Author Archives: AnneWainscott

The Odds Are In Your Favor with the Final Hunger Games

Hunger-Games

Today, The Writing Well features a movie review of the final Hunger Games’ movie, Mockingjay – Part 2, which opened over the weekend with an estimated $101 million in North America and $146 million internationally.  The post, written by Chicago-based blogger and movie buff Spencer Blohm, is a must-read for anyone who is a fan of Suzanne Collins’ blockbuster books and the film adaptations.  I last wrote about this film after a Dragon*Con YA panel that explored whether the first film delivered the goods given the huge popularity of the books.

Spencer tells Spencer_HeadShotme he is a lifelong movie lover and wishes it were possible to time travel back to the golden era of Hollywood cinema and meet Judy Garland — though Jennifer Lawrence would be “pretty cool, too.” Take it away, Spencer!

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For the past three years, no dystopian film franchise has garnered more audience and critical praise than The Hunger Games series. It blends all the aspects of action, science fiction, political commentary and romance that young audiences crave while giving viewers a grim reminder of what a corrupt society can do to the world. Although the end of this film series is bittersweet, Katniss Everdeen’s saga goes out with a bang in Mockingjay – Part 2.

 

The eponymous first book, written by Suzanne Collins, has flown off shelves since its debut in 2008, and the sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, were both instant bestsellers. The trilogy revolves around teenage Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and the Districts of Panem, which are under the tight rule of the vindictive President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and the vicious Hunger Games, which sacrifice innocent children supposedly in the name of unity. While the first two films put Katniss in the arena to fight for her and her sort-of love interest Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) lives, the final two installments focus on the downfall of the corrupt society and the ways Katniss must change and fight for a better world. Before you see the newest film, you can catch up on the three previous installments on cable TV and Hulu.

 

The films in the franchise have become progressively more intense with each installment, much like the books. As Katniss grows from an unlucky adolescent to a true revolutionary, she’s burdened with her own morality and grittier ethical decisions. Mockingjay – Part 2 doesn’t hold back from the heartbreaking events of the final novel, edging it away from teen flick to a political and thought-provoking action/adventure film. Although still a teenager in the final installment, Katniss has grown into a powerful symbol of courage and sacrifice — all while remaining flawed and inarguably human.

KatnissDespite Lawrence’s acting capabilities, it is apparent she’s worn Katniss for just about as long as she can. Lawrence has simply outgrown the role, which shows onscreen. She has evolved into an Oscar-winning actress since the first Hunger Games film, and the young adult novel series just isn’t her platform anymore. But just because the role is a bit stale doesn’t mean the movie is a dud. In fact, it’s an explosive send-off to a beloved film series. The emotional climax is performed perfectly, and fan favorite roles (including Elizabeth Banks‘ flamboyant Effie Trinket and Woody Harrelson‘s sardonic Haymitch Abernathy) get their chance to shine before the series ends. This film also showcases the talent of several generations of actresses. Julianne Moore stuns as the icy Alma Coin and Game of ThronesGwendoline Christie appears as one of the only new characters to come into the last film.

 

The influence of the Hunger Games films have reached far past theater screens, and they inhabit a vital place in YA and dystopian film history. The series did not necessarily need to be drawn out for four movies instead of three (a common Hollywood device), and the leading lady can definitely benefit from hanging up her bow and arrows, but luckily, this last film is sure to leave a lasting impact on fans and newcomers alike.

Andrea Boeshaar on Writing Christian Romance Set during the Civil War

ATSF cover

Today, The Writing Well turns from horror and zombie apocalypse writing to the polar opposite genre of Christian romance writing set against the backdrop of the American Civil War.

We examine the latest work of Andrea Beshaar, a veteran romance novelist, writing coach, grandmother of five, and co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers.  Her newest book, A Thousand Shall Fall: A  Civil War Novel, opens in autumn 1864 in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a 50-mile swath of fertile land situated between the Alleghenies to the west and the Blue Ridge to the east.

The book explains the significance of the Valley, whose rich stores of grain earned it the name the “Breadbasket of the Confederacy.” Of equal importance was the Valley’s role as a crucial transportation network for the South (General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson once said, “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.”)

The book’s heroine, Carrie Ann Bell, shows plenty of pluck as a protective older sister and aspiring journalist eager to follow in her father’s footsteps. She is trying to keep her papa’s newspaper alive after he leaves to chronicle the war for the Confederacy,  She and her two sisters and her mentally unstable stepmother are forced to move into a disreputable inn and to work as servers for their board and keep when they come upon hard times. While there, Carrie Ann meets Colonel Peyton Collier, an injured Union cavalry officer, whose gentlemanly conduct moves Carol Ann to provide medical care in spite of their divided loyalties.

Months later, Carrie Ann learns that her younger sister has run off, so she disguises herself as a Yankee soldier to find her.  The last thing Carol Ann expected was to run into Colonel  Collier, who immediately arrests her for impersonating an officer, but,remembering her kindness to him, shields her from worse punishment. As the two spend more time together, Carrie Ann and Peyton begin to fall in love.  But, things aren’t quite as simple as they seem, as Carrie Ann struggles to reconcile her feelings for the cavalry officer with loyalty to family and her best friend,  Joshua, a major and Confederate spy.

There were times while reading A Thousand Shall Fall that I would have liked more romantic tension and struggle between these two characters, even in the context of this being a Christian love story, but overall it was still a compelling read.

I thought the author’s  secondary characters, particularly the colonel’s spinster aunt (who takes a lot of heat from her neighbors for being an abolitionist with Northern sympathies) and the aunt’s old rival, Mrs. Monteague, a pampered and stalwart defender of Old Virginia, were well crafted and engaging.

I would have liked to have seen a similar amount of depth devoted to the narrative around Carrie Ann’s family– as a reader, I didn’t feel vested in the missing younger sister because I never got the sense that the sisters were close.

ColonelJohnSMosbyPortrait

John S. Mosby, the “Gray Ghost”

What was well developed was the battle scenes (including the horror of war as experienced by civilians) as well as the historical detail. I applaud Andrea for weaving in historic military figures such as  Union General Philip H. Sheridan and the elusive Confederate Calvary commander John S. Mosby, the Gray Ghost.

Below, The Writing Well, asked Andrea about her writing inspiration and what she hopes readers get from her latest work. I for one highly recommend this story, especially for fiction lovers of Civil War history. A Thousand Shall Fall is set for release on Nov. 27.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar

THE WRITING WELL: What draws you to Christian romantic fiction as a writer and to the Civil War time period specifically? Is that your favorite time period to write about?

 

Andrea Boeshaar: I used to love reading secular romances when my sons where young. In the 1980s, I decided to try my hand at writing secular romance. However, after I became a Christian, I felt personally convicted about writing stories that didn’t honor the Lord Jesus Christ. I began reading novels published in the Christian market. At the time, there weren’t many out there. The market has grown by leaps and bounds!

 

As for the Civil War – my father was a CW enthusiast and as a child I remember walking through the Vicksburg Battlefield. I didn’t appreciate that trip until I was older. My father was still alive when my first novel was published in 1994. He read it, although as an associate professor at a local university, Christian romance wasn’t his cup of tea. However, I think my father enjoyed the amount of historical facts I blend into my stories. So many Civil War novels skirt the war, specifically avoiding battles. I decided to tackle the time periods. When I do research, I become engrossed in it and my characters evolve from it. I’ve written novels and novellas in all different time periods, including contemporary fiction, but it’s always here in the United States because my true passion is American history. In the same vein, I read all sorts of Christian fiction – and some secular fiction too.

THE WRITING WELL:  What character do you most identify with in A Thousand Shall Fall? What techniques do you employ to give your characters their unique voice?

 

Andrea Boeshaar: I identify with Aunt Ruth. She’s a little quirky and manipulative, but she does what she does out of a fierce love – and out of spite for her next door neighbor. Personally, I’ve got the quirks, but I’m not manipulative. However, I love my husband and sons fiercely and my daughters-in-law could probably tell you a few interesting tales about tangling with me.

THE WRITING WELL:  The setting and historical references in your novel really put me as a reader into the time period of the Civil War. I especially admired how you exhibited the animosities and loyalty of people who were neighbors, friends etc. before the war but who now were fighting on opposing sides of the war. How important is research to getting the atmosphere and details right to make this kind of novel authentic to history buffs?

