Today’s Featured Author – Paulette Harper

Today I welcome author Paulette Harper to my blog. Her book, That was Then, This is NOW, was released in August. 

Excerpt: Walking in Purpose

How can I live in my purpose? While it is important to define what purpose is, I believe purpose must start with God. When I began to recognize my purpose for living, I realized it was about producing a life that was fulfilling, complete, and satisfying. As a believer in Christ, I believe that I am in a place where I am fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.

What I find most rewarding is making sure I’m doing what I believe the Lord will have me to do. I’m a strong believer in the fact that if God wanted me to do something else, I would be and if He wanted me to be somewhere else, I would.  True happiness comes when a person identifies his purpose and lives his dreams with God in the center of everything he or she does.

Inside each of us is a yearning to know why we are created and for what reasons we exist. I don’t believe we will be satisfied in life or even enjoy the life we have been given apart from walking in our divine purpose.  Finding your purpose in life should be one of your greatest goals. For one to fulfill his role and assignment here on earth, one must be aware of his own skills, talents, passions and abilities. Once those qualities are identified it makes doing what we love easy.

Some of my life’s challenges and struggles lead me to God’s divine purpose and plan for my life.  I found that in my own personal struggles there were ideal and dreams that God had birth inside me that where pulled out when I went through the most challenging times in life.  I learned that God’s purpose and will in my troubles were being fulfilled through my life’s experiences.

I live by my own motto…”Intentionally Living Life on Purpose.”

Book Blurb

HOW COULD GOD HAVE A PURPOSE FOR ME AMIDST THIS MESS?

WHY DO SUCH BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?

If you’ve recently asked yourself these questions, Paulette Harper’s That Was Then, This is Now has the answers. Struggling to recover from a broken marriage and disappointed dreams, Paulette Harper gropes for meaning and understanding. And through her searching, God reveals Himself to her in ways she never before imagined possible. By sharing her struggles with transparency, she illustrates how a heart attitude of surrender allows God to use a broken vessel for His ultimate plans of glory.

That Was Then, This is Now, minsters to hurting hearts in every season in life, reminding them that God restores shattered lives, intent on using them for His sovereign purposes.

About the Author

In addition to being an award winning author of Completely Whole and Secret Places Revealed, Paulette is an inspirational speaker, as well as a writing workshop instructor. Her literary works have been spotlighted in a growing number of publications, including CBN, Real Life Real Faith Magazine, The Sacramento Observer and Black Pearls Magazine. She has also appeared on numerous local and online radio shows.

Paulette resides in Northern California.

You can find out more about Paulette on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase That Was Then, This is NOW on Amazon.

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Publishing a book: Part 1 – traditional publishing house

Last week, I wrote the steps for writing a novel. This week I wanted to address what to do with that completed novel.

So you have completed your novel and are ready to publish it. What do you need to do now?

Alternatively, if you are planning to write a non-fiction book, you may want to look for a publisher ahead of time. Why spend the time writing the book if no one wants yet another book on pregnancy, exercise or whatever topic you pick? But if you have a non-fiction book with a fresh angle, you may find a publisher who encourages you to write.

When looking into publishing you have two options – go the traditional route of finding a publishing house (or an agent and then a publishing house) or the decision to self-publish.

Because these are two totally different routes, I will address them separately. First let’s look at traditional publishing.

Traditional publishing is where a company buys the rights to an author’s manuscript. Usually, an agent representing the author, negotiates a deal with the book publisher for the publisher to print and distribute the book.

The first step would be to research the publishing company or agent to make sure they publish the type of book that you are writing. You can also find out the guidelines to contacting them on their website.

If you hire an agent, they will use their contacts and knowledge of the publishing world to match your writing with a publishing house. Or you can contact the publishing house directly though you will probably have a better success if you have an agent.

Fiction Books

Once your book is complete, you will send a query letter, a sample of your writing and a synopsis to the publisher per their requirements. It doesn’t help your case to send more than what is required.

Non-Fiction Books  

You need to submit a book proposal that includes the proposed chapters and a sample of your writing. You would need to explain your expertise in the area.

Remember that both agents and publishing houses receive thousands of query letters and manuscripts each year. Some may send back a stock rejection letter but there are quite a few that won’t respond at all.

If you are lucky enough to get a contract from a publisher, they will then have their in-house editors work with you to refine your writing. They will be in charge of the marketing, distribution and warehousing of your book.

The benefit of traditional publishing is no out-of-pocket expense to the author. The publisher will make their money from the sale of the book. But the chance of getting published traditionally is hard and time consuming. You can send out many query letters, and months or years later you can be no closer to getting published. Many famous authors were rejected many times before finally became published.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to go the traditional road and be published by a major publishing house. But that is a hard road so many authors choose to self-publish their own work. I will address the steps of self-publishing next week.

Today’s Featured Author – Kevin A. Hall

Today I welcome author Kevin A. Hall to my blog. Kevin released his first book, Black Sails White Rabbits, in December 2015.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.  

I tend to be an all-or-nothing guy, which seems to carry into my moods sometimes too. It’s a double edged sword, like so many things. It can be fantastic to be immersed and effective, and it can be crippling to feel like I’m half-assing something and would be better off never having started it. I’m trying to learn to be able to be 100% comfortable with doing some things only part way!

What or who inspired you to start writing? 

