Book Review, Essays, Misc

A Teeny-Tiny Update on Upcoming Book Reviews

Hello, all! It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything personal but, luckily, I’ve had some great collaborators who have supplied me with interviews and guest posts to tide things over. I also took the time to add a few more book reviews to the blog.

Speaking of reviews, I’ve been really lucky. The last few books I’ve read by indie authors have been quite good. I’m excited to be able to post reviews Dead Reckoning by Michael Smart, and The Naughty Wife by Candi Silk. Look for them over the next few days. I’ll also be starting a book called Liar by a local Montreal author, Joanna Gosse.

Liar I am really looking forward to this one. I met Joanna Gosse a few weeks back at a workshop hosted by the Quebec Writers’ Federation. The topic was on self-publishing, where attendees could share their experiences, both good and bad. At the end of the meeting, I chatted with a few people including Ms. Gosse, when surprise, surprise, she gave me her book as a gift! Now that I think about it, I should have asked her to sign it, but I was so shocked I missed my chance to ask.

I get on the train to head home, when I decide to check out the blurb on the back of the book. Here’s what it says:

‘I yearn for
a sand between the toes
walk, on a sun-blinded beach
bare feet in the sea
sand shifting, tide tugging,
balance wobbled by ebb and flow,
Memories I haven’t lived
grow frail and sad for when
I yearn for
what I don’t have.’

That’s all. A book excerpt. It’s gorgeous, visual, moving prose. Immediately, I wanted to know what the speaker is longing for and what those un-lived memories are. I began to conjure all kinds of explanations. All these questions, in addition to what the words made me feel, got me crazy-excited to read the book. I haven’t found a book where I felt I could get lost in the prose since I read The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which is another gorgeously written book.

So, I hope to have a review of Liar up soon. Until then, I hope you all are well!

Do you have a favorite book whose prose knocks you off your feet? Which one and what is it that you love so much? Tell us want to know about it! 🙂

Author Interviews, Misc

Conferences and Public Speaking: Cairo Amani Reveals Another Side of Writing

Hello, all! I’m always thrilled when my friends do something cool when it comes to writing. I recently learned that Cairo Amani, who has graced us with their presence many times already, has done something extremely neat: spoken at an arts conference about literature. So, of course I had to find out more.  Please stick around! You won’t want to miss it, and if you’re interested in this kind of activity, maybe this will encourage you to get out there and try it. 🙂

Cai! It’s great to have you back. Can you summarize the purpose of this conference?

Steampunk to Afrofuturism was a two-day conference that offered space for writers, musicians, artists, and academicians to explore, expand upon, and rethink the implications of speculative humanities

image (3)

Why was it important to you to participate in it?

Science Fiction and Fantasy is such a huge part of our world and our upbringing and it has the potential for so much more than we realize. We are born hearing fairy tales not realizing that those fairy tales did and still can have relevance to our everyday lives. We use fantasy stories to teach kids, manners, trust, respect and then we stop. But what if we continued? The conference asked us as readers and artists to rethink the implications of Speculative Humanities–and we absolutely should.

I love those points about how, at a certain point, we stop using fantasy to teach and to socialize youth, as well as to deal with important life questions. I believe childhood that thirst for the fantastic never really goes away, and that we continue to seek it in some forms throughout our lives.

How did you go about getting to be a speaker?

Most events have a “Call for Papers”. I try to do a search for calls weekly, to see if there are any that pertain to speculative fiction, that are open (no membership required) and where my subject matter may fit. Then I send in an abstract, which is a short summary of my presentation. Then I wait–because so much of writing is about waiting.

How did you manage your nerves?

image (1)I am not sure I ever did. I went with friends, I called my best friend on the phone just minutes before the panel began–and then I made the audience laugh. Throughout my entire career my plan has always been to make the audience laugh. When you open with a joke the crowd is ready to trust you–when you laugh with the crowd, you become ready to trust them.

How does speaking at this event fit into your long-term writing goals?