 

Andrea Boeshaar:  It’s extremely important! As I mentioned above, I get an idea for a story and immediately begin researching it. My characters evolve from it. I’ve read Mary Chestnut’s diary and Sarah Morgan’s diary and then I got a feel for how people spoke and wrote back in the 1860s. I read Shelby Foot’s books on the Civil War and James McPherson’s book, “What They Fought For.” All the while, the idea of my novel percolated in my brain. The same system works for any time period I choose to write in. But what is essential is to visit the location (if possible) as I’m writing. When I do that, my entire story comes alive to me.

THE WRITING WELL:  I loved Aunt Ruth – do you have plans to write a “prequel” to A Thousand Shall Fall that captures some of her story and that of her loyal servant Tabitha and rival and neighbor, Frances?

 

Andrea Boeshaar:  I’m glad you liked Aunt Ruth. At this point, no, I don’t have plans for a prequel, but that doesn’t mean I won’t eventually write one. I think it would be fun!

THE WRITING WELL:  What do you want your readers to get out of this story – and your other novels?

 

Andrea Boeshaar:  My prayer is that readers see the transforming power of God in my characters’ lives. Jesus wants us to come to Him as we are, in humility and brokenness. We can never be good enough to come to Him. Jesus, Himself, said that He came to save the unrighteous, not the righteous. So that’s what I hope – I hope this story is faith in action.

THE WRITING WELL:  What’s next for you in terms of writing projects?

 

Andrea Boeshaar:  Currently, I’m writing book two in my Shenandoah Valley Saga. It will release, God willing, November 2016; book three in November 2017. I also signed a three book contract with Prism Book Group to write three shorter contemporary romance novels. In addition to my writing, I own a corporation called Pink Ink, Inc. I’m an Avon Representative, which is proving to be so much more than selling lipstick to my neighbors. It’s becoming a ministry! And I operate Steeple View Coaching and Writer’s ER. So…I’m busy and staying out of trouble.

Combating the Darkness: Inside the Writing Process of Multi-Bram Stroker Award Winner Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry

There are few horror writers out there today as prolific as New York Times’ bestselling author  Jonathan Maberry, who won the Bram Stoker Award for his first horror novel, Ghost Road Blues, in 2007, and has gone on to receive horror fiction’s most prized honor three additional times. As I write this post, he is nearing completion of his 25th novel.

A multi-dimensional writing talent, Maberry is known not only for his adult novels such as Dead of Night and Patient Zero, but also for his comic books and his YA books. ROT & RUIN, a SciFi novel set in post-zombie-apocalypse and told through the eyes of 15-year-old Benny Imura, made it on Booklist’s Top 10 Horror fiction for Youth in 2011 and is now in development for film.

Maberry is a busy guy  but not too busy to make time to share his writing journey DragonConLogowith other aspiring authors. At this year’s Dragon*Con convention in Atlanta, I had the privilege to hear him speak on two author panels and included some of his more memorable soundbites on my DragonCon wrap-up blog post.

Dead of Night Book OneA week before Halloween, while in the throes of reading book one of Maberry’s Dead of Night series, I asked him to be featured on The Writing Well. He not only agreed, but he also responded to my questions within a few hours  the day before a major trip.  That says it all.

Here’s our Q&A about his journey as a writer — sit back with your favorite Halloween brew and enjoy!

 

THE WRITING WELL: What drew you as a writer to the dark themes that are prevalent in your novels, especially the zombie-apocalypse?

 

JONATHAN MABERRY: I know monsters firsthand. I was raised in an intensely abusive household and in a very violent and very poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. My father was a

Beloved and wacky Harry Potter character, Luna Lovegood.

Wacky Harry Potter character, Luna Lovegood.

genuine monster. A couple of things cast a little light into that darkness. My grandmother (imagine Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter movies as an old lady) was very knowledgeable about folklore, myths and legends, mostly from Europe. She gave me many books to read, told me wonderfully creepy stories, and encouraged me to imagine the endings to the folk tales she’d tell. And my middle school librarian encouraged me to read science fiction, fantasy and horror. She knew I wanted to write and my stories tended toward the dark. She was also the secretary for a couple of clubs of professional writers, and so was able to introduce me to some of the members. They included Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison and others. Those writers, especially Bradbury and Matheson, took me under their wings, offered advice and critiques of my stories, and they encouraged me to read even deeper.

However one thing to note is that I don’t write about monsters. I write about people who confront monsters. I don’t write about darkness. I write about people who combat darkness. The difference is significant.

THE WRITING WELL: Why do you think that genre is so compelling to people (as evident by the phenomenal success of “The Walking Dead”?
walking-dead

JONATHAN MABERRY: We are all afraid of something, even the bravest of us. I’m now a big man and I’ve been studying martial arts for over fifty years. I’m an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu, a member of the international martial arts hall of fame, and a former professional bodyguard. I’m not afraid of, say, a maniac with a knife, but that doesn’t mean I’m free from fear. I fear diseases, mishandled technologies, religious extremism, and so on. Things that are too big (or, in the case of pathogens, too small) for me to fight. Those are things that I can’t defend my family against. We all understand fear.

Horror fiction allows us to explore extreme cases of fear. Zombies are a perfect example of that. We see the zombie outbreak in books, TV, comics and movies and we wonder how we would survive. Could we, in fact, survive? Could we keep our families safe? Could we fight back and win? This same what-if thinking flows over into stories about vampires, werewolves, pernicious spirits, and so on. We walk through the shadows of fictional horror carrying a torch of our own optimism and imagination.

Shows like “The Walking Dead” are not about zombies. They are about people trying to rebuild their lives after catastrophic damage. The title of the show, by the way, does not refer to the zombies. Robert Kirkman has been quite eloquent in explaining that Rick, Daryl and the others are the ‘walking dead’. The lives they once lived have ended and they are searching for a new place to be alive again. Fiction allows us to share that journey and apply much of it to our own lives.

 

THE WRITING WELL: How would you describe your writing process?

JONATHAN MABERRY: I am a methodical writer. I’m deeply passionate about the craft of writing and I love the business aspects as well. It’s both my job and my calling. Since it is my job, I put in the hours. I write every day. I hit my deadlines. I expand my business by developing new stories, I manage my own social media (I do ten minutes of social media every hour of my writing day), and I devote time to cultivating and supporting other writers.

 

On a typical workday I spend two to four hours each morning, usually working at a coffee shop. Then I hit the gym or go for a long walk with the dog. In the afternoon I return home and do another four hours in my office there. I try to write 3-4 thousand words per day. A bit less if I’m traveling, at a convention, or giving a talk. More if I’m closing in on a deadline. This year I’ll have written four and a half novels, twenty-two short stories, a dozen issues of comic books, and appeared at thirty-one events.

 

THE WRITING WELL: Do you write first from a character or a plot premise? 

 

JONATHAN MABERRY: I do both. My stories usually start with characters. They usually wander out of the back of my mind and into a story that’s forming based on something I’ve seen, read, or cooked up. Once I know the character, I think about what the character wants and what he needs. At that point I sit down and hammer out a loose plot. I always allow my stories to change in the telling, of course, because it’s unreasonable to assume that you had all your best ideas the day you outlined your book.

 

Once in a while a plot premise will come first, but as soon as I have that I shift gears to examine the human element of the story. Stories are about people, not events. That’s critical to good storytelling.

 

THE WRITING WELL: At a Dragon*Con panel you said you always run your stories by your wife for feedback. What was the most memorable feedback she ever provided?

Authors AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry at the 2015 Dragon*Con held in Atlanta.

Authors AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry at the 2015 Dragon*Con held in Atlanta.

JONATHAN MABERRY: One of the most important aspects of my creative interactions with my wife, Sara Jo, is that she is all about characters. She will call me on it if a character is ever acting contrary to their presumed nature. She calls it ‘acting out of integrity’. She is invariably correct. She isn’t a writer, but her understanding of people is superb, insightful, and wise.

 

We met walking in a park. Well, I was walking and she was jogging. The person with whom I was walking was a mutual friend, so Sara Jo stopped to talk. She and I had a little moment of shared electricity. But I thought she was married, and she thought I was dating the woman I was strolling with. Neither was the case. When Sara Jo found out I was single, she called me. I have never much believed in the ‘love at first sight’ thing, but you can call me a convert now.