My very first class in college (8 am Monday morning – OUCH!) was a creative writing class. I’ve always loved writing, but when I started living with manic episodes and depressions, it became part of my literal survival to write open, honest letters to friends, and to journal extensively. I taught myself to be honest during my early twenties, at least on paper. So maybe the answer is “I did.”

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing about being a writer is the click, the engagement of whole self and the completely disorienting evaporation of time. I have looked up from a writing session and realized it was five hours later. In no other activity does that happen to me. A few other things make time stop, but they don’t last for five hours! The worst thing about being a writer is that it is lonely. No water cooler jokes, nobody to give you a funny look when you arrive to work late the second day in a row, nobody dragging you out of the office on Friday afternoon for a few beers. Just you, the page, and your hopes and fears.

How did you come up with the title? 

It started as “Words, Words, Words; Accept My Life” which is a way-too-cute nod to my worship of Hamlet. I had written in the memoir about once quipping that I wanted to some day write a book called “Cancer Was the Easy Part”. That became the subtitle. The main title spent quite a bit of time as White Jackets, White Rabbits; (I’m a Herman Melville fan and White Jacket; or, The World in a Man of War is one of his other novels. Plus, there’s the double entendre with doctors in white coats. The Melville book is also how I legitimize the semicolon in my title. It’s a nod to both Melville and to Project Semicolon, a very beautiful mental health awareness initiative.) Finally I realized it really needs the “Black” to go with “White Rabbits”, and between carbon fiber sails and Tristan and Isolde, I had my title.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The last chapter was incredibly difficult. I had quite a few threads open, and I desperately wanted them to come back together in a positive, but not forced way. I have four outtake final chapters, which led me to realize I couldn’t do it all in one chapter. I closed a few threads before the final chapter. Eventually, I got really lucky one morning while reading, and had some specific words from David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King remind me of a Tom Waits song which has the exact same five words: “East of East Saint Louis”. That spark gave me what I needed to illustrate the delicate nature of maintaining a difference between “inside” and “outside” thoughts. I love that I hear voices, and writing the last chapter finally allowed me to express how it works a little bit, and to make peace with the challenges and blessings that my mind brings me.

What inspired you to write this book?

After toiling for a year and a half on a novel that just doesn’t work yet, my writing coach Stephanie Gisondi-Little suggested I try my hand at telling my story. I started by going back to my old journals and love letters (the love of my life at the time saved them, and we share a garage among other things now). Transcribing the journals and letters was so much more powerful than just re-reading them. The thoughts had to pass back through me and out my typing fingers, which helped me create the world in which Black Sails White Rabbits; takes place. From there I was off.

Excerpt

There are two ways to look at what happened to me in the fall of 1989. The safe, sanctioned explanation is to simply say my body attacked my brain, like this:

I got a fever of 104° F. My skin erupted in a violent rash all over my back, legs, and face. My brain swelled and pressed against the inside of my skull. My neurons short circuited. My brain caught fire. I went mad. It wasn’t MY fault, it was my body’s.

The damage done by those tempestuous weeks of fever and rash left my brain vulnerable. My previously dormant biological psychiatric illness never slept again. I was born manicdepressive. It was only a matter of time. My fate was always to make a scene. The diagnosis was simply the last one on stage.

It’s a forgiving perspective, which explains everything. This is helpful.

How I am is not me. It’s my Illness. It has a name, symptoms, and cure.

The other way to look at my challenges used to be unthinkable to me. Now, I see it as part of a wider perspective on a very complicated picture.

I had two academic passions. Mathematics, and French literature. I know, a bit schizo right? Backing up, I had only applied to two colleges. Brown University, and the United States Naval Academy. Not exactly sister schools. I was accepted for admission by both. Navy was an efficient path to having the Government pay for my fuel to fly jets. The easiest way to boil down the decision is to say that I didn’t want to be told when to brush my teeth or cut my hair.

I really liked math. But I was used to being the best thinker in math class. Not anymore. Not at Brown. As the leaves turned to reds and golds the fall semester of my junior year, I enrolled in two upper‑level math classes. Differential Geometry and Topology conspired to shunt me away from my handful of exceptionally bright classmates into the dunce’s corner of Euclid fans.

I adored French literature. When I opened a French book, I fell ass over teakettle into imaginary worlds two steps removed from waking, Anglophone life. Seventeenth century, nineteenth, twentieth…didn’t matter. A dreamer is freer in a second language. (Samuel Beckett, though Irish, wrote much of his best stuff in French.)

A description of my two majors as “bipolar” isn’t silly. Math: practical, precise, proven to be helpful in a world of men and money. French Lit: navel‑gazing, or escapist. Or else super‑serious Absurdism.

Not long before I was to graduate from Brown, I got ambushed picking up a girlfriend in New York City for one of our early dates. The whole clan was there in her parents’ Upper East‑Side apartment to size up the new tribeless boyfriend. Some had driven in from halfway out on Long Island. As I stepped through the front door, my date’s aunt fired point‑blank: “What are you gonna do with a degree in math and French literatchuh?”

So here’s the second, more complicated way to look at my meltdown: I was disintegrating, right down to my core. I wanted to continue to pursue math, I loved it. But it was becoming clear that I sucked. I also wanted to pursue French Lit, I loved it, but Aunt Mary‑Bette was right to ask. What, exactly, would I do with a degree in French literature?