My ten-year goal is to be a professional scholar–meaning I’d be completely self-sustained by writing, teaching and public speaking. Writing queer people and people of color into mainstream stories is my form of activism. But those stories tend to be less popular on shelves. Meaning, I have to work twice as hard to find a place for my stories, to make a place for my stories. Public speaking allows me to show people that there is a need while also inspiring them to fill the need–so I’m not the only one.

What was your favorite part of the experience?

After the whole thing was over, there was a luncheon for all the speakers. I feel like it’s super rare that I get to sit around a table with a bunch of other Nerds of Color and talk shop. It was exhilarating!

 What was the essence of what you spoke about?

image (2)My presentation “Harry Potter Could’ve Saved Michael Brown” addressed how more diversity in children’s literature could lesson Xenophobia as those children grow to be adults. It also touched on how diverse literature that already exists could easily replace the texts we do read.

Message to our readers today?

Life isn’t Tetris, there’s not always going to be a place for you to snuggly fit yourself. But don’t let that discourage you. Think about where you want to be and then create that space. Don’t wait for people to realize they need you–show them they need you. Then be present.

… … ‘life isn’t Teris’. Love that.

How can readers contact you to learn more about you and your future activities?

Please visit my website to shoot me an email. There is also a “Find Cai” tab-which leads you to my calendar. http://www.cairoamani.com. I hope to speak to you soon.

Thanks for checking out Cai’s incredible experience. Please leave Cai a message below and/or go check out her website and drop her a line there. Also, she is speaking at an event this weekend called: AFROFUTURISM | Conference: Designing new narratives to empower the African Diaspora. Check out the Facebook page for details!

Have a great rest of the week! 

Author Interviews

Author Interview with Horror Writer Michael Aronovitz

Welcome, everyone! It’s time for another interview, this time with horror writer Michael Aronovitz. Judging from the reviews of his book, The Witch of the Wood, his works are must-reads for horror lovers. Read on to meet today’s guest!

It’s great to have you with us today. Would you mind starting us off by telling us a little about yourself?

I am a college professor of English and a baseball nut.  I love heavy metal music and horror movies.

Where does writing fit into your busy life, and what keeps you motivated/inspired when discouragement sets in?

I write at every available opportunity.  At the moment I am only teaching college classes so I have a bit more time, but when I taught in public schools I would write for a couple of hours each morning and all day on the weekends.  Often, I would bring pages drafted in the morning to school and revise them on my breaks.  In terms of discouragement, I don’t see it that way.  Every page and scene is fun to write no matter how much I obsess.  Reconstructing the “discouraging” rough work is part of the process.

What’s your writing background?

I have published two novels and two collections.

When it comes to reviews, do you have a thick skin?  How do you handle negative feedback?

When I am fortunate enough to have a review of my work appear somewhere I celebrate regardless of the “thumbs up or down.”  The fun is being reviewed in the first place.  It means people are talking about the work!  As for negative feedback, I take it to heart and move on.  Hey…it’s still someone talking about the work.

What inspires your stories?  What draws you to your preferred genre?

My initial inspiration was Stephen King and his ability to draw characters.  In reference to genre, horror is really just my favorite spice.  It interests me and keeps me reading (and writing).  The supernatural opens up strange timelines, and it makes things more fun.  Add a time limitation or two, something at stake, and a gut-wrenching discovery and you have the essence of why horror works for me.

Can you tell us about your books?  What other projects are you working on?

Interview2Seven Deadly Pleasures and The Voices in Our Heads are collections of stories I published around the horror marketplace starting in 2007.  Alice Walks is my first novel, a ghost story, and your featured novel here The Witch of the Wood is my second novel, more a dark apocalyptic journey.  My third novel titled Phantom Effect is a serial killer / supernatural piece to be published by Night Shade Books in February of 2016, and my first young adult novel titled Becky’s Kiss comes out through Vinspire Press this coming November.

How did you build your writing support team?  Do you have tips and suggestions for other writers?