 

THE WRITING WELL: Finally, what aspect of your own craft have you worked on the hardest to master or fine tune  (the thing that perhaps didn’t come as easily)? How can up-and-coming writers  do to get their writing to the next level?

 

JONATHAN MABERRY: Fiction was the real challenge for me. Even though I wrote stories as a kid, I planned to become a newspaper reporter. I went to Temple University to study journalism, and while I was there I began selling magazine feature articles. For twenty-five years I wrote articles, columns, and reviews for magazines of all kinds. While teaching at Temple University I began writing textbooks –not on writing, but on martial arts history, women’s self-defense, and related topics). And I also wrote greeting cards, song lyrics, poetry, plays, how-to manuals, training scripts, and a slew of other materials. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that I decided to try fiction. It was an experiment and I had no formal training in creative writing. None.

To teach myself the craft, I read everything I could, and then I began deconstructing my favorite novels in the genre in which I wanted to write. I read those books as a reader, and then I re-read them multiple times as a writer, breaking them down to the three acts, then to outlines, studying the elements of figurative and descriptive language, voice, pace, tension, action, dialogue. All of it. When I felt that I was ready I outlined a novel and began writing. It took me over three years to finish that book, and another six months to revise it.

bramstokerThat’s the point at which I had to go out and find an agent. I got a good one, too. Sara Crowe, currently of the Harvey Klinger Agency. Sara sold my first novel, Ghost Road Blues, and its two sequels to Kensington’s Pinnacle imprint. The book surprised the hell out of me by winning the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. That award seriously validated my decision to try fiction. As I write this I’m three days away from finishing my 25th novel. And I write short stories and comics. Fiction is virtually everything I do in this phase of my writing career, and I have very little interest in looking back at my nonfiction days. Two of those novels are in development for film and another is in development for TV; and I’m adapting Ghost Road Blues into a pilot for a potential series.

However, I’m still learning the craft. It’s fun but not easy, and I believe it is incumbent on every writer to try and better their best. Always.

Paying Tribute to Purdue’s Music Maker: Chuck Coe

Band Members dadbandstandsV2img182

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
— Arthur O’Shaughnessy, British poet (1844-1881)

The Writing Well is delighted to pay tribute today to a special music maker — my husband’s 99-year-old grandfather, Charles (Chuck) Coe.

Last week, he received a lifetime entertainment award from Second Wind Dreams®, a non-profit devoted to granting a dream to those living in eldercare communities or in hospice care. The organization, begun in 1997, has fulfilled more than 10,000 dreams nationwide since its founding.

ChucUniformk, a World War II vet and graduate of Purdue University, earned his way through engineering school as a band leader and musician, playing clarinet, flute and saxophone. His group, “Chuck Coe and the Purduvians” performed at dances and special events, and even made three cruises to Europe and back entertaining passengers. When the war came, Chuck served as an Army captain in the 2nd Armored Division’s Hell on Wheels, where he was part of the D-day invasion + 3. He was head of communication for the battalion, making sure all the radios worked.

I could feel the love and regard for Chuck as residents, staff and family members came to pay their respects at his assisted living home in Roswell. His three children and their spouses were on hand, as well as my husband and our two kids, who are his great-grandchildren.

“Wow, sure appreciate it,” said Chuck, after receiving the award.

Sue Hamilton hugging Chuck -- she coordinated Chuck's musical tribute.

Sue Hamilton hugging Chuck — she coordinated Chuck’s musical tribute.

Sue Hamilton, the healthy lifestyle coordinator for the facility, planned and executed the entire event, serving as liaison with Second Wind Dreams and securing entertainment. She  hugged Chuck and showed everyone a lamp he fashioned from his old clarinet.

A special lamp Chuck made from his reetired clarinet.

A special lamp.

She then introduced Amber, who transported everyone back to the big band music of the 40s, kicking off her tribute singing Billie Holiday’s “What’s New?” before delving into countless Glenn Miller tunes.

Linda Coatsworth, Chuck’s youngest and a hammered dulcimer player, said she was so happy with how the event went. “We weren’t real sure how well he was going to do with a surprise, but I think he’s done quite well for 99 and a half.” Added Linda: “What’s so wonderful about this event is that dad was able to enjoy the tribute, whereas these kinds of tributes usually happen after the one honored has passed.”

Asked what she is most proud of about her dad, Linda said, “His example – to stay calm, don’t get excited. I don’t think I ever heard him raise one loud voice to mom in his 75 years of marriage to her. He’s such a role model.”

Chuck with his kids (L to R) Linda, Larry and Carol.

Chuck with his kids (L to R) Linda, Larry and Carol.

Carol, Chuck’s oldest, who plays the piano as well as the hammered dulcimer, said, “Seeing the good in others and being grateful no matter what,” is the quality of her father that stays with her the most. “It’s cute that the people who work here say he is so special to them. They would like him for a father if I would share him.”
Carol was only two years old when her father went off to war, and was in kindergarten when he returned. Her brother, Larry, was just an infant when he returned home.

“I remember when he came home after the war. We had this little house in Lafayette, Indiana, and he had his uniform on and just stood there. Mother said, ‘This is your father. He’s going to live here,'” recalled Carol. “Chuck_PosterI was somewhat stunned. He was so peaceful. He smiled, he went out in the backyard and saw trees, bushes and grass, and he just looked like he landed in heaven. That was how I remembered really, really knowing him.”

Larry, who bears a strong likeness to his dad, told me that Chuck never spoke much about his experiences during WWII. He followed in his father’s footsteps as an engineer but didn’t take his career advice. “He advised me to not go to work in the steel business, but I did anyway.” Larry said, chuckling. “I remember us working underneath a ’47 Buick, rebuilding the engine. He had a cigarette in his mouth and ash about that long coming off the end of the cigarette until it finally fell on his face.”

Chuck with Amber after her musical performance.

Chuck with Amber after her musical performance.

I caught up with Amber after her music performance concluded, and she shared that this was the first time she ever performed Big Band songs for someone. “This was fun for me because this is the music I sing in my car, the music I love and that I’ve been singing for years and years.”
Amber explained that Chuck told her he played the saxophone and the flute and pretty much any woodwind in his orchestra. She notes that all the Big Band songs have a specific order– first you sing two verses, then a chorus, and then there is a dance break before you come back to do a chorus again.

“During the dance break you’re almost always have a piano solo or more often than not, a woodwind solo. So, I could imagine Chuck standing up during the dance breaks to play his solo saxophone. When I was putting the set together, that was what I was imagining.”
Chuck_Tribute

Doreen Scascitelli, CEO of Second Wind Dreams, seemed visibly moved by Chuck’s response and the outpouring of people at the celebration. “Seeing the community come out and everyone supporting him – that’s the principle   this organization was founded on. It’s not just the dream – it’s actually about unity and everyone being involved in the dream, from the people who provided the champagne to the people who provided the cake, to the person who did the poster. The dreams, whether they are simple or sublime, all have an amazing meaning for the elder and for the community.”

True Calling’s Siobhan Davis Talks about her YA SciFi Series

 

TrueCallingSeriesBanner

I love to find new authors online — especially those with a fresh voice, fascinating settings and above all, vivid but imperfect characters. Irish writer SIobhan Davis fits the bill. She’s the author of the True Calling series, three science fiction romance novels set against the backdrop of post-apocalyptic Earth.  The story opens on planet Novo, a settlement for Earth’s chosen few located 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface.

The main character is 17-year-old Cadet Ariana Skye. Spirited and independent, Ariana adores her dad and is protective of her little sister. She and all the new residents of Novo have no memory of life before coming to the planet — all part of the government’s vision to start a new life with no pain of those they left behind on Earth. She fights her attraction to another cadet, Cal, a gorgeous but arrogant son of Novo’s military commander. Soon, Ariana, Cal and other teens are given a directive: to save the human race, they must choose a spouse through a “pageant” or calling and have a family or humanity may risk oblivion. A full-blown rebellion breaks out by the besieged people left behind on Earth and the “perfect society” on Novo begins to unravel. Ariana must balance safeguarding her family with her growing feelings for Cal and a need to find the truth about her past, including the identity of a compelling man named Zane who seems to speak to her in her dreams.

Siobhan DavisSiobhan’s love of the YA genre comes through with every page of this compelling story. The author’s instincts for creating characters who must grow and struggle with plenty of conflict and danger is rare in so new an author.  I applaud Siobhan’s knack for developing believable love triangles  — her depiction of Zane, Cal and Ariana’s anguish and passion  are reminiscent of the Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle perfected by Stephenie Meyer in the Twilight saga, and to a lesser degree Suzanne Collins’ depiction of Katniss struggling with her feelings for Gale and Peeta in The Hunger Games.