I used to cling to the absolution that came with putting all my struggles down to bad luck, to a body playing mean tricks on me, and to a trendy diagnosis. However, I now believe that my mind—or perhaps my Soul—made sure I didn’t miss the invitation to see that I might be barking in the middle of a forest of hollow trees.

Joseph Campbell talks about the seat of the soul being that place where the outer world and one’s inner world meet. My outer and inner worlds were colliding head‑on when I dragged myself to the infirmary with a violent rash. I had midterms the following week, and I was going to fail.

Instead of stepping down, resting, and reflecting, I did the opposite. The second I got off the IV drip, I doubled down on the stress, tripled up on the caffeine, and went for broke on the determination. Then, I cracked.

Did my stress divert all remaining powers from my sanity force field?  Did madness pass into me from a fraternity party sneeze, or maybe the morning dew? Once inside my body, did the insurgents give me a fever, swell my brain, and cause me to lose track of what was real and what wasn’t? Maybe. That’s the chicken theory.

The egg theory is messy. It’s jagged. It has taken me twenty five years to swallow: the arrow points the other direction.

I was in trouble. I was smacked from peacock to feather‑duster when I realized that in the world of math I was barely a guppy in an ocean of white whales. There was no map for passing through magic French doors which led to a roof over my head and food on the table. At least, not a table set with the silver and privilege to which I had become accustomed.

In a world where “what do you do?” and “who are you?” seem to be interchangeable to potential future in‑laws, I couldn’t answer either question. I went insane fighting to keep the ideas of who I was and what I did separate. My mind was well on its way to splitting—which would have shown up soon enough—when my body flinched first with a fever and a rash. A few short weeks later, I played the madman and the fool, got arrested, then locked up to sit still and drool.

The Western, medical model had the cause outside the patient. So, give him pills, restore the neuro‑electrico‑biochemical balance, and get him back in the game. Job done. Case closed.

As soon as I stopped drooling, moved out of the locked ward, and caught my breath, I ran right back out on the field. Like nothing with spiritual or self‑identity implications had happened. I didn’t slow down. Not in class, not in training, not on the racecourse.

Well, my body tried its hand again at getting my Soul’s attention. This time, instead of crazy, it was cancer.

Book Blurb

Black Sails CoverYoung sailor and aspiring Olympic competitor Kevin A. Hall’s biggest dream was to raise a family. But within the space of three years, he was diagnosed with both testicular cancer and bipolar disorder, putting his family and Olympic dreams on hold. He soon found that surviving cancer was the easy part. Now a renowned Olympic and America’s Cup sailor with a wonderful wife and family, Hall shares a behind-the-scenes look at his struggles with mental illness in his riveting memoir.

About the Author 

AuthorKevinAHall_B&WKevin A.  Hall is an Ivy League graduate of Brown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and French literature. Despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1989, he went on to become a world-champion Olympic sailor, as well as racing navigator for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2007 America’s Cup match. A two-time testicular cancer survivor, Hall has spent a successful 25 years as a racing navigator, speed testing manager, and sailing performance and racing instruments expert .A brief version of his story was featured in Joel and Ian Gold’s book Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness, as the only non-anonymous case study of a patient with Truman Show delusion. Hall currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife and their three children.  Black Sails White Rabbits is his first book.

You can find out more about Kevin on his website or you can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase Black Sails White Rabbits on Amazon.

#NewRelease – JILO by J.D. Horn

Please welcome author J.D. Horn to my blog. Today, he releases Jilo, the fourth book in the Witching Savannah series. Be sure to check out the excerpt from Jilo after the interview!

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I completed my first—and, as yet, still unpublished novel—twenty years ago. Eighteen years later my novel The Line landed me as an official nominee in the category of best debut author in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards. (So if your dream is to become a published author, keep the faith and don’t give up.)  I may have only come in 16th place, but considering the competition, I am quite pleased with the result. My books have now been/are being translated into eight languages (Russian, Polish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Romanian).

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I always wanted to tell stories, but it was the Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” series that actually gave me the push to try. His light and engaging way of dealing with complex and often heartbreaking issues inspired me.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I start out with a broad summary—basically what I’ve promised my editor I’m going to write—and then sit at the keyboard until the characters tell me what’s really going to happen. If I’d stuck to an outline, Jilo—the titular character of my newest release—would never have made her way into The Line, as she didn’t reveal herself until my fourth (or maybe fifth) run at the book. As I tell my publisher whenever I present them with a proposal, my writing process resembles what happens when you store your carry-on luggage in a plane’s overhead bin. At the other end of the journey you find pretty much what you expect, but the contents may have shifted during flight.

Please tell us about your current release.

 Jilo is the fourth book in the Witching Savannah series, but as a prequel, it offers a new window into the Witching Savannah world—a reader doesn’t need to read the other three books in the series to enjoy Jilo.

In The Line, when we first meet the character of Jilo, she is a sharp-tongued, secretive, octogenarian with an axe to grind. Savannah’s foremost practitioner of Hoodoo, coastal Georgia and South Carolina’s equivalent of Voodoo, Jilo presents herself as a frightful and unsophisticated personage. Over the series, as the layers are stripped away, readers come to see Jilo as an intelligent, educated, and highly sympathetic character. Jilo may have captured the hearts and imaginations of tens of thousands of readers, but her biggest fan remains her creator. When given the chance to expand on the Witching Savannah (at the time) trilogy, I didn’t have a single doubt as to which character I wanted to spend more time with, and get to know better.