A great question.  I built my “team” begging and pleading to anyone who would listen.  I was incredibly fortunate back in 2007 that horror scholar and Lovecraft biographer S.T. Joshi took an interest in my fiction and put my first collection through Hippocampus.  Since then I have been lucky enough to have contact with other writers like Alistair Cross and Tamara Thorne, those who not only write wonderful fiction themselves, but have given me exposure on Haunted Nights Live (as well as some blurbs).  I also bounce ideas off a couple of independent film directors from Australia named Donna McRae and Ursula Dabrowsky.  Locally, I have contact with Ken Bingham, writer, stage producer, editor, and teacher.  All these wonderful people are essential to my success.  I do not have an agent.  I have gotten all of my work published on my own.

What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your genre?  Advice on marketing and selling?

I’ll answer the latter part first and assure you that I am learning the marketing as I go.  The more I explore in this business the more convinced I am that marketing is a major part of the deal.  My advice to new horror writers is always to stick with what you love.  Trends are fickle.

Hmmm. “Trends are fickle”. I like that statement very much. An excellent reminder to always focus on what drives us.

How can readers get in contact with you?

My website is currently http://michaelaronovitz.weebly.com/

My Facebook Author’s Page is: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelAronovitzAuthor?ref=hl

I am currently building a new website to be nicknamed “The Author’s Graveyard” and readers can email me at theauthorsgraveyard@gmail.com

Thank you so much for visiting with us today, and for sharing about your writing experiences. Readers, please let Michael Aronovitz know how much you enjoyed getting to know him by leaving a message below and/or connecting with him via his links. Thanks for reading!

 

Author Interviews

Author Interview with Psychological Thriller Author Maggie James

829 resized 2I’m so happy to present today’s interviewee, psychological thriller author Maggie James. Stick around and meet this talented author!

It’s great to have you with us, Maggie James. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m a British author who lives in Bristol. I write psychological suspense novels.

HKS_blogI wrote the draft of my first novel, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, whilst travelling in Bolivia. What inspired me? A combination of an impending milestone birthday along with annoyance at having procrastinated for so long in writing a novel. Ever since childhood, my dream has always been to be a novelist but I’ve only achieved it recently. His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in 2013, followed by my second novel, Sister, Psychopath. My third novel, Guilty Innocence, like my first two, features my home city of Bristol. I’ve recently published my fourth novel, The Second Captive.

Before turning my hand to writing, I worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practicing as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on my list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practicing yoga or travelling, I can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

Where does writing fit into your life, and what keeps you motivated/inspired when discouragement sets in?

I’m now a full-time writer, which is wonderful. When I was a child, being a novelist was all I wanted to do as an adult; it never occurred to me that things might not turn out that way. Sure enough, they didn’t. As a young adult, I lacked confidence, telling myself I didn’t possess enough life experience to write a novel. I procrastinated for several decades, until my fiftieth birthday loomed large on the horizon. That was enough to galvanize me into action, and I’ve been writing ever since.

GuiltyInnocence_BlogI’m blessed in being able to write full-time; I doubt I’d have accomplished as much over the last four years if I was still working as an accountant.

As for discouragement, from what I’ve read online, it sets in occasionally for many authors, myself included. When it does, I remind myself of my overall goal to be a successful full-time novelist. That’s enough to spur me on.

As a reader, what do you think makes a good story? What have you learned to never do in your own writing?

I think good characters are essential. They don’t need to be likable, but they should be interesting and believable. Sometimes I read a book in which the characters resemble cardboard cut-outs, with no individuality, no quirks. For example, middle-aged women dressed in twinsets and pearls, dumpy, and with graying hair. That’s clichéd, as well as boring.

The other essential is a plot arc that flows well. There don’t need to be twists, turns and sensational events in every chapter, but loose ends should be tied up and everything makes sense. The last novel I read contained a scene in which the protagonist held two people hostage but also let them go. Not sequentially, but at the same time; the author must have been deliberating between two outcomes and forgotten to remove one. It made for disjointed reading, that’s for sure!