I found the first two books of Siobhan’s  series the strongest of the three. My one criticism is that there was too much time lapsed between the switching point-of-view characters of Zane and Ariana when they are separated on Earth and Novo,  but the overall story has a lot of punch and plenty of dramatic moments, making it a must-read series.

I look forward to reading more from this debut author.   Learn more about Siobhan on her author page, http://www.siobhandavis.com/  and check out her Q&A with The Writing Well below.

Q. Have you always wanted to be a writer growing up in Ireland? What types of stories do you enjoy most?

 

Siobhan: I’ve always loved reading and writing and books are my favorite form of escapism. English and History were two of my best subjects in school and I studied History in college. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been daydreaming and imagining stories in my head. In some ways, I think I’m much more comfortable in the fictional world than in the real world. Anyway, I got caught up in my career, and then after I got married I was also juggling a hectic family life, so my ambitions had to take a backseat, though, I was always writing – whether it was connected with my corporate life or as a hobby. I actually wrote True Calling years ago and never did anything with it until last year when the timing finally felt right to pursue my dream.

I enjoy the YA and NA genre the most, but I’m also an avid reader of crime/thrillers and I’m a big fan of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen.

Q. What drew you to YA dystopian novels as a genre besides the incredible commercial success of books like Twilight and The Hunger Games?

KindleSiobhan: I love the blending of action, adventure, swoon-worthy romance and life–or–death type scenarios, and kick-ass or strong-willed heroines that are typical of the YA books I read. I enjoy YA science fiction, dystopian and fantasy more so than contemporary YA, in the main. I also tend to really enjoy the writing style of the many talented authors who write in this genre. Some of my favourite authors are Jennifer L. Armentrout, Wendy Higgins, Susan Kaye Quinn, Marie Lu, Jospehine Angelini, Laini Taylor, Marissa Meyer, and Amy A. Bartol, to mention a few.

Q. What inspired/sparked the premise of your True Calling novel? Did you always intend to write it as a three-part series or did it evolve?

 

Siobhan: It all started with a dream—just not my own. Like a lot of my generation, I got hooked on Twilight in 2009 and was fascinated to hear how Stephenie Meyer felt compelled to write the series on the basis of the now-infamous dream. Dreams have always captivated me and I started thinking a lot about their meaning and whether our dreams have the power to change our lives (not just metaphorically speaking). I wondered a lot about her ‘meadow dream’; probably more than was normal. Who sent her that dream? And why? And did someone (or something) plant that seed knowing full well that it would lead her on a path to a significant life-altering experience? And what are dreams anyway? A malfunction of our brain? An unconscious message from our inner selves? A medium for receiving messages from others? My thoughts jumbled around like this for weeks, and my idea started to grow from this silent analysis and developed from there.

 

I always intended to write it as a Trilogy, however, I hadn’t intended on writing a short story and Novella as part of the series. It felt natural for me to write Lovestruck after I wrote True Calling as I wanted to give the reader a glimpse into Cal’s head, because he isn’t a narrator in the first two books. Beyond Reach ends on a massive cliff hanger and I knew it would be unfair to make the readers wait another four months to discover the conclusion, so I wrote Light of a Thousand Stars, to help bridge the gap between publications. It also felt important to provide the backstory to Ariana and Zane’s love affair and Team Zane fans had been begging me to write it!

Q. How challenging was it to create realistic (and imperfect) characters and a love triangle between Cal, Zane, and Ariana?

 

Siobhan: While my characters are fictional, I wanted to portray them as realistically as possible, and that meant ensuring they had strengths as well as weaknesses. I’m quite structured in my writing process and I always create a character bible at the outset of a series, and add to it with each book. This maps out the character in detail – personality traits, physical characteristics, and likely actions to certain key plot points. I also identify actors/models who match the image of the characters in my head and I put their pictures up in my office. During difficult scenes, I find that looking at the physical manifestation of my fictional characters helps me to stay in their head and understand their motivations and drivers in that particular scene.

The situations they were placed in created some natural conflict and tension and it was fun to test my characters, and have each of them act ‘out of character’ at least once. For example, Zane conceals something in Beyond Reach which we would never expect him to do. However, he was getting increasingly desperate, and though he’s a mature, level-headed guy most of the time, he is still prone to bouts of jealousy. Up to that point, Zane had been almost faultless in his love and support of Ariana. I wanted to show that he wasn’t perfect, that he did have some flaws.

The love triangle was challenging insofar as it involved so much heightened emotion. When you consider everything else the characters are dealing with on top of the romantic drama, it led to some emotionally charged scenes and decisions. I wanted to stay true to the characters as much as I could while writing this and I constantly had to question and challenge myself to ensure they were acting as naturally as possible in each scene/situation. I really love getting into the nitty-gritty of the human mind and exploring that love-hate line that often exists within intense romantic relationships. All three characters’ experience that fine line at some point in the series.

Q. Your secondary characters were also rich and engaging to me – no easy feat, I know! What is the key to creating believable characters?

 

Siobhan:  Again, my character bible is an invaluable tool. I map out all secondary characters using the same process I apply to the main characters, though not to the same level of detail as they don’t play as big a role. I give due consideration to what is going on in that characters world and how that interconnects and impacts the main characters. Reviewing that character’s personality traits on a continual basis helps me understand them and ensure that they are reacting appropriately in each scene. If one character has a challenging scene, and I’m unsure how they will react, I find it helpful to pick three or four other (different) characters and map out how each of them would react to that situation. That helps me keep a clear head in terms of how the character in the scene would naturally react.

For me, bringing everything to a base emotional level really helps me relate to my characters.

Q. World building is an important part of fantasy writing. What did you draw upon for ideas and inspiration when creating your futuristic view of Earth and Planet Novo?

 

Siobhan: I relied hugely on my imagination and drew inspiration from other movies and books and the world around me. The two worlds in the True Calling series are vastly different, as one is a Utopian-type environment and the setting on Earth is dystopian. I pictured them as complete extremes and that helped to shape the different settings. My husband is also a fantastic sounding board and if I’m struggling to visualize something I run it past him, and we discuss it at length, and then I find I’m brimming with new ideas. He’s like my own personal creative coach.

Q. Without giving away the ending, did you consider a different ending for Ariana than the one you ultimately wrote?

 

Siobhan: Yes and no. She was always going to end up with that life because I wanted the underlying message to be about female empowerment – that you can have it all even when it seems impossible or unachievable and when you don’t even realize what it is you seek until you have found it. She was always destined to end up with that boy. However, when I was plotting the final book at the start of writing the series, the manner in which they ended up together was going to be vastly different due to events which impacted the other boy (I know it sounds like I am speaking in riddles but I’m so conscious of not inadvertently spoiling any of the plot points!) If I had stuck with that initial concept it would have changed things up considerably. When I sat down to write Destiny Rising, it didn’t feel like the right path to achieve the outcome I had planned, in part because the story organically developed in a way I hadn’t expected, and also because I had gotten hugely attached to the other boy and I wanted to give him his HEA. In the end, I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

Kindle

I had an idea recently to write an alternative Destiny Rising, that is, if Ariana had chosen the other boy instead how would things have panned out? I often think about that in my own life. Where or what would I be doing now if I had chosen differently at key points in my life? I find that notion intriguing. I ran my idea past my Street Team and my ARC Team and they are all unanimously in favour of me writing it. If demand continues, I will write it in 2016.

Q. What one aspect of writing these books would you have done differently if you could? You can speak to the writing aspects or publishing.

 

Siobhan: I wouldn’t change a thing with regards to the characters or the plot and I’m very happy with how the series turned out. However, I was very green when it came to the whole promotion and marketing side of the publishing industry, and if I had my time over I would have been smarter in some of my decisions I made. They do say you live and learn though!  There are a few brilliant books I’ve read recently on publishing and marketing which I wished I had read a year ago.

Q. Any advice for other novelists out there staring out?

Siobhan: Never stop believing in yourself. Read a lot. Write a lot. But don’t forget to live your life because you need to draw on life experiences as an author.