While the other books in the series (The Line, The Source, and The Void) are contemporary, Jilo covers a period running from 1932 into 1960, shedding light on how the series’ arguably most popular character grew into the beloved, but not to be trifled with, Mother Jilo.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Research is very important to me. I did a lot of “boots on the ground” research in Savannah when writing the contemporary portion of the series. I’ve even had readers tell me they’ve carried The Line along with them as an ersatz travel guide.  I went back again while writing Jilo to delve into the Hostess City’s not so pleasant past, spending many, many hours going through newspaper microfiche, speaking to longtime Savannah residents, visiting the sites of long since demolished buildings and even entire neighborhoods that have been erased from the map.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

That’s easy. Oliver Taylor from the Witching Savannah series. He’s handsome, never seems to age, can charm people into doing whatever he wants, and he gets away with making the comments I have to keep in my head.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I do. Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. A beautiful book about love, writing, and a cocktail party thrown by Satan.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

If we’re talking living writers, strangely, I kind of, sort of, have met the two writers I’d pick. I bumped into Armistead Maupin on the corner of 18th and Castro in San Francisco back in the mid-nineties, but didn’t have the nerve to say hello. He smiled. I smiled. The light changed.

I’m going to cheat a bit and mention Charlaine Harris and Anne Rice in one breath, as both have been very influential on my writing. I had the chance to say hello to Charlaine at a book signing a couple of years back, and then had the opportunity to gaze at her from across a crowded room when she spoke at the International Thriller Writers’ 2015 ThrillerFest. I also attended the awards dinner at the previous year’s ThrillerFest where Anne Rice was a speaker. So, I’m not besties with either of them, but it was great to get even that close.

Excerpt from Jilo

“Thank you, Pastor,” Jesse’s mama said, placing her hand on his shoulder. Pastor Jones looked at her, Bible still held high, seeming to deliberate whether or not he should shrug her off and carry on. “I do so appreciate you coming out today,” May added in a sincere tone. Jesse knew his mama, though, and despite her calm demeanor, he knew she’d heard enough. The preacher had been given more than enough time to speak of wheat and chaff and wise virgins with well-trimmed wicks. The look on her face was the one she used when placating anyone in authority—usually the buckra, but occasionally one of their own. “We need to be getting the babies and the old folk out of the sun before one of them falls ill.”

The young man searched her face for a moment, then acquiesced. “Thank you, sister,” he said, taking a step back from the head of the grave.

Jesse’s mama smiled again at the preacher. “You go on, now,” she said, dismissing him in no uncertain terms. “We can handle it from here.” Jones lingered for a moment, as if considering whether he should listen, then nodded and walked away from the grave, passing by Jesse and his family on his way to the cemetery gate. He hesitated a moment when he reached Jesse’s daughters, who watched the young pastor with listless trepidation. Opal shifted Jilo, balancing the baby on her hip. Jones reached out to pat Poppy’s head, but then stopped dead at the sight of Jilo, doll-like in her starched white cap and gown. The pastor pulled his hand back slowly and hurried on toward the gate. Silence fell over the group until he was well beyond the boundary.

“Opal,” his mother called. Jesse’s eyes darted to his daughter.

“Yes’m.” The girl startled and straightened to attention at the sound of her nana’s voice.

“You bring your sister on up here,” Jesse’s mama instructed. “Bring Jilo to me.”

Jesse felt Betty tensing beside him. “You stay right where you are, girl,” Betty said, wagging her finger at Opal, who seemed nearly split in two by her desire to please both her nana and her mama at the same time. “What you need my Jilo for?” Betty took a few steps forward. Jesse couldn’t help but notice that she had moved toward his mother, ready for confrontation, rather than toward her baby, ready to protect.

He knew there was no need to protect Jilo from anything that was going to happen here, so while Betty geared herself up for a shouting matching with his mama, he stepped back and approached the girls. “Let me have her,” he said with a nod to Opal. Her face relaxed in gratitude as she handed the baby over.

Jesse took Jilo in both hands and shifted her into the crook of his arm. He leaned his head over to plant a kiss on her round cheek, then reached out and ran his thumb over Opal’s cheek as well. Over the sound of their mama’s indignant shouting, Jesse winked and said, “Your daddy has the best girls in the whole wide world; you know that, don’t you?” A smile curved on Opal’s lips, and she blinked once before nodding her response.

“And you, my little flower?” he said, turning toward Poppy, who scurried up to him and hugged his leg. He patted her head. “I love my girls,” he said. “All three of them.” When Poppy released him and slid back next to Opal, he closed his eyes for a moment before turning to face the scene unfolding behind him.

“And I,” Betty said, waving her finger in his mama’s face, “am not gonna have my babies take part in any of the old woman’s Hoodoo. You hear me?”

“Jilo,” his mama replied in her calmest voice, even though the angry set of her mouth and the crease that lined the center of her forehead told Jesse she was anything but relaxed, “is the last born. You want to be good and clear of the old woman”–her head rocked in indignation–“then we need to pass Jilo over the coffin.”

Jesse had almost reached his mother’s side when Betty caught sight of him. She pushed roughly past the mourners who didn’t have the sense to part between them like the Red Sea at the wave of Moses’s staff. “Gimme the girl.”