When it comes to reviews, do you have a thick skin? How do you handle negative feedback?

I suspect the majority of writers have skins as thin as tissue paper when it comes to reviews. I do. A great review has me dancing with delight; a bad one can dampen my whole day. No matter how good the book, it’s inevitable it’ll attract adverse comments; it’s impossible to write a novel that wows all readers. It’s all part of the learning curve for writers. I tend not to read my reviews anymore, and I certainly would never respond to them, whether they’re good or bad. That’s on the basis of advice I’ve been given by more experienced authors, and it makes sense. Reviews are written by readers for other readers, not for the author. A writer’s time is best spent writing.

Reviews aside, I deal with negative feedback every time I send a new novel to my beta readers. That’s fine, and I have no problem with it. I don’t want them to respond with glowing praise – that wouldn’t provide me with the feedback I need to improve the book. Instead, I’m seeking to know what’s wrong, so I can put it right before publication. So long as my beta readers are tactful (and they are), I’m fine with them telling me what doesn’t work with my book.

What draws you to your preferred genre? Why do you think it’s so popular?

SecondCaptiveBLOGI’m fascinated by human behaviour and how the mind works, so it’s natural for me to gravitate to psychological thrillers. I believe we’re much more complex than conventional psychological theories can explain, and our behaviour provides fertile material for novelists like me. The genre is certainly popular, and I suspect that’s because other people are as interested as I am in human quirkiness. Take my last novel, The Second Captive, which deals with the fascinating psychological phenomenon of Stockholm syndrome. It’s hard for many of us to imagine how somebody can become emotionally dependent upon their captor/abuser, but it captured my imagination as soon as the idea came on my radar.

Can you tell us about your books? What other projects are you working on?

SP_blogSo far I’ve published four psychological suspense novels, and four non-fiction books from my time as a nutritional therapist. I don’t plan to publish any more nutrition books, but I’m currently working on another non-fiction offering. So many people have said to me that they’d dearly love to write a novel, but haven’t a clue where to start. I’m hoping my book will plug that gap. Once it’s finished, I’ll write another psychological suspense offering – probably a novella that’ll be free to anybody who’d like to read my work. After that, another novel. For now, I intend to stay with the psychological thriller genre, but further down the line I may diversify. Possible future genres include dystopia and erotica.

What advice would you give to new writers, especially those looking to break into your genre? Advice on marketing and selling? 

I’d advise new writers to set up a website, and probably also a blog, before they publish their first book. I wish I’d done that. As it was, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing; my focus was on writing my novel, and I didn’t give any thought to learning about book marketing or creating a website. Oh, the benefit of hindsight!

I’d also say that wannabe novelists should read widely in their chosen genre. What else? Well, I’d advise anyone, if their spelling punctuation and grammar isn’t up to scratch, to brush up their skills or find a good editor. Many otherwise good self-published novels are marred by such issues, and it’s increasingly common to find typos in traditionally published ones.

As for marketing, there are many great books available from Amazon that can give far better advice than I can. Identify your target audience, and then decide how to reach them. Get included in book recommendation emails and become proficient with social media. Learn about SEO and keywords.

Finally, I’d advise new writers to grow a thick skin. The Internet can be a brutal place. There will always be people who delight in flaming you and doing their best to drag you down. Ignore them.

How can readers get into contact with you?

I’m very active on social media, and I’m always happy to gain new followers and friends. I also blog weekly on all topics of interest to fiction readers, including author interviews and book reviews. Why not take a look?

If anyone wants to contact me directly, they can do so via my website. Here are my links:

Website and blog:

Facebook:

Twitter:

LinkedIn:

Google+ :

Goodreads:

Pinterest:  

Amazon:

Authorgraph:

Why not drop Maggie James a message below or go visit her on her links? I’m sure she’d love to meet you and talk to you about her books. Thanks for reading!