Q. What’s next for you in terms of writing projects?

Siobhan:  I have just completed the first draft of Saven Deception, which is book one of my new YA series. It is another science fiction romance series, though the premise is almost the complete opposite of the premise in my True Calling series, and this time there are some hot aliens in the mix! The first book will be released on 15th December 2015 with the remaining books following in 2016.

 

Dragon*Con 2015 — Memorable Moments

StormTroopers

300 BC

I attended my fourth Dragon*Con this past weekend after a two-year hiatus and it didn’t disappoint. The event – dubbed “the wildest geek convention on the planet” by TripAdvisor – drew 65,000 fantasy and scifi fans to downtown Atlanta.

Sherrilyn Kenyon and I.

In honor of the annual Labor Day weekend spectacle, The Writing Well is sharing a few pearls of wisdom from some of the literary set of speakers who I heard present on author and writing panels (see last section of post).

Touching Tributes to Nimoy, Lee

Before going there, I want to pay homage to some of the entertainment panels I attended this year. As a fan of classic Trek, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, I was thrilled to attend the tribute to Leonard Nimoy and iconic British actor Christopher LeeChristopher

Lee, who passed away in February and in June of this year, respectively. A few interesting notes about Lee I learned: he spoke seven languages, made a heavy metal album and was the only Lord of the Rings cast member who actually met J.R.R. Tolkien (and read the books every year).

Nimoy
As for Nimoy, I could devote an entire blog to my favorite scifi actor. He was much more than the token alien cast opposite Captain Kirk on Trek; he was an accomplished director, photographer and poet with seven books under his name. He touched all of those outcasts in the world who were nerdy before nerdy was cool.

He also had a record album produced named appropriately, Highly Illogical. He was well liked and respected by his cast members – he was accepting of certain cast members who were not well liked.

He hated being typecast as Spock in the early years but grew to appreciate the character and what Spock symbolized well beyond the series– a half-human and half-Vulcan who struggled to balance his warring halves and to belong. His final tweet to followers before his death on Feb. 27 reflected his wisdom and humanity: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” He signed the tweet off with “LLAP,” a nod to his famous Spock moniker, “live long and prosper.”

Snodgrass and Star Trek TNG
Vendor_StarTrekArtworkI also attended Melinda Snodgrass’s highly entertaining session on her early work as a screenwriter for “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” A good friend to author George R.R. Martin, Melinda got her break when she penned “A Measure of a Man” on spec.

Many fans consider it one of the greatest episodes featuring the android character, Data, as well as one of the best of Star Trek – the inspiration for the episode was the famous Dred Scott case. Data goes on trial and Captain Picard must prove he is legally a sentient being with rights and freedoms under Federation law when transfer orders demand Data’s reassignment for study and disassembly.

“Trek had never shot an episode like this that was very dialogue-heavy – it was a court room drama. When they finished shooting, it was 13 minutes too long so they cut 13 minutes out of it,” recalled Snodgrass. She was snuck a copy of the director’s cut with the full footage. She kept it until CBS Television decided to do a Blu-ray version of the series and requested her copy back.

One of the scenes in the extended version was between Picard and his first officer, Wil Riker, played by Jonathan Frakes where the two men were fencing. While Patrick Stewart was an accomplished fencer, Frakes wasn’t given time to learn technique for the scene and had to settle for doing the voiceover as an acting double fought Picard.

“I like the scene because I always thought Riker was overlooked and not given proper stature. He often ended up seeming weak,” Snodgrass said, pointing out how the character turned down the chance to command his own ship, preferring to remain on the Enterprise. “I wanted to see some rivalry. Jonathan nailed it – he said, ‘I’m going to beat you. I’m going to win.’ I like what they did in that moment. There was some power there.”

Six - BSGThe long queue line was worth it to attend the celebrity panel of “Battlestar Galactica,” the 2004 to 2009 remake of the 70s hit by Ronald D. Moore. Who doesn’t love Cylons – including BattlestarGalacticathe six impersonators of “Six” in the audience and Commander Adama (played by the incomparable Edward James Olmos)?

 

A few of my favorite costumes:

StarWars_Beauty Outlander The ShiningDragonCon_Constume2 DragonCon_Costume Avatar Mother and ChildSuperman_WonderWomanWeepingAngel_Dr Who

Writing Wisdom from Dragon*Con’s Wordsmiths:

NYT Bestselling Author Panel (L to R) Laurell K. Hamilton, Peter Hamilton, Michael Stackpole and Jim Butcher.

NYT Bestselling Author Panel (L to R) Laurell K. Hamilton, Peter Hamilton, Michael Stackpole and Jim Butcher.

#1 “I think my English literature degree set me back two years – telling a story is not the kind of thing you learn in an English class.” — Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files

LaurellKHamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton

#2If I over-outline it takes away the impetus for me to write.” – Laurell K. Hamilton, author of The Anita Blake Series

#3 The characters I have the most fun with are the ones whose views I never share.” – Peter F. Hamilton, Dragon*Con Literary Guest of Honor

 

Carol Barrowman

Carol Barrowman

#4 “When you’re done with your novel, put the whole book on a page, then a paragraph and then a tagline; you should be able to talk about your book in 30 seconds.” – Carole Barrowman, co-author of children’s book series, Hollow Earth, with brother, John Barrowman

#5 “I love drawing on real people. Writers are eavesdroppers and peeping toms (without looking through blinds). A lot of my characters are often amalgamations of real people. I knew a Quaker and I made him a pornographer who does snuff films. He loved it!” — Jonathan Maberry

#6 “[When using beta readers] one of the things I found helpful is to have them assign ABCD to passages – A is for awesome, B is for bored, C is for confused and D is for don’t care.” – A.J. Huntley

Lane and Ruckus Skye, husband-wife filmmakers

Lane and Ruckus Skye, husband-wife filmmakers

#“7How do you write realistic dialogue? How do you make it ‘real?’ Think of what the world would say – eavesdropping on people talking. One trick: they don’t talk in compete sentences – words drop.” – Lane Skye, independent filmmaker

Lou Anders

Lou Anders

#8 “Story begins with a character who wants something – you boil it down to what they want most and what’s the worst thing that can happen to them? And it does.” – Lou Anders

AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry

AJ Huntley and Jonathan Maberry

#9 “Books are organic. I allow for organic growth – which often calls for changes in storytelling.”
– Jonathan Maberry

#10 “Characters come to life when I know their voice – I know how they will respond to certain situations.” – Naomi Novik

#11 “Story has to come first.” – Delilah Dawson

#12 “Never give up.” – Sherrilyn Kenyon

 

 

Connecting with God through Prayer: One Author’s Journey

Tawana_Book

More than 75 percent of Americans believe in the importance and power of prayer. But, how many enjoy it, look forward to it, and feel equipped for the task?

That’s the primary question Atlantan Tawana Lowery wants to answer with her new spiritual self-help book, Five Easy Steps to Life-Changing Prayer.

Based on her own struggles with faith and personal tragedy, the book serves as a heart-felt and engaging guide for those who want to pursue prayer practice using a proven process.  Tawana believes people first must give their burdens to God – and in the process, they will liberate their hearts and minds.

The part memoir, part spiritual coaching guide is chocked full of practical tips and inspiring stories targeted at “people who want to pray but don’t feel equipped or don’t believe their prayers matter,” explains Tawana.

“It’s for anyone who is hurting, wounded, exhausted and confused and need a way to connect with their creator for answers and solutions, or who feels lost, forgotten or disconnected and simply wants to connect with someone who cares about them,” she adds.

prayereaglesTawana frequently speaks at conferences and to groups about her book. The PR-trained entrepreneur and former single mother started her own company, Prayer Eagles, to provide team effectiveness training, community outreach strategies and prayer skills coaching.  In early August, she was a featured author at the She Speaks women’s conference in Atlanta.

Below she shares more detail on her tightly interwoven faith and writing journey and what she hopes readers will get out of her book.

Q. What made you decide to write this book?

Tawana: In less than 10 years, I endured two bankruptcies, the loss of all my investment property, watched two business go belly up, dealt with years of unemployment, gave up three beautiful homes, moved 8 times, was blindsided by betrayal and experienced the death of  both parents. I like to describe it as a Financial Tornado, followed by an emotional Hurricane, followed by a personal Tsunami.

During those tumultuous years I was desperate to connect to God. Being a very practical, bottomline person I didn’t want to wait for someone else or hope that a minister might accidently say something remotely related to what I needed to hear. There were days when I neede to experience God in less than 10 minutes or die. I seriously thougth about killing myself on numerous occassions.