Jesse took a step backward and placed his hand over the back of Jilo’s little capped head. “It’s our way.”

“It may be your way, but it ain’t my way, and she’s my child.” Betty now stood within spitting distance of him, her chest and shoulders heaving. She flung out her arms, grasping at the linen of Jilo’s gown.

There was no way he was relinquishing the girl to those clenched and angry hands. “She’s my child, too.” For a moment, Betty’s face froze. Then her eyes narrowed, and she tilted her head. Her lips parted, readying to speak the truth that his cousins had been whispering behind his back, the truth his gut already knew. The truth that his own heart told him was the greatest lie of all. But then she stopped. Her tongue darted out of her mouth and licked her lips instead.

She gestured with a wide wave of her arm that included him, his mother, the casket, and the baby. “All right, y’all heathens go right on ahead. Y’all do what you need to do.” She spun around and stomped off, heading toward the gate.

Opal and Poppy started to take off after her, but their mother swung her hand back, signaling for them to stay put. Jesse could read the worry and confusion on their little faces from a hundred paces. “You come up here with Daddy and Nana,” he called to them. They hesitated, keeping an eye on their mother’s receding back. “Come on,” he said and urged them forward with a wave of his free hand. The two girls joined hands and walked forward with some lingering trepidation.

Jesse’s mother positioned herself on the opposite side of the coffin. He shifted Jilo off his shoulder, taking her in both hands. She gurgled with laughter, a bit of drool falling from the side of her mouth. Her black eyes twinkled with such love and intelligence, so much soul. It was like she’d already lived a thousand lives, and held every secret of the universe in her chubby, damp hands. He pulled her in close and placed a kiss on her forehead, then reached her over the casket to his mother.

His mama’s calloused, yet gentle, hands brushed his. As he let Jilo drop into her grasp, his ears were met with a loud pop, and his eyes registered a flash of bluish light. Everyone stood there gaping in silent amazement. Jilo squealed happily and reached her chubby arms across the void of his nana’s grave toward him, a joyous mystery playing in her eyes.

Book Blurb

Horn-Jilo-19825-CV-FT-V11950s Georgia: King Cotton has fallen. Savannah is known as the “beautiful woman with a dirty face,” its stately elegance faded by neglect, its soul withering from racial injustice and political corruption.

The dark secrets of Savannah are intertwined with the story of the young Jilo Wills who rises to become a legendary part of the most powerful family of witches in the South. The origins of the famed Taylor witch family finds its roots with Jilo’s great-grandmother and her grandmother, both who used their sorcery to influence the city’s power brokers. The two matriarchs, however, die before they can provide Jilo with a solid education in the magical arts. In desperation to make a quick buck, Jilo takes advantage of the family’s reputation and her scant magical knowledge to create a “Mother Jilo” persona. But soon, Jilo is forced to accept the full weight of her legacy when it becomes clear she is the one that the mystical witch world has been waiting for. Jilo becomes the unbreakable link between the past and future witches of Savannah.

In this standalone introduction to one of the Witching Savannah series’ most vivid and beloved characters, readers are swept away by the resourceful and determined Jilo as she comes of age, strives to master formidable magical skills in the face of overwhelming adversity, and forges her strange destiny against the turbulent backdrop of the civil rights struggle in the American South.

About the Author

JD HORNJ.D. Horn was raised in rural Tennessee and has carried a bit of its red clay with him while traveling the world, from Hollywood to Paris to Tokyo. He studied comparative literature as an undergrad, focusing on French and Russian in particular. He also holds an MBA in international business and worked as a financial analyst before becoming a novelist. Along with his spouse, Rich, and his furry coauthors, Duke and Sugar, he divides his time between Black Butte Ranch, Oregon, and San Francisco, California. Previous titles in the Witching Savannah series are The Line, The Void and The Source.

You can find out more about J.D. Horn’s series on his website.

Jilo can be purchased on Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Anonymous

Today, I welcome an author who goes by the name Anonymous to my blog. Please check out my interview as we find out more about Anonymous’s book The Treatise of Wisdom. (But alas, we do not get to find out any more details of who Anonymous is.)

Interview

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

My experiences are laced throughout my stories.  Those experiences are rarely portrayed as they happened in real life, rather they are moulded by the story’s setting and characters.  The essence of the experiences, and the lessons obtained from them are true to life.

Experience is an important theme in The Treatise of Wisdom, in fact entire characters are built with it in mind.  One character in particular, Truffles, considers himself an experienteur, that is, an experience-connoisseur.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have begun working on the second installment of The Treatise of Wisdom series.  The journey will unwittingly bring the trio of unlikely heroes to a place they never thought they would end up.  They will find out that what they previously knew about the world and the abilities of humanity, was tiny and erroneous.  Someone’s past will be revealed, and friendships will be tested as a result.  The country of Highland will step ever closer to its end.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I befriended a witch once, years back, who determined me to be a Teacher.  Her definition of a Teacher is a person involved in finding the information that lays hidden in the background, and then finds a way to pass that information on, for humanity’s benefit.  That meeting did not form the idea that I was going to be a writer, but it is a good example to explain my drive.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I write my books as most people live their lives: I have a goal in mind, then I take the steps necessary to get there.  To illustrate further, I may have an idea of a major scene I want to happen sometime in the story, I then set the characters in motion, and I let the currents of their actions naturally lead them to the desired outcome.  With this method, the story grows both organically and with structure.

