance tricky.

Describe your writing space.

My writing space wanders. Have laptop, will travel.  Still, there is an official place for me—an 8' x 10' nook crammed with shelves and made comfy with a "Persian" (likely Turkish) rug. Dominating the wall is a poster of a tiger's head, eyes fierce, mouth opened wide to show four huge fangs, and a thick red tongue…and a writer typing away on his laptop. Has the writer conjured up the tiger? Or is he so caught up in his writing that he is oblivious to the tiger? Either way works for me.  What do you think?

What has been your favorite part of being an author? What has been your least favorite?

My least favorite part is stopping when I don't want to and continuing when I'd rather be doing something else. Sounds selfish, but there you have it.



Excerpt from The Ninth Day

[From the first day: Berkeley, November 29, 1964]

Sylvester scratched my arm.
                  “Ow!” I picked him up mother-cat style by the nape of his neck. “W-what’s with you tonight, you cuh-razy beast?”

                  He went limp. I tucked my hand under his bottom. “You’re b-banished until you can behave.” I put Sylvester in the hall leading to the bathroom and the workroom/garage, and started to close the door.

                  That’s when I heard a woman’s voice behind me, coming from the direction of the open window. “Miryam Tikvah, I come in peace.”

                  She stood by my desk, holding out her hands and beckoning me to come closer. She looked about Dagmar’s age—bronze skin, gold-flecked hazel eyes highlighted with white eyebrows and nearly invisible eyelashes. No make-up. No jewelry. She wore a floor-length beige wool robe and an ochre headscarf that hid most of her white hair. Maybe she was part of a cult. Maybe she was from some exotic country.

                  Miryam Tikvah. How could she know my Hebrew name? And how had she opened the window and closed it so quietly? Maybe she wasn’t really there. Oh, God, not another flashback!
                 
                  I took a breath and stared at her, waiting for her to start glowing or turn into some bizarre creature.
                 
                  She didn’t change.
                 
                  Keeping her in my sight, I dug into the pile at the foot of Dagmar’s bed and closed my hand around one of Dagmar’s clogs. And I let it fly.
                 
                  She caught the clog a second before it would have slammed into her stomach. Her eyes widened in surprise. “I have done nothing to harm you. I come in peace. Why do you insult me with the throwing of a shoe?”
                 
                  I felt my shoulders relax. Better to be visited by a stranger than a flashback. “First of all, my name is Hope. Second, I threw the shoe to see if you were really here. And third, get out of my room.” The words gushed out of my mouth without a glitch. Weird.
                 
                  She sat on my bed, put Dagmar’s clog on the floor, folded her hands in her lap, and beamed at me. “Then I, too, shall call you by this name in your place and time. Hope.”
                 
                  I inched closer to the bedroom door, ready to escape. There was something really off about this girl. She was probably one of Dagmar’s friends, maybe someone from our temple, which was why she called me Miryam Tikvah. Her voice had a guttural quality to it. Israeli? She was probably stoned or worse—on LSD, which should be illegal in California but isn’t. Lysergic acid di-whatever. Since my first and only trip, I’d renamed it Lethal-Suicidal-Deadly.
                 
                  “I’m going to bed now,” I said, pointing to my pajamas. “You’ll have to wait for Dagmar outside.” No stutter again, which sometimes happens when I am over-the-top angry. But I felt more frightened than angry, and fear usually makes it harder to push the words out. Crazy.
                 
                  “I am not waiting for your sister Dagmar. I am waiting for you.”

*