Through that experience I began to notice ways I was sabotaging my prayers and what I could do to reverse it. Once I began to incorporate the principles I share in my book, dramatic changes took place in my life and my relationship with God. Soon I was able to hear God’s voice with clarity, and experience his grace that enabled me to carry on. But it came about from doing what I share in my book on a consistent basis.

As I began to share what I had learned, others were also experiencing dynamic changes. So much so I was asked repeatedly to write a book about it. I even had one person tell me to quit my job and write a book so other people could know how to pray.

The truth is, most people want to pray. But they feel so ill equipoed they stop before they even get started.

What we pray about is already difficult. So why make the act of praying equally hard? My goal for writing this book was to offer an easy-to-understand prayer-coach approach to the most important and deeply personal activity of our life. I’ve tried to make it as easy and as simple as possible. I even included several plug-and-play tools that are easy to understand and easy to implement. Meaning you can apply what you learn to effectively pray about anything, any time, any place for yourself and others.

Q. What does success in prayer mean to people?

Tawana: For most people success in prayer means:

  • Ending the cycle of uncertainty and frustration that often describes most people’s prayer experience.
  • Being able to improve your ability to hear God’s voice and enjoy a stronger relationship with the person who loves you most.
  • Having insight to understand what brings about transformational thinking, rest for your mind and peace for your soul.
  • Knowing how to pray in a manner that produces lasting healing for wounded emotions and relationships.
  • And learning how to notice divine invitations for prayer you might be missing out on.

Q. Have you found that the topic of prayer is something that is a big issue for people? What has been the response to the book?

Tawana: The response has been very positive. So many people tell me that the book and my writing style have helped them cut through the complications of religious rhetoric so they can experience an easy, enjoyable connection with God. They tell me the topics and illustrations in my book address issues and problems they have struggled with. It gave them clarity and hope. It gave them a sense of being connected and understood.

Those answers don’t surprise me at all, because the research supports the feedback I hear.  According to a 2012 Pew Research survey, more than 75% of Americans agreed that prayer is an important part of daily life. Surprisingly, that percentage has remained consistent over the past 25 years. Even among those who say they don’t believe in God, 12 percent admit they pray, as reported in The Washington Post in June, 2013.

It seems a lot of us believe in the importance of prayer. The question is how many of us actually enjoy it? How many look forward to it? How often does prayer strengthen our relationship with God or make us feel more intimate with our Creator? As I said before, most people don’t feel equipped for the task.

According to an Ellis Research survey for Facts & Trends, less than 20% of church leaders say they are satisfied with their prayer lives. That means close to 80% are either completely or partially dissatisfied with prayer. That’s an astounding figure, yet probably very representative of most people.

I just don’t believe it has to be that way. I found something better and my goal is to help as many people escape from Prayer Fail Jail as possible.

Q. What did you learn in the process of producing this work?

Tawana:  One of my biggest challenges while I was going through my seasons of difficulty was trying to make sense of it. I was plagued with the thought that my trials would be in vain unless something beneficial came out of it.

During the process of writing the book, I began to see the upside to all the downside. What I learned about God and prayer during those painful dark days laid the foundation for my book.  My prayer is that it will strengthen the foundation of other people’s lives as a result.

Sometimes we try to put as much distance as we can between ourselves and our painful experiences. That’s what I was trying to do. And moving forward is important. But the trials are important also. They have value because they show us what where we have need, and that’s a good thing. It makes us human.  It makes us real. It makes us relatable. It gives us a story to share.

Q. What lessons learned can you share with other writers of non-fiction/memoir type writing?

Tawana: My advice would be to share your story because it’s yours to share. It means you value your own journey enough to write about it.

Q.What was the hardest part of this experience? The best part?

Tawana: Because I also work a full-time job, I had to write on weekends and holidays. My schedule was very strict so as to maximize the time. But it was something I always looked forward to.  It was also a challenge to curate years of experience in to something simple and consumable.

The best part was knowing that I was giving others something to help them; knowing that I was making a positive impact on the world and sharing my struggles with others in hopes of inspiring them to persevere.

 

I’m often referred to as “The Prayer Chick.” It started by praying with a porn operator who had no hands.

The truth is I love to pray with anybody about any issue. I’m not easily offended. People trust me because I can relate to their pain and struggle without judging them. I truly believe that comes across in the book. People feel connected to me and they know I understand their struggles because I’ve lived them.

Q. What’s next for you?

Tawana: I am considering investigating the possibility of hosting a women’s conference of my own in the fall of 2016.

About the Author

TawanaTawana Lowery is following her true passion as a writer, inspirational speaker and prayer coach. Her debut book, 5 Easy Steps to LIfe Changing Prayer, was published in May 2015. As founder and director of Prayer Eagles, she enjoys helping others succeed with prayer and in their relationship with God.  Visit Tawana on her website, www.PrayerEagles.com, or follow her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/@prayereagles/. 

 

Book Marketing: What’s Your Strategy?

book-marketing

By Anita Paul Henderson, The Author’s Midwife

Writing your book is the hard part, right? Well, if you’ve completed your manuscript, had it published, and started down the road of sales and marketing, you know the previous statement is absolutely not true. Marketing is the hard part, as any experienced author/writer will tell you. Trouble is, most writers don’t have a clue how to market their book. You’re a writer, after all, not a marketing specialist.

Marketing, however, is THE most important aspect of book publishing, and the one that receives the least thought and attention from the writer—the one who will ultimately do the marketing. Yes, you, as the writer/author, will also be the name, face, brand, and executor of the marketing plan for your book. But how do you do that when you don’t know the difference between a press release and a speaker sheet? Not only that, who pays for all of this marketing stuff? Remember, you (or your publisher) have limited marketing time and limited marketing dollars, so you’d better use both wisely.

TigerMarketing—essentially EVERYTHING you do to get the word out about your book—is a big animal, and you have to tackle it one bite at a time. So think strategically and know the ultimate result you’d like to have with your book. To get started, consider these points:

Know your target audience. Trust me, your target audience or ideal reader is not EVERYONE. Narrow it down to the one person who would get the most from your book or who would enjoy it most. Think of your book as a service to others. Which person or person type would be best served by the content of your book? Describe him/her as thoroughly as possible.

Seek and find. Knowing your target audience helps you determine where to find him/her. Determine what blogs, podcasts, magazines, radio shows, venues, activities, social media sites, etc. your target audience most enjoys. Visit and engage within these outlets in the form of visits, posts, comments, likes, shares, etc., then determine if your limited marketing dollars would be well spent there based on the response you receive from the audience.

Identify your big wow. What is the ultimate result you want to accomplish with your book? Make wow_rt_red_Tit measurable. Is it number of book sales, dollars earned, clients booked, speaking gig invites, media exposure, awards won, or something else? There are no wrong answers here. Just know what you want, assign a number and timeframe to it, and go for it.

Get some help. There are few things worse than watching someone struggle to do something when getting help would make it so much easier. Marketing is one of those things. Why struggle to build a website, apply for awards competitions, submit news pitches, post regularly on social media, schedule book signings, and more when there are experts who can do these tasks much faster and with a greater level of professionalism than you can? Hiring professional marketing help is probably the best investment you can make in your book project.

how-market-your-book-free-nicole-antoinette-paperback-cover-artThere are thousands of ways to market your book. In fact, in my book, How to Market Your Book Free, my co-author and I include 101 no-cost ways to do so. But really, you only need to execute a handful of marketing strategies that make sense for you, your target audience, your team, and your budget. As you develop strategies for your book marketing, consider the following:
• Appearances/book signings/speaking
• Articles
• Awards
• Blogging (guest or host)
• Contests
• Family, friends, fans
• Podcasts (guest or host)
• Public relations, media interviews
• Radio shows (guest or host)
• Retail stores (think outside the bookstore)
• Social media
• Website

These are only a few strategies to consider. Choose the one(s) that work best for you, then develop a plan to get results.

About Anita

Anita Paul.0168Anita R. Paul Henderson is known as The Author’s Midwife. Through her Write Your Life program she coaches professionals and entrepreneurs to develop engaging book content, publish it, and market it for success. She is co-author of five books, including How to Market Your Book Free and Publishing as a Marketing Strategy. She is also co-creator of Write Books That Sell Now, a digital program to help authors write, publish, and market their self-published books. She can be reached at www.WriteYourLife.net.