Please tell us about your current release.

My current release is called The Treatise of Wisdom, and is the first installment in  The Scroll of Knowledge series.  The book is a fantasy, but it could also be seen as a journey through the awakening of consciousness.  In this series, I wanted to illustrate the power of the mind, and the ways in which it shapes the world, whether for good or for evil.  I wanted to show how all of us have the ability to be more than are right now, and I wanted to provide the map to getting there.  I also wanted to tell a story that was entertaining and fun.  It is an interesting blend, and I thoroughly enjoy writing it.

What inspired you to write this book?

I once spent a winter living alone in a cabin in the northern Canadian wilderness, with no power, no running water, no television, no phone, no outside communication, and no other people.  The human is a social animal, and from the desire to talk and interact with others, came the writing of a story, so that I could vicariously have human relationships.  That was the beginning of the book, and I have continued writing it ever since.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

The research for this book was never formally for it specifically.  Out of general interest, I have spent a lot of time reading informational texts on many topics.  Books are a great place to get a foundation for knowledge, but experience is the real teacher.  By having lived various ways of life, having been on journeys over land and through the soul, and having developed relationships with people from all walks of life, I have been able to write this book from an almost first hand perspective.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

No.  I gave each character a name and a gender, and sent them out to develop themselves.  Who they each became was a complete accident; their first scene in the story set the stage for what they would become.  A reader will notice that there are very few physical descriptions of the characters, except where it is necessary for the story.  I wanted the reader to picture each character any way they see fit; I wanted any reader, no matter who they are, to be able to step into each character, and see themselves.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I have three favourite characters: Truffles, Fasthand, and Aimelyth.

Truffles and Fasthand are polar opposites.  Truffles is carefree, flowing, living in the present, and undisciplined.  Fasthand is utterly serious, hard, looking to the future, and incredibly disciplined.  I like them because they excel at being themselves, and where other characters are often unsure of themselves or hesitant to take the next step, Truffles and Fasthand bound forward and never question their actions.

Aimelyth is hard and independent in her actions, yet vulnerable in her soul.  Her life’s experience has been all about survival, but her emotional self was never allowed to develop.  As such, she is often lost in her relationships, and is very much a bystander viewing her own social interactions.

I dislike some of the secondary characters, but they are meant to be disliked.  My least favourite is Bower the clothier; he is pretentious and weak.

Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?

There are a few prevalent dark areas in the book, I will discuss two of them.

Softfoot and Fasthand are both warriors, though their methods and perceptions of battle are different.  Softfoot is a martial artist, and he is a philosopher who is very much stuck within his own head.  Softfoot’s perspective is of himself versus an opponent.  Fasthand is a war general; he is a brilliant man who is accustomed to viewing the minds of enemies and allies, and shaping their actions.  Fasthand’s perspective is that of a puppeteer with a very large cast.  The two men are at odds, and each must try to eliminate the influence of the other, to the downfall of one of them.

The second bit of darkness lays with Aimelyth.  She is a misplaced woman in search of herself, of her place in the world, and of love.  She has had a hard life, especially for a woman, and the experiences of her past have isolated her from almost everyone.  In order for her to become whole, she must go to the places she dreads most.

Book Blurb

SoKVivid, humorous, passionate, and full of adventure, this is a journey through the trials of nations, the power of the soul, and the science of magic.

All reason is abandoned, and out of desperation or greed, the guardians of nations do the unthinkable.

An oracle has forewarned that the glue that binds society is fracturing, and leaders are scrambling to avert catastrophe.  Most of the government is at odds about what should be done; some want to use war to rally the people to work together, some desire peace at all costs, and some secretly desire to use war to gain world power.

Meanwhile, the oracle has hand picked a small task force with unique qualities, and sent them on a mission to find a book that was written long ago, in hopes that the information it contains is powerful enough to stay the world’s tumble into anarchy.

They will need the teachings of unlikely masters in order to hone their skills and push them to the limit, if they are to succeed in the intrigues, conflicts, and hardships they will face as they are thrust into the unknown.

About the Author

authorPicAnonymous is a Canadian author, whose writing interest involves bringing the realms of myth and magic into a setting where they can be made natural and real. The human endeavors of adventure, courtship, friendship, and conflict, from the levels of individuals to those of nations, are prominent themes in Anonymous’ work.

You can purchase The Treatise of Wisdom on Amazon.

 

Today’s Featured Author – Sydney Scrogham

Today, I welcome author Sydney Scrogham to my blog. Here is a book trailer for her new release, Chase.

Book Trailer

Book Blurb

Chase-CoverTwo worlds will collide under one reigning Promise. He’s chosen to die. She’s destined for Snix skin. Financial strain from her mom’s lost job means Lauren has to sell her horse. In a desperate attempt to keep her beloved animal, Lauren pursues an escaped genetic experiment worth a ten thousand dollar reward-a bright-red horse. With the red horse in sight, Lauren disappears into Agalrae and comes face-to-face with Chase, a man raised by Alicorns. Lauren wants to return home, but the Snix, Chase’s enemy since birth, has other plans. The Snix confronts Lauren with an ultimatum: Kill Chase for ten times the red horse’s reward money, or sacrifice the lives of her mother and horse. Forced to stay in Agalrae until she decides, Lauren wrestles with possible outcomes. But she can’t hide the truth from Chase forever.

About the Author 

author photoWriting has always been a part of who I am.  I started writing when I was 12.  I wrote a 30-some book “series” based on Beanie Babies who owned a My Little Pony farm, and the world (Agalrae) for my debut novel Chase began there.  I originally wrote Chase when I was about 15 in 18 days.

To learn more about Sydney, check out her full bio on her website.

You can purchase Chase on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Today’s Featured Author – Sharon Davis

Today I welcome Sharon Davis to my blog. Sharon has long been involved in the Motown music scene and has written numerous books about various artists. Her latest book, Mighty Real: Sharon Davis remembers Sylvester, is about the disco icon Sylvester and his hit song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).”

Guest Post

I was born in East Sussex, along the southern coast of the UK and educated at St Phillips convent school in Uckfield before attending the Lewes Tertiary college where I studied secretarial duties.  The dreaded Pitman shorthand drove me to distraction but happily I left the college armed with good grades and excellent typing skills.  These, of course, proved invaluable in later life although at the time, they were a means to an end to secure a secretarial job.

Dusty-3

Dusty Springfield

While I earned a living during the day working as a secretary for our local council, I became obsessed with Motown’s music and artists.  This interest was fuelled by Dusty Springfield, and her constant promotion of the Detroit sound via her interviews and live shows. I became the southern secretary for her fan club, met her several times, so my obsession grew.

To cut a long story short, I joined the Tamla Motown Appreciation Society run by Dave Godin, a valued friend and fan of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records. Among other things, the TMAS spearheaded the first British Motown Revue in March 1965.  When this Society closed Motown in Detroit wanted individual artist fan clubs opened in the UK, so I applied to run one for the Four Tops, my favourite group of all time.   With the help of Motown’s publicity department based in Detroit, I got my wish and during the 1960s was able to help promote the music I loved so much from my parent’s home in Uckfield, East Sussex. Other fan clubs opened up across the country for other artists and the various secretaries regularly met up in London to listen to the all-consuming new American releases or organise Motown parties for fans in London hotels. Jimmy Ruffin was a regular visitor at these.

To this day, I remember printing stencilled copies of the Four Tops’ Four Tops newsletters on the machine at work – after hours of course – and my mother and I enveloping them up and cramming them into the local post box much to the dismay of our local post office!  Fan club members would also visit our house, St Michael’s Lodge, just to talk Motown.

I lived with my parents until I was 21 years old when I moved to London to work for EMI Records.  I pined to be a part of that industry because my only ambition was to join the music business  – but I didn’t know how. So, in desperation, I wrote to the EMI Records address printed on their record sleeves, asking for a secretarial job; was interviewed and was duly hired as a legal secretary. Ah, a foot in the corporate door.  A country girl in the big city of London was a huge step to take, but I did it.

My decision to move to the big city coincided with other fan club secretaries doing likewise.  From a flat in Ealing, London, and with  Motown’s blessing, the various fan clubs were amalgamated under one banner – Motown Ad Astra.  It was an awesome task, operating this club during the evenings and every weekends. Not only did the Club provide an excellent service to members, but we also entertained visiting Motown artists.  Either driving them around London, assisting with their touring schedules, and so on.  By doing this, a personal and professional bond was forged, some which remain relevant today.

From EMI’s legal department, I worked my way through the various departments until landing the position of personal assistant for the deputy manager of the company.  This was during the 1970s, the same period when the beforementioned Dave Godin, who was now writing for Blues & Soul, approached me with the offer to write a Motown page for the magazine.  This I did for two or more decades, later branching out as one of the magazine’s top journalists, interviewing major and minor acts.  A huge thrill, as my love of soul music broadened but my obsession with Motown was never replaced.

In time, Motown Ad Astra closed down and was replaced by the “TCB” magazine for several months. I couldn’t maintain that and write for Blues & Soul and felt by spreading the word in the magazine I’d reach a far wider audience. So, with a heavy heart, “TCB” closed down.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always written whether it be short stories or just notes from a place I’d visited or a song I’d heard.  Having said that, I also fancied myself as an artist, and for some years splashed around with brightly coloured oils on canvasses until I lost interest.

Thanks to my writing for Blues & Soul, and my growing reputation in the soul music industry, I became publicity manager for three American labels – Fantasy, Stax and Salsoul – all licensed to EMI Records.  From there, I secured my dream job as publicist for Motown, working from EMI’s offices in Manchester Square, in the heart of London’s west end.

Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine Jackson

For two years I worked with the company’s acts, ranging from Diana Ross, Jermaine Jackson, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Teena Marie, The Temptations, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas,  and so on.  The absolute joy of meeting artists I’d previously adored on record was something I never dared imagine.

Personally speaking, as I’m a factual writer, the best part is being able to pass on information about an artist or company that might be lost in the passage of time otherwise.  During my time working hands-on at EMI Records and Blues & Soul, I collected memorabilia, news clippings, transcripts of my interviews, visuals, and all manner of things which are priceless in my work.

I always write in my office at home, leaving it only for comfort breaks, to eat, and sometimes sleep.   Notebooks and pens are scattered all over my house, including the toilet, just in case something comes to mind and needs saving. Yes, as I’ve got older, so has my memory. It doesn’t work as well as it did. I also like the solitude that writing demands, and when a particular book is finished – then watch me go!  Rejoining the human race can be fun!