Dream Decoder: Lauri Loewenberg & the Meaning of Dreams

Dream on It
As a girl, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg loved to watch astronomer Carl Sagan host  “Cosmos,” his TV show based on his bestselling book that explored the universe.
“He was my first crush at age 5. He was so handsome and I loved how he spoke,” recalls Lauri, a

Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan

holistic counselor and a leading authority on dream psychology. As author of the 2011 book, Dream On It, Lauri helps people interpret the meaning of their dreams so they can live more fulfilling lives.

“I want to be the Carl Sagan of dreaming. Just as he helped people to easily understand the universe, I want to help people to easily understand dreaming… our inner universe.”
Below, she shares her process of writing her book, now available in 10 languages, and which continues to garner significant media interest with major news outlets such as Dr. Oz, Anderson Cooper 360, The View, Good Morning America and The Today Show.

 

Q. What was the most memorable dream you ever had?

Lauri: There’s two. One propelled me into studying dream analysis and psychology because I wanted to know why. About two weeks after my grandfather died, I dreamed of him and in the dream I knew he was dead. I asked him, “What’s it like where you are?” He said, “I can’t tell you. All I can say is it is secure.” Then he hugged and went up the staircase and I woke up. I could still smell his Old Spice. It was such more than a dream – what was that?

The other dream was a lucid dream, which is where you are in the dream and you know it’s a dream. This one was after my second miscarriage and I was deep in a depression. I tell people when you become lucid in a dream to ask someone a question and see what answer you get. In this dream, there is no one in the dream. It’s just me standing in my son’s bedroom. I wanted to know so I just asked the dream itself, “Is there anything I need to know?” I felt this giant warm hand lift me up and say, “Everything is okay.” I woke up from that dream and I really think it helped in the depth of depression I was in.

One of the reasons dreams are so profound and meaningful and helpful is because your eyes are shut, the lights are out, the TV is off. You’ve turned out the outside world and as you sleep that stream of consciousness you’ve had with yourself all day goes deeper and deeper into yourself so when you are in the dream state, you are thinking in metaphors and symbols instead linear with words, so you don’t have distractions – you don’t have the phone ringing, or this talk you have to have with yourself. It’s your brutally honest core – a lot of people think dreams are the language of the soul. That’s a great expression.

Q. What made you decide to write this book?

Lauri: I had self-published two books before this one. I had been doing radio to promote my dream interpretation services for about 10 years and everyone would ask me, “Do you have a book?”

My first two were self-published and then a literary agent came to me and said, “I would like to get you published-published. “ Literally a month after she came to me we got a deal with St. Martin’s Press. I was out there a lot in radio and print so she thought I would be a good author for the book.

Q. What do you want people to get out of Dream on It?

Lauri: A couple of things – one, I want them after reading the book to have no doubt whatsoever that dreams have meaning. I want them to start paying attention to their dreams. Dreaming is a natural function of the brain.  It’s your core authentic self. Your dreams are there to guide you through every single step of your life. Every little detail in your dream relates to your waking life. So if you pay attention to them, you will get a huge edge in life; you will live the life you were meant to have. Don’t ever disregard any dream you ever have.

The more horrible the dream, the more important it is. I have a very big chapter on nightmares because the nightmare is connected to our most difficult issues – the issues we mishandle and the issues we ignore. That’s the thing about dreams – you can turn a blind eye and pretend something is not going on all day, but when you go to sleep you are forced to face it and work it out.

Q. How has the field of dream psychology changed since you began doing this almost two decades ago?
Lauri: In the beginning I would get a lot of pushback from some people. One sect would say, “Only Jesus can interpret your dreams.” Another sect would say, “It’s only random misfiring’s of your brain. People have been so closed off to the possibilities that there is something to dreaming but in the last decade, it has Lauri Loewenbergchanged dramatically –way more people are open to their dreams having meaning than they used to be.

Q. What’s been the most surprising aspect of all your research for Dream on It?

Lauri: I hear the craziest stuff as you can imagine. The most surprising thing to me is how our dreams are such a renewable resource of wild and crazy imagery. The dreaming mind is so deep and creative, and it’s always coming up with something new. Even with all the thousands of people I’ve worked with over the last couple of decades, there’s always something original that I never heard before in a dream. It’s just amazing how deep the mind can go.

 

Q. What was your writing process like?

Lauri: It was a nine-month deadline, and they gave me free reign in terms of how I wanted to put it together. What I wanted to do differently with this book than the first two books was to do the chapters in categories – how different types of dreams are connected to a different part of your life.

  • The animal chapter dream is all about how the different animals in your dreams are connected to your different behaviors.
  • The people chapter dream is all about how the different people in your dreams symbolize different roles you play in life.
  • The house and home chapter dream is all about your state of mind and your self-image. So each category of dream can be connected to a different part of the self.

Q. Is there one category that is more dominant? What do people most commonly dream about?

Lauri. I would say people are the most popular themes in dreams. It can be anything from a celebrity to a classmate you haven’t seen in 20 years, so this chapter teaches you how you can find out what part of your personality that person is symbolizing.

Q. How important is storytelling to getting points across in your book?

Lauri: I think it’s really important because there’s two layers of storytelling the book. One is the dream itself is a story. The dreams I feature in the book have a storyline, a main character, a conflict; they don’t always have a solution, but they have a timeline. The other layer of storytelling is telling the story of how the dream reflects the person’s personal story right now – where they are in their life; what’s going on in their life, so you kind of get two stories in one with each dream I cover.

 

Q. Why do some people never remember their dreams?

Lauri: They don’t give themselves time to remember. Creative people – the writers, the musicians, the artists – have great regard for their dreams – they’re going to remember them more. Your left-brain people – your investment banker, don’t remember their dreams as much. That’s not to say they can’t start remembering — you just have to give them time in the morning when you wake up.

Before you even roll out of bed, you want to stay in the same position. Don’t move; give yourself three to five minutes still time. Don’t think about anything. Stay quiet and the dream will come back to you. Make this part of your morning routine and you’ll start remembering all your dreams.

Q. How do you handle the science of your discipline – explaining it to people in a way where you won’t lose them?
Lauri: I only touch on briefly in the introduction of what’s going on in the dream physiologically just to give it a foundation. Dreaming is a very complicated process – the falling asleep and waking-up process is also very complicated – turning off certain parts of the brain and waking up others. I briefly talked about how different parts of the brain are active during the dream state so you can better understand why dreams are the way they are.

One of the questions I’m asked all the time is, “If dreams really had meaning, why don’t they say what they mean?” Here’s why: your brain is working differently when you are in REM than when you are awake. Your rational linear thought, which is controlled by the frontal cortex of the brain is dormant, which is why dreams don’t always seem in a straight line. The medulla, the emotional center of the brain, is hyperactive – that’s why dreams can be so vivid.

Q. You’ve been very successful marketing your book. Any tips on how authors can get media exposure?

Lauri: I started in radio. That’s a great start. You’ve got to be media savvy and not just talk about your book. With a non-fiction book, you have to make it engaging between you and your interviewer. You want to make it relatable to viewers and listeners. The good thing about my book is people do dream and wonder – I had that built-in going for me.

I wrote this book back in 2011, but I can still use it to get on interviews but I can tie in to what is going on in the news such as when Robin Williams died. I let media outlets know I could talk about the warning signs that dreams give you that you are heading into a depression. For example, we all dream in colors. But, if you are going through a very depressing time, the dream will be in black and white or the colors will be muted. You’ll dream of rain; you’ll dream of storms; you’ll have a lot of the color blue, because that is symbolic of the blues. Someone in your dream (or you) will be crying.

You also need to ask yourself, “Can I be a good call-in guest?” Radio stations love that. It’s not as popular on TV. Some TV shows will do viewer dreams, but usually TV is just you and the host talking back and forth. Radio loves it when you can be a guest who can drive calls. What I’ve been doing this for 15 years is that format of radio interview. People call in and tell me their dreams and I interpret them live on the spot.

Look for how to make yourself  the perfect guest for call-ins. For example, if you are a Feng shui expert, have people call in with their design problems or even their personal life problems and you can tell them how to re-arrange their room to fix their love life or bring in more money, etc.

Q. Is radio really the way to drive book sales rather than doing in-person appearances on TV or book signings?

Lauri: For me radio has been fantastic. National TV, not soRadio-Talk-Show much. I can get more book sales from one decent market like Dallas or Chicago than I could doing a segment on Dr. Oz.

Q. Social media is very important for every author. Has it played into your strategy?

Lauri: Yes, and thank God for Facebook because it actually helped me write my book. I’ve been doing this for so long so I have hundreds of dreams on file. When I started writing and dividing my manuscript up into topics, instead of going through all my files, I just threw a question on Facebook. I asked, “If you had a nightmare about a murderer or a demon, I want to hear from you.” And people lined up with their dreams. It made it so much faster. I have 48,000 fans on Facebook. I used both my fan page and my personal Facebook page for research.

Q. Which social media platforms are your preferred channels?

Lauri: For me, Facebook is fantastic – it helps me even in my pin-up portrait painting business. I got 100% of my pin-up portrait clients through Facebook. I paint women as a pin-up model, vintage style or modern.

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About the Author

LauriLauri Quinn Loewenberg is a Certified Dream Analyst, syndicated columnist, author, popular radio personality, speaker and member of IASD, the International Association for the Study of Dreams, an international organization whose purpose, is to conduct and encourage research into the nature, function, and significance of dreaming.

She spent much of her childhood keeping a dream journal in order to capture all those wonderfully strange adventures she experienced every night.  One night, after she had a dream where her deceased grandfather visited her and gave her a life-changing message, she decided to dedicate herself to finding the answers we all seek within our dreams.

Lauri studied Dream Psychology and became certified as a Dream Analyst under the tutelage of Katia Romanoff, Ph.D. in 1996.  She has since analyzed and researched over 75,000 dreams from people of all walks of life from all over this planet.

An avid artist, Lauri resides in Tampa, Florida, with her “strikingly handsome husband and very loud son.” She holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do in order to keep them both in line.   Read more about Lauri at: www.lauriloewenberg.com.

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 What do People Dream About?

 Below, Lauri Interprets Common Dream Experiences & their Metaphors for Real Life:

  • Falling down — usually connected to some letdown in real life; something you were
    looking forward to fall through, or perhaps when someone let you down. It can also be a heads-up of depression.
  • Flying — it’s a great dream – the most common childhood dream; it tapers off as we get older and life gets harder. We lose that happy-go-lucky, carefree childlike side of ourselves. As an adult you’ll have this dream when you’ve accomplished something and feel you’ve reached a high, or when you have freed yourself from something that’s weighed you down. Really successful people get this dream a lot because they are always trying to get higher and higher.
  • Seeing someone you’ve lost — psychologically speaking when you dream of someone right after their death, it’s part of the grief process. When it’s years down the road, they could symbolize a part of you. Dreaming about the mother you lost could symbolize how you feel about being a mother. Dreaming that she is dying or you can’t get to her could symbolize like your losing touch with your maternal instincts. If she’s helpful, you could be doing a really good job with your child.
  • Teeth falling out of mouth  — it’s a common recurring dream and it relates to communication.  The most common one is teeth are falling out and you’re trying to hold them in. That’s usually connected to saying something you wish you hadn’t and wanting to put it back, whereas the crumbling, crackling, breaking teeth is connected to weak speech – maybe you didn’t stand your ground well in an argument or get your point across; you didn’t say what you wanted to say well enough.

 

Crime Thriller Writer Shares his Process in Time for July 15 Writing Workshop

  

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The inspiration for Lee Gimenez’s first novel, Azul 7, was a SciFi short story that he first got published in Nature magazine.

“I was writing sequels to my short stories,” recalls Lee, a retired technology marketing executive and military veteran. Lee says he always wanted to write books and began pursuing his craft in earnest back in 2006. He has published 11 novels over the last decade — the first five were Sci-Fi-based and the more recent ones fall under the genre of present-day mystery thrillers.

“I got to the point where I like writing about things happening now – real places,” says Lee, who strives to publish one book a year.

His 2014 novel, Killing West, is about a CIA operative named Rachel West. “It was the first time I had a woman in the lead,” he says.  “The reason I wrote it is that a lot of my readers are women – in fact, 75% of all fiction books are bought by women.”

Common elements to all his books, which have a following in the US and internationally, are “a nice cover, snappy title and compelling characters.”

One of his more popular characters is J.T. Ryan, an Atlanta PI, who does contract work for the FBI.

“I always begin with a ‘What if’ [scenario],” he says.  With Killing West, the ‘what-if’ question is: “What if a person controlled the internet?”

With his 2015 thriller, Skyflash, Lee poses the question, “What if there was a perfect wonder Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00009]drug that could cure disease, old age — everything that ails humans?” Of course, there are some side effects with it, Lee adds with a chuckle.   “I try to have conflict at the end of each chapter and to cliff hang my readers at the end of each book (to set up the next novel).”
After crafting the what-if question, Lee writes a succinct synopsis of his novel.  “If you can capture your story in one or two paragraphs, you are a third of a way done,” he says.

He’s a big advocate of GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict book by established publisher and author  Debra Dixon, co-founder of BelleBooks/Bell Bridge Books.  Lee says he sets up his story on page 1 – often in the first line.

An MBA grad with a career doing marketing for companies like Verizon, Lee knows how important book marketing and promotion are – he’s savvy and successful at garnering social media fans, recently crossing over the 47,000 threshold of Twitter followers.

“I attribute it to following other writers,” says Lee, who has to limit his time on Twitter to a half hour a day if he wants to meet his writing deadlines. He advises writers to make good use of hashtags such as #books, #bookbloggers, #bookclub, #amwriting to get their tweets found by other authors, readers and book reviewers.  He’s even created hashags for some of his more popular characters (#JTRyan).

“Marketing is one of the most important things you can do as a writer,” he says. Lee is constantly thinking about his readers when considering the cover design and the titles of his books – he opts for shorter titles and one simple, dominant image on his book covers rather than elaborate scenes because people who are perusing books on Amazon will only see a thumbnail image of the book.  “You have to start talking about your book before it’s out but that’s a two-edged sword – pre-promotion to get people excited about your book, but it’s important not to reveal too much or you risk someone stealing your idea.”

He uses his own travels and experiences in technology to bring realism to his stories.  In SkyFlash, several scenes take place in Juneau, Alaska, as well as Colombia, places he’s visited.   In contrast, Killing West takes place in Helsinki.  Lee says he enjoyed walking around the city and talking to lot of people to get ideas for his story – noting that it was easy to do so since a lot of people speak English.  Another city that factored into his writing was St. Petersburg, Russia, which he visited four years ago.   “When I write a scene about a place, I look at street maps and the intersections – I give it a page or a half page of description. It really helps add color and mood to my writing.”

Lee is also a big believer in using all five senses in his novels – and he deftly integrates his characters’ experiences through sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing into every chapter.

His final advice to aspiring writers? “Never give up. Even when things are not going the way you hoped. I had to send 86 query letters before my first book was picked up.”

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About the Author

LeeGimenez

Lee Gimenez is the author of 11 novels. His latest thriller, SKYFLASH, was published in 2015 and is a new J.T. Ryan novel. Several of his books became bestsellers, including The WASHINGTON ULTIMATUM and BLACKSNOW ZERO. His thriller KILLING WEST was a featured novel of the International Thriller Writers Association. His books are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store, Books-A-Million, Books In Motion, and many other retailers in the U.S. and internationally. Lee is a member of International Thriller Writers (ITW) and the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia Tech University and a Masters degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. After college, he served as an officer in the U.S. Army. During his business management career, he worked for three Fortune 500 companies: Verizon, Tech Data, and M&M Mars. For more information about him, please visit his website at: www.LeeGimenez.com. You can also join him on Twitter (@LeeGimenez), Facebook, and other social media sites. Lee lives with his wife in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

Lee will be at this year’s Decatur Book Festival being held in Atlanta Sept. 4-6, 2015, as a panelist on the Mystery Thrillers Panel.

Atlanta area writers can also sign up for his upcoming writing class, “Ten Steps to Writing a Successful Novel.” The class will be held at the Jera Publishing office in Roswell, Georgia, on July 15th at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $10, and will feature tips and illustrated with writing examples from his own eleven novels and from bestselling authors such as Steve Berry, James Patterson, and David Baldacci.   For more information or to register, visit:  http://www.self-pub.net/blog/event/ten-steps-to-writing-a-successful-novel/.