I outline my books through necessity.  Most have been artist biographies so it’s essential the time frame is accurate.  So a skeleton is drafted with significant dates and locations.  After completing that, the story can be filled into the appropriate sections. I write all my manuscripts in long hand, always have done, because not only do I love the feel of fountain pen on A4 lined paper, but I must have the personal touch injected into what I write. Sounds strange I know but, hey, it works for me. All my books are personally slanted while retaining the factual element.

I’m fueled to continue writing because there’s still so much for me to tell. As I’m getting older, I don’t want to run out of time, so am constantly writing notes and researching towards future books.  I have two that I’m planning and both are Motown-related. There’s still a huge market for accurate books about the company and I’ve still got much to tell, because of the privileged position of befriending many artists who are always happy to assist me with projects.  Yes, I am extremely fortunate to have these relationships and never, ever, take them for granted.

motown the historyAt the request of Proteus Books I penned my first book “Marvin Gaye” in 1984.  “Motown:The History” followed in 1988 after a deal with Guinness Books. This was a magnificent book mostly due to the extensive colour visuals and the inclusion, for the first time in any publication, of the US and UK album and single discography spanning thirty years.  The text was rather good as well!  Long out of print of course, the book is considered to be the Motown bible.  Interestingly, it’s also used as an autograph book by fans who lug the huge tome to performances for artists to sign.  Martha Reeves once said that she’s autographed this book more times than she cares to remember.

During the 1990s I revamped and extended my first book and with the artist’s knowledge published “Marvin Gaye: I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. Tragically, Marvin was shot dead by his father before he could see the finished project. I then changed tact to see if I could write about music outside the Motown box.  To this end, Mainstream Publishing took on my trilogy – “Every Chart-topper Tells A Story – Sixties, Seventies, Eighties”.  It was an interesting project which I greatly enjoyed compiling.

Into 2000 it was back to Motown with “Diana Ross: A Legend In Focus”, another elaborately designed book thanks to the brilliant designer at Mainstream.  Three years later, Carlton published “Stevie Wonder: Rhythms Of Wonder”,  and during 2006 I compiled a selection of my Blues & Soul interviews under the book title “Chinwaggin’” for Bank House Books. Three years later Equinox published “Lionel Richie: Hello”, then in 2008 Carlton took up the publishing rights for “A Girl Called Dusty”.  At last I had written about the singer who had steered me on my Motown adventure. It’s hoped that a movie will be made from this project.

As an aside, when Diana Ross penned her autobiography “Secrets Of A Sparrow” she enlisted my help as a researcher and duly credited me in the book as such. Over the years, I’ve compiled CDs for her, and written her sleeve notes and tour programmes.  Always happy to write about Motown, my work can be seen on countless CD and vinyl compilations, and I’ve been a regular talking head on television and radio programmes devoted to the company.  Providing background information and visuals for tv programmes is also part of the service I willingly provide, although, at the end of the day, I prefer to write than talk!

Book

sylvester bookJust recently Bank House Books published “Mighty Real:Sharon Davis Remembers Sylvester”.  You’ll recall I mentioned earlier on working for Fantasy Records. One of the artists I befriended from that label was the lovely, outrageous disco singer Sylvester, when he first visited London to promote “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” during 1978.  Not only did the single soar into the British chart – and later a top ten hit in most countries – but it elevated him into the higher echelons of dance music.  Spending almost every waking hour with him, I hoarded a million memories with personal visuals to match. We remained in contact with each other when he left Fantasy, and regularly met up with he toured the UK.   When he died from AIDS in 1988, I knew I had to pay tribute to this great artist, so decided to publish our time together to give his fans an exclusive insight into his hit in the making.  Sharing the moments and living the dream, so to speak.

“Mighty Real” should have been published during 2014 but due to my illness – which went on and on – I couldn’t promote it.  There then followed a printing problem which seemed to take ages to rectify, but quite suddenly everything fell into place.  By my standards, the book is minute: only 80 pages long and can easily fit into a back pocket or handbag.  However, everything I needed to say is included from the start of his career to the tragedy at the end.

Sylvester and Sharon

Sylvester and Sharon

I hope I wrote frankly about Sylvester’s unpredictability and stubbornness, his love to shock, and his thoughtful and caring nature for others. I also hope the love I had for him comes across through the friendship we developed. Also, for the first time, record company reports and schedules are made public, together with personal notes, a few surprises and secrets,  and pictures Sylvester loved – and some he didn’t.

Like most of my books, I find the closing chapter the hardest to write, particularly if the artist is deceased.  For Sylvester I racked my brain for ages thinking of something suitable, then opted for  one of his quotes.  He always liked the last say! This is probably the most personally slanted book I’ve ever penned, or likely to. That is, until I write my ‘autobiography’ of my ‘Motown Years’ which is currently simmering away gently on the back burner.

To date, “Mighty Real” has attracted great reviews and my readers have been kind with their comments.  So maybe I did something right!

Before I close, I’d like to thank you Susan for allowing me to join you and your esteemed authors.  It’s been a huge privilege for me.

You can find out more of Sharon’s writing about Motown on Soul Music’s website where she is a review and editor of Motown Spotlight.

Mighty Real: Sharon Davis Remembers Sylvester is available on